May 6, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Lebron James wins 4th MVP award: Widely regarded as the best player in basketball, the Miami Heat’s Lebron James won his fourth NBA Most Valuable Player award. The award put him in some elite company – the only other players to win as many were Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell. There was little doubt that James would win the award as he was the best player on the best team in the league, and the vote was nearly unanimous (one voter chose Carmelo Anthony as the winner). A good case could have been made for Kevin Durant, who led the Oklahoma City Thunder to 60 wins this season and averaged more points than James. But in the end, Durant finished second and my vote would have gone to James, too.

Will Adrian Peterson break the single-season NFL rushing record in 2013?

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. wins. Again. Big surprise, right? Floyd Mayweather, Jr. moved to 44-0 after disposing of Robert Guerrero in a unanimous 12-round decision this weekend. Guerrero was a worthy foe, but the win was a fairly decisive one for Mayweather, who had a 117-111 win on all three of the judges’ scorecards. He didn’t deliver the knockout that many pay-per-viewers wanted, but the important thing is that he remains undefeated. Mayweather now plans to fight again in September and the only question at this point is who will get the next shot to knock off the champion.

College athletics a losing proposition? The NCAA recently completed a study, the 2012 Revenue and Expenses Report, which showed that athletic departments are spending more money in expenses than they are generating new revenue. More importantly, perhaps, is that only 23 Division I schools reported a profit. That’s nothing new, though some fans may be surprised to hear that plenty of major universities lose money on sports. Even if a school has a big time football program, that money is often used to help support other non-revenue sports. And when you factor in salaries of athletics department staff and coaches, facility-related expenses, and scholarships, breaking even isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Adrian Peterson sets lofty goal for 2013: Last year, Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s long-time NFL record for most rushing yards in a season. The running back not only wants to break the mark next year, but shatter it. Peterson recently said in a Sports Illustrated interview that his goal is to reach 2,500 yards. On the surface, that appears nearly impossible. No other running back has even come close to that total and with Peterson’s big season last year, opposing defenses will be doing all they can to shut him down. And when you factor in that he would need to be fully healthy all year, it’s difficult to expect that much out of him.

SEC Network announced for 2014: ESPN and the SEC announced a new 20-year deal to broadcast games last week. As a part of that package, the two sides will launch a 24-hour/day SEC network that will air football, basketball, and baseball games, as well as other events. With the B1G already airing games on its own network and the ACC reportedly making plans to do so as well, conference networks are becoming the norm. One of the biggest benefits not specifically related to revenue is that smaller sports will get a bit more coverage. Non-revenue programs should draw a bit more interest from fans that may not have paid that much attention to them in the past.

Warren Moon says Tim Tebow not good enough for CFL: Football Hall of Famer, Warren Moon spoke recently about Tim Tebow in a radio interview and his comments were a bit surprising to say the least. There are plenty of ex-players that don’t think Tim Tebow is a legitimate NFL quarterback, but Moon isn’t even sure Tebow can play in the Canadian Football League. Even though the CFL is a significant step down from the NFL, Moon doesn’t believe that Tebow can pass well enough to play in the league. Moon makes a valid point in that the league is high on aerial attacks, but what he doesn’t factor in is that the level of competition in the CFL isn’t what it is in the NFL. Since he’s been in the NFL, Tebow has completed less than half of his passes. But in college, where the competition wasn’t as difficult, he completed nearly 70%. Tebow may not be a great passer, but the guess here is that he’s capable of having success in the CFL if he ever decided to go that route.

January 2, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Adrian Peterson barely misses Eric Dickerson’s record: I’ll admit that I was among the doubters not believing that Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson could break Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. But Peterson shocked me (and probably a lot of other people) in rushing for 199 yards, coming much closer than expected. In the end, he fell only nine yards short of the goal and despite the happy face he may put on this week, it’s hard to imagine he’s not at least a bit disappointed. Peterson still should have a few more productive seasons ahead of him, but reaching the rarefied air that he did this year may never happen again. Even if it doesn’t, though, congratulations are in order for an MVP-type season and one of the best ever for a running back. Plus, the win over the Packers gave the Vikings a playoff berth and ultimately, that’s a pretty nice consolation prize for Peterson.

Drafted in April, Andrew Luck is now taking the Colts to the NFL Playoffs.

Avery Johnson fired as coach of Nets: The Brooklyn Nets made a fairly surprising move by firing head coach Avery Johnson. Assistant P.J. Carlesimo is leading the way for now, but the franchise also has an eye on Phil Jackson. For Johnson, it was a tale of two months. The former NBA guard had the Nets out to an 11-4 start in November and looking like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. But then came a 3-10 stretch in December and that ultimately cost him his job. Part of the reason for that downfall can be attributed to the loss of star center Brook Lopez, who missed six games due to injury. But with so much talent, more was expected of the team at this point in the season. Johnson should get another opportunity with a different team down the line, though. Before serving as the Nets’ coach, he led the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs in each of his four years with the franchise and also took them to the NBA Finals in 2006.

Hideki Matsui retires: Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui ended his long career by officially announcing his retirement last week. Matsui spent a total of 20 seasons playing Japanese and American baseball and in ten major league seasons, he hit 175 home runs and batted .282 with the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, and Oakland Athletics. Even factoring in his 332 home runs in Japan, Matsui still isn’t a likely Hall of Famer. But he was certainly an above-average major leaguer. Matsui finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2003, was a two-time All-Star, and won a World Series Most Valuable Player Award.

Three Rookie quarterbacks make playoffs: When a rookie quarterback leads a team to the NFL playoffs, it’s a big accomplishment. When three do it in the same year, it’s probably time to call the Mayans for another apocalyptic prediction. That’s what happened this year as the ColtsAndrew Luck, the RedskinsRobert Griffin III, and the SeahawksRussell Wilson led their franchises to the postseason. The amazing thing is that none were just along for the ride, either. Luck broke the rookie passing record, throwing for more than 4,100 yards this season, while Griffin had the NFL’s second-best passer rating and Wilson tallied 26 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards.

Kevin Ollie named permanent UConn head coach: Ollie, a former player, was named as UConn’s permanent head men’s basketball coach with a reported five-year deal. Following the retirement of Jim Calhoun, Ollie was given the job on a sort of trial run with only a one-year deal. But so far this season, he’s steered the Huskies to a 9-2 record and convinced the administration that he was capable of leading the program. Replacing Calhoun is a tough task and Ollie will have his work cut out for him if he wants to achieve as much as the former coach did. The key here is that the new deal will make things much easier for him on recruiting. Instead of telling prospective players that he hopes to still be on the job next year, he can now virtually assure them that he will.

Brandon Roy hopes to continue comeback bid: Just a few years ago, Brandon Roy was one of the top young guards in the NBA. In his first four seasons with the Portland Trailblazers, Roy averaged nearly 20 points a game and made three All-Star teams. But knee issues forced him to suddenly retire after a disappointing 2010-11 season. Roy made a comeback this year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but is still suffering with the condition and has only appeared in a few games so far this year. Roy has weighed another retirement, but is hoping to get back on the court after dealing with the chronic knee pain. The decision has to be difficult for him. He’s still young enough that he could have several seasons in front of him if the pain can be treated. But at some point, the conditioning day in and day out to be able to play has to be a burden.

October 8, 2012

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Handing out 2012 MLB Postseason Awards: National League

By: Anson Whaley

With the MLB season now over, last week we took a look at my predictions for the end of season awards in the American League (Read here). Now the National League is up to bat.

Should Buster Posey be the NL MVP?

Most Valuable Player – Ryan Braun

A good argument could be made here for San Francisco Giants’ catcher Buster Posey, who led the league in hitting and added 24 home runs and 103 runs batted in on the season. Posey also should get consideration because he put up the numbers as a catcher and is the best at his position. But the Milwaukee BrewersRyan Braun gets my nod here because his numbers were simply that good.

Miguel Cabrera was in the news last week for his Triple Crown performance in the American League, but what was lost in the discussion was the fact that Braun wasn’t all that far from achieving the feat himself. He was the only National League player to hit 40 home runs and his 112 runs batted in were only three behind the leader, Chase Headley. Braun also finished third in batting average behind Posey and the Pittsburgh PiratesAndrew McCutchen. As if those numbers weren’t mind boggling enough, he also had 30 stolen bases, good for ninth in the National League.

Posey had an admirable season, but my vote goes to Braun here.

Cy Young – R.A. Dickey

Between last week and this week, I hate to continue belaboring the point about Triple Crown winners, but R.A. Dickey almost accomplished the feat as a pitcher. Dickey led the National League in strikeouts with 230 and his 20 wins were one short of the Washington NationalsGio Gonzalez. He also finished in second place in Earned Run Average behind the DodgersClayton Kershaw. Kershaw will definitely garner consideration here but his 14 wins may keep him from winning the award.

Dickey is also likely to get a bit of interest due to his backstory. He suffered through some really bad seasons bouncing around with the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and Seattle Mariners before settling down with the Mets a few years ago. At 37, Dickey’s a perfect example of a player finding success late in his career.

Rookie of the Year – Wilin Rosario

The Nationals’ Bryce Harper garnered the most attention of any rookie since his teammate Stephen Strasburg was mowing down batters a few years ago. But while Harper put up strong numbers, the Colorado Rockies’ Wilin Rosario is the clear choice here. He topped Harper in home runs (28 to 22) and runs batted in (71 to 59) all while registering 137 fewer at-bats.

The argument from the Harper supporters will be that Rosario benefitted from playing in the rocky mountain air, but Rosario’s numbers with so many fewer at bats are too impressive to ignore. Harper was a sparkplug on the Nats’ playoff team, but I’ll still take Rosario.

Manager of the Year – Davey Johnson

The pick here has to be the Nationals’ Davey Johnson. Johnson took what was an annual laughingstock and turned them into a playoff team. Not only did he lead the Nationals to their first winning season since moving to Washington, but he nearly won 100 games while doing so.

October 1, 2012

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2012 MLB Postseason Awards: American League

By: Anson Whaley

With the MLB season ending this week, here are my thoughts on who should win awards in the American League. We’ll take a look at the National League next week.

Could Justin Verlander win back-to-back Cy Young awards?

Most Valuable Player – Miguel Cabrera

There will be plenty of support for the Los Angeles AngelsMike Trout. Trout leads the league in runs and stolen bases, and should be a unanimous choice for the Rookie of the Year award. But when it comes to the best in the league, he falls significantly short of the Detroit TigersMiguel Cabrera. Heading into the season’s final week, Cabrera is having a historic year and contending for the Triple Crown. He currently leads the American League in home runs (43), runs batted in (136) and batting average (.325), and if he can hang on for the elusive Triple Crown, he’ll be the first position player to achieve the feat since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967.

And when it comes to the team aspect, barring a significant collapse, Cabrera’s division-leading Tigers should get into the postseason. The Angels have a shot at getting there, too, but with a few teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings, it will be an uphill battle.

In addition to his strong offensive season, Trout is also an incredible defensive talent and may even win a Gold Glove. But that’s not enough to top Cabrera who’s simply having a rare year.

Cy Young – David Price

This one could come down to the wire and promises to be a close vote. The main contenders should be the Tampa Bay RaysDavid Price and the Tigers’ Justin Verlander (although Rays’ closer Fernando Rodney will have a shot at it, too). The two starters are neck and neck when it comes to statistics. Heading into this week, Price leads Verlander in wins (20-17) and ERA (.256 to .264), while Verlander has the edge in strikeouts (239 to 205). The Tigers are likely headed to the playoffs while the Rays will probably be left on the outside. I’ll give the nod to Price for the lead in wins and ERA over Verlander, but I’d have no problem if the vote went the other way.

Another candidate for the award is the aforementioned Rodney, who has a microscopic ERA of 0.62, 46 saves, only 15 walks, and 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings. There is precedent here suggesting he could win the award as his numbers are eerily comparable to those of Dennis Eckersley, who won the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player award in 1992. Personally, though, I can’t justify naming a closer as the league’s top hurler when he’s pitched only about 1/3 of the amount of innings as starting pitchers have.

Rookie of the Year – Mike Trout

With Trout having a chance at the Most Valuable Player award, there’s little doubt he’ll win this award. He’s having such a dominant season that it would even be an outrage if he weren’t the unanimous selection. And in all honesty, it’s not even fair to mention other candidates in the same breath as him. Ready for this? Trout leads all rookies (both American League and National League) in runs, hits, home runs, runs batted in, batting average, walks, stolen bases, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.

Game. Over.

Manager of the Year – Buck Showalter

A few candidates such as the Oakland Athletics’ Bob Melvin or even the Rays’ Joe Maddon could get the nod here, but my vote goes to the Orioles‘ Showalter. He’s done an incredible job of taking a team that hasn’t had much success in recent memory and getting them into the playoffs. Showalter’s accomplishment is even more noteworthy when you consider he’s in the difficult AL East battling the Yankees and Rays who each have about 90 wins. The O’s have done it all with few stars and even if they can’t hang on to the division in the final week, Showalter has done an admirable job of turning a perennial laughingstock into a winner. Baltimore hasn’t had a winning season since 1997 and Showalter’s turned things around quickly, leading the Orioles to a 90-win year in only his second full season with the club.

July 18, 2012

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Why Andrew McCutchen Will Win NL MVP

By: Matt Bowen

Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates is having a season for the ages. Because of his accomplishments on the field this year,I believe the 25-year-old center fielder will be named NL MVP at season’s end.

Andrew McCutchen has Pirates fans hoping for a playoff game at PNC Park this season.

Now in his fourth major league season, McCutchen is set to take home the game’s biggest individual prize, along with a Gold Glove to boot. He’s single-handedly made baseball in Pittsburgh relevant again.

After being absent from the playoffs for two decades, the Pirates are currently one game behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central and are currently tied for the Wild Card. There’s a buzz around PNC Park that hasn’t been heard since Barry Bonds roamed the outfield and it’s because of McCutchen. He’s the franchise player that every MLB GM dreams of and he proved his devotion and belief in his franchise when he signed a six-year, $51.5 million extension earlier this season.

Gone are the days of the Pirates best player signing elsewhere. What McCutchen did speaks volumes towards his character. He gives hope to all fans of small market teams who have grown tired of watching their star players get traded for prospects or sign for big money with a big name team. In the end, what McCutchen did in Pittsburgh may change the history of baseball in terms of competitive balance.

His play on the field has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. His .372 batting average leads the NL. He’s also currently second in homers with 21, third in RBIs with 64 and third in runs scored with 62. Just in case you were wondering, he also has 14 stolen bases.

What is remarkable has been his batting average of .533 in July and .500 over his last 10 games.  In those 10 games he has 20 hits, six homers, 12 RBI and 12 runs scored. He’s true must-see TV down the stretch.  As the only player on the team that bats .300-plus, he’s proving that he doesn’t have the protection in the lineup that other players have on teams with massive payrolls.

If the Pirates do indeed make the playoffs, it will be because of McCutchen. Regardless of the outcome, he’s been the most valuable member of any team in all of baseball. Expect him to win his first NL MVP this season; don’t expect it to be his last.