April 3, 2013

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Who’s better: Bryce Harper or Mike Trout?

By: Matt Bowen

Finally, spring has officially sprung as the 2013 MLB season is upon us. While there’s plenty to debate about in regards to the rest of the league, the main focus will be on Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

Bryce Harper started the season off with 2 Home Runs on Opening Day.

The two sophomore sensations are nothing short of miraculous as they helped reshape baseball forever last season. Their ridiculous display of athleticism and flare for the dramatic are simply astounding. Teams have long groomed their prized prospects until they’re deemed fit by outdated unwritten rules.

Now, thanks to Harper and Trout, many prospects will be brought up as early as 19 years old. They’ve changed the way GMs think, how fans act and how fantasy diehards draft.

One thing is for sure, the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have the center piece of their respected franchises for the next decade.

Baseball couldn’t ask for anything more from these young men in terms of proximity—what we have is a classic East vs. West battle, which ensures Major League Baseball that the entire country is engulfed in the debate.

So, who’s better?

Harper has been highly touted since he left high school early to play college ball. He was hitting homers out of major league ballparks before kids his age got their driver’s license.  The buzz surrounding his arrival at “The Show” reached a fever pitch. The Nationals couldn’t hold him back any longer as they wanted to cash in and put their best possible team on the field.

Harper didn’t disappoint as a rookie, but there’s room for improvement. Relax; before you jump out of your seat screaming, I’ll say it for you—he was only 19 last season. He hit a modest .270 last season with 22 home runs, which is nothing to scoff at from a kid who’s seen minimal big league pitching.

Things can only go up from here. Soon he’ll become comfortable filling in his big league shoes, become patient at the plate and learn the ropes of the outfield.

He started 2013 off with a bang as he hit two homers en route to a 2-0 Nationals win on Opening Day. To put his growing legacy into perspective, he received a standing ovation, at 20 years old, in the fourth inning. Whoa!

Trout is a year older than Harper but is currently viewed as the more well-rounded talent. Trout’s 49 stolen bases in 139 games in 2012 have him going No. 1 in many fantasy drafts, even ahead of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.  Oh, not to mention he hit .326 with 30 homers and 83 RBI.

For sake of this debate, Trout did get a cup of tea with the Angels toward the end of 2011. He hit .220 in 123 at-bats. On the other hand, Harper got 74 at-bats at AAA Syracuse before his call came last season.

Never mind his taste of the majors in 2011, Trout made the Angels immensely better and turned into an MVP candidate in 2012. He even has many thinking he’s the best player in baseball.

This is where Harper has the advantage this season—all the pressure is on Trout right now. It’s true that both players have big expectations to meet, but Trout has all eyes on him. With slightly less attention on him, Harper can easily slide safely back into the pole position amongst themselves.

So, who’s better? Who cares! They are both awesome. Watch them as much as you can. Appreciate them. They have revolutionized baseball and given us a new batch of stars to root for.

One last thing to ponder—the scary thought is that both of these boys have yet to fill out. We have to wait until they turn 25 years old before they’ll be “full grown.”

This is one debate fans will be having 50 years from now. And that is why we love this game.

January 15, 2013

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What I Will Remember About 2012 – Part 2

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

To read part one, click here.

July 23 – Penn State became the first school to receive NCAA sanctions because of criminal matters that did not directly deal with breaking NCAA rules. The penalties included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play, a reduction of scholarships for the next four years and the vacating of all victories from 1998-2011.

July 31 – Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.

July 31 – The Fierce Five, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, won gold at the London Olympic Games.

August 2 – Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around competition.

August 5 – Andy Murray bounces back from losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final to beat Federer and win the gold medal in front of his home country. He broke through again a month later, winning his first major title at the U.S. Open.

Miguel Cabrera winning baseball's Triple Crown is one of the biggest stories of 2012.

August 9 – Usain Bolt made his claim as the greatest sprinter ever by becoming the first man ever to defend his golds in both the 100m and 200m races.

August 9 – Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and the U.S. women’s soccer team won Olympic gold after a controversial semifinal against Canada and then getting revenge against Japan in the final after the shootout that ended the Women’s World Cup in 2011.

August 10 – The “Dwightmare” finally came to an end when Dwight Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers after months and months of indecision about where he wanted to play and who he wanted to play with.

August 12 – Rory McIlroy wins the PGA Championship. He would follow that with two more wins heading into the Tour Championship and cement himself as the top player in the game.

August 15 – Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Rays and the Mariners won 1-0.

September 7 – In the midst of a pennant race and against his wishes, the Washington Nationals shut down their superstar pitcher Stephan Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings. The Nationals would go on to win the NL East and then lose in the NLDS in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

September 15 – The NHL labor dispute officially becomes a lockout.

September 24 – The Replacement refs fiasco came to a head on the final play of the Green Bay/Seattle Monday Night Football game. When the officials turned what sure looked to be an interception and a Green Bay win into a touchdown and a Seattle win, the NFL had no choice to settle the dispute with the regular officials.

September 30 – Team U.S.A. chokes the Ryder Cup away, blowing a 10-6 lead on the final day at Medinah. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter led the charge for Europe while Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk dropped critical 1-Up matches. The comeback almost didn’t happen when Rory McIlroy looked at his tee time in Eastern Time instead of Central time and needed a police escort to arrive at the course with just 10 minutes to spare.

October 3 – Miguel Cabrera goes 0-2 in the Detroit Tigers’ 1-0 win over Kansas City in the regular season finale but still manages to be the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, finishing the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He would be name the American League MVP.

October 10 – New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulls Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS. Raul Ibanez took A-Rod’s place and homered to send the game to extra innings. Ibanez did it again in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees the win.

October 13 – Notre Dame comes up with a goal-line stand, stopping Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor on fourth-and-goal and then survives a controversial replay review to beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime to remain undefeated.

October 13 – The St. Louis Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals and advance to the NLCS.

October 15 – Trailing 24-0 at halftime in San Diego and staring a 2-4 record in the face, the Denver Broncos score 35 unanswered second-half points to beat the Chargers 35-24 and improve to 3-3. They would not lose again in the regular season and finish with the best record in the AFC.

October 25 – Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series on his way to earning the World Series MVP award.

October 28 – The San Francisco Giants completed an improbable run to a second World Series win in two years and did it after trailing 2-0 in a best-of-5 series against Cincinnati and then falling behind 3-1 to St. Louis in the NLCS

November 10 – Texas A&M upsets No. 1 Alabama 29-24, led by its redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. It was a springboard for Manziel as he led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC, a win in the Cotton Bowl and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

November 17 – Undefeated Kansas State and Oregon both go down and lose their shot to play for the BCS National Championship. Baylor beat the Wildcats 52-24 and Stanford knocked off the Ducks 17-14 in overtime.

November 21 – Jack Taylor, guard at Grinnell College (Division III), scored an NCAA-record 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College.

November 22 – Two words…Butt Fumble.

December 1 – Georgia came up five yards short of scoring the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama hung on for a 32-28 win and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

December 8 – Appalachian State’s Brian Okam quickly became known for the worst free throw ever after a video of his miss went viral.

December 16 – Tom Brady leads the Patriots on a furious rally after falling behind 31-3 against the 49ers. After the game was tied at 34, San Francisco retook the lead and won 41-34.

December 30 – Adrian Peterson runs for 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers after already eclipsing 200 yards twice this season, but he came up a mere nine yards short of the single-season rushing record.

November 19, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

College football’s top two teams fall: On Saturday night, No. 1 Kansas State was rolled up by Baylor, 52-24. Not to be outdone, the nation’s second-ranked team, Oregon, lost to Stanford in overtime, 17-14. But other than Baylor and Stanford, the real winner in this is the only undefeated team capable of playing for the national championship – Notre Dame. A few weeks ago, with several unbeaten squads, the Irish were left out of the conversation in many talks about the title game. But now, Notre Dame is sitting pretty and if they can win their final game against USC, they should find their way into the BCS championship.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera was named AL MVP.

Baseball award winners announced: Major League Baseball dished out their awards for the 2012 season and Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey were named the American and National League Most Valuable Players. Mike Trout garnered some consideration for the AL award due to his insane WAR of 10.7, the highest since Barry Bonds’ 11.6 a decade ago in 2002. But in the end, he couldn’t compete with Cabrera’s triple crown and the voters got this one right. Trout put up some impressive numbers, but Cabrera did something that hasn’t happened in 45 years – ‘Nuff said.

Royce White facing strange predicament: The career of Houston Rockets’ rookie Royce White could be over before it even begins. White, reportedly dealing with a fear of flying, has yet to play a game for the Rockets and he and the team are at odds. White is so adamant about his health concerns that he even broached the idea of retiring last week. The strange thing about all of this is that the Rockets drafted White even knowing about his condition, so it’s hard to understand their plight. Even though Houston hasn’t expressed an interest in trading him, dealing White to another team that might be more willing to work with him is probably the best for all involved.

Rutgers and Maryland Big Ten bound: NCAA expansion is far from over and the latest splash is that Rutgers and Maryland are headed to the Big Ten. The ACC is well-positioned in college football, but losing Rutgers is yet another blow to the Big East. The conference tried to continue its relevance by adding several more schools in the past year, but while that may work for the short term, Big East teams are still open to being poached. The bottom line is that despite more teams, the Big East is still fairly unstable.

Rory McIlroy misses cut; vows changes in ’13: The top-ranked golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, missed the cut in the Hong Kong Open. It’s the second time this year that he failed to make the weekend’s play in a tournament he won the previous year. McIlroy thinks he may have had too much going this season and says he’ll play in fewer events in 2013. That’s bad news for TV networks, golf tournaments, and fans, but is probably the right way to go. Less tournaments will hopefully result in less physical wear, but more importantly, mentally, McIlroy should be fresher as well if he’s doing less.

Andrew Bynum the bowler: All-Star center Andrew Bynum still has yet to play a game for his new team, the Philadelphia 76ers, after he was included in a multi-team swap that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum is a younger center with loads of potential, but his knee issues have kept him off the court all season so far. And this weekend, it was reported that Bynum suffered a setback from … bowling. No, seriously. If this is true, you can bet Philly fans won’t give him an easy time about it.

Hockey’s 2012 Hall of Fame class inducted: Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, and Adam Oates were all inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Predictably, the ceremony was overshadowed a bit by the NHL lockout. It’s a shame, too, because those were four of the most exciting players in hockey over the past few decades.

Baylor’s 42-game winning streak snapped: When the Baylor women’s basketball team lost to Stanford last week, it snapped the longest active winning streak in the sport. Lost in all of the hysteria, though, is that the Bears lost by only two points. Even with the loss, there’s no reason to write Baylor off as a title contender. And Brittney Griner set the women’s record for dunks in a career in the following game, so there’s that.

October 11, 2012

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Can the “Swingin’ A’s” Do the Unthinkable?

By: Matt Bowen

Major League Baseball has had many surprises this year; Mike Trout’s rookie season, the Washington Nationals winning the NL East, Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown, and of course, the prolific Oakland Athletics.

Can Oakland continue their hot streak all the way to the World Series?

Not only did the A’s shock the world and come from 13 games back to steal the AL West from the Texas Rangers on the final day of the season, they have a massive amount of swagger right now.

Originally two games down in their American League Divisional Series, the Athletics used a ninth inning rally in Game 4 to tie the series and send it to Game 5. Although they face Tigers ace Justin Verlander, they look like they can conquer anything right now.

Just how do they do it? It’s no secret GM Billy Beane is a mad scientist in his formulaic Moneyball approach to baseball. To put this in short; it doesn’t matter what your name is, if you can play a lick of baseball, Beane will find you, make you a member of the A’s and get the most out of you.

The A’s have one up-and-coming star in youngster Yoenis Cespedes and a cast of characters to fill the roster. They win with pitching and defense. They don’t win pretty, but they “just win baby.”

Their enthusiastic fans deserve credit for cheering with a fervor that is unmatched in baseball. If one were to simply listen, you may think you were at a soccer match rather than a baseball game. Their fans have fun and give baseball a vivacious feel where other parks may seem like libraries.

So, just how far can the Athletics go this season? They’ve proved that they can do anything and don’t put it past them to ride the lightning all the way to a World Series title. The have the most momentum of any team right now and the truth is, they believe.

The United States of America loves an underdog and on October 11, everyone in the country outside of Detroit will be rooting for them

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.