December 17, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Mack Brown Resigns – Crazy week in Texas with football coach Mack Brown stepping down from his post with the Longhorns. Brown’s resignation has been the subject of speculation for a few years now as many fans haven’t been pleased with the team’s record lately. After nine consecutive seasons with at least ten wins, Texas hasn’t achieved that mark in the past four years. Brown hasn’t been terrible, mind you, guiding the Longhorns to three winning seasons in those four years. But the team hasn’t competed for a national championship in some time and the program hasn’t been as good as it was last decade under him. Alabama’s Nick Saban seemed to be a potential replacement for Brown, but he recently announced he’s staying put with the Crimson Tide.

Kobe Bryant Struggles in Return – The Los Angeles Lakers got their star back this week as Kobe Bryant returned from his Achilles injury sustained last season – but things haven’t gone quite as they hoped. The team got off to a 1-3 start since Bryant’s return with their only win a three-point victory over the Charlotte Bobcats under their belts. The Mamba isn’t helping things, either. In the four games he’s played, Bryant is scoring only 13.5 points a game. Helping to fill the point guard role in Steve Nash’s absence, the good news is that he is averaging a career-high seven assists per contest. But Bryant is also averaging a career-worst 6.3 turnovers and is clearly still dealing with a high amount of rust.

Jamaal Charles has Record Day … as a Receiver – Kansas City Chiefs’ running back Jamaal Charles had some kind of day in the team’s 56-31 win over the rival Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Charles is one of the league’s best rushers, but he did his damage on Sunday through the air, racking up 195 receiving yards on eight catches. He added five big touchdowns and had 220 total yards on the day. According to ESPN, he had the third biggest receiving day for a running back since the 1970 merger and his five scores tied a franchise record. Needless to say, Charles surely won leagues for many of his fantasy football owners that reached their league’s championship games.

Roy Halladay Retires – Former All-Star pitcher Roy Halladay retired last week at the age of 36. Halladay, as recently as two seasons ago, was still one of baseball’s best pitchers. In his second season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, the pitcher had perhaps his best season ever with a 19-6 record and career-bests with 220 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.35. The past two seasons for Halladay, though, have been forgettable and last year, he suffered one of his worst professional seasons going 4-5 with a whopping 6.82 ERA. The next question will inevitably be if he will get into the Hall of Fame. His credentials are reasonable with a career 3.38 ERA and more than 2,100 strikeouts, but his relatively low total of 203 wins will hurt him. That’s unfortunate because playing for some pretty bad Toronto Blue Jays teams for the bulk of his career, Halladay would certainly have had more wins with a better franchise. Still, that number will be difficult to overcome since most of the other starters currently in the Hall have more victories.

Snowball Fight Ends with Oregon Player Suspended – The Oregon Ducks’ football team apparently organized a snowball fight with fans and, well, things got out of control. A player was even suspended for the team’s upcoming bowl game. Well, then.

RGIII Benched … Redskins Lose Anyway – The Washington Redskins benched their star quarterback Robert Griffin III after he’s been inconsistent all year long following his recovery from his ACL injury. Kirk Cousins got the start for Washington on Sunday, but the team still lost to the Atlanta Falcons, 27-26. The team was competitive and Cousins did some good things in throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns, but he also struggled a little with two interceptions and failed to convert a potential game-winning two-point conversion near the end of the contest. Cousins is an interesting quarterback who has a future in this league, but the team is still better off with Griffin if he can return to the form he showed in 2012. Benching him was the right move and if the Skins are wise, they’ll do the same for the rest of the season and allow him to get healthy for next year.

Jameis Winston wins Heisman – In the long and storied history of the Heisman trophy, a freshman didn’t win the award until last season when Johnny Manziel took home the prize. That opened the door for others and for the second consecutive season, a first-year player has won the honor. Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has been nothing short of spectacular for the Seminoles and he clearly deserved to win it, leading Florida State to an undefeated season as they head into the national championship game next month.

Skiing … Not Just for the MountainsSkiers are taking over Detroit’s abandoned buildings. No, really.

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.

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.

February 20, 2013

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MLB Teams Who Made a Splash This Offseason

By: Matt Bowen

Baseball fans, it may seem like we’re in the doldrums of winter, but the 2013 MLB season is now just a few short weeks away.

Fans should be packing the Rogers Centre to see the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays.

With pitchers and catchers reporting across the league recently, general excitement is beginning to brew within diehard fans yearning for the boys of summer. Spring training is set to get into full swing later this week and don’t be fooled, Opening Day is April 1.

While there is a laundry list of topics to talk about regarding the upcoming season, this article is dedicated to the teams who made a big splash this offseason. With key additions to their rosters, these teams have created positive momentum, reinvigorated their fan base and have a bright future ahead of them.

Each of these teams now expect to make the playoffs, don’t be surprised when they shake up the standings and reach their goal.

The Cleveland Indians Saved Themselves from Further Disappointment

The Cleveland Indians have finished no better than an even .500 every year since 2007. Just when fans thought they were in for another decade of futility, the front office did everything right this offseason.

First, they completed a three-team trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondacks. What the Indians got in the deal was outfielder Drew Stubbs, who needed a change of scenery and a young pitcher named Trevor Bauer, who will someday be their No. 1. Bauer was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft and has all the attributes a franchise could want in an ace.

The front office also made some noise via free agency when the inked prized outfield Michael Bourn just a few weeks ago. Bourn was highly coveted heading into the offseason but was lost in the shuffle. What he brings to the Indians is an Opening Day leadoff man, superior defense and ridiculous speed on the base paths.

The organization did themselves a world of good with the moves they made this offseason. The Indians could be real spoilers come late season.

The Atlanta Braves Have a Pair of New Faces Fans Will Love

The Atlanta Braves made a plethora of moves in the offseason, highlighted with the acquisition of both B.J. and Justin Upton.

Sure, the likes of pitcher Tommy Hanson and super-utility sensation Martin Prado may be out, but the Upton brothers are two of the best in the league.

It can easily be argued that younger brother Justin is better than B.J., but Justin’s presence will push B.J. to reach his full potential. It was the acquisition of B.J. that led the Braves to not chase after free agent Michael Bourn. Now, the sky is the limit for the insanely talented pair of brothers.

The Braves have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball and with all the offensive weapons they now have, anything short of a deep playoff run will be considered a failure.

Don’t Forget About the Philadelphia Phillies

Ask any Phillies fan and they’ll tell you that a .500 finish to the 2012 season was a major disappointment.

Not wanting to repeat, the Phillies front office went on the offensive this offseason and once again made the Phillies feared.

A trio of new Phillies has made them a contender in 2013. Although Delmon Young is a liability in the outfield and will start the season on the DL, he’s pure gold in the playoffs. Another outfield addition that will pay dividends is Ben Revere, who was brought over via trade. He’s young, can hit for average and is an automatic threat on the bases. Phillies fans will fall in love with him quickly.

The biggest move they made was for infielder Michael Young, who may be 36 years old, but is a .301 career hitter and brings that veteran presence to a team that needs some added focus.

A bonus, reliever Mike Adams is dominant and will bolster the back end.

Although it may seem that they are an afterthought, the Phillies will be primetime contenders for the World Series this season.

The Toronto Blue Jays Simply Dominated this Offseason

There’s no doubt that the AL East has been the toughest division in baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays felt the pressure to compete and made a splash so big they emptied the pool this winter.

Where to begin?

Well, 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey is now a Blue Jay.

Also, former Miami Marlins players Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and John Buck are now all Blue Jays. This was a blockbuster trade that MLB fans live for. Yes, the Blue Jays took on a ridiculous amount of money, but they instantly made themselves favorites.

They also added Melky Cabrera, who may be guilty of using banned substances, but is still an above-average baseball player.

If this roster doesn’t bring fans flocking to their games, then I don’t know what will. They have an All-Star team all by themselves. If Toronto comes to town, do yourself the pleasure and buy a ticket.

On paper, they’re World Series favorites.

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.