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Friday, April 26, 2013

Russell Westbrook Meniscus Tear- Winners/Losers

      The Thunder will be playing without Russell Westbrook for the first time since drafting him when they take on the Rockets in game 3. Is this good or bad for the Thunder, Rockets, and players involved?


Kevin Durant:
Durant becomes THE man in OKC now and will not have to defer to Westbrook. The best part is Durant has no pressure. If OKC loses, Westbrook's injury will be used as a scapegoat. If Durant wins, he gets all of the credit for carrying Oklahoma City. The person with something at stake here appears to be Westbrook. But, if Westbrook wins in this situation, that means the Thunder lose without him.

James Harden:
James Harden immediately benefits. This series now becomes Harden v. Durant. And if he wins, he takes down his former team AND the Thunder get questioned for dropping him. Even if he can't take down the Thunder by himself, if another team does, the lack of Harden on the Thunder will still be questioned.

The Rockets, The Rest of the West:
The Thunder lose a premier point guard. The rest of the west have a much better chance of beating the Thunder now, plain and simple.

Skip Bayless:
Skip Bayless has been the biggest critic of Westbrook. Now, he has a win-win situation. If they win without Westbrook, he hits jackpot. If they lose, he can say the Thunder would be fine if they kept Harden, which he has said all year. Everyone hates it when Skip gloats, and either way he covers his tracks.

The Losers:
Kevin Durant:
KD loses his wingman. A tough blow and he will have to deal with increased defensive pressure in his direction.

The Thunder:
Obviously, the Thunder will miss Westbrook.

ESPN Viewers:
Don't watch First Take when Skip Bayless is on. Just change the channel. Save the aggrevation.

The Thunder survive a thrilling series with Houston. If Westbrook is missed for significant time, OKC will leave home early, potentially to the Clippers. In the grand scheme, this doesn't matter as Miami would match up well with OKC in the finals either way. It is Lebron's title to lose and this just makes the road easier.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

LA Lakers should amnesty Kobe

      Kobe Bryant has been the face of the Lakers franchise since the trade of Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004. Kobe won 3 championships with Shaq and 2 more after his departure. When Dwight Howard was brought to LA, the Lakers received a lot of media hype and drew comparisons to the Miami Heat. However, this season has been a complete disaster for the Lakers. Their improved play, especially after the all-star break, has the Lakers right in the playoff hunt (1 game up on Utah for 8 seed with 2 games to go, don't own tiebreak). Kobe Bryant has since torn his achilles, possibly in due to large part of his playing time. The 34 year old in his 17th season had been averaging over 45 minutes a month in April. Now the Lakers must try to complete this season and make the playoffs without him.

      Sometimes, a good thing must come to an end. In this case, I think it is time for the Lakers to say good bye to Kobe Bryant. Let's go over the facts. The NBA has an amnesty clause that helps teams get salary relief and the Lakers have their amnesty sitting in their back pocket. Kobe Bryant will be entering the last year of his contract next season and is scheduled to make over $30 million. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are both free agents next season and the Lakers would be smart to re-sign at least one of the two. If the two play well together and put forth a solid effort in the playoffs together, it may be smart to build around the two big men. How would they build around them? It would be easy with the 30 million dollars in cap space that would open by dropping Kobe.

      Sentimentally, amnestying Kobe Bryant could be the worst possible PR move in NBA history. The Colts dropped Peyton Manning in a similar spot and he led Denver to an AFC west championship the next season. However, the Colts are poised to be a threat in the future behind Andrew Luck. Worst case scenario for the Lakers would be Kobe coming back at the same level he was at and joining a new team. However, Kobe does not have many seasons left and next season could be his last one. It is time to move toward the future. The future is building around Dwight Howard. Fans might be outraged by the move, but winning would heal the heart of Lakers fans.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ohio State Vs. West Virginia/Marshall Baseball Recap

      Ohio State played 2 home games this week at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes played a game versus each team and took a way a victory in each game, improving to 21-10 on the season.

      Tuesday night the Buckeyes took down the Mountaineers 9-0. The Buckeyes turned in an all-around team effort. Defensively, CF Joe Ciamacco had a tremendous diving catch and the Buckeyes also turned 2 double plays. Starting pitcher Brett McKinney threw 5 scoreless innings to earn the win and improve his record to 3-3. McKinney struck out 6 Mountaineers in the outing. Jaron Long, David Fathalikhani, Greg Greve, and Trace Dempsey each pitched a scoreless inning in relief. Offensively, the Buckeyes pushed across 9 runs behind a 2-hit effort from Ciamacco and a 2-RBI effort from Brad Hallberg. The Buckeyes received a great deal of help from West Virginia as the Mountaineers combined for 5 errors as a team. In fact, West Virginia pitchers were charged with only one earned run.

      The Buckeyes won 5-0 against the Marshall Thundering Herd. The Buckeyes jumped ahead early by gaining a 4-0 lead in the early innings before a lengthy weather delay due to lightning. Starter Jake Post went 5 scoreless innings to pick up the victory. Post retired his last 10 batters faced (4 strikeouts) and now has 11 scoreless innings pitched at home. Once again the Buckeyes bullpen came through with 4 scoreless innings, 1.1 from Ryan Riga, 0.2 from David Fathalikhani, and an inning a piece from Tyler Giannonatti and Trace Dempsey. Ciamacco collected 2 hits for the Buckeyes once again and stole his 13th bag of the season. Freshman Jacob Bosiokovic had a clutch 2 RBI double to give the Buckeyes a comfortable lead in the first inning. For Marshall, Isaac Ballou reached base in his 23rd consecutive game by collecting 3 hits for the Thundering Herd.

      The Buckeyes will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend for a 3-game series with the Cornhuskers.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ohio State Home Opening Series vs Michigan State Recap

Ohio State baseball had a rough weekend against the Michigan State Spartans this past weekend (March 29-31). The Spartans (2-1 in conference) took 2 of 3 from the Buckeyes (4-2 in conference) at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium. Friday, the Buckeyes led for most of the game due to a strong outing from starting pitcher Jaron Long. However, a 2-RBI double from Spartan DH Cam Gibson tied the game at 6-6 in the 8th innning. Trace Dempsey was brought in to face the next batter and threw 2 wild pitches in the sequence, allowing 2 runs to score to complete a 4-run 8th for the Spartans, who went on to win 8-7.

The Buckeyes put on a strong performance on saturday afternoon, continuing an impressive offensive series. The Buckeyes won 8-3, improving their record to 13-2 when leading after 6 innings. However, the Spartans provided the offense in the rubber game on sunday, winning 7-2. Spartans Right Fielder Jimmy Pickens homered for the second time in the series. The Buckeyes are 1-5 when scoring less than 3 runs. Shortstop Kirby Pellant and DH/Catcher Greg Solomon were two bright spots in the series. Pellant went 6-12 with a double, 2 RBI, and 2 R while Solomon went 5-10 with a triple, 1 RBI, and 1 R.

Looking ahead to two intrastate games in the middle of the week, many players are performing at high levels. Pellant has reached in 14 consecutive games, 1B Brad Hallberg in 13 straight, and LF Tim Wetzel in 10. CF Joe Ciamacco has gone 11 for 11 on his steal attempts to this point of the season, improving his career total to 27 for 27. Kirby Pellant improved his average to above .400. RF Pat Porter collected a double and 2 hits in each of the 3 games vs Michigan State, leading the team with 10 multi-hit games on the season. In all, the Buckeyes hit .325 over the weekend.

Ohio State pitching has also been a bright spot, currently sitting 2nd in the Big Ten in team ERA. Ohio State's rotation of Jaron Long, Brad Goldberg, and Brian King have averaged over 6 innings per start and have a combined 2.42 ERA. Goldberg has allowed 2 earned runs of less in each of his last 8 starts. Closer Trace Dempsey leads the Big Ten with 7 saves and has posted a 0.68 era while striking out 14 batters this season. He has not allowed an earned run over his last 10 innings pitched, but his wild pitches did cost the Buckeyes on friday night. David Fathalikahni has not allowed a run over his last 8 appearances as well. The Buckeyes pitching staff has been strong when it matters most, as opponents are hitting just .198 with runners on base.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

NL Central Preview

The NL Central will certainly miss the Houston Astros. Here's how the teams stack up entering 2013:

Class of the Central: Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have won two of the last three division titles and seem poised to win another as the season begins. The Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians to bolster their lineup. He will make the move from RF to CF for the first time in his career. The rest of the lineup is the same young core- Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart- with MVP candidate Joey Votto and all-star Brandon Phillips. The Reds made the decision to keep the "Cuban Missile" Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen as their closer. As a result, they enter 2013 with the same rotation as last season- Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake. The Reds performed impressively without Votto last season, which means this team certainly has the potential for 100 wins if they can stay healthy.

Model of Consistency: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals continue to play baseball at a high level no matter what lineup they throw out on the field. The Cardinals will be without Chris Carpenter (injury) and Kyle Lohse (free agency) in their rotation. However, St. Louis is continuing to reload rather than rebuild, with young studs Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Pete Kozma, and NLDS hero Daniel Descalso. Highly touted prospect Oscar Tavares will likely join the roster after the all-star break as well. The Cardinals will have to deal with inconsistent pitching (especially from their bullpen) and will rely heavily on Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, and Jaime Garcia to carry them on a playoff run. This team could challenge the Reds for the title if its pieces together, but this seems more like a wild card team than a division winner.

Outside looking in: Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee was able to muster 83 wins in their first season without Prince Fielder. The Brewers will start this season without Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in their rotation. However, they signed Kyle Lohse to replace Greinke and have a young repertoire of young pitching with Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, and Mike Fiers anchoring their underrated rotation. Milwaukee's bullpen was miserable last season and blew many games in the late innings. Francisco Rodriguez (3 for 10 in save oppurtunities) was allowed to walk but John Axford (35 for 44) will return as the closer after a disappointing season (5-8, 4.67 ERA). A big storyline that could impact the success of the Brewers this season is the status of their star LF and 2011 MVP Ryan Braun. If Braun is suspended, this team is not deep enough to overcome his loss. The Brewers will start the season without Corey Hart and will have SS Alex Gonzalez playing 1B in his absence. This is a solid under the radar team that may find itself in the playoff hunt come September, but it seems like a lot has to go their way for that to happen.

Is this the year?- Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh almost ended their streak of losing seasons, but a late season collapse had them sitting at 79-83. This year, Pittsburgh will try to get on the winning side behind superstar CF Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates brought in veteran C Russell Martin to work with their new rotation. The Pirates have an interesting rotation of A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jeff Locke, and Jonathan Sanchez. If each pitcher performs at a top level, this team is good enough to win 82 games this year. Contributions from Neil Walker, Garrett Jones, and Pedro Alvarez in help of McCutchen are also critical. However, it seems like too much needs to go right for Pittsburgh and they may be headed toward a 21st consecutive season without an above .500 win percentage.

Is this THE year?- Chicago Cubs
The lovable losers from the north side of Chicago have not won a world series since 1908. 105 years later, is this team ready to compete for a title? Quick answer- no. The Cubs have a lot of work to do in all facets of their game. The good news for the Cubs is they did not lose any significant players from last season. However, this team had 61 wins last season. Anthony Rizzo needs a huge season for the Cubs to move in the right direction. Barring a trade, Rizzo will be protected by Alfonso Soriano, who seemed to had made some good adjustments to his swing last season, tallying over 100 RBI from the cleanup spot. The Cubs brought in 4 starting pitchers to add depth to their rotation, the biggest name being Edwin Jackson. I doubt this team does much damage in this division, but the Cubs appear to be heading in the right direction with the way that their prospects played in spring training. This team is still a few years away.