January 24, 2014

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Hat Tip to the New York Yankees

By: Matt Bowen

The New York Yankees are back to their old ways. Never mind that Super Bowl Sunday has yet to happen and we’re in the heart of a bitter winter, the Yanks are making a splash this MLB offseason.

Just when fans may have thought the franchise was going into a period of dark ages, think again. The Yankees are the most iconic team in sports history—they win often. With 27 World Series rings to date many have grown too loath the “Evil Empire” but one can’t help but respect them.

Yankee Stadium

Will the Yankees be contenders in 2014?

They last won it all in 2009 and with the passing of legendary owner George Steinbrenner in 2010. Steinbrenner was infamous for going out and acquiring any player he deemed fit to don the famous pinstripes, many times with a hefty payday. Since 2008 when the team spent a massive $441 million during the offseason in free agency, the team only spent a total of $227.8 million combined.

It seemed as if the Yankees have tightened the reins on the checkbook since “The Boss” passed onto baseball heaven.

The team let second baseman Robinson Cano walk via free agency this offseason and head west to the Seattle Mariners. The going price for Cano was only a cool $240 million. Wait. Those were the contracts the Yankees used to acquire and suddenly they were passing.

Was their new philosophy to build from within?

Suddenly baseball fans everywhere began to debate if the Yankees were in decline without Steinbrenner’s robust leadership.

Had they’re buying power lost its punch? Had the Yankees lost their appeal?

Think again.

This offseason, the team has once again emptied its pockets.

But why would the team go back to spending so much?

The answer is simple—they’re the New York Yankees. The have a reputation to maintain.

Since 2010 the Yankees have won 95, 97, 95, and 85 games, respectively.

Many MLB teams may consider 85 wins, the Yankees’ amount in 2013, an acceptable season. Not the Yanks. Couple that with the fact that the despised Boston Red Sox won their third World Series since 2004 and the Yankees had to make a splash this offseason.

Mission accomplished.

Yes, they lost Cano, but they acquired free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka.

Correct—there’s a disturbance in the force. The Yankees have once again drawn a line in the proverbial sand and let it be known that they are the team to beat. Many teams had their hat in the ring for the Tanaka sweepstakes yet the Yankees came out king of the mountain.

Their star-studded lineup is shining a bit brighter at the moment. It’s been proven in sports that money doesn’t always buy championships, but the Yankees have definitely bought themselves some momentum heading into the 2014 MLB season. It may have cost the Yankees $491 million this winter but winning it all is simply priceless.

For better or worse balance has been restored in baseball. Hat tip to the Yankees for being so special.

January 2, 2014

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Remembering 2013

By: Joe Williams

Another year has come to and end. The final BCS Championship Game is a few days away, the NFL playoffs are about to begin and 2014 predictions are on the way. But first let’s take one last look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the year that was 2013. (We’ll focus on the good.)

The Good

Super Bowl XLVII
It was one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever for many reasons…the 34-minute delay because the power went out, two brothers coaching against each other, the final game for Ray Lewis and a furious rally that fell seven yards short for the 49ers.

Super Bowl

Jacoby Jones' 2nd Half KR touchdown helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl.

The Masters
Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera both birdied the 18th hole on Sunday to get into a sudden-death playoff with Scott winning with a birdie on the second extra hole.

The British Open
Phil Mickelson finally won the major championship that nobody thought he would win and he did it with a final round 66 that included four birdies in the last six holes. He called it one of the greatest rounds of his career.

Auburn’s back-to-back miracles
The Tigers didn’t even receive a vote in the AP poll until week four and didn’t make the top 25 until week eight. But they kept climbing and the momentum kept building, culminating in November with a miraculus 43-38 win over Georgia thanks to a tipped pass that turned into a 73-yard touchdown on 4th-and-18 with 25 seconds left. But that was nothing compared to the finish two weeks later in the Iron Bowl when Auburn ended Alabama’s undefeated season and national championship hopes with a 109-yard field goal return on the final play of the game.

Megatron
Calvin Johnson out-gains the Dallas Cowboys by himself with 329 yards receiving as the Detroit Lions stun the Cowboys 31-30.

World Series
The Red Sox pulled off an unlikely run to a championship, beating the Cardinals in six games. This series will be one to remember because of two games that ended in bizarre ways. The Cardinals won Game 3 after an obstruction call at third base allowed the winning run to score, negating what appeared to be two outs at home plate on the same play that would have sent the game into extra innings. Then in In Game 4, Boston won 4-2 when Koji Uehara picked off Kolten Wong at first base for the final out with Carlos Beltran at the plate.

Burke’s big shot
Trey Burke hit a 30-footer to force overtime against No. 1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16. Michigan would go on to play for the national championship, but come up short against Louisville.

Allen’s even bigger shot
The Miami Heat were just a few seconds away from losing Game 6 and the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs. That is, until Ray Allen hit a step-back despairation three to tie the game with just five seconds to play. The Heat would go on to win the game in overtime and the championship in Game 7.

Peyton is the Man
Peyton Manning’s 2013 started off poorly with a stunning overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But he returned with a vengeance in September, putting together the greatest season a quarterback has ever had. He’s led the Broncos to the No. 1 seed in the playoffs while breaking the single-season record for passing yards and touchdowns.

The Bad

Bombing at the Boston Marathon.

Kobe Bryant tears his Achilles tendon, returns for six games and then fractures his knee.

Officiating (2013 had its share of controversial endings and calls)

Derrick Rose sits out an entire season, returns for 10 games and then hurts the other knee.

The Ugly

Alex Rodriguez vs MLB

Tiger Woods penalty controversies.

Denver Broncos lose Elvis Dumervil after fax machine screw up.

NBA Commissioner David Stern continually booed by crowd during his final NBA Draft.

Dwight Howard leaves Lakers.

Lance Armstrong finally admits cheating.

Manti Te’o gets pranked.

Tebowmania comes to an end.

That’s what I’m going to remember about 2013. What about you? Did I miss anything?

November 6, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Boston wins World Series: The Boston Red Sox claimed their third World Series title in only ten years with a 4-2 series win over the St. Louis Cardinals. The big story of the series was easily David Ortiz. The slugger hit two home runs in the six games and had a whopping .688 batting average. Since nearly being left for dead after he batted .264 in 2008 with a modest 23 home runs, Big Papi has had some kind of resurgence. He batted only .238 the following season, but still hit 28 home runs. Ortiz has rebounded nicely and is hitting for average again, batting over .300 in each of the past three years. He’s 37, but still looks like he has plenty left in the tank.

Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are World Series Champs!

NBA season tips off: The NBA season officially got underway on Tuesday with a triple header. The Lakers and Pacers both came out on top, but it was the Miami Heat that won the marquee game as they defeated the Chicago Bulls 107-95, despite 31 points from Carlos Boozer and the return of Derrick Rose.

Florida State tops Miami: In a game of unbeatens, Florida State defeated Miami in a rout, 41-14 on Saturday. The loss for Miami was even more deflating after the team received news that star running back Duke Johnson sustained a broken ankle during the game and will be out for the season. The win was the second big win over a top ten team for the Seminoles, who knocked off Clemson 51-14 a few weeks ago. Despite sitting behind unbeaten Alabama and Oregon, Florida State is starting to gain some recognition and  even picked up six No. 1 votes in this week’s Associated Press poll. If the season ends with three unbeaten teams it will be a true shame since we’re only one season away from the college football playoff being implemented.

Shuffleboard: So, the World Shuffleboard Championships are actually a thing? Seems legit.

Brad Ausmus new Tigers’ manager: After Jim Leyland retired as manager of the Detroit Tigers, the franchise didn’t waste much time in naming a replacement. Brad Ausmus, a former major league catcher, got the nod and will take over for the team starting next season. The pick of Ausmus was a questionable one considering he’s never been a big league manager … or even a minor league one for that matter. Detroit interviewed other qualified candidates including bench coaches Lloyd McClendon, Rick Renteria, and Tim Wallach, but Ausmus was the final pick. The gig is a good one to be sure with a starting rotation that features Justin Verlander and an offense with perhaps the game’s best player in Miguel Cabrera.  Because of that, you can bet that big things will be expected out of Ausmus as he takes over a team capable of winning a World Series.

NHL All-Star Game coming to Columbus: The Columbus Blue Jackets will host the NHL’s All-Star Game in January 2015. The franchise was actually awarded the 2013 game, but the NHL lockout that season eliminated the game. The announcement was made during first period of Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kentucky tops AP poll: As expected, a few weeks after topping the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Kentucky Wildcats also tallied the most first-place votes to lead the AP poll. The Wildcats received 27 of a possible 65 first-place votes and were followed by No. 2 Michigan State (22 first-place votes) and defending champion Louisville (14).

Derek Jeter gets new deal: The New York Yankees made sure shortstop Derek Jeter remained in pinstripes for another year, re-signing him for $12 million for next season. The large salary is clearly a bit of a nod to what Jeter did in the past as he had a disastrous 2013 season. After playing in only 17 games with an ankle injury keeping him out most of the season, Jeter batted only .190 on the season with one home run. Surely it’s not fair to judge him based on his numbers last year, but there’s no guarantee that he’s able to earn that  $12 million, too. To be fair, Jeter had a strong 2012 when he collected 216 hits and batted .316, but he’ll also be two years removed that by next season.  The Yankees, unfortunately, had little option but to pay him handsomely since allowing him to play for another team could have resulted in significant fan backlash.

Walt Bellamy dies: For the second week in a row, the NBA lost one of its legendary players. Two weeks ago, it was former Celtics star Bill Sharman that died. Last week, center Walt Bellamy passed away. In 14 seasons, Bellamy proved to be one of the league’s all-time greats at center, averaging 20 points and 14 rebounds per game. He played for a slew of teams including the Chicago Packers, Baltimore Bullets, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, New Orleans Jazz, and Detroit Pistons. Bellamy had one of the most decorated careers of all time as a Hall of Famer, Rookie of the Year, top overall draft pick, and Olympic gold medalist.

October 28, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Brett Favre stays retired: An interesting story this week came out of St. Louis where it was reported that the Rams offered a job to retired quarterback Brett Favre. With starter Sam Bradford suffering a season-ending ACL injury, the Rams checked to see if Favre would be interested in making yet another comeback. The future Hall of Famer declined, though, deciding to stay out of football. While it might have been fun for us to see if Favre could still play, the move was the right one. Favre has already been the numerous butt of jokes for his on again off again relationship with the NFL. But more importantly, the quarterback hasn’t played since 2010 and can’t possibly be ready to step in for a team right now. Favre likely would have turned down any gig, but the icing on the cake for his decision was probably the Rams’ last-place standing in the NFC West. St. Louis doesn’t look like a playoff team and you can bet that Favre wanted no part of the grueling NFL season without a chance to win another title.

Could Larry Fitzgerald be playing for someone other than the Cardinals this season?

The World Series: The World Series is all tied up as the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox have each won two games. The big story has been all of the talk surrounding Game 3 where the Cardinals won on an obstruction call when it was ruled the Sox’ Will Middlebrooks prevented the Cardinals’ Allen Craig from trying to score from third. The rule is a complicated one and it’s still being hotly debated if it was the right call since the source of the obstruction was when Middlebrooks was diving for a ball and really had nowhere else to go. One thing’s clear, though – if the call was indeed the right one, Boston fans upset that the rule shouldn’t be enforced there are off base. The rule is the rule and it shouldn’t be changed simply because it affected a World Series game.

Kansas City Chiefs still undefeated: We’re now halfway through the NFL season and after a 23-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns this week, the Kansas City Chiefs are still unbeaten at 8-0. Kansas City has had a remarkable season, but it’s still hard to believe that they would be the favorite to reach the Super Bowl. At 7-1, the Denver Broncos have a blemish on their record and are technically behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. Despite that, though, it’s hard to imagine folks lining up to bet against Peyton Manning and that offense if the two teams squared off in a game.

Alabama plays hardball with football fans: The Alabama Crimson Tide are building a small dynasty in college football and their tickets are understandably a hot item. So when some students left blowout games early, the administration was none too pleased. Head coach Nick Saban started things off by openly criticizing those that left, but the real hammer dropped when the school revoked the seats of the student organizations in a certain block of the stadium. That may sound harsh, but the school’s guidelines for having tickets actually state that early departures from games is unacceptable behavior.

Greg Oden returns: Big man Greg Oden returned to action in the NBA after missing the past several seasons with injuries. Oden made his return with the Miami Heat and suited up for the team on Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. He only played four minutes since the team is trying to work him into the rotation at a reasonable rate after missing so much time, but he scored a bucket and hauled in two rebounds. Oden also had two turnovers and two quick fouls, but to see him back on the court was a welcome sight.

Larry Fitzgerald trade in the works?: ESPN reported this week that Larry Fitzgerald could be traded this offseason if not by this week’s NFL trade deadline as the move would save the Arizona Cardinals approximately $8 million. Fitz has been one of the league’s best wide receivers and this past weekend, he became the youngest receiver in NFL history to record 800 catches. Fitzgerald has been something to watch since he burst onto the scene. And the thing to remember is that his numbers would be even more astonishing if he had played with better quarterbacks over the course of his career.

Tim Lincecum signs new deal with Giants: Tim Lincecum hasn’t quite been himself over the past couple of seasons, but the Giants showed tremendous faith in their former ace by signing him to a two-year $35 million deal last week. That kind of money is substantial for a pitcher that was only 10-14 with a 4.37 ERA last year – particularly when you consider it was on the heels of a 2012 season when he was even worse, going 10-15 with an ERA of 5.18. At only 29, there’s still plenty of time for Lincecum to return to his Cy Young form. But San Francisco is still taking a sizeable gamble that he will be able to turn it around with that kind of money, though.

Basketball legend Bill Sharman dies: Former Boston Celtics star Bill Sharman passed away last week at the age of 87. Sharman was a Hall of Famer and also named as one of the NBA’s top 50 players of all time during the league’s 50th anniversary. You hear the term ‘lifer’ thrown around quite a bit, but Sharman was one of those guys where it was truly applicable. Sharman was a player from 1950 – 1961 and then went into coaching from 1966 – 1976. After coaching, he wrote two books on the sport and also was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers front office.

October 23, 2013

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Bold World Series Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

With the 2013 World Series getting underway between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox a bittersweet sensation fills the mind, body and baseball spirit. On one hand, the season will finally have a champion. Eight months after pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, the final champion in this season’s history book will conclude. The anticipation will be over. On the other hand a different level of anxiety sets in—what’s one to do without baseball for the winter months?

Fenway Park will play host to Game 1 of the 2013 World Series

While we may not have an answer for that question, let’s enjoy baseball while we can. In the end, the two best teams made it to the game’s ultimate stage—this hasn’t happened since 1995. Neither was upset in the earlier rounds and fans are in for a treat. Here are some bold predictions for the Fall Classic.

Jonny Gomes Will Be the Game 1 Hero in the 10th Inning

Every World Series has an unsung hero that forever etches his name in stone. Jonny Gomes will waste little time this year when he wins the game for the Bo Sox in the 10th inning of Game 1. Whether you want to admit it or not, this game will be slow out of the gates. Nerves, a three/four day layoff, quality pitching and cold October temperatures will have the bats quiet through much of the game.

With Xander Bogaerts pinch running for Jared Saltalamacchia, Gomes will shoot a single to the right field corner. Bogaerts will barely beat out the throw from Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran. Pandemonium will then ensue in Bean Town. Final score, 2-1.

Rookie Michael Wacha Will Go 8 Strong Innings in Game 2

The Cardinals starting rotation is wise beyond their years. Rookie Michael Wacha is no different. All he’s done this post season is go 3-0 with a .43 ERA over 21 innings. During that time he’s fanned 22 batters, with four walks and only eight hits.

Wacha has proved to be cold blooded and he’ll frustrate Red Sox all night long. He’ll be aided by the return of first baseman Allen Craig, who’s been sidelined with injury since September 4. Despite the absence, he still led the team with 97 RBI this season.  Craig will have three RBI in Game 2 and the Cards will win easily, 6-2. Wacha will only thicken is legacy.

The Series is Destined for 7 Games

These two teams were the best at the plate in 2013, have strong starting staffs and have shut down bullpens. Face it, something has to give, but not until Game 7. Both have rookie managers in St. Louis’ Mike Matheny and Boston’s John Farrell. It’ll be a seesaw battle that will have the ebbs and flows of a classic Halloween thriller. Fans will be glued to their seat from beginning to end and will be reminded of why baseball is engrained in our souls as something pure and comforting. No one will want this one to end.

In the End, the Cardinals Take It

With Adam Wainwright on the mound in Game 7 in Boston the Cardinals will win it all. Not very often does a sports franchise have the amount of success St. Louis has indulged the past decade. Look, the Red Sox are a great team and have certainly pulled a 180 from their 2012 campaign, but there’s something magical about the Cardinals.

No matter who dons the two birds and a bat uniform they seem to perform at the highest of levels.  They seemingly can do no wrong. This series will be one of the all-time greats and in the end St. Louis will own the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Carlos Beltran Will Win World Series MVP

It’s almost easy to forget how good Carlos Beltran is. Even at 36 years old he batted .296 this season. In 11 postseason games this season he has 12 RBI and eight walks.

Beltran knows this may be his only shot at winning it all. Despite 45 career postseason games, he’s never played in the showcase. Now is his time and he will rise to the occasion. A crucial game-winning hit in Game 5 will propel his team closer to the prize.

Expect three homers, eight RBI and one MVP trophy at the end.