Thursday, October 4, 2012

What MVP Race?

Despite winning the Triple-Crown, Miguel Cabrera isn’t a lock for his league’s MVP Award.

There are few moments in professional sports cemented in history. These moments are rare, remarkable, and gratifying for people who love to follow any and all sorts of competition.

Last night on the final night of Major League Baseball’s season, game 162 provided one of these noteworthy moments. A moment in baseball’s history peaked by the culmination of an amazing accomplishment. A feat that younger generations (my generation) of sports fans have yet to witness and may never witness again.

What Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera completed on baseball’s final day, will remain etched in the history books and in the minds of not just baseball fans, but fans who can appreciate what Cabrera achieved.

Winning the Triple-Crown was last accomplished 45 years ago in 1967 by Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski.

Cabrera brought an end to the Triple-Crown drought in 2012.

Cabrera put together one of the finest seasons a batter can have. He accumulated a .330 batting average, 44 homeruns, and 139 RBI.  Though, he still isn’t a lock for the American League MVP.

Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout, a lock for AL Rookie of the Year honors, might very well take home MVP honors as well.

Trout had a phenomenal year batting .326, with 30 homers, and 83 RBI. Truly great numbers considering Trout only played in 139 games in 2012.

A case can be made for Trout. He has MVP caliber numbers, not to mention he shows up every night and leaves it all on the field. His 49 stolen bases paint a picture of just how hard he performed on a nightly basis.

However, everything can be up for debate in sports, but Cabrera, who has never won an MVP Award, put the discussion to rest last night.

Not only did he win the first Triple-Crown in 45 years, he also helped carry his team to their second straight AL Central division title. 

Trout’s Angels on the other hand, will be watching the playoffs from home.

Cabrera’s Triple-Crown is unyielding to debate on so many levels. Baseball is thriving with great hitters and more so with pitchers. Cabrera raised his game to a level that hasn’t been seen in 45 years during one of the most exciting seasons in baseball history.

Yes, debate is apart of sports, but there is no MVP race. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Strasburg Deals in Dog Days

Washington Nationals ace, Stephen Strasburg gathered win number 15 on the season and maintained his unblemished record in August.  Strasburg (15-5) shut down the Atlanta Braves last night in DC in one of the biggest games up to this point in the season for both clubs.  Atlanta seemingly had no answer for Strasburg in a 4-1 defeat, losing for the second straight night in a crucial three game series.    

In a post game interview with the Nationals TV affiliate, MASN, Strasburg likened the atmosphere to that of his first home start.  A good thing considering that Strasburg and the fans had to endure a 51 minute rain delay in the top of the third inning.

The delay could have potentially ended or at least hindered Strasburg’s night, especially since the Nationals are carefully protecting his arm. 

He didn’t get shut down and he wasn’t fazed by the delay; instead Strasburg pitched three more innings, completing six total, with 10 strikeouts and allowing one earned run before being pulled prior to the seventh.

With Strasburg dealing and the Nationals atop all of Major League Baseball with the best record in the league (77-46), it’s almost unfathomable to think that he could quite possibly be shut down for the season at some point in September. 

Unfathomable because Washington DC hasn’t had pro ball club sniff the postseason since 1933; amazing when you take into consideration the history of professional baseball in DC; a history that dates back to 1901. 

All history aside, the Nationals don’t seem to be bluffing and general manager Mike Rizzo is standing firm on the premise that he wants to protect their prized 24 year old right hander’s future.

Although, for a team that has done nothing but struggle since arriving to the nation’s capital in 2005, they should also consider the fans that have paid the money in an effort to fill the stands and support a team in hopes that this moment would arrive.

It’s no guarantee that Strasburg and the Nationals could ever be in this situation down the road.  Strasburg could very well pitch the rest of his career in DC (if he stays) and never play for a squad this dominate again.  It’s also no guarantee that he will be pitching for the Nationals two seasons from now, so if it’s really his future management is protecting then they could very well be doing so for the next team he plays for.

For now, Strasburg is focused start after start, delivering gems all month long.  The potential pitch cap hasn’t deterred his performances on the mound.  However, Braves fans are becoming more and more concerned for the guys future. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Detrimental to the League


The worst scenario for a sports fan sitting at home or in the stadium watching a highly anticipated basketball, football, or baseball game is to have talk of referees dominate the in-game and post game chatter. 

Although, this is the case in a few instances as regular and postseasons play out; it has provided NFL fans with worry after the first week of preseason football.  Seven rookies on the field looking lost and at times goofy, have been put in charge of officiating world class athletes, playing a game on a level in which these replacements are unfamiliar with.  Clearly after the sample size we have (albeit small) replacement officials have no business being on the same field as NFL players for a myriad of obvious reasons. 

The NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell are in control of a product so popular and respected, but yet lowered itself to locking out arguably its most crucial on field aspect.  Without experienced officials running the show, player safety is put in jeopardy, game speed is slowed, unexplained calls occur more frequently, and both players and fans simply can’t trust what is taking place during the game. 

Now, this is not to suggest the locked out officials haven’t made bad calls or had lapses in judgment on the field in the past that put player safety at risk.  Indeed they have.  Poorly officiated games will always be apart of the sport.  There is no doubt that the NFL needs to make changes; making their officials full time employs instead of part time weekend warriors might be a start.
You would think that a league so profitable and gung-ho about safety, would consider compensating its rule enforcers to the level at which they request.  Not doing so causes players and fans to question the league and its leaders of what they consider to be their best interest.  It makes it seem as if player safety and a quality game have been placed on the back burner, so owners and league executives can pocket a little more revenue.    

After what fans witnessed in week one of preseason, it’s safe to assume that the NFL recognizes the need to get their veteran guys back to work.  At least let’s hope so.    

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dwight Howard Trade Raises Questions for Lakers

A blockbuster trade in August is a wonderful thing for NBA fans.  However, if you’re a supporter of the Los Angeles Lakers, then there were many reasons to celebrate last night.  

The Lakers swung a deal for All-Star center and three-time Defensive Player of the year, Dwight Howard.  Howard joins the Lakers from the Orlando Magic while former Laker big man, Andrew Bynum, heads east to the Philadelphia 76ers.  Either Bynum of Pau Gasol had to go in order to make room for Howard in the paint.  Many thought that both Bynum and Gasol would be dealt in a multiple team trade scenario, but that was not the case. 

Of the four teams involved in last night’s headliner (Lakers, Sixers, Nuggets, Magic), the Lakers hit a grand slam by not only landing Howard, but for being able to maintain Gasol in the deal as well.

The Lakers promptly become the favorites out west.  Although, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a young dynamic team both offensively and defensively and still demand respect going into this season as the defending Western Conference Champions.  The Lakers, on the other hand, have continued to get rich with talent all offseason long.   First, they land a two-time league MVP at the point in free agent Steve Nash and now with the acquisition Howard, they add a gigantic defensive presence to their frontcourt. 

Their success this upcoming season hinges on a couple of things.  

First, can a starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard gel enough in 82 games to make a championship run?  

This is a logical question considering the talent loaded Lakers of ’03-’04 never came together; this team will be different.  Nash and Bryant are true floor leaders, who have a lot of respect from everyone around them.  Howard’s ability to defend will fit in perfectly with Lakers head coach Mike Brown and his tactical defensive mind set.  Both Gasol and World Peace are veterans and proven teammates who know their role and will contribute accordingly.  It still won't be easy.  The Lakers will need every bit of training camp and preseason to continue to work out the kinks of Brown's offense; plus grow together as a group. 

The second question concerns Dwight Howard’s back and whether or not he will be ready to go once the season gets underway.  

Howard had major back surgery in April and has reportedly been limiting his travel this offseason due to the strain a plane ride puts on his recovery.  Back injuries are serious and surgery can be strenuous to recover from.  It is very likely that Howard will have to miss a significant amount of time at the beginning of the season.  The Lakers know this and with the talent and role players they currently have on their roster they will be able to power through the first couple of months of the season if they have to.

The third and final question deals with the issue of Howard handling the pressure of playing in LA. 

Howard joins a list of Hall of Fame centers: George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal who have all donned the purple and gold.  The pressure to be great and win every night didn’t exist in Orlando.  It exists now and Howard will have to elevate his game every time he steps out onto the court.  He garnered the individual accolades with the Magic.  He has proven himself as an individual.  He has to prove himself as a teammate playing alongside fellow superstars.  Not an easy task for someone who has shared the stage in Orlando with no one, but himself. 

Every single one of these questions will resolve itself as the 2012-2013 season plays out. 

Going forward, all eyes shift from South Beach to Southern California.  Maybe now we will get to witness a Kobe/LeBron Finals and maybe we won’t know what kind of teammate Howard will be, until that happens.         

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dwight Howard Traded to the Lakers

Dwight Howard has been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four team deal.

According to a report from ESPN, Andre Iguodala has been dealt to the Denver Nuggets for Andrew Bynum via LA.  Jason Richardson via Orlando, joins Bynum who is headed to the Sixers.  The Orlando Magic will receive Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo from Denver.  The Sixers give up their first round draft pick, Moe Harkless, in the deal to Orlando.  The Magic will also obtain one protected future first round draft pick from the Lakers, Nuggets, and Sixers.

Pau Gasol will remain with the Lakers.

Howard's arrival to Hollywood instantly makes the Lakers the favorites to win the West over the defending Western Conference Champions; the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not every day that big time NBA news breaks in August.  More to come......

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stay Relevant San Diego

The San Diego Padres might not be so irrelevant going forward after news broke today concerning the potential sale of the franchise.  The Padres reportedly sold for an estimated 800 million dollars to a group headlined by former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, San Diego businessman Ron Fowler, and four-time major champion golfer Phil Mickelson. 

The news had to have sent positive vibes through the Padres fan base, but the deal won’t be final until approved by MLB owners later this month at a gathering in Denver, CO. 

One would think that this deal is a slam dunk for approval and indeed it should be.  This franchise is accustomed to exciting ownership change and San Diego is a perfect candidate for a shake-up.    

The Padres first joined Major League Baseball in 1969 and quickly became bottom feeders, so much so that after just five years in existence, owner C. Arnholt Smith wanted to sell the club in 1974.  However, selling the club meant relocation to Washington D.C.  Instead, Ray Kroc (McDonalds), who had no intention of moving the club, stepped in and saved the day for San Diegans and their Padres.

This deal is eerily similar to that of 1974; the primary difference is that the Padres were never considering selling to an owner who wanted to relocate.     

Now, with the Padres sitting in fourth place in NL West (47-64), hope rests in the hands of a possible ownership group that is poised and determined to revitalize a franchise that has the potential to be dangerous; dangerous to the point of once again contending for division titles and NL Pennants.

Why not San Diego?  They have the history with two World Series appearances (1984/1998), the weather is beyond perfect (free agent paradise), Petco Park is wonderful, and they have great fans.

Plus, with new ownership comes new money to spend.  Just use the Dodgers’ spending spree as of late as an example. 

Pair the willingness of new ownership to go out and spend with the splendid backdrop San Diego has to offer; the Padres just might be this upcoming off-season’s version of the LA Angels or Miami Marlins.      

Either way, the Padres are back….pending approval.       

Friday, July 27, 2012

Greinke Gives Halos Best Starting Five

A seismic shift of pitching prowess to Southern California occurred tonight.  With Major League Baseball’s trade deadline fast approaching (July 31st) things are really starting to heat up.  Yes, the Seattle Mariners trading their veteran All-Star Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees was a shocker, but things really got interesting on Friday night when the Milwaukee Brewers shipped their ace, Zack Greinke, to the Los Angeles Angels for three minor league prospects (two pitchers and a shortstop).

The move brings Greinke back to the American League, where he was an All-Star in 2009 with the Kansas City Royals.  More importantly, this deal gives the Angels the best starting rotation in baseball.

LA’s pitching staff was already loaded prior to this trade happening tonight.  The Angels rotation is of course led by All-Star and true ace Jared Weaver, who many would argue to be the best pitcher in the big leagues.  Weaver is backed up by fellow All-Star and former Texas Ranger, C.J. Wilson. 

Dan Haren has struggled as of late with a 6.97 ERA in July (2 starts), due largely impart because of injury.  However, Haren is a very talented pitcher and the Angels are paying him like one.  As Haren gets healthier, there is no doubt that he will have a major impact for his club as the postseason approaches. 

Jerome Williams’ struggles as a starter have opened the door for 24 year old right hander Garrett Richards.  Richards (3-2) possesses a 3.91 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 8 starts.  Not gaudy numbers by any stretch, but Richards has shown the ability to win games and pitch well giving the Angels a solid young starter deep in the rotation. 

Ervin Santana rounds it out, meaning Greinke will probably be the third starter for a dynamic starting five pitching staff. 

The Greinke deal truly shakes up the landscape around the American League.  The biggest impact will obviously be felt in the AL West.  The Angels are still five games back of the Rangers and are closely followed by the Oakland A’s, who sit a half game back for the AL’s top wildcard spot.  Greinke leaves the National League this season with a 9-3 record, a 3.44 ERA, and 122 strikeouts in 21 games played.   

This move has been one of many aggressive moves made by new Angels general manager, Jerry Dipoto.  He made a splash during the winter meetings when LA announced the signings of All-Star slugger Albert Pujols and the aforementioned pitcher, C.J. Wilson.  The Greinke trade shouldn’t have been such a surprise.