March 3, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Masahiro Tanaka debuts with Yankees: The New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka had a strong debut for the team in Spring Training. Pitching two scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tanaka struck out three batters allowing only two singles. The $155 million man also did not allow a walk and while it’s only Spring Training, he at least looked the part of a potential ace in his brief debut. Investing so much money in him, the Yankees need Tanaka to pay off handsomely and help the team to the postseason.

Allen Iverson

The Philadelphia 76ers retired Allen Iverson's number over the weekend.

Allen Iverson’s jersey retired: Allen Iverson’s NBA career ended after the 2009-10 season and the Philadelphia 76ers point guard had his jersey retired by the franchise last week. Iverson was one of the best players in his generation and the honor was well deserved. He was an 11-time All-Star, Most Valuable Player Award winner, two-time All-Star Game MVP, and he led the 76ers to an NBA Finals appearance. The guard topped 30 points per game in four different seasons in Philadelphia and was one of the franchise’s best scorers.

Richard Petty challenges Danica Patrick to race: Iconic race car driver Richard Petty made headlines recently when he said that the only way Danica Patrick could win a NASCAR race was if other drivers stayed home. Petty, though, took things a step further saying he could beat Danica in a race – today. He hasn’t raced in more than 20 years but said he would take the challenge of racing her. Regardless of who would actually win, Petty just comes off looking a bit foolish in all of this. Nearly 80 years old now, he’s essentially challenged Patrick to a head-to-head race to prove he’s a better driver. If it ever happened, I’d stand in line to tune in. Petty, though, just comes off as looking like a bully picking a fight simply for the sake of doing so – and he’d lose.

NBA Draft change could be on the horizon: New NBA commissioner Adam Silver is throwing around some ideas for potential changes in the league. One such alteration could be the way players are drafted. Silver is reportedly considering a move that would give the top pick to all 30 teams in a rotation format. Under the current format, the worst teams are thrown into a lottery and given the top selections. The idea, while intriguing, is simply too flawed. Not only could players adjust their entry points into the league by staying in college shorter or longer in order to be picked by the team they would prefer to play for, but it also would allow the best teams to widen the gap and become even more dominant. The Lottery isn’t a perfect system since franchises often can tank to secure a better chance at a higher pick, but it’s a better solution than giving the best teams top spots. Just imagine a stacked Miami Heat team getting the No. 1 overall selection this year, for example.

Wichita State finishes regular season undefeated: The Wichita State Shockerscollege basketball team finished their regular season undefeated. The team had some close calls along the way, including a three-point overtime win against Missouri State, but have mostly won their games comfortably. The 31-0 Shockers are a good team, but it’s hard to be completely sold on them as an elite one. The Shockers don’t have a single Top 25 win to their credit and even the major-conference foes they’ve faced, Alabama and Tennessee, aren’t having great years. Finishing undefeated with any schedule is a supreme achievement but Wichita State remains largely untested at this point.

Blues land Ryan Miller: The St. Louis Blues swung a deal with the Buffalo Sabres for star goaltender Ryan Miller last week. Miller and Steve Ott head to the Blues in exchange for a package, including Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier and two draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2015. That seems like a lot to give up and on the surface, but Miller could turn the Blues’ title hopes into reality. Only time will tell if the deal was a good one, though. His 2.70 goals against average ranks only 28th in the NHL and while his .923 save percentage is good for tenth, he also hasn’t recorded even a shutout all year. Still, as Buffalo’s franchise leader in wins and a former Vezina Trophy winner, Miller still has a reputation of a top goalie.

Basketball court storming fiasco: A college basketball game ended with a court storm … and then a brawl.

Ryan Braun homers in first Spring Training at bat: Following his suspension for his violation of drug use by Major League Baseball, it’s safe to say that Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun wants to prove some doubters wrong. He got off to a good start with a home run in his first at bat in his first game back in a Spring Training game. Braun has a difficult road ahead and will never win back all of his fans, but he can put a lot of the negative talk behind him by having a big season. Winning cures a lot of ills and if Braun helps the Brewers do that, the majority of the team’s fans will welcome him back.

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.

September 18, 2013

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Paying Homage to Mariano Rivera

By: Matt Bowen

A sad day is upon us—as the 2013 MLB season nears to a close New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will officially retire from baseball.

Mariano Rivera will retire after the 2013 MLB season.

Rivera has been transcendent throughout his 19-year MLB career because of arguably the most devastating pitch in baseball history—his cutter. It’s not easy to be an MLB closer.  Like a kicker in the NFL, a few blown chances will equal unemployment.  Rivera is different, a rare breed. He’s the best in the business past, present, and foreseeable future.

This fact may be a hard pill to swallow for baseball fans who love to hate the Yankees, but respecting Rivera, especially as he gracefully bows out of the game is imperative. In fact, every team he’s faced this year for the final time sent him off with a gift as a sign of respect—multiple teams donated to his charity, but others had interesting gifts.

The Minnesota Twins poked fun at the 43-year-old righty by giving him a rocking chair made out of broken bats. The Tampa Bay Rays crafted a unique sand sculpture with Rivera’s nickname, “The Sandman.” The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, an oil painting of him, the San Diego Padres, a beach cruiser. One team takes the cake in the gift department though and it’s none other than the Yankees most despicable rival, the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox were classy and gifted the No. 42 from the manual scoreboard in historic Fenway Park.  This has sentimental value for all of baseball. You see, the No. 42 was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997 to show respect to Jackie Robinson on the 50th anniversary of his integration into the big leagues. Being grandfathered into the number, Rivera is the only player still wearing No. 42. When he’s gone, it’s gone.

The number is not all that will be gone on September 29 in Houston when the Yankees close out the season against the Astros. The best closer of all time will be undoubtedly closing the game whether the Yankees are in a save situation or not.

Gone will be the oldest active player in the game. Gone will be “The Sandman”, a five-time World Series champion whose 651 career saves are a remarkable 50 higher than former Padres shutdown man, Trevor Hoffman.

Compared to active players, Joe Nathan of the Texas Rangers is the next closest on the list with 337 career saves. Considering Nathan is 38 years old, it’s safe to say that he won’t be surpassing Rivera on the all-time lists anytime soon.

In fact, there’s only one active player who may give the record a run for its money. That player is Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves. At only 25 years old, Kimbrel already has 136 saves under his belt. A fun fact about Rivera—he didn’t break into the majors until he was 25. Even with a four year head start Kimbrel would have to average 27+ saves/year for the next 19 years to eclipse the untouchable one. That’s easier said than done, especially because such longevity is hard to fathom.

Rivera has been around so long because of his deadly cut-fastball. One pitch has afforded him an iconic career in pinstripes.

Gone will be the greatest of all time.

June 18, 2013

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MLB Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

There is another month of baseball to play before the MLB All-Star break so we should know who is good and who isn’t at this point, but I’ll bet there isn’t anyone out there who would have guessed that the best teams during the month of June would be Kansas City, Toronto, San Diego and Oakland. Meanwhile, teams like the Yankees, Rangers and Dodgers are struggling. Where will that leave those teams in today’s power rankings?

The Cardinals can celebrate being at the top of our latest MLB Power Rankings.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (44-25): As a Cubs fan, you never want to see the Cardinals at the top of the list but there’s no denying they have the best record in baseball and are +102 in run differential.

2. Atlanta Braves (41-28): The Braves hold the biggest lead of any division leaders at 6.5 games over Washington.

3. Cincinnati Reds (42-28): If the Reds were in any other division, they’d be in first place.

4. Oakland A’s (42-29): The A’s have made a huge jump from the 15 spot a month ago. That’s what an 18-7 record will do for you.

5. Boston Red Sox (42-29): Boston leads the majors in runs scored with 363.

6. Texas Rangers (38-31): Just like the end of last season, the Rangers have been caught by Oakland.

7. Detroit Tigers (38-29): Right now just Chris Davis is standing between Miguel Cabrera and a repeat triple crown.

8. Baltimore Orioles (40-30): Baltimore has quietly taken the lead in the wild card race and pulled within just 1.5 games of Boston.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks (37-32): I don’t think anyone expected the Diamondbacks to be leading the NL West at this point.

10. Pittsburgh Pirates (41-28): Forget about finishing over .500…the Pirates are on pace to finish close to .600.

11. New York Yankees (38-31): Could this be the beginning of the end for the Yankees. They’ve lost ground in the AL East and wild card races.

12. Colorado Rockies (37-33): Gonzalez and Tulowitzki have lead the Rockies into the race. The pitching will need to improve to stay in it to the end.

13. San Diego Padres (36-34): Seven straight wins will and the Padres are back in the hunt after a 2-10 to the season.

14. Tampa Bay Rays (36-33): Wil Myers has been called up. Now let’s see what he can do.

15. Kansas City Royals (34-34): The Royals have been the best team in baseball, going 12-4 in June.

16. Washington Nationals (34-35): It’s turning into a disappointing season in the capital. The Nats better get back on track soon or it will be too late.

17. Cleveland Indians (34-35): Here’s a team that has really cooled off and is just 5-10 in June.

18. San Francisco Giants (35-34): The Giants will have to do better than 14-22 on the road if they want to defend their title.

19. Toronto Blue Jays (33-36): The Jays have six wins in a row and are climbing out of a big hole.

20. Philadelphia Phillies (34-37): The Phillies are second in the majors in quality starts but don’t have much to show for it.

21. Minnesota Twins (30-36): The Twins are near the bottom in just about every pitching category. Not good.

22. LA Dodgers (29-39): Talk about a wasted season…nobody is farther away from next-to-last in their division than the Dodgers.

23. LA Angels (31-39): Here is another team that was supposed to contend and has let their fans down.

24. Milwaukee Brewers (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Cubs for last place in the NL Central.

25. Chicago Cubs (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Brewers for last place in the NL Central.

26. Seattle Mariners (31-40): King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are lights out pitchers right now. They aren’t getting much help though.

27. Chicago White Sox (29-38): It looks like it will be a tight race for worst team in Chicago.

28. New York Mets (25-40): The Mets are making a strong run towards the worst record in baseball with a 3-10 start in June.

29. Houston Astros (26-45): An 8-8 record so far this month is a big improvement for the AL West newcomers.

30. Miami Marlins (22-47): The Marlins are playing better, posting an 8-6 record so far this month.

May 21, 2013

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MLB Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

Now that we’ve made it a quarter of the way through the MLB season we know a few things we thought at the start of the season are right (Texas is good, Houston is not) and a few are wrong (Boston is good, the Dodgers are not). So it’s time for the first power ranking post of the season.

After losing six in a row, the Orioles have fallen close to the middle of the pack.

1. Texas Rangers (29-16): It sure looks like they picked the right time to lets Josh Hamilton leave town.

2. Atlanta Braves (26-18): One Upton brother has been their best player, while the other has been their worst.

3. Boston Red Sox (27-18): Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are a combined 12-1 so far.

4. St. Louis Cardinals (28-16): The Cards lead the majors in ERA.

5. Cincinnati Reds (27-18): The Reds are 16-6 at home, the best record in the majors.

6. Cleveland Indians (26-17): Five straight wins and 8-2 in the last 10 makes the Tribe the hottest team in baseball.

7. New York Yankees (28-16): Who would have thought they would be in first place without all of their injured stars?

8. Detroit Tigers (23-19): The Tigers have scored 20 more runs than their opponents this month but are just 8-9 to show for it.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates (26-18): Forget about finishing over .500…the Pirates are on pace to finish close to .600.

10. Arizona Diamondbacks (26-19): I don’t think anyone expected the Diamondbacks to be leading the NL West at this point.

11. Colorado Rockies (24-21): The Rockies are leading the majors in runs scored with 222.

12. Tampa Bay Rays (23-21): Reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price has be awful, but Matt Moore (8-0) is filling the void nicely.

13. San Francisco Giants (25-20): The defending champs are known for their pitching but their batting average ranks second in baseball.

14. Baltimore Orioles (23-21): Six straight losses have the Orioles five games behind the Yankees.

15. Oakland A’s (24-22): The A’s are 24th in batting average, but 9th in getting on base. Why? They lead the majors in walks with 187.

16. Washington Nationals (23-22): Anybody know what’s going on with Strasburg? He’s been offered to me in my fantasy league and I just can’t decide.

17. Kansas City Royals (20-21): After a hot April (14-10) the Royals have cooled off.

18. San Diego Padres (21-23): San Diego has recovered from a 2-10 start. Can they keep it up?

19. Philadelphia Phillies (21-24): Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay are 7-13 combined. Ouch.

20. Seattle Mariners (20-25): King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are lights out pitchers right now. They aren’t getting much help though.

21. Chicago Cubs (18-25): Matt Garza is finally back….and the Cubs need him to be great.

22. Chicago White Sox (20-23): Paul Konerko, Jeff Keppinger and Adam Dunn are hitting .220, .199 and .172. They’ll keep losing if that doesn’t improve.

23. Minnesota Twins (18-23): After losing eight of the last ten, the Twins are in the AL Central cellar.

24. LA Angels (17-27): Here is the first of three teams battling it out for most disappointing team of the season.

25. New York Mets (17-25): Where would this team be without Matt Harvey?

26. Milwaukee Brewers (17-26): With the Astros moved to the American League, the Brewers are in danger of being the worst team in the NL Central.

27. Toronto Blue Jays (18-26): Toronto tried to fight fire with fire by signing big name free agents but so far they are getting burned.

28. LA Dodgers (18-25): The Dodgers by far the most disappointing team in the National League and maybe in all of baseball.

29. Miami Marlins (13-32): The Marlins have scored just 122 runs and are last in the majors. They are also last in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

30. Houston Astros (13-32): The Astros have allowed a whopping 266 runs this season and are last in the majors. They are also last in ERA, quality starts and WHIP.