My mileage may vary!
I've moved the hosting of changes to Sports Beat to githug pages. Let's see how this works!
Still not rendering as expected.
As we know, Major League Baseball is the last of the major professional sports to fully use instant replay to review in-game rulings. Prior to this year, MLB only used replay if there was a dispute over whether there was a home run, now, most "non-judgement" calls are reviewable. Team managers get one challenge per game, with the right to earn another if successful on the first challenge. In the final three innings of the game umpires can decide to use replay at any time.
It seems to me that the frequency at which calls are overturned by replay is an indicator of the quality of officiating in the sport. Yesterday I watched the majority of two games, in one game two calls were overturned, both in plays at the plate. In another game one call was overturned. For all instances the call was obviously bad, and in my opinion highlight a problem in the positioning of umpires.
The calls at first base are particularly troubling. First base umpires usually move themselves towards second base in an attempt to see the ball coming into the first baseman at the same time that runner's foot touches the bases. I think a frequent problem occurs at first because runners are taught to touch the right corner of the base and continue running through, while the first basement's foot and legs are often at the second base side or in the middle of the base. In short, I think the umpire's view of the runner's foot is often blocked during the play and they have essentially been guessing that the ball beats the player's foot.
While most people have accepted the use of instant replay to help officiate sporting events, we still expect the officials to get the calls right in the first place. Ultimately, all sports that use replay need to use it as a tool to improve on-field officiating. If it turns out that the automated means does a better job, than officials on the field, it wouldn't be much more of a step to replace on-field officials with the automated solutions.
MLB and the Player's Union have announced that they have increased the penalties for players who are caught using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) during the season. A player who is caught during a season will not be eligible to for the playoffs during that season. The length of the penalties have increased, from 50 games to 80 games for the first offence, from 100 to 162 for the second (essentially an entire season). A third offence remains a life time ban. Players suspended for a season will lose their pay for that season.
I've written in the past about how I think the penalties for being caught with PEDs are not significant enough, particularly to the teams and their owners. The problems of PEDs is a problem that ought to be shared amongst all parts of baseball, and I think ownership has to be held accountable too.
Detroit is a great sports town, and therefore a great place to live if you are a sports fan. Right now we have both nearby mens college basketball teams, the University of Michigan and Michigan State, playing in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA mens tournament tonight, the Detroit Red Wings are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive, and while the Detroit Pistons are a mess, we are eagerly waiting for Monday and the home opener for the Detroit Tigers.
Yesterday the rumors begin flying that the Tigers has signed an extension with the best player in baseball, Miguel Cabrera and this morning the 10 year, $292 million deal was announced, keeping Cabrera in Detroit for the remainder of his career. Most of the core of the Tigers, which includes Cabrera, Justin Verlander, is set to be in Detroit for a while, all that remains is to sign Max Scherzer.
Tonight Michigan plays 11th seed Tennessee for the right to move on and play the winner of Kentucky and Louisville, and Michigan State plays the top seed in the east, the University of Virginia. If the two schools win, they will join Wisconsin as the big ten teams in the Elite Eight.
The possibility exists for Michigan and Michigan State to play each other for the NCAA championship,while Michigan could play Wisconsin in the final four, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The Red Wings might be the most intriguing story in Detroit sports at the moment. Because of the rash of injuries, they are barely staying in the playoff hunt thanks to the majority of minor league players they have called up from the Grand Rapids Griffons. The Griffons won the Calder Cup last year, and it is obvious why given how many of those players are not only surviving, but thriving in the NHL at the moment.
Last night's loss to the Canadiens doesn't help, but right now the Wings are still in it. The Red Wings are the underdog right now, and we all love to root for the underdog.
The second day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament was much less friendly to me than the first. The most significant loss for me was Duke losing to Mercer, and almost as bad was VCU losing to SF Austin, both were upset losses. The East has been my best bracket, for which I picked each winner for the first two days. I took loses in the West, but all of my sweet sixteen picks are alive.
At least I don't feel bad not entering the "Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge" as there are no longer any perfect brackets available, proving it was a pretty safe bet for Warren Buffet.
That crashing sound you just heard? It was the sound of a good chunk of my brackets because Duke lost. Ouch! It also looks like Nebraska is going to lose to Baylor, so that will mean I am 0-2 today on my picks, which is not good after such a great start yesterday.
I had a great time yesterday watching the opening games of the NCAA men's basketball national championship tournament. Of the 16 games that were played yesterday, I correctly predicted 13. While I did not predict Dayton to beat Ohio State, I immensely enjoyed watching that game.
I predicted that Harvard would beat Cincinnati, but that was my only "upset" to pan out. My other upset prediction was BYU over Oregon and that didn't happen, and like most, I didn't expect North Dakota State to eat Oklahoma.
I am looking for no upsets today, the only non-top seed I expect to win is Oklahoma State over Gonzaga, but a 9 seed beating an 8 seed is not really an upset.
I've completed my first brackets for the NCAA men's basketball tournament. In it my final four is Florida vs. Michigan State; Arizona vs. Louisville. I've got Arizona beating Florida in the finals.
I am counting on Michigan State living up to the pre-season predictions that had them #1 before the injuries came and they started losing games. MSU pretty much dominated throughout the Big Ten tournament, and I don't know who matches up well against Payne and Dawson. Factor in Izzo's experience come tournament time, and there is every reason to expect them to go deep in the tournament.
If my brackets work out, MSU will beat both the #1 and the #2 seeds in the East region.
I've got Michigan making it to the sweet 16 where they will lose to Duke. I have Wisconsin in the elite eight, where they lose to Arizona. I have Nebraska upsetting Baylor in the first round, then losing to Creighton. Ohio State is going to lose in the second game this coming weekend to Syracuse.
Ok, the Big Ten championship has started. Will Sparty prevail?
18:24 Big sequence here, MSU has picked up three fouls on the Wolverines early in the first half. Payne makes two free throws, 2-3 Michigan very early.
Michigan has really good transition defense. MSU got many points on run outs against Wisconsin, so far Michigan is getting back well. And once MSU gets in their offense, Michigan is playing good D too.
11:51 MSU is picking up the defense to take a 16-9 lead. They have been on a 12-0 run. I expected the Wolverines to have difficulty handing the pressure of the moment, and so far it's showing.
6:59 MSU is dominating on the glass, and currently +9 on rebounds. Lots of one and done for Michigan.
4:39 So far State's defense and rebounding has been the real difference in this game. Shooting seems to be pretty much even. At one point yesterday State was shooting 71% from the floor, they aren't shooting that well right now, but are still making a good percentage of their shots.
3:36 Horford has just picked up his third foul. Foul trouble could be a problem for Michigan in the second half. I imagine Horford will be sitting for the rest of the first half.
Half time, 38-29 Michigan State. A few unproductive possessions by Michigan State allowed Michigan to creep closer at the end of the half, however State finished with a emphatic dunk by Garry Harris.
The second half has started.
Michigan States starts the second half with a 6-0 run, forcing Beilein to call a time out at the 17 minute mark of the second half. It looks to me like MSU's size is a real factor in this game. It also looks like Michigan is not handling the pressure of the moment very well. Stauskas seems to be the only person provide offense, the Wolverines need scoring from other sources and they need to get more rebounds.
Michigan is on verge of losing a #1 seed in the tournament.
Greg Anthony is trying to keep viewers watching, telling us that Michigan can still get back in this game. Not going to happen unless State let's them back in. State has to keep the intensity.. remember this game is about revenge!
10:30 52-40 Michigan State. Sparty's game unless they stop playing defense and start taking poor shots.
Stauskas has no points in the second half, even with Harris sitting out most of the half.
2:40, 62-50 MSU. Michigan is pressing, but it's not affecting State.
Indianapolis has been very nice to Michigan State this year, with the football team winning the Big Ten championship there in the fall to go to the Rose Bowl.
Michigan State is the 2014 Big Ten Men's Basketball tournament champions with a 69-55 victory over Michigan. I don't know whether this victory makes up for losing the two games during the regular season.
Nobody is going to want Michigan State in their bracket for the tournament. They could have the best front line in college basketball. If they stay healthy, they easily can be in the final four.
Michigan State looked great yesterday in beating Wisconsin, while Michigan had more difficulty against Ohio State. Michigan has won both of the regular season games with Michigan State, but in both instances State was playing without some key players.
State really doesn't have any pressure in this game, I don't think they are going to significantly help or hurt their NCAA tournament seeding; this game is pure revenge for Sparty. Michigan could be playing for a top seed and has the pressure of expectation as the regular season Big Ten champ. For all these reasons, I expect Sparty to be victorious at the end of the day.
Michigan was lucky to get past Illinois 64-63 in their Big Ten tournament game. Illinois' Tracy Abrams missed a shot in the paint with 2 seconds left that would have given the Illini the win over the Wolverines.
The Wolverines seemed to take charge of the game early in the second half, but Illinois began fighting back and took the lead with 4:40 left to play in the game. Michigan took possession after an Illinois score with about 14 seconds left and worked the ball to Jordan Morgan, who scored from deep within the paint with 7.9 seconds left.
Michigan plays the winner of this afternoon's game between Nebraska and Ohio State in the next round of the Big Ten tournament tomorrow.
Am I the only one to think the scheduling of the Big Ten men's basketball championship is odd? Why would you schedule the top team in your conference to play at noon on a Friday, instead of scheduling them to play in prime time?
I would completely reverse the schedule for today's games. While I know that Michigan State has received most of the national attention over the years, I think that because of the injuries, they are not likely to go far in the NCAA tournament. If it were me, I would want the #4 vs #5 seed match up to be in the evening as that would appear to be a good game, followed by the top seed Michigan in prime time.
Hope. Hope is the emotion that all Chicago Cub fans feel every March as the Cubs begin spring training in Mesa, Arizona. Spring training 2014 also marks the grand opening of the Cub's new spring training facility, for now known as Cubs Park. Naming rights for the new park will be sold to someone, so the name will likely be different next year.
Because it has been ridiculously cold this winter, right now, as I watch the game being played on sun drenched green grass, envy is what I am really feeling. Right now I want to be sitting in that ball park, in my shorts, worrying about whether I have enough sun tan lotion on.
It's freezing in Detroit, but baseball fans are feeling warm because the Detroit Tigers have opened their spring training season. It's the top of the 7th inning, and the Tigers are beating Atlanta 4-3.
Are you wondering about the quote above? Listen hear to one of the greatest voices to ever call a baseball game.
We may be still buried in snow in Michigan, but spring is surely just around the corner because spring training has begun. The Cub's first spring training game is this Thursday! This is the best time of the year for Chicago Cubs fans. Now I have to figure out how to get the MLB At Bat app on my new Samsung TV.
Do you remember the big scandal in Major League Baseball this summer? As many as a dozen players were suspended for ties with a company called Biogenesis, the implication being that the players were taking Performance Enhancing Drugs.
Back in August I wrote about how the issue will continue because it is not being considered a team AND player problem. Here is another example of what I meant. One of the players suspended for 50 games was Jhonny Peralta, and over the weekend he signed a new contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, reportedly for more than $50 million.
I understand those who claim that Peralta served his penalty and therefore ought to be able to sign any contract that the market will bear. Peralta is certainly within his rights to seek whatever contract value he desires. My point is that clearly the penalties in place are not a deterent.
PED use will continue in professional sports so long as there not a sufficient reason not to use them. The problem that I see is that being caught using PEDs is becoming too accepted by all parts of baseball. While the commissioner and MLB can put on a big show about doing something, and really, isn't the whole A-Rod thing just a big show, in reality nothing is truly being done.
If you really want to stop PEDs then teams and players both need to have consequences that matter. A player caught should lose their free agency rights for at least a year, a team who has a player caught should lose the right to sign free agents for a year.
Last night the Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder and gave $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The main reason for the trade, as I see it, is to free up first base for Miguel Cabrera. What we learned in 2013 is that the Tigers cannot afford to have their best hitter, who just happens to be the best hitter in baseball, not in the line up and 100% healthy. Fielder only plays first base, so unless he was willing to DH or learn a new position, there really was no position for him on the team.
Fielder could have made the trade much more difficult for the Tigers had he produced down the stretch in 2013 when Cabrera was injured. With nobody picking up the slack for Miggy, and the Cleveland Indians breathing down their neck, Jim Leyland was forced to keep Miggy in the line up when he should have been sitting to heal up for the playoffs.
Another big factor was Fielder's performance in the playoffs, he is a career .194 hitter in the playoffs, Ian Kinsler is a career .311 hitter in the playoffs with nearly as many at bats. Through in Fielder's less then stellar play at first base, his horrible base running, and his indifferent attitude and that all made it very easy for the Tigers to trade him.
Omar Infante has been the Tiger's best second baseman in the last two years, but Kinsler is an upgrade. The questions the trade raises for the Tigers is who will play third base, and how will they replace Fielder's bat in the line up? I think you want to keep Cabrera at third, though Kinsler could possibly be slotted in that position. Martnez could move up to fourth, but I like him at fifth. What this suggests to me is that the Tigers need to pick up a home run hitting left fielder.
Most see the trade as positive for enabling the Tigers to re-sign Max Scherzer. There has been talk of the Tigers trading Scherzer, mostly because of fear they won't have enough money to sign him, but also because some wonder whether Scherzer will be able to repeat his 2013 performance. I say that pitching is such a crap shoot you are better off sticking with what you know than taking a chance with an unknown. The Tigers need to keep Scherzer and Verlander on their staff while everyone else could be expendable.
Another factor is the bullpen, particularly the closer. If Dombrowski does not upgrade the bullpen, he will have failed to do so in two off seasons, meaning he really has not found the final piece to get the Tigers to a World Series championship. In my opinion, if there is no upgrade of the bullpen the Tigers have to give serious thought about making a change at General Manager. With the talent on the Tigers it will simply be inexcusable for Dombrowski to not address what is their most glaring weakness.
Fortunately, the baseball offseason has really just begun and their is a lot of time left for Dombrowski to make more changes.
The Chicago Cubs have replaced former manager and Milwaukee Brewer hitting coach Dale Sveum with the bench coach of the San Diego Padres, Rick Renteria. The Padres hit .245 as a team in 2013, with no player hitting better than .300. Team ERA was 3.98. The Padres had a 76-86 record in 2013 and finished 16 games behind the Dodgers.
In short, Renteria has experience with a team like the Chicago Cubs but it is not clear that he has the ability to make such a team better. Frankly, I am disappointed by this hire and don't see this as an improvement over the previous manager. The Theo Epstein era in Chicago, and with it the fate of the Cubs, has taken a huge step backwards in my opinion. Not impressed.
Let the debate begin on why the Tigers did not beat the Red Sox to make it to the World Series. As is typically the case, there really isn't one reason why the team did not win, but in the end I think it was about the Red Sox taking advantage of the Tiger's weaknesses.
Think back to spring training and what was the main question mark then? The bullpen. Without a doubt the bullpen was a glaring weakness that the Red Sox exploited, just about all of their runs came on two swings of the bat against bullpen pitchers. Problem is, if it were easy to fix a bullpen, it would have been done, good closers aren't readily available unless you do what the Red Sox did and head to Japan.
My main quibble with Jim Leyland is that he kept managing as if he had a good bullpen, when he clearly did not. I think that when you are in a championship series you ride your starting pitching until they lose. The bullpen is made up of professionals, but none who would be sought out to be on the bullpen of any other team in the MLB.
Beyond the bullpen, and finding a replacement for Jim Leyland, the biggest issue the Tigers face is what do with Cabrera, Fielder, and Martinez. In hindsight, panic over Martinez's knee injury two seasons ago lead to this problem: Cabrera's bat is too important for him to be playing third base. Fielder can't play anything but first or DH, and Leyland didn't want to put Martinez behind the plate.
Unless Martinez catches more next year, I think he or Fielder ought to be traded, preferably for some bullpen help. Bottom line, what the Tigers ought to have learned is that Miggy must be moved back to first next season.Playing Miggy at third base is too great a risk to his health, and we saw first hand since September the affect of Miggy not able to be a threat in the line up.
MLB Trade Rumors evaluates the current Cubs roster and provides observations about 2014. It doesn't look very promising, and frankly I think a lot is going to ride on who they hire as their manager.
And it was the another "same old, same old" for the Chicago Cubs. It's not surprising that the Cubs have released Dale Sveum, the bigger surprise will be who they hire to replace him. Most are betting on Joe Girardi, who has not re-signed with the New York Yankees. It's too bad that Ryne Sandberg got hired by the Phillies, if for nothing other than to add some drama to the hiring process.
I think that Theo better get Girardi signed, otherwise who else is available? If you don't sign an experienced manager then what was the point of releasing Sveum? Perhaps the bigger question is, just how much are the Cubs willing to spend to get a manager AND add talent to the team. A good manager can make a big difference, case in point Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians, but you still must have talent. If Joe is smart, he is going to ask some hard questions about the Cub's plans to add talent during the off season. In my opinion we have come to the "make or break" time for Theo Epstein.
It has been a bit hectic lately, so I haven't had a chance to write a follow up about my fantasy football draft. To recap, I picked 10th in our ten team league, snake draft. I picked:
the Bears defence & special teams
Key players on my bench are:
I won my first game 115-82.3 thanks to big games from Kaepernick and McCoy and a decent game from Jackson. My score would have been larger if I started Boldin over Jackson.
For week 2 I am sticking with the same lineup. Kaepernick may have a touch game as he goes against Seattle, but that is why I am keeping Boldin on the bench. I am hoping that Alfred Morris has a better game in week 2.
Alfonso Soriano is probably wishing he could play the LA Angels every day because in the last four days he has hit 4 home runs and in the last 7 days he has driven in 15 runs. On one hand, I am happy because I have Soriano on my fantasy team and he has been one of the lone bright spots this year for me, yet on the other hand I am sad because I would prefer he was driving in all those runs for the Cubs, they could use his bat. It seems the Cubs have been shut out for the week.
Nice to see that MLB is finally going to implement instant replay, years after other major professional sports have been successfully doing so. The proposed manager's challenge system sounds reasonable to me, one challenge in the first six innings, 2 more after the sixth. I think what we are going to find is that there are many calls where the umpires are simply not in the right position to make the correct call.