May 31, 2013

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In Case You Missed It: May Edition

By: Joe Williams

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like something crazy is happening on a daily basis in the sports world. Maybe it’s always been that way and it’s just that we now have the technology that allows us to see and hear everything. Either way, there is just too much crazy for one article at the end of the year to cover it all so let’s just take it a month at a time. Here are some of the wacky sports stories from this May.

The New York Knicks ended up looking pretty foolish when lost Game 5 against the Boston Celtics after they came to the arena dressed in all black because they were “attending the Celtics funeral.”

Aroldis Chapman ate 18 pastries before a game in May.

Wichita State catcher Tyler Baker chased down and captured a squirrel with his batting helmet after the animal ended up in the infield when Baker was on second base.

Washington Nationals outfielder, Bryce Harper, was ejected from a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates because he slammed his bat and his helmet to the ground.

An NFL quarterback who attempted just eight passes last season and is now unemployed was named Most Influential Athlete by Forbes Magazine. That’s right. Tim Tebow is at it again.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Joel Hanrahan threw a wild pitch that actually went right through a sign on the wall behind home plate.

The Oakland A’s lost a game to the Cleveland Indians when a blown call cost them what would have been a game-tying home run in the top of the ninth. Not only did the umpires miss the call live, but then they went to the replay and still got it wrong.

A Jacksonville Jaguars fan sent President Obama a petition asking the President to force the Jaguars to sign unemployed quarterback Tim Tebow.

MLB umpires suffered another embarrassing incident when they allowed the Houston Astros to go to their bullpen twice before a pitch was thrown. The Angels argued the call and after three huddles and a phone call, the incorrect call was upheld.

An average citizen contacted the NBA to declare himself eligible for the draft. Surprisingly, he received a personal response from the NBA informing him that he is a free agent and can sign with any team.

A fan at a San Francisco Giants game fell onto the field while reaching for a ball, lost his pants and was then ejected from the game.

A fan at a Chicago Blackhawks playoff game went into labor in the stands. But she wasn’t about to leave during an elimination game and waited until after the game to go to the hospital.

Lorenzo Cain of the Kansas City Royals was awarded a walk after receiving just three balls instead of the required four in a game against the New York Yankees.

San Diego Chargers rookie Manti Te’o actually showed up at the Maxim Hot 100 party after the magazine put his fake girlfriend at No. 69 in its Hot 100 list.

Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman blew a save against the Philadelphia Phillies. This was after he at 18 pastries before the game.

A snow cone vender at a Houston Astros game was fired after bringing the snow cones into the bathroom and leaving them on the floor while he used the toilet.

More to come in June I’m sure.

March 13, 2013

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2013 MLB Division Winners

By: Joe Williams

MLB’s Opening day is just a couple weeks away which means it’s time for my yearly ritual of predicting the six division winners and ensuring that those teams don’t have the season they are hoping for. What can I say? It’s a gift. So let’s get on with it.

After signing multiple star players this off-season, can the Blue Jays win the AL East?

A.L. East

It’s gotta be now or never for the Blue Jays right? The Red Sox aren’t going to make a 25-win improvement over last season and the Yankees have been ravaged with injuries. The division door is wide open and Toronto has added several star players. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera should be able to help the Blue Jays to the top in the A.L. East.

A.L. Central

It almost feels like cheating to pick the team that won it last year. Almost. The Tigers ought to be a hungry bunch after losing in the World Series last year. They may have the best hitter and pitcher in baseball in triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. And I don’t see anyone else in the Central making a run at 90 wins.

A.L. West

In 2012, the Oakland A’s surprised everyone and stole the title from the Rangers. Now it’s the Angels that everyone thinks will take the title after they recruited one of the biggest stars in Texas, Josh Hamilton. Adding Hamilton to a lineup with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols makes the Angels scary, but I’m going with another surprise in the West and taking the Rangers.

N.L. East

Everyone in Washington is left wondering “what if” after the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg at the end of the season and then collapsed in the playoffs. They’ll have a chance to redeem themselves this October after taking the N.L. East crown. Atlanta will fight them to the end and the Phillies won’t go quietly, but the Nats are the best overall team right now.

N.L. Central

With all the injuries in St. Louis, this looks like the Reds’ division to lose. They won 97 games in 2012 and added a dynamic player in Shin-Soo Choo. Plus…The Astros are gone. The Cubs are the Cubs. The Pirates are still trying to find a way to finish above. 500. So I guess that leaves Milwaukee. Can the Brewers make a run at Cincinnati? It will depend on what they can get from the starting rotation.

N.L. West

This will be the most interesting race I believe. There is a young up-and-coming team in Arizona; the defending world champs in San Francisco and the new Yankees in Los Angeles. The Diamondbacks are probably another year away and the Giants appear to be out-manned by the All-Stars the Dodgers brought in to win last year. A full season with guys like Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez and the addition of Zack Greinke make L.A. the pick.

September 6, 2012

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2012 MLB Darlings: Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A’s

By: Matt Bowen

The 2012 MLB season is the embodiment of what fans love to see. With just about a month left in the regular season there are some surprises in the standings.

As of September 6, both the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics are the Wild Card leaders in the American League. How could this be? Both teams lack payrolls skyward of $100 million. In fact, in the A’s case, they have the lowest payroll in all of baseball.

Not many people were expecting the Baltimore Orioles to make it to the playoffs from the AL East.

Both teams are currently 76-60 because of top-notch management within their organization from the GM to the manager on the field. These teams mimic the definition of hard work. They are the true meaning of a team. Without the money to fork over $200 million contracts to big-named free agents, they have forged their identities elsewhere. They are the antithesis of buying a championship.

Sports fans were treated to the feature film Moneyball in 2011, highlighting the methods of A’s GM Billy Beane, who has mastered playing professional baseball on a budget. He’s up to it again in 2012 as his team has MLB fans everywhere quietly rooting for the A’s.

While the Orioles payroll is roughly $30 million more than the A’s this year, they’re playing under the blueprint set by Beane. Being that they play in the rugged AL East amongst the likes of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, they too have the momentum of the underdog.

If it weren’t for Nick Markakis of the Orioles, neither team would have an everyday player who’s hitting north of .300. These teams lack stars that will receive massive endorsement contract in their lifetime, yet their players are heroes within their own small market communities.

Behind Adam Jones, Matt Weiters, the aforementioned Markakis and the up-and-coming Manny Machado, the Orioles have a bright future. The same can be said about Yoenis Cespedes, Jemile Weeks, Jarrod Parker and Josh Reddick for the A’s.

Both of these teams may have been former breeding grounds for big teams to pluck their best players in free agency, but this will happen no longer, they are contenders. With optimistic fan bases for both sides and a cult following that is growing daily worldwide, there’s plenty to love about the Orioles and the A’s. They simply give hope to all the Davids living in a Goliath world.

June 5, 2012

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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. Nobody has locked up a playoff spot yet, but several teams have dug themselves such a big hole that they probably can’t climb out of it. Therefore, its time to eliminate a third of the teams. Who are the 10 teams that aren’t going anywhere in 2012?

Will the Chicago Cubs miss the playoffs again this season?

Chicago Cubs

No surprise here. This is the only team in baseball in sixth place in its division. They just finished off a 12-game losing streak and are currently on a four-game skid. The fans have had to wait more than 100 years for a championship and you can be sure the wait will not end in 2012.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins won 94 games and the A.L. Central in 2010. The have won 84 games and held down last place in the division ever since. Much of the blame can be given to injuries to some of their best players but that doesn’t make the Twins feel any better.

Houston Astros

Houston was far and away the worst team in baseball in 2011. That isn’t the case this year. They have been awful (6-19) on the road but a good team at home (17-12). Houston looks to be on its way back to contending, but it won’t be this year.

San Diego Padres

This is currently the worst team in baseball. They too, 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. There isn’t much to cheer about here.

Kansas City Royals

Is it time to bring back Bo Jackson? The Royals have just one winning season since 1994. They are said to have a lot of young talent that will turn it around but it is looking as though that wont happen until 2013 or 2014.

Oakland A’s

Their recent nine-game losing streak really hurt. They are now down to fourth in the A.L. West and eight games back of Texas. They are just six games out of a wild card spot, but there are just too many teams to leapfrog.

Colorado Rockies

Colorado is 9.5 games out in the N.L. West and 6.5 in the wild card chase. These guys have built a reputation of getting hot and making a late-season run, but can they do it again? They have the offense to get it done but the pitching staff is the worst in baseball.

Seattle Mariners

Somehow the Mariners are 10th scoring runs. But they are 27th in batting average, 28th in on base percentage and 26th in slugging. Sooner or later that is going to catch up to them and their scoring will go down, along with their post-season hopes.

Boston Red Sox

The Sox 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. They have had too many injuries. Too many off the field issues. The division is too tough.

Philadelphia Phillies

It’s the same story in Philly as it is in Boston. They are last in the N.L. East. They also have had too many injuries (Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Jim Thome, and Chase Utley are just a few of the players they have on the DL right now) and too many good teams in their division.

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.