December 3, 2013
No. 1 Alabama stunned by Auburn: The BCS title picture just got a little more interesting with Alabama’s shocking loss to Auburn on Saturday. The way the Crimson Tide were defeated was also noteworthy as they had a missed field goal attempt in the game’s final seconds returned 100 yards for a game-winning touchdown. The loss now knocks them out of the SEC title game and could set up a Florida State-Ohio State National Championship. But despite the fact that Auburn has a loss while Ohio State remains unbeaten still might give the Tigers a chance to play for the title. Voters will have a difficult decision on their hands when they consider a less-impressive Buckeyes team vs. a one-loss SEC squad if Auburn manages to win their conference title game. Stay tuned.
Jason Kidd in Cup-Gate: Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd thought he made a shrewd move late in a game last week against the Los Angeles Lakers. Wanting to rally his team without using a timeout, Kidd held a drink and with one of his players walking towards him, seemed to utter the words ‘hit me’ as the player bumped into him, spilling the drink and forcing an official time out. Kidd used the extra time to rally his troops but their comeback fell short anyway. Afterwards Kidd denied the plot, but later relented and virtually admitted his guilt. For his part, he was fined $50,000 by the league and it was just a bad move on Kidd’s part all around. He said he wanted to help his team win, but blatantly cheating isn’t something that will win him a lot of friends.
Mike Tomlin in Trip-Gate: Last week was a rough one for head coaches and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was part of another controversy. In a heated game with the rival Baltimore Ravens, Tomlin stepped out onto the white out of bounds line in an attempt to slow down Jacoby Jones, who was running for a possible touchdown. Tomlin’s move seemed to work as Jones was definitely distracted to a degree and eventually caught and tackled. The point of whether Jones was going to be caught from behind can certainly be debated, but isn’t really the point here. Coaches are instructed to remain behind the thick white out of bounds line and not only did Tomlin pass the boundary by several feet, but he was practically onto the field of play. As of this weekend, the NFL was reviewing Tomlin’s move and deciding whether to penalize him. There’s really no way that Tomlin shouldn’t be disciplined here if the league is serious. His intent was pretty clear to most and even if the league doesn’t believe the intent was there, he simply has no business being that close to the field. A trip on Jones there could quite easily cause an injury and the league needs to send a statement that interfering in games as a coach is unacceptable.
Ping pong, anyone?: A $20,000 ping pong table? Yeah, there will be a huge market for that, right?
Hall of Fame nominees: A list of candidates up for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame included first-timers Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Tom Glavine. All three should get in, but Maddux may be the only surefire inductee next year. Thomas hit a whopping 521 home runs and was a two-time MVP, but many voters put off by the steroid era look at power numbers as being wildly inflated. Even though his name wasn’t linked to the scandal, it may (unfairly) cost Thomas some votes. But the guess is that all three will get in – even if it doesn’t happen this year. Other newcomers include Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, and Moises Alou. Mussina is an intriguing name, but he fell considerably short of 300 wins despite playing much of his career for the New York Yankees and his ERA of 3.68, even in the American League, isn’t terribly impressive when compared to Hall of Famers.
Kobe return potentially this week: The Los Angeles Lakers got some good news last week with word that Kobe Bryant is progressing nicely from his ACL injury. Things are going so well, in fact, that Bryant could return on Friday for L.A.’s game against Sacramento if he practices well this week. Things could be looking up for the Lakers, who have managed to stay afloat without Bryant and were 9-8 heading into this weekend. What the franchise shouldn’t do, though, is force him back too soon. Los Angeles has been wildly inconsistent this season, but playing well enough to be in the playoff hunt. They’ll need a healthy Bryant to make any kind of run in the postseason and that can only happen if he’s given the time he needs to fully recover. The issue here is going to be forcing Bryant to remain on the bench as the star probably wants to play as soon as he can. But the Lakers need to remember that he’s an investment (especially in light of his new contract) and not allow him to play until he’s completely readly.
Ohio State removes ‘M’ from campus: Preparing for their big annual rivalry game with the Michigan Wolverines, the Ohio State Buckeyes made a curious move when they decided to remove the letter ‘M’ from various locations around campus by covering it up with tape. Further, John Kasich, the state Governor, also encouraged people statewide to avoid using the letter per ESPN. The rivalry is one of the biggest in all of football, but really? Removing M’s from basic signs such as ‘bathroom’ or ‘gymnasium’ just seems a bit … silly.
Come Home, Lebron: A campaign to bring Lebron James back to Cleveland was led by a fan group recently. The fans distributed t-shirts, hoping to catch the attention of James, who was in town playing with his current team, the Miami Heat. James will be a free agent at the end of this year but Cleveland fans shouldn’t hold their breath for his return. He’ll be able to play for any team in the NBA and if James’ desire is to win championships, Cleveland will need at least one more key player in addition to him and star guard Kyrie Irving. And with a slew of offers to come from some of the marquee teams in the league, a return to Cleveland just doesn’t seem all that likely next year.
November 25, 2013
Prince Fielder traded – Baseball’s offseason saw its first big trade when All-Star Prince Fielder was dealt away from the Detroit Tigers to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler. The move really is one of those win-win deals. Fielder is an incredible talent as his 25 home runs and 106 runs batted in in 2013 will attest, but he was owed a boatload of money for a lot of seasons. The slugger is still owed approximately $170 million over the next seven years and Detroit really needs some of that money to lock down its pitchers. The Tigers get a solid player back in Kinsler but the real benefit to them is getting out from under all of that money due to Fielder. The Rangers, meanwhile, get a bonafide superstar that can make their top ten offense in 2013 even better next season.
Don’t count out the Pats – For most of the season, the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots have been the class of the AFC. But the Pats have been lurking around in the background and on Sunday, showed they shouldn’t be forgotten. Tom Brady and New England upset Denver in overtime and at 8-3 on the season, are only one game behind the 9-2 Broncos. The Patriots got the game at home, but Brady’s spectacular 344-yard, three-touchdown effort officially put the rest of the NFL on notice.
Charlotte Hornets will get their colors back – The NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats will go back to being the Charlotte Hornets next season, but a name change isn’t the only thing coming. With the team name change, the franchise will go back to their original purple and teal color scheme per ESPN. If that doesn’t conjure up memories of Grandmama, then nothing will.
Crazy African soccer betting – And … I’ll just put this here.
Florida loses to FCS Georgia Southern. In football. – The Florida Gators’ season was already going about as badly as it could. Entering this weekend, they were 4-6 and in serious danger of a sub .500 season. But things got a whole lot worse for the Gators when they lost to FCS team Georgia Southern 26-20 at home. The loss dropped Florida to 4-7 and gave the Gators their sixth straight loss. Hello, Will Muschamp – it’s the hot seat calling.
Red Sox hair trimmings up for auction – Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some pretty interesting auctions related to sports. A few weeks back, Bill Mazeroski’s game jersey he wore when hitting his historic home run in the 1960 World Series fetched six figures. Last week, a ball boy who was given Michael Jordan’s shoes from his famous flu game decided he’d put those up to the highest bidder. Now the Boston Red Sox are getting in on the action. Several Red Sox players have trimmed their beards after their World Series run and putting them up to benefit a men’s organization. You may question if fans really want hair from players, but so far the auction is already bringing in thousands of dollars.
Derrick Rose injures knee … again – Chicago Bulls star guard Derrick Rose sat out all of last season recovering from an ACL injury in his knee. Rose returned this year but caught another tough break when he injured his other knee last week during a game against the Portland Trailblazers. It’s unknown how long he’ll be out, but word is that Rose could miss the rest of the season. If so, it’s another devastating blow to a team that had hopes of reaching the NBA Finals. The Bulls put up a bit of a fight in the postseason last year without Rose, but realistically, it’s difficult envisioning them competing with the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers without their best player.
And you get $20,000, and you get $20,000 – Last week a fan at an Oklahoma City Thunder game made a half-court shot at halftime to win $20,000. That’s an incredible feat, but it’s something that seems to happen in Oklahoma City more than anywhere else. The shot was the fifth such one by a fan in 2013.
Johnny Football and Texas A&M fall short against top teams – Texas A&M hasn’t had a bad season per se, but the Aggies have definitely struggled against the better schools on their football schedule. Johnny Manziel and company have played three ranked programs and after this weekend, have lost all three. Texas A&M previously lost to Alabama and Auburn and on Saturday, dropped a game to LSU on the road. Manziel has still been impressive this season, but failed miserably against the Tigers, completing only 16 of his 41 passes and adding two interceptions against only one touchdown. He’s played well in his sophomore year, but winning a second Heisman is looking less and less likely.
November 18, 2013
Baseball dishes out annual awards: Major League Baseball’s annual awards were given out this week and all eyes were on the Most Valuable Players in the American and National Leagues. The Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera won his second straight MVP award and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen captured his first. Both were worthy winners and didn’t get much competition on their way to grabbing their respective hardware. Cabrera took home 23 of the 30 first-place votes available after nearly winning the Triple Crown award again. Meanwhile, Cutch’s win was even more lopsided as the centerfielder received 28 of the 30 votes after leading the Bucs to their first postseason trip in two decades.
Chiefs lose first game: For nine games, the Kansas City Chiefs remained undefeated in this year’s NFL season. That all changed on Sunday night, though, as the Denver Broncos defeated them 27-17 at home. Despite the Chiefs perfect start, Sunday’s game proved what many of us had figured was true – that they are likely the best team in the league. With Peyton Manning at the switch, it’s simply too hard to pick against this team right now. With the win, they’ve now got the inside track on home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Louisville coach buys beer … for fans: Louisville’s womens basketball coach Jeff Walz needed a quick way to get some fans through the turnstiles for the Cardinals recent game against LSU. Enter Beergate. Walz got innovative and decided to buy a beer for the first 2,500 fans in attendance. Coupled with a discounted admission ticket, a little more than 8,000 fans made their way to the game to see No. 5 Louisville steamroll No. 14 LSU, 88-67. Whatever works.
Michael Jordan flu shoes up for auction: Most basketball fans can remember the epic game Michael Jordan had back in the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, despite battling the flu. Now MJ’s shoes from that game will go up for auction, courtesy of a former ball boy who got the shoes afterwards. Jordan repaid a favor by giving the shoes to the boy, who now hopes to make a tidy sum off of the gift. Bidding starts Monday for ‘only’ $5,000, but you can bet the final bid will be much higher.
South Carolina player shoots self, then lies about it: Really, you can’t make this stuff up.
The $300 million man?: Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw won his second Cy Young Award this year. Now, word on the street is that he wants to get paid. The Dodgers, apparently, are willing to oblige and the number $300 million has even been thrown around. First things first – Kershaw is an amazing pitcher and at 25, may not have even reached his prime. That said, $300 million? Have teams not learned their lesson after the monster deals that have been dished out? Alex Rodriguez’ $200+ million deal has severely handcuffed the New York Yankees – particularly since he isn’t nearly the same player he was when he signed the contract. And while it’s only been two years, Albert Pujols has taken a major step back after his mega deal with the Los Angeles Angels. When you factor in that Kershaw isn’t even a position player and can only pitch every five days, tying that much money up into the ace seems like suicide.
Carmelo bashes Knicks: This season was supposed to be the year when the New York Knicks competed for a trip to the NBA Finals. But at 3-6, the team wouldn’t even make the postseason if the playoffs started today. It’s only been nine games, but so far, the Knicks haven’t impressed. Earlier this year, head coach Mike Woodson questioned the team’s effort. This past week, though, Carmelo Anthony did the same saying the team didn’t even appear to be trying in a 20-point beatdown at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks. Like I said, it’s early … but don’t be surprised if this year spirals out of control for the Knicks. Under the heavy New York media spotlight, the pressure is only going to continue to mount and I’m not sure the team has the type of players to dig themselves out of this hole.
November 13, 2013
New York Knicks’ season off to rough start – After several key offseason moves, the New York Knicks are hoping to contend for an NBA title this season. That quest, though, is off to a rocky beginning. The Knicks are 2-4 on the season and were routed, 120-89, by last season’s Western Conference champions, the San Antonio Spurs, on Sunday. Unfortunately, none of that is even the worst thing that’s happened to the team. The Knicks learned last week that center Tyson Chandler is expected to miss several weeks with a fibula injury. Chandler’s loss really hurts the team defensively and that’s one of the few things the team has done right so far this year. Giving up only 93 points a game, New York ranks fourth in the NBA in team defense.
Ben Roethlisberger denies trade request talk – Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was the subject of some trade talk this past week. NFL.com reported that he was interested in potentially exploring a trade request following the season, but Big Ben says it’s not true. The Steelers have had a difficult season and at 3-6, frustration mounting wouldn’t be a surprise. But Roethlisberger wanting out of Pittsburgh would be a curious move. He’s won two Super Bowls with the team, been to a third, and despite some offseason incidents earlier in his career, has had a lot of support from Pittsburgh fans over the years. He’s played his entire career in Pittsburgh and leaving at this point would be a bit odd. Roethlisberger may be frustrated at the current team, but you can bet that the Steelers will again field a competitive team during his tenure at quarterback.
Arian Foster to have season-ending surgery – Houston Texans running back Arian Foster will reportedly have season-ending surgery for a bulging disk in his back. Foster’s injury and subsequent surgery is just the latest misfortune for the Texans who have had a rough season. Foster, himself, has had a down season with only a single rushing touchdown to his credit. After a 2-0 start, Houston promptly has dropped their past seven games. Quarterback Matt Schaub suffered an ankle injury but even when he was healthy enough to play, head coach Gary Kubiak kept him on the bench in favor of Case Keenum. Kubiak also made headlines when he collapsed at halftime of a game last week. It’s just been a miserable season all around for the franchise.
Lloyd McClendon and Rick Renteria hired as managers – The Seattle Mariners have their next manager after hiring Lloyd McClendon last week. McClendon has prior experience, serving as the head man for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His 336-446 record there, though, wasn’t impressive and he had to settle for a role as bullpen coach and hitting coach with the Detroit Tigers the past few years. Seattle fans have understandably been skeptical of the move, but McClendon was handcuffed a bit to some pretty bad Pirates rosters. Still, if he’s not successful in Seattle, it may be a while before he sees another opportunity to become a manager. Renteria, meanwhile, is headed to the Chicago Cubs. He hasn’t been a major league manager before, but still has a good deal of experience. Renteria managed a few seasons in the minors and was a bench coach for the San Diego Padres. Earlier this season, he also managed Mexico’s National team in the World Baseball Classic. Cubs fans will have to be patient with him as the team is clearly in the midst of a rebuilding movement.
Stanford tops Oregon – In another matchup of top five college football teams, No. 5 Stanford upended No. 3 Oregon last week, 26-20. The win helps the Cardinal, obviously, but the real beneficiary is Florida State. The Seminoles were undefeated but still sat behind top-ranked Alabama and Oregon in the minds of many poll voters. If both teams ran the table, there was a chance that Florida State could have been left out of the national championship picture. Instead, the Seminoles likely will control their own destiny now and just might get the chance to reach the title game.
Bill Mazeroski auction a hit – Former Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Bill Mazeroski raked in a cool $1.7 million from an auction centered around items from his series-winning home run in the 1960 World Series. Leading the way was his game-worn jersey from that epic seventh game, which fetched $633,000. Also auctioned were his cleats from the game and his six Gold Glove awards. It always seems a little discomforting to see former players auction off their awards or game items, but it also can’t be forgotten that players in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t make the kind of money today’s players do. And really, how long can you hang onto those items knowing they’re worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?
Florida Panthers fire Kevin Dineen – Head coach Kevin Dineen was fired by the Florida Panthers after another slow start to the season. The Panthers were 3-9-4 at the time of the move and the front office felt a change was necessary. Florida ranks near the bottom of the NHL in offense (26th), scoring fewer than two goals a game, and defense (28th). This was the second straight slow start for Dineen as his team got off to a 1-5 beginning last year. Peter Horachek has been named the interim coach in the meantime.
November 6, 2013
Boston wins World Series: The Boston Red Sox claimed their third World Series title in only ten years with a 4-2 series win over the St. Louis Cardinals. The big story of the series was easily David Ortiz. The slugger hit two home runs in the six games and had a whopping .688 batting average. Since nearly being left for dead after he batted .264 in 2008 with a modest 23 home runs, Big Papi has had some kind of resurgence. He batted only .238 the following season, but still hit 28 home runs. Ortiz has rebounded nicely and is hitting for average again, batting over .300 in each of the past three years. He’s 37, but still looks like he has plenty left in the tank.
NBA season tips off: The NBA season officially got underway on Tuesday with a triple header. The Lakers and Pacers both came out on top, but it was the Miami Heat that won the marquee game as they defeated the Chicago Bulls 107-95, despite 31 points from Carlos Boozer and the return of Derrick Rose.
Florida State tops Miami: In a game of unbeatens, Florida State defeated Miami in a rout, 41-14 on Saturday. The loss for Miami was even more deflating after the team received news that star running back Duke Johnson sustained a broken ankle during the game and will be out for the season. The win was the second big win over a top ten team for the Seminoles, who knocked off Clemson 51-14 a few weeks ago. Despite sitting behind unbeaten Alabama and Oregon, Florida State is starting to gain some recognition and even picked up six No. 1 votes in this week’s Associated Press poll. If the season ends with three unbeaten teams it will be a true shame since we’re only one season away from the college football playoff being implemented.
Shuffleboard: So, the World Shuffleboard Championships are actually a thing? Seems legit.
Brad Ausmus new Tigers’ manager: After Jim Leyland retired as manager of the Detroit Tigers, the franchise didn’t waste much time in naming a replacement. Brad Ausmus, a former major league catcher, got the nod and will take over for the team starting next season. The pick of Ausmus was a questionable one considering he’s never been a big league manager … or even a minor league one for that matter. Detroit interviewed other qualified candidates including bench coaches Lloyd McClendon, Rick Renteria, and Tim Wallach, but Ausmus was the final pick. The gig is a good one to be sure with a starting rotation that features Justin Verlander and an offense with perhaps the game’s best player in Miguel Cabrera. Because of that, you can bet that big things will be expected out of Ausmus as he takes over a team capable of winning a World Series.
NHL All-Star Game coming to Columbus: The Columbus Blue Jackets will host the NHL’s All-Star Game in January 2015. The franchise was actually awarded the 2013 game, but the NHL lockout that season eliminated the game. The announcement was made during first period of Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Kentucky tops AP poll: As expected, a few weeks after topping the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Kentucky Wildcats also tallied the most first-place votes to lead the AP poll. The Wildcats received 27 of a possible 65 first-place votes and were followed by No. 2 Michigan State (22 first-place votes) and defending champion Louisville (14).
Derek Jeter gets new deal: The New York Yankees made sure shortstop Derek Jeter remained in pinstripes for another year, re-signing him for $12 million for next season. The large salary is clearly a bit of a nod to what Jeter did in the past as he had a disastrous 2013 season. After playing in only 17 games with an ankle injury keeping him out most of the season, Jeter batted only .190 on the season with one home run. Surely it’s not fair to judge him based on his numbers last year, but there’s no guarantee that he’s able to earn that $12 million, too. To be fair, Jeter had a strong 2012 when he collected 216 hits and batted .316, but he’ll also be two years removed that by next season. The Yankees, unfortunately, had little option but to pay him handsomely since allowing him to play for another team could have resulted in significant fan backlash.
Walt Bellamy dies: For the second week in a row, the NBA lost one of its legendary players. Two weeks ago, it was former Celtics star Bill Sharman that died. Last week, center Walt Bellamy passed away. In 14 seasons, Bellamy proved to be one of the league’s all-time greats at center, averaging 20 points and 14 rebounds per game. He played for a slew of teams including the Chicago Packers, Baltimore Bullets, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, New Orleans Jazz, and Detroit Pistons. Bellamy had one of the most decorated careers of all time as a Hall of Famer, Rookie of the Year, top overall draft pick, and Olympic gold medalist.