October 1, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Peyton Manning still good at football: The Denver Broncos are scoring points at a record pace and veteran quarterback Peyton Manning is behind it all. The Broncos threw up a franchise-record 52 points on the scoreboard on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and Manning had another four touchdown passes despite playing only three quarters. That gave the QB a whopping 16 on September and put him on pace for 64 on the season. The 16 touchdown passes are the most in an opening month in NFL history and Manning’s Broncos, by the way, are 4-0.

Peyton Manning has the Denver Broncos' offense putting up record numbers.

USC fires Lane Kiffin: USC head coach Lane Kiffin was dismissed after the team’s 62-41 blowout loss to Arizona State this weekend. Athletic director Pat Haden made the move after the team returned from their road game and Ed Orgeron is now the interim coach. Kiffin hasn’t been terrible, but at 3-2 this year and 28-15 during his tenure at USC, the school expected more.

Miami Marlins end dismal season in style – with a no-hitter: The Miami Marlins haven’t had much to cheer about this year, but in the season finale on Sunday, they went out in style with a no-hitter by pitcher Henderson Alvarez. It was only the fourth no-hitter on the final day of a regular season in baseball history. The Marlins nearly squandered the game despite the outstanding pitching performance. In the ninth inning, the score was 0-0 and Miami needed a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning to score a run and win the game

Pirates clinch playoff berth: Earlier this season, the Pittsburgh Pirates broke a two-decade losing streak with their 83rd win. After finishing second in the National League Central Division, Pittsburgh is officially in the postseason for the first time since 1992. The Pirates will take on the Cincinnati Reds tonight in the one-game Wild card matchup with the winner moving on to the next round. While Pittsburgh can be unceremoniously bounced with a loss to Cincinnati, Pirates fans at least have the benefit of watching the team play at home in their first playoff appearance in over 20 years as the game will be at PNC Park.

NBA to change Finals format: ESPN is reporting that the NBA is likely to change their finals format from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1. The 2-3-2 format, which gives the top overall seed the first two and last two games of the series at home, has been widely criticized because the lower-ranked team gets three home games in the middle and that is somewhat of a disadvantage to the top seed. The 2-2-1-1-1 format will mean more travel (and in an Eastern-Western format, those trips can be long ones) but ultimately is a bit more fair to the best team since they would receive the pivotal fifth game on their home court.

Horse on roof: A race horse got bored and did what any other bored race horse would do – climb on top of a roof.

L.C. Greenwood passes away: Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive lineman L.C. Greenwood passed away this week of natural causes at 67. Greenwood was a member of the famed Steel Curtain, which also included Joe Greene, Dwight White, and Ernie Holmes. His death leaves Greene is the only surviving member of the group. Over his career, Greenwood was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and he ranks as second on the Steelers’ all-time sacks list.

Heat to sign Erik Spoelstra to extension: The Miami Heat finalized a contract extension over the weekend for him to remain as the organization’s coach. Terms aren’t yet known, but Spoelstra should be getting a significant raise after helping the team to two straight championships. It’s difficult to place a true value on his presence and there remain a good deal of fans that believe the team would win without him. Regardless, though, Spoelstra has done what he’s needed to in order to win titles and has had to deal with finding ways to keep all of Miami’s Big Three happy.

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.

May 28, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tony Kanaan wins Indy 500: After years of frustration, veteran racer Tony Kanaan finally won the prize of his life with a win in this weekend’s Indianapolis 500. For Kanaan it was his first victory at the historic race. With only three laps to go after a green flag, Kanaan quickly took the lead. It was a good thing, too, because defending champion Dario Franchitti crashed further back from the front and the race finished under caution with Kanaan in the lead. Rookie Carlos Munoz finished in second place.

Brian Urlacher retired from the NFL after 13 years with the Chicago Bears.

Brian Urlacher retires: After not re-signing with the Chicago Bears and becoming a free agent, Brian Urlacher figured he’d be playing again in 2014. But Urlacher surprised a few folks last week when he announced his retirement. Having played 13 seasons, it’s not as if his career is being cut short but he likely still has something left in the tank. Urlacher is believed to have reached out to every team in the league, but in the end, decided he’d had enough. There’s little doubt that he’ll be on his way to the Hall of Fame at some point.

San Francisco and Houston awarded 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls: NFL owners approved the cities of San Francisco and Houston as hosts of the 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls respectively. Both edged out Miami, which was also vying for the games. San Francisco will host the historic 50th Super Bowl, which will be played in Levi’s Stadium, expected to be complete in 2014. For Miami, the biggest negative was the franchise not securing funding for improvements to their stadium. That likely cost them a bid and they may not see another one until either the team or the city forks over some money for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium.

Lebron James and Kobe Bryant headline All NBA First Team: The All NBA teams were named last week and among first-teamers were Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Others included Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, and Chris Paul. Left off was the scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony. Duncan had a great season, but I’m not sure I would have given him the nod over Anthony.

Cleveland wins NBA Draft lottery: Cleveland had a miserable season, but wound up with a pretty good consolation prize when they won the top spot in the NBA’s Draft lottery selection on Tuesday. It’s the second time in three seasons they’ll have had the No. 1 selection and, should they keep it, could pair a big man such as Nerlens Noel along with Kyrie Irving. In a year where there isn’t considered a dominant player at the top, trading the pick could be an option. But when you consider that they have four selections in the top 33 picks, they may need to get a proven player or two in return instead of more picks. And for what it’s worth, Cleveland’s general manager Chris Grant has said he’s willing to consider dealing the selection.

NFL Draft moving to May: Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed in the NFL’s spring meetings last week that the league’s draft will move to May in 2014. The main reason for the switch? Radio City Music Hall will be booked during the regularly scheduled time in April.

Mike Trout becomes youngest AL player to hit for cycle: Anaheim Angels phenom Mike Trout already has an amazing track record in his short time in the big leagues. But he added another honor on Tuesday when he became the youngest AL player to hit for the cycle. Trout picked up five RBI in a 12-0 win over Seattle to accomplish the feat.

Michael Crabtree tears Achilles: The 49ers received some great news when it was announced San Francisco would host the 2016 Super Bowl. But things evened out a bit with the news that star wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, tore his Achilles and is expected to miss six months. Crabtree, who had gotten off to a modest start with the 49ers, had a breakout season last year with 85 catches, more than 1,100 yards, and nine touchdowns. The good news for San Francisco is that the team has some depth in the passing game with newly-signed Anquan Boldin, draft pick Quinton Patton, tight end Vernon Davis, and Mario Manningham.

Mike Krzyzewski will remain coach of Team USA: It was widely believed that Coach K would step down from his role as head of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team, but he’s apparently had a change of heart and will return. In a nutshell, that’s nothing but great news for the program. Since taking over in 2005, Team USA has had nothing but success, winning gold medals in 2008 and 2012. The players have responded well to him and there’s also something to be said for consistency in the program.

St. Louis Rams sign 400-pounder: The St. Louis Rams made a big splash, literally and figuratively, last week. The team signed Ole Miss’ Terrell Brown as a free agent. If you’re not familiar with Brown, that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal … at least until you get to the part that he’s 403 pounds. And oh yeah, he’s 6’10”, too. Brown didn’t play much during his time at Ole Miss and is considered at best to be a project. He was mostly on the defensive line in college, but will shift to the offensive line in the NFL. It may sound like an interesting story, but if coaches couldn’t find a way to use him against smaller, slower players in college, the chances that he’ll be able to compete against the best players in the world are slim.

May 14, 2013

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Early MLB Observations

By: Joe Williams

Don’t look now but the MLB regular season is already a quarter of the way over. Several superstars have yet to take the field (most reside in New York) and some teams have played themselves out of playoff contention already (I’m talking to you Houston and Miami). We’ve also got a few teams playing surprisingly well (speaking of New York) and some players off to red-hot starts (can John Buck keep this up?) Here are a few more observations on the season so far.

Could Miguel Cabrera win back-to-back Triple Crown titles?

The A.L. East is upside down. Wasn’t this supposed to be the year that the division was open for the taking because the Yankees and Red Sox aren’t very good? And wasn’t Toronto going to be a strong contender with all the big names that went to Canada? So far New York and Boston are well over .500 and the Blue Jays are one of the worst teams in baseball.

The Angels and Dodgers also went all-in and signed some high-profile players but are underachieving big time so far. And not even switching leagues can help the lowly Astros. They are on pace for just 40 wins!

Is there a chance Miguel Cabrera could win back-to-back triple crowns? He’s leading in RBI, second in batting average and currently four home runs off the pace in the American League.

Stephen Strasburg, Kris Medlen, Cole Hamels and R.A. Dickey all have five losses already. These guys are some of the best pitchers in baseball.

If the playoffs began today, the qualifiers in the American League would be the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. Looks like all the usual suspects here. In the National League it would be the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals. No surprises here either. But with about 120 games to go only two teams are more than 10 games off the wild card pace so anything can happen.

Unless of course we’re talking about the Cubs. Anybody think they will break the curse this season? Me either. But one streak that should be coming to an end is in Pittsburgh. They may or may not get to the playoffs but the Pirates should be able to finish over .500 for the first time since 1992.

It’s no surprise that Miguel Cabrera is the best player in fantasy baseball so far but I didn’t even know who Matt Harvey or Jean Segura are before this year and they are the second and third best in fantasy.

Speaking of fantasy baseball, if any of you know B.J. Upton or David Price please let them know I could use some production for my team. Thanks.

November 26, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Jack Taylor goes off – Jack Taylor, a Division III guard playing for Grinnell College scored an NCAA record 138 points in a game. He surpassed Bevo Francis’ mark of 113 set in 1954 in doing so. Taylor’s performance awed NBA All-Stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and LBJ even said he was interested in getting a tape from the game. Sure, Taylor hoisted up 71 three-pointers and made only 27 (good for a modest 38% if you don’t have an abacus handy), but overall, he made nearly half his shots, going 52-108. That’s quite a few attempts, but the mere fact that Taylor could have thrown up that many in the course of a game without getting too tired, still makes it a worthy accomplishment.

How many wins will Belichick get to with Brady at the helm?

Bill Belichick wins No. 200New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made news when the Patriots crushed the Jets 49-19 on Thanksgiving night. Lost a bit in the headlines of the 30-point rout is that Belichick won his 200th game. Belichick became only the eighth coach in NFL history with that many wins and as long as Tom Brady’s still around playing pitch and catch with wideouts (Brady, by the way, threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions), he’s probably got plenty more in the tank if he wants to keep going.

Maryland and Rutgers are Big 10 bound – The ACC and Big East got a bit weaker with Maryland and Rutgers officially announcing they will head to the Big 10 (aka B1G) this week. Both football programs have been up and down, but each brings something valuable to their new conference. Maryland brings the DC market along with a successful basketball program while Rutgers adds the heavily desired New York/New Jersey market. The ACC is already on the move, reportedly interested in Big East teams Connecticut and Louisville to replace the Terrapins as of last week, which begs the question – with Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Pitt, and Syracuse already in the fold, doesn’t the new ACC look a lot like the old Big East?

Michael Finley wants to return – Michael Finley, a former NBA All-Star, is hoping to return to the league, according to ESPN. Finley was planning to work as an executive in the NBA, but after playing in pickup games over the summer, is hoping some team will give him a look. At 39, he’s young enough that a return could be possible, but his production shrunk considerably over the last season of his career. Finley only averaged 15 minutes a game playing in 45 games for the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics, scoring about four points a game. He could be a quality reserve late in the year for a playoff team in need of some depth, but don’t look for him to be a significant contributor.

Melky Cabrera signs with Blue JaysMelky Cabrera inked a two-year $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in one of the first big off-season splashes. Cabrera’s signing is significant because it comes on the heels of a 50-game suspension for testosterone. Last season, he was leading the National League in batting average before the suspension and he removed himself of consideration after the positive test result. The question will be, of course, if Cabrera can repeat his stellar 2012 season. He was a career .284 hitter and before last year, had only hit greater than .300 once when he batted .305 in 2011. Because of the dramatic improvement, there will be plenty of questions surrounding him in 2013 – none greater, perhaps, than from Blue Jays’ fans who will question his signing if he gets off to a slow start.

NHL cancels more games – The National Hockey League made a minor splash when it announced games through the middle of December (including January’s All-Star game) would be canceled due to the continuation of the lockout. There’s still a chance for a season, but the key thing of note is that the two sides don’t even appear to be all that close to a reconciliation. There’s still time for the players and owners to come to an agreement in time for a partial season, but it’s not looking good right now.