July 31, 2013

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In Case You Missed It

By: Joe Williams

We all know about the Aaron Hernandez situation, Dwight Howard taking his talents to Houston and Ryan Braun getting suspended, but that’s not all the crazy stuff that happened in July. In case you actually have a life, here are a few stories that you may have missed.

Longtime New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur actually got to draft his son Anthony Brodeur for the Devils during the NHL draft.

During last week’s RBC Canadian Open, Hunter Mahan withdrew from the tournament to attend the birth of his first child. Mahan was leading the tournament and didn’t pull out until just before he was supposed to begin his third round, leaving his playing partner John Merrick playing in the final group by himself.

Not only did the Cincinnati Reds play a game in San Francisco as the home team, but during one of the  four-game series between the teams, the Giants grounds crew had a bit of trouble lining up the batter’s box. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a photo of the screw up online.

When former Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson received his championship ring for the team’s win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, he was the only Seminoles player that got a ring that reads “2012 SEC Champions.” The rest of the team got rings with the correct conference inscribed on them.

The NCAA claimed that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo committed an NCAA violation when he tweeted “Welcome to the family” to a Class of 2015 wide receiver who recently committed to the University of Michigan.

“Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen fired one of the worst first pitches I have ever seen. Video of that won’t be hard to find either.

A linebacker at the University of Florida was arrested for sticking his head in a police car and barking at a police dog.

One Cleveland Indians fan pulled off an incredible feat, catching four foul balls in the same game…the odds of which are about one in one trillion.

Another fan in Cleveland wasn’t so lucky. When Scott Entsminger passed away earlier this month, this ended up in his obituary…”A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.”

A battle royal erupted between two former Thai Olympic teammates during a doubles badminton match. They started trash-talking before the match even started and things continued to escalate until they fought from one end of the arena to the other. Both players received a black card.

And in the wildest story of the month former NBA player Baron Davis (the guy with the huge beard before James Harden) said that he was abducted by aliens while on a drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles during a podcast interview. I’m not even going to go there on this one.

I can’t wait to see what happens in August as the NFL season approaches, and the baseball playoff races heat up.

July 30, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Alfonso Soriano returns to Yankees: In desperate need of offense with so many injuries to key players, the New York Yankees turned to a familiar face, trading for outfielder Alfonso Soriano. Soriano began his career in New York as a second baseman before later playing for the Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, and most recently, the Chicago Cubs. The outfielder is past his prime, but a recent hot streak was proof that he can still provide a surge of power. After hitting only nine home runs in the first three months of the season, Soriano has hit nearly that many already in July with eight this month heading into this past weekend.

Jeremy Maclin out for year: NFL training camps are underway and that can only mean one thing – injuries won’t be far behind. The biggest casualty thus far may be the Eagles’ young wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin, who is out for the season after tearing an ACL in a practice. With perhaps their best wideout injured, Philadelphia’s season gets off to a rocky start. The team still has DeSean Jackson at receiver, but Maclin’s loss gives rookie head coach Chip Kelly less to work with on offense – his area of expertise.

Jaromir Jagr signs with New Jersey Devils: Even at 41, Jaromir Jagr isn’t ready to hang up his skates. After playing for the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars last year, the winger has signed a one-year $2 million deal with the New Jersey Devils. Jagr isn’t the player he once was, but still has a little left in the tank after scoring 35 points (including 16 goals in 45 games this past season). Plus, with Ilya Kovalchuk leaving New Jersey to play in Russia, the team was in desperate need of scoring. Jagr ranks eighth all-time among NHL players in scoring and his 681 career goals are good for tenth overall.

Lebron > Kobe in ESPN poll: When it comes to the most popular player in the NBA, LeBron James passed up Kobe Bryant for the first time in a few years according to an ESPN poll. Bryant had beaten out James the past few seasons, but after his second consecutive title, James overtook him last week. Really, it’s just proof that time heals all wounds. Immediately after the much-scrutinized “Decision” broadcast where James announced his intention to leave Cleveland for Miami, he took a huge publicity hit and was even viewed as a villain by many. But after a few years with the Heat and winning a couple of rings, liking LeBron is once again okay.

101 Russian women set a skydiving record: Yeah, I’m not even going to try to add anything to this. Feel free to watch for yourself.

Matt Garza pickup costly for Rangers: Matt Garza may not quite be a household name, but the pitcher could be the best starter that gets dealt before baseball’s trade deadline this season. At 7-1 with a 2.87 ERA, Garza is having a career year and was heavily desired by contenders before he was traded to the Texas Rangers by the Cubs. Garza didn’t come cheap, however. He cost Texas two of their top prospects entering this season, pitcher Justin Grimm and first baseman Mike Olt. Both have struggled to a degree this season, but Grimm has seven wins with the major league team while Olt has 12 home runs in the minors. The trade also cost the Rangers C.J. Edwards, a flamethrower who has dominated Rookie League and Class A in the minors the past two seasons. Also, keep in mind that Garza could only be a rental player as he’s due to become a free agent after this year. All things considered, the Rangers need to not only make the playoffs, but maybe even reach a World Series for this trade to come out in their favor.

Tim Hudson injury hurts Braves: Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson suffered a devastating injury last week when his ankle was broken by the Mets’ Eric Young, Jr. in a collision at first base. The injury was a big one as the veteran will miss the rest of the season. That hurts Atlanta’s playoff chances at least a bit and the team is already looking around for a potential trade. The Braves hold a comfortable lead in the NL East, but should the team hold on for a playoff spot, Hudson’s veteran presence will be sorely missed in the postseason.

Matt Harvey likely to end season early: Similar to what the Washington Nationals did with prized young pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the New York Mets are planning to keep Matt Harvey on a limit for the rest of the year. Mets manager Terry Collins has said Harvey has about ten more starts left instead of the 13 or so he may reach if he continued to pitch every fifth day. While similar to Strasburg’s situation, though, it’s a bit different considering the Mets aren’t likely to be in the playoffs as the Nats were. One thing that will be interesting, though, is to see if the loss in starts costs Harvey when it comes to the Cy Young voting.

July 24, 2013

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Why NFL Training Camp is Exciting

By: Matt Bowen

It’s finally here—the 2013 NFL season is officially underway. NFL training camp has arrived!  Sure, one could argue that the NFL draft is really the beginning to each new season but that was months ago. The draft is almost a tease. Yes, we get to see our favorite teams select their newest editions but unfortunately we can only speculate how they’ll look on the field—until now.

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Patriots heading into the 2013 season.

So, why exactly is this so exciting? Because we live in an NFL-obsessed world, that’s why. It’s the same reason why there’s nine hours of preseason coverage a day—we love it, we soak it up and yet it leaves us desiring more.

Now is the time to get primed for the new season. It’s the time to show your pride, fine-tune your knowledge and master the league. Don’t be that person who only shows up on Sundays—be that person who lives and breathes all things football.

Here are the top stories to follow in training camp:

Will the New England Patriots Still Be the New England Patriots?

The perennial beasts of the AFC East have had one tumultuous offseason. Between injuries, departures and legal issues the team doesn’t look the same on paper. Before you write the Patriots off this season, remember that they still have football genius Bill Belichick calling the shots and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady under center. Despite the cupboard looking bare, something tells me they will find a way to win.

Quarterback Battles—Who Wins?

The Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles all have quarterback battles heading into training camp. Who will win and earn the privilege to start the season as the No. 1 in Week 1.

The Eagles have an old battle rear its head again between incumbent Michael Vick and Nick Foles. With new head coach Chip Kelly in town, Vick seems to fit his style, but Foles is the better pocket passer at this time. This battle will go on far too long and leak into the season.

The Jets are in a pickle—what to do at the quarterback situation is a tough call right now. Veteran Mark Sanchez seems to have the odds against him. Rookie Geno Smith looks like he may end up as the winner of this battle, but it seems like both men will see action this season. Jets fans should expect a long season.

The Bills battle will be the most interesting this preseason. It’s a new day in Buffalo and new head coach Doug Marrone has invited quarterback controversy from day one. Out is Ryan Fitzpatrick, in is veteran Kevin Kolb and rookie EJ Manuel. While Kolb is familiar with competition to see the field, Manuel may have the edge—the Bills shook up Round 1 of the 2013 NFL draft by selecting Manuel. If he can pick up the speed of the NFL game, he’ll get the job.

How Will the Sophomore Quarterbacks Perform?

The NFL was blessed last season when a handful of viable signal callers earned their stripes. Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill all impressed last season, but will have to become outright leaders this season. Will these men continue their path to greatness?

Who Will Take the Ultimate Leap This Season?

Which players and teams will take the biggest leap this season? This is important to watch this preseason—which teams appear to be gelling the best?

Will it be Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears? Will Matt Ryan be able to take the Atlanta Falcons all the way? Will the Baltimore Ravens be shell-shocked by their 2012 success and offseason departures?

Those are just a few questions to be answered—it has begun, enjoy every last second of it.

July 23, 2013

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MLB Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

Now that the MLB All-Star break is in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to focus directly on the trade deadline and apparently the suspensions that are looming over several players. Matt Garza is now a Ranger and Ryan Braun is now gone for the year. Things could really shake up in the next few days with more trades and suspensions likely coming, but here’s where we stand today.

The Tampa Bay Rays are climbing up the AL East standings and our Power Rankings

1. St. Louis Cardinals (59-37): As a Cubs fan, you never want to see the Cardinals at the top of the list but the Cardinals haven’t done anything to give me a reason to pull them from the top spot and still have the best record in baseball.

2. Boston Red Sox (60-41): Boston leads the majors in wins and in runs scored with 512.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (59-41): The Rays are a MLB best 16-2 in July and are back in the thick of the AL playoff race.

4. Oakland A’s (58-41): I keep expecting the Rangers to take over the AL West but Oakland just won’t let that happen. The A’s are for real.

5. Baltimore Orioles (57-43): Baltimore has won five straight and eight of ten but still can’t get passed the Rays.

6. Texas Rangers (55-44): The Rangers just picked up Matt Garza to bolster the starting rotation. Will he push them over the top in the AL West?

7. Pittsburgh Pirates (58-39): Certainly the Pirates will finish over .500…the question now is can they catch St. Louis?

8. Atlanta Braves (56-43): The Braves hold the biggest lead of any division leader at seven games over Philadelphia.

9. Detroit Tigers (54-44): Right now just Chris Davis is standing between the TigersMiguel Cabrera and a repeat triple crown.

10. Cincinnati Reds (42-28): Cincinnati leads the race for the second wild card spot by five games.

11. LA Dodgers (29-39): The Dodgers are 22-8 since last month’s power rankings and have gone from last to first in the NL West.

12. Cleveland Indians (52-47): The Indians have hung in the race with Detroit. Can they stay there?

13. Arizona Diamondbacks (51-48): Paul Goldschmidt is having a break-out season and could lead the Diamondbacks to the playoffs.

14. New York Yankees (52-47): Jeter is hurt again and A-Rod can’t avoid controversy no matter what he does. There isn’t a lot of help on the way for the Yankees.

15. Seattle Mariners (47-52): Seattle has won seven straight but is still 11 games back in the AL West.

16. Philadelphia Phillies (49-50): The Phillies will be an interesting team to watch in the trade market. What will they do?

17. Colorado Rockies (48-52): CarGo and Tulo have led the Rockies into the NL West race.

18. Washington Nationals (48-51): Washington may be the most disappointing team in the NL this season.

19. San Francisco Giants (45-53): The Giants have dropped six games behind the Dodgers. They need to turn things around quick.

20. LA Angels (46-51): The Angels are getting closer to .500 but it’s starting to be too little too late.

21. Chicago Cubs (44-53): Matt Garza is gone. Alfonso Soriano could be next.

22. Kansas City Royals (45-51): It’s going to be tough for the Royals to get back in the AL Central race with a 44-game in 44-day schedule to open the second half of the season.

23. Toronto Blue Jays (45-53): Any hope the Jays had of getting back in the race are gone after starting July 5-12.

24. San Diego Padres (36-34): A 4-14 July record has the Padres out of the race in the NL West.

25. New York Mets (43-52): After a nice start to July (10-7) the Mets are just four games back of second place in the NL East.

26. Minnesota Twins (42-54): Minnesota has the worst pitching staff in baseball.

27. Chicago White Sox (39-57): Time to rebuild in Chicago.

28. Milwaukee Brewers (41-57): Can it get any worse in Milwaukee? Ryan Braun is done for the year and who knows what the future holds for him.

29. Houston Astros (26-45): At 3-13, the Astros have been the worst team in baseball during July.

30. Miami Marlins (22-47): The Marlins went 37 straight innings without scoring? Ouch.

July 22, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Phil Mickelson wins British Open: The highlight of the sports weekend was arguably Phil Mickelson winning his first British Open for his fifth major championship of his career. Mickelson outlasted Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, and a host of others with a final round of 66. Stenson finished three shots back (E) for the tournament to claim second place. Lefty will be remembered by many for his numerous second-place finishes, but with five majors now, his reputation should be changing.

AL wins MLB All-Star Game: Major League Baseball held its annual All-Star Game last Monday and the American League won 3-0. That gives the winner of the AL home field advantage over the National League in the World Series. I’ve tried to wrap my head around the thought process of having the All-Star Game winner give home field advantage to their league, but after many years it still doesn’t make sense to me. The rationale, of course, is that baseball wants to make the game ‘mean something’, but what’s wrong with having an All-Star Game that’s purely a scrimmage? The games in the NBA, NFL, and NHL never feature any significant amount of defense and in the end, that’s okay. The World Series team with the best regular season record should have home field advantage. Period.

Will Eli Manning ultimately be remembered as better than Peyton?

Eli > Peyton?: When it comes to quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning, the older brother is generally regarded as the better player. But with two Super Bowl wins, Eli is gaining on Peyton according to some … including former running back Tiki Barber. Barber not only says that Eli is catching up to Peyton, but better because of his postseason record. While Peyton is only 9-11 in the playoffs, Eli is 8-3. Eli’s two Super Bowl wins also trump Peyton’s one. Really, it’s a valid point. And while I’m not quite ready to call Eli the better sibling because of Peyton’s amazing career statistically, if Eli continues putting up solid numbers for another 5-7 seasons, it may be difficult to deny his greatness.

Welcome back, Charlotte Hornets: The NBA Board of Governors voted to change the Charlotte Bobcats name back to the Charlotte Hornets last week. When the former franchise bolted for New Orleans, they took the Hornets name with them. However, the team just changed their name to the Pelicans and the name became available. Owner Michael Jordan has been trying to get the name back from years and the name change becomes effective in time for the 2014-15 season after this year.

Alex Rodriguez suffers setback: A-Rod, recovering from hip surgery, was hoping to rejoin the New York Yankees this week after a rehab assignment. That changed, though, when the third baseman suffered a quadriceps strain and Rodriguez is now headed for more rehab. Just how much Rodriguez can help the club is very much in question. He’s seen his power decline steadily and while his 18 home runs and a .272 batting average in 2012 were serviceable, Rodriguez is significantly past his prime. But the Yankees, 20th in the majors in scoring runs this year, are probably a bit anxious to see what he can do to help the club that has been overrun with injuries.

Lakers want to land Lebron and/or Melo in 2014: When Lebron James hits free agency in the summer of 2014, he’ll perhaps be the most sought after free agent in the history of the sport. The Lakers are mum on the situation, but according to reports, count them as among the interested parties. Los Angeles is also said to be targeting Carmelo Anthony and rumor has it that the team wants BOTH. That sounds a bit far-fetched – especially if Kobe Bryant is still lacing them up. One could argue that the Miami Heat have been able to pay three superstars, but Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have minor egos compared to Bryant. Getting those three to play for big pay cuts is one thing but to get them to play alongside each other is something else entirely. And if James wins his third title in a row next year with the Heat, it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be intrigued at the possibility of four in a row with the same team – something Kobe or even Michael Jordan never did.

NCAA to end deal with EA Sports: Big news dropped in the world of video games when the NCAA decided it will not renew a contract with EA Sports after this year. The primary reason is because of a pending lawsuit against the NCAA by players that claim the games use their likenesses without compensation. And really, it’s hard to dispute that as the players in the games bear, shall we say, striking similarities to the players. Still, if you’re into the games, have no fear. There’s too much money to be made and look for a similar game to find its way onto the market in the future. They may not have players that bear the likenesses of teams’ actual players, but surely there will be more collegiate football and basketball games that are produced.

Kobe items top $400,000 at auction: A few months back, Kobe Bryant and his parents were in a struggle over some of the star’s memorabilia. A settlement was reached with the prospective auction company, Goldin Auctions, for most of the items, but several pieces were not pulled back. Five of Bryant’s items fetched a whopping $400,000+ and leading the way was a championship ring given to Kobe’s dad that brought in $174,000. The whole thing has to be embarrassing for the parents. It’s hard to imagine them being that hard up for cash and auctioning off a ring their son bought for them probably wasn’t something they wanted out into the public.

Florida linebacker arrested … for barking at dog: No, seriously – this is a thing. Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested last week for barking at a dog that was in a police car on a street. Morrison, for his part, claims the dog barked first. Well, okay. Look, Morrison barking at a dog is odd, but stranger still, is that the police felt the need to arrest him. Really, we’re arresting people for barking at animals? That’s not over the top at all. Morrison was also suspended by head coach Will Muschamp for two games but the player’s arrest in June for punching a nightclub bouncer probably had something to do with that decision.