Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Daniel Cormier Gets A Title Shot

The much-anticipated Jon Jones/Alexander Gustafsson will have to wait. The UFC announced late Wednesday "The Mauler" has suffered an injury in training this week. Jones was scheduled to take on Gustafsson for the 2nd time at UFC 178 in September. Their first fight pushed Jones further than any other in his career thus far, with many thinking the champion should have lost the fight. He won via unanimous decision.

Stepping into Gustafsson's spot is Daniel Cormier. Cormier is unbeaten and a two-time Olympian who has been yearning for a shot at Jones for some time now. Back in May after beating Dan Henderson, Cormier told Joe Rogan "“Jon Jones, you can’t run away from me forever.I’m the kid at the wrestling tournament that is always in your bracket. No matter where you go, I’m coming. You better hurry because I’m getting better.”

The announcement is actually probably pleasing to the reigning champion. Jones expressed his interest in fighting Cormier before the rematch with Gustafsson was announced. When people called him out for making the remarks he responded by saying, "asking for an undefeated Olympic wrestler, Strikeforce champion makes me somehow a coward?”

Now, I'll be the first to admit I'm a huge Jones fan. Have been since he came onto the scene. I'm also a big Cormier fan though. That being said, I'll be pulling for Jones in this fight. More than that, I'm hoping for a good fight. However, I don't think they match up very well. Cormier has cinderblocks for hands but I'm not sure he's going to be able to get close enough to use them. Jones is going to utilize that ridiculous reach and keep him outside. Cormier's best shot is to take the fight to the ground and we already know how good Jones is at stopping takedowns. Then again, I don't think he's faced anyone who has the wrestling skills Cormier does. 

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Trade Talk: Who, Where, When, Why?

We're less than two weeks away from the MLB trade deadline and so far there hasn't been a ton of noise. Yes the Angels traded away way too much of their farm system for a few months of Huston Street, and there was the deal between Chicago and Oakland, but there haven't been any real big names changing teams, at least not yet anyway. But there is no shortage of rumors, so let's take a look at the biggest players who are rumored to be on the trading block.

David Price has to be the biggest name people are expecting to see traded. Price himself sounded like he thought he was on his way out of Tampa Bay just a few weeks ago. But with the topsy-turvy AL East, the Rays have held off dealing him. Not only that, but the Rays control Price through next year. They have no real reason to trade him right now unless they're getting A+ prospects in return. Price is definitely one of the best pitchers in the game, and he's young enough to be good for a long time. I'd be surprised if Price gets moved this year. Maybe next year if the Rays struggle again, but I think he at least finishes the 2014 season in a Rays uniform. 

Matt Kemp has been in the news in terms of being traded lately too, mainly thanks to his agent. While he might want to be, Kemp isn't an everyday center fielder anymore. I've been a Kemp fan since I saw him hit his first MLB home run in person. But he's not the same guy he was a few years ago when he should've won the NL MVP award. He's also signed to a massive contract. The Dodgers would have to eat a huge amount of money to trade him. He's another big name I don't see going anywhere. Yes, the outfield situation in LA is frustrating. But with the amount of injuries they've had over the past season and a half, they know they need to hold on to everyone they can.

Jake Peavy has been mentioned in trade rumors for the past 2-3 months it seems. His stat-line isn't what you'd call impressive, 1-8 with a 4.59 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, but he's been much better over his last 3 starts. In those last 3 games he's thrown a total of 19 innings and given up 7 earned runs while striking out 19 and walking only 5. Again, not great but it's certainly serviceable. Rumors have been going around that St. Louis is interested in him, and he'd make a lot of sense for the Cardinals as they're missing Garcia and Wacha and he already has NL experience. Plus Boston has young pitchers waiting in the wings. Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman have shown at times they belong with the big league club, and Anthony Ranaudo continues to impress in Pawtucket. Peavy is a free agent (he does have an option) after this year. It's time for him and the Sox to part ways.

Nick Cafardo has reported the Phillies are willing the trade Cole Hamels, but they're asking for an absolute haul for him. Hamels is signed to a big deal through 2018, so it's doubtful he's getting moved this season. That being said, I can see him being traded before Price. The Phillies seem to be in rebuild mode, whereas the Rays are always shifting things around. Freeing up that money would give the Phillies a lot of room heading into free agency. Then again, there aren't a ton of trade partners for them right now. The Dodgers come to mind, and they need another starter as the Dan Haren experiment has come crashing back to Earth, but will they be willing the gut their farm system? Hamels is a SoCal guy, and he seems like the kind of guy who would fit in well with the team, but the asking price may just be too high. Then again, the Dodgers don't seem to know the term "too high" lately, so we'll see. 

Chase Headley seems to always be mentioned as a trade target. He's not having a good year, though much of that can be attributed to injuries, and he's a free agent after this season. The Padres really have no reason to hang on to him. It's very unlikely he stays in San Diego, sorry Padres fans but your squad doesn't look like a playoff team for at least another two or three years, and while they're only 11 games out of first in the NL West, they're 12 games under .500. The time to deal Headley is now. The Blue Jays and Yankees make the most sense, and the Yankees have been interested in Headley for a long time now.

However it shakes out, these next few weeks should be interesting. There always seems to be big moves, especially when teams realize their season is all but over. Stay tuned as I'll be writing much more often again. And as always, follow me on Twitter- @TwittinSports

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dodger Disconnect

For as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Growing up in Long Beach we went to Dodger games, not Angel games. Vinny was the soundtrack I did my homework too as I waited for the freedom of Summer, and my friends and I pretended to be Hershizer, Piazza, and Karros when we played baseball. I remember Nomo's no-hitter and the five-straight Rookies of the Year. Anytime I watch Gibby's home run in 88 I still get teary eyed. The Dodgers even sent a few players to our little league field a couple times. I still have the autographs I cherished getting 15+ years ago.

But it's hard to care this season.

I'm not saying I don't want the Dodgers to win, that part hasn't changed, but not being able to watch them makes it harder for me to be invested in the team.

I'll be the first to admit I root for the Red Sox just as much as I root for the Dodgers. In year's past, I would listen to Red Sox games thanks to MLB GameDay Audio and then watch the Dodgers on TV. Sometimes I'd be paying attention to both games at the same time. But I can't do that this season and listening to two games at the same time isn't possible, at least for me, and I've had to make a choice.

Red Sox games come on first, typically when I'm finishing up working for the day, they're a nice distraction. By the time the Dodgers are on, the wife is home and she wants to watch TV or go out to dinner. If there was a Dodger game on, we'd watch that or go somewhere that was showing it. But that's not possible. None of the bars or restaurants close to us have Time Warner. So I have to make a decision- shun the wife so I can listen to the Dodgers, or check Twitter every once in a while and follow the action there? Not a tough choice at all.

On top of this, I don't even get Dodger games on MLB Network. Last night, MLB Network had regional coverage. The listing said the game being shown would either be Reds vs. Dodgers or Astros vs. Royals. I had the Astros vs. Royals game. I live less than 30 miles from Dodger Stadium. Thankfully ESPN 2 broke coverage to show some of Ryu's attempt at a perfect game, but otherwise I wouldn't have seen a single pitch.

Lots of people want someone to blame for SportsNetLA not being available. I don't care. As far as I'm concerned everyone involved is to blame. Time Warner Cable for wanting to charge too much, the Dodgers for letting them handle the negotiations, and the other providers for leaving the fans basically in the dark.

Do I expect this blog to change anything? No, not at all. Stan Kasten isn't going to read this, neither is Magic or any of the executives at Time Warner or any of the other providers. But maybe someone who has a larger following than I is experiencing the same thing and will be inspired to write something similar. Though with articles already having been published in the LA Times, among other places, I don't think anything will change this season. The vast majority of Dodger fans will continue to miss out on games and, if they're anything like me, they'll continue to feel disconnected from a team they grew up loving.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mike D'Antoni Resigns

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Mike D'Antoni has resigned as head coach of the Lakers. The news is surprising as just last week it sounded like both sides were ready to commit to the 2014-15 season and possibly the 2015-16 season. Clearly those reports were premature. 

Stay tuned as I'll be updating this as more information becomes available. 

https://twitter.com/ramonashelburne/status/461675712546877440

UPDATE- From the Lakers press release (found here“Given the circumstances, I don’t know that anybody could have done a better job than Mike did the past two seasons,” said Kupchak. “On behalf of the Lakers, we thank Mike for the work ethic, professionalism and positive attitude that he brought to the team every day. We wish him the best of luck.”

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Donald Sterling: This Isn't New

Donald Sterling is a bad human being. This is not news. In fact, this is old news.

Tommy Craggs did an article for Deadspin 5 years ago about Sterling and how awful he was.

One of the many damning quotes from Craggs' article- "When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to Davenport. "That's because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they're not clean," he said, according to Davenport's testimony. "And it's because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day." He added: "So we have to get them out of here." Shortly after, construction work caused a serious leak at the complex."

The quote is from 2002.

His attitude toward non-whites is not new. He is a racist. This didn't just happen. So why is it all of a sudden in the news?

Because the Clippers are doing well. And that's wrong.

Fact is, up until a few days ago the NAACP was  preparing to give Sterling a second lifetime achievement award.

Did you miss that?

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE WAS GOING TO GIVE A RACIST MAN A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR THE SECOND TIME!!!

What is going on? His basketball team doesn't suck anymore so now he gets called out for being racist? That's unacceptable.

Tolerating, let alone rewarding, someone like Sterling isn't OK as long as his team doesn't do well. The man is certainly entitled to his beliefs and to the right to express them. But he shouldn't be rewarded or ignored. He should be called out for being a bigot.

That this has been ignored by the mainstream media is disgusting. Yes, new quotes just came out that Sterling is racist. The reaction is completely justified, it's just way too late.

Sure, better late than never. But this is something that should've been made widely known many years ago. In some circles, it has been known.

In July last year Jeff Pearlman wrote about Sterling. He talked to Rollie Massimino, who met Sterling about possibly becoming the head coach of the Clippers in 1983. Massimino told Pearlman that during the "interview" Sterling said to him, "I wanna know why you think you can coach these niggers.”

That was 31 years ago.  Yet somehow Sterling still owns a professional sports franchise.

I wonder if the Lakers had the Clippers record this season, and vice versa, what would the reaction to all of this be? Would it be swept under the rug if they'd be cellar-dwellers?

The history tells me it would have. That's wrong. It's the job of the media to report facts. The fact is Donald Sterling is a racist and should not be allowed to own the Clippers.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad this is finally getting the attention it should. It's just disappointing to know something could have been done three decades ago.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 MLB Predictions

The time is upon us. After a 5-month layoff, baseball is back. It's been a fairly crazy offseason, which hopefully means we're in for an entertaining year. Instant replay will be used to a whole new extent, and collisions and home are now outlawed. Sort of. But before the lines are chalked and the umpires yell "play ball" I figured I might as well put my predictions in writing.

Division Winners

NL West- Have to go with the Dodgers here. I'm a whole lot less confident in this pick with the news that broke yesterday about Kershaw going on the DL, but I'm hoping it's nothing too serious. If he can come back and even be 80% of what he was last year, the Dodgers are set up to make another deep run in the playoffs. Their biggest concern is of course injuries. But if they can get and stay healthy, they match up with anyone across the league. And they should considering how much money they've spent recently

AL West- Quite possibly my favorite division in baseball. The teams spend money like it's going out of style, other than Oakland of course, but never get the desired results. Is this the year the Angels finally get what they're paying for? Can the A's continue out-playing their division rivals despite having the 6th lowest payroll in all of baseball? Will the Rangers get back to the playoffs? Honestly, I have no idea. I'm going to go with the A's again. They're scrappy, they good starting pitching, and they don't seem to pay attention to anyone's opinion of them. I love that.

NL Central- Cardinals. It's always the Cardinals. The Pirates were a nice surprise last year and I sincerely hope they build on the 2013 season, but I can't go against St. Louis. They're just too good.

AL Central- Much like the NL Central, the AL Central is dominated by one team. The Tigers have one of the best top-to-bottom lineups in baseball in a pretty mediocre division. The Royals could make some noise, and the Indians were certainly a pleasant surprise last year. But until someone dethrones the Tigers I see no reason to go against them.

NL East- The division should be decided between the Nationals and Braves. The Nationals have the same issue the Dodgers do, injuries. If they can stay healthy and perform at the level we all know they're capable of, they should take the division with relative ease. The Braves lost Hudson and McCann, two guys who were big parts of their success.

AL East- Easily the most stressful division. Can the Red Sox repeat? Will the Rays make yet another run? Sorry Yankees fans, but I don't believe in your ancient lineup. As for the Orioles, you never know what you'll get from them. I'm gonna be a homer and pick the Red Sox simply based on their pitching, but it won't surprise me one bit if the Rays end up taking the division.

Wildcards- In the National League the Braves and Pirates should both make the postseason again in 2014. It won't surprise me if either end up winning their division, but I don't have enough confidence to just pick them outright. As for the American League I'm going with the Rays (or Red Sox if the Rays end up winning the division) and the Angels. The Rays are yet again a very good team, and I think the Angels are finally going to get some results out of their ridiculous payroll.

World Series- Is this the year the Dodgers finally bring a title back to Los Angeles for the first time since 1988? They're certainly built to. They have an abundance of outfielders and a fantastic pitching staff. They should win the World Series. In fact, I'm predicting a rematch of the '88 Series. LA over Oakland, only this time in 6 games. I love the Red Sox, but being able to capture the magic they had last season again is nearly impossible. The Tigers were pushed to the brink by the A's last season in the ALDS and I think the experience the A's gained last year will only serve to push them over the top this year. But LA has the best shot at winning the World Series this year.

Individual Awards

NL Rookie of the Year- Billy Hamilton, Billy Hamilton, Billy Hamilton, Billy freakin' Hamilton. I think this guy is really going to be a game-changer. If he gets on base he's going to steal. There are no two ways about it. Between putting himself in scoring position and disrupting the pitcher's process, he can have a huge impact on the outcome of a game. I really think he's going to excel.

AL Rookie of the Year- Xander Bogaerts. We all saw what he did in the postseason last year. His slash line was .296/.412./.481 in the playoffs. His average in the ALCS was .500, against the Tigers. The guy can hit and he's sure-handed in the field.

NL Cy Young- Of course I had Kershaw penciled in here. He is the best pitcher in baseball. But this injury has me worried. He's never been on the DL before. So not only does he have to get healthy, but how will he respond when he does come back? I'm still picking him as the favorite to win the award.

AL Cy Young- Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander are the most popular picks by the "experts" but I'm going in a different direction. I'm going with Jon Lester. I think this will be the year he pitches as well in the regular season as he does in the postseason. Will I be surprised if Darvish or Verlander end up winning it? Of course not, but it's no fun picking the same person as everyone else.

NL MVP- I can't help but wonder why I see so many people picking Bryce Harper here. The kid is a fine ballplayer, but so far he hasn't been anything special at the plate. His lifetime, mind you that's only two seasons, average is .272 and he strikes out far too often in my mind. He did cut his strikeout total by nearly 30 last year compared to his rookie season, but his home run, RBI, stolen base, doubles, and triples all dropped as well and his total walks only went up by 5. He has a long way to go. Anyway, I'm going with Hanley Ramirez. He's in a contract year and if he can stay healthy and do what he did last season (.345/.402/.638) he could run away with the award.

AL MVP- Mike Trout. Definitely should've won it in 2012 and probably should've won it last year too. He's the best all-around player in the game. If the Angels make the playoffs he should be the clear winner. Finally.

There ya go. I have less confidence in these picks than any other predictions I've written about. This season should be ridiculous. Between Cano in Seattle, Jeter's farewell season, Puig's first full year, and everything else we can't predict, it's going to be a fun year.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

March Madness Bracket Tips

As usual, RJ Bell of Pregame.com put out his extensive list of bracket tips and trends. It's a comprehensive list that takes a bit of time to read, but he points out things that the common fan, and even some die-hards, might normally miss.

Let's start with some astonishing numbers that will put into perspective how unlikely a perfect bracket really is.

***2014 NCAA Tournament Action:

Over $12 BILLION worldwide expected to be wagered on NCAA Tournament
That’s more action combined than on the Super Bowl!
Less than 1% of worldwide sports betting occurs in Nevada

Over 100 million people expected to take part in tournament bracket contests!

***Perfect Bracket Odds:

  • There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible brackets (9.2 quintillion) That's the number nine followed by eighteen zeros! That’s ONE MILLION times bigger than 9 TRILLION!
  • Some examples of just how big this number is: If everyone on the planet each randomly filled out a bracket, the odds would be over ONE BILLION to 1 against any person having a perfect bracket.
  • If one bracket per second was filled out, it would take 292 BILLION years to fill out all possible brackets (that's 20 times longer than the universe has existed).
  • If all the people on earth filled out one bracket per second, it would take over 42 years to fill out every possible bracket.
  • All possible brackets on normal paper would circle the globe over 21 MILLION TIMES.
  • All possible brackets (on standard paper) would weigh over 184 TRILLION TONS (that’s over 500 MILLION times more than the Empire State Building weighs)

Yeah, no wonder Warren Buffet is offering a billion dollars. Alright, on to the actual tips and trends for the tournament and your bracket. By the way, I expect a cut of the billion if you read this and end up striking gold.

68 vs. 64 teams:
The calculations above assume a 64 team bracket – if expanded to consider 68 teams, multiple the figures by 4.

*** 14 Bracket Picking Rules from Vegas!
(all records since modern era began in 1985 unless noted)

FIRST ROUND picks:
TIP: Pick ZERO #1 or #2 seeds to lose.
#16 seeds are 0 for 116
#15 seeds are 7 for 116

TIP: Pick at least ONE #13 or #14 seed to win.
At least one Top 4 seed has lost in the first round 25 of 29 years
#13 and #14 seeds combined win 18% of first round games

TIP: Don't be shy picking upsets with #12 through #9 seeds.
#12 seeds have won at least one game 23 of 25 years
#9 seeds are 4 wins above .500 vs. #8 seeds

SECOND ROUND picks:
TIP: Advance #1 seeds into the 3rd round unless very good reason not to.
88% of #1 seeds advance to the Sweet 16

TIP: Keep advancing any #12 seeds you picked to win in Round One.
#12 seeds win nearly half the time in Round Two
#12 seeds have more Sweet 16 appearances overall than #7 seeds
A double digit seed has made the Sweet Sixteen 27 of 29 years

TIP: Pick at least ONE upset of a #2 or #3 seed.
Only ONCE in 29 years has all the top three seeds (#1, #2, #3) made the Sweet Sixteen

TIP: Do NOT pick any seed worse than #12 to win in the 2nd round.
Only 9 of 464 teams (less than 2%) advancing past Round 2 were seeded worse than #12

Sweet 16 round picks:
TIP: Advance exactly three #1 seeds into the Elite 8.
71% of #1 seeds make the Elite 8
(that's a higher percentage than #5 seeds that win a single game!)

TIP: Advance no team worse than a #11 seed into the Elite 8
26 seeds worse than 11 have made it the Sweet 16
but only ONE (of 232) Elite 8 teams seeded worse than #11

Elite 8 round picks:
TIP: Advance exactly ONE or TWO #1 seeds to the Final Four.
The Final Four has included exactly one or two #1 seeds 23 of 29 years

TIP: Advance no team worse than a #9 seed to the Final Four.
Only 3 of 140 Final Four teams (since 1979) have been seeded worse than #9

FINAL FOUR round picks:
TIP: Advance NO team worse than a #6 seed to the Championship game.
Only ONE team worse than #6 has made it in last 28 years

TIP: Do NOT advance TWO #1 seeds to Championship game
Since tournament seeding began 35 years ago (1979)
only 6 times have two #1 seeds made the finals

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME pick:
TIP: Pick a #4 seed or better to win it all.
For 25 straight years the champion has been a #4 seed or better!


There you have it, I told you that was going to be a ton of information. But where else are you going to find that many tips and trends in one place? You aren't. Bell is simply the best at what he does and I'm grateful he shares this information with me so I can then pass it on to you. Good luck!!!!

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