Atlanta Braves, MLB

The Swanson Era has officially began in Atlanta

The Atlanta Braves took a huge step forward in the rebuilding process tonight as they called up 22-year-old shortstop Dansby Swanson to begin his career as a Brave. This is a rapid rise for the Marietta native as you recall Swanson was selected number one overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2015 draft. Then was acquired by his hometown team in December for Shelby Miller a trade that was widely criticized by many from the Diamondbacks perspective, but they were in win- now mode and were looking for an established arm to be paired with Zach Greinke.

This was a trade that gave the Atlanta Braves fan base some hope of returning to the glory days because this rebuild has been very painful seeing a lot of favorites walk out the door. This trade added a five-tool player and helped an offensive starved organization. Swanson’s arrival may be sooner than anticipated as just 26 months ago, he was in 2015 College World Series with the Vanderbilt Commodores. That being said, the team felt it was time for Swanson’s journey to begin in the majors as the team started playing respectable baseball and would be a good environment for him to walk into.

The dream come true happened yesterday against the Minnesota Twins Swanson went 2-4 both of them solid singles against Kyle Gibson. Gibson ended up with the last laugh as he threw a complete game, but I honestly don’t think anyone cared about the result they just wanted to see how the Swanson era would begin. He made a pretty good first impression I hope to see many multi-hit games and great success for many years with that Tomahawk across his chest. This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

From a fan’s perspective, it’s like a ray of sunshine in a season that has been lost from the very beginning. It’s a breath of fresh air because we get to go on this journey with Swanson from the very beginning and see how he continues to grow as a baseball player. His abilities as a baseball player have been well documented, but more than that he’s humble and gets it how to carry himself in whatever situation gets thrown at him. He’s what you want in a player and a person he’s a great addition to Braves Country!

Congratulations Dansby

Standard
MLB

Goodbye A-Rod for now

 

The biggest story this week is today marks the final Major League Baseball game for Alex Rodriguez in a Yankee uniform and hopefully his career.  The first thing I thought of was people are going to have to find someone new to hate, not how easy he made the game of baseball look in his 22 year career. Rodriguez has immense talent that has never been questioned, but the amount of baggage accumulated throughout his career is sadly the bigger storyline for me.

As much as we are celebrating what Alex Rodriguez did on a baseball field many are also popping the champagne because that era of controversy will be out of baseball. The thing that angers me most is the fact that he got his hand caught in the cookie jar and he still decided to lie about his performance-enhancing drug use from 01-03 with the Rangers, which I might add were three of his most productive seasons. If that wasn’t enough, he got wrapped up in the biogenesis scandal of 2013 that once again tarnished the authenticity of his illustrious career.

The annoying reality of Alex Rodriguez he is just like Barry Bonds one of the two best hitters in major league history and we don’t know which years were PED aided and which ones were clean bringing shame to not only their credibility as players, but  America’s National Pastime as well.

That being said, as a baseball fanatic I still marvel at the numbers Rodriguez has put up tainted or not. He is 4th all time in home runs (696), 3 MVP’S, 14- Time all-star and a 10 time silver slugger. He also helped lead the Yankees to their last World Series championship in 09 with an all world postseason. The numbers are insane and unthinkable for any player to achieve no matter the baggage that comes with this career.

How will I remember A-Rod at least for now? His career and life have been like a soap opera that had a lot of bright spots and controversy. I will say through all the missteps and animosity he has faced, he kept taking every punch and criticism in stride in trying to mend the relationships that were strained during the dark points of his career.

The sickening reality, I think he loves the game of baseball so much as Ken Rosenthal put it, he wanted to be too great and that resulted in very poor choices that have tainted a legacy that was already going to be one for the ages. I’ll end with this A-Rod is the most polarizing athlete love him or  hate him, he brought something to the game of baseball that will be talked about for years to come both the good and the bad!

Standard
Carolina Panthers, NFL

Carolina Panthers keep core together in good offseason

The Carolina Panthers have had an interesting yet very productive off-season as they look to do something that’s never been done. No Super Bowl loser has returned to the big game the following season, that being said, I think the team is in better shape coming into 2016 with the return of Kelvin Benjamin and the team being one year older.

The biggest storyline was the organization’s decision to rescind the franchise tag of Pro bowl corner Josh Norman, which initially was a shocker, but I think it was a great decision because by letting Norman walk they opened up about 32 million dollars in cap space and they’ve put it to good use this off-season keeping the core of the team together with contract extensions. Additionally we’ve added veteran complimentary pieces that have enhanced the depth on the roster.

CapaOL

The Offensive Line

The most important person to keep healthy on this team is quarterback Cam Newton because as Newton goes the team follows. That being said, it was important to keep consistency and depth within the offensive line. The team did that in a big way signing Ryan Kalil, and Michael Oher, to contract extensions they also added veteran center Gino Gradkowski improving the depth of a vital position on the football field.

Kalil has been one of the best centers in the game in his 10 years, he is a five-time Pro Bowler a stabilizing force for our team and the quarterbacks he’s worked with throughout his career. He’s also been very durable playing at least 10 games in seven seasons and starting all 16 games in five of those creating stability for everyone on the offense. He was rewarded with a two-year 16.75 contract extension virtually assuring he will finish his career as a lifelong panther as it should be.

Next, the team locked up right tackle Michael Oher, who had a breakout year, solidifying the left tackle position that was left in flux with the retirement of longtime Panther Jordan Gross. Oher was coming off a disappointing stint with the Titans where he was plagued by injury.

Despite the recent disappointments in Oher career, he made the seamless transition to the Panthers and played a vital role in protecting Cam Newton as we made our Super Bowl run. This off-season as Oher was weighing his options as a free agent Newton personally called Oher saying that he wanted him back in a panther uniform and the team felt the same as we signed Oher to a three-year 21.6 million dollar extension keeping the stability in front of our franchise quarterback.

Lastly, the team signed Gino Gradkowski as the backup center and possibly the eventual replacement for Kalil whenever he decides to hang them up. In his first two seasons with the ravens he started 15 of 16 games and all 16 games last two seasons, then fell off in his last two seasons split between Baltimore and Atlanta where he started eight games and four games respectively.

The last two seasons notwithstanding Gradkowski has proven he can be an effective NFL player and will be a serviceable backup Kalil. The Panthers have made sure this unit has stayed intact this off-season with the only question mark being the right tackle position between Mike Remmers and youngster Daryl Williams. The team has done an excellent job of finding the best combination to protect the MVP in Newton.

Carolina Panthers v San Diego Chargers

Mike Tolbert

The Panthers continued to take care of their own signing fullback Mike Tolbert to a two-year $4 million contract extension. Tolbert has been one of the most productive fullbacks in the league and since putting on a panther uniform he’s gotten even more effective because of the playmakers around him and he is taking full advantage.

This signing not only brings back a playmaker, but a familiar face that knows the protections and is a good blocker as well. Furthermore, it keeps the record-breaking offense in 2015 completely the same except the welcome addition of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin who is returning from injury.

The team has made it a point to keep the chemistry and camaraderie of each unit as high as possible and bringing Tolbert back continues that theme and I expect us to be better than ever in 2016.

captura_de_pantalla_2016-02-17_a_las_17.25.11

JJ Jansen

One of the more underrated signings for the Panthers this off-season with locking up long snapper JJ Jansen to a five-year contract extension worth $5.5 million. To just the average football fan, this would seem like a waste of money, however one of the most important positions on the field that is many times overlooked.

Jansen has been with the Panthers since 2009 and over that period of time he’s handled over 1000 snaps whether that is on punts, field goals or extra points and has been rock solid handling over 600 attempts since his last misstep in 2010, knock on wood.

A position that I believe will start getting more recognition because field goals are longer and as we saw in the playoff game the Minnesota Vikings the snap matters. Jansen is a vital piece of the special teams unit, helping kicker Graham Gano confidence to just focus on his job making pressure packed kicks. Never having to worry about the  snap  because it’s going to be spot on. The team recognized Jansen importance and rewarded him accordingly, keeping the bomb squad intact for the foreseeable future.

The Defense

The Panthers also fortified one of the best defensive units in the NFL over the last couple of years and continued the theme of the off-season keeping the core guys together on each unit. They made three major moves increasing the depth at the defense of tackle position signing veteran Paul Soliai, who is another big body and is expected to be a great run stopper.

This seems to be a great fit because Soliai will be playing alongside his great friend Star Lotulelei. Not only will you be an asset for us on the field I think he will be a great addition to the locker room commodity because of the comfort level that comes when playing with a close friend. This team cares about quality football players and people they got both of those things with Soliai.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers

Charles Jonson

The next move was a bit of a shocker when the team was able to re-sign Charles Johnson to a one-year $3 million “prove it” deal after a disappointing 2015. A season that saw him tear his hamstring and then lose playing time to Jared Allen who was playing better after he came back from injury.

This was shocking that Johnson would even consider coming back to the Carolinas because of the money he was offered elsewhere, specifically with the Giants it was five years, but Johnson clearly wanted to stay in the Queen City because he almost fired his agent over his desire to stay in Charlotte that is clear loyalty and I respect that immensely.

Johnson was extremely unselfish in signing this deal it allowed the team to clear much-needed cap space. He showed exactly what he cared about and that is winning. Johnson coming back adds a familiar face and a veteran guy for the young up and comers to learn from. An asset that sometimes gets overlooked, but is extremely important for the growth of the players and the defense as a whole now and in the future.

This is a low risk high reward scenario for the Panthers because if they get the Pro bowl Charles Johnson or something remotely close to that the defense will be even more fierce and if not it doesn’t cost them a great deal financially. Also, they have a lot of good options to replace if he gets injured again or if he’s not effective. it’s a win-win deal for the organization. I hope he comes back stronger than ever, giving us another weapon for opponents to plan for.

panthers slideshow_01

Kurt Coleman

The last move the team made was signing Kurt Coleman to a three-year $17 million contract extension. This move was a must, as Coleman has quickly becoming the quarterback of the secondary with the departures of Josh Norman, Charles Tillman and Roman Harper who went back to the Saints.

Coleman is coming off a breakout 2015 where he had 90 total tackles, 55 solo and more importantly seven interceptions. An amazing first impression for a guy I had no idea who he was when we signed him last off-season, but is quickly become one of my favorites because of the brutality and focus that he plays with.

As one of the veterans of the secondary his leadership is going to be crucial as the team is trying to get the three rookie cornerbacks comfortable in our system. I believe Coleman will play a vital part in their development while continuing to improve his great skills set.

111226_wk16folo_inside

Ron Rivera

It wasn’t just the players that were taking care of this off-season, but head coach Ron Rivera was awarded a nice extension for his role in making the Panthers one the NFL’s best teams. He signed a three-year 19.5 million dollar extension making sure he will be in Carolina at least through the 2018 season.

It’s a well-deserved contract as he was one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL today. It wasn’t all roses and beginning, however some were calling for his head after a slow start to his coaching tenure. Then came the nickname Riverboat Ron taking chances going for it more than normal on fourth down, putting more trust in his player’s ability.

This resulted in the team playing more free and easy trusting themselves and because of that a lot of winning and consistent play has happened since the nickname arrived. He has led the Panthers to three straight division titles an NFC championship and has been named the NFL Coach of the year twice. He has brought honesty, consistency, and creativeness to the Panthers organization and I’m proud that he’s our coach.

DAVE_GETTLEMAN_06

Conclusion

The Carolina Panthers have shown they pride themselves on his loyalty and high character players and personnel. The team took the $32 million cap space they got once Norman left and turned it into six contract extensions, ensuring the bulk of this roster stays the same for a long while. They also signed three veteran guys to low-cost contracts to add different abilities to this team.

So in all they turned one player in Josh Norman, who was going to require a max deal into nine players. Many of whom are vital to the success and chemistry of this team the lesson here is be loyal to Carolina they’ll be loyal to you. If not it’s okay will find quality players that want to be in the Queen city. Don’t mess with  GM Dave Gettleman he’s not afraid to play hardball. This team is set up for another Super Bowl run and I can’t wait for it to start.

 

 

MY FAVORITE PUMP UP VIDEO Will GET YOU FIRED UP!!!

Standard
Atlanta Braves, MLB

Braves future even brighter following deadline

The Atlanta Braves season has been hard to stomach as they continue to rebuild for the new ballpark in 2017. They currently sit with the worst record in major league baseball at 37-69 and for a while there I questioned if they would get to the 20-win mark. However, the team has done a remarkable job restocking the pipeline with many top-flight prospects that will hopefully return us to the glory days.

As we wait for those prospects to get the call to the show I think this year’s deadline was a great turning point for this organization as they were finally able to add offense to both our system and the big-league club. John Coppola and John Hart were able to work magic first trading Lucas Harrell and Darío Alvarez to the Texas Rangers for their 20th best prospect Travis Demeritte.

Demeritte just 21 years of age hitting .272 with 25 home runs and 13 stolen bases. It’s incredible that the team was able to acquire such a high upside prospect with the average power combination that is pretty rare in baseball today. The fact that the team was able to take two guys basically off the trash heap and turn them into a bat.

Next the John’s did the impossible and traded Hector Olivera to the San Diego Padres for Matt Kemp. The Braves were not only able to get out of a bad contract and the situation with Olivera whom struggled on the field and off with domestic abuse, but they were able to get a proven major league bat in return.

Kemp is hitting .260 with 23 home runs and 69 RBIs he brings a veteran presence and hopefully some protection to first baseman Freddie Freeman lengthening our lineup putting pressure on opposing pitchers. Not only that, we have him for the next three years at a very respectable 18.5 million per year. Which seems like a lot,but we got out from under a bad situation and got a player that can help on the field daly.This move also gives us options this off-season as we now have a surplus of outfielders we may be able to address another area of weakness in a trade this off-season.

As you can see, the organization has turned a corner finally able to add pieces that will right away help the major league club. Also through this rebuild process the team has been able to create financial flexibility so we will be able to be pretty active this off-season looking to upgrade the catching and third base positions.

It’s been a tough process to watch, but it seems we will be contenders sooner rather than later. When that happens, I believe we will be able to sustain it with the bevy of prospects we’ve amassed. Stay patient Braves country we aren’t that far off!

Standard