January 13, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NFL Conference Championship Games Set: The NFL Playoffs continued this weekend and the conference championship games are now set. In the AFC, the New England Patriots will travel to Denver to play the Broncos. In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks will host the San Francisco 49ers. At this point, the Super Bowl is anybody’s to win and both of the road teams will have legitimate shots to win. The Patriots are fresh off a three-touchdown drubbing of the Indianapolis Colts and have a guy named Tom Brady at the helm. The 49ers were soundly beaten in Seattle earlier this season, but came back to beat them at home and also are a different team with a healthy Michael Crabtree. Both home teams look good, but don’t be surprised by a road win or two, either.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady will lead the Patriots into the AFC Championship game against familiar foe Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Baseball to Induct New Hall of Famers: The Baseball Hall of Fame will grow by a few members later this year when Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine will all be inducted. Maddux received the most votes of the three but still took home ‘only’ 97% of ‘yes’ votes. It’s always astonishing to see voters that clearly don’t take their responsibility all that seriously. Maddux isn’t only a clear Hall of Famer, but he’s one of the best pitchers of all time. The Hall could do itself a favor by eliminating the follies of voters by simply taking away their ballot if they can’t exercise a bit of common sense. Craig Biggio barely missed the cut, but will almost surely get in either next year or in the near future. Meanwhile, voters again showed their clear disdain for players widely suspected to have taken PEDs as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire all fell well short of the required number of votes needed for induction.

Florida State wins National Championship: Last Monday, the Florida State Seminoles topped the Auburn Tigers after a slow start, winning 34-31. Trailing 21-10, the Seminoles were on the ropes and easily faced their stiffest test of the year against the SEC champion. But they rallied for 21 points in the final quarter to claim the title, led by freshman quarterback Jameis Winston. One loss can knock a team out in the regular season, but with Winston at the helm as well as talented players on both sides of the ball, it’s really hard to pick another favorite to win it all next year.

Dogs can be Football Fans, too, Right?: Right?!?!?

ALL THE DEREK HOLLAND JOKES: Speaking of dogs, Derek Holland’s apparently caused him to miss half of the 2014 baseball season. Cue the jokes about weird baseball injuries.

ARod Suspended for Season: Alex Rodriguez should officially miss all of 2014 after an arbitrator upheld MLB’s initial suspension for his use of PEDs. ARod actually had his suspension cut from 211 games but is still banned for the entire season, including the playoffs. The suspension is obviously a blow to ARod, but don’t expect the Yankees to be shedding any tears over his ban. The team still owes him about $60 million over the next few seasons, but will save over $20 million in luxury tax money they would have owed had he played. If ARod were still a dominant player, New York would rather have him on the field. But with his career in severe decline, not having their third baseman and saving all of that money is actually a significant benefit.

Penn State hires James Franklin: After losing head coach Bill O’Brien to the NFL, the Nittany Lions hired away James Franklin from Vanderbilt. Franklin is known as an excellent recruiter and did a remarkable job in getting the Commodores’ program to new heights, winning nine games in each of the past two seasons. The hire, however, shouldn’t go unquestioned since he also went 1-8 against Top 25 teams in his tenure at Vandy. Franklin will stand a better chance in the Big Ten at a historic program than he did trying to revive a struggling one in the difficult SEC. Beating the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Michigan, though, won’t be a cakewalk, though.

Lindsey Vonn out of Olympics: U.S. skiing will look a little different in the Olympics at Sochi this year when Lindsey Vonn announced her injured knee will keep her from participating. Tough, tough blow for Vonn who, at 31, might not have the chance to ski in another Olympics.

NFL Could Sell Thursday Night Games: The NFL currently broadcasts Thursday night games on its own NFL Network, but the league may decide to sell those to other networks. If the decision goes through, the games would surely generate a huge amount of interest … and a huge amount of money for the NFL.

Chicago Bulls play for Future: The Chicago Bulls are without Derrick Rose, who is likely out for the season with a knee injury. Despite playing in a weak conference, the franchise decided to play for the future by trading away their best healthy player, Luol Deng, for the Cavaliers’ Andrew Bynum and draft picks … and then promptly releasing Bynum to save money. It’s understandable that many Chicago fans are perturbed by the move. The Bulls gain the draft picks and money to sign another player, but the team not only gave up on the season but also gave up on trying to re-sign Deng, who is a very good player.

June 10, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NBA Finals tied up 1-1: After a close loss at home on Thursday, the Miami Heat rebounded for a 103-84 blowout win in Game 2 over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals on Sunday. The Heat still find themselves without home court advantage, but now have a fighting chance to win the series. Another loss would have put the team in an 0-2 hole facing three straight games in San Antonio under the 2-3-2 Finals format. And against the experienced Spurs, that may have been too big a deficit to overcome.

The Heat tied the NBA Finals series at 1-1 with their Game 2 win on Sunday.

French Open concludes: Tennis’ French Open wrapped up with a couple of the game’s biggest stars finishing on top. For the men, Rafael Nadal won a record eighth French Open title, defeating David Ferrer this weekend. Nadal won easily in straight sets and his eighth title at the French is the most of any man at any Grand Slam tournament. On the women’s side, Serena Williams won her 2nd French title, also in straight sets, over the defending champ Maria Sharapova. For Williams, it was her 16th major championship.

Major League Baseball/Biogenesis scandal: Major League Baseball is reportedly trying to suspend a group of 20 players linked to the Biogenesis/PED scandal. The alleged list includes some big names such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, and Bartolo Colon. If the suspensions happen, some teams could find themselves in a bind. Players like Nelson Cruz, and Jhonny Peralta are parts of teams (the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, respectively) in playoff races. Because of that, it will be interesting to see what types of moves that clubs make in advance of any potential suspensions.

Coach Jason Kidd?: The recently retired Jason Kidd doesn’t want to spend a season without basketball. ESPN reports that the former point guard is interested in coaching – specifically, he wants the Brooklyn Nets’ job. A few years ago, that may not have been a half bad idea. But the Nets have a lot invested in this team and if I’m GM Billy King, there’s no way I’m taking a call from a player with no coaching experience in college or the pros.

The ‘Average’ Lebron: Dennis Rodman made headlines again when he said LeBron James would be an average player in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The comments were made when comparing James and Michael Jordan. James may not be as great as Jordan, but average? It’s hard to envision the 6’8” freak of nature as just an average player in any era. Rodman made a good point in that the game may not be as physical as it once was, but James does so much more other than score. He’s a tremendous rebounder and passer and there’s no question he would still be a star in that era … or any other, for that matter.

Marc-Andre Fleury to return as Pens’ starter: The Pittsburgh Penguins, Stanley Cup favorites after, were unceremoniously swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. In the process, starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, was replaced by backup Tomas Vokoun who played well in the series. But head coach Dan Bylsma said afterwards that Fleury is a franchise goalie and will return as the team’s No. 1 starter – and that’s probably the right move. Fleury is only 28 years old and helped the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances only a few years ago. And with two years and $10 million left on his current contract, the Pens have little choice but to at least give him another shot if they are against trading him away.

Tommy Rees chosen as Notre Dame starting QB: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly recently lost his starting quarterback Everett Golson to an academic-related suspension. As expected, Kelly announced that he will turn to Tommy Rees as the starter in 2013, per mlive.com. That’s no surprise as he’s the most experienced player of the other options, Andrew Hendrix and newcomer Malik Zaire. The Irish are fortunate to have Rees as few teams have two quarterbacks with as much experience as he and Golson. Instead of turning to an inexperienced backup, Notre Dame has Rees, who started nearly every game in 2011 and has played in 33 career games.

Brett Favre takes blame in parting with Packers: Quarterback Brett Favre accepted some of the blame for his ugly divorce from the Green Bay Packers in a recent radio show interview. That’s good news for the two since Favre will always be recognized as a Packer even though he also played briefly with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. The Packers will want his participation in team-related events for the rest of his life, and it’d be much better if the two sides can reconcile and get along since Favre has been such a big part of the organization.

February 4, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Baltimore Ravens hang on to win Super Bowl over San Francisco 49ers, 34-31: What looked to be a dud of a game early finally became interesting with the help of … a power outage. Down 28-6, the San Francisco 49ers rallied to score 17 consecutive points. The comeback came up short, though, after the two teams traded touchdowns.  Baltimore added a field goal with about four minutes left in the game and after driving nearly the length of the field, the Niners were stopped inside the 10-yard line. Baltimore got the ball back and wisely took a safety with only a few seconds remaining to provide the final score.

49ers fans will focus on the non-call of what appeared to be pass interference in the end zone on that final drive, but the Ravens’ defense should be lauded for coming up big twice in the fourth quarter. In addition to the aforementioned stand, the D stopped a two-point conversion attempt by the 49ers that could have tied the game (and would have meant they would have only needed a field goal on that final drive). The Ravens allowed 31 points, but stopped San Francisco when it mattered.

Seven elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: Lost a bit in all of the Super Bowl hoopla were the Pro Football Hall of Fame elections. Coach Bill Parcells and players Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, and Larry Allen will all be inducted later this year. In addition, senior selections Curley Culp and Dave Robinson were elected as well. All were deserving, but if you’re looking for a snub, that would be former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. Bettis ranks sixth on the all-time NFL rushing list, but still couldn’t find a way into the Hall despite eight 1,000-yard seasons, six Pro Bowls, and a Super Bowl victory. He should eventually get in, but it has to be a bit disappointing that it didn’t happen this year.

Dwyane Wade tries to convince Lebron James to participate in All-Star weekend activities: The NBA has been fighting a losing battle in trying to add more excitement to their All-Star weekend. Unlike the 1980s and 1990s, the league’s biggest stars generally no longer take part in the slam dunk championship or three-point shootout. Gone are the days when players such as Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, and Larry Bird were participating, but one guy wants to change that: Dwyane Wade. Wade has been pushing for teammate Lebron James to suit up for the slam dunk and three-point contests this year. While LBJ has reportedly said he’s not interested in dunking, we could see him in the three-point shootout. I’d be all for it, to be honest. If there’s one thing that will draw more eyeballs, it’s the participation by the game’s best players. I don’t think the league should try to force its stars to join in, but the players should want to do it. The weekend is all about the fans and if there’s any way to reward them, it’s by doing more than sitting on the sidelines.

Adrian Peterson wins NFL’s MVP award: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award, beating out Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning. You can make a strong case for Manning, who came back strongly after an injury kept him out last year. But Peterson is the right choice in my opinion. Not only did he carry the Vikings on his back to the playoffs this year, but he nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record for most rushing yards in a season. Others have challenged the mark, but Peterson came the closest falling only nine yards short. Manning had one of his best seasons ever and for one of the best quarterbacks ever, that’s really saying something. But Peterson had less to work with if you look at it objectively. The Vikings passing attack was one of the worst in the NFL and the team won only three games last year when he suffered an injury. Meanwhile, Manning had a solid rushing attack and also took over a team that won a game in the playoffs last year. In other seasons, Manning could be an easy pick. But this year, the award belongs to Peterson.

Yankees may try to void Alex Rodriguez contract: As his career winds down, Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez has found himself in a number of controversies. The latest came last week when he was accused of using performance enhancing drugs. That’s nothing new as Rodriguez previously admitted to such use earlier in his career, but he has maintained that he has not done so recently. But because of the new allegations, the Yankees may be looking to void A-Rod’s expensive contract in the hopes of saving some money. That likely wouldn’t be the case if Rodriguez was in the prime of his career, but with his numbers in a steady decline, it makes sense that New York would want out of his hefty deal. Stay tuned.

Caltech ends historic streak: Chances are you’ve probably never heard of the California Institute of Technology if you live outside of the state. But their baseball team snapped a historic 228-game losing streak last week, winning their first game in nearly a decade, 9-7 over Pacifica. Even more shocking is that the school has had several other unbelievable recent streaks of futility. The men’s basketball team lost 310 straight games until winning in 2011 and the women’s volleyball team also lost 56 in a row at one point before a victory in 2012. Congratulations, I guess?

January 29, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Rajon Rondo out for season – The Boston Celtics received some bad news fresh off of a close win over the Miami Heat as starting point guard Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL injury. The news couldn’t come at a worse time for the Celtics who are struggling just to make the playoffs, currently sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Even a heavy veteran presence in Boston with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce might not be enough to carry the Celtics to another postseason appearance. Avery Bradley got the start in place of Rondo against the Heat, but the bigger impact is that the team will now rely more heavily on backup guards Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa to play some extra minutes.

Will Alex Rodriguez miss the entire 2013 MLB season?

Could Alex Rodriguez miss entire 2013 season? New York Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman said that there’s a chance that star third baseman Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire 2013 season after his hip surgery. While he doesn’t necessarily believe it’s likely, he did state that it was possible. If that’s the case, it would obviously be a tremendous blow to the team. Rodriguez has been in a noticeable decline over the past few seasons and is nowhere near the player he was in his prime. But he’s still a quality player as evidenced by his 18 home runs and 57 runs batted in last year in 122 games, and could help the team if he were on the field.

Pro Bowl comes and goes in Pro Bowl like fashion – This weekend, the NFL held their annual Pro Bowl game. It was a typical Pro Bowl that featured little defense and plenty of offensive fireworks as the NFC won 62-35 over the AFC. But guess what? That’s fine by me. The game is a far cry from regular season football (or even preseason football, for that matter), but it’s still an All-Star game. And after all, every all-star game is played different. The final score of hockey’s all-star game generally looks more like a low-scoring football affair. The basketball all-star game comes off as a triple overtime thriller. And even baseball, which has something on the line in deciding the home field advantage for the World Series, isn’t played to specifications. After all, if a pitcher is cruising through three innings, would a manager really take him out to get other players in the game? Football’s all-star game isn’t truly indicative of what the sport should be, but look around – it’s not alone. And oh yeah, it’s in Hawaii – who wants to complain about that?

Fan makes half-court shot; Lebron turns into a linebacker – In case you missed it, a fan at a Miami Heat game sunk a half-court shot to win $75,000 from Lebron James’ foundation. James was so surprised that he promptly tackled said fan right there on the court, giving him a gigantic bear hug in the process. Had to be an exciting moment, but let’s be real here – if a 6’8”, 250-pound guy is lunging at me trying to knock me down, I’m probably getting out of the way.

Australian Open Tennis concludes – Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka won the men’s and women’s Australian Open tennis championships last week, but the bigger story may have been Sloane Stephens’ victory over highly favored Serena Williams earlier in the tournament. In the immediate aftermath, there were a plethora of wild statements about the torch being passed. What was conveniently left out in many of those discussions is that Williams was practically playing on one leg and with a bad back. While it’s true that she recovered enough to finish the match, she clearly wasn’t anywhere close to 100%. Even more to the point is that it was only a single match. I’m as excited as anybody for the future of Stephens, but the amount of enthusiasm about the win should be tempered. Stephens will be good – real good. I’m just not ready to call her the face of American tennis just yet (even if she did triple her Twitter followers since the win).

October 22, 2012

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Should the Yankees trade Alex Rodriguez?

By: Anson Whaley

A few seasons ago, the question would have been so ridiculous it wouldn’t have even merited a credible response. This year, however, the Yankees will need to consider the question: Should they try to trade Alex Rodriguez?

Will Alex Rodriguez still be a Yankee next season?

Before we even begin to answer that question, though, the fact is that Rodriguez has a no-trade clause, which will allow him to play in New York next season if he so desires. And Rodriguez, for his part (so far, anyway), has determined that the Big Apple is it for him for at least next season, per a report on ESPN. But for argument’s sake, let’s say he decides the big city life is no longer for him and gets sick of tracking down Australian models in the stands. Should the Yanks indeed send him packing?

It’s difficult to imagine they wouldn’t at least strongly consider the possibility. Once arguably the game’s most dominant player, Rodriguez’ age is catching up with him. His totals of 34 home runs and 119 runs batted in over the past two years would have been pedestrian for a single season in his prime around the turn of the century. And his sub-.275 batting average over that span is well below his career .300 mark.

A-Rod’s decline in power has come far more swiftly than even he could have imagined. Up until 2011, Rodriguez had hit at least 30 home runs in nearly every full season he played. But he’s failed to record even 20 in each of the past two years. Some will attribute it to the claims of steroid use earlier in his career, but age can’t be ignored, either. At 37, he’s not only well past his prime, but he’s practically hit the age most players start thinking about mutual funds and reality shows. Don’t, however, expect Rodriguez to be leaving to play golf or do any of that anytime soon. With more than $100 million still on the table over the next five seasons, he’d be giving up an absolute fortune if he walked away from the game.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, that’s the primary reason why striking a deal with another team would be difficult. Set to earn nearly $25 million per season over the next five years, no team in their right mind would fork over even close to that much for the star in serious decline. If a deal were struck, New York would almost assuredly need to include a boatload of cash. We’re likely not talking $50 million, either. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees be forced to pay the majority of the money still owed to him.

So why would they do that? I think we saw the answer in the playoff series’ against the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles. After an abysmal start, Rodriguez was benched a few times and the Yankees apparently decided they were better off without him – think about that for a second. Why pay a player in whom you have no confidence?

Even if the Yankees decide to fork over $80 or $90 million, they’d still be saving a nice chunk of change that they could spend elsewhere. At first glance, that sounds ludicrous. But if a team is unwilling to play one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history in the postseason, what’s the point in keeping him around?

The other thing is that Rodriguez has gone from an unthinkable asset to a bit of a liability. The off-field distractions (i.e. that little Australian model thing I mentioned earlier) just aren’t worth it if A-Rod isn’t producing. And instead of being an everyday player, he has only appeared in 130 games one time in the past four years. Teams are hard-pressed to put up with certain distractions for stars, but the simple fact is that Rodriguez is no longer a star. He’s a capable major-leaguer, but not much more at this point.

And because of that, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the two sides eventually parted ways.