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.

June 3, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Grant Hill retires: In a somewhat expected move, forward Grant Hill retired from the NBA last season. For many, Hill will be remembered for the injuries that ate up much of his career. Injuries again kept him down this year as the forward appeared in only 29 games all season with the Los Angeles Clippers, and at 40, it’s clear he should have retired. But Hill should never be forgotten. He was the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year and a seven-time All-Star. Hill wasn’t always healthy, but when he was, he was one of the NBA’s best forwards earlier in his career.

The Kansas City Royals hired George Brett to be their Hitting Coach.

Rangers coach John Tortorella fired: Shortly after being ousted by the Boston Bruins in the NHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals, the New York Rangers dumped head coach John Tortorella. The Rangers had hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup finals this season, but actually regressed after making the Eastern Conference finals last year. Tortorella had some success in New York, but was rumored to have rubbed some of his players the wrong way. After not advancing past the first round in each of his first three seasons with the Rangers, Tortorella had done better each of the past two seasons. It wasn’t enough to keep his job, but as a former Stanley Cup winning coach in Tampa Bay, he should get another chance down the line.

Steve Smith (the other one) retires: New York Giants receiver Steve Smith (not to be confused with the Carolina PanthersSteve Smith) has decided to hang up his cleats. Smith was a former Pro Bowler and just signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. He was always a bit underrated as a receiver and finishes with seven 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. He nearly had another in 2009 when he finished with 982 yards and there’s little doubt he had something left in the tank. Smith had nearly 2,600 receiving yards over the past two seasons with 11 touchdowns. At 34, he probably still has some football left in him. It will be interesting to see if he changes his mind when training camp rolls around.

Phoenix Suns hire Jeff Hornacek as head coach: Jeff Hornacek, a former shooting guard in the NBA, will head back to Phoenix to serve as the team’s new head coach. Hornacek played for the Suns from 1986 – 1992 and also had stints with the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. He helped the Jazz to two trips to the NBA Finals alongside Karl Malone and John Stockton. After retiring, he became an instructor with the Jazz and then an assistant. Hornacek will come in somewhat unproven with only a few years of experience as an assistant. And considering the mess that is the Phoenix Suns right now, that will make it even harder to succeed.

Everett Golson suspended for 2013: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was suspended by the team due to ‘poor academic judgment.’ There hasn’t yet been confirmation on what exactly that means, but one thing is for certain – he won’t be suiting up for the Irish this fall. It’s a blow to a team that went to the BCS Championship with him at the helm last year. Notre Dame must now turn to another option – most likely senior Tommy Rees. But Malik Zaire could have an outside shot at the job as he comes in as a highly touted freshman this year. But without Golson, the team’s stock is taking a significant hit.

Kansas City Royals hire George Brett as hitting coach: Stuck in the middle of a long losing streak, the Kansas City Royals have turned to perhaps the best player in the history of their franchise – George Brett. Brett will assume duties as the team’s new hitting coach. Let’s face it – giving the job to a franchise icon who just happens to be one of the best hitters in the last 50 years isn’t a bad idea. But stars generally have a difficult time coaching and often, aren’t able to teach others how to play the game as well as they could. Still, for just taking a shot in the dark on a midseason hire, the Royals could have done worse.

Floyd Mayweather to fight Saul Alvarez: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. recently announced that he would fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 14th. The match will pit a pair of unbeatens as Mayweather is 44-0-0 while Alvarez is 42-0-1. While this is a big deal and surely a fight that Mayweather will trumpet, Alvarez isn’t Manny Pacquiao - the fighter many would like to see battle Mayweather. In the announcement on (where else) Twitter, Mayweather made sure to tell us that he’s ‘giving the fans what they want’ by participating in the fight. Thanks, I guess?

NCAA Golfer penalized for car washing: Yep, you heard that one correctly. The NCAA penalized an unidentified women’s golfer for washing her own car. The reason? She reportedly used water on the campus that technically belonged to the university and was forced to pay the school $20.00 – the approximate value of the water and hose that was estimated by the organization. I’m all for following the rules and I think the NCAA gets a bad rap sometimes. They’ve got a difficult job in trying to police schools and student athletes, and I get that letting smaller things go can easily escalate into bigger problems. But seriously, can’t we have a common sense clause that allows for a warning in some instances?

April 22, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Boston Marathon bombings – Obviously, the story of the week in sports (and in all other news, for that matter) were the bombings in the Boston Marathon. Not much to say here other than it was a horrific event. But the thing that should be recognized is the hard work of the police and FBI to not only identify the suspects so quickly, but catch them. Great work by all involved.

Already the NBA's scoring champion, can Carmelo Anthony add another championship this season?

NBA Playoffs begin – The NBA’s postseason has begun and several teams are out to 1-0 head starts. We’ve got a long way to go, but my postseason prediction at the beginning of the year was the Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder. I’ll stick with that pick. Each have the talent, offense, and young legs needed at this time of year.

Revis Island will get new address in Tampa Bay – Star cornerback Darrelle Revis was traded this weekend from the New York Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the No. 13 overall pick in this week’s NFL Draft and either a third or fourth-round selection. Rarely are stars traded for first-round picks (particularly in the upper half of that round), but it’s also rare to get a player who may be the best at his position in the middle of his prime. And since Tampa Bay was dead last in pass defense in 2012, giving up just under 300 yards per game, this move will clearly bolster their secondary. Revis missed much of last season after suffering a torn ACL and the injury has to be a concern for the Bucs. But while he got the big money he sought with an extension, signing for six years and $96 million, if he returns to his former self, the trade will have been a good one for Tampa.

Death of Pat Summerall – Legendary sports broadcaster Pat Summerall passed away last week of cardiac arrest at the age of 82. Though he covered a variety of events such as the Masters and US Open tennis events, Summerall is best remembered for his work as an announcer alongside John Madden for football games, including the Super Bowl. Many, though, forget that Summerall actually played for several years in the NFL, primarily as a kicker. Along with Madden, he became one of the staples in pro football.

Carmelo Anthony wins first scoring title – It’s not as important as what he’ll do in the NBA playoffs, but New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony secured his first scoring title averaging 28.7 points per game. That was just good enough to top the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, who checked in at 28.1. Melo has always been a bit in the background of the other 2003 NBA Draft picks, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, but that could change this season. If he’s somehow able to propel the Knicks past the Heat juggernaut, he could win his first title. That may still not be enough to push him past Wade (who has two rings) or James (largely considered the league’s best player), but it will put him in a special class of superstars with an NBA ring.

Midnight Madness could start sooner – The NCAA passed a new rule that will allow teams to practice up to six weeks before their first regular season game instead of the four that was previously allowed. That won’t make a huge difference but one interesting note is that it will likely push the date of the popular Midnight Madness up a bit earlier.

Shamed Rutgers coach Mike Rice gets $475,000 in settlement – Now infamous basketball coach, Mike Rice, received $475,000 in a settlement from Rutgers for being fired before his contract was up. Rice, if you’ll recall, was fired after video surfaced of him verbally and physically abusing players. Rutgers president, Robert Barchi, stated the coach could rightfully be fired for bringing shame to the school. Rice clearly did that and, to be honest, I’m surprised he got as much as he did. If you’re the head coach, it’s hard to complain about a parting gift like that after you verbally berated your players and were lobbing basketballs at them. Want to know the worst of it, though? Rice is reportedly coaching an AAU girls’ basketball team. I’m all for second chances, but if this is true, it’s hard not to question it being allowed so soon after the Rutgers videos surfaced – and with 12- and 13-year old girls no less.

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.

April 25, 2012

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NFL Draft Predictions: Teams Bound for Big Time Success

By: Matt Bowen

The 2012 NFL draft is now just hours away, and a handful of teams are set to hit the jackpot this season. 

Some of the teams that will have success in this year’s draft had a lackluster 2011 campaign but hit a home run in free agency to set themselves up nicely for the April 26 draft. Others had a phenomenal 2011 season and are afforded the luxury of a draft full of options and calculated risks. 

Fans following these teams will have big smiles on their faces along with high expectations for the upcoming season. 

The St. Louis Rams Have Already Had Success by Trading Down in the 2012 Draft

The St. Louis Rams have done nothing but cultivate a winning franchise this offseason.

After a trade with Washington, The St. Louis Rams will have plenty of early round picks for the next few years.

Despite a 2-14 2011 season, the Rams made an intelligent decision by hiring new head coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher brings a proven track record, winning attitude and an automatic jump start to the stumbling franchise. 

He also helped lure free-agent cornerback Cortland Finnegan to the team, who gives the Rams defense an identity. 

Now the Rams turn to the draft, where they’ve already swapped the No. 2 pick with the Washington Redskins for the No. 6 pick. In doing so, the Rams also picked up another second-round pick this season.

That means the Rams will have three picks within the top 40—not bad for a franchise looking to turn things around.  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fans Should Be Ecstatic

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans should be more than happy right now thanks to the franchise making a splash in the offseason. 

With the signings of offensive lineman Carl Nicks, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and cornerback Eric Wright, the Bucs drastically improved in free agency. This allows the team to draft players without depending on them to make an instant impact in 2012.

With the No. 5 overall selection and six picks in total, the Bucs have the opportunity to return to their winning ways of 2010, when they finished 10-6. 

Certainly fans will expect the Bucs’ first-round pick to make a good first impression, but the pressure on that player is radically reduced by the teams’ free-agent signings. 

Although 2011 was a season to forget, 2012 should be one to remember for the Buccaneers. 

With a Strong Draft the Kansas City Chiefs Will Be a Playoff Team in 2012

The Kansas City Chiefs were decimated by injuries in 2011 but will be playoff contenders in 2012. 

With the signings of Peyton Hillis and Eric Winston in free agency, the Chiefs set themselves up for a prominent draft. The team has eight picks in total and can afford to draft the best available player with its first three picks.

The Chiefs will look like a completely new squad in 2012, so fans should be pumped.

The Philadelphia Eagles Have Plenty to Look Forward to in the 2012 Draft

With nine picks in the 2012 Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles are bound to get better. 

After a 2011 season where nothing short of a Super Bowl appearance was expected, success in 2012 is a must for the franchise and it all begins with the draft.

The Eagles have five picks in the first four rounds, including two second-round selections. With these picks the Eagles will likely look to improve with a big wide receiver and an offensive lineman. 

Eagles’ fans should be excited for 2012 as they look to erase the disappointment of 2011.

The Cincinnati Bengals Will Continue to Make a Statement with the 2012 Draft

The Cincinnati Bengals are setting themselves up for success for years to come. 

Not only did they make the playoffs in 2011, but they now have nine draft picks in 2012. These picks include No. 17 and No. 21 of the first round. And with these picks coming so close together, the Bengals can draft a combination of needs, like an offensive lineman and a running back. 

The Bengals franchise will solidify itself as a contender with a dynamite draft in 2012.

The Green Bay Packers Will Do Nothing but Improve with 12 Draft Picks in 2012

Although the Green Bay Packers didn’t finish with the championship belt in 2011, they won 15 games in the regular season. 

Just when NFC North opponents didn’t need the Packers to continuously improve, the Packers have 12 draft picks in 2012.  Even better for the Packers, six of those picks are within the first four rounds of the draft. 

This gives the Packers plenty of chances to make another run at the Super Bowl next season—watch out!