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.

June 6, 2013

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10 MLB Teams That Will Miss The Playoffs

By: Joe Williams

It is hard to believe, but the MLB season is already one-third of the way over. Obviously, nobody has locked up a playoff spot yet, but several teams have dug themselves into such a big hole that they won’t be able to climb out of it. Therefore, it’s time to eliminate a third of the teams. Who are the 10 teams that aren’t going anywhere in 2013?

After signing Josh Hamilton in the offseason, the Angels would be disappointed to miss the playoffs.

Miami Marlins

We knew the Marlins would be bad after another fire sale sent their top talent elsewhere, but did we know they would be this bad? They are on pace to lose 120 games and are starting to make the Astros look pretty good.

Houston Astros

Speaking of the Astros…switching leagues hasn’t seemed to help their winning percentage and they are again headed for a 100-loss campaign. On the bright side, the worst they can finish in the AL West is fifth, instead of sixth like they were in the NL Central last year.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers went 6-22 in May and were outscored by 50 runs. They weren’t just losing games. They were getting crushed. And now things could be getting worse with the news of a possible suspension coming for Ryan Braun.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are currently in last in the A.L. East. They are under .500 at home. Their pitching staff is near the bottom of the league. All the big-name acquisitions have been disappointing and the division is too tough.

San Diego Padres

They have not been the same since the 2010 season when they blew the lead in the N.L. West and missed the playoffs by a game. The Padres aren’t the worst team in California, but they aren’t going to the playoffs.

Los Angeles

The “honor” of worst team in California is a tie between the Angels and Dodgers . Both teams entered the season with world championship aspirations and are playing .440 ball and well back in the playoff chase. The superstar signings haven’t paid off and it’s going to be a long summer in a city that is used to seeing meaningful games in October.

Chicago

Speaking of big cities with disappointing teams…why can’t the Cubs or White Sox get anything going? Neither team has been to the playoffs since 2008 and it’s not happening in 2013 either. But it does look like they’ll battle for best team in Chicago all season long.

New York

I might as well go all-in on the big market clubs being left home this October. I’m not going out on a limb to say that the Mets won’t be playing past game 162, but I’ll throw the Yankees in that boat too and make it 11 teams that aren’t going to be in the playoffs this year. Sure they’ve had guys stepping up for their injured stars all year and have guys coming back, but I’ll take the younger and fresher teams like Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Cleveland to hold off the Yankees in the AL East and Wild Card races.

May 22, 2013

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MLB’s Emerging Stars

By: Matt Bowen

Major League Baseball has a brilliant future. Fans everywhere should be ecstatic for the next decade.  Scattered throughout the league, even teams currently below .500 have budding stars.

Sure, every generation of players has their own crop of cornerstones, but this is different. The league is stacked. The competition will be fierce. Playoff races will come down to Game 162. Interest throughout will reach a fever pitch.

We all know the likes of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are the leaders of the pack when it comes to the “next-generation”, but they are not alone. They’re joined by a bushel of future heroes. Some of which are a touch older than the young 20-somethings, but a star is a star, no matter how long it takes to shine so bright.

Bryce Harper is already a household name for MLB fans.

Here’s a quick rundown of players to fall in love with:

Catcher: Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies

This kid has pop at the plate and in the thin air of Colorado he’ll find the cheap seats with ease. A catcher who can hit for average is always a plus and Rosario is holding his own this season. Even though his numbers have dipped in May, he’ll be just fine. The Rockies have smooth sailing ahead of them with Rosario in their lineup for years to come.

First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

Fans may not have had a chance to catch Paul Goldschmidt much due to proximity, but he’s a stud. By season’s end he’ll be in the NL MVP conversation. Possessing power, average and enough speed to motor around the bases, he also helps his team with a stealthy glove at first base. The Diamondbacks are in good hands thanks to Goldschmidt. Yes, he’s currently 25 years old, but it’s never too late to be one of the best.

Second Base: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

The Houston Astros may own a dismal record, but with Jose Altuve on their side better days are in store. At 5’5” he may be undersized, but he shouldn’t be underestimated. The dude can do it all and is the key to the future in Houston. He’s more than fun to watch and should be respected and feared by all.

Shortstop: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers

Whoa baby! Jean Segura of the Milwaukee Brewers puts up silly numbers in the box score. Blessed with plate presence and speed to burn, Segura is a nightmare for the opposition. Just checking his numbers makes one want to move to Milwaukee and watch this guy in person 81 times a year. With the skills he has, it’s almost not fair. Cheers to Segura. Expect him to be an All-Star this season.

Third Base: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

Talk about a cornerstone, Manny Machado is it in Baltimore. He’ll be manning the hot-corner for the next 15 years for the Orioles and has yet to scratch the surface of his true talent. He’s only 20 years old. Diehard O’s fans have to be drooling when thinking of the future. Dare I say he’ll be the most beloved in Baltimore since a guy named Cal Ripken, Jr. Machado is the man. Come September, expect heroics.

No Surprise Here, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout Made the list:

It’s safe to say that the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are set in terms of a superstar. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout will bring fans out in droves until they retire. Some may argue that they aren’t “emerging” stars, but let’s be real—they are so young it’s not fair to say we’ve seen or that we can comprehend their “ceiling.” They are the future. Embrace it.

Rounding out the Outfield, Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates:

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been begging for a winner since neon slap bracelets and Nickelodeon slime were in style. Now, with the emergence of Starling Marte to compliment star Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates are built to win.

Marte looks like he’s on skates in the outfield and handles himself well at the plate. He bolsters and gives the Bucs lineup much needed depth. There should be nothing but smiles from the Pirates faithful these days after decades of futility. Marte is the difference in Pittsburgh.

Pitcher: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

While it’s tough to pick just one pitcher, have you seen Matt Harvey on the mound? The 24-year-old is off to a ridiculous start to his career. He looks like Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux wrapped into one.

A fine blend of power and finesse, Harvey may be considered the best pitcher in baseball by the end of 2014. His fastball is tough enough to blow back hitters while his offspeed arsenal makes them weak in the knees.

After just 19 career starts, he’s being considered a legend. Watching him is a must.

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.

July 27, 2011

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The Anatomy of the MLB Trade Deadline

By: Rick Jarrell

The MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, arriving July 31. This time of year, the Hot Stove begins to heat up and players begin changing teams; either to fill a hole for the playoff run or to make a move toward the future. Each team has different interests in mind this time of year. Here are a few types of trades you’ll see.

The Final Piece

This is the most publicized of trades. MLB teams in the playoff hunt that need an extra boost, whether it’s to win the wild card, division, or the World Series, often seek a marquee player to help propel them. In exchange, the seller will either receive prospects, salary relief, or both, depending on the quality of the player.

You’re final piece contestants this year are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. They’re going after Carlos Beltran (likely to be traded), Hunter Pence (not likely to be traded), and Jose Reyes (not likely to be traded).

Inside Yankee Stadium Mural

The Depth Play

Some MLB teams are fortunate enough to have every player they need to win it all (note this is extremely rare – teams can always upgrade at a position, it’s more of a question of whether or not it’s worth it). The better MLB trade deadline deal, then, is to shore up a weaker area of the team. An additional reliever is always a hot commodity, as well as gritty veterans that can come off the bench, play multiple positions, and hold themselves defensively. These transactions go largely unnoticed, but often make a larger impact that you’d expect.

Many playoff teams utilize this method – it’s an easy way to upgrade at a usually low price. Look for cash conscious teams like the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, and Pittsburgh Pirates to seek depth to push their overall player quality higher.

Futurists

On the opposite end of the final piece and depth play scenarios are the futurists – MLB teams that are well out of the playoff hunt, but have players who would be valuable to playoff contenders. Quality of players will vary, as superstars obviously will make an impact, but specialists and veterans often have more value to a contender than a team in the cellar. The value the player provides the playoff contender usually determines how much the selling team gets in return.

Look for the New York Mets, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays to trade some of their better players at the end of their contracts in exchange for prospects. Tampa Bay is especially good at doing this every year, so look for BJ Upton to potentially be on the move to make way for talent on the farm system. Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies has also been rumored, and would bring back very good prospects in return.

Salary Dump

The salary dump is another trading strategy on the other of playoff contenders. For whatever reason – be it ownership requests to reduce expenses, player request for trades, etc – teams look at the MLB trade deadline to get rid of their higher priced players. It’s also common for the current team dumping player salary to pick up a portion of the remaining pay, reducing the amount saved but still worthwhile in the end.

Look for the Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and really any team out of the playoff race to dump significant salary. Unless they plan on offering an extension, a high priced player is wasted on a team just going through the motions, waiting on next season.

Players to be Named Later

This league rule has always been strange to me. How can you complete a trade with someone when you don’t know what you’re getting in return? The answer to that is this – the teams will agree on a list of players to choose from by a specified date, sometimes based on criteria like performance. These trades often don’t work out for the team receiving PTBNL. If they were that good, they would be demanded up front, right? But recently, I’ve noticed a few promising young MLB players who fall into this category, such as Michael Brantley of the Cleveland Indians.