Thursday, March 31, 2011

MLB Season Opens: 2011 BTTN Predictions For Everything Important

We love Francisco Liriano for 2011, enough
to finish 2nd in AL Cy Young voting
Yes, the weather may not show it in Toronto and some northern US cities, but baseball has started, and all 30 teams will have kicked off their season by late-night tomorrow.

The Jays of course are playing the Twins in a Fri-Sat-Sun series (7:07 pm Friday) that starts their season, while 12 teams are in action today.

Without further ado, here are BTTN's 2011 MLB Predictions:

American League

AL East
1. Red Sox 96-66
2. Yankees 88-74*
3. Rays 86-76
4. Blue Jays 85-77
5. Orioles 79-83

Comments: This year's AL East is one of the strongest single-season divisions in recent history. I have faith in projecting four teams to finish over-.500 and perhaps five if Baltimore can continue to play well under Buck Showalter. I think the Yankees pitching staff is mildly underrated, AJ Burnett should bounce-back with at least a 4.40 ERA, and Ivan Nova should be good enough to be at least a league-average starter.

The Red Sox are clearly baseball's best team, with a deep staff and great lineup.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Raptors Report Week 21: Andrea Bargnani on the Trading Block?

Julian Wright was fantastic in college, but needs
to realize he's not 'the guy' for the Raptors.

This was arguably the worst week of the season for the Raptors, and many problems were risen in the locker room.
Julian Wright complained to Jay Triano when he was given playing time in the garbage minutes, and refused to enter the game. After the game Wright, or “Ju-Ju” as Reggie Evans would say, apologized and realized that his actions were wrong. The chemistry in the locker room still appears strong as the season comes to the end, and this will be a key to the teams success next season.
There has also been a report that the Raptors are now willing to trade Andrea Bargnani, and are looking to build the team around DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis. 
Bargnani apparently has very large market value, and if the Raptors can get a nice piece for him and pick of a true center, it could be time to part ways with Bargnani in the offseason.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs Keep Pace in the Eastern Conference, Remain Five Points Out

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.
"Optimus Reim" is the primary reason that the Leafs are still in the hunt
The Toronto Maple Leafs, after a win in Minnesota last night, still find themselves five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and while time is growing short with only eight games left for the team in the regular season, they aren't out of it yet.

The New Jersey Devils and Atlanta Thrashers are doing their part to help the Leafs. It appears, however, that the Sabres and Hurricanes simply refuse to lose.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011 Blue Jays Preview: Will Aaron Hill and Adam Lind Bounce-Back?

REUTERS/Mike Cassese
To a degree.

Hill and Lind both had seasons in 2010 that were as strange as they were putrid. Aaron Hill managed a historic .196 BABIP, while Adam Lind countered with the most futile left-handed split in recent memory (.117/.159/.182, .341 OPS).

Some think we can just write off those seasons, as the statistics don't make any sense, and expect Lind and Hill to fully return to 2009 numbers. Hill's BB and K numbers were normal and Adam Lind's peripherals were close to his career norms after all, right?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs Colby Armstrong Out for Season, Giguere to Start

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.

James Reimer had an off night, to say the least, against the Lightning. After being arguably the biggest reason that the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a playoff race at all for the better part of two months, "Optimus Reim" has every right to be tired.
Just don't tell him that.
When asked if his fatigue was an issue while giving up five goals in just 29 shots, Reimer said that although he could use fatigue as an excuse, he won't. "Even if that was the case," Reimer said, "I'm a professional athlete and you have to find ways to stay focused and keep your head in the game and keep your body at a competitive level.''

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2011 Blue Jays Preview: Will Brandon Morrow Ascend to 'Ace' Status in 2011?

This article is the first in a series of individual player outlooks for the 2011 MLB season.

After losing Vernon Wells and Shaun Marcum, Blue Jays fans aplenty began writing off Toronto's 2011 season. Add in the fact that Jose Bautista is due for some sort of decline... and suddenly it's difficult to imagine the Blue Jays winning more than 83 or 84 games.

Yet I believe the team will better their 2010 record. Not only will Adam Lind and Aaron Hill surely improve to closer to their career norms, (I mean, they were both among the unluckiest players in the Majors last year) but the rotation is likely to overcome the loss of Shaun Marcum as Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil look to keep getting better, and of course, Brandon Morrow could have the ace-like season everyone expects of him. Brandon Morrow looks to be the unheralded key to the Blue Jays 2011 campaign.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blue Jays Sign Francisco Tejada Out of Dominican; My Take on Upcoming CBA Talking Points

Today, the Blue Jays announced they have signed 17-year old oufielder Francisco Tejada for $150K out of the Dominican Republic. Nobody knows anything about him, other than that he supposedly possesses a high ceiling.

Which is great. And it reminds me that these international signings may not be possible just a year from now.

There are a lot of pressing issues that surround talks about the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement, and none more than the idea of a worldwide draft (and please refrain from referring to it as an 'international' draft, we already have one of those).

On the surface, it looks like a dandy plan. All of the inhumane practices currently done by MLB teams to heavily recruit Latin America, and the chaotic structure would be abolished. All teams would have a fair shake at the top latin prospects, not just the teams with enough money to build enormous academies and pay their toolsy students mounds of dough.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Toronto Raptors Report Week 18: The Raps Pull a Dud on National TV

In perhaps one of the most anticipated games of the season, the Raptors couldn't pull out a win in London, England vs. the New Jersey Nets in the only two games nationally broadcasted for the Raptors.
Will Andrea Bargnani ever improve his rebound rate
to become a dependable 20-10 player?

This certainly won't help the American stereotype of the Raptors as a crappy, bottom feeding team who is in the same boat as the Cleveland Cavaliers. 
Another point I will bring up is Andrea Bargnani's rebounding issues. Bargnani was recently interviewed by an Italian television station and was asked about his rebounding woes. Guess what he said.

"I play basketball, not rebound-ball."

Wow. Great attitude, Andrea. That's certainly the way to improve your rebounding. Bargnani also went on about how he's sometimes lazy and focuses more on offense.

This isn't news to us as Raptor fans, but it's of even more significance now that the matter is coming from the horse's mouth.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs Looking Like Playoff Contenders Down the Stretch

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.

The Toronto Maple Leafs climbed to within three points of the eighth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes and within one point of the ninth-seeded Buffalo Sabres with an impressive win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia last night.
A lot is being said of the Leafs' current success that has seen them go a combined 16-8-5 since the turn of the year and a run of 6-1-3 in their last 10 games.

One of the biggest secrets to the team's success as of late has to be the emergence of Phil Kessel. The Leafs forward has exhibited a great deal of "truculence" in regard to his style of play than he has at almost any time in his career to date.

He's even throwing the odd check.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eye of a 'Hurricane' As They Host Pittsburgh Penguins

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.

After a flurry of moves in the past couple weeks, do
the Maple Leafs have the firepower to keep winning?
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL since the All-Star break, and while they aren't in the New Jersey category in the last 10 games of nine wins and one loss, going 5-1-4 is pretty good too.
All of the negativity surrounding the Leafs seems to have evaporated. No one thinks Phil Kessel is a bum, the calls for Ron Wilson's head are little more than a distant memory and Brian Burke is once again firmly ensconced in the upper echelon of NHL general managers and appears to have known what he was doing all along.
It's true—winning cures everything.