Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Sports Blog’

It would appear Toronto has turned a new leaf in 2010/11 and with the latest result against the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins the nation of Leafs Bashers have to be getting nervous after seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs hold off the Pens for a hard fought one goal victory.  We haven’t seen this type of effort from a Leafs team in quite some time and it was refreshing to say the least as the Leafs improve to 3-0.

The Leafs should have been leading after the first period, forcing the Pens into a ton of turnovers and pressuring them in every zone on the ice, even winning 10 of 14 one-on-one puck battles.  However, they left the ice somehow trailing 2-1 after holding the Pens without a shot for the first eleven minutes or so. 

Heading into the third period, the Leafs were leading 4-3 after a skilful goal scored by the wonder kid Sydney Crosby but again the Leafs probably deserved a larger lead.  The Leafs held a slim one goal lead the big question was whether the Leafs could play a solid final period and keep control of the game and ultimately win the game.  The Pens completely dominated the second half of the game as the Leafs managed only 14 total shots but they weren’t as soundly outplayed as the shot clock might have suggested.

Goal scorers:

Colton Orr (1), Clarke MacArthur 2 (4), Francois Beauchemin (1)

Some more musings and observations from the Leafs effort tonight:

-All comparisons to last season’s Maple Leafs have to cease, immediately.  This isn’t the same roster, let alone the same “attitude” and the comp has no value or meaning to me.  Gone are Matt Stajan, Alex Ponikarovsky, Nik Hagman, Lee Stempniak, Jason Blake, Jamal Mayers, Ian White, Jeff Finger and most importantly Vesa ‘the sieve’ Toskala.  Looking at the special teams improvement so far (early on) and I almost have to apologize to Ron Wilson, maybe it really wasn’t his fault and the needed troops just weren’t at his disposal.  This current version has well defined roles, vision and most importantly heart.

-So Clarke MacArthur can play, scoring another pair of impressive goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Brought in by Brian Burke at a ridiculous bargain basement price after the Atlanta Thrashers walked away from his arbitration award at season’s end, he is showing he can be a reliable scoring winger for the Leafs so far.  He does more than score, he is fairly sound position wise and isn’t hesitant to take the body occasionally.  One on play tonight he was the lead fore checker and laid a nice hit on a Penguin defenseman and about ten seconds later was the man touching the puck to secure an icing call. 

-Colton Orr is willing to bang, more so than even some of the toughest heavyweights and from time to time he is prone to get decked, well it happened tonight.  Against an unknown opponent Orr was soundly dropped at the end of a spirited and lengthy bout that Orr was probably winning at the time.  It happened last year unbeknownst to most fans against Jody Shelley, Orr left with what Ron Wilson will likely call “getting his bell rung” but he’ll be back.  Tough break, he played a solid first period.

 -The fourth line was again terrific with Mike Brown showing great speed and fore checking ability, Colton Orr tipping in a Luke Schenn point shot and Mike Zigomanis winning draws and playing a sound defensive game.  The Leafs were led by their bottom six forward last seasons and so far this season the third and fourth liners are again leading the charge. 

I like seeing the bottom six engage and play physical hockey with the other teams better more skilled players, that is a key going forward.  This team has to be tougher to play against and I don’t mean for the opposing tough guy having to face Colton Orr, Jay Rosehill or Mike Brown I mean the top skilled guys knowing they will be in for a tough night against the Leafs sand paper.  Mike Brown played quite a few important shifts down the stretch on the top line in place of Phil Kessel to add some more defensive ability to the top unit.

-Tyler Bozak hasn’t been overly impressive so far but Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg have picked up the slack and have made a pretty decent first line although they were basically invisible all game versus the Pens.  The second line was again impressive with Nik Kulemin using his big frame to win puck battles and Clarke MacArthur showing surprisingly impressive skill and speed and has scored four goals already while Mikael Grabovski has been the weak link on that line.  Brian Burke has to be on the prowl for a top end centre and with the recent demotion of Jeff Finger freeing up approximately four million valuable cap space dollars he at the very least has his fishing line in the water.

-Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle have been an impressive pairing thus far with Kaberle showing his normal slick puck moving skills and Schenn using his big frame to knock opponents off the puck.  Why a team wouldn’t pony up a reasonable forward for the ultra skilled Kaberle is a head scratcher, when you factor in his contract, maybe it is best we kept him.  Dion Phaneuf and Francois Beauchemin gave up a couple goals tonight but for the most part have looked the part of top defence pairing and hopeful shutdown duo.

-Jonas Gustavsson looked a bit rusty and didn’t quite play up to the lofty level that starter JS Giguere has shown in his first two starts of the season.  The jury is still out on the Monster whether he will develop into the number one goalie the Leafs hope and it has to beg the question as to the Leafs plans in the offseason when Giggy’s contract is up.  Gustavsson settled down in the third as the Pens were pressing hard to tie the game and the Leafs were getting hemmed in and held without a shot for sixteen plus minutes at one point he was actually pretty stellar down the stretch and made several timely saves.

 -A lot of money is tied up in the backend and it is a tad worrisome to see Mike Komisarek and his 4.5 million dollar cap hit playing sparing minutes on the third pairing with Carl Gunnarsson.  You would have to think if a team came to Burke looking to snag Komi away it wouldn’t take much at this point, but I doubt many teams are willing to eat that contract.

-Cool to see a new arena in Pittsburgh and the team deserves a shiny new rink but the ice was awful tonight.  Maybe that explains the completely awful Dave Andreychuk looking penalty shot attempt by Evgeni Malkin in the second period?

-Not to be a buzz kill but one has to point out that the Leafs caught the Canadiens, Sens and Penguins without a few key players, but that is just nitpicking at this point and the Leafs have deserved every point they have earned so far with a solid, relentless effort at all ends of the ice.  Kudos to the Buds!

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Frank Zicarelli once took a swipe at us dedicated bloggers in one of his articles, basically inferring we are the tiny pest on his shoulder that he has to swipe away.  He is the main basketball writer for the Toronto Sun and covers the Toronto Raptors most of the time and he occasionally writes a half decent piece but after his slight to the blogging community (a pretty tight knit group I might add) I have read his pieces a little more meticulously and his latest article contained a big faux pas, in my opinion.

Dorsey, Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson have formed a strong bond, a group of young and energetic players who aren’t exactly the most talented,” he wrote.

Really?  DeMar DeRozan, often compared to a Vince Carter athletic type with some of the greatest jumping ability in the league and recently invited to the NBA Slam Dunk contest.  Sonny Weems like Derozan is an extremely athletic and talented wing who just hasn’t been given an opportunity to showcase his skills, but it’s clear the stats just haven’t caught up to the ability, and talent. 

Amir Johnson, one of the fastest big men in the game with buttery soft hands and touch around the net, who just signed a contract for $50 million dollars?  Yeah, no talent there.  Finally, Joey Dorsey, with clearly limited offensive skills but have you seen this man’s body?  He is Dwight Howard without the height, with muscle on top of muscle and great jumping ability and rebounding instincts.  He doesn’t get rebounds the way Dennis Rodman got them, this man can simply use his superior strength and jumping ability (combined with great hustle of course) to get that ball.

Picking four of the Raptors most athletic specimens and saying they are more guts than stuff is probably one of the least thought out points I have read in a while especially considering there are plenty of other candidates to choose from on our roster who fit that description almost to a tee.  In the age of dedicated, educated and talented bloggers the time where shoddy (or lazy) journalism would never be scrutinized is over, just because your name is in lights and you are a “professional” doesn’t make you any less fallible. 

Step your game up, Frank.

RAPTORS SHOULD PASS ON DAMPIER?

With the upcoming Toronto Maple Leafs and NHL season now upon us, the pundits and experts are out taking their best shots at making some educated predictions as to where the teams will finish in the standings.  Most publications, TV stations and media outlets all concur on one particular fact: the Toronto Maple Leafs will not be a playoff bound team in 2010/11. 

Here is the projected opening night lineup:

Kris Versteeg Tyler Bozak Phil Kessel
Nik Kulemin Mikael Grabovski Clarke MacArthur
Freddy Sjostrom Tim Brent Colby Armstrong
Mike Brown Mike Zigomanis Colton Orr

 

Dion Phaneuf Francois Beauchemin
Tomas Kaberle Luke Schenn
Carl Gunnarsson Mike Komisarek

 

*JS Giguere Jonas Gustavsson

*starter

Making the playoffs is normally thought of as a successful season and the dividing line between playoff and non-playoff teams is often a very fine one.  I thought I would take a look at a few key factors in a playoff and non-playoff season for our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.  Now, this is based on Ron Wilson being the coach and the team utilizing his particular style and brand of hockey which is a more up-tempo, high pressure fore-check in all three zones.  Whether this is the appropriate strategy given the current makeup of the Maple Leafs remains to be seen and is an issue to be discussed on another day.

The Leafs will have to improve approximately twenty points in the Eastern Conference standings all things considered equal and with a few breaks here and there it can be possible.    Here are a few things to keep an eye as the season progresses and that fine dividing line we spoke about earlier between a successful or disappointing NHL season. 

THE LEAFS WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS IF: THE LEAFS WILL MISS THE PLAYOFFS IF: 
-A few forwards show great internal year over year improvement and development, specifically Kulemin, Grabovski and Bozak -The much needed secondary scoring is not found and teams focus all attention and energy on the Leafs top line
-Phil Kessel remains healthy and productive -Phil Kessel gets injured
-Tyler Bozak can maintain and productive point pace throughout 82 games -Tyler Bozak doesn’t possess the skill or ability to anchor the top line for an entire season
-The goaltending improves and we get a complete season of steady and solid play between the pipes -We get Vesa Toskala type goaltending again, for any stretch of the season
-Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin play the way they are capable of playing -Our relatively deep defense core doesn’t shore up enough to lower scoring chances against
-Luke Schenn continues his development, forcing Ron Wilson to play him 20+ minutes a night -Luke Schenn’s development stagnates, at all
-Our special teams play is markedly improved -Power play and penalty killing rank in the bottom third of the league again
-Dion Phaneuf is rejuvenated and gives the Leafs a physical and offensive spark from the backend -Dion Phaneuf’s declining numbers continue
-Our bottom six forwards continue their strong play, bringing a defensive and physical edge -Our newly formed checking line (Sjostrom-Brent-Armstrong) doesn’t provide a reliable, consistent and sustainable defensive presence
-We go .500 or better in shootouts and OT games -We continue to struggle gaining the extra point in OT/shootouts

 

The Maple Leafs will be improved and I doubt few could argue that much considering the Leafs might have won a few more games if Vesa Toskala simply left his stick and glove lying on the ice in front of his net as opposed to actually attempting to play goal.  He was one of the worst goalies statistically speaking of the last 10-15 years and for a team that was dead last on the penalty kill it’s not hard to see why the team improved so much when JS Giguere came aboard via trade.  The Leafs had absolutely no confidence in Vesa Toskala last season and it showed when they completely melted down late in games on numerous occasions and almost looked shaken when having to kill a penalty off.

I think one fact the ‘experts’ or pundits are overlooking is the internal improvement from a number of Maple Leafs, most notably Nik Kulemin and Luke Schenn.  Kulemin has the opportunity to blossom into an impact two- way forward capable of scoring upwards of 30 goals if he gets a few bounces, he possesses a lethal shot with a quick release and is starting to utilize his impressive size and strength to his advantage. 

Luke Schenn was the 5th overall selection in the draft for a reason.  For such a young defenseman with limited experience Schenn is calm and cool with the puck possessing solid instincts to go along with a huge frame capable of absolutely dominating opposing forwards physically.  Most defenseman aren’t fully developed until around age 25-27 give or take a year and Schenn is well on his way to becoming an Adam Foote type shutdown defender teams crave and simply do not grow on trees. 

Patience is needed with young defenseman more than any other position and I applaud Brian Burke for not using Schenn as a trade chip to acquire a borderline top six forward to appease the fan base starving for another solid scoring threat.  I guarantee teams would be lining up around the block to get a piece of a defenseman clearly ready to take a big step forward.  After a relatively slow start last season Schenn quickly rebounded and was among our best players down the stretch, and still posted 5 goals and 12 assists and was a positive plus 2 on a poor defensive squad.  I think this is the year Schenn takes his place among the games better young defensive defenseman.

So do the Leafs have what it takes to survive an 82 game season and put up enough points to seriously contend for a long overdue playoff spot?

This seems to be the preferred line-up (see below) for Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson, at least early into training camp and preseason.  This line-up would not include John Mitchell, Marcel Mueller, Luca Caputi, Brayden Irwin, Jay Rosehill, Jeff Finger, Brett Lebda, Jesse Blacker and Matt Lashoff, among others.  I think it would be a real shame that Rosehill will not break camp with the team if this line-up holds as with the addition of the extremely effective Mike Brown he has become a bit redundant.

1 Kulemin-Bozak-Kessel

2 Versteeg-Kadri-Armstrong

3 Sjostrom-Grabovski-MacArthur

4 Brown-Hanson-Orr

1 Phanuef-Beauchemin

2 Kaberle-Komisarek

3 Schenn-Gunnarsson

Another player I feel could be AHL bound is London Knights standout centre Nazem Kadri.  He hasn’t looked himself (early) and barring a turnaround and some prolonged consistent play I think the AHL is just what he needs to continue his development physically and maybe more importantly, mentally.  It would be a good test for Kadri and the Leafs to see how we would potentially deal with the disappointment of beginning the year in the minor leagues.  Let’s face it Kadri isn’t Sidney Crosby (duh), he still has a long way to go and I think growing up a bit might actually be the first step and when I view him on most nights his overall body language to me screams ‘entitlement’.  Some of the top players in the game have honed their crafts in the underrated and valuable AHL.

So if Kadri is Toronto Marlies bound to begin the year, what are the Leafs options in terms of the most effective line-up?  I think the defence core remains the same until or unless one of the current “top six” either gets injured or is simply ineffective.  That is an extremely deep and promising group of defenders and with Luke Schenn appearing confident early, it will be a real area of strength for the team on the ice and in the front office should Brian Burke feel the need to address his weakness at the centre ice position by moving one of Kaberle, Beauchemin, Komisarek and depending if he gets blown away with an offer and he comes out of the gate strong, Schenn.

Here is my ideal line-up:

1 Kulemin-Bozak-Kessel

2 Versteeg-Grabovksi-MacArthur

3 Caputi-Mitchell/Kadri-Armstrong

4 Brown-Hanson-Orr

Honestly I do like the first line-up with Grabovski on the third line adding some solid scoring depth, but only if Nazem Kadri proves to be big league ready right off the bat, which so far (very early on) is just not the case.  So I moved Grabo up to the 2nd line centre role between newcomers Kris Versteeg and Clarke MacArthur.  This could prove to be a solid goal scoring line with all three players capable of sniping up to 20-25 goals while adding a nice touch of speed and skill to the line-up.  We brought in both Versteeg and MacArthur to pick up the scoring slack so no sense wasting either in a lesser 3rd line role. 

Speaking of the 3rd line, this is John Mitchell’s chance to prove he belongs, likely his last opportunity to do so in the NHL.  He’ll be between Luca Caputi and Colby Armstrong, both players who can skate, hit and hopefully score a few while playing a sound defensive game.  Caputi has shown up to camp in tremendous shape and looks to be bigger, stronger and most importantly faster on his skates.  He has been a big prospect for a few years and he needs to start showcasing that potential this season.  We already know what Armstrong brings, and he will be a fan favourite for his rambunctious style of play.  This could be an effective, abrasive and solid checking style line with the chance to pop in a few goals and make some things happen down low and on the cycle.

The argument for keeping Kadri on the team and playing with the 3rd line unit is simple, give him a chance to stay with the big club and hopefully simplify his game and improve his defensive shortcomings by throwing him into the fire.  It is doubtful the Leafs will want to do this and would likely prefer him starring in the AHL in a more prolific offensive role, but it’s a thought to ponder.

The 4th line is a pure energy and momentum changing line with two solid skating big men (Hanson and Brown) who aren’t scared to get their noses dirty and of course the Leafs heavyweight (Orr).  Mike Brown could prove to be one of Burke’s best offseason additions with his tenacity, strong skating and hitting tendencies and a bonus that he is a great penalty killer.  I like Christian Hanson and I think he deserves to be on this team and I look for a breakout season and a potential move up to the 3rd line depending on how Mitchell/Kadri performs.  Colton Orr brings his usual presence and huge right hand on a nightly basis and he could be the best pure fighter in Leafs history?

A lot of the Leafs success will clearly rest with the defence and as long as we stay healthy and each player plays up to his potential it should be one of the better groups in the NHL.  Goaltending will also be imperative to any potential playoff berth and I think I can safely say (knock on wood) that there is no way it can be any worse than what the sieve named Vesa Toskala provided us last season, especially early when we started so terribly.  JS Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson provide a pretty solid tandem and it finally appears we have a couple solid young tenders in the system in Jussi Rynnas, Ben Scrivens and Reimer.

We can make the playoffs a reality if:

-Phil Kessel stays healthy

-Tyler Bozak and Nik Kulemin play the entire season with Kessel and they continue building (and improving) on their success and chemisty from last season

-Dion Phaneuf scores 15+ goals and returns to the dominating (maybe slightly calmer) physical presence and power play star

-Luke Schenn forces Ron Wilson to play him 20+ minutes due to outstanding play, which in turn allows Brian Burke to move one of our excess defenseman (Kaberle) for a top notch centre

-Mikael Grabovski has a career year (60+ points)

-Nazem Kadri joins the Leafs half way through the season and starts to contribute at the big league level, consistently, adding much needed secondary scoring

-Versteeg, Armstrong, Brown, MacArthur, Komisarek, Beauchemin and Giguere simply play to their career norms, or slightly above

-Jonas Gustavsson’s play forces Ron Wilson to re-think the tandem due to extremely consistent performances

-Improved play from Hanson, Caputi, Mitchell and Kulemin

-Ron Wilson and the coaching staff improve the worst special teams in the history of the franchise, two years running

-We don’t start the year 0-7-1 and we drastically improve our putrid shootout record post lockout

What are your other keys to a successful Maple Leafs season?  What are you looking for from the team this year?  Who are you most excited, nervous, and anxious or worried about?

As stated in my earlier post on some musing of the NHL Rookie Tournament involving the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Black Hawks I was in attendance of the game last night and took the time to go over some observations and general feel of the game.  Here is a recap:

Nazem Kadri didn’t look that hot, he never got into the flow of the game and tried to do to much at times.  Most of my section was generally unimpressed with him not even hoping for highlite reel plays but to just play even an effective simple game with solid passing and positional play.  It wasn’t his night as he didn’t win draws or make much of an impact outside a nice hit or two.

**UPDATE: Nazem Kadri suffered a minor injury in last night’s game, which makes some sense to me given how he didn’t look like himself at all.  His body is likely going through hell right now with his first real off-season dedicated to conditioning and weight lifting to add some much needed strength and size to survive the rigors of a full NHL season.

Let him rest and come back strong for camp, this is a huge adjustment for him physically.

Sondre Olden looked unreal, flashing great speed and skill to go along with great size.  He could be a keeper going forward, possible steal?

Jerry D’Amigo is still a ways off, no chance he cracks the Leafs roster this season, who’s spot would he realistically take?

Brayden Irwin looked improved, slightly better skating (could it get worse?) and he won nearly every draw he took.  Still a long shot to ever play in the NHL though in a meaningful role, a possible 4th line centre?

Greg McKegg looked fundamentally sound (as advertised) but he has more flash and dash than I expected, definitely looks like a possible second liner scoring winger for the future.  Could McKegg be a more effective pro than Kadri, that was the talk making the rounds with some excellent and knowledgeable fans.

Jussi Rynnas looked shaky at best in the first period but settled down after that and made a few good saves as the Leafs were outshot and outplayed.  The Hawks goalie looked terrible all night and gave up a few questionable first period goals.

Jesse Blacker moved the puck nicely (no Keith Aullie tonight, who I really wanted to see!)

Korbinian Holzer had my entire section in awe, always in position and used his size and strength all night and was never beat one on one.  Good debut, could be a solid 5-6 d’man.

-Nobody from the Hawks wanted anything to do with tough guy Jamie Devane, he tried to get a couple things going with some opposing forwards, all for not. 

-Marcel Mueller looked impressive, he used his size and strength and big frame to his advantage.

-No Mike Liambas tonight (player suspended from the OHL for hit in 2010) as he wasn’t dressed, there was a lot of discussion surrounding him and his reputation.

Here is the entire roster as given by the JLC crew to each fan in attendance:

G – Andrew Engelage, 6’5″ – 206 AGE 22, Jussi Rynnas, 6’5″ – 205 AGE 23, Ben Scrivens, 6’2″ – 192, AGE 24

D – Keith Aullie, 6’5″ – 217 AGE 21, Jesse Blacker, 6’1″ – 190 AGE 19, Erik Burgdoerfer, 6’2″ 210 AGE 21, Dave Cowan, 6’4, 205 AGE 24, Marc-Andre Dorian, 5’11” – 172 AGE 23, Simon Gysbers, 6’4″ – 200 AGE 23, Korbinian Holzer 6’3″ – 205 AGE 22, Dallas Jackson 6’2″, 188 AGE 21, Drew Paris 6’4″, 200 AGE 22, Barron Smith, 6’5″ – 205 AGE 19

F – Sam Carrick, 6’0″ – 188 AGE 18, Andrew Crescenzi, 6’4″ – 195 AGE 19, Jerry D’Amigo, 5’11” – 208 AGE 19, Jamie Devane, 6’5″ 217 AGE 19, Brayden Irwin, 6’5″ 215 AGE 23, Nazem Kadri 6’0″? – 188 AGE 19, Mike Liambas, 5’9″ – 204 AGE 21, Greg McKegg 6’0″ – 190 AGE 18, Dale Mitchell 5’9″ – 200 AGE 21.

Here is the introduction to the DMB (Diamond Mind Baseball) Trade Value series.

2010 DMB Trade Value: #50 -#41

2010 DMB Trade Value: #40 – #31

2010 DMB Trade Value: #30 – #21

2010 DMB Trade Value: #20 – #11

So here we are, to our Top Ten DMB Ball Players and I must say looking at the top 15-20 there isn’t much that seperates most of these players, almost personal preference or just slight improvement in key areas (and age).  It has been awesome to break this type of list down with a “DMB” twist and I look forward to doing it every season.  We’ll see who rises and falls the most season over season and see what hot new players burst onto the scene in 2011, hope you enjoyed.

10) SP Adam Wainwright (R) – Age: 29

Quick Take:  Definitely one of the best arms in baseball, sporting a solid 8.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 2.91 FIP and a solid gb rate Wainwright is quickly becoming a reliable workhorse and ace pitcher many had envisioned when he was a prospect.  His big weakness in 2009 was his propensity to get slightly roughed up by left handed hitters appears to be over given his .222 avg vs L this season and he should be counted upon to be one of the game’s best starters for the next 5-6 seasons.

DMB PRO: solid control, groundball rate

DMB CON: lefties have historically hit him relatively hard, not a major concern at this point. 

9) 2B Robinson Cano (L) – Age:  28

Quick Take:  Can you believe this is Cano’s 6th season with the Yankees?  It feels like just yesterday he was the young rookie from “Murderer’s row plus Cano” but now he is firmly entrenched in his prime and his offensive game has gone to unseen heights, his power (.238 ISO, .563 SLG%) as well as patience (8.5 BB%, almost double is career rate) has powered the second basemen to a career best .402 wOBA.  Cano plays a very valuable position and has improved his defense in 2010 (3.2 UZR) and is the best overall second basemen in the game on pace for 30 HRs.  He has finally put it all together in 2010 and should remain among the best middle infield options in DMB for 4-5 seasons if he continues to improve his patience and plate discipline.

DMB PRO: huge power for a 2B, big numbers versus lefties and righties.

DMB CON: plays in hitter’s park, still needs to improve BB rate to maximize DMB value.

8 ) SP Josh Johnson (R) – Age:  26

Quick Take:  One of the top overall arms in baseball, Johnson has taken another step forward in 2010 posting career best numbers in ERA (2.28), K/9 (8.8), BB/9 (2.28), FIP (2.50 and xFIP (3.23) in his second full season in the majors since coming back from TJ surgery.  He is equally effective against lefties and righties and possesses one of the biggest fastballs in the game (94.8 MPH) and has shown a solid gb rate in his career.  The only flaw he has DMB wise is pitching at Marlins Stadium, a notorious pitchers park.

DMB PRO: huge strikeout numbers coupled with low walk totals, good groundball rate, effective vs lefties and still improving

DMB CON: plays in is a pitchers park

7) 1B Albert Pujols (R) – Age:  30

Quick Take:  Having an “off-year” with only a .420 wOBA, Pujols is in contention for the NL Triple Crown and is again having a remarkable season, if you don’t compare to his past body of work of course.  One of the best hitter’s of our generation, Pujols is likely to be among the game’s best all around players until he retires.

DMB PRO: best overall hitter in the game?  Patience/power

DMB CON: only a 1B.

6) 1B Miguel Cabrera (R) – Age:  27

Quick Take:  Probably the game’s best right handed hitter, if he was still rated at 3B he would probably be near the top of this list but as it is he is still firmly in the top ten as his offensive ability carries him a long way.  Miggy possesses huge power (.305 ISO), patience (14.4 BB %, .437 OBP) and a huge .446 wOBA all while playing in a pitcher’s park with zero protection is a pretty lame Tigers lineup.  Equally amazing against lefties (1.034 OPS) and righties (1.096 OPS) Cabrera is entering his prime and there is no reason to believe he won’t remain among the game’s best hitters for the next 5-6 seasons.

DMB PRO: amazing hitter, power and patience.  Plays in a pitcher’s park

DMB CON: only plays 1B, lousy defender

 5) SP Roy Halladay (R) – Age:  33

Quick Take:  The best pitcher in baseball, period.  Halladay is a nightmare matchup for any hitter with his impeccable control over an arsenal vast enough to make an army general jealous.  Halladay throws a nasty two-seam fastball with good sink, a cutter he throws to both lefties and righties, a solid overhand curveball and an improving changeup he hasn’t thrown with much frequency until 2010 – scary.

The only thing keeping him from being ranked even higher is his age, though showing no signs of slowing down in 2010 (career best ERA at 2.27, FIP 2.80 and xFIP 2.91) Halladay has carved up the NL after serving as the game’s best pitcher in the game’s best division (AL East) since 2002.  Doc seems to have a skill set that will age well (a control, groundball pitcher) that a Greg Maddux like age 36-40 period doesn’t seem far-fetched.

DMB PRO: workhorse, solid against lefties and righties, awesome control and BB rate, groundball pitcher, pitches in a hitter’s park, is a DMB dream pitcher

DMB CON: aging – like fine wine however.

4) 3B Evan Longoria (R) – Age:  25

Quick Take:  One of the best all around players in the major leagues, his big time power (career .240 ISO, .523 SLG%), decent patience (10.2 BB %) and outstanding defensive abilities (15.3, 17.7 and 8.4 UZR marks the past three seasons).  Still young and theoretically improving Longoria will be a DMB mainstay on rosters for the next ten seasons with his huge level of talent.  Hits lefties and righties nearly equally as well and has added a bit of speed in 2010 (15 SBs) to go along with the power.

DMB PRO: huge power, great glove at 3B

DMB CON: could strike out less, never been a huge average hitter until 2010

3) C Joe Mauer (L) – Age:  27

Quick Take:  The player to which all prospective catchers will be compared to for the next 15-20 seasons, maybe longer.  Mauer has everything you want in a DMB player, he plays the most demanding (and leanest) position at catcher, has solid power for a backstop (.156 ISO), patience (11.7 BB %, 11.0 K %) and average (career .327).  The fluky power show from 2009 (in 2009, his HR/FB was 20.4 %, his career mark is 10.7 %) hasn’t returned but when you have a catcher that is as strong of an overall hitter and player as Mauer you have one of the top assets in DMB baseball.  Only 27 years old and entering his prime, keep an eye on the park factors for the new Minnesota ballpark.

DMB PRO: premium position and top flight stats, hits lefties and righties

DMB CON: power has come and gone over his career.

2) 3B Ryan Zimmerman (R) – Age:  26

Quick Take:  Simply, Zimmerman is a beast.  Playing in a pitcher’s park Zimmerman has put up huge power numbers (career .199 ISO), his 12.3 BB % is a career high which has also led to a career best OBP of .387, Zimmerman has it all.  One of the best defensive players in baseball at a relatively thin 3B position, there aren’t many better all around players in the game when factoring in age, talent and what DMB values in a player.  Zimmerman might still improve as he is only 26 years old and the future is bright for a guy who has already put up a 6.3 WAR in 2010.

DMB PRO: big offensive numbers in pitcher’s park, awesome defender, solid versus lefties and righties

DMB CON: nothing major

#1) SS Hanley Ramirez (R) – Age:  27

Quick Take:  Like we discussed with Pujols previously, Hanley is having a bit of a ‘down’ year but has still put up an impressive .370 wOBA with a triple slash line of 299/375/476 in 2010 while providing league average defense at shortstop, he is miles better than any other SS in DMB considering he also plays in a pitcher’s park.  He destroys righties (874 OPS in 2010, 1018 in 2009) and has been remarkably consistent with his offensive numbers (.364, .411, .405, .410, .370 wOBA ) since his rookie season. 

Hanley brings everything to the table, average, power, patience, speed and improved defense.  At only 27 years old, Hanley will be entering his prime hitting seasons and is poised to be considered one of the best hitting shortstops in the history of the game if he continues at his current torrid pace.

DMB PRO: best offensive middle infielder in baseball, plays in a pitcher’s park, great all around game, hits righties better than lefties

DMB CON: could stand to improve BB rate to maximize DMB value

Here is the introduction to the DMB (Diamond Mind Baseball) Trade Value series.

2010 DMB Trade Value: #50 -#41

2010 DMB Trade Value: #40 – #31

2010 DMB Trade Value: #30 – #21

20) CF/RF Josh Hamilton (L) – Age:  29

Quick Take:  Hamilton appeared ready to take his place among the game’s elite after a stellar 2008 campaign (.530 SLG%, .385 wOBA) but things quickly turned south in 2009 as Josh struggled through injuries and a season long slump.  Well 2010 has answered any potential questions, and then some, Hamilton is having a career year and hitting for power (.277 ISO, .637 SLG%, .448 wOBA) and though his average is being propped by a .395 BABIP, he has cut his strikeouts down marginally year over year.  An average fielder, he still qualifies at CF which is a bonus.  If not for the injuries and shaky past would have ranked much higher.

DMB PRO: huge lefty slugger destroys right handed pitching, qualifies at CF

DMB CON: scary past life struggles, doesn’t hit lefties well, plays at hitter’s park, average defender, what is his true talent level?

19) 1B Joey Votto (L) – Age: 27

Quick Take:  Has put up monster numbers throughout his young career and currently sports a huge .438 wOBA for the Reds as their first basemen.  Plays solid defense and is in the early stages of his prime seasons.  Would have ranked much higher but there are a ton of great 1B and this takes away from some of his value, also some DMB leagues allow ANY player to man first base regardless of if they are rated there or not.

DMB PRO: huge power/on-base combo, good defense

DMB CON: hitter’s park and only a first basemen

18) SP Tim Lincecum (R) – Age:  26

Quick Take:  Though I think the ‘best pitcher in baseball’ tag might be removed after a more pedestrian 2010 (3.48 xFIP, 3.80 ERA) the ‘freak’ is still among the game’s best arms with a still solid 9.4 K/9, 30.9 o-swing % and one of baseball’s best changeups.  However, his value has taken a hit as he finally looks human after years of utter domination, playing in a pitchers park and a rising BB rate (3.6 BB/9) hurt his overall DMB value but we will give him another season to get back to his old form before starting to officially panic.

DMB PRO: strong strikeout numbers

DMB CON: rising BB rate and pitches in a pitchers park

17) 2B Dustin Pedroia (R) – Age:  27

Quick Take:  The pesky little second basemen has been a solid player since entering the league in 2006 and 2010 has been a solid but injury riddle season.  Increased power (.205 ISO) along with his rock solid defending at the scarce position of 2B give him immense value going forward.  Probably has reached the apex of his career and will likely never rank higher than this given the propensity for 2B to literally fall off a cliff in their mid to early 30s but for now, a hitter in the midst of his prime.

DMB PRO: good defense, solid bat for a 2B

DMB CON: Fenway takes away some of his hitting value

16) 1B Adrian Gonzalez (L) – Age:  28

Quick Take:  A monster with the bat given that he plays at PetCo park in San Diego, career .224 ISO and .508 SLG, his stats are hugely magnified in a neutral ballpark and he is a DMB machine if your team plays in a hitters park.  Gonzalez provides solid defense and as long as he keeps producing at this clip in San Diego will be among the best hitters in DMB.  Keep an eye on his impending free agency.

DMB PRO: huge power numbers in the worst hitting park in the majors, good defense

DMB CON: only a 1B

15) C Buster Posey (R) – Age:  23

Quick Take:  Posey has been everything he was advertised as and more, posting a .374 wOBA so far in 2010.  A few question marks remain in terms of where Posey will end up playing position wise, if he is a catcher the sky is the limit in terms of his value, if he sticks at 1B, he won’t see this list again.  There have been no indications that he won’t be a fulltime catcher so for now, all systems go and stock way up.  His numbers likely won’t be this gaudy with a full rigorous season behind the plate, but he might also see improvements in BB rate (currently only 5.6%) and this is only his first full season in the bigs.

DMB PRO: great numbers for a catcher in a pitchers park

DMB CON: positional questions, will he stick at C?

14) RF Jason Heyward (L) – Age:  21

Quick Take:  A 21 year old rookie shouldn’t be posting the insane numbers that Heyward currently has put up, sporting a solid .197 ISO and .379 wOBA Heyward has shown every indication that stardom is in his very immediate future, if not already.

DMB PRO: solid power, good fielder

DMB CON: growing pains of youth, must learn to hit lefties

13) SS Troy Tulowitzki (R) – Age:  26

Quick Take:  One of the better all around players in the bigs, Tulo has solid power (career .190 ISO, .362 wOBA)) and plays a mean shortstop defensively.  Injury concerns have started to creep up and playing in Coors Field definitely hurts his overall value in DMB, however given the lack of options at SS he is among the game’s most valuable players in spite of a few flaws.

DMB PRO: good hitting/fielding shortstop

DMB CON: Coors Field, lack of patience hurt his overall DMB value

12) SP Ubaldo Jimenez (R) – Age:  26

Quick Take:  A 26 year old pitcher with a 3.14 FIP, 8.2 K/9, 50% gb rate, 1.13 WHIP and 0.41 HR/9 would be one of the best pitchers in the game no matter where he pitched, but when you take into consideration the home park of Coors Field, it takes it to a whole other level.  Jimenez has simply developed into one of baseball’s best pitchers and might be the best pitcher in DMB given the park factors of Coors Field.  Just entering his prime years, Jimenez appears poised to become one of DMBs best hurlers for the next 5-6 season, possesses the hardest fastball in baseball (96.2 MPH).

DMB PRO: good strikeout numbers, solid ground ball/homerun rate and pitches in an extreme hitters park

DMB CON: high-ish walk rate

11) 2B Chase Utley (L) – Age:  32

Quick Take:  Contradictory I know as I knocked Pedroia for being close to his early 30s and here I am ranking Utley as one of the best overall players in the game, and for good reason.  Utley has been a model of good health until this season (given his age, there is slight concern going forward) and his career .387 wOBA, .222 ISO, .379 OBP and amazing defense at the thin position of 2B is absolutely insane.  Utley is definitely deserving of such a high ranking and should be counted among the game’s best hitters for the next 2-3 season at least.

DMB PRO: great all around hitter/defender at weak position

DMB CON: is hitting the age some second basemen turn into pumpkins, hitter’s park

Here is the introduction to the DMB (Diamond Mind Baseball) Trade Value series.

2010 DMB Trade Value: #50 -#41

2010 DMB Trade Value: #40 – #31

30) 3B Adrian Beltre (R) – Age:  31

Quick Take:  A defensive wizard at 3B and a power bat to boot, Beltre gives you everything you want in a corner infielder.  Since leaving the hitter’s hell that is SafeCo Beltre has absolutely killed the ball (.228 ISO) and though the BABIP (.340) is helping his average his overall .390 wOBA combined with a 9.2 UZR has valued him at a 5.7 WAR thus far in 2010.  Beltre will never be confused as a patient hitter but should be productive for the next 5-6 seasons and with pending free agency, again keep an eye on what park he lands in.

DMB PRO: awesome defender, great power

DMB CON: does not walk (5.5 BB %) and this affects his overall DMB value

29) SP Felix Hernandez (R) – Age: 24

Quick Take:  Seemingly been in the league forever, Hernandez is just entering his prime and his resume is impressive.  Has been a workhorse since 2006 (191, 190, 200, 238 and 204 IPs so far in 2010) and has been a solid groundball/strikeout guy since making his debut in 2005.  While not the K-machine I think some had envisioned there is not much to dislike about a 24 year old with the body of work that Felix possesses and no reason not to invest heavily over the next 5-6 seasons.  My only concerns would be workload on his young arm, his home park is extremely pitcher friendly and he plays in front of one of the better defences, sometimes affecting his DMB value depending on chosen ballpark and defense.

DMB PRO: solid ground ball rate, good control, consistent

DMB CON:  extreme pitchers park

28) RF Justin Upton (R) – Age:  23

Quick Take:  A fulltime player holding his own at age 21 is a rare breed and Upton is truly a rare talent.  Upton possesses huge power potential (career .200 ISO) to go along with his solid defense, arm and speed.  If he could only improve his lacking plate discipline we could be looking at one of the best overall players in baseball.  His ‘off’ year so far in 2010 has still produced a .350 wOBA and 3.3 WAR, not bad for a 23 year old.  Upton is still a talent on the rise who at worst will provide a low average power bat with amazing right field defense, but his upside is that of top player in the game and definitely an intriguing talent.

DMB PRO: big power, solid defender, speed

DMB CON: lack of patience and high strikeouts, hitter’s park

27) SP Cliff Lee (L) – Age:  32

Quick Take:  Normally a pitch to contact left hander is bad news in the world of DMB but Lee is a rare talent which his unreal control (.60 BB/9!), decent K rate (7.8 K/9) and normally solid numbers versus right handed hitters that he was another must addition to this list.  Doesn’t appear to be slowing down any as he has entered his 30s and is one of the top lefties in the game, keep an eye on what team he signs with in the off-season.  If he signs with the Yankees, expect a drop in his overall numbers playing in that ballpark and division.

DMB PRO: impeccable control, solid K rate, good numbers vs. Righties

DMB CON: is still a lefty and susceptible to a righty heavy lefty crushing line-up, can give up a lot of hits.

26) LF Matt Holliday (R) – Age:  30

Quick Take:  Basically given up for dead while with Oakland in 2009, Holliday was supposedly only a product of his environment (Coors Field) but people failed to realize his environment in Oakland was extremely chilly to hitters.  Holliday has proven to be one of the most consistent and feared right handed hitting outfielders in the game (.390 and .384 wOBA in 2009 and 2010) Holliday provides great defense (7.1 UZR) and great power (.221 ISO in 2010) and is equally effective versus righties or lefties.  A guy you can just book for 300/390/500 with 40 2Bs/25 HRs, a solid rating in LF and a 5.0-5.5 WAR each season.  In a DMB keeper world, that is as good as gold.

DMB PRO: consistently solid with the bat and glove, good splits vs. L and R

DMB CON: low-ish walk rate (career 8.9 BB %)

25) SP Zack Greinke (R) – Age:  27

Quick Take:  If anybody is holding Greinke to his unbelievable 2009 season to say he is having a bad year in 2010, you are crazy.  He was never going to repeat that season, which was one of the best over the past 10 years however Greinke is still among the game’s best starting pitchers and is only just entering his prime seasons.  His K-rate is down (9.5 K/9 in 2009, 7.5 in 2010) however his control is still great (2.0 BB/9) and his 3.31 FIP suggests he is still an ace in the making.  I am still buying the hype.

DMB PRO: solid control pitcher, improving GB rate

DMB CON: pitcher’s park, declining K rate.

24) 1B Kevin Youkilis (R) – Age:  31

Quick Take:  The Greek God of Walks as once dubbed by Billy Beane “Youk” is an on-base machine (13.3 BB %, .411 OBP) who hits both lefties and righties well and gains an extra little bit of positional value by also being rated at 3B (for most seasons).  If he ever lost his 3B eligibility permanently it would put a serious hit on his overall value.

DMB PRO: hits both lefties and righties, OBP machine

DMB CON: Fenway is a good hitters park for righties, potentially only a 1B one day.

23) CF Carlos Gonzalez (L) – Age:  25

Quick Take: “CarGo” is another intriguing talent who has shown absolutely massive power this season (.271 ISO, .596 SLG%) but is not without a few warts.  Questions still abound whether he will be able to play CF going forward and his walk rate has been abysmal (5.3 BB %) which will hurt him immensely in DMB but that power stroke cannot be denied, even accounting for the effect his home ballpark will have.  If he can show improved plate discipline, he could be a major force.

DMB PRO: huge power, rated at CF

DMB CON: poor walk rate and the “Coors” effect could seriously affect his value in DMB.

22) C Carlos Santana (S) – Age:  24

Quick Take:  The leg injury was scary but it appears the Santana avoided a potentially career debilitating injury and is an exciting catching prospect with some very strong upside.  A switch-hitter who plays catcher has the potential to give a lot of value and Santana’s numbers while coming up through the minor leagues are nothing short of brilliant and he should be a top five catcher for the next 8-10 years.

DMB PRO: position, upside

DMB CON: will injury affect his long term value?

21) C Brian McCann (L) – Age:  26

Quick Take:  It seems like McCann should be nearly 40 but in reality he is only now hitting his prime hitting seasons and in 2010 has been a beast (.380 wOBA) and his improving patience (13.4 BB %) is a bonus.  One of the top hitting catchers in baseball and should be counted upon to put up consistently strong numbers for the next 5 seasons minimum.

DMB PRO: a strong hitting catcher, improved patience and BB rate

DMB CON: not as strong versus lefties, but that is nitpicking.

I decided to embark on a new five part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’.  Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.

Part I – Top 5 Maple Leafs of all time

Part II – Top 5 Raptors of all time

Part III – Top 5 Blue Jays of all time

Part IV – Top 5 Toronto Sports Athletes of all time

Part V – Top Ten Current Athletes in Toronto

This will be a quick breakdown of the top athletes currently residing in Toronto and it is a down and dirty look at the athlete’s ready to contribute on the Toronto sports scene.  This certainly won’t be referred to as the golden era in Toronto’s sports history, but I’d say the scene is definitely on the up-swing and improving almost daily.  The Jays are looking to be competitive in the next 1-2 seasons, the Leafs look to be in good hands with Brian Burke and the Raptors aren’t as bad as most think, though they are looking lottery bound in 2010/11 (not such a bad thing though?).  Well, here is my list for the top ten current Toronto athletes.

10) SP Brandon Morrow – Toronto Blue Jays

-A hugely talented arm with untapped potential, he might have the most upside of any of the current Blue Jays arms.  Putting together a great first season in Toronto, the future is bright and price to acquire him was right.

9) LW Kris Versteeg – Toronto Maple Leafs

-Coming over from the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (thank you salary cap) in which he was a key third line member and a heart and soul type player described as having a wicked wrist shot.  Only 24 years old and coming off back to back 20 goal seasons, I think Toronto fans are going to really like this kid.

#8) SP Shaun Marcum – Toronto Blue Jays

-Looks to be completely back after undergoing TJ surgery and has been the Jays best pitcher this season with 151 IPs, 3.70 ERA, 3.83 FIP and an impressive 3.8 K/BB.  Marcum will look to score a longer term contract in the next year or so and will hopefully continue to put hitters away with that nasty changeup for many more seasons.

7) SG Demar Derozan – Toronto Raptors

-The 7th overall pick out of Compton, California and USC University, the sky is the limit for Derozan and the ‘Young Gunz’ (along with Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson), fans are hoping for a big breakout year for Demar to give them some (any) hope for a Toronto Raptors eventual resurgence.  The kid has all the talent and skills you could want and just needs seasoning and some refinements to certain aspects of the game (mid range jumper and handle) to really take that next step.

6) RF Jose Bautista – Toronto Blue Jays

-Bautista leads the majors in homeruns and has been a total beast for the Blue Jays this season (41 HRs, 607 SLG%, .416 wOBA – 4.9 WAR), he has been so good there is some talk the Jays might be best served dealing their top slugger while the getting is good and his value is at an all-time high.  The most debated/discussed Blue Jay player this season, mixed opinions on whether or not he should be around long term.

5) D Tomas Kaberle – Toronto Maple Leafs

-What would a Toronto article be without Kaberle, fact remains he is still one of the best defensemen to suit up for the Leafs and if he remains this season will be counted upon to contribute a huge season. 

4) PF Andrea Bargnani – Toronto Raptors

-The smooth, sharp shooting 7-footer was the 1st overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft and has shown steady improvement each season (in scoring) over the past three years scoring 10.2, 15.4 and 17.2 PPG.  He still needs to improve his overall game, with more focus on rebounding and weak side help defense, however a big man with the ability to drive and dish the rock who will likely average 20.0+ PPG, shoot around 48-49% from the field, 37-38% from 3-point land and hopefully average 7-8 rebounds and 1.5-2 blocks per game don’t exactly grow on trees.  Andrea doesn’t get enough credit for the player he has become, expect that opinion and sentiment to change with a huge 2010/11 season as the Raptors go to guy.

3) SP Ricky Romero – Toronto Blue Jays

-JP Ricciardi envisioned this type of success for his first pick (6th overall) in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft but it took Ricky a few seasons in the minors to finally flourish and make it to the big leagues (too little, too late for our old buddy JP though) but flourish he has.  The Jays lefty recently signed a contract extension that will keep in Toronto for the next 5 seasons, hopefully his prime years are still to come.  In 2010, Romero has been great, in 172.2 IPS he has a 3.54 ERA, 3.59 FIP, solid ground ball rate and a pretty good 7.7 K/9.

2) D Dion Phaneuf – Toronto Maple Leafs

-When you are the new captain of the most popular team in town, you are going to get some attention and since entering the league Phaneuf has definitely drawn his fair share.  The top scoring defensemen since joining the league, the hard hitting Alberta native is being counted upon to lead the Brian Burke era in team history and fans are excited and anxious to see what a full season of a motivated Dion Phaneuf can bring to the team. 

1) RW Phil Kessel – Toronto Maple Leafs

-There haven’t been many better skilled Leafs than Phil the Thrill in the team’s long history and the slight forward will again be counted upon to lead the woeful Maple Leafs forward core to the hopeful goal of making the playoffs.  Playing with a relatively unknown (and rookie) centre in Tyler Bozak, Kessel still managed 30 goals in 70 games and fans are hoping he can take his game to the next level and become a 40-45 goal scorer with a full season to come in 2010/11.

Drafted in the first round (5th overall) in 2006, he has been called the ‘American’ Sydney Crosby with his unbelievable level of skill and shooting ability.  Kessel will only be 23 at the start of the season and though the trade and cost to acquire Kessel is hotly debated, the player we received certainly cannot be, Kessel is legit and one of the most skilled players in the game.

This concludes my five part series looking back at some of the greatest players to ever play for our beloved Toronto sports franchises and also a quick glimpse at who is currently leading the charge for hopeful future success. 

Hope you enjoyed it.

I decided to embark on a new five part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’.  Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.

Part I – Top 5 Maple Leafs of all time

Part II – Top 5 Raptors of all time

Part III – Top 5 Blue Jays of all time

Part IV – Top 5 Toronto Sports Athletes of all time

Part V – Top 10 Current Toronto Athletes

Part IV – Top Five Athletes in Toronto History

I hope you have enjoyed the ‘Top Five’ series thus far and today we continue by looking at the Top Five Athletes in Toronto Sports History.  This list will not focus as much on tenure and longevity as some of the other lists have but purely on talent level and peak performance while in the city of Toronto, more than one or two seasons of greatness is preferred but this list will encapsulate the absolute best that has ever performed in the great city of Toronto.  A player that was as close to the top of his respective sport as possible for a 2+ season stretch, so just missing out were Hakeem Olajuwon, Erik Hanson and Vesa Toskala. 

On to the list.

#5 – QB Doug Flutie.  Two seasons with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, led the entire CFL in 1996 & 1997 in passing attempts, passing yards, passing completions, passing TDs and rushing yards by a QB.

A surprise name to see for some, he was a must inclusion for me.  Prior to Doug Flutie’s arrival in 1996, the 1995 Toronto Argonauts were pitiful, sporting a 4-14 record, in Flutie’s first season with the ‘Boatmen’ was in 1996 and he led them to a 15-3 record and a story book turnaround, they won the Grey Cup and Flutie was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player.

Next season Flutie led the team to back-to-back CFL Grey Cup’s and again won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player (1997) after leading the league in basically every major statistical category.  Toronto had a love affair with its diminutive QB and the popularity of the CFL in Toronto was at an all time high.  There are probably even some that are surprised to hear that Doug Flutie isn’t even Canadian.  Flutie went on to have a fairly successful NFL career and people in Toronto will always claim him as one of their own, anybody down for some Flutie Flakes?

In my opinion Doug Flutie for those two seasons in 1996 and 1997 was one of the top athlete’s in the history of Toronto sports.

#4 – 1B Carlos Delgado.  Hugely successful slugger basically his entire career with the Blue Jays and dominated for four straight seasons (2000-2003).

Carlos Delgado was one of the game’s best sluggers during his peak years with the Toronto Blue Jays and was absolutely robbed of deserved MVP Awards in 2000 and 2004 when a Canadian hating writer from Chicago neglected to even put Delgado on his MVP ballots.  Look at these stats and take into consideration that WAR heavily penalizes Delgado for playing first base (plus playing it relatively poorly), his bat was lethal:       

Year HR RBI OPS wOBA WAR
2000 41 134 1134 471 7.5
2001 39 102 948 398 4.0
2002 33 108 955 401 4.7
2003 32 145 1019 423 5.5

 

Delgado was the best offensive player in the history of the franchise and among the best in baseball for a good portion of his career in Toronto, without the ‘hack’ excluding him from his ballot he might have some impressive hardware to show for his handy work.  Imagine the 2010 Blue Jays had Delgado at 1B?

#3 – C Doug Gilmour.  Played parts of 6 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, his peak seasons in 92/93 and 93/94 and undeniably some of the best hockey ever played in Toronto and ‘Killer’ was considered among the NHL’s best all-around players.

Ah, 1992-1994, nothing warms the soul like a trip down memory lane and for Toronto Maple Leafs fans born basically anytime post 1970 the back to back playoff runs from our beloved Leafs in 1992/93 and 1993/94 will forever have a place in our hearts.  The thrilling OT Game Seven winner by Nikolai Borechevsky, or the wrap around goal by Doug Gilmour against Curtis Joseph and the St. Louis Blues or that high-stick by Mr. Gretzky that was missed by Mr. Fraser, that ******* high stick!  Not that I am still bitter or anything.

At the helm of those teams was the heart and soul and leader of leader’s the Assistant Captain Doug Gilmour, old #93.  He was in the prime of his career during both of those magical seasons and put up the best seasons a Leafs player has ever had in its illustrious history:

YEAR G A PTS +/- PIM PPG
1992/93 32 95 127 32 100 1.53
1993/94 27 84 111 25 105 1.26

 

Not only great regular seasons but simply brilliant postseasons as well:

YEAR G A PTS +/- PIM PPG
1992/93 10 25 35 16 30 1.66
1993/94 6 22 28 3 42 1.55

 

Taking the team to the Stanley Cup semi-finals two straight years and playing a huge role in the early 90s turnaround of the Maple Leafs, Gilmour was the talk of the town and will forever remains a folk hero for any true Leafs fan, they don’t make enough Dougie Gilmour’s.

#2 – SG Vince Carter.  V.C. put Toronto basketball on the map, totally dominated the NBA during the 1999/00 and 2000/01 seasons.

No player is more vilified however no player was more dynamic and electric than Vince Carter during his prime two year stretch with the Toronto Raptors.  Seemingly flawless and on the verge of joining the absolute elite of elite players, Carter had captivated the city and it was buzzing and energized for all things Raptors, basketball and of course Vince Carter.  

Easily the most polarizing figure in team history, during his peak Vince Carter put up ridiculous numbers in his two best years here:

YEAR PPG RPG APG SPG FG%
1999/00 25.7 5.8 3.9 1.3 .465
2000/01 27.6 5.5 3.9 1.5 .460

 

Those numbers stand up against almost any player in the NBA at the time and Carter even chipped in a block per game and was getting to the free-throw line nearly 7 times per game.  Carter’s production remained fairly steady up until his last season with Toronto however he struggled to play a full season and was exposed as a terrible defender and one-dimensional player soon after his peak years.  However, to say he wasn’t one of the most talented players to ever play in Toronto would be an outright lie, who knows how the franchise would have fared if Vince Carter and Chris Bosh attempted to play together for a few more years.

#1 – SP Roy Halladay.  Routinely called the best pitcher in baseball, Halladay has the numbers to back up those claims and was completely dominant during most his seasons with the Jays, and exceptionally great during the 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2009 seasons.

The city of Toronto has had a lot of great players come and go in all of the major sports but I don’t think any of them could have or were ever considered the absolute best at their position in their respective sport, besides Roy Halladay.  On a pure talent and peak season(s), Roy Halladay is the greatest athlete to ever play in Toronto, and I don’t think it is particularly close either. 

One of the classiest players to boot, Halladay was a machine, a well prepared workaholic, Halladay took his craft very seriously and for these four seasons was one of the better pitchers in the history of baseball:

YEAR IP W-L ERA FIP K/BB BB/9 HR/9 BABIP WAR
2002 239.1 19-7 2.93 2.97 2.7 2.3 0.4 .296 7.8
2003 266.0 22-7 3.25 3.23 6.4* 1.1 0.9 .294 8.0*
2008 246.0 20-11 2.78 3.03 5.3* 1.4 0.6 .293 7.4
2009 239.0 17-10 2.79 3.06 5.9* 1.3 0.8 .313 7.3

*led baseball

These truly special four seasons in Halladay’s career were simply amazing, he pitched 990.1 IPs, was 78-35 (.690 win %) and accumulated an insane 30.5 WAR.  I included his BABIP totals each season to show his successful seasons were never ‘outliers’ and luck did not factor much in his overall success (obviously), Halladay even had a strong ground ball rate each season (normally top five in MLB) and suppressed HRs as well as anybody.  He won 78 ballgames in these four years while the team provided him an average of 4.5 runs per game, he also had a whopping 29 complete games and 9 complete game shutouts.

It was obviously a tough day for me to see him leave but I think I can speak for nearly all Blue Jays fans when I say I wish him all the best and I hope he goes on to much success and glory with his new team, maybe he could even return one day.

There you have it, the Top Five Athletes in Toronto History are 5) Doug Flutie, 4) Carlos Delgado, 3) Doug Gilmour, 2) Vince Carter and #1 Roy Halladay – the incomparable one.

Next up, the top ten current athlete’s in the city of Toronto…