November 18, 2013

Leave a Comment

The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

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 TigersMiguel Cabrera won his second straight MVP award and the Pittsburgh PiratesAndrew 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.

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP for the second straight year last week.

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.

June 26, 2013

Leave a Comment

Taking a Look at Baseball’s Best Division

By: Matt Bowen

Major League Baseball has a good thing on its hands—the NL Central is going to be a three team dog fight until the end.

Currently, the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds are only separated by 3.5 games in the standings.  They are three of the best teams in baseball. The Reds find themselves third in the division with 45 wins. Only one team outside the division, the Boston Red Sox have more wins. As of June 26, the NL Central has three playoff teams.

So, which team is the best?

Will Joey Votto and the Reds win the NL Central this season?

Well, the Cardinals have one of the finest organizations in all of sports—somehow they always find a way to win. The Cards have a fantastic farm system that constantly keeps the big league club ripe with talent. They’re also a team that somehow gets the most out of every guy—they make All-Stars out of role players.

This year is no different—they currently have five guys hitting .300-plus, actually six if you count Matt Adams, who only has 86 at-bats. Catcher Yadier Molina leads the league with a .355 average. The team also has a stable of rookies contributing key innings on the pitching mound. Right now, 7-of-12 pitchers on their roster are 25 years old or younger. With all those fresh arms on the hill the Cardinals are poised to go deep into the playoffs.

That is, of course if the stay atop the division and fend off the Pirates and Reds.

The Pirates are the sweethearts of baseball—okay, maybe that’s a “soft” term for such a rugged team. They will not go down without a fracas. In reality, everybody who passionately follows the game wants this team to win. The franchise hasn’t had a winning season since 1992. They’ve toyed with a better than .500 record the past two seasons but have unraveled at the end.

Good news for the team, their pitching has held up well to this point. Also, Andrew McCutchen, their best player has yet to play his best ball. The emergence of rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole has strengthened the rotation and is the ingredient the team needs to remain over the hump. By August, this kid will be an outright star.

Is this finally the year the Bucs break out?

Not if the Reds have something to do with it. Cincinnati is built to win now. They have a top-notch rotation and a perennial MVP candidate in Joey Votto.

The Reds have every component to win now, but will need some clutch hitting along the way. It seems to be the one weakness the team has. Untimely hitting can plague teams and this year it’s cost the Reds a few games. Hey, it’s better to have those problems now rather than late August—there’s plenty of time to work out the kinks.

This isn’t to downplay the Reds; they’re a phenomenal squad and right in the thick of the race. Look for them to be buyers at the for a professional hitter out of the two-hole.

So, which team will win the NL Central this year? Let’s reconvene in early September and talk. One thing’s for sure, we’re in for a treat.

May 22, 2013

Leave a Comment

MLB’s Emerging Stars

By: Matt Bowen

Major League Baseball has a brilliant future. Fans everywhere should be ecstatic for the next decade.  Scattered throughout the league, even teams currently below .500 have budding stars.

Sure, every generation of players has their own crop of cornerstones, but this is different. The league is stacked. The competition will be fierce. Playoff races will come down to Game 162. Interest throughout will reach a fever pitch.

We all know the likes of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are the leaders of the pack when it comes to the “next-generation”, but they are not alone. They’re joined by a bushel of future heroes. Some of which are a touch older than the young 20-somethings, but a star is a star, no matter how long it takes to shine so bright.

Bryce Harper is already a household name for MLB fans.

Here’s a quick rundown of players to fall in love with:

Catcher: Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies

This kid has pop at the plate and in the thin air of Colorado he’ll find the cheap seats with ease. A catcher who can hit for average is always a plus and Rosario is holding his own this season. Even though his numbers have dipped in May, he’ll be just fine. The Rockies have smooth sailing ahead of them with Rosario in their lineup for years to come.

First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

Fans may not have had a chance to catch Paul Goldschmidt much due to proximity, but he’s a stud. By season’s end he’ll be in the NL MVP conversation. Possessing power, average and enough speed to motor around the bases, he also helps his team with a stealthy glove at first base. The Diamondbacks are in good hands thanks to Goldschmidt. Yes, he’s currently 25 years old, but it’s never too late to be one of the best.

Second Base: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

The Houston Astros may own a dismal record, but with Jose Altuve on their side better days are in store. At 5’5” he may be undersized, but he shouldn’t be underestimated. The dude can do it all and is the key to the future in Houston. He’s more than fun to watch and should be respected and feared by all.

Shortstop: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers

Whoa baby! Jean Segura of the Milwaukee Brewers puts up silly numbers in the box score. Blessed with plate presence and speed to burn, Segura is a nightmare for the opposition. Just checking his numbers makes one want to move to Milwaukee and watch this guy in person 81 times a year. With the skills he has, it’s almost not fair. Cheers to Segura. Expect him to be an All-Star this season.

Third Base: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

Talk about a cornerstone, Manny Machado is it in Baltimore. He’ll be manning the hot-corner for the next 15 years for the Orioles and has yet to scratch the surface of his true talent. He’s only 20 years old. Diehard O’s fans have to be drooling when thinking of the future. Dare I say he’ll be the most beloved in Baltimore since a guy named Cal Ripken, Jr. Machado is the man. Come September, expect heroics.

No Surprise Here, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout Made the list:

It’s safe to say that the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are set in terms of a superstar. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout will bring fans out in droves until they retire. Some may argue that they aren’t “emerging” stars, but let’s be real—they are so young it’s not fair to say we’ve seen or that we can comprehend their “ceiling.” They are the future. Embrace it.

Rounding out the Outfield, Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates:

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been begging for a winner since neon slap bracelets and Nickelodeon slime were in style. Now, with the emergence of Starling Marte to compliment star Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates are built to win.

Marte looks like he’s on skates in the outfield and handles himself well at the plate. He bolsters and gives the Bucs lineup much needed depth. There should be nothing but smiles from the Pirates faithful these days after decades of futility. Marte is the difference in Pittsburgh.

Pitcher: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

While it’s tough to pick just one pitcher, have you seen Matt Harvey on the mound? The 24-year-old is off to a ridiculous start to his career. He looks like Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux wrapped into one.

A fine blend of power and finesse, Harvey may be considered the best pitcher in baseball by the end of 2014. His fastball is tough enough to blow back hitters while his offspeed arsenal makes them weak in the knees.

After just 19 career starts, he’s being considered a legend. Watching him is a must.

March 14, 2013

Leave a Comment

5 MLB Teams Destined to Have a Bounce-Back Season

By: Matt Bowen

With the 2013 MLB season set to begin in April there are five teams destined to have a bounce-back season.

For the teams mentioned in this article, the 2012 season was a major league letdown. Regardless, what’s done is done and there’s no reason to dwell on it.

With optimism flooding the mentality of every MLB team and their fan bases this time of year, there’s no time like the presence to turn the corner.

After all, only the San Francisco Giants went home happy in 2012.

Dustin Pedroia is one reason Red Sox fans should believe their team can turn it around in 2013.

For some teams, becoming a respected and prominent team this year is the ultimate goal. For these teams, it’s now time to forget about 2012 and put solid numbers in the “Win” column.

The Boston Red Sox Won’t End Up in the Cellar Again

Things have drastically changed in Boston, but fans need not worry about becoming cursed again. The team will be just fine in Bean Town. Despite finishing 69-93 last season, things are looking good.

They successfully shed about $250 million in salary with a massive nine-player deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. Although a ton of talent left town, they still have the familiar faces of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Here’s where fans will fall in love with the latest edition of the Red Sox—they’re going to be gritty, which is a perfect fit in Boston.  With a nice mixture of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance, the chemistry in the clubhouse should be lively and fun.

One player to keep your eye on is a young outfielder by the name of Jackie Bradley. He’s quickly winning over his teammates and hitting around .500 this spring. Expect him to be a staple in the Red Sox lineup before season’s end.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Look to End 2013 the way the 2012 season began—Winning

It’s hard not to root for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They haven’t made the postseason since the early 1990s and looked destined last season, but stumbled down the stretch. In fact, they haven’t had a winning season in 20 years.

Their superstar, Andrew McCutchen, is an all-world gentleman. He did something last season that hasn’t been done in Pittsburgh in decades—he signed a six-year contract to stay in the Steel City.

He believes and so should the fans. We know they know how to lose, but they’ve definitely tasted victory. Now, 2013 is the year to put it all together.

Although pitchers Garrit Cole and Jameson Taillon won’t start with the big club on Opening Day, they’ll be front-row and center by the time August rolls around.  When they arrive, the whole world will have all eyes on the Pirates.

The Kansas City Royals Will Make the Playoffs

It’s true; your eyes are not playing tricks on you. The Kansas City Royals will make the playoffs in 2013.

For years the Royals have had one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, but that potential hasn’t quite translated into wins.  This is the year that is does.

The organization traded one of their highly touted prospects named Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays in the offseason for quality starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.

This is a positive first toward making the playoffs. After all, how far can a team go if their pitchers can’t take them deep into ball games?

While Myers’ MLB debut is highly awaited, the Royals have an entire roster of prospects just like him. Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez are just a few names in the Royals dugout that have insane amounts of talent.

Don’t be shocked when it all comes together this season.

Don’t Write Off the Seattle Mariners as Dead Meat in the AL West

Sure, the AL West is loaded with talent thanks to the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Oakland Athletics, but the Seattle Mariners are not a team to sleep on.

The team still has one of the best pitcher’s in the game in Felix Hernandez. They also players like Jason Bay and Michael Morse. These guys will be playing with a chip on their shoulder looking to prove they still have gas in the tank.

Combine these vets with youngsters like Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and others and the Mariners have a nice squad on their hands.

Here’s where the 2013 Mariners will be most dangerous—they will be overlooked, circled on every opponent’s calendar as an easy victory. This is where others will be wrong. Following by the example set by the veterans, the entire roster will play like today could be their last. In a sense, they’re a team of castaways sent to the Northwest to be forgotten about.

Expect that “Us Against the World” mentality to fuel the Mariners throughout the season.

This Will Be the Year Chicago Cubs Fans Start to Believe Again

Chicago Cubs fans deserve credit—every year since 1908 the team has gone without a title. Yet, every year the fans come out to Wrigley Field in droves to support their Cubbies.

This is now year two of the Theo Epstein era. Reminder, Epstein is the General Manager whose formula brought the Boston Red Sox two World Series titles in the first decade of this century. Given, the Cubs aren’t the favorite to win it all this season, but they’ll be better than their 101 losses a season ago.

How will they be better?

Superstar Starlin Castro will mature and take every second seriously. He’s been known to be lax in the past.  They also have Anthony Rizzo, who will face a make-or-break season. Don’t expect him to be considered a bust this season.  Rizzo was once one of the top prospects in baseball and is still only 23 years old.

It is rookies Javier Baez and Jorge Soler that will be the sparkplugs in the Cubs offense this year. They may take a few months to get their feet wet, but they’ll quickly become fan favorites.

“Hey Chicago whaddya say…”

Things are looking up.

July 18, 2012

Leave a Comment

Why Andrew McCutchen Will Win NL MVP

By: Matt Bowen

Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates is having a season for the ages. Because of his accomplishments on the field this year,I believe the 25-year-old center fielder will be named NL MVP at season’s end.

Andrew McCutchen has Pirates fans hoping for a playoff game at PNC Park this season.

Now in his fourth major league season, McCutchen is set to take home the game’s biggest individual prize, along with a Gold Glove to boot. He’s single-handedly made baseball in Pittsburgh relevant again.

After being absent from the playoffs for two decades, the Pirates are currently one game behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central and are currently tied for the Wild Card. There’s a buzz around PNC Park that hasn’t been heard since Barry Bonds roamed the outfield and it’s because of McCutchen. He’s the franchise player that every MLB GM dreams of and he proved his devotion and belief in his franchise when he signed a six-year, $51.5 million extension earlier this season.

Gone are the days of the Pirates best player signing elsewhere. What McCutchen did speaks volumes towards his character. He gives hope to all fans of small market teams who have grown tired of watching their star players get traded for prospects or sign for big money with a big name team. In the end, what McCutchen did in Pittsburgh may change the history of baseball in terms of competitive balance.

His play on the field has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. His .372 batting average leads the NL. He’s also currently second in homers with 21, third in RBIs with 64 and third in runs scored with 62. Just in case you were wondering, he also has 14 stolen bases.

What is remarkable has been his batting average of .533 in July and .500 over his last 10 games.  In those 10 games he has 20 hits, six homers, 12 RBI and 12 runs scored. He’s true must-see TV down the stretch.  As the only player on the team that bats .300-plus, he’s proving that he doesn’t have the protection in the lineup that other players have on teams with massive payrolls.

If the Pirates do indeed make the playoffs, it will be because of McCutchen. Regardless of the outcome, he’s been the most valuable member of any team in all of baseball. Expect him to win his first NL MVP this season; don’t expect it to be his last.