March 10, 2014
Lakers Suffer Worst Loss in Franchise History: The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, but with a slew of injuries, the team is sinking to new lows this year. Another ‘benchmark’ was set as the team suffered a demoralizing 142-94 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last week. After the Lakers were dominated 44-13 in the second quarter, the rout was on. With a roster featuring an aging Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and not much else, the franchise is desperately in need of a roster upgrade in the offseason. Unfortunately, Gasol is one of the few real assets they have to trade and having failed to find a suitable deal to this point for the big man, the Lakers just don’t have many options heading into next season.
Doug McDermott Joins 3,000-point Club: Creighton star Doug McDermott joined the NCAA’s 3,000-point club with a 45-point performance in an 88-73 win over Providence. In the process, McDermott vaulted himself to the seventh-leading scorer in Division I basketball, passing Oscar Robertson and Hersey Hawkins. McDermott is having an incredible season and recently also passed Larry Bird, Danny Manning, and Elvin Hayes on the list. What makes his year even more special, though, is Creighton’s season as a team. The Bluejays finished 24-6 on the year in the regular season and are ranked among the nation’s top 15 teams.
Tommy John Surgeon Dies: Dr. Frank Jobe who pioneered the famous Tommy John surgery died last week at the age of 88. Jobe performed the initial surgery on pitcher Tommy John, replacing a torn ligament in John’s arm with a tendon from his forearm. Then a breakthrough surgery, hundreds of pitchers have since had the procedure and there’s no doubt that Jobe extended many careers in the process. John himself went on to pitch another 14 years following the procedure and there’s no telling how many pitchers’ careers would have been cut short without the revolutionary surgery.
Mike Modano Number Retired: Mike Modano’s No. 9 was retired by the Dallas Stars last week in a legendary ceremony. Not only were 20 members from the 1999 championship team present wearing jerseys with No. 9 patches, but other Dallas-area stars in other sports such as the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki, and Dallas Cowboys Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, were all present on the ice as well to celebrate the achievement. Modano, who finished his career with more goals and points than any other American-born NHL player, was surely deserving.
Shaq Video Game: Former basketball star/current millionaire Shaquille O’Neal and a video game developer not only want to create a video game, but apparently want fans to help invest in it. Seems legit.
Tie Hockey Game Results in Co-champions: Two high school hockey teams stood tied after an amazing seven overtime periods and decided to call it quits in an Ohio state championship game. Both teams, Sylvania Northview and Cleveland St. Ignatius, citing fatigue, agreed to a 1-1 tie and were declared co-champions. Calling the game early was probably the safe thing to do if both teams were literally too tired to continue. However, it underscores the need for a revised format – after all, why not have a shootout after three overtimes and declare a true champion?
It’s the Sleeves, Man: NBA star Lebron James had an off night last week in the San Antonio Spurs’ 111-87 rout of the Miami Heat. It wasn’t the recently broken nose that was the problem in his 6-18 shooting night, though. James said after the game that he wasn’t a fan of the sleeved jerseys the Heat and other teams were wearing this season. For the record, he didn’t want to use that as the official excuse, but James, like others, does think it’s affecting shots. On the surface it might sound petty, but James makes a good point in that there is little margin for error on a player’s jump shot. It’s easy to see that something as restrictive as a sleeved jersey could cause problems for certain players.
Harvard Kicks off March Madness: March Madness is officially here and Harvard was the first team to usher it in. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament got its first participant as Harvard knocked off Yale, 70-58, to win the Ivy League Championship and gain an automatic berth. Many more teams will shortly punch their ticket to the Big Dance with conference titles in the upcoming week.
Hat Trick Shenanigans: Hat tricks in hockey generally elicit baseball caps being thrown onto the ice. In Dallas? Cowboy hats.
March 6, 2014
With the Olympics put to bed, the NHL season is once again traveling at warp speed. March 5 marked this year’s trade deadline and there are roughly 20 games left before the playoffs begin. With little time to spare teams were feverously jockeying for position at the deadline. Some won, some lost and some sat back quietly. While many trades involved future draft picks we are focusing on the teams that made moves to greatly impact this season’s playoff push. Never mind the future, these teams made it clear they want to win now.
Bonus: The New York Rangers/Tampa Bay Lightning Trade
There’s no question the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest news of the day. The two teams traded captains. Martin St. Louis went to New York while Ryan Callahan was sent to the Lightning.
I have mixed emotions on this trade—St. Louis is a future Hall of Famer that can hopefully maximize the Rangers potential. Callahan isn’t the scorer that St. Louis is but is a proven leader. The Lightning also got healthy draft picks in the trade but let’s stay focused—we’re talking about now.
Personally, I wish the best for both players and organizations but don’t like the idea of swapping the letter “C.” The Rangers dealt Callahan because of impending free agency and the Lightning granted St. Louis’ request and traded him.
The Lightning are currently fourth in the East and get Steven Stamkos back from injury soon. It’ll be interesting to see if he can score at the same rate without St. Louis setting the table. As for the Rangers, can St. Louis suddenly bring the arguably underachieving team to life?
No. 5: Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings took care of business at the deadline by trading for lamp-lighter Marian Gaborik. The 32-year-old has been often injured since being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets last trade deadline but the Kings hope his woes are behind him.
Remember, the Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup are determined to reappear in the Finals. They have an excellent goaltender in Jonathan Quick and a well-balanced roster with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty. The team has won five straight as of 03/05 and leads the league with just 134 goals allowed.
Problem is they’ve only scored 152 and that slim margin urged the front office to add some offense. In the past Gaborik has been a sniper and with good health and a fresh start he should flourish in the City of Angels, especially on the power play. The Kings made themselves contenders at the deadline.
No. 4: Montreal Canadiens
Despite only scoring six more goals than their allowing, the Canadiens sat third in the Eastern Conference with 75 points. Those two factors were the reason why the franchise acquired playmaker Thomas Vanek at the deadline from the New York Islanders.
This is now Vanek’s third team of the season and he’ll look to stay put in Montreal. He’s scored 53 points this season in 60 games with the Buffalo Sabres and Islanders. The Canadiens are a team with balanced scoring, but no star. Prior to Vanek joining the roster the team had 10 players that have scored 20-plus points this season but P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty led with 42 points per. That’s only good enough for 65th in the league.
Vanek brings a spark and a message to the fans that the Habs are making a serious push for the Cup.
No. 3: Washington Capitals
This is a make-or-break time for the Washington Capitals. They have to make a deep run in the playoffs or face the reality of blowing up the roster and starting from scratch.
Led by Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals have immense talent but lack a premium goaltender. They addressed that need at the deadline by trading for Jaroslav Halak from the Buffalo Sabres who got him in a deal from the St. Louis Blues over the weekend. What a whirlwind week for Halak—now he lands in Washington for a team eager to win.
The Capitals currently are fifth in the NHL with 186 goals scored. Too bad they’ve allowed 184, which just so happens to be the fifth-most. Halak is the remedy they’ve been looking for.
The Caps also traded for Dustin Penner who isn’t the flashiest man on the ice but brings plenty of toughness who makes a living in front of the net.
Overall, the Capitals made themselves better at the deadline.
No. 2: Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild deserve credit—they make a number of trades that bolstered their lineup this year at the deadline.
The Wild currently sit in seventh in the Western Conference with 75 points. They spent a king’s ransom last offseason by singing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The West is definitely the stronger of the two NHL sides and Minnesota is the heart of American hockey.
The Wild have to win—now.
They made a head-scratching trade on March 4 by trading for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, formerly of the Edmonton Oilers. Bryzgalov is talented but puzzling at times. He makes for good television but is inconsistent. If the Wild can get on his level and get the most out of him they have a legitimate shot at a playoff run.
The Wild also acquired Brad Winchester who will give their blue line depth down the stretch.
Where the Wild won is by trading for Matt Moulson of the Buffalo Sabres. Moulson is as underrated as they come. The Wild have only scored 153 goals this season and struggle on the road. Moulson has scored 30-plus goals in three straight seasons from 2009-12 and 17 this season. Like the aforementioned Vanek and Halak, this too is Moulson’s third team this season.
Like the men he’s mentioned with, Moulson will make an impact in his final destination.
The Wild just made themselves better—they just made hockey better.
No. 1: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues let it be known that they are a force to be reckoned with. Even though they had solid goaltending they dropped a bombshell when they traded for goalie Ryan Miller. Arguably the best in the world, the Blues put the rest of the NHL on notice when they acquired Miller.
The Blues currently have the largest goal differential in the league at +63 and solidified that stat by acquiring Miller. For the first time in a long time he’ll have a good defense in front of him. Now is his time to shine.
The team did trade Jaroslav Halak to get him, who’s a top-10 NHL net minder. Why trade strength for strength? After a few unsuccessful playoff runs the organization obviously see Miller as the fix they need to win it all. The window to win it all isn’t open forever.
As if they weren’t already, the Blues are now a favorite for the Cup.
March 4, 2014
MLB Opening Day is just a couple weeks away which means it’s time for my yearly ritual of predicting the six division winners and ensuring that those teams don’t have the season they are hoping for. What can I say? It’s a gift. (I don’t think the Blue Jays would call it that after the 2013 season). So let’s get on with it.
Last season proved that anything can happen in this division. A year ago I wrote “The Red Sox aren’t going to make a 25-win improvement over 2012.” So now I say, “I told you so.” Of course they didn’t win 25 more games than 2012. They won 28 more games. Just like I suspected they would. I’d like to see them try to do that again. But I think they will have a tougher road this year. They won’t be the team of destiny anymore. The Yankees will be trying to give Derek Jeter one final postseason and the Blue Jays have to be better right? The Orioles and Rays will be very good, too. I say all five teams finish over .500 and it’s the Rays that claim the division crown.
It almost feels like cheating to pick the team that won it last year. But when the same team has won for the last three years, it just seems stupid not to pick them. Am I right? Especially when they haven’t won a title yet. The Tigers ought to be a hungry bunch. The may have the best hitter and pitcher in baseball with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. They won’t run away with it. But Detroit wins the Central again.
Once again, people seem to think the Angels are back. I don’t think so. There’s too much up in the air with Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. I don’t see them returning to elite players. So that leaves the Rangers and the A’s to battle it out (with Seattle improving but not there yet). I’ve learned my lesson. I keep picking against Oakland and I keep getting it wrong. No more. Despite the Rangers adding Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, I’m taking the A’s to work their magic again and defend their title. If you don’t believe me, watch Moneyball and you will.
I’d like a mulligan. (Does it count as a mulligan if you pick the same team as last year?) It seems like Washington is due to have some stuff go its way. Just a couple more wins than last year should be enough to get the job done. Especially when the Nationals are going to be rolling out Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman and Fister to the mound all season. The Braves will give them a run, but its about time something went right in Washington.
We know it won’t be the Cubs. The Brewers should be better than the 74-win team from last year and make it a four-team race for a while, but in the end it will come down to the three teams (Cardinals, Pirates and Reds) that all won at least 90 games last year. One of them won’t get there this year. Sadly, I think it might be the Pirates that drop off the pace. The Reds won the Central in 2010 and 2012 so obviously 2014 is going to be their year as well. I like their rotation the best and if they can get Billy Hamilton on base, their offense will be scary.
Question: How many division titles do you have to buy before you become hated like the Yankees? The Dodgers are determined to find this out. No team has more superstars right now. They ran away with the West last year and should win it easily again. The real question for this team is can it make a deep run in October.
March 3, 2014
Masahiro Tanaka debuts with Yankees: The New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka had a strong debut for the team in Spring Training. Pitching two scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tanaka struck out three batters allowing only two singles. The $155 million man also did not allow a walk and while it’s only Spring Training, he at least looked the part of a potential ace in his brief debut. Investing so much money in him, the Yankees need Tanaka to pay off handsomely and help the team to the postseason.
Allen Iverson’s jersey retired: Allen Iverson’s NBA career ended after the 2009-10 season and the Philadelphia 76ers point guard had his jersey retired by the franchise last week. Iverson was one of the best players in his generation and the honor was well deserved. He was an 11-time All-Star, Most Valuable Player Award winner, two-time All-Star Game MVP, and he led the 76ers to an NBA Finals appearance. The guard topped 30 points per game in four different seasons in Philadelphia and was one of the franchise’s best scorers.
Richard Petty challenges Danica Patrick to race: Iconic race car driver Richard Petty made headlines recently when he said that the only way Danica Patrick could win a NASCAR race was if other drivers stayed home. Petty, though, took things a step further saying he could beat Danica in a race – today. He hasn’t raced in more than 20 years but said he would take the challenge of racing her. Regardless of who would actually win, Petty just comes off looking a bit foolish in all of this. Nearly 80 years old now, he’s essentially challenged Patrick to a head-to-head race to prove he’s a better driver. If it ever happened, I’d stand in line to tune in. Petty, though, just comes off as looking like a bully picking a fight simply for the sake of doing so – and he’d lose.
NBA Draft change could be on the horizon: New NBA commissioner Adam Silver is throwing around some ideas for potential changes in the league. One such alteration could be the way players are drafted. Silver is reportedly considering a move that would give the top pick to all 30 teams in a rotation format. Under the current format, the worst teams are thrown into a lottery and given the top selections. The idea, while intriguing, is simply too flawed. Not only could players adjust their entry points into the league by staying in college shorter or longer in order to be picked by the team they would prefer to play for, but it also would allow the best teams to widen the gap and become even more dominant. The Lottery isn’t a perfect system since franchises often can tank to secure a better chance at a higher pick, but it’s a better solution than giving the best teams top spots. Just imagine a stacked Miami Heat team getting the No. 1 overall selection this year, for example.
Wichita State finishes regular season undefeated: The Wichita State Shockers’ college basketball team finished their regular season undefeated. The team had some close calls along the way, including a three-point overtime win against Missouri State, but have mostly won their games comfortably. The 31-0 Shockers are a good team, but it’s hard to be completely sold on them as an elite one. The Shockers don’t have a single Top 25 win to their credit and even the major-conference foes they’ve faced, Alabama and Tennessee, aren’t having great years. Finishing undefeated with any schedule is a supreme achievement but Wichita State remains largely untested at this point.
Blues land Ryan Miller: The St. Louis Blues swung a deal with the Buffalo Sabres for star goaltender Ryan Miller last week. Miller and Steve Ott head to the Blues in exchange for a package, including Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier and two draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2015. That seems like a lot to give up and on the surface, but Miller could turn the Blues’ title hopes into reality. Only time will tell if the deal was a good one, though. His 2.70 goals against average ranks only 28th in the NHL and while his .923 save percentage is good for tenth, he also hasn’t recorded even a shutout all year. Still, as Buffalo’s franchise leader in wins and a former Vezina Trophy winner, Miller still has a reputation of a top goalie.
Basketball court storming fiasco: A college basketball game ended with a court storm … and then a brawl.
Ryan Braun homers in first Spring Training at bat: Following his suspension for his violation of drug use by Major League Baseball, it’s safe to say that Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun wants to prove some doubters wrong. He got off to a good start with a home run in his first at bat in his first game back in a Spring Training game. Braun has a difficult road ahead and will never win back all of his fans, but he can put a lot of the negative talk behind him by having a big season. Winning cures a lot of ills and if Braun helps the Brewers do that, the majority of the team’s fans will welcome him back.
February 27, 2014
With MLB Spring Training underway, Opening Day can’t come soon enough. Excitement is building as fans ponder a variety of scenarios as the 2014 MLB season approaches. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest questions that can only be answered by playing 162 glorious games.
No. 5: Can Billy Hamilton Reach Base with Regularity?
There is no debate as to who is the fastest player in baseball. His name is Billy Hamilton and he may be the fastest man in all of sports. The Cincinnati Reds center fielder played in 13 games in 2013—he stole 13 bases in 14 tries. What he does on the base paths is nearly criminal, the only question is can he reach base with regularity?
Hamilton will lead off for the Reds and will get every opportunity to make a name for himself. Many worry that Hamilton tries to muscle the ball too often. He’s only listed at 160 lbs. which tells the story that he shouldn’t try to smack the long ball.
In order to be considered a success in 2014 Hamilton must have an on-base percentage somewhere around .350. Patience at the plate and taking the ball the other way will make Hamilton an All-Star. If he reaches base early and often he may steal 100 bases and the Reds will be a playoff team. As a friendly reminder, no one has stolen 100-plus bases since Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987. That in itself should size up Hamilton’s capabilities.
No. 4: Will the Washington Nationals Rebound from a Disappointing 2013 Campaign
Most franchises would consider 86 wins in 2013 an exceptional season. Not the Washington Nationals who won 98 in 2012 and were penned by many to reach the World Series.
This time around some things are different for the Nationals but the lofty expectations are the same. New manager Matt Williams runs a tight ship but that’s not keeping the Nats from keeping loose. Williams is well-organized and meticulous and knows a little something about the game. The former slugger hit 43 home runs in 112 games in 1994 with the San Francisco Giants before the strike-shortened season cut his run at Roger Maris’ then record 61 home runs in a single season short. Williams is a gamer and every sports enthusiast can appreciate that.
He has a slugger on his new team in Bryce Harper who seems like he might be 35 but is only 21 years old. The baseball prodigy is just now growing into his body and with 1,094 career bats already underneath his belt Harper is ready to feast on the opposition.
The Nationals also have a deep pitching rotation and should win somewhere around 92 games this season. An appearance in the playoffs should be penciled in, this team is for real.
No. 3: Will the Dodgers Live Up to the Hype?
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the best team on paper right now. Stacked from top to bottom, the Dodgers are a World Series-or-bust team this season.
Before we delve too deep it should be mentioned that the new ownership group led by Magic Johnson is doing a spectacular job. They’ve put a quality product on the field and there schedule is laced with in-stadium promotions to attract all sorts of fans. It’s a great time to bleed Dodger blue.
Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu lead the pitching staff while Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig bolster the lineup. The 2014 Dodgers have everything it takes to win the only question is do they have the recipe for success?
No. 2: Can the Seattle Mariners Make the Playoffs?
The Mariners decided they want to win now and dropped a bombshell on baseball when they signed prized second baseman Robinson Cano this offseason. He alone is enough to fill Safeco Field on a regular basis.
Add star pitcher Felix Hernandez and a throng of young talent to the mix and the Mariners carry positive momentum into the season. The big question is will they make the playoffs? Although it may seem like a foregone conclusion don’t forget the Mariners play in the toughest division in baseball.
There are only five playoff spots available and the AL West has the Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim all contending for the postseason. The Mariners play divisional rivals in 22 of their first 27 games. The first month of the season will be telling for the Mariners. Are the up to the challenge?
No. 1: Will Derek Jeter Stay Healthy?
New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter announced he’ll retire after the season bringing a bit of sadness to all. The man has so many accomplishments they could be an entire article in themselves. Here’s a small taste of jaw-dropping Jeter stats—he has 200 career postseason hits. That’s simply marvelous.
The biggest question in baseball this offseason is will he stay healthy this season to play throughout his farewell tour?
He played just 17 games in 2013 but is giving it another go in 2014.
For the sake of baseball in all of its greatness let’s keep our fingers crossed that Jeter can remain healthy and play often this season.