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Saturday, July 7, 2012

The MLB All Star Game Has it Right

Kansas City will play host to this year's mid summer classic
     With the MLB All Star Game three days away, it will once again be clear that this game is superior to all other all star games. The reason is simple; this all star game is the only one where something is up for grabs. Not only are the players playing to represent their respective leagues, but they are playing for home field advantage in the World Series. In the end, only a few players that played will actually benefit from the home field advantage, however in the moment each player on a contending team believes this is a factor in getting their team a championship.

A picture of players taking it easy in Hawaii at the relaxing Pro Bowl
     The NBA and NFL all star games do not have anything to play for. Let's start with the dreaded NFL Pro Bowl. I will give credit to Roger Goodell for moving the Pro Bowl a week before the Super Bowl rather than a week after, however it is still the worst all star game in sports. Not only is nothing up for grabs, but the players are not even trying. You would think putting star football players (not including the many who drop out) on the same field would be exciting, but it regularly disappoints and ends up looking like a flag football game down at the park. It should be noted the Pro Bowl cannot determine home field advantage as a different city hosts the Super Bowl each year, however something must be done to get people to watch the game in lieu of watching their grass grow. 

These two would not have those smiles on their face if this game meant something
     Now on to the NBA all star festivities. Compared to the Pro Bowl, the NBA All Star Game is much more exciting. Similar to the Home Run Derby, the NBA holds an exciting night before the actual all star game that includes the dunk and three point contests. Once the game gets under way however, the MLB once again reigns supreme. The NBA players are more competitive than NFL players at the Pro Bowl and the majority of the NBA's superstars play, but can you imagine these superstars playing in a game where home field advantage in the NBA finals was at stake? Just picture the drama of Kobe and LeBron going at each other to make sure they will have the easier road to another ring. The NBA All Star Game is certainly an exciting time for the fans and the league, but adding an extra incentive will make this game a must watch for any casual NBA fan.

     It is ironic that the sport most consider unwatchable, in baseball, ends up becoming the most drama filled all star game, while the sport most consider the most exciting, in football, has the most boring. As Roger Goodell and David Stern watch this year's MLB All Star Game, they should finally get the picture that a more meaningful game produces more excitement for the fans and more competitiveness between the players.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bold NFL Predictions

     It's only July, but training camp is right around the corner and I could not wait to share my bold predictions for the 2012-2013 NFL season.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III

Griffin has star potential in the NFL


     Griffin is the favorite to win the award and I would have to agree. Griffin will bring much needed excitement to the nation's capital. Some might argue Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks to come out of the draft in a long time and will therefore take the award. However, Griffin has the better team, although not saying much compared to the abysmal roster of the Indianapolis Colts. Like Cam Newton last year, Griffin will get his team wins and do it will flare and excitement.

Team That is Most Likely To Make a Break Through: Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens destiny rests on Flacco's shoulders
     The Baltimore Ravens were oh so close to a Super Bowl birth after wide left that resembled old  Florida St. v Miami games. We all know about the Ravens defense and even as Ray Lewis gets older he still plays at a high level. One thing that does concern me however about their defense is the health of linebacker Terrel Suggs. This guy is a beast and the Ravens need him as a pass rusher. The major factor that will decide whether or not the Ravens make a break through is the play of quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco called himself an elite quarterback despite critisicm from not only opponents, but fellow teammates like star safety Ed Reed. Flacco needs to play like the elite quarterback he says he is if the Ravens want to reach New Orleans for the Super Bowl.

Team Most Likely To Take a Step Backwards: San Diego Chargers

Turner is already on the hot seat in San Diego
    I hear the same complaints from Chargers fans every year. "We have so much talent it is just that terrible coach Norv Turner who is holding us back!" Turner will return for one more year which I think will be a shaky one. The AFC West just got a lot tougher now that Peyton is in Denver and Oakland and Kansas City are not the same cupcake type teams they used to be. Also, the Chargers lost some key pieces. First, veteran offensive lineman Marcus McNeill, who even though is getting up there in age is still a talented player. The offense had two major losses in wide reciever Vincent Jackson and running back Mike Tolbert. Phillip Rivers will still be able to run a high powered offense, but losing a tall, strong reciever in Jackson and a solid running back to split time with Ryan Matthews, will cost the Chargers some games.

Team That Will Surprise Us: Carolina Panthers

Last year's Rookie of the Year will shine again for Carolina
     Cam Newton showed the NFL world last year he can play. Not only is Cam going to come back strong for the Panthers, but they will have an improved defense. Carolina is led by a defense minded head coach in Ron Rivera and has an elite line backing corp that will add the young star Jon Beason after he was sidelined last year with an injury. Also, the division gets slightly weaker as the New Orleans Saints will not be the same dominate team after the bounty scandal and the loss of Sean Payton.

Break Out Player: Titus Young

Young will most likely be the #2 behind Calvin Johnson
    I could have went a lot of ways with this pick, but I chose Lions receiver Titus Young.  Young had a solid season for the upstart Lions considering he battled an injury with 607 yards and 6 TDs. The thing that excites me about Titus Young is his big play ability. Titus will play alongside Calvin "MegaTron" Johnson which will relieve him of any pressure and will receive passes from a formidable QB in Matthew Stafford. Reports from OTAs say Young looks "tremendous" and I expect the same this season.

Most Valuable Player: Tom Brady

Look at the dashing, talented Brady
     Not many NFL fans are fond of Tom. It might be his looks, his ability, his wife, it does not matter the fact is Brady will have a great year for the Patriots. New England is absolutely loaded on offense as they finally provided Brady with a deep threat in Brandon Lloyd. Not to mention, the productive tight end duo of Gronkowski and Hernandez got a new addition with former Giant Jake Ballard. Tom Brady will continue to be Tom Brady, but this time he gets even more help.

Super Bowl Winners: New England Patriots

Belichick will look to win his fourth title
    For those not rooting for the Patriots, the last two predictions probably are making you sick. As I mentioned previously the Patriots made some big additions on offense that will only hope to improve upon last year's offensive showcase. The biggest issue New England faced last year was their defensive struggles. The Patriots chose two defensive players in the first round this year, including the linebacker out of Alabama Dont'a Hightower who is predicted to make a big impact, to try and fix the issue. Some are saying the Patriots will have a hangover after their devastating loss to the Giants in last year's Super Bowl, but I think the opposite is true. Bill Belichick will keep his team focused and they will be more hungry to avenge their loss.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Where the Top NBA Free Agents Will Sign

     Some pieces have already fallen this offseason, including Kevin Garnett and Gerald Wallace, however, the fun and drama has yet to begin. Major chips are still available and with Dwight Howard demanding a trade, things just got much more interesting.

Honorable Mention: Dwight Howard 

Where he will land: Magic (for now)

Howard claimed he was blackmailed by the Magic to sign an opt in clause
     The NBA's newest drama queen will stay in Orlando at least for the off season. Howard met with the Magic's new GM Rob Hennigan and demanded a trade to the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have their own set of issues to deal with and bringing in Howard would make resigning point guard Deron Williams that much more difficult. Howard stays in Orlando, but likely gets traded before this year's trade deadline. 

1. Ray Allen

Where he will land: Boston Celtics

Ray can add veteran leadership and of course three point shooting
   "Ray Ray" has been the hot free agent this off season. The Celtics, Heat, Grizzles, and Clippers have reportedly actively pursued the shooting guard. The Boston Herald quoted Boston's Team President Danny Ainge saying "our number one priority" is resigning Allen. The Celtics feel they have one more year to contend for a championship with the big three that has now become the core four with the growth of point guard Rajon Rondo. In the end, Boston is willing to pay the most money and offers the comfort of playing for Doc Rivers and the rest of the close-knit Celtic family.

2. Steve Nash

Where he will land: Toronto Raptors

Nash can make any team instantly better with his passing skills

    The thirty eight year old point guard was offered a three year $36 million dollar deal by the Toronto Raptors according to multiple sources. The Raptors are a team ready to make the playoffs. Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas will join the team next year and with the addition of Nash, the Raptors form a solid nucleus that can earn a playoff birth. While playing in New York with the Knicks or Nets is intriguing, Nash has an opportunity to finish out his career in his native Canada that would put a fitting end to his career.

3. Eric Gordon

Where he will land: New Orleans Hornets

Gordon will make the Hornets playoff contenders if he sticks around

     Chris Broussard has reported the Brooklyn Nets are interested in Gordon as a possible replacement for free agent guard Deron Williams if he chooses to sign elsewhere. Gordon is hearing offers from multiple teams including the Pacers and Rockets, but most likely he returns to New Orleans. With the draft the Hornets had, New Orleans has turned around their franchise and Gordon will not want to miss out on something that could become special.

4. Deron Williams

Where he will land: Dallas Mavericks

The Nets can't afford to lose Williams

     Williams has narrowed down his choices to the Dallas Mavericks and the Brooklyn Nets. With all the Howard controversy surrounding the Nets, giving them the look of a drama filled franchise, Williams will sign with the Mavericks to contend for a championship. If the star of this free agent class signs with Dallas, the Nets will be in a bigger state of chaos looking for a viable replacement.

5. Roy Hibbert

Where he will land: Portland Trailblazers

The young center has superstar potential
 After a meeting with Trailblazer's Team President Larry Miller and General Manager Neil Olshey in Washington D.C., Portland offered Hibbert a maximum contract. Indiana has failed to match Portand's offer as the Trail Blazers look to compete now and add Hibbert to complement young star LaMarcus Aldridge. The Trail Blazers passed on UConn big man Andre Drummond in Thursday's draft and have therefore pushed hard to acquire Hibbert. Losing Hibbert means a major set back for the up and coming Indiana Pacers.

Golf Needs Tiger Woods

Woods victorious at this weekend's AT&T National
      Thirty six year old Tiger Woods passed Jack Nicklaus for most PGA Tour victories with 74 with his win Sunday at the AT&T National. Woods now sits in second place behind Sam Snead's 82 career victories. The bigger story is what Tiger means to the sport of golf. Without Tiger, golf is dead.

     According to the USA Today, this weekend's AT&T National drew a 4.6 rating which is 188% higher than last year's coverage of the tournament. Tiger may have lost fans after his personal issues become public, however the fact is Tiger makes you turn on the TV.

     Golf tried to save itself in Tiger's absence, by anointing Rory McIlroy as the next "big thing" after his victory at the British Open. However, the plan did not follow through proving there is no substitute to Woods. Tiger Woods has the ability to attract viewers like no other athlete. Before we were watching to see Tiger dominate the competition, now we watch to see if the old Tiger can reemerge.

     Woods has been playing well lately and naturally arguments have arisen as to whether Tiger is back. While there may be an argument there, there is no argument that people watch golf because of Tiger. The golfing world will sit back and enjoy as the Tiger saga continues.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Top Ten All Star Snubs

      With every All Star Game comes a list of players who were wrongly left out of the festivities. While there are certainly more than ten players to be included on this list, this is who I think are most deserving.

10. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
      "Salty", as Red Sox fans call him, has had a break out year for Boston. Jarrod is hitting .254 with 15 home runs and 37 RBIs. Not stand out numbers, but better than the AL's starting back stop Mike Napoli (.238 avg, 12 HR, 30 RBI). You also have to take into account what Salty has meant for his team. His bat provided the Red Sox with a much needed push after a rough April.

9. James McDonald
    Not many people recognize the name of the Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher or any other Pirate player for that matter...but the fact is McDonald got snubbed. The Pirates are battling with the Cincinati Reds for the top spot in the NL Central and McDonald has been a big part of that. With a 7-3 record and a 2.44 ERA on a contending team, I do not see any reason James McDonald should not be pitching in Kansas City July 10th.

8. Aaron Hill
    The reason Aaron Hill of the Arizona Diamondbacks was not selected was because Houston's second basemen Jose Altuve was the only player worthy to represent the Astros. Each team must have one player on the team, and Altuve seemed like the only legitimate choice. Hill has done something unprecedented this season. He hit for the cycle not once, which would be impressive on its own, but twice. Oh yeah, and he completed both cycles in the same month! Hill is currently on the ballot for the 34th man, but will face stiff competition including Nationals rookie phenom Bryce Harper.

7. A.J. Pierzynski 
   The long time Chicago catcher is not a fan favorite nor is he well liked by the players. He did not help his cause when responding to the claim that Napoli is having a good year when saying, "Yeah if you think hitting .230 is having a good year." Better luck next year A.J.

6. Edwin Encarnacion
    Everyone knows "Joey Bats" or Jose Bautista up in Toronto, but his teammate Edwin Encarnacion often gets overlooked. Edwin has blasted 22 HRs with a .289 average for the Blue Jays this season.  Bautista recognized the mistake with his tweet.

5. Zack Grienke
    When fans have heard the name Grienke this year it has mostly been in relation to trade rumors. The Brewers have struggled, but Greinke has not. With a 9-2 record and a 2.82 ERA Grienke has been one of the best pitchers in the National League and deserves a roster spot.

4. Josh Willingham
     Like Grienke, Willingham's name has mostly been referred when discussing trades. The well travelled slugger has put up some nice power numbers (16 HRs 52 RBIs) for the Twins this year. No wonder so many teams are looking to him this trade deadline in search of offense.

3. Madison Bumgarner
    Being on a staff with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, it is not to easy to steal the spotlight. Pitching in the spacious AT&T Park does not hurt, but nevertheless Bumgarner has put up All Star like numbers (10-4 2.85 ERA).

2. Johnny Cueto
    When looking at the NL roster I kept scanning the pitchers waiting to see Cueto's name. Johnny has been the ace of the Cincinnati Reds and is the biggest snub among pitchers. Maybe being left out will spur Johnny to improve upon his 2.26 ERA...if that's even possible.

1. Chipper Jones
    Is Chipper the biggest snub statistically? Absolutely not. However, an All Star Game appearance would mean a lot to Jones and to baseball, being that he is retiring after this season. Chipper has been receiving gifts from opposing teams on every Braves' road trip; why can't we make an all star selection another one of those gifts.

KG Reunited With the Celtics

     It was never a question of whether or not Kevin Garnett would sign with a different team. The 36 year old Celtic big man was mulling over retirement or returning to Boston for his eighteenth season in the league. Garnett signed a three year deal worth worth $34 million dollars Saturday and whether or not he plays through the entire three year contract or not, Garnett is an important piece for the Celtics.
The "Big Ticket" will return to Boston in search of his second title

     KG was huge in leading the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals and one win away from the NBA Finals by averaging 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds. Some may question resigning the aging Garnett when the Celtics are looking to get younger. It all revolves around the plan of Celtics' Team President Danny Ainge to rebuild rather than blow up the team. As former NBA head coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said during Thursday's NBA Draft, there is no need to blow up a team if the plan to blow up is inferior to the plan to rebuild.

     Not only will Garnett play a vital role in helping the Celtics in their quest to defeat the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference, he also adds veteran leadership that can help mold recently drafted Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo into quality replacements. With Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley proving to be the future of Boston's front court and Paul Pierce having two more years left in his contract, the Celtics hope to rebuild while simultaneously contending for championships.

The "Core Four" sticking together is the key to Boston's championship aspirations
     With Garnett resigned the focus is now on shooting guard Ray Allen. Allen has expressed interest in returning to the Celtics, but according to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the Grizzles, Heat, Clippers are all actively pursuing him. The Celtics believe if healthy and the core four of Rondo, Pierce, Allen, and Garnett present, they have as good of chance as anyone to win a NBA championship.