March 11, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tiger Woods wins 76th PGA Tour Event

Golfer Tiger Woods is off to a great start in 2013. Woods won his second event of the season this past weekend, dominating at the Cadillac Championship for his 76th PGA Tour victory. He kept all other players at least three strokes away on Sunday until the final hole when he picked up a bogey. Woods was victorious by two strokes over Steve Stricker on the final leaderboard. Thing is that while Woods is off the radar of many casual fans, his five wins in the past year are the most of any other golfer on the tour.  And while this isn’t a major, with the Masters on the minds of everyone, Woods should be considered a favorite by that time.

If the NBA regular season ended today the Lakers would be in the Playoffs.

Manny Ramirez to sign with Taiwan team

Manny Ramirez tried to get back into the majors in time for the 2013 season, but that doesn’t look like it will be happening. According to ESPN, Ramirez will sign with a team in Taiwan in the China Professional Baseball League. Ramirez last played a full season in 2010 with the Tampa Bay Rays, but has been out of the league since retiring in 2011 after violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy. Ramirez played winter ball this year and even put up solid numbers, but it wasn’t enough to convince an MLB team to take a chance on him. And at 40, Ramirez may have played his last game in the majors. If a team wasn’t willing to gamble on him with a spring training invite this year, he may not get another look.

Chicago Blackhawks finally lose

The Chicago Blackhawks were easily the most dominant team in hockey over the first half of the NHL season. The team went more than 20 straight games without a loss in regulation until the Colorado Avalanche defeated them 6-2 on Friday. The Blackhawks followed that up with a 6-5 loss to Edmonton on Sunday and have now lost two in a row. Chicago is one of the few teams in the league that excel on both sides of the ice. The Blackhawks rank 6th in scoring with just over three goals a game and are tied for the league lead in defense, giving up fewer than two goals per contest. Make no mistake about it – the Blackhawks will be a tough out in the playoffs. Even if the offense isn’t there on certain nights, their defense should be able to pick them up a bit.

Lakers among NBA’s hottest teams

Don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Lakers are moving up in the NBA’s Western Conference. Eight teams in the conference will make the playoffs and for much of the season, the Lakers have been on the outside looking in. But fast forward to this week, and L.A. would be in the eighth spot if the season ended today. At 8-2, Los Angeles is one of the league’s hottest teams. Unfortunately for them, so are many others in the west. The top five teams in the conference, the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Denver Nuggets, have all won at least seven games in their last ten contests. If the Lakers keep winning, they could conceivably move up a few more spots. But it will be difficult to overtake some of those top teams that are just playing so well right now.

15-20 Liberty makes NCAA Tournament

March Madness is officially here and what better way to kick things off than with a 15-20 team making the Big Dance? I give you Liberty. The Flames won the Big South title despite losing 20 games this season and promptly punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Liberty is only the second team with 20 losses to make the tourney. Now, I’m all for the little guys getting their moment in the sun, but these are the types of teams that make me question if there should be a minimum record to play in the tournament. I’m not quite sure a team that struggled all season long should be rewarded for winning a few games in a conference tournament and getting hot for a single week. While it’s going to be a great experience for Liberty players to go, a worthy major-conference team that’s been more consistent throughout the year will be sent off to the NIT.

January 9, 2012

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Where Will Manny Ramirez Land?

By: Anson Whaley

“I’m now an officially retired baseball player. I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man.” (ESPNDeportes.com)

And with that, Manny Ramirez ,one of the best hitters in this generation, retired last Spring early in the season. That statement came after he was suspended for steroid use and it appeared that Ramirez was riding off into the sunset. But as is frequently the case with retired athletes, Ramirez apparently decided he wasn’t ready for golf, vacations, and appearances at baseball card shows just yet.

Ramirez sought a return and Major League Baseball has cut the 100-game suspension he was due to receive in half because he missed virtually all of 2011, appearing in only five games with the Tampa Bay Rays. Manny now wants to play again and is scheduled to hold workouts in the near future for teams. That’s not the real issue, though. The question that needs to be asked is ‘Does baseball want Manny?’

Ramirez is clearly past his prime and has seen better days. Last year in those five aforementioned games, he hit only .063, tallying a single hit in 17 games. In 2010, though, he hit .298 playing in 90 games, so he probably has at least a little left in the tank. Despite his recent problems with steroids, I’ve got to think that some team will take a chance on him.

At first glance, there are plenty of teams to which Ramirez could go. But Manny’s not the greatest defensive player in the world, so his suitors may be limited to the American League where he can serve as a designated hitter. Even then, we can likely rule out some teams just from their stance towards the 2012 season. For example, the Oakland Athletics are without a designated hitter with Hideki Matsui not likely to be re-signed, but A’s General Manager Billy Beane has already said the team is probably going with a younger, in-house option. That would obviously rule out Ramirez.

Here are four potential destinations for him in 2012 as I see it.

Miami Marlins: The Miami ‘don’t call us Florida’ Marlins are the only National League team on my list, but Ramirez could be a fit there since he lives in Florida. Miami is less than an hour’s drive from Ramirez’ home in Weston and Man-Ram wouldn’t have to worry about packing up and moving away for the season, making it very convenient. In addition, with the Marlins’ new stadium opening in 2012, adding an attraction like Ramirez could help boost attendance a bit.

Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have allowed last year’s DH, Vladimir Guerrero, to go to free agency. Guerrero produced decent numbers last season (.290 batting average, 13 home runs, and 63 RBI), but did so for about $8 million. Ramirez could probably be had for less than that and his 2010 numbers extrapolated to a full season were mostly better than what Guerrero did last year in 145 games.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays used Edwin Encarnacion quite a bit in the DH role last year, but he’s also a great utility player and can fill a few different positions capably. Toronto could, at the very least, use someone else to help them split time in the DH spot and Ramirez could be that guy. And while it’s been three years since Ramirez played in Boston, there are still several pitchers in the AL east with whom he’s familiar. I think he could fare well against some of them.

Could we see Manny Ramirez in a Blue Jays uniform this season?

Cleveland Indians: The Indians picked up future Hall of Famer Jim Thome as a DH last year in hopes of reaching the postseason. Thome, however, has since signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for 2012. That leaves a hole in the Indians’ lineup and Cleveland could certainly use someone that hits for average in their lineup as they finished only 18th in the majors in that department last year. Ramirez started his career with the Indians and is familiar with the club and the area. Cleveland was amenable to bringing Thome back last season after he started his career with them in the early 1990s and I could see them possibly doing the same with Ramirez.

July 18, 2011

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Derek Jeter: The Definitive Player Of Our Generation

By: Anson Whaley

I’ve got to preface this by saying I’m not a New York Yankees fan. The Yankees play by the rules, but to me, George Steinbrenner made them the perfect team to hate. As a baseball fan, that makes this all the harder to say.

Derek Jeter is the most symbolic baseball icon of our generation.

Note that I didn’t call him the best player. In my opinion, that title belongs to Ken Griffey, Jr., who is one of the few major stars not to be linked to steroids in any significant way. He was a Gold Glove centerfielder and if The Kid could have stayed injury-free over his career, he may have ended it as the all-time home run champion.

Still, when we look back on this era in baseball, Derek Jeter should be the first name to come to mind.

In case you’ve been stranded with Bob Denver and Alan Hale on a deserted island, Jeter had his 3,000th career hit this past week, becoming only the 28th player in history to do so. He did it in grand style with a 5-5 performance and crushing a home run with the historic hit. Along with Cal Ripken, he also helped change the perception that shortstops can’t hit for power, slugging at least 15 home runs in eight different seasons.

But the 12-time All-Star has done more than rack up a ton of hits.

Jeter will perhaps be remembered the most for being a flat out winner. He led the Yankees to five World Series championships (so far) and countless postseason appearances over his storied career. He hasn’t merely gone along for the ride, either. In 147 career playoff games, Jeter has hit 20 home runs and has a career .309 average.

He’s also been extremely durable, having played in more than 110 games in each season since his rookie year in 1996. Jeter hasn’t had a major breakdown since he’s been playing and the stability he’s been able to provide at shortstop is a big reason the Yankees have been a contender throughout his career.

And he was more than an offensive threat, too. He accumulated five Gold Gloves at shortstop – possibly the most difficult position to play on the diamond. Not only was he a threat with the bat, but he was one of the best defensive players in his era.

Another reason Jeter will be remembered as an icon is that he avoided the steroid speculation that’s plagued many of the stars of the 1990s and 2000s. He hasn’t been linked to the drug in any serious way and 20-30 years from now, will stand out among many of his contemporaries.

Lastly, Jeter’s a lifer as a Yankee … well, at least so far. Should he finish his career in Yankee pinstripes, he’ll be one of the few current MLB players to remain with the same team for the duration of his career. Many of the stars of this era can’t say the same thing. The aforementioned Griffey, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, and Greg Maddux all played for more than one team.

Can anyone catch Jeter for the title of ‘Biggest Icon’ of our generation? The obvious answer is St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Albert Pujols. Pujols could end up as one of the most dominant MLB players of all-time by the time it’s all said and done.

But for now, the pick is Jeter. Add it all up, and there’s no better candidate as the definitive player in our generation.

March 29, 2011

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American League Preview

By: Joe Williams

In just two days, the Major League Baseball season will begin with games that may or may not be played, depending on snow. If it seems like it was just a couple months ago that the World Series was finishing up in cold weather, it was. So who will be representing the American League in the Fall/Winter Classic in 2011?

A.L EAST

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles may finally be headed in the right direction. The O’s hired Buck Showalter to be the manager in the middle of last season and he immediately turned the team around. He led them to a 34-23 finish in 2010. Baltimore has added some quality veterans in the offseason which should provide some leadership for a young team. They should be better but it won’t be enough to win the toughest division in baseball.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox won 89 games and missed the playoffs in 2010. They have a star-studded roster and will be in the playoff hunt all season. The additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez have the Red Sox as the favorite to win the division and the World Series.

New York Yankees

The Yankees’ success in 2011 will depend on the health of their older stars like Jeter and A-Rod and the questions in the pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Riveria are as good as it gets, but questions surround the rest of the staff. Cliff Lee is back in Philadelphiaand Andy Pettitte is retired so the Yankees will have to rely on guys like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova. And if that doesn’t work out, they can always afford to make a deal.

Tampa Bay Rays

The defending A.L. East champs look quite a bit different in 2011. Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano and Matt Garza are out. Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are in. If Manny being Manny happens at the plate and not off the field, the Rays will be right in the mix with Boston and New York.

Toronto Blue Jays

One thing is for sure. The Blue Jays will be the best team in Canada. They led the majors in home runs in 2010 and won 85 games. They may have been good enough to contend in another division, but not the A.L. East. No team would benefit more from realignment than Toronto.

A.L CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox aren’t the superstars of the Yankees or Red Sox but they are solid at every position. What they can get from Jake Peavy will go a long way towards determining how they finish in the Central. The addition of Adam Dunn at DH will be a boost to the lineup as well.

Cleveland Indians

They were bad in 2010. The roster hasn’t changed much. They are going to be bad in 2011. The misery continues for Cleveland fans.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers won 81 games last year. The additions of Joaquin Benoit, Victor Martinez and Brad Pennyoutweigh the losses of Jeremy Bonderman and Johnny Damon. If Miguel Cabrera can leave his off the field problems off the field and be the monster in the middle of that lineup, Detroit could steal the division title.

Kansas City Royals

If you are a Kansas City fan, help is on the way. Next year. The Royals have the best farm system in the majors and should start getting reinforcements in the near future. They will be much better in the next couple years, but will struggle in 2011.

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota won the A.L. Central in 2010 without Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan. If both players can come back healthy, the Twins will likely defend that title.

A.L WEST

LA Angels

The Angels were a disappointment in 2010. They were also a disappointment in the offseason. They failed to sign any of the big free agents they wanted. They have been passed in the West and haven’t done anything about it.

Oakland A’s

The A’s have a strong young pitching staff. They play in a winnable division. The question is can they score? Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui will help. Will it be enough?

Seattle Mariners

Seattle lost 101 times in 2010. They will be better. They almost have to be better. They have some great players like Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. They have some young prospects with potential. But they will still finish last in the West.

Texas Rangers

Texas won the A.L. West and went to the World Series in 2010. They can score. And they added Adrian Beltre at third. Cliff Lee is gone and Michael Young has asked for a trade. If the Rangers can keep Young happy and Brandon Webb can get healthy, they have the horses to defend their division title.

February 8, 2011

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Top Five Impact Signings This MLB Offseason

By: Adam Bittner

When Vladimir Guerrero signed with the Baltimore Orioles on Friday for one year and $8 million, the last big domino in baseball’s free agent game fell. With only a few weeks to go until spring training, it would appear the major players have made their big offseason moves and are ready to get the action going again. Here’s a look at the top five impact signings and how they might affect the races this summer.

5. Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon – Rays

Tampa Bay signed this pair of ex-Red Sox stars for a huge bargain price. Damon, 37, is chasing 3,000 hits and will earn $5.25 million in 2011 with $750,000 in performance incentives. Ramirez, 38, has 555 career home runs, but will play for only $2 million. Of course, both are in the twilights of their respective careers, well past the age of 35, but for numbers as gaudy as theirs, they likely could have commanded a few million more. Ramirez was playing for $20 million last year between Los Angeles and Chicago. He should bring an instant upgrade at designated hitter, especially since he’ll no longer have to worry about left field duties. Damon is still a serviceable outfielder and matched his career on-base percentage last year of .355. With better hitters around him in Tampa like Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton, he might see a few more pitches than he did in Detroit, which should help boost his numbers. Both should keep Tampa in the mix in the American League East after Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena signed elsewhere this offseason.

4. Rafael Soriano – Yankees

New York needed to plug the holes in its leaky bullpen and it did so in a big way. Not only did the Yanks keep Mariano Rivera in the fold with a two-year deal, they snagged the relief market’s biggest fish in Rafael Soriano for three-years and $35 million. Soriano was sensational last season with Tampa Bay, saving 45 games while posting a 1.73 ERA and 57 strikeouts against only 14 walks. For his career, the reliever owns a 2.73 ERA, .193 opponents’ batting average, 1.00 WHIP and 3.57:1 K/BB ration. He should allow the Yankees to keep runners off the bases in the late innings this season, something they couldn’t do when it counted last year. It should be noted, though, that Soriano had a tough postseason series against the Rays in 2010. In three innings against the Rangers in the ALDS, he gave up three runs, good for a 9.00 ERA, as well as a .308 opponents’ batting average. He’s going to have to do better than that this postseason to justify what is a massive contract for a relief pitcher.

3. Adrian Beltre – Rangers

After allowing Vladimir Guerrero to walk following the season, the Rangers needed to replace his production somewhere, so they went younger and better defensively by grabbing Beltre for six-years and $96 million. His production spiked in 2010 to a .321 batting average, 28 home runs, 102 RBIs and a .919 OPS, all his best marks since 2004 when he hit .334 with 48 homers, 121 RBIs and a 1.017 OPS in Los Angeles. He gives Texas an excellent defensive left side in tandem with shortstop Elvis Andrus, too. With the American League West likely entering another down year in 2011, Beltre might be the difference between the Rangers and the rest of the pack in the division. If he can even just approach the numbers he posted last season in Boston, he’ll be another potent bat in Texas’ fearsome lineup. This will give the young pitching staff some breathing room to develop and grow and allow the Rangers a chance to return to the World Series.

2. Carl Crawford – Red Sox

Boston’s signing of this five-tool star for seven-years and $142 million is big not only in what it brings to Fenway Park, but what it takes away from division rival Tampa Bay. Crawford was a catalyst for many of his nine seasons with the Rays. He stole 20 or more bases eight times and 50 or more five times including a 60-spot in 2009. He’s also improved his power numbers over the years, posting careers highs in home runs (19) and OPS (.851) in 2010. The Rays will miss that diversified, game-breaking production big time in 2011, even with the additions of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. The Red Sox, on the other hand, figure to benefit greatly from having this playmaker at the top of their lineup. Only one player, Ryan Kalish, broke double figures in stolen bases last season for Boston with 10 and only Marco Scutaro’s 92 runs approached Crawford’s total of 110 with Boston. Crawford’s presences figures to charge up what became a stagnant offense in Bean Town last season.

1. Cliff Lee – Phillies


Lee’s return to Philadelphia has gotten a lot of press and why shouldn’t it? The Phillies now have perhaps the best rotation this generation of baseball fans has ever seen with Lee, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels in the fold. But what does Lee bring individually? One key is durability. Lee has pitched over 200 innings in five of the last six seasons. He’s also racked up an impressive 20 complete games for his career in an era when managers get queasy when a pitcher goes past the sixth inning. He also brings great control. Last year, between Seattle and Texas, Lee walked only 18 batters. That’s a staggeringly low number for as many innings as he pitched. The biggest key, though, is his postseason resume. In 76 playoff innings, Lee sports a 2.13 ERA and a 7-2 record. His ERA has been under 3.00 in five of his six career playoff series. Though he struggled in the World Series last season, he was a big part of both the Phillies’ and the Rangers’ runs there in 2009 and 2010. If Philadelphia can get him back to the postseason this year, look out, because he can do some real damage.