April 1, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Final Four set: The NCAA Tournament will conclude next week and the Final Four has been set. Like many years, the top seeds have disappointed for the most part. Included in the Final Four are No. 4 seeds Syracuse and Michigan, and No. 9 upstart Wichita StateLouisville was the lone No. 1 seed to get into the elite club. My bracket is completely busted at this point, but since I had the Cardinals to win it all, I can still finish respectably. And after two weeks of NCAA Tournament action, I’ve got to say Louisville is looking like the nation’s best team.

Kobe Bryant is now 4th on the all-time scoring list.

Opening Day is here: With Spring Training over, Major League Baseball officially got its season underway on Sunday night with a game featuring the Texas Rangers and new AL West team, the Houston Astros. As always, there are plenty of questions heading into this season. Will Stephen Strasburg continue his dominance after surgery? Can the Yankees overcome all of their injuries? Will the Angels’ additions of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton the past two years pay off? If you forced me to make an early season World Series pick, I’ll go with the Nationals vs. Angels, but don’t take that too seriously.

Dallas Cowboys all in with Tony Romo: The Dallas Cowboys have shown plenty of confidence in starting quarterback Tony Romo over the years. After another disappointing season, Romo was rewarded with a six-year $108 million extension. The deal could take Romo, who turns 33 this month, to the end of his NFL career. The $55 million guaranteed money he will get even topped the deal Super Bowl quarterback Joe Flacco recently got with the Baltimore Ravens. Many Cowboys fans likely aren’t all that thrilled with the new deal for a quarterback who hasn’t gotten them to a Super Bowl since he’s been with the team. But finding a franchise quarterback isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do and the Cowboys think they’ve got their man in Romo.

Kobe Bryant passes Wilt Chamberlain on all-time scoring list: Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant passed legend Wilt Chamberlain this past weekend for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list when he tallied point number 31,421. Statistics aren’t valued in basketball as much as they are in baseball, but Kobe’s achievement is still a big deal. Next up for the Mamba is none other than Michael Jordan, whose 32,292 points are third on the list. Bryant should easily pass up Jordan next season, but getting into the top two could be quite a feat. Karl Malone is second at 36,928 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tops the list at 38,387. Bryant will likely need to play at least four more seasons to have a shot at catching Malone, so Jordan could be the last person he passes on the list. But if there’s anything Kobe has proven over the years, it’s that he shouldn’t be doubted.

Good news and bad news for Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pittsburgh Penguins experienced some highs and lows last week. The team traded for star winger Jarome Iginla earlier in the week in a move that may put the team over the top to win the Stanley Cup. But on Saturday, Pittsburgh lost captain Sidney Crosby to a broken jaw after he was hit in the mouth with a puck during a game. Crosby underwent surgery on Sunday and is now out indefinitely. The Penguins are still in pretty good shape, but losing Crosby to injury yet again has to be frustrating for the team. Crosby is regarded by many as the league’s top player but has dealt with setback after setback in the league.

Miami Heat winning streak ends: The Miami Heat’s long winning streak ended with a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, 101-97. Even though the Heat’s streak was snapped at 27 games, Miami still put together one of the most impressive stretches the league has ever seen. Plus, while the loss meant they fell short of the Los Angeles Lakers historic 33-game streak back in 1971-72, the Heat’s real target is another NBA title. The goal here is to keep everyone healthy for a long playoff run.

March 13, 2013

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2013 MLB Division Winners

By: Joe Williams

MLB’s Opening day is just a couple weeks away which means it’s time for my yearly ritual of predicting the six division winners and ensuring that those teams don’t have the season they are hoping for. What can I say? It’s a gift. So let’s get on with it.

After signing multiple star players this off-season, can the Blue Jays win the AL East?

A.L. East

It’s gotta be now or never for the Blue Jays right? The Red Sox aren’t going to make a 25-win improvement over last season and the Yankees have been ravaged with injuries. The division door is wide open and Toronto has added several star players. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera should be able to help the Blue Jays to the top in the A.L. East.

A.L. Central

It almost feels like cheating to pick the team that won it last year. Almost. The Tigers ought to be a hungry bunch after losing in the World Series last year. They may have the best hitter and pitcher in baseball in triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. And I don’t see anyone else in the Central making a run at 90 wins.

A.L. West

In 2012, the Oakland A’s surprised everyone and stole the title from the Rangers. Now it’s the Angels that everyone thinks will take the title after they recruited one of the biggest stars in Texas, Josh Hamilton. Adding Hamilton to a lineup with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols makes the Angels scary, but I’m going with another surprise in the West and taking the Rangers.

N.L. East

Everyone in Washington is left wondering “what if” after the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg at the end of the season and then collapsed in the playoffs. They’ll have a chance to redeem themselves this October after taking the N.L. East crown. Atlanta will fight them to the end and the Phillies won’t go quietly, but the Nats are the best overall team right now.

N.L. Central

With all the injuries in St. Louis, this looks like the Reds’ division to lose. They won 97 games in 2012 and added a dynamic player in Shin-Soo Choo. Plus…The Astros are gone. The Cubs are the Cubs. The Pirates are still trying to find a way to finish above. 500. So I guess that leaves Milwaukee. Can the Brewers make a run at Cincinnati? It will depend on what they can get from the starting rotation.

N.L. West

This will be the most interesting race I believe. There is a young up-and-coming team in Arizona; the defending world champs in San Francisco and the new Yankees in Los Angeles. The Diamondbacks are probably another year away and the Giants appear to be out-manned by the All-Stars the Dodgers brought in to win last year. A full season with guys like Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez and the addition of Zack Greinke make L.A. the pick.

January 10, 2013

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What I’ll Remember About 2012 – Part 1

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

January 1 – Matt Flynn and Matthew Stafford combine for 971 net passing yards in 45-41 Green Bay win.

January 8 – The Denver Broncos make short work of the new NFL overtime rules, scoring an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers 29-23 in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

January 9 Alabama actually scored a touchdown in its rematch with LSU in the BCS Championship Game, winning 21-0.

January 14 Tom Brady shredded the Denver Broncos for five touchdown passes in the first half and another in the third quarter to tie the postseason single-game record in a 45-10 win.

January 14 – The 49ers and Saints combine for 34 points in the fourth quarter and four lead changes in the final five minutes as the 49ers outlasted New Orleans 36-32 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

January 22 – Joe Paterno passed away.

January 22 – The Baltimore Ravens had a dropped pass in the end zone that prevented them from winning the AFC Championship Game in New England and then missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

January 22 – The New York Giants advanced to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 overtime win against the 49ers after a fumbled punt set up the game-winning field goal.

February 4Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere and led the New York Knicks to a win with 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in the first of an incredible 13-game stretch in which he averaged 22.3 points and 7.4 assists. His heroics were celebrated worldwide and he ended up on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated and one of the biggest celebrities in the league.

Jeremy Lin was one of the biggest stories of 2012.

February 5 – The New York Giants beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in another Super Bowl, 21-17, led by Eli Manning and another fourth-quarter comeback.

February 5 – Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, gets caught on camera blaming Patriot receivers for New England’s Super Bowl loss, saying that her husband cannot throw and catch the ball at the same time.

March 8 – The Indianapolis Colts announced that they will release future hall-of-fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.

March 13 – The First Four was worth watching on this night. First, Western Kentucky rallied from a 16-point deficit with 4:51 to go and beat Mississippi Valley State 59-58. Then BYU followed that up by erasing a 25-point deficit and beat Iona 78-72.

March 16Duke and Missouri, both No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, go down on the same day. Norfolk State upset a 30-win Missouri team 86-84 and then later that night Lehigh defeated the Blue Devils 75-70. Only four No. 15 seeds have ever knocked off a No. 2 seed in history before it happened twice that day.

March 20 – Peyton Manning picks the Denver Broncos.

March 21NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid down the law on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty scandal, effectively ending the Saints season before it ever got started. This story never went away due to the continuous appeals of the suspensions.

March 26 – The Denver Broncos trade Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.

March 11 – Tiger Woods withdrew from the final round of the WGC Cadillac Championship with an injury. The blimp that was covering the golf tournament then followed Tiger as he left the golf course, a scene usually reserved for a high-speed chase.

April 1 – I.K. Kim takes the honor for worst golf shot of the year after she missed an 18-inch putt that would have won the LPGA’s first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She ended up losing in a playoff.

April 2 – John Calipari and his Kentucky squad that consisted of six future NBA players wins the national title, beating Kansas 67-59.

April 3Baylor completed a perfect season at 40-0 and won the women’s national title, beating Notre Dame 80-61.

April 8 – Bubba Watson hits one of the greatest shots in Masters history; a miracle 40-yard hook shot out of the pine straw on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Two putts for par later and Watson was wearing the green jacket.

April 21Phil Humber pitches a perfect game at Seattle, striking out nine in the White Sox 4-0 win.

April 26Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are drafted by the Colts and Redskins.

May 8 Josh Hamilton hit four home runs and had eight RBI against the Baltimore Orioles.

June 3 – Tiger Woods hit an incredible flop shot from behind the green on 16 that trickled into the hole on his way to winning the Memorial Tournament.

June 7 – LeBron James overwhelms the Boston Celtics with a 45 point and 15 rebound performance in a 98-79 win over Boston on the road to force a Game 7 in South Beach.

June 7 – Novak Djokovic outlasted Rafael Nadal in a grueling marathon in the Australian Open final (5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5) in a match that took five hours and 53 minutes and didn’t end until 1:37 a.m.

June 11 – The Los Angeles Kings win their first Stanley Cup in 45 years after barely squeaking into the final playoff spot in the West and going on one of the greatest runs in playoff history.

June 13Matt Cain pitched a perfect game in a 10-0 San Francisco win over the Astros.

June 21 – LeBron James and the Miami Heat win the NBA championship after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in game five.

June 27 – A four-team college football playoff was formally approved to begin in 2014.

June 30 – The third round of the AT&T National was played with no spectators on the golf course because of safety concerns after a powerful wind storm left trees uprooted all over the golf course.

May 16, 2012

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Sizing Up the Texas Rangers

By: Matt Bowen

Coming into the 2012 MLB season, the Texas Rangers came up on the short end of back-to-back trips to the World Series. As the cliché goes, the third time is the charm and the Rangers sure do look like they’re planning on making it a reality.

Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers have started the MLB season on fire.

Given, it’s only six weeks into the MLB season, but the Rangers look to be the cream of the crop. Currently sitting at 23-12, the team from Texas simply looks better than every other team in baseball.  Most impressively, they are currently 13-6 on the road. Every team knows that to be considered successful they must win on the road and the Rangers are doing just that.

This Rangers team is a well-rounded blend of stellar pitching and a deadly offense. Joining the club this season is Japanese sensation, right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish. The Rangers paid a hefty price (around $111 million) when they acquired Darvish from his former team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters but so far, he’s been worth every penny. He has posted a 5-1 record with a 2.84 ERA. Darvish has a nasty variety of six pitches and he’s proven that by striking out 51 batters thus far. The most amazing thing about him, he said in an interview that he can throw all six pitches with his off-hand, inclusing a left-handed fastball that can hit 82 mph on the radar gun.

As for the offensive side of the Rangers, the team is led by All-World outfielder Josh Hamilton, who is on a torrid pace this season. He already has hit 18 home runs and knocked in 45 RBI while batting .402. At this rate he’s on track to knock in over 200 RBI, which has never been done in the history of baseball. The current record is 191 held by Hack Wilson in 1930. While it’s a bit too early to start thinking that Hamilton is going to plate 200-plus RBI, it’s certainly something that brings wonderment to the imagination. If Hamilton can stay healthy, he’s on his way to having a historic MVP season.

The Rangers organization, led by Hall of Fame hurler Nolan Ryan has set the standard for all MLB teams. They have set the pedestal very high but carry themselves very well as they’ve become the precedent of baseball.  By continuing their winning ways they’ll find themselves with a ring at season’s end.

October 19, 2011

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5 Reasons the Rangers Will Win the World Series

By: Joe Williams

The Fall Classic gets underway tonight in St. Louis and the Cardinals will try to put the Hollywood ending on their unlikely run at a World Series championship. Unfortunately for the redbirds, I don’t see them having their happy ending. Here are five reasons why I think that the Texas Rangers will be the ones who are celebrating a championship at the end of the series.

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Experience

Both of these teams have been to the World Series in recent years. The Cardinals won their 10th championship in 2006 and the Rangers lost to the Giants just last year. I believe the Rangers are coming into this matchup hungrier because of the way last season ended and the fact that many of the Cardinals already have a ring. Texas should have learned from the experience last year and will be ready for the big stage.

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Lineup depth

It doesn’t get much better in the middle of the order than Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz are pretty good too. That being said, the Rangers lineup is stronger from top to bottom and Texas finished the season in the top three in virtually every major offensive category. If one or two of the Cardinals’ big three struggles, they will have a tough time keeping up with Texas.

Nelson Cruz

He struggled in the first round against Tampa Bay but now he has the hottest bat on the planet. He hit .364 with six home runs and 13 RBI in against Detroit. We would likely be talking about a Cardinals and Tigers rematch from 2006 if not for the numbers Cruz put up. His two extra inning home runs were the difference in the ALCS. And the Cardinals are going to have to pitch to him because of the quality of hitters around him.

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Bullpen

Neftali Feliz’s job got much easier when the Rangers acquired Koji Uehara and Mike Adams midway through the season. The quality and depth of setup men the Rangers have now is much better than what they had last year against the Giants. The Texas relievers allowed just four earned runs in more than 27 innings against Detroit in the ALCS. If they have another series like that, they will be World Series champions.

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Luck

St. Louis has certainly played a lot of great baseball over the last month, but they are lucky to be here. If not for a collapse by the Braves, the Cardinals wouldn’t have won the wild card and even been in the playoffs. Prince Fielder’s performance in the All-Star Game has given the Cardinals home field advantage in this series. Everything Tony La Russa has done has worked. Does he have enough tricks left up his sleeve to pick up four more wins?

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Prediction: Rangers in six.