November 18, 2013

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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 18, 2013

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MLB Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

There is another month of baseball to play before the MLB All-Star break so we should know who is good and who isn’t at this point, but I’ll bet there isn’t anyone out there who would have guessed that the best teams during the month of June would be Kansas City, Toronto, San Diego and Oakland. Meanwhile, teams like the Yankees, Rangers and Dodgers are struggling. Where will that leave those teams in today’s power rankings?

The Cardinals can celebrate being at the top of our latest MLB Power Rankings.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (44-25): As a Cubs fan, you never want to see the Cardinals at the top of the list but there’s no denying they have the best record in baseball and are +102 in run differential.

2. Atlanta Braves (41-28): The Braves hold the biggest lead of any division leaders at 6.5 games over Washington.

3. Cincinnati Reds (42-28): If the Reds were in any other division, they’d be in first place.

4. Oakland A’s (42-29): The A’s have made a huge jump from the 15 spot a month ago. That’s what an 18-7 record will do for you.

5. Boston Red Sox (42-29): Boston leads the majors in runs scored with 363.

6. Texas Rangers (38-31): Just like the end of last season, the Rangers have been caught by Oakland.

7. Detroit Tigers (38-29): Right now just Chris Davis is standing between Miguel Cabrera and a repeat triple crown.

8. Baltimore Orioles (40-30): Baltimore has quietly taken the lead in the wild card race and pulled within just 1.5 games of Boston.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks (37-32): I don’t think anyone expected the Diamondbacks to be leading the NL West at this point.

10. Pittsburgh Pirates (41-28): Forget about finishing over .500…the Pirates are on pace to finish close to .600.

11. New York Yankees (38-31): Could this be the beginning of the end for the Yankees. They’ve lost ground in the AL East and wild card races.

12. Colorado Rockies (37-33): Gonzalez and Tulowitzki have lead the Rockies into the race. The pitching will need to improve to stay in it to the end.

13. San Diego Padres (36-34): Seven straight wins will and the Padres are back in the hunt after a 2-10 to the season.

14. Tampa Bay Rays (36-33): Wil Myers has been called up. Now let’s see what he can do.

15. Kansas City Royals (34-34): The Royals have been the best team in baseball, going 12-4 in June.

16. Washington Nationals (34-35): It’s turning into a disappointing season in the capital. The Nats better get back on track soon or it will be too late.

17. Cleveland Indians (34-35): Here’s a team that has really cooled off and is just 5-10 in June.

18. San Francisco Giants (35-34): The Giants will have to do better than 14-22 on the road if they want to defend their title.

19. Toronto Blue Jays (33-36): The Jays have six wins in a row and are climbing out of a big hole.

20. Philadelphia Phillies (34-37): The Phillies are second in the majors in quality starts but don’t have much to show for it.

21. Minnesota Twins (30-36): The Twins are near the bottom in just about every pitching category. Not good.

22. LA Dodgers (29-39): Talk about a wasted season…nobody is farther away from next-to-last in their division than the Dodgers.

23. LA Angels (31-39): Here is another team that was supposed to contend and has let their fans down.

24. Milwaukee Brewers (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Cubs for last place in the NL Central.

25. Chicago Cubs (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Brewers for last place in the NL Central.

26. Seattle Mariners (31-40): King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are lights out pitchers right now. They aren’t getting much help though.

27. Chicago White Sox (29-38): It looks like it will be a tight race for worst team in Chicago.

28. New York Mets (25-40): The Mets are making a strong run towards the worst record in baseball with a 3-10 start in June.

29. Houston Astros (26-45): An 8-8 record so far this month is a big improvement for the AL West newcomers.

30. Miami Marlins (22-47): The Marlins are playing better, posting an 8-6 record so far this month.

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.

April 17, 2013

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Early Season MLB Notes

By: Matt Bowen

We may only be a few weeks into the 2013 MLB season, but there’s plenty to talk about. With every team playing around 12 games, enough action has played out to begin to speculate on just how the season may go.

If your favorite team has stumbled out of the gates, don’t be discouraged, there are still 150 games to go.

The players and teams mentioned in this article have not struggled from the get-go. In fact, it’s just the opposite as they are red hot.

Prince Fielder has 19 RBI early in the 2013 MLB season.

The Atlanta Braves are the Hottest Team Right Now

Baseball experts were perplexed in the preseason in regards to just which team would win the National League East. The only team not considered to contend for the divisional crown is the rebuilding Miami Marlins. At this moment, the 12-1 Atlanta Braves are the early favorites. The Washington Nationals won it last season, the Philadelphia Phillies are never to be taken lightly and the New York Mets are considered a Wild Card, but the Braves are the best. This is a playoff race that won’t end until game 162.

The Braves gave their franchise a facelift in the offseason and the gamble is paying off. Among other acquisitions, both B.J. and Justin Upton now roam their outfield. Justin, the younger of the two brothers looks like an early NL MVP candidate. His eight homers currently lead the league.

The Braves look like a team in midseason form and even with injuries to the likes of Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann. A pleasant surprise has been the addition of 26-year-old Evan Gattis to the lineup. His journey to the majors is one for the ages. He only made the club out of spring training due to injuries, but he’s not going anywhere and is in Atlanta to stay.

Gattis is hitting .289 in the early going with four home runs and 10 RBI. The Braves will have a good problem on their hands when Freeman and McCann return to the lineup. Gattis is their X-factor. Every winning team has one. He’s a player to root for all season no matter who your favorite team is.

Now a Member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Carl Crawford Looks Like His Old Self Again

Carl Crawford’s time as a member of the Boston Red Sox can be easily forgettable. One large contract, a number of injuries and two years later, he’s a Los Angeles Dodger.

Crawford now looks like his former self when he played outfield for the Tampa Bay Rays. Right now he’s hitting .392 as the Dodgers lead-off hitter. He looks happy and his team is looking wise to trade for him even when injured.

Most importantly, the Dodgers have positive momentum thanks to new ownership. The club may only be .500 at the moment but its only mid-April. They have an All-Star lineup from top to bottom and Crawford will be the piece that puts them over the top in 2013.  When he’s on, he’s electric. He can win a game all by himself with his speed.

Don’t sleep on Crawford, he’s back to being the real deal.

New York Mets Pitcher Matt Harvey is the Early NL Cy Young Favorite

Some New York Mets fans may have cringed when the team traded away R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. All Dickey did last season is win the NL Cy Young.

Well, the Mets front office looks brilliant right now because young pitcher Matt Harvey looks like he could win the coveted award this season.

The 24-year-old pitcher has won his first three starts and is making history. He became the first pitcher since 1947 to go at least seven innings with three hits or less allowed in his first three starts. The last man to do that was Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame hurler Bob Feller. That’s good company to be in.

Harvey tasted the majors late last season, throwing 59 innings and striking out 70 batters. He hasn’t disappointed thus far in 2013 and Mets fans have to be looking forward to the future with Harvey as their ace.

It won’t be too long before he’ll an undisputed star.

Prince Fielder Looks like he’s having an MVP season in Detroit

The Detroit Tigers knew what they were doing when they signed Prince Fielder to a lofty contract in the winter of 2012.  He had never hit above .300 in a season before, but last season he hit .313.

Many can argue that boost in average is because he had Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera batting in front of him, but Fielder also had former NL MVP winner Ryan Braun hitting ahead of him as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Tigers came up empty in the World Series last season and Fielder is making it clear that the team has unfinished business this season. He’s hitting .383 this season with four homers and 19 RBI so far and the Tigers offense is clicking on all cylinders.

Fielder almost looks angry at the plate. Like the baseball is his despised nemesis. Truth be told, anything short of a ring this season in Detroit and 2013 will be considered a failure.

Fielder is out to make that dream come true—he’s on a mission. Albeit early, the AL MVP is his to lose. In doing so, he’ll be the Tigers third consecutive MVP.

April 3, 2013

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Who’s better: Bryce Harper or Mike Trout?

By: Matt Bowen

Finally, spring has officially sprung as the 2013 MLB season is upon us. While there’s plenty to debate about in regards to the rest of the league, the main focus will be on Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

Bryce Harper started the season off with 2 Home Runs on Opening Day.

The two sophomore sensations are nothing short of miraculous as they helped reshape baseball forever last season. Their ridiculous display of athleticism and flare for the dramatic are simply astounding. Teams have long groomed their prized prospects until they’re deemed fit by outdated unwritten rules.

Now, thanks to Harper and Trout, many prospects will be brought up as early as 19 years old. They’ve changed the way GMs think, how fans act and how fantasy diehards draft.

One thing is for sure, the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have the center piece of their respected franchises for the next decade.

Baseball couldn’t ask for anything more from these young men in terms of proximity—what we have is a classic East vs. West battle, which ensures Major League Baseball that the entire country is engulfed in the debate.

So, who’s better?

Harper has been highly touted since he left high school early to play college ball. He was hitting homers out of major league ballparks before kids his age got their driver’s license.  The buzz surrounding his arrival at “The Show” reached a fever pitch. The Nationals couldn’t hold him back any longer as they wanted to cash in and put their best possible team on the field.

Harper didn’t disappoint as a rookie, but there’s room for improvement. Relax; before you jump out of your seat screaming, I’ll say it for you—he was only 19 last season. He hit a modest .270 last season with 22 home runs, which is nothing to scoff at from a kid who’s seen minimal big league pitching.

Things can only go up from here. Soon he’ll become comfortable filling in his big league shoes, become patient at the plate and learn the ropes of the outfield.

He started 2013 off with a bang as he hit two homers en route to a 2-0 Nationals win on Opening Day. To put his growing legacy into perspective, he received a standing ovation, at 20 years old, in the fourth inning. Whoa!

Trout is a year older than Harper but is currently viewed as the more well-rounded talent. Trout’s 49 stolen bases in 139 games in 2012 have him going No. 1 in many fantasy drafts, even ahead of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.  Oh, not to mention he hit .326 with 30 homers and 83 RBI.

For sake of this debate, Trout did get a cup of tea with the Angels toward the end of 2011. He hit .220 in 123 at-bats. On the other hand, Harper got 74 at-bats at AAA Syracuse before his call came last season.

Never mind his taste of the majors in 2011, Trout made the Angels immensely better and turned into an MVP candidate in 2012. He even has many thinking he’s the best player in baseball.

This is where Harper has the advantage this season—all the pressure is on Trout right now. It’s true that both players have big expectations to meet, but Trout has all eyes on him. With slightly less attention on him, Harper can easily slide safely back into the pole position amongst themselves.

So, who’s better? Who cares! They are both awesome. Watch them as much as you can. Appreciate them. They have revolutionized baseball and given us a new batch of stars to root for.

One last thing to ponder—the scary thought is that both of these boys have yet to fill out. We have to wait until they turn 25 years old before they’ll be “full grown.”

This is one debate fans will be having 50 years from now. And that is why we love this game.