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.

September 7, 2011

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Is it October yet?

By: Joe Williams

Do you know what Zach Stewart did last night? The Chicago White Sox pitcher flirted with history as he mowed down the Minnesota Twins lineup for seven perfect innings. Danny Valencia broke up the bid for a perfect game with an eighth-inning double and Stewart finished the game with a one-hitter.

With all the excitement surrounding the start of the college football and NFL seasons, and the absence of compelling pennant races in baseball, a performance like that can go under the radar. This month of September will be full of meaningless (unless you qualified for the playoffs in your MLB  fantasy baseball league) games. Can’t we just skip ahead to October and start the playoffs already?

Look at the MLB standings and you will see that the Yankees or Red Sox will win the A.L. East and the top seed and the other will be the Wild Card team. Does it really make a difference who wins the MLB division to anyone other than New York and Boston fans? Is it October yet?

 

Barring a major collapse, Detroit is going to win the A.L. Central. The way Justin Verlander has been pitching; he could win enough games by himself in September to get the Tigers to the post-season. Is it October yet?

The only spot that is really in doubt is in the A.L. West. The Rangers lead the Angels by 2.5 games. They will meet in Anaheim for the last three games of the MLB regular season. Let’s just hope a playoff berth comes down to that.

The story is pretty much the same in the N.L. The Phillies are running away with the East and the top seed, the Braves are running away with the Wild Card and Milwaukee is running away with the N.L. Central. Even the surprising Diamondbacks have built a seven-game lead over San Francisco. Is it October yet?

There has been talk of expanding the MLB playoffs and adding another Wild Card team in each league. That would at least give the last few weeks of the MLB season some intrigue. Tampa Bay would be in a battle with the A.L. West runner-up and the Giants and Cardinals would be tied for the final MLB playoff spot. That doesn’t help this year though. Is it October yet?

The MLB baseball season is too long. Playoff baseball has a tough time competing with college football and the NFL. Regular season games have no chance. The powers that be are not going to shorten the MLB season because fewer games = less money but I hope something happens to add some meaning to the end of the season whether it is expanding the playoffs or changing the format or maybe even realignment. I’m ready for the MLB playoffs to begin. Is it October yet?

July 27, 2011

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The Anatomy of the MLB Trade Deadline

By: Rick Jarrell

The MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, arriving July 31. This time of year, the Hot Stove begins to heat up and players begin changing teams; either to fill a hole for the playoff run or to make a move toward the future. Each team has different interests in mind this time of year. Here are a few types of trades you’ll see.

The Final Piece

This is the most publicized of trades. MLB teams in the playoff hunt that need an extra boost, whether it’s to win the wild card, division, or the World Series, often seek a marquee player to help propel them. In exchange, the seller will either receive prospects, salary relief, or both, depending on the quality of the player.

You’re final piece contestants this year are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. They’re going after Carlos Beltran (likely to be traded), Hunter Pence (not likely to be traded), and Jose Reyes (not likely to be traded).

Inside Yankee Stadium Mural

The Depth Play

Some MLB teams are fortunate enough to have every player they need to win it all (note this is extremely rare – teams can always upgrade at a position, it’s more of a question of whether or not it’s worth it). The better MLB trade deadline deal, then, is to shore up a weaker area of the team. An additional reliever is always a hot commodity, as well as gritty veterans that can come off the bench, play multiple positions, and hold themselves defensively. These transactions go largely unnoticed, but often make a larger impact that you’d expect.

Many playoff teams utilize this method – it’s an easy way to upgrade at a usually low price. Look for cash conscious teams like the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, and Pittsburgh Pirates to seek depth to push their overall player quality higher.

Futurists

On the opposite end of the final piece and depth play scenarios are the futurists – MLB teams that are well out of the playoff hunt, but have players who would be valuable to playoff contenders. Quality of players will vary, as superstars obviously will make an impact, but specialists and veterans often have more value to a contender than a team in the cellar. The value the player provides the playoff contender usually determines how much the selling team gets in return.

Look for the New York Mets, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays to trade some of their better players at the end of their contracts in exchange for prospects. Tampa Bay is especially good at doing this every year, so look for BJ Upton to potentially be on the move to make way for talent on the farm system. Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies has also been rumored, and would bring back very good prospects in return.

Salary Dump

The salary dump is another trading strategy on the other of playoff contenders. For whatever reason – be it ownership requests to reduce expenses, player request for trades, etc – teams look at the MLB trade deadline to get rid of their higher priced players. It’s also common for the current team dumping player salary to pick up a portion of the remaining pay, reducing the amount saved but still worthwhile in the end.

Look for the Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and really any team out of the playoff race to dump significant salary. Unless they plan on offering an extension, a high priced player is wasted on a team just going through the motions, waiting on next season.

Players to be Named Later

This league rule has always been strange to me. How can you complete a trade with someone when you don’t know what you’re getting in return? The answer to that is this – the teams will agree on a list of players to choose from by a specified date, sometimes based on criteria like performance. These trades often don’t work out for the team receiving PTBNL. If they were that good, they would be demanded up front, right? But recently, I’ve noticed a few promising young MLB players who fall into this category, such as Michael Brantley of the Cleveland Indians.

June 8, 2011

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Ten MLB Teams That Will Miss The Playoffs

By: Joe Williams

The MLB season is a little more than one-third of the way over. Therefore, its time to eliminate a third of the teams. Who are the ten MLB teams that aren’t going anywhere in 2011?

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are a victim of circumstance. If they were in any division other than the A.L. East, I might say they still have a shot. 27-31 isn’t terrible considering their recent history, but they have four solid teams in front of them. It’s too tall a hill to climb, especially with the health of Brian Roberts and Luke Scott up in the air.

Minnesota Twins

Looking at the standings in the A.L. Central is like an optical illusion. Cleveland at the top? Minnesota at the bottom? The Twins have picked up five games on Cleveland in the last five days, but they have dug themselves too deep of a hole. Nobody saw this team going 22-37 to start the year.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals surprised everyone with a 10-4 start. That’s the good news. They’ve gone 16-30 since. That’s bad news. They are 20-18 at home, but just 6-16 on the road. With another 59 road games on the schedule, Kansas City fans are going to be anxious for football season in the fall.

Oakland A’s

Aside from a three-game sweep of the Orioles, Oakland has only won two other games in their last 19. Couple that stretch with Texas winning eight of nine and the A’s are done.

Washington Nationals

They’ve got a shot to finish with 75-80 wins. It’s not about 2011 for this team. With Bryce Harper and Steven Strasburg likely on the way in 2012, the focus is on the future. That’s a good thing because they are 10 games out in the N.L. East and have 10 teams in front of them for the wild card.

New York Mets

Let’s just say the Mets are a mess. They have financial problems, ownership problems, injury problems and just about any other problems a baseball team can have. On the bright side, they are close to .500 so their record is better than one would think. That being said, the Mets won’t have Bud Selig worrying about November weather in New York.

Pittsburgh Pirates

They are the Pittsburgh Pirates. What more needs to be said? Until they prove they can win more than they lose for an entire season, talking about the playoffs is a waste of time. At 28-30 with a winning record on the road, the Pirates have some things to be positive about. One thing I’m positive about…they won’t be in the post season.

Wrigley Field

Chicago Cubs

This looks like a team in the midst of a century long slump. The roster is full of once-great, overpaid veterans that aren’t performing on the field and are just as bad off the field. These guys can’t get along and lately they can’t get a win. If the MLB rosters were wiped clean and they re-drafted the entire league, no team would benefit more than the loveable losers in Chicago.

Houston Astros

They have the worst record in the National League. They are the only team in baseball in 6th place in their division. The roster only has a couple names the average fan will recognize. Not a good sign. But on the bright side, the Cubs are trying their best to get Houston into 5th place in the N.L. Central.

San Diego Padres

They blew their shot last year. They led the N.L. West for most of the season and faded when it counted. Adrian Gonzalez is in Boston and surprisingly, the San Diego offense is the lowest-scoring in baseball. The bullpen is great but it doesn’t help much if you can’t score.

April 6, 2011

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National League Preview

By: Joe Williams

The Major League Baseball season is only a couple days old so if your team is on top of the standings, don’t buy your playoff tickets yet. And if you are rooting for a team that remains winless, don’t push the panic button. It’s still anybody’s ballgame so let’s take a look at some of the issues facing each team.

NL EAST

Atlanta Braves

Can the Braves return to the postseason? If anyone is going to take the East title from the Phillies, it’s probably the Braves. They’ve added Dan Uggla and a healthy Chipper Jones to the lineup. The starting pitching is strong. The biggest question mark is the bullpen. The retirement of Billy Wagner has left an opening at closer. If Atlanta can find the right guy to take his place they can give the Phillies a run for the division title.

Florida Marlins

Florida has plenty of young talent on its roster. There is a lot of potential on this team, but the Marlins may not have enough to beat out Philadelphia and Atlanta. Guys like Gaby Sanchez, Donnie Murphy, and Annibal Sanchez are going to need big seasons for this team to be playing in October.

New York Mets

The bad news: this team is a mess off the field. The good news: there is no way the Mets can be as bad on the field. Everything will have to go right for New York to win the division. That starts with Johan Santana and Jose Reyes getting healthy and once again being the superstars they have been in the past.

Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia became the favorite to win the N.L crown when Cliff Lee joined the rotation. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels give the Phillies a four-headed monster that can shut down any lineup. The Phillies lineup is not what is used to be, but with those four starters, it won’t have to be.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals’ hopes in 2011 took a major hit with the loss of Stephen Strasburg. Adding Jason Werth will help the offense, but the Nationals look to be preparing for a run in 2012. If Strasburg comes back healthy in 2012 and top-pick Bryce Harper lives up to the hype, this team has a bright future.

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs

It could be an all or nothing season for the Cubs. If they can stay healthy and get productive seasons from Soriano, Ramirez and Zambrano they could win the Central. If the Cubs struggle under new manager Mike Quade, and the dugout brawls continue, it will be a complete disaster, and the drought will live on for another year.

Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati won the Central in 2010. They have a great chance to repeat that feat in 2011. The Reds had the best offense in the National League. They have the reigning NL MVP. The roster has the fewest holes to fill, and they should be motivated after a dismal performance in the playoffs.

Houston Astros

Houston had the worst offense in the NL last season. The defense wasn’t great either. They have a quality starting rotation, but the bullpen needs work. The Astros will have a tough time surpassing last season’s win total of 76.

Milwaukee Brewers

There is a wide range of expectations for Milwaukee in 2011. They have been picked to win the Central, but they have also been at the bottom in some preseason predictions. Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum will bolster the pitching staff. The lineup is built around Prince Fielder, who could have a huge year and lead them to the playoffs. But Fielder is going to be a free agent and could leave town, so the Brewers may decide to throw in the towel and trade the Prince so they don’t lose him for nothing.

Pittsburgh Pirates

.500. That is the goal for the Pirates. They haven’t done it since 1992. That is a long time to wait for Pirate fans. Unfortunately, there is not much reason to believe they will be better than they were in 2010. And they were the worst team in baseball.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cards were supposed to win the Central in 2010. They were expected to have a bounce-back season in 2011. Then they didn’t get Albert Pujols signed. And Adam Wainwright went down for the season with an injury. It will be tough for this team to reach the playoffs without their ace and the Pujols questions hovering over them all season.

NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks

They finished last in the West in 2010. The offense is weak and they strike out a lot. The starting pitching is OK, but the bullpen has holes. The Diamondbacks have a lot of work to do if they are going to compete for the playoffs in the next couple years. It won’t happen in 2011.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies will be good in 2011, especially if they play better on the road. Colorado was dominant at home last year and bad on the road. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are stars. The other pieces are in place to make a run at the division crown. They will give the Giants all they can handle in the West.

Los Angeles Dodgers

80 wins was a disappointment for this team in 2010. Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton were great in 2009 when the Dodgers made the playoffs. Not so much in 2010. If those two return to 2009 form and the ownership issues don’t get in the way, Los Angeles will be playing meaningful games in September.

San Diego Padres

San Diego should have won the West last year. They would have without the 10-game losing streak at the end of the season. They can still pitch, but the loss of Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of that lineup will hurt. They will have to find a way to score to compete in 2011.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants shocked baseball by winning the World Series in 2010. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain led the pitching staff and shut down team after team in the playoffs. The offense was not prolific, but they got the big hits when they needed to. No matter what the offense does in 2011, the starting rotation will keep the Giants in the playoff hunt all season.