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Louisville romped in the second half against Duke to defeat the Blue Devils 85-63 for a trip to its second Final Four, but the news of the day was the devastating injury to Cardinals guard Kevin Ware.
Attempting to defend a three-point shot, the sophomore guard landed awkwardly on his right leg, causing it to break in two places and the bone to protrude the skin. The injury occurred in front of the Cardinals’ bench, causing teammates in to recoil in horror. On the floor, Chane Behanan collapsed to the ground. Russ Smith sobbed. Rick Pitino wiped a tear form his eye.
“It was really hard for me to pull myself together because I didn't ever think in a million years I would see something like that,” Smith told reporters after the game. “And that happened, especially, to a guy like Kevin Ware, I was completely devastated.”
On the court, Louisville must replace Ware’s production. He has become increasingly more valuable off the bench for the Cardinals in recent weeks, but Louisville is one of the deepest teams in the Final Four. Guard Tim Henderson played seven minutes against Duke, as many as he played in the rout over round of 64 opponent North Carolina A&T.
Here’s a roundup of the reaction to Ware’s injury:
► Peyton Siva posted to Instagram a photo of Ware, fresh out of surgery, with the Midwest region trophy.
► The Louisville Courier-Journal’s C.L. Brown explains how the Cardinals found the motivation to win after Ware’s injury.
► Eric Crawford of Louisville’s WDRB takes us moment by moment from the injury to the postgame comments.
► Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn spoke to Ware’s mother, Lisa Junior, who watched the game from home in Conyers, Ga. “You still cannot comprehend the horror of a mother watching it on TV, when CBS opted to show the play again. 'When I saw the replay,' Lisa said, 'I lost it.'"
► Sports on Earth’s Will Leitch delves into the decision to show the injury, to post a GIF of the injury or not (The Big Lead, Buzzfeed, Deadspin and Yahoo posted GIFs; ESPN, SB Nation, SI and USA Today did not, Leitch notes).
“We can moralize all we want and tell ourselves we're taking the high road,” Leitch wrote. “But we are human beings. If someone turns on the stove and tells us it's hot, we can't blame them when we go ahead and put our hand on it. We can only blame ourselves.”
► Through the evening Sunday and into Monday morning, media organizations debated whether or not to air replays of Ware’s injury. The video can be found easily on YouTube. WARNING: The video of Ware’s injury is extremely graphic. Do not click on the video if you do not want to see a graphic leg injury.
► Clay Travis noted the morality play brought about on Twitter for those who opted to post video of the injury, noting that Oscar-nominated film The Blind Side opens with a scene of a horrific sports injury.
► Forbes contributor Dan Diamond looked into the morality of college athletics and where does Ware go from here from an NCAA and institution perspective.
► Many reacted on Twitter, but the most resonant comments came from athletes who sustained similar injuries, including former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann and former Louisville running back Michael Bush.
Watching Duke/ Louisville my heart goes out to Kevin Ware.— Joe Theismann (@Theismann7) March 31, 2013
I can't even get myself together. I don't even wanna watch the rest of this game. His life just change— Michael Bush (@michaelbush29) March 31, 2013
Steroids are now just as synonymous with baseball as hot dogs or cold beer. It is an unfortunate era of the game that fans of all ages must accept. Are the use of performance-enhancing drugs terrible for the body and a form of cheating? Yes, and this country should work diligently to combat their growth. But steroids are a part of why the game of baseball returned to the nation’s heart after a work stoppage and no World Series in 1994.
The 1998 home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, for example, revived a lifeless sport and, like it or not, everyone from the owners and the players to the managers and the fans benefited.
Should steroid users be in the Hall of Fame — alongside plenty of other great players who bent the rules? Who benefited more from PEDs: Hitters or pitchers? Will there ever be confirmation of who used what when? Since there will likely never be a definitive answer to these questions maybe baseball should build a “Steroid Wing” in Cooperstown and just lump everyone from 1990 to 2006 — when Bud Selig finally created the Joint Drug Prevention and Blunt Treatment Program.
How would that roster look? Here is the all-time steroid team made up of names who have been connected in one way or another to some sort of PED at some point. The starting lineup is a murderer’s row and the rotation has one of the all-time greats fronting it.
C: Pudge Rodriguez (1991-2011)
Key Stats: .296/.798, 2,844 H, 311 HR, 1,332 RBI
Awards: All-Star (14), Gold Glove (13), Silver Slugger (7), MVP
He is one of baseball’s all-time greatest catchers. He has more putouts (14,864) than any other catcher in history by a wide margin as his 21-season career would indicate. He hit over 20 home runs, however, just five times. They all came in consecutive seasons with the Rangers after playing three years with Jose Canseco. His 35-homer, 113-RBI MVP season is a clear outlier as Canseco claimed to have personally educated Rodriguez about steroid use. He never topped 30 home runs or 100 RBIs in any other season. Following the release of Canseco's inflammatory book, Juiced, the 215-pound catcher showed up at Tigers camp at 187 pounds and never hit more than 14 homers the rest of his career. Honorable Mention: Mike Piazza, Javy Lopez
1B: Mark McGwire (1986-2001)
Key Stats: .263/.982, 583 HR, 1,414 RBI
Awards: All-Star (12), Silver Slugger (3), Gold Glove (1), Rookie of the Year
McGwire is one of the few who has openly admitted that he used PEDs during his playing career. In fact, he dates his use of steroids back to as early as 1989 when he and Canseco won the World Series in Oakland — the modern birthplace for steroids. The Big Mac would have been a big bopper no matter what drugs he took, but breaking Roger Maris’ single-season home run record two years in a row seems highly unlikely. Especially considering he did it at age 34 (70 HR) and 35 (65). Honorable Mention: Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell
2B: Bret Boone (1992-2005)
Key Stats: .266/.767, 252 HR, 1,021 RBI
Awards: All-Star (3), Gold Glove (4), Silver Slugger (2)
Boone’s career stat sheet is one that steroid haters point to on a regular basis. How could a 5-foot-10, 180-pound second baseman who hit a total of 62 home runs in his first six seasons somehow blast 37 dingers and lead the league in RBIs (141) with a .331 average at age 32? His .950 OPS that year dwarfed his career .767 mark. In eight of 14 seasons, Boone hit 15 round trippers or less. But from 2001 to 2003, he hit 96 of his career 252 homers. Once again, it was Canseco’s book that fingered Boone as a potential steroid user. Honorable Mention: Brian Roberts, Chuck Knoblauch
3B: Alex Rodriguez (1994-present)
Key Stats: .300/.945, 647 HR, 1,950 RBI, 318 SB
Awards: All-Star (14), Silver Slugger (10), MVP (3), Gold Glove (2)
Playing in Seattle and Texas, two steroid hotbeds, A-ROD tested positive for PEDs in 2003 and eventually confessed to his use of banned substances from 2001-03. He has also seen his name mentioned prominently with more recent accusations hailing from Biogenesis in South Florida. He was an elite player with elite skills but his 40-40 season, multiple MVPs and historic numbers have all been called into question by his decision to cheat. His legacy will be an interesting one to track over the next, say, five seasons? Honorable Mention: Ken Caminiti, Mike Lowell, Gary Sheffield
SS: Miguel Tejada (1997-2011)
Key Stats: .285/.793, 304 HR, 1,282 RBI
Awards: All-Star (6), Silver Slugger (2), MVP (1)
Tejada was arguably the top shortstop in the game during a five-year stretch from 2000-04. He hit over 30 home runs in four out of five seasons, led the majors with 150 RBIs in 2004 and won the 2002 MVP as a key cog in the emergence of the "Moneyball" era in Oakland. But like many Bay Area players, the Latin star was fingered for steroid use by a variety of people. Rafael Palmeiro accused him of giving him tainted B-12 shots. Canseco accused him in his book. And then his name was featured prominently in the Mitchell Report. It all eventually led to a somber confession in 2009, as he was facing federal perjury charges, leaving little doubt that his career is tainted.
OF: Barry Bonds (1986-2007)
Key Stats: .298/1.051, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI, 514 SB
Awards: All-Star (14), Silver Slugger (12), Gold Glove (8), MVP (7)
The most high-profile steroid user in the history of baseball also just happens to be its all-time home run champ. Everyone knows the number 755 but few know Bonds’ 762. This is all, of course, due to his miraculous late-career power surge. He never hit over 50 home runs in a season until he blasted 73 in 2002 at age 36. He hit over 40 dingers only three times in his career before topping 45 in five straight seasons from 2000 to 2004 — his 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th seasons. He was at the center of the BALCO scandal playing in a roided-up city during the peak of the steroid era. This one is a no brainer and it’s a shame, because he might have been one of the greatest hitters of all-time if he hadn't cheated. Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun, Gary Sheffield
OF: Sammy Sosa (1989-2007)
Key Stats: .273/.878, 609 HR, 1,667 RBI, 234 SB
Awards: All-Star (7), Silver Slugger (6), MVP (1)
This should be the only stat you need to know about Sosa and the steroid era: The Cubs' slugger broke Maris’ single-season home run record three times (1998, 1999, 2001) and never once led his league in homers. Think about that? He was a power hitter despite his 6-foot, 165-pound frame before 1998, but his numbers spiked dramatically during his historic home run chase with McGwire. He hit 207 HR in his first nine seasons and 292 long balls from 1998 to 2002. His 2005 Congressional hearing performance was one for the ages and he was fingered by The New York Times in an article stating Sosa tested positive for PEDs in 2003. Seriously, Baseball-Reference has him listed at 6-foot and 165 pounds… and he has 609 home runs? Honorable Mention: Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez
OF: Manny Ramirez (1993-2011)
Key Stats: .312/.996, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI
Awards: All-Star (12), Silver Slugger (9)
There weren’t many better right-handed hitters in all of baseball than Man-Ram in his prime. But that all came crashing down when he tested positive in 2009 for testosterone levels and was suspended 50 games. He then tested positive again in 2011 for a banned substance. All of this after he was fingered as a user back in the infamous 2003 drug test that reportedly also implicated Sosa, A-Rod and others. He was an elite hitter who delivered in the clutch and led his team to four different World Series. But he also quit on his team and earned the "Manny Being Manny" moniker after bizarre and often inexplicable on-field behavior. Honorable Mention: Brady Anderson, Melky Cabrera
DH: David Ortiz (1997-present)
Key Stats: .285/.928, 401 HR, 1,326 RBI
Awards: All-Star (8), Silver Slugger (5)
Big Papi has a strange career boxscore. In six seasons with the Twins, Ortiz slugged just 58 home runs — or less than 10 per season. But paired up with Man-Ram in Beantown for an organization that is willing to do anything to win and he became the greatest hitting DH of all-time. He has averaged 34 home runs per season in his 10-year Red Sox career and topped out at a league-leading 54 in 2006. Ortiz, like so many others on this team, reportedly tested positive for steroids in 2003, information that finally came to light in 2009, and his power numbers have dropped ever since that disclosure. Honorable Mention: Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui
SP: Roger Clemens (1984-2007)
Key Stats: 354 W, 4,916.2 IP, 4,672 K, 3.12 ERA
Awards: All-Star (11), Cy Young (7), MVP (1)
The Bonds of the mound, Clemens used PEDs to match the slugger's MVPs with seven Cy Young awards. He led the league in ERA seven different times, including a sterling 1.87 mark — his career best — at age 42 while pitching in a notorious steroid town (Houston) in 2005. The change in his career dates back to his move north of the border. After four middling years in Boston from 1993-96, he signed with Toronto and went 41-13 in 498.2 innings with a 2.33 ERA and 563 strikeouts — at age 34 and 35. He was then traded to New York and made more than $97.8 million from age 37 to 44. His name came up 82 times in the Mitchell Report and he has been fingered by former trainers and even teammates as a possible rule-breaker. Honorable Mention: Andy Pettitte, Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt,
RP: Eric Gagne (1997-2008)
Key Stats: 187 SV, 643.2 IP, 718 K, 3.47 ERA
Awards: All-Star (3), Cy Young (1)
Gagne was magical when he was at his best. He converted an MLB-record 84 straight saves and closed 152 games with 365 strikeouts and a 1.79 ERA in just 247.0 innings from 2002 to 2004. In his other seven seasons combined, he closed 35 games total. However, pitching on the West Coast during those years will raise major question marks and he was named prominently in the Mitchell Report complete with extremely incriminating evidence. He was never the same pitcher following his Tommy John surgery in 2005. Honorable Mention: John Rocker, Guillermo Mota
Note: This is simply for fun and not intended to cast official judgment of anyone named above nor is it investigative journalism.
No one ever wants to see anyone suffer an injury in anyway. But when superior athletes are moving at unrealistic speeds and in bizarre ways, unnatural things are bound to happen to the body. Sunday evening, Louisville hoopster Kevin Ware suffered one of the worst possible leg injuries many have ever seen in sports. Fans, coaches and players of all teams are thinking about him, his family and the Cardinals basketball squad. Needless to say, we all wish him a speedy and healthy recovery.
Below are some videos of some of sports most horrific injuries that we can remember. Some you will know about — Lawrence Taylor breaking Joe Theismann's leg, for example — and some you may have never seen. It's not for the squimmish and proceed at your own risk.
Kevin Ware, Louisville
Shaun Livingston, LA Clippers
The Clippers guard completely destroyed his knee in February of 2007 against the Charlotte Bobcats. After rumors of a potential amputated, Livingston eventually rehabbed his way back into the NBA. He has played for six teams since and is averaging 7.3 points per game this year.
Sid Vicious, Wrestling
After nearly a two-decade career in the WWF, including a championship, Vicious jumped off the top rope in 2001 and snapped his left leg. He did return to wrestling but only as a supporting cast and has sued WCW for the incident.
Joe Thiesmann, Washington
The famous compound fracture suffered by the Redskins quarterback in November of 1985 ended his career. The injury forced his retirement as Theismann would never throw a pass again.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore missed much of the 2011 season with a torn ACL in his left knee. After a furious rehab, he returned to the field as, once again, one of the nation's top backs in 2012. However, against Tennessee he suffered a horrific injury to his other knee. He is currently working to get his NFL career on track and all signs point to him being ready to play this fall.
Moises Alou, Montreal
Long-time MLB vet shattered his ankle in 1993 rounding first base and trying to stop. After rehab, Alou lost his speed but played for 15 more seasons in the majors.
Starting Pitchers throwing out arms
Pitching is one of the most unnatural movements the human body can endure and shoulders, arms and elbows seem to pay the price. Here are a few that come to mind.
Willis McGahee, Miami
The 2002 National Championship was on the line when Miami and Ohio State played in the title game. McGahee's knee was destroyed on this tackle, yet, the Hurricanes runner was still drafted in the first round and went on to have an excellent NFL career.
Matt Henry, Manitoba
Manitoba Bison running back Matt Henry breaks off a long run and then suffers a sevier leg injury in the Vanier Cup.
Tyrone Prothro, Alabama
Alabama's do-everything play-maker catches a long touchdown pass against Florida in 2005. The injury ended his breakout junior season and it unfortunately ended the young star's career.
DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss
One of the nation's top recruits in 2008, Brown broke onto the scene with a huge freshman season. However, that season ended with a broken right leg in the bowl game and his career went down hill afterwards.
Patrick Edwards, Houston
As a freshman in 2008 for Houston, Edwards already had 634 yards and four touchdowns before playing Marshall. He ran through the endzone at full speed to make a big catch before hitting some endzone equipment and suffering a compound fracture in his leg. He returned to play three full successful seasons for the Cougars.
Tim Krumrie, San Francisco
Bengals star defensive lineman Tim Krumrie suffers a lower leg injury in what might be the worst Super Bowl injury of all time.
When it comes to winners in free agency, hopeful Super Bowl contenders Atlanta, Denver, Houston and Seattle each made big moves to improve their respective rosters. The new coaching staffs in Chicago, Kansas City and Philadelphia also didn’t waste any time putting their stamps on their teams, while Miami, Minnesota and Tennessee made aggressive moves to address areas of need.
Related: 2013 NFL Free Agency Losers
2013 NFL Free Agency Winners (in alphabetical order)
The NFC South champions finally got that much-needed playoff win and held a halftime lead at home against San Francisco in the NFC Championship game. Not content to rest on these laurels, the team took drastic measures to create some cap space to work with, resulting in the release of running back Michael Turner, defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson.
While none of those three will be back in a Falcons uniform, the team filled these voids by signing running back Steven Jackson and defensive end Osi Umenyiora and agreeing to a new contract with free agent safety William Moore, as well as starting left tackle Sam Baker. The most important free agent acquisition, however, was when tight end Tony Gonzalez decided to come back for a 17th season. With Gonzalez, Moore and Baker back in the fold along with the “new” guys, the Falcons could very well find themselves in the NFC title game again this season.
While it’s unfortunate that long-time Bear and future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher most likely won’t be back, it’s not like the front office completely ignored the position either. Free agents D.J. Williams and James Anderson should fill their roles nicely and it’s possible the Bears’ linebacking corps will be better as an overall unit this season compared to last.
Outside of linebacker, the Bears also signed offensive linemen Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson, as well as tight end Martellus Bennett to address two glaring areas of need. Now new head coach Marc Trestman can turn his focus to the draft as he continues to mold the roster and this team to his liking.
Denver made arguably the loudest noise of any team in free agency when the Broncos signed wide receiver Wes Welker away from New England. Peyton Manning now has Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to throw to, making the Broncos’ offense even more dangerous than it was last season. The Broncos also added to its offensive line with the addition of former San Diego Charger guard Louis Vasquez.
As curious and puzzling the whole Elvis Dumervil saga was, Denver didn’t let it get in the way of improving its defense. Terrance Knighton should provide immediate dividends on the defensive line, while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will help shore up a secondary that got exposed in the AFC Divisional loss to Baltimore. The Broncos also may not be done just yet as they have been linked to Dwight Freeney as a possible Dumervil replacement.
The AFC South champions haven’t made a bunch of moves, but the ones they have speak volumes. Future Hall of Famer Ed Reed is a huge get for this team as he will not only improve the secondary on the field, but he can serve as a mentor to his position mates and a veteran leader in the locker room. All-Pro punter Shane Lechler should only make the Texans’ special teams better, while fullback Greg Jones leading the way for Arian Foster could make Houston’s running game even more lethal, if that’s possible.
Kansas City Chiefs
New head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey have wasted little time putting their stamp on the Chiefs. Before free agency even started, the team traded for San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, applied the franchise tag to left tackle Branden Albert and re-signed wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt.
Through free agency the team has since added cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, tight end Anthony Fasano, wide receiver Donnie Avery, offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, defensive lineman Mike DeVito and quarterback Chase Daniel. They have done all of this while only losing three key contributors from last season’s roster – defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey, offensive lineman Eric Winston and quarterback Matt Cassel, who was out of a job already once the Chiefs acquired Smith.
If anything, you have to give Miami credit for not standing idly by with all of the cap space it had accumulated. The Dolphins knew they needed to make a splash, pardon the pun, and they did just that by landing wide receiver Mike Wallace. The team didn’t stop there, however, as it signed linebacker Dannell Ellerbe away from the Super Bowl champion Ravens and also added tight end Dustin Keller and wide receiver Brandon Gibson to the offense. This past weekend, Miami added to its offseason haul by agreeing to a one-year deal with former Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes. A Pro Bowler in 2010, Grimes has been limited to just 13 games over the last two seasons because of a knee injury in 2011 and a torn Achilles tendon in Week 1 last season. If healthy, Grimes should be able to fill the void left by the departed Sean Smith.
Along with Smith, Miami did say good-bye to left tackle Jake Long, running back Reggie Bush, linebackers Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby and tight end Anthony Fasano, but the fan base can’t say this team didn’t just sit and do nothing. The front office got Ryan Tannehill some much-needed weapons, now it’s up to the second-year signal caller to do something with them.
Yes, Minnesota traded wide receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle and the offense won’t be the same without him, but did the Vikings have any other choice? Harvin made it clear he didn’t want to be there and the Vikings got the Seahawks’ first- and seventh-round picks this year and a third-round selection in ’14 in return for someone who had become nothing more than a headache.
That said, the trade of Harvin left a glaring hole in the offense, one that was filled with the signing of former Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings is nowhere near the same player as Harvin, but when healthy, the wideout has been a productive and reliable target, just what quarterback Christian Ponder and the passing attack needs. The team also made sure several other key offensive pieces stayed put, namely tackle Phil Loadholt and fullback Jerome Felton, and brought in veteran Matt Cassel to back up Ponder.
First-year NFL head coach Chip Kelly is doing everything he can to shape this roster the way he wants. Gone are high-priced, All-Pro defensive backs Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as the Eagles have completely overhauled their secondary. Taking their places will be Patrick Chung, Bradley Fletcher, Kenny Phillips and Cary Williams, along with additional new defensive pieces Connor Barwin and Isaac Sopoaga.
It remains to be seen if the quantity over quality approach will pay off on the field, but if anything, the Eagles’ defense will look a lot different this season and figures to be a lot deeper. Signing fullback/tight end hybrid James Casey away from Houston was another nice addition, as Kelly likes versatile weapons on offense.
Even if you don’t factor in the Percy Harvin acquisition, the Seahawks have to be viewed a winner in free agency. Already one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, and one that should only get better with so many young core players, Seattle added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, two of the top defensive players on the market.
Besides making the Seahawks defense even younger than it was last season, these team-friendly contracts (Avril’s is two years, Bennett’s only one) made it easier for the team to sign Harvin to a new deal and still should leave the Seahakws with enough cap flexibility to build for the future. The battle in the NFC West between defending champion San Francisco and Seattle should be extremely entertaining to watch this season.
The Titans made their first big move before free agency even started, signing veteran safety George Wilson after he was cut by Buffalo. Once the market officially opened, the team aggressively pursued its top two targets, efforts that paid off when Tennessee signed guard Andy LeVitre and tight end Delanie Walker.
The Titans didn’t stop there, however, adding running back Shonn Greene, defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, linebacker Moise Fokou and offensive lineman Robert Turner, while also re-signing reliable veteran kicker Rob Bironas. Even when the team parted ways with valuable backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the Titans had a plan in place, agreeing to terms with Ryan Fitzpatrick shortly after the Bills released him. Tennessee also has since added veteran defensive back Bernard Pollard to the fold, the latest in a series of wise moves made to address areas of need and improve the overall depth of the Titans’ roster.
No one team has been affected more in free agency than the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens will look vastly different when they take the field this fall, especially on defense. Other teams that have seen a lot of roster turnover and have struggled to find suitable replacements through free agency include New England, the New York Jets, Oakland and Pittsburgh. Buffalo and Cleveland both have new coaching staffs and front offices running things, so change is inevitable and part of the process. However, based on what has taken place in free agency, it’s clear these two teams have a long ways to go as they seek to contend in their respective divisions.
Related: 2013 NFL Free Agency Winners
2013 NFL Free Agency Losers (in alphabetical order)
After leading Baltimore to a world championship, the Ravens had little choice but to give Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco the largest contract in NFL history. A deal that had to get done, it’s also one that didn’t come without costs, and I’m not just referring to the $120 million the team committed to him over the next six years.
Besides trading reliable wide receiver Anquan Boldin away to San Francisco, the team Baltimore beat to win the Super Bowl in February, the Ravens have already watched four defensive starters from that game sign elsewhere, and this number will likely only go up. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and defensive backs Bernard Pollard, Ed Reed and Cary Williams will not be back and neither will linebacker and emotional leader Ray Lewis, who has retired. This number doesn’t include linebacker Paul Kruger, who signed with Cleveland, or defensive linemen Arthur Jones and Ma’ake Kemoeatu, who are still free agents.
The Ravens have worked hard to replace some of these players, adding defensive end Elvis Dumervil, safety Michael Huff and defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, but that doesn’t change the fact that as of now, only three starters remain from the defense that beat Indianapolis, Denver, New England and San Francisco to win the Super Bowl. And that’s without bringing up how hard it will be to replace Boldin in the Ravens’ passing attack and his impact on the offense as a whole and in the locker room.
If there was ever any doubt about how difficult it is to try and repeat as Super Bowl champions, look no further than what the Ravens have gone through in less than two months since winning the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans.
First-year NFL head coach Doug Marrone already had a tough job ahead of him in trying to get the Bills back to being competitive in the AFC East. That task is even tougher now with the losses of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, wide receiver Donald Jones, offensive linemen Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart and safety George Wilson. Fitzpatrick, Levitre and Wilson all signed with Tennessee, while Jones signed with the rival Patriots and Rinehart joined San Diego. Besides these players, wide receiver David Nelson probably won’t be back with the Bills nor will linebacker Nick Barnett or defensive back Terrence McGee.
While it was clear that Fitzpatrick wasn’t going to play out his contract in Buffalo, the Bills had to pay just to release him, taking on some dead money associated with the six-year, $62 million deal he signed back in October 2011. Add that to the two-year deal that could be worth up to $13 million the Bills agreed to over the weekend with former Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb and you have to wonder if the total cost is worth it. Especially considering the jury is still very much out on if Kolb can be an effective starting quarterback in the NFL (9-12 career mark as the starter, 78.9 career passer rating). In fact, it’s fair to ask are the Bills really any better off at quarterback now than they if they just kept Fitzpatrick, bloated contract and all?
At this point the Bills’ free agent haul has consisted of Kolb, former Cincinnati linebacker Manny Lawson, safety Jairus Byrd (franchised) and cornerback Leodis McKelvin (re-signed). Marrone still has plenty of holes to address, which were only added to with the defections on the offensive line, at wide receiver, and there’s still the matter of the future of the quarterback position. Unlike fellow first-year head coaches Marc Trestman in Chicago and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, free agency really didn’t do Marrone any favors.
Cleveland appeared to be sitting pretty headed into free agency, as the Browns had an estimated $50 million in cap space to work with. What better way to allow first-year head coach Mark Chudzinksi the opportunity to bring in his guys, especially some much-needed weapons on offense.
Instead the Browns’ free agent haul has consisted of former Baltimore backup linebacker Paul Kruger, troubled Oakland defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, Cardinal linebacker Quentin Groves and a pair of former Bears in unproductive tight end Kellen Davis and backup quarterback Jason Campbell. Not exactly the kind of splash Browns fans were hoping for and the offense, particularly second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden, needed.
Now Chudzinksi and company will turn their attention to the draft, through which the Cleveland will have to address its glaring areas of need, starting with wide receiver. To make matters worse, the Browns also will be in the market for a new kicker as Phil Dawson left to join San Francisco, and potentially a punter too since Reggie Hodges is still unsigned.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady agreed to a team-friendly, three-year extension just prior to the start of free agency. At the time, part of the reason behind the new deal was to help the Patriots’ cap situation as they tried to keep last season’s roster intact. Instead, Brady has had to sit and watch, as his wide receiving corps has been completely overhauled leaving with him a group of unfamiliar targets.
The exodus started when 100-catch machine Wes Welker decided to leave New England to join Peyton Manning in Denver. Welker’s two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos hardly broke the bank, making his exit even more curious. On top of Welker’s departure, New England had to cut several other players just to put itself in a position to do anything in free agency, including retaining its own.
Among those released were wide receiver Brandon Lloyd while fellow wideouts Deion Branch, Julian Edelman and Donte Stallworth became, and still remain, free agents. The Patriots did work quickly following Welker’s departure, signing former Ram wide receiver Danny Amendola to a five-year contract, while also adding Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins.
To New England’s credit, the team also re-signed starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Aqib Talib, while also bringing veteran safety Adrian Wilson and running back/kicker returner Leon Washington on board. However, the turnover at wide receiver, highlighted by Welker’s decision to sign with Denver, will be the focus moving forward and has already cast somewhat of a cloud over the Patriots’ offseason.
New York Jets
It may not be getting near as much attention as to what’s taken place in Baltimore, but the Jets have gone through a fair amount of attrition of their own this offseason. Even after last season’s disappointing 6-10 showing, the Jets were faced with some tough decisions and had to let a lot of key players and contributors go.
Running back Shonn Greene, starting guard Matt Slauson and tight end Dustin Keller have already signed with new teams, as have starting safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, defensive end Mike DeVito and linebacker Aaron Maybin. But that’s not all, as the team also cut starting linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, defensive tackle Sione Pouha and several others before free agency started, as it had to work hard to even get under the cap in the first place. None of these players are likely to return to the Jets.
The Jets have added veterans like former Pittsburgh guard Willie Colon, San Diego defensive lineman Antonio Garay, quarterback David Garrard and running back Mike Goodson, but there are still several key pieces of last year’s roster out on the market. Included in that group is starting linebacker Bryan Thomas and the starting right side of its offensive line in guard Brandon Moore and tackle Austin Howard. The Jets aren’t in a position right now to add many more pieces, so it looks like head coach Rex Ryan, who is already on the hot seat before the season even starts, will be going to battle this fall with a lot of unfamiliar faces.
Things didn’t go very well for first-year head coach Dennis Allen last season and based on what has already happened this offseason, he may be hard-pressed to even match the four wins he had in 2012. The Raiders have already lost safety Michael Huff (Baltimore), defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (Arizona), linebacker Philip Wheeler (Miami), defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (Cleveland), tight end Brandon Myers (New York Giants), running back Mike Goodson (New York Jets) and punter Shane Lechler (Houston) in free agency and haven’t exactly restocked the cupboard.
The Raiders have added linebackers Kevin Burnett (Miami) and Nick Roach (Chicago), defensive tackles Pat Sims (Cincinnati) and Vance Walker (Atlanta), along with some others to the fold, but at least on paper, the additions don’t measure up to the subtractions. That’s especially the case if you factor in that defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer and Joselio Hanson are still out there as free agents.
And then there’s the Carson Palmer dilemma, as it appears the veteran quarterback the Raiders traded for in October 2011 is on his way out the door. Even if the Raiders are able to trade Palmer, to say Arizona, the return for him will likely be one late-round pick, which pales in comparison to what they gave Cincinnati (2012 first-round pick, second-rounder in ’13) for him less than two years ago.
With the hits Oakland has already taken in free agency and the likelihood that there are more losses to come, the Raiders need all the draft picks they can accumulate to assist with the rebuilding effort. Besides coming out on the losing end of the Palmer deal when all is said and done, the Raiders may need to use another draft pick or picks to acquire its next quarterback (Seattle’s Matt Flynn?), putting them even further in the hole, if you will, when it comes to restocking the roster. There’s no question this team needs some new blood, but at this rate Allen and company are basically starting over completely from scratch. Not exactly the best-case scenario for a team that went 4-12 last season, no?
Age and salary cap issues may finally be catching up to Pittsburgh, who more than likely will need younger players to step into bigger roles this season and also hit in April’s draft on more than one pick if the Steelers hope to return to the postseason. Injuries and an unproductive running game were two of the biggest culprits behind 2012’s disappointing 8-8 showing, but Pittsburgh has already been hit hard by losses through free agency.
Even though it was pretty clear the Steelers weren’t going to be able to retain the services of wide receiver Mike Wallace, he will not be an easy weapon to replace. The situation at wide receiver could get even worse if the team is unable to keep restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders in the fold. The Steelers also will be without running back Rashard Mendenhall and starting guard Willie Colon on offense this season. Two other offensive linemen – Doug Legursky and Max Starks – are still free agents and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will have a new backup in 2013 with the addition of Bruce Gradkowski.
On defense, reliable cornerback Keenan Lewis signed with New Orleans and the Steelers decided to cut linebacker James Harrison, who was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. Another potential big loss, both literally and figuratively, on defense could be veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton, who has yet to sign with any team.The Steelers are a veteran team and its ability to keep its core together is one of the main reasons why they have posted nine straight seasons of .500 or better. Unfortunately, age and the cost of doing business in the NFL may finally be catching up to this team. Based on what has already taken place in free agency, this is a team that could desperately use an infusion of young, impact talent in the draft, especially if the Steelers want to keep its streak of .500 or better finishes in the regular season intact in 2013.
They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2013 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 20 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.
No. 8: Phil Mickelson
Born: June 16, 1970, San Diego, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 41 | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,203,821 (8th) | World Ranking: 10
Brandel Chamblee's Take
Lefty has won in every year but two since 1993, and even though he doesn’t have the length that he used to, he still has more ability to produce magic than all but a few players in the world. His best bet to win is at Augusta National, where he has three wins and nine top 5s since 1999, including a third-place finish there last year. At 42, he doesn’t have many great years left, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he won another major before he was done.
Major Championship Résumé
Masters - T3
U.S. Open - T65
British Open - Cut
PGA Championship - T36
Best Career Finishes:
Masters - 1 (2004, 2006, 2010)
U.S. Open - 2/T2 (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009)
British Open - T2 (2011)
PGA Championship - 1 (2005)
Top-10 Finishes: 33
Top-25 Finishes: 45
Missed Cuts: 8
Athlon's 2013 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 20 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, reigning FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.
Coaching is one of the driving forces in building a national championship team or program. No matter how much talent a program has, it can’t win a national title if the coaching is questionable.
Considering how important coaches are to teams or even making preseason predictions, Athlon is taking a look at how each conference stacks up with head coach rankings for 2013.
Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference.
Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2013
1. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Overall Record at Kansas State: 170-85-1 (1989-2005, 2009-present, 21 years)
Snyder doesn’t get the national credit like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, but there’s no denying he is one of the best coaches in college football. Prior to his arrival at Kansas State, the Wildcats had just one bowl appearance and recorded only one winning season from 1971-88. After Snyder’s arrival, Kansas State immediately went from a laughingstock to a consistent winner. The Wildcats won six games in Snyder’s first two seasons but recorded 10 years of nine victories or more from 1993-2003. Snyder retired after the 2005 season, but a failed three-year stint under Ron Prince brought him back to the sidelines. And just as Kansas State did in Snyder’s first stint, the program quickly emerged as a conference title contender and was in the mix to play for the national title last season. Snyder isn’t flashy, but his teams are always well-coached and prepared. As long as Snyder roams the sidelines in Manhattan, regardless of how many starters Kansas State loses, never count out the Wildcats from the Big 12 title discussion.
2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Overall Record: 149-37 (1999-present, 14 years)
Stoops has been the picture of consistency and success during his Oklahoma tenure. The Sooners have won at least 10 games in 11 of Stoops’ 14 seasons in Norman and claimed the national title after the 2000 season. Under his guidance, Oklahoma has emerged as a national powerhouse once again. The Sooners have claimed at least a share of the Big 12 title nine times under Stoops and have eight BCS bowl appearances. And after a 10-3 record in 2012, which would be considered a successful year for most programs, Stoops didn’t sit idle. Oklahoma will have three new assistant coaches for 2013, which should inject some fresh energy into the program. Even though some may criticize Stoops for his 1-5 record in the last six BCS bowls, the Ohio native is still one of the nation’s premier coaches.
3. Gary Patterson, TCU
Overall Record at TCU: 116-36 (2000-present, 13 years)
Since 2000, TCU has played in the WAC, Conference USA, Mountain West and Big 12. The one constant and driving force behind the conference changes and rise of TCU as one of college football’s top-25 programs of the BCS era: Gary Patterson. The Kansas native had no FBS head coaching experience when he was promoted at TCU in 2000 but has eight seasons of 10 or more wins, including a 13-0 mark in 2010. The Horned Frogs dominated the Mountain West from 2005-2011, losing only seven conference games during that stretch. Moving to the Big 12 is a step up in competition for TCU. But the program has a lucrative recruiting base, and Patterson is clearly one of the top-15 coaches in the nation. As long as the Horned Frogs continue to recruit well, competing in the Big 12 won’t be a problem.
4. Art Briles, Baylor
Record at Baylor: 33-30 (2008-present)
Record at Houston: 34-28 (2003-07)
Overall Record: 67-58 (10 years)
From 1997-2007, Baylor was one of the Big 12’s worst programs. The Bears compiled a 31-94 mark and did not record a bowl appearance during that stretch. Enter Art Briles. Since Briles’ arrival, the Bears have been much more competitive in the Big 12. Baylor has 25 victories over the last three seasons and has played in three consecutive bowl games for the first time in program history. Briles’ success isn’t contained just to Baylor, as he took over Houston and went 34-28 in five years with the Cougars. Two different programs, two challenging and different reclamation efforts. Considering what Briles has done on the high school level, at Houston and now at Baylor, he’s easily one of college football’s top-20 coaches going into the 2013 season.
5. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Overall Record at Oklahoma State: 67-35 (2005-present, 8 years)
Even though Gundy ranks No. 5 in Athlon’s Big 12 coach rankings for 2013, there’s not much separating the former Oklahoma State quarterback from the rest of the coaches in the conference. And it’s also hard to find a coach in the nation that’s a better fit at their current program. Considering Gundy played at Oklahoma State and served as an assistant prior to being elevated to head coach, he’s the perfect leader for a program that has made significant gains over the last 10 years. After going 18-19 in his first three seasons, Gundy has led the Cowboys to five consecutive seasons of at least eight victories. Oklahoma State recorded a 23-3 mark from 2010-11, which included an outright Big 12 title in 2011 and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford. Having a booster like T. Boone Pickens certainly doesn’t hurt Oklahoma State, especially when it comes to building new facilities. However, Gundy has elevated the Cowboys from battling just for bowl berths to conference titles in just a few seasons.
6. Mack Brown, Texas
Record at Texas: 150-43 (1998-present)
Record at North Carolina: 69-46-1 (1988-97)
Record at Tulane: 11-23 (1985-87)
Record at Appalachian State: 6-5 (1983)
Overall Record: 236-117-1 (29 years)
Is 2013 a make-or-break year for Brown at Texas? It’s certainly a possibility. The Longhorns 11-15 mark in conference play over the last three years is unacceptable for one of college football’s premier programs. Brown transformed Texas into a national title contender, but it’s clear his best days as a head coach are probably behind him. Prior to coming to Austin, Brown worked as a head coach for one season at Appalachian State, three years at Tulane and for 10 years at North Carolina. In some regard, Brown is a victim of his own success at Texas. In his first 12 seasons in Austin, the Longhorns won at least nine games in every year and beat USC to win the 2005 national championship. However, since losing to Alabama in the 2009 BCS title, Texas hasn’t been the same program. The Longhorns have the talent to win the Big 12 title in 2013. If Texas fails to surpass its 2012 win total (nine), there will be plenty of calls for a coaching change in Austin.
7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
Overall Record at Iowa State: 24-27 (2009-present, 4 years)
Rhoads is the textbook example of why coaches shouldn’t always be judged just by the wins and losses on their resume. Iowa State is arguably the most difficult job in the Big 12 and one of the toughest from a BCS conference. So while Rhoads 24-27 record isn’t going to wow anyone, it’s impressive what he’s been able to do during his time in Ames. The Cyclones have played in three bowl games under Rhoads, with a victory in the 2009 Insight Bowl against Minnesota. Iowa State has won two in a row over rival Iowa and under Rhoads’ watch, the Cyclones have scored upset victories against Texas and Oklahoma State. As a native of Iowa, it would take a lot of Rhoads to leave Iowa State for another program. However, as long as the Cyclones in contention for a bowl every year, Rhoads’ name will keep coming up in coaching searches for top BCS programs.
8. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Overall Record at West Virginia: 17-9 (2011-present, 2 years)
Holgorsen is regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football, but his two-year stint as West Virginia’s coach has been a mixed bag of results. In his first season, the Mountaineers went 10-3 and claimed the Big East title. West Virginia capped off the 2011 season in style, gashing Clemson for 70 points in a 70-33 Orange Bowl rout. And the Mountaineers managed to ride that momentum early in 2013, starting 5-0 with exciting shootout victories against Baylor and Texas. However, the season took a nosedive with a road trip to Lubbock. West Virginia lost five consecutive games, before rallying to win the final two regular season contests of 2012. The Mountaineers played in the Pinstripe Bowl but were dominated 38-14 by former Big East rival Syracuse. So after two seasons, it’s hard to judge just how effective Holgorsen is as a head coach. He proved his mettle as an offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State and helped to guide West Virginia to an average of 502 yards per game last year. However, the Mountaineers’ defense was a disaster, and the talent level on both sides of the ball needs to be upgraded to win in the Big 12. Holgorsen still has much to prove, but the 2011 season showed he is capable of elevating the program. With the transition to a tougher conference, some patience will be required in Morgantown.
9. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Overall Record at Texas Tech: 0-0 (First Season)
Kingsbury has been on a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks and lands his first head coaching job at his alma mater. The San Antonio native had a prolific career as a starting quarterback under Mike Leach from 2000-02, finishing his career with just under 12,000 passing yards. Following his collegiate career in Lubbock, Kingsbury had a short professional stint, playing for five different teams in five seasons. Kingsbury joined Kevin Sumlin’s staff at Houston in 2008 and worked his way through the ranks, before becoming the Cougars’ offensive coordinator and guiding quarterback Case Keenum to nearly 20,000 career passing yards. Kingsbury followed Kevin Sumlin to Texas A&M and produced a successful one-year stint as the offensive coordinator, which resulted in a Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Manziel). Kingsbury is young and unproven as a head coach, but he is the perfect fit at Texas Tech. For a program that never really embraced Tommy Tuberville, the Red Raiders are in good hands with one of college football’s rising stars at head coach.
10. Charlie Weis, Kansas
Record at Kansas: 1-11 (2012-present)
Record at Notre Dame: 35-27 (2005-09)
Overall Record: 36-38 (6 years)
Weis was considered by most to be a bad hire at Kansas. So far, he’s done nothing to dispel those thoughts. Weis didn’t inherit the best roster, but the Jayhawks recorded only one victory last year and ranked near the bottom nationally in scoring offense and defense. If there was any bright spot, it was the fact Kansas was more competitive at times last year, and Weis is bringing in a handful of transfers and junior college prospects that should help this team. Prior to coming to Kansas, Weis had an extensive resume as an assistant coach, making stops in the NFL with the Patriots, Chiefs and Jets and one season as Florida’s offensive coordinator in 2011. While Weis was regarded for his work as an assistant, his five-year stint as Notre Dame’s head coach was a failure. He went 19-6 with two BCS bowls from 2005-06 but recorded a 16-21 mark in the final three seasons. Kansas could be more competitive in 2013, but Weis is not the answer to elevate the program into the Big 12 title contention.
Big 12 2013 Schedule Analysis
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Pre-Spring Top 25 Heisman Contenders
College Football's Best Assistant Coach Hires for 2013
Ranking the Big 12 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013
Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2013
College Football's Top 10 Players on the Rise for 2013
The field is set for the 2013 Final Four, and three quarters of it managed to surprise us.
Michigan and Syracuse struggled near the end of the regular season, but the Wolverines’ freshmen and the Orange’s defense carried the way to the national semifinals. And Wichita State couldn’t overtake Missouri Valley champion Creighton during the regular season, but took over its region.
And then there’s Louisville. In a year that seemed to lack a frontrunner for most of the season, the Cardinals captured that role. Louisville won 17 of its last 18 games, culminating Sunday with an 85-63 win over No. 2 seed Duke.
From prohibitive title favorite in Louisville to one of the true surprises in Wichita State, here are the key numbers from the weekend and the four teams left standing in the NCAA Tournament:
18. Combined seed ranking for the Final Four
With No. 1 Louisville, No. 4 Michigan, No. 4 Syracuse and No. 9 Wichita State reaching the Final Four, the combined seeding of 18 is the fifth-highest since the NCAA began seeding teams in 1979. The Final Fours with higher combined seed rankings:
1980 (21): No. 2 Louisville*, No. 5 Iowa, No. 7 Purdue, No. 8 UCLA
2000 (20): No. 1 Michigan State*, No. 5 Florida, No. 8 North Carolina, No. 8 Wisconsin
2006 (20): No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Florida*, No. 4 LSU, No. 11 George Mason
2011 (26): No. 3 Connecticut*, No. 4 Kentucky, No. 8 Butler, No. 11 VCU
*Won national title
21-18. Record in February and March for Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State
How important is it to be the hot hand before the NCAA Tournament? Not very, at least in 2013. Michigan (6-6), Syracuse (8-7) and Wichita State (7-5) went a combined 21-18 in February and March heading into the NCAA Tournament. And what’s more, Michigan and Wichita State both lost to the last-place teams in their respective conferences during that span. In addition, Wichita State and Syracuse lost their final games in January. The outlier here is Louisville, which went 12-1 in February and March, its only loss in five overtimes to Notre Dame. The Cardinals are also the only Final Four team that won either its regular season conference title or conference tournament. The Cardinals shared the Big East regular season title and won the conference tournament as a No. 2 seed.
64-43. Amount Louisville outscored Duke after the Kevin Ware injury
Kevin Ware’s gruesome injury -- which caused the Louisville guard’s bone to pop out of the skin of his right leg -- prompted an emotional reaction from the Cardinals. Guard Russ Smith sobbed, and coach Rick Pitino wiped a tear from his eye. Several players for both teams fell to their knees. Louisville, though, regrouped by outscoring Duke 64-43 after the injury. The Cardinals led 21-20 at the 6:33 mark when the injury occurred.
4. Coaches to lead a team to the Final Four in four different decades
An eventful season for Jim Boeheim included his 900th win and now a Final Four, making him one of four coaches to lead a team to the national semifinals in four decades. He joins Dean Smith of North Carolina, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Rick Pitino of Providence, Kentucky and Louisville in that rare company. Boeheim previously led Syracuse to the Final Four in 1987, 1996 and 2003.
43.3. Points per game by Michigan’s top three freshmen in the tournament
Hard to believe as it is, Michigan advanced to the Final Four without Trey Burke leading the team in scoring in any game in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, Burke’s heroics and his game-tying three pointer against Kansas moved Michigan into the Elite Eight, but the Wolverines wouldn’t have come this far without contributions from their top three freshmen. Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III averaged a combined 43.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament after combining to average 26 points per game during the regular season. McGary had 21 points and 14 rebounds against VCU and then 25 points and 14 rebounds against Kansas. In the Elite Eight against Florida, Nik Stauskas was the beneficiary of the Gators’ attention on Burke. The guard hit all six of his shots from three-point range on the way to 22 points.
Plus-10. Wichita State’s edge in offensive rebounds in the second weekend
Wichita State entered the tournament as one of the best rebounding teams in the country. The Shockers ranked seventh nationally in rebound rate, grabbing 55.6 percent of possible rebounds. The Shockers dominated the glass in wins over La Salle and Ohio State, grabbing 30 offensive rebounds compared to 20 for their opponents.
1. Missouri Valley team to reach the Final Four since 1979
Wichita State not only became the fourth team seeded ninth or lower to reach the Final Four in the 64-team era, the Shockers also ended a long drought of Missouri Valley teams in the Final Four. The Shockers are the first MVC team to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird led Indiana State to the national title game in 1979. The Missouri Valley produced national champions in Cincinnati (1961 and 1962) and Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State (1945 and 1946).
61-to-67. Field goal-to-turnover ratio for Syracuse’s tournament opponents
How tough has it been to score on Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament? Put it this way: Teams were more likely to cough up the ball than score a basket against the Orange during their run to the Final Four. Syracuse’s opponents had 61 field goals and 67 turnovers. Round of 32 foe Cal was the only team to have more field goals (22) than turnovers (17).
40. Years since a final 16 team failed to score 40 points
Marquette’s 39 points against Syracuse in the Elite Eight were the fewest for a team in the regional semifinals or later in 40 years. UCLA defeated San Francisco 54-39 in the regional final in 1973.
3. Consecutive Elite Eight losses for Florida
Florida is the first team to lose in the Elite Eight in three consecutive tournaments, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before losing to Michigan, the Gators lost to Louisville in 2012 and Butler in 2011. Before 2011, Florida won its first four trips in the regional final in 1994, 2000, 2006 and 2007.
Mike Riley finished the 2011 season with a nasty taste in his mouth after losing nine of 12 games. It was his worst season as the head coach in Corvallis and his defense was the issue. Last season, Riley reinvented the defense and it led to nine wins. Now that Oregon State is back in contention, Riley is faced with battling Stanford and Oregon for Pac-12 North Division supremacy. And it all begins this month with spring practice for the Beavers.
Oregon State Beavers 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 9-4 (6-3)
Spring practice dates: April 1-April 26
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7
Passing: Sean Mannion, 200-of-309, 2,446 yards, 15 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Storm Woods, 192 att., 940 yards, 13 TDs
Receiving: Brandin Cooks, 67 rec., 1,151 yards, 5 TD
Tackles: Michael Doctor, 83
Sacks: Scott Crichton, 9.0
Interceptions: Rashaad Reynolds, 3
Redshirts to watch: RB Chris Brown, WR Malik Gilmore, DB Tyler Hasty, CB Zack Robinson, OL Garrett Weinreich
Early Enrollees to watch: CB Steven Nelson, DT Kyle Peko, DT Edwin Delva, DT Siale Hautau, DE Charlie Tuaau, DE Lyndon Tulimasealii
|Aug. 31||Eastern Washington|
|Sept. 14||at Utah|
|Sept. 21||at San Diego State|
|Oct. 5||Bye Week|
|Oct. 12||at Washington State|
|Oct. 19||at Cal|
|Nov. 1||USC (Fri.)|
|Nov. 9||Bye Week|
|Nov. 16||at Arizona State|
|Nov. 30||at Oregon|
Offensive Strength: Running game and backfield. There is plenty of talent and depth in the backfield at both quarterback and running back. Four starters return to the offensive line as well.
Offensive Weakness: Passing game. Talent needs to develop around wide receiver Brandin Cooks for the passing game to be a strength and settling on one quarterback would help.
Defensive Strength: The back seven. This part of the defense returns fairly intact other than the loss of Jordan Poyer. Safety, in particular, is in good shape where both starters are back to quarterback this side of the ball.
Defensive Weakness: Defensive line. Replacing three out of four starters won't be easy so expect plenty of new faces in the rotation up front.
Spring Storylines Facing the Beavers
1. Replace the defense line. Riley worked minor miracles defensively to turn around his team in 2012, but he will have to provide an encore as three of four defensive line starters are gone. End Scott Crichton, who won't be able to practice due to a shoulder injury, was the best of the group and he returns, so finding a dependable player opposite him is what Riley needs to accomplish this spring. The tackle position is a more pressing matter, however, as both starters Andrew Aeumalo and Castro Masaniai moved on from Corvallis. Finding not only production but leadership from this group will be imperative after the losses up front this offseason. This is why Riley signed four junior college defensive linemen, including potential starters inside in tackles Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau. If the Beavers are going to compete with Oregon and Stanford in the North, they must play defense like the 2012 team, not the '11 edition.
2. Support Brandin Cooks in the passing game. Markus Wheaton was an all-time great for Oregon State and will be missed. That said, Brandin Cooks is one of the single most underrated wide receivers in the nation and will be just fine serving as the team's No. 1 pass catcher. The problem for the Beavers' passing game, however, is depth outside of Cooks and at tight end. Riley is expecting big things from an incoming freshman class heavy on pass catchers but they don't arrive until the summer. Tight end Connor Hamlett and rising junior receiver Obum Gwacham have great size and should step into much bigger roles this spring.
3. Find a way to replace Jordan Poyer. He was one of the top defensive backs in the nation — and school history — and won't be easy to replace, not only on defense but as a leader and special teams performer. Safety Ty Zimmerman is out for spring and Anthony Watkins is gone as well, leaving just safety Ryan Murphy and corner Rashaad Reynolds as the only ones with starting experience who will participate in spring practice. Reynolds has big-time potential and will be counted on to fill Poyer's shoes, but in an explosive conference like the Pac-12, providing him with support on the other side of the field will be key. Keep an eye on junior college transfer Steven Nelson and key veteran reserve Sean Martin as well.
4. Pick a quarterback. Sean Mannion is the starter and will be listed atop the depth chart, however, Cody Vaz is nipping at his heels and will get half of the reps with the starting offense this spring. This is the time for Mannion to show Riley that his excellent freshman season was no fluke and that he is the clear-cut choice to lead this offense. He has the talent to be a playmaker in the Pac-12 and, if asked off the record, the bet would be the coaching staff would like to see the rising junior separate himself from Vaz this spring. Although Riley has admitted that he likely won't make a decision until the fall, Mannion could make it easy on him and his staff with a great month of practice.
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The second day of the Elite Eight may feel more like a Final Four or national championship weekend.
The South and Midwest regional finals feature four teams that were ranked No. 1 for stretches this season (Louisville, Duke and Michigan) plus a team that spent time ranked No. 2 (Florida).
Duke, Michigan and Louisville were ranked Nos. 1-3 in that order as recently as Jan. 7. Florida, Michigan and Duke were ranked Nos. 2-4 on Feb. 4.
The star power will be in full force, particularly on the bench where Michigan’s John Beilein is the only coach without a national championship.
But only two will stand at the end of the day when two teams will join Syracuse and Ohio State in the Final Four.
Here’s a quick look at Sunday’s games, including times, television networks and broadcast pairings.
SUNDAY ELITE EIGHT VIEWERS GUIDE
All times p.m. Eastern
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 3 Florida
Time and TV: 2:20, CBS
Region: South, Arlington, Texas
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Last Final Four appearances: Michigan (1993), Florida (2007)
From the Sweet 16: Trey Burke scored 23 of Michigan’s 53 points in the second half and overtime against Kansas, but Mitch McGary (19.7 points, 12.3 rebounds in the tourney) continued to be the breakout star of the Wolverines’ tournament run. After a shaky start, Florida ended Florida Gulf Coast’s miracle run through the tournament with a defensive pressure that had 11 steals and contributed to 20 FGCU turnovers.
What to watch: The Gators defeated a No. 14 (Northwestern State), a No. 11 (Minnesota) and a No. 15 (Florida Gulf Coast) on the way to the Elite Eight. The Wolverines defeated a No. 13 (South Dakota State), a No. 5 (VCU) and a No. 1 (Kansas). The Gators’ defense eventually shut down Florida Gulf Coast, but they did so with a lineup favoring Casey Prather and Will Yeguete over leading scorer Erik Murphy. Expect the Gators’ Scottie Wilbekin to draw Burke, but Murphy or Patric Young will be on the spot against McGary and an interior defense that struggled to stop Kansas’ forwards.
Game in a Tweet: On Friday, Trey Burke joined Billy Donovan as one of five players with 20 points and 10 assists in a Sweet 16 game.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 1 Louisville
Time and TV: 5:05, CBS
Region: Midwest, Indianapolis
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg
Last Final Four appearances: Duke (2010), Louisville (2012)
From the Sweet 16: Louisville overcame Oregon’s tenacity and a case of the sniffles running through the Cards' roster to defeat the Ducks. The Cardinals’ defensive pressure and Russ Smith continued to work at a high level. Michigan State kept it close with Duke, but Seth Curry was virtually unstoppable from the perimeter. He went 6 of 9 from three-point range while his teammates were 1 of 9.
What to watch: Curry and Smith are on fire in this tournament. The Duke guard is averaging 24 points and 50 percent shooting in the tournament while his counterpart at Louisville has been even better at 27 points per game and 53.3 percent from the field. They’ll be watched, but one of the most important matchups could be down low between Mason Plumlee and Gorgui Dieng, who has been undervalued as an all-around player.
Game in a Tweet: Pitino and Krzyzewski have coached a combined 2,147 games. Their only meeting was the Laettner shot.
Wichita State will be the party crasher.
The Shockers defeated Ohio State 70-66 to advance to the Final Four and ensure the teams competing for the national title will have an outsider among them yet again.
Syracuse clinched a spot in the Final Four earlier Saturday, and the other two teams will come down to former champions (Duke or Louisville and Florida or Michigan).
But Wichita State, the second-place team in the Missouri Valley this year, joined the ranks of VCU, Butler and George Mason in recent years to upend the college basketball power structure.
At first Saturday, Gregg Marshall’s team looked like it would cruise to a win Saturday. Wichita State led by 20 with 11:01 remaining, but Ohio State clawed its way back to a four-point deficit in the final minutes.
What carried Wichita State all season, though, sealed the Final Four trip. The Shockers were one of the best rebounding teams in the country all year and continued to own the glass during this year’s run.
An offensive rebound ended Ohio State’s surge when Tekele Cotton grabbed a teammate's missed three-pointer, which translated to a basket by Fred VanVleet to open an insurmountable six-point lead with a minute to go.
Wichita State will be a fitting addition to the narrative of mid-majors reaching the Final Four. Its roster is littered with success stories: Carl Hall, a force in the paint, has uses medication to cope with a heart condition that has caused him to pass during games in high school and junior college. Small-town guard Ron Baker missed 21 games with a foot injury to become the Shockers’ most well-rounded player. The roster is led by a junior college transfer (Cleanthony Early) and a Division I transfer (Malcolm Armstead from Oregon).
And the Shockers' coach, Gregg Marshall, is a big-time personality who hasn't grabbed a big-time job despite eight NCAA tournament apperances in 15 seasons as a head coach at Winthrop and Wichita State.
Of historical note:
► Wichita State is making its first Final Four since 1965, when the Shockers lost 108-89 to UCLA for John Wooden’s second national title. Wichita State then lost a national third place game 118-82 to a Princeton team led by Bill Bradley.
► Wichita State is the first Missouri Valley team to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird led Indiana State to the 1979 title game against a Magic Johnson-led Michigan State team.
► The Shockers are the fourth team seeded in the bottom half of the bracket (ninth or lower) to reach the Final Four since the field expanded in 1985. Wichita State joins 2011 VCU, 2006 George Mason and 1986 LSU. Besides Wichita State, all three were No. 11 seeds.
► Wichita State and 1986 LSU were the only two teams in that group of four to reach the national semifinals to defeat the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in their region. Wichita State defeated No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State. LSU in 1986 defeated No. 2 Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16 and No. 1 Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
► Among notable teams to reach the national semifinal as a Missouri Valley team: Oklahoma A&M/Oklahoma State (won titles in 1945-46) Cincinnati (won titles in 1961-62), Louisville and Memphis.
We’re one step closer to the Final Four, and the final days before the national championship could wind up as unexpected as the entire season.
For the four teams playing for the national semifinals Saturday, defense has led the way. Syracuse shut down Cody Zeller and the Indiana offensive attack, while Miami couldn’t make a shot against Marquette.
Ohio State has won two of its three tournament games on late three-pointers, but the Buckeyes’ defensive effort is led by Aaron Craft. The true surprise here is Wichita State, which has used its interior defense to bring it to the brink of its first Final Four since 1965.
Here’s a quick look at Saturday’s games, including times, television networks and broadcast pairings.
SATURDAY ELITE EIGHT VIEWERS GUIDE
All times p.m. Eastern
No. 4 Marquette vs. No. 3 Syracuse
Time and TV: 4:30, CBS
Region: East, Washington, D.C.
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
Last Final Four appearances: Marquette (2003), Syracuse (2003, won championship)
From the Sweet 16: Great defensive efforts from both. Syracuse held Indiana’s Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell to a combined 0 for 8 from the floor while blocking 10 IU shots from the field. Against Marquette, Miami struggled to make shots, making 34.9 percent of their attempts from the field.
What to watch: Syracuse took advantage of Indiana’s unfamiliarity with the zone to stifle one of the best offensive attacks in the country. The Orange won’t have the same luxury against a conference foe in Marquette. Vander Blue was a non-factor in the only game these two teams have played this season, but he’s been Marquette’s best player in the tourney so far.
Game in a Tweet: Buzz Williams is 3-3 against Syracuse with all three wins coming in the last four meetings.
No. 9 Wichita State vs. No. 2 Ohio State
Time and TV: 7:05, CBS
Region: West, Los Angeles
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller
Last Final Four appearances: Wichita State (1965), Ohio State (2012)
From the Sweet 16: LaQuinton Ross’ game-winning shot deserves most of the attention, but Ohio State showed resilience by battling back from down 11 in the first half and then withstanding a second-half surge led by Mark Lyons. Meanwhile, Wichita State forward Carl Hall made easy work of La Salle’s four-guard lineup by fueling the Shockers’ 14-2 start.
What to watch: Despite the three-point outburst against Gonzaga, Wichita State’s interior is carrying the Shockers through the tournament. The Shockers are shooting 50 percent from two-point range in the Tournament while holding opponents to 39.6 percent shooting inside the arc. One of the top teams in rebound rate, Wichita State is grabbing 53.3 percent of missed shots. Meanwhile, Ohio State is getting more dangerous as the Buckeyes can now depend on Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross to take the final shots in close games.
Game in a Tweet: The Buckeyes seek to become third Big Ten team to reach consecutive Final Fours since '85.
Michigan shouldn’t have even been in this position.
The Wolverines were beat -- several times -- against Kansas. But Trey Burke kept Michigan alive.
With a deep three-pointer over the 6-8 Kevin Young, Burke tied a game it hadn’t led since the early minutes against Kansas. A day after LaQuinton Ross hit a game-winning three-pointer for Ohio State, Burke may have upstaged his rival for the shot of the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas had its way with Michigan in the first half, punishing the Wolverines in the paint. Michigan was lucky to be down merely 40-34. Kansas led by as much as 14 with 6:51 to go, but Burke wouldn’t let Michigan go down easily by scoring eight of the Wolverines’ final 10 points in regulation.
The 2013 Major League Baseball season kicks off on Sunday night with the Astros taking on the Rangers. Before the first pitch, here are 101 stats to know for the 2013 season.
101 Stats to Kick Off the 2013 Major League Baseball Season
Players elected by the BBWAA for Hall of Fame induction in 1950, as was the case in 2013. There were 48 players on the ballot in 1950 that would eventually gain election to the Hall.
Number of times a team has overcome a 3-games-to-0 deficit to win a postseason series. The Boston Red Sox mounted the historical comeback over the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.
Hits by Joel Youngblood off two Hall of Fame pitchers (Fergie Jenkins and Steve Carlton) for two teams (Montreal Expos and New York Mets) in two cities (Chicago and Philadelphia) in the same day. On August 4, 1982, Youngblood started in center field and batting third for the Mets at Chicago in an afternoon game and singled in two runs in the third inning off Jenkins. He was replaced by Mookie Wilson in center in the middle of the fourth inning when it was learned he had been traded to the Montreal Expos. He hopped a flight to Philadelphia and arrived during the game. He was inserted in right field for Jerry White in the sixth inning and caught a fly ball to end the inning. In the top of the seventh, he singled off Carlton. The well-traveled Youngblood was on deck when the game ended with the Phillies ahead 5-4.
The number worn on the back of Babe Ruth’s uniform. The Yankees introduced uniform numbers in 1929.
Consecutive MVP awards won by Barry Bonds from 2001-04, becoming the only player to win more than two in a row.
Members of the original Hall of Fame class in 1936. Ty Cobb received the most votes (222), followed by a tie between Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth (215). Christy Mathewson (205) and Walter Johnson (189) were the two pitchers elected. Cy Young was named on just 49.1 percent of the ballots, Lou Gehrig 22.6 percent and Jimmie Foxx 9.3 percent.
Stan the Man Musial made this number famous in St. Louis. Among his many gaudy stats, are 1,815 hits on the road and 1,815 hits at home.
Modern record for hits in a nine-inning game. Rennie Stennett of the Pirates pasted Cubs pitching for seven safeties on Sept. 16, 1975 at Wrigley Field. The Pirates’ leadoff hitter had four singles, two doubles and a triple in the Pirates’ 22-0 thrashing in Chicago. After Stennett’s eighth-inning triple, future New York Yankees All-Star Willie Randolph pinch-ran for him. Stennett led off the game with a double off of Rick Reuschel and ended his day with a triple off of Paul Reuschel.
Different pitchers to lead the Rays in saves over the past eight seasons. With Fernando Rodney back this season, the string is likely to be broken.
Players sent to the plate in the 1976 World Series by Reds manager Sparky Anderson. With the DH used for every game that year, Anderson used the same lineup for all four games and used no pinch-hitters in the Reds’ sweep of the Yankees.
John Tudor in 1985 was the last pitcher to throw 10 shutouts in one season.
Home runs for Babe Ruth for the world champion Red Sox in 1918, which led the American League. That was the first of 12 home run titles for the Babe.
Batting titles for Ty Cobb.
Times Lou Gehrig posted 100-plus runs and 100-plus RBIs in the same season, the most all-time.
Walk-off losses in the postseason by the New York Yankees.
Full seasons in which Joe McCarthy managed the New York Yankees. During his tenure, the Yanks won eight pennants, winning seven World Series, and finished second four times.
Retired numbers by the New York Yankees, the most of any franchise. This number includes the No. 42, retired across all of baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson. It counts the No. 8 just once, although it is retired in honor of both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.
Age of Bob Feller when he made his first major league start in 1936. He tossed a complete game against the St. Louis Browns giving up six hits, four walks, one earned run with 15 strikeouts for the win.
World Series home runs for Mickey Mantle, the most all-time.
Wins by rookie Mark “The Bird” Fidrych for the Detroit Tigers in 1976, a season in which he captured the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.
Consecutive losing seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, setting the all-time record for any North American major team sport.
Consecutive losses by the Baltimore Orioles to begin the season in 1988.
Games started in the World Series by Whitey Ford, most all-time.
Grand slams hit by Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez, the most all-time.
Appearances by Mariano Rivera in the World Series.
Hits by Lou Brock in the 1967-68 World Series. The total is the most ever in back-to-back World Series.
Consecutive games won by the New York Giants in 1916, the longest winning streak in history. From Sept. 7-Sept. 30, the Giants didn’t lose a game, but gained just 8.5 games in the standings before finishing the season in fourth place. Lefty Tyler of the Boston Braves pitched a complete game to end the streak.
Wins for Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1972. The team won just 59 games that season giving Lefty more than 45 percent of his team’s wins.
Times Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera grounded into a double play in 2012, which led the majors.
Wins for the Baltimore Orioles in one-run games in 2012. Their 29-9 record (.763) is the best all-time.
Home runs hit by Albert Pujols after May 5 last season. The slugger began the season by hitting just .217 with no homers and four RBIs in April. After taking a day of on May 5, he homered the next day and proceeded to put together a Pujols-esque season.
Wins for Lefty Grove of the Philadelphia A’s in 1931 and Detroit’s Denny McLain in 1968, the highest win total in the live ball era (since 1920).
Postseason doubles for Derek Jeter, most all-time.
Miles between the high schools where reigning Cy Young winners R.A. Dickey (Montgomery Bell Academy, Nashville, Tenn.) and David Price (Blackman High School, Murfreesboro, Tenn.) attended. It is the closest of any two Cy Young winners from the same season.
Hitting streak by Dom DiMaggio of the Boston Red Sox in 1949.
Strikeouts by Bob Gibson (27 IP) in the 1968 World Series.
At-bats by Jimmy Collins in the 1903 World Series. It’s the most ever in a Fall Classic and was established in the first World Series ever played.
Number retired in honor of Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel by both the Yankees and the Mets.
Saves by John Hiller of the Tigers in 1973, just two years after suffering a career-threatening heart attack at age 28. The total led the majors and was the record for saves in a season until 1983.
Number retired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in honor of Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, whose career was cut short due to an auto accident, which left him paralyzed.
Appearances in the World Series by the New York Yankees, by far the most of any franchise.
Wins by Jack Chesbro of the Yankees in 1904, the highest total since 1900.
Number universally retired by MLB in honor of Jackie Robinson.
Age of Nolan Ryan when he won his 11th strikeout title. In 1990, he struck out 232, the most in the American league a year after whiffing 301.
Consecutive game hitting streak for Pete Rose in 1978 to tie Wee Willie Keeler for the National League record. Rose hit .385 during the streak and raised his average from .267 to .316.
Over the 104 years since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, the team has had 45 winning records, finished .500 twice and posted 57 losing seasons.
Earned runs allowed by the San Francisco Giants in 16 postseason games in 2012.
Hank Aaron’s career-best home run season, which came in 1971. The total has been eclipsed 72 times, 28 of those before Aaron retired in 1976.
Road wins for the Washington Nationals in 2012, most in the majors.
Home runs hit in the regular season by Babe Ruth in ballparks still in use today. Ruth hit 48 home runs at Fenway Park and one at Wrigley Field.
World Series games played by Frankie Frisch, eighth all-time, but the most by anyone who never played with the Yankees.
Seldom-used uniform number may possibly be retired by five franchises some day. It is already retired by San Diego in honor of closer Trevor Hoffman. It is highly likely to be retired in Seattle (Ichiro Suzuki) and likely by Arizona (Randy Johnson). The Cardinals (Willie McGee) and Yankees (Bernie Williams) have yet to issue the number since those players retired.
Last season, the San Diego Padres, according to Elias, became the only team since at least 1900 to have three catchers start as many as 52 games. Nick Hundley started 56 times, John Baker and Yasmani Grandal 52 each.
Hits by Cincinnati pitchers last season, most in the majors.
Home runs by Babe Ruth in 1920, smashing the record of 29 that Ruth had set the year before. The total of 54 was eclipsed by just one team in all of baseball that season (other than the Yankees), the Philadelphia Phillies.
Wins for the Houston Astros in 2012, a franchise low including the strike-shortened seasons of 1981 and 1994.
Consecutive games in which Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees hit safely in 1941. Interestingly, during that same stretch from May 15 to July 16, Ted Williams of the Red Sox outhit Joe D .412 to .408 with a better on-base percentage (.540 to .463) and OPS (1.224 to 1.181).
Road home runs hit by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012, the lowest total in baseball.
Home runs needed by Oakland A’s hitters to reach 12,000 in franchise history. Getting their start in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics, the franchise also played in Kansas City from 1955-67 before relocating to Oakland in 1968. Entering this season, only eight other franchises (New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies) have hit 12,000 or more home runs. The Baltimore Orioles will also reach this milestone this season and should do so before the A's, as the O's need just eight round-trippers to reach 12,000.
Consecutive scoreless innings pitched by Orel Hershiser to end the 1988 season. The streak including five complete games in September and 10 shutout innings in his last start, which the Dodgers eventually lost 2-1 in 16 innings.
Extra innings played by Baltimore last season.
Number of games last season that Tampa Bay pitchers struck out 10 or more batters breaking the record of 57 set by the Cubs in 2003.
Number of players drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1996, two years before the club fielded its first major league team.
Fewest regular-season wins ever for a World Series winner. The Los Angeles Dodgers won just 63 games in 1981, a season shortened by almost 40 percent to a players strike.
Years since the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series. It is the second-longest drought in baseball behind the 104 years that Cubs fans have been waiting.
Average number of wins for the Kansas City Athletics during their last seven years in the Midwest before moving to Oakland in 1968.
Wins for the Cincinnati Reds in 1981, the most in the National League. However, the Reds were not one of the four teams in the playoffs that season. The St. Louis Cardinals also had the best winning percentage in the National League East, but didn’t qualify for the playoffs that season due to the split-season format forced by the players strike.
All-time record number of doubles in a season set by Earl Webb in 1931.
Wins needed by Josh Beckett, Carlos Zambrano and Randy Wolf to reach 200 for their careers.
Runs scored by the San Francisco Giants in 16 postseason games in 2012.
Home runs hit by Mark McGwire in 1998 to break the 37-year-old record of 61 held by Roger Maris.
Hits in World Series play by Yogi Berra, most all-time.
Highest uniform number retired for a player. The Chicago White Sox retired No. 72 in honor of Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk.
Home runs for Barry Bonds in 2001, setting a new record for home runs in a season.
Wins for the Orioles last season against no losses when leading after seven innings.
World Series games played by Yogi Berra, the most all-time.
2013 will be the 76th season since a player in the National League won a triple crown. In 1937, Joe Medwick for St. Louis was the last National Leaguer to accomplish this. Joey Votto, Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun seem to be the likeliest candidates to break the string with Carlos Gonzalez, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton and perhaps Bryce Harper having outside shots.
Points Alex Rios’ batting average increased from 2011 to 2012 (.227 to .304)
Stolen bases by Jose Reyes in 2007, the most of any player in the 1990s and 2000s.
Percent of the seasons that the New York Yankees have finished above .500. In 112 seasons, the Yanks have posted 89 winning seasons and finished at an even .500 once.
Hits Colorado first baseman Todd Helton needs to reach the 2,500 mark in his career. That would make Helton just the 7th player in major league history to have 2,500 hits, 1,300 runs, 500 doubles, 350 home runs, 1,300 RBIs, a batting average of .300 or better and more walks than strikeouts in their career. The others are Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, Chipper Jones, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
Wins by Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, Pat Dobson and Jim Palmer in 1971 for the Baltimore Orioles. That was the last time a team had four 20-game winners.
Players with 250 home runs for one club. There are 10 Yankees who have hit as many as 250 homers in pinstripes. Arizona, Washington, Tampa Bay, San Diego and Miami have none.
Fewest regular-season wins ever for a world champion in a season not cut short due to a labor dispute or war. The St. Louis Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs in 2006 with an 83-78 record.
Home runs for Curtis Granderson over the past two seasons. No other player has more than 74.
Runs scored by Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels last season. It was the first time in his 12-year career than the All-Star first baseman had scored fewer than 99 in a season.
Years between World Series wins for the Red Sox. Boston won in 1918 then suffered through 86 years before winning again in 2004.
Wins needed by the Los Angeles Angels this season to end the season above .500 for the history of the franchise. The last time the team was above .500 was after their first game in history on April 11, 1961.
Years between World Series wins for the White Sox. Chicago won in 1917 then suffered through 88 years before winning again in 2005.
Years since Washington, D.C. celebrated a World Series win. The old Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) defeated the New York Giants in seven games in 1924. It was Tom Zachary, not the great Walter Johnson, who won two games. Goose Goslin and Bucky Harris combined to drive in more than half of the Senators’ runs.
The number of shutouts that Roy Halladay needs to tie Walter Johnson for the most all-time. Halladay is the active leader with 20.
Tim Raines received 91 more votes (297 to 206) than Barry Bonds in the most recent Hall of Fame balloting.
Runs Derek Jeter needs this season to pass Babe Ruth as the all-time leader in New York Yankees' franchise history.
Plate appearances at the Triple-A level for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout before his call-up last April. He was batting .403 with a .467 OBP and had four doubles, five triples, a homer and scored 21 runs in 20 games with Salt Lake.
Wins for Babe Ruth as a pitcher.
Average number of wins for the Oakland A’s from 1971-75 during which they won five AL West titles and three straight World Series.
Doubles for Alex Gordon of Kansas City over the past two seasons, the most in the majors.
Average number of wins for the New York Yankees over the last 17 years. (1996-2012)
Wins by the Washington Nationals last season establishing a new high-water mark for the franchise surpassing the 95 wins by the 1979 Expos.
Hits needed by Alex Rodriguez to become the 29th member of the 3,000-hit club.
Wins for the Amazin’ New York Mets in 1969 after finishing in ninth or 10th place the previous seven years.
The 2013 MLB season kicks off with Houston hosting Texas on Sunday night. It's an appropriate season opener considering the Astros are now members of the American League. Another change this season is that interleague play will take place year-round starting wtih Cincinnati, Athlon Sports' pick to win the NL Central again, opening its season by hosting against the Los Angeles Angels.
Just as is the case in the AL, the NL will feature plenty of new faces in new places. For starters, brothers B.J. and Justin Upton have been reunited in Atlanta, while Zack Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million contract to join the Dodgers. Other players in new NL uniforms this season include Shin-Soo Choo, Kyle Lohse, Martin Prado, Ben Revere, Rafael Soriano and Denard Span. All eyes also will be on this season's batch of up-and-coming players to see if anyone will have an impact on their team similar to what Mike Trout or Bryce Harper accomplished last season.
Related: 2013 AL Predictions
2013 National League Predictions
2. Atlanta (Wild Card)
4. New York
Last season marked the end of a five-year run atop the NL East for the Phillies. The young Nationals won the division a year before even they expected. And they won it with their ace, Stephen Strasburg, finishing the season on the sidelines. Washington’s star is still rising and the brightest young star is Bryce Harper. The Nats’ rotation is among the best in baseball, and their bullpen features three legitimate closers. The Braves’ bullpen can match the Nationals, but that’s where the comparisons end. Atlanta fans can’t wait to see how well the Upton brothers jell alongside Jason Heyward. The Phillies’ run of titles may have ended, but the aging team isn’t ready to concede anything. Philadelphia’s bullpen, its Achilles heel in 2012, should be better with the addition of Mike Adams. The Mets and Marlins will be among the worst teams in the league.
2. St. Louis
The St. Louis Cardinals managed to come within a game of the World Series in 2012 after losing Albert Pujols to free agency and manager Tony La Russa to retirement. But they were nine games behind the Cincinnati Reds, who have improved their lineup this season. The Reds were without MVP candidate Joey Votto for more than a month last season and survived. The Reds should maintain a slight edge over their rivals from St. Louis. The Brewers made a last-minute deal with starter Kyle Lohse to bolster their rotation. The offense was among the best in the NL last season and should follow that with another strong season. The bullpen must be much better in order for the Brew Crew to contend. For the last two seasons, the conventional thinking was that the Pirates would end their much-publicized streak of losing seasons. They’ll make another run at .500 this season, and it will be close. The Cubs will not make a run at breakeven.
1. San Francisco
2. Los Angeles (Wild Card)
4. San Diego
Last summer at the trade deadline, the Dodgers added Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Giants added Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. Advantage San Francisco. The Giants stretched out a lead and rode MVP Buster Posey to their second World Series title in three years. The Giants still have the advantage over their rivals to the south. Arizona traded their best hitter in Justin Upton, but strengthened their bullpen and rotation. The Diamondbacks should be improved over 2012, but not enough to contend. San Diego has moved the fences in at Petco Park, but that won’t boost the offense enough to hang with the division leaders. The Colorado Rockies will have a decent lineup, but the pitching will struggle.
Washington over San Francisco
Detroit over Washington
1. Joey Votto, Reds
2. Buster Posey, Giants
3. Matt Kemp, Dodgers
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
5. Ryan Braun, Brewers
6. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
7. David Wright, Mets
8. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
9. Justin Upton, Braves
10. Matt Holliday, Cardinals
NL Cy Young
1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
2. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
3. Cole Hamels, Phillies
4. Matt Cain, Giants
5. Craig Kimbrel, Braves
NL Rookie of the Year
1. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers
2. Travis d'Arnaud, Mets
3. Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs
They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2013 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 20 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.
No. 9: Webb Simpson
Born: Aug. 8, 1985, Raleigh, N.C. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 3 | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,436,758 (17th) | World Ranking: 19
Brandel Chamblee's Take
Simpson hits so many great iron shots from 50-175 yards that he consistently puts himself in scoring position, and at 27 years old he has many great years ahead of him. Look for 2013 to be a continuation of his last two years on Tour, when he finished 2nd and 17th on the money list, respectively, and in 2012 won the U.S. Open in just his fifth major championship start.
Major Championship Résumé
Masters - T44
U.S. Open - 1
British Open - DNP
PGA Championship - Cut
Best Career Finishes:
Masters - T44 (2012)
U.S. Open - 1 (2012)
British Open - T16 (2011)
PGA Championship - Cut (2011, 2012)
Top-10 Finishes: 1
Top-25 Finishes: 3
Missed Cuts: 2
Athlon's 2013 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 20 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, reigning FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.
The Sweet 16, as always, finds a way to capture the imagination.
The NCAA Tournament moves into the second weekend with its share of storylines, even if the biggest one from Dunk City seems to overshadow all.
Few people saw Wichita State, the runner up in the Missouri Valley, advancing this far. And even fewer could have tabbed La Salle to go on a run out of the First Four.
Beyond those out-of-nowhere stories, the Sweet 16 will feature games that have the look of Final Four matchups: Indiana-Syracuse, Duke-Michigan State, Ohio State-Arizona.
Here’s a quick look at Friday’s games, including times, television networks and broadcast pairings.
FRIDAY SWEET 16 VIEWERS GUIDE
All times p.m. Eastern
No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 1 Louisville
Time and TV: 7:15, CBS
Region: Midwest, Indianapolis
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg
What to watch: Johnathan Loyd helped neutralize Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart in the round of 64, and then he stepped up for a struggling Dominic Artis in the easy win over Saint Louis. Will the Ducks’ point guards be able to answer the call against Louisville on both ends of the court? That’s going to be tough. The Cards’ press has been effective as it’s been all season, and Russ Smith returned to his early season form in the offensive end. Dana Altman pushed the right buttons at point guard last week, but his backcourt will be put to the test against the Cardinals.
Game in a Tweet: Louisville forces a turnover on 27.4 percent of possessions. Oregon commits one on 21.2 percent.
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 1 Kansas
Time and TV: 7:37, TBS
Region: South, Arlington, Texas
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
What to watch: What will we see from Ben McLemore? An All-America candidate during the regular season, he’s struggled in the NCAA Tournament -- to a point that Bill Self played him only 24 minutes against North Carolina. McLemore went 2 of 14 from the field last week. Can Kansas advance if he’s not back to form? And for Michigan: How will the guard-oriented Wolverines counter Jeff Withey down low?
Game in a Tweet: Michigan is seeking first Elite Eight since ’94. Kansas has been to eight since then.
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Duke
Time and TV: 9:45, CBS
Region: Midwest, Indianapolis
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg
What to watch: Duke clamped down on Creighton’s Doug McDermott in the round of 32, but the Blue Devils may be guessing as to who will be the offensive focus for Michigan State. Forward Adreian Payne is a matchup problem who can be the best player on the floor, and freshman Gary Harris can get hot from the perimeter. Duke is thankful for Seth Curry being steady all season and for meaningful contributions off the bench, but it’s time for Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly to take charge.
Game in a Tweet: Tom Izzo is 1-7 all-time against Mike Krzyzewski, but the only win was in the 2005 Sweet 16.
No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 3 Florida
Time and TV: 10:07, TBS
Region: South, Arlington, Texas
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
What to watch: Seriously, how many people even heard of Florida Gulf Coast a week ago? Now we know their coach, their nickname, their style of play and their care-free set of overlooked players. This is the best story in the Tournament in quite a while, and now they face the state’s best basketball program. The Gators are one of the best defensive teams in the country (third in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency, fifth in effective field goal percentage and second in fewest points per game). Billy Donovan will be under pressure to close the borders on Dunk City.
Game in a Tweet: FGCU shot 56.9 percent from the field in the second half last week, outscoring opponents 101-82.
The 2013 MLB season is almost here. Texas and Houston will get things started on Sunday night as the Astros play their first-ever game as an American League team. That's not the only change baseball fans will have to get used to this season as interleague play will take place year-round, starting with the Los Angeles Angels opening their season in Cincinnati.
In the American League alone, many players, notably Josh Hamilton, Torii Hunter, James Shields and Nick Swisher will be in a different uniform this season, while others like Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes and Shane Victorino are switching leagues entirely. There also is another crop of up-and-coming players that everyone will be watching to see if any of them can have the same type of impact that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper had on their respective teams last season.
Related: 2013 NL Predictions
2013 American League Predictions
1. New York
2. Tampa Bay (Wild Card)
The Toronto Blue Jays made the biggest splash of the offseason and the AL East with the additions of shortstop Jose Reyes and starting pitchers R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. Robinson Cano anchors the injury-riddled Yankees’ lineup. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira will begin the season on the disabled list. Tampa Bay has, by far, the best pitching, maybe in either league. The rotation, led by Cy Young winner David Price, and the bullpen, led by Fernando Rodney, are deep and talented. While the Blue Jays added some key components, especially in the rotation, the bullpen has questions. The Orioles found magic in extra-innings and close games last season. They probably won’t go 29-9 in one-run games again. Boston is now the team left out of contention.
3. Kansas City
Last season there was no debate over the favorite in the AL Central. The Tigers made the experts sweat a little falling behind by six games in June, but managed to eke out a division title, taking over first place for good with eight games to play. Triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera returns as does Prince Fielder, ace Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez, who missed last season with a knee injury. Cleveland with new manager Terry Francona should be better, but still not at Detroit’s level. Kansas City now has a respectable rotation but is still dependent on youngsters developing in the bullpen. The White Sox clearly overachieved last season and were in contention until the final week of the season. The Twins are still attempting to develop young pitchers. Kyle Gibson may be the team’s next ace, but he’ll begin this season in Triple-A.
1. Los Angeles
2. Texas (Wild Card)
The Los Angeles Angels continued to up the ante in the AL West by signing Josh Hamilton a year after inking Albert Pujols. With those two former MVPs and leadoff hitter Mike Trout, the Angels clearly have the best lineup in the division. However, the Angels’ bullpen was among the worst in the majors last season. Texas will miss long-time linchpin Michael Young and Hamilton even though Adrian Beltre is among the best hitters in the league. Lest we forget, it was the Oakland A’s who won the AL West last season. There were some smoke and mirrors along with stingy pitching and the emergence of Yoenis Cespedes. Seattle has made a financial commitment to ace Felix Hernandez, but the M’s are easily a notch below the leaders. The Houston Astros join the AL at the lowest point in franchise history.
Detroit over Los Angeles
Detroit over Washington
1. Robinson Cano, Yankees
2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
3. Evan Longoria, Rays
4. Albert Pujols, Angels
5. Adam Jones, Orioles
6. Mike Trout, Angels
7. Prince Fielder, Tigers
8. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
9. Yoenis Cespedes, A's
10. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
AL Cy Young
1. Justin Verlander, Tigers
2. David Price, Rays
3. Jared Weaver, Angels
4. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
5. Yu Darvish, Rangers
AL Rookie of the Year
1. Wil Myers, Rays
2. Jurickson Profar, Rangers
3. Dylan Bundy, Orioles
The start of the 2013 college football season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about preseason predictions and some of the top games to watch in each conference — and since BYU doesn't play in a conference, the Cougars stand alone.
Bronco Mendenhall is entering his ninth season in Provo and the Cougars have won at least 10 games in five of those eight seasons. However, BYU now has to schedule a fully independent slate for the third season in a row. It means that the Cougs will face another brutal schedule with few easy wins and upwards of seven or eight bowl teams.
BYU 2013 Schedule
Aug. 31 at Virginia
Sept. 7 Texas
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 Utah
Sept. 27 Middle Tennessee (Fri.)
Oct. 4 at Utah State (Fri.)
Oct. 12 Georgia Tech
Oct. 19 at Houston
Oct. 26 Boise State
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 at Wisconsin
Nov. 16 Idaho
Nov. 23 at Notre Dame
Nov. 30 at Nevada
* A trip across the country to face an ACC opponent steeped in a rich tradition of football success isn't normally how anyone wants to start the season. However, Virginia lost eight games a year ago and there isn't much to indicate they will be dramatically improved. The season opener will be tough but is very winnable for the Cougars.
* An early-season visit from Texas provides Provo a chance to host and defeat a national powerhouse. Texas has issues but is extremely talented and has eyes on a Big 12 title. This is a huge barometer game for both programs, as well as their respective head coaches and quarterbacks.
* The first bye week comes early in the year in Week 3 but is well placed following two tough power conference opponents and prior to The Holy War with Utah. Getting a second week to prepare for the school's most hated rival can only be a good thing.
* Following the in-state battle with the Utes, BYU will host back-to-back Friday night affairs with tricky but beatable mid-majors. Both Middle Tennessee and Utah State have experienced success of late and both will be looking to knock off the Cougars.
* After the two Friday night primetime games, the schedule starts to get rough. Georgia Tech, Houston and Boise State are three of the winningest programs over the last few seasons and BYU will face the trio in consecutive weekends in October. The good news is the Yellow Jackets and Broncos have to come to LaVell Edwards Stadium.
* The second off weekend also is well placed following a tough October and prefacing a brutal November. Three road trips to Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Nevada are about as tough a final month of the season as there is in the nation. Idaho at home will offer a small breather, but 2-2 in November would have to be considered a success for Mendenhall's bunch.
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The Rockies will try to rise from the ruins of a 98-loss season, the worst in franchise history, and steer a new course under manager Walt Weiss. A popular, heady shortstop for four seasons with the Rockies and later a special assistant to general manager Dan O’Dowd for seven years, Weiss was coaching a high school baseball team in the Denver area when the Rockies reached out to him after manager Jim Tracy surprisingly resigned and walked away from $1.4 million. Tracy saw his job being marginalized when Bill Geivett was given the title of senior vice president of major league operations in August with a desk in a conference room adjacent to Tracy’s office. Those dynamics won’t deter Weiss, eager for the opportunity and in no position to quibble about workplace conditions having never coached or managed at the professional level. Weiss will bring honesty and toughness to his new role and will try to create an environment where the players respect and trust each other and, consequently, the greater good reigns. Chemistry, esprit de corps and a harmonious clubhouse matter, of course, but the Rockies need better starting pitching to make any meaningful progress. The Rockies’ 5.22 ERA was the worst in the majors. Their starters went 29–68 with a big-league high 5.81 ERA last season and at Coors Field were 17–33 with a 6.70 ERA. The Rockies rotation should be healthier and hence better this season. But the depth is questionable, and notable improvement is needed from young starters Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Chatwood.
Injuries marred last season for lefthander Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio, which forced the Rockies to rely too heavily on inexperienced youngsters. De La Rosa, who underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2011, finally returned to the Rockies last September but went 0–2 with a 9.28 ERA in three starts and was understandably inconsistent. After his August return, Chacin pitched well in his final nine starts, but that was after spending more than three-and-a-half months on the disabled list with an irritated nerve in his pectoral muscle. Nicasio, who is less experienced than De La Rosa or Chacin, suffered a season-ending knee injury in early June. Lefthander Jeff Francis, 32, is a veteran who provides depth at the back of the rotation but must have precise location at this point to succeed. With none of the youngsters seizing the fifth spot, the Rockies turned to veteran Jo Garland, who spent most of the spring with Seattle. Almost immediately after his release from the Mariners, Colorado pounced. He brings a badly needed veteran presence. Josh Outman, Pomeranz, Friedrich and Chatwood will contend for a spot in the rotation at some point this season.
As protection against a decline by closer Rafael Betancourt, who will turn 38 in late April, the Rockies acquired Wilton Lopez, who will give the team another late-inning weapon and help Matt Belisle and lefthander Rex Brothers in the setup role. Lefthander Adam Ottavino should have a significant role in middle relief and veteran Chris Volstad will eat innings in long relief.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hits cleanup and can make a huge impact on offense and defense, provided he can stay on the field. That wasn’t the case last year. Tulowitzki played only 47 games, none after May 30 due to a strained left groin that required surgery. A healthy Tulowitzki can go a long way toward improving the Rockies’ defense, which was shaky last season, particularly on the left side of the infield. Josh Rutledge made an immediate offensive impact when called up from Double-A Tulsa to play shortstop at the All-Star break but then tailed off. He also made seven starts at second base, where he will play with Tulowitzki back.
First baseman Todd Helton, who turns 40 in August, is expected back for his final season after playing in only 69 games due to a labrum tear in his right hip that eventually required season-ending surgery in August. If he’s healthy, the Rockies can count on Helton for stellar defense and a decent on-base percentage but not much run production at this point. Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson both hit better than .300 last season but provide little power and ordinary defense (at best) at third base. Newcomer Ryan Wheeler will challenge for playing time at third as well.
Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez is a plus defender and a solid No. 3 hitter who still had a very productive season despite not having Tulowitzki protecting him for the final four months. Center fielder Dexter Fowler had a breakthrough season on offense, hitting .300 with a .389 on-base percentage and 42 extra-base hits, and has the plus range needed in expansive Coors Field. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer, limited to two starts after July 31 by a right oblique strain, was terrific as advertised in the clubhouse but did not produce as much as expected on the field.
Wilin Rosario had a superb rookie season on offense, setting club records for a catcher with 28 homers and 71 RBIs, but his receiving skills were very shoddy as he led big-league catchers in passed balls (21) and errors (13). Rosario played more than expected because of injuries to Ramon Hernandez, who turns 37 in May and is now a $3.2 million backup.
Tyler Colvin can play all three outfield positions and first base, where he and Cuddyer can spell Helton. Colvin hits for power — 18 homers and an .858 OPS last year — but strikes out too often (117 times, or once every 3.6 at-bats last year). Eric Young Jr. has worked hard to become an acceptable corner outfielder who can make a difference offensively with his speed and energy. Injuries limited Hernandez to 52 games, including 45 starts at catcher, where he has declined. Reid Brignac can play multiple positions, but doesn’t have much pop in his bat.
The Rockies showed a willingness to experiment, instituting two notable changes last year, one short-lived. With an eye toward overcoming the inherent challenges at Coors Field, the Rockies switched to a four-man rotation with a limit of 75-80 pitches in mid-June. However, they abandoned that plan two months later because the pitchers, too cognizant of pitch counts, were not efficient and were able to do less work between starts. And on Aug. 1, Geivett was given the title of senior vice president of major league operations. O’Dowd retains final say over trades but will focus more on scouting and player development. The Rockies have had little success developing starting pitchers they’ve drafted, a reason Mark Wiley was hired to oversee pitching throughout the organization.
Injuries last season enabled several young position players to gain experience. But of that group, only Rosario at catcher seems to be a future everyday player capable of making an impact, and that’s provided his defense improves markedly. The young starting pitchers were generally overmatched and looked to scouts like future No. 4 or No. 5 starters. Weiss seems capable of growing into the job of manager. But this offseason the Rockies have been outspent and outmaneuvered by their NL West foes. This team can improve with better health, particularly from starting pitchers De La Rosa, Chacin and Nicasio. But how much of a load can those three shoulder as they come back from injuries? A breakthrough from a young starter would help. Regardless, the rotation lacks certainty, making another losing season likely.
CF Dexter Fowler (S)
Hit .315 with .395 OPS and .462 slugging percentage right-handed and .293/.387/.479 left-handed.
2B Josh Rutledge (R)
Third-round pick in 2010 showed some decent power in his first season in the big leagues.
LF Carlos Gonzalez (L)
Hit .330 with 17 homers before All-Star break and .261 with five homers after the break.
SS Troy Tulowitzki (R)
On a nine-game hitting streak, was 14-for-36 (.389) with four homers and four doubles when his season ended May 30.
RF Michael Cuddyer (R)
Despite the benefits of Coors Field, his .317 OBP was his lowest for any season spent primarily in the majors.
1B Todd Helton (L)
Played in a career-low 69 games due to a hip problem that required season-ending surgery Aug. 10.
C Wilin Rosario (R)
.530 slugging was highest by rookie catcher in majors since Mike Piazza (.561) set all-time rookie catcher mark in 1993.
3B Chris Nelson (R)
OPS was .881 in 180 at-bats after All-Star break compared to .733 in 165 at-bats before break.
OF Tyler Colvin (L)
Played all three outfield positions and first base and hit everywhere in the lineup except eighth and ninth.
OF Eric Young Jr. (S)
Hit .420 with three homers and 15 runs scored in 19 games before season-ending rib muscle injury Aug. 19.
C Ramon Hernandez (R)
Hit four homers in 49 at-bats through April 27 and one homer in final 135 at-bats rest of season.
3B Jordan Pacheco (R)
First NL rookie to finish in top five in batting since Greg Gross (third) and Bill Madlock (fifth) in 1974.
UT Reid Brignac (L)
Hit just .185 in 270 at-bats over the past two seasons with Tampa Bay.
RH Jhoulys Chacin
Came off DL on Aug. 21 and went 3–2 with 2.84 ERA in final nine starts.
LH Jorge De La Rosa
Made first of three starts for Rockies on Sept. 20 following slow comeback from June 2011 Tommy John surgery.
RH Juan Nicasio
Struck out 54 in 59 innings pitched prior to injury to his kneecap in 2012.
LH Jeff Francis
Went 3–2 with 4.97 ERA in first 10 starts and 3–5 with 6.06 ERA in final 14.
RH Jon Garland
Veteran spent almost all of spring training with Seattle before his release and immediate signing with the Rockies.
RH Rafael Betancourt (Closer)
In first full season as closer, blew seven saves but finished with 31, tied for fourth-highest total in club history.
RH Wilton Lopez
Went 10-for-12 in save opportunities while serving as the Astros’ closer in final two months of 2012.
LH Rex Brothers
Led the Rockies with eight wins and an average of 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings.
RH Matt Belisle
Wore down after All-Star break with 6.21 ERA and .317 opponents batting average.
RH Adam Ottavino
Finished third on the team with 81 strikeouts, trailing only reliever Rex Brothers and starter Drew Pomeranz (83).
RH Edgmer Escalona
He struggled in 22 games last season, but is out of options and had a strong spring.
RH Chris Volstad
With 123 starts and only one relief appearance in his career, he’ll begin the season as the long man.
General manager Kevin Towers was at his wheeler-dealer best again this offseason, and his acquisitions should return the Diamondbacks to contention in the NL West, the division they won in 2011 in his first full season on the job. Towers believes in pitching, and he added key pieces to the starting rotation and the back end of the bullpen, his area of greatest expertise. He also added offensive firepower and clubhouse chemistry in free agents Cody Ross, Eric Chavez, Eric Hinske, and trade acquisition Martin Prado. Combined with the holdovers, the D-backs appear to have all the ingredients for a bounce-back year.
Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley comprise the front three, with newcomer Brandon McCarthy penciled in as 3b. Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs, prospects obtained from the Los Angeles Angels in the Dan Haren 2010 deadline deal, and Randall Delgado acquired over the winter from Atlanta in the Justin Upton trade, competed for the fifth spot. Currently Corbin stands as the winner, although getting Skaggs regular starts at Triple-A is not a bad thing. Kennedy was fourth in the NL Cy Young Award balloting when he went 21–4 in 2011, but he lost some command of his fastball at times last season and fell to 15–12 as his ERA jumped from 2.88 to 4.02. Kennedy’s typical season probably lies somewhere in between. He has logged more than 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, and when he pounds the strike zone, his fastball-changeup combination can be very effective. Cahill also got to 200 innings in his first season with the D-backs and finished strong, winning four of his last five starts. Miley, the only lefthander in the top four, was the surprise of 2012, starting in the bullpen and finishing as a top candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year award. Miley commanded the strike zone — he averaged 1.7 walks per nine innings — and got early contact. McCarthy signed a two-year, $15.5 million free-agent deal shortly after the Winter Meetings. Like Cahill the year before, McCarthy will face the challenges of moving from a pitcher’s park in Oakland to a hitter’s park in Chase Field. McCarthy reinvented himself two years ago by throwing more two-seam fastballs, and that approach should play well in his new home. Corbin, Skaggs and Delgado should be fixtures in the rotation in the near future.
This is the strongest area of the team, and with it the D-backs should be able to shorten a lot of games. It starts at the very back with righthanders J.J. Putz, Heath Bell and David Hernandez. All three have closed games in pressure situations. Bell, who had three 40-plus save seasons in San Diego from 2009-11, was acquired in a three-team trade with Miami and Oakland early in the offseason. The pecking order entering spring training is set — Bell in the seventh inning, Hernandez in the eighth and Putz in the ninth. Putz lost some velocity when he toyed with a cut fastball early last season, but he junked that after six weeks and dominated from then on, finishing with 32 saves and a 2.82 ERA. Hernandez has 15 saves since joining the D-backs’ bullpen in 2011 as another Towers find and averaged 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings with his fastball/slider combination last season. Bell struggled after signing a $27 million free-agent deal with Miami, but the D-backs believe a change of scenery and a reunion with Towers will help. Strike-throwing submariner Brad Ziegler had the best season of his career in 2012, and his arm angle gives righties fit. Newcomers Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds will give the D-backs two lefthanders for the first time in, well, forever. Sipp enjoyed good success against lefties in Cleveland last season. Long reliever Josh Collmenter pounds the strike zone with a high-80s mph fastball, a high-70s mph changeup and guts galore.
Aaron Hill may be the best two-way second baseman in the NL. He won the 2012 Silver Slugger Award by hitting a career-high .302 with 26 home runs and also showed great range on the fast track at Chase Field — especially to his right, where he made play after play on balls hit up the middle. Cliff Pennington was acquired from Oakland in the three-team trade that also landed Bell, and will open the season at shortstop.
Paul Goldschmidt took another step forward in his first full season in the majors in 2012, developing into the kind of guy a franchise could build around. With the bluest of blue-collar attitudes, Goldschmidt hit .286 with 20 home runs, 43 doubles and 82 RBIs while playing a solid first base. He has power to all fields, and it would not be a surprise to see more of those doubles turn into homers as he continues to learn pitchers and counts. As tough as it was to trade Upton, getting a player like Prado should pay huge dividends. He can play several positions well having started at four different positions at one point last season in four consecutive games. He is a proven .300 hitter and terrific in the clubhouse.
Jason Kubel led the D-backs with 30 homers and 90 RBIs in his first season in Arizona, and his 14 outfield assists also led the team. Ross, who was the NLCS MVP with San Francisco in 2010, signed a three-year $26 million free-agent deal to add an experienced hand in center field after the trade of Chris Young to Oakland. Gerardo Parra, who spent much of 2012 as the fourth outfielder returns as a starter. The former Gold Glove winner has a tremendous arm in right field and can be disruptive on the base paths.
Miguel Montero signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension two months into 2012, and the big-money deal already appears to be a bargain for the D-backs. Montero followed his All-Star 2011 season by hitting .286 with 15 home runs and 88 RBIs. His bat is hardly his only weapon. Montero threw out 42 percent of the runners who attempted to steal on him last season, and his 41 percent success rate is the best in the majors the last two years. He is an upbeat clubhouse presence, and when he talks, pitchers listen.
Towers made a concerted effort to improve this area and signed several of the players he targeted, including left-handed bats Chavez and Hinske and reserve catcher Wil Nieves. Chavez and Hinske provide quality pinch-hit and designated hitter options, and Chavez could be part of a platoon, playing third base and allowing Prado to move to the outfield on occasion. All three bring the clubhouse presence that Towers has made a priority during his tenure. Willie Bloomquist was the starting shortstop on the 2011 NL West title team, and he can play just about anywhere after seeing his first career action at third base in 2012. He’ll nurse a oblique injury to start the season. Outfielder Tony Campana can’t seem to land a starting gig, but in limited action last year, the left-handed hitting speedster swiped a team-high 30 bases for the Cubs.
Managing partner Ken Kendrick and president/CEO Derrick Hall have opened the purse strings, green-lighting a $95 million budget for the 40-man roster, a number Towers reached when he signed Ross. Towers must feel like he won the lottery — his budgets in San Diego were routinely half of what he has this season. The D-backs had their largest attendance in the last four years in 2012, but that is less a driving force on the increased payroll than a determination to put a winning product on the field.
The under-appreciated NL West will only get more difficult, with the Giants building on the momentum of two World Series championships in the last three seasons and the Dodgers now able to spend freely under new management and a new TV deal. The D-backs under manager Kirk Gibson will never give an inch, however, and they believe they have the nucleus to reprise 2011, when they won 94 games and the division.
CF Cody Ross (R)
The MVP of the 2010 NLCS with the Giants, he is back in the NL after a year with the dysfunctional Red Sox. A strained calf may keep him on the shelf for the first week of the season.
3B Martin Prado (R)
Career .295 hitter has carried an average of .300 or better in four of the last five seasons.
2B Aaron Hill (R)
A perfect fit in Chase Field, Hill set a career high with 76 extra-base hits in his first full season in Arizona.
C Miguel Montero (L)
Has blossomed into one of the elite two-way catchers in the game with regular use the last two seasons.
1B Paul Goldschmidt (R)
All you need to know about his acuity — he tagged up from first and took second on a 45-foot foul-out to the catcher.
LF Jason Kubel (L)
He had a triple-double — 30 homers, 90 RBIs, 14 outfield assists — in his first season with the D-backs.
RF Gerardo Parra (L)
A 2011 Gold Glove winner owns one of the best arms in baseball.
SS Cliff Pennington (S)
He had 58 stolen bases in three seasons as an Oakland regular; can play both middle infield positions.
3B Eric Chavez (L)
Hit 16 home runs in part-time duty with the Yankees last season and made playoff starts ahead of A-Rod.
UT Eric Hinske (L)
Valuable member of four playoff teams — the Red Sox, Rays, Yankees and Braves.
UT Willie Bloomquist (R)
Always in high gear; the D-backs see him as a perfect handyman at three infield spots and as a pinch-hitter/runner. An oblique strain will cost him at least a week and could be more serious.
C Wil Nieves (R)
A quality defender and clubhouse presence; his two-month stint in 2012 earned him a return date.
OF Tony Campana (L)
A basestealing wonder who can’t seem to find a place in the starting lineup. May be pushed aside when promising rookie Adam Eaton is ready to return from elbow sprain he sustained in spring training.
RH Ian Kennedy
The top winner in the National League with 36 victories the last two seasons (21 and 15).
RH Trevor Cahill
Already with 53 victories in 128 starts, Cahill does not turn 25 until early in spring training.
RH Brandon McCarthy
Back to full function after suffering a brain contusion and skull fracture when struck by a line drive Sept. 5.
LH Wade Miley
Turned the corner in his first full season in 2012 by throwing strikes and pitching to contact.
LH Patrick Corbin
Used both in the bullpen and the rotation in his rookie season, averaged only 2.1 walks per nine innings.
RH J.J. Putz (Closer)
Was his dominant self the final four-plus months of 2012; has 77 saves and a 2.48 ERA in two seasons in Arizona.
RH David Hernandez
A mid-90s fastball and a slurvey breaking ball he can throw in the 80-85 mph range give hitters pause.
RH Heath Bell
Jerked around in Miami when his closer’s role was taken away early; a return to the NL West should help.
RH Brad Ziegler
Continued to holds righties at bay and made a sharp improvement in success against lefties in 2011.
LH Tony Sipp
A workhorse who had 202 appearances and 51 holds the last three seasons in Cleveland.
LH Matt Reynolds
After 144 appearances the last two seasons in Colorado, should benefit from a change of venue.
RH Josh Collmenter
He brings an 87-mph fastball, a 73-mph changeup and a Michigan woods full of smarts and guts.
It has been a billion-dollar makeover. The Dodgers have emerged from bankruptcy and the dark days of the McCourt ownership transformed into one of baseball’s heavyweights. Armed with deep-pocketed owners (and anticipating a multi-billion dollar windfall from the negotiation of a new TV rights deal), the Dodgers have taken on $600 million in salary commitments over the past year, trading for former All-Stars Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford in midseason then adding free-agent pitching prize Zack Greinke and top Korean lefthander Hyun-Jin Ryu in the offseason. The midseason makeover did not take. The anticipated playoff push never materialized. Now the Dodgers will enter 2013 with the highest payroll in MLB history — and expectations to match.
The Dodgers pieced together a rotation for 2012 with low-cost signings of free agents Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano. The result was a 3.41 starters’ ERA that ranked second in the National League and third in the majors. That wasn’t good enough to secure a playoff spot, though, and the Dodgers made landing a top-tier starter their No. 1 offseason goal. Health issues with ace Clayton Kershaw (hip), Chad Billingsley (elbow) and Ted Lilly (recovering from shoulder surgery) made depth in the starting rotation a need as well. A commitment of over $200 million satisfied both goals as the Dodgers gave Greinke the second-largest contract ever given to a pitcher ($147 million over six years) and signed Ryu. The result could be one of the best 1-2 punches in any rotation (Kershaw and Greinke), uncommon depth (Billingsley, Ryu and Beckett), and potential trade chips to address other possible needs (Capuano, Harang and Lilly).
A deep bullpen was a Dodgers strength in 2012, and GM Ned Colletti did his best to put the band back together for 2013. Re-signing Brandon League was the first step. Acquired from the Mariners in July, League will open the season as the team’s closer. But the Dodgers have a hard-throwing option to step in if needed in Kenley Jansen (recovering from a surgical procedure to address recurring problems with an irregular heartbeat). J.P. Howell was signed as a free agent to fill the lefty specialist role.
The “best-case scenario,” manager Don Mattingly said during the offseason, is for Ramirez to be the Dodgers’ everyday shortstop in 2013. That will take a re-commitment to defense by Ramirez, who has not been known as the most focused and consistent performer in the field, or the hardest worker. That sounds great, but Ramirez tore a ligament in his thumb in spring training and will miss the first two months. So much for Ramirez taking over at short. When he returns, if Ramirez has to move to third base, Luis Cruz is the next option at shortstop. Second base figures to be shared by steady veteran Mark Ellis and Skip Schumaker, a versatile left-handed bat acquired from the Cardinals.
Not that long ago, Gonzalez was one of the most complete and consistent hitters in baseball. The Dodgers are hopeful that Gonzalez — sidetracked by the pressure and clubhouse drama that come with playing for the Red Sox — can once again provide a productive presence in the middle of their lineup. If Gonzalez does, he and Matt Kemp could form a 1-2 combo to rival other top duos like Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in Detroit or the anticipated pairing of Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols in Anaheim. Third base is more of a question mark. The Dodgers hope Ramirez grabs hold of the shortstop position when he returns in June. If he does, Cruz gets first crack at being their everyday third baseman. The journeyman hit .297 with 40 RBIs in 78 games for the Dodgers last year and is the best of some unappealing options at third base. For now, Cruz will be the main man at short with Nick Punto filling in at third.
Kemp, Crawford and Andre Ethier might be the best outfield in baseball — if this were 2010. It isn’t, however, and the Dodgers are counting on a rebound to health by Kemp (offseason shoulder surgery) and Crawford (wrist and elbow surgeries in 2012) as well as bounce-back years overall from Crawford and Ethier to make this group worthy of the massive financial investment the Dodgers have made in them. Kemp is the best bet to live up to his potential. After a near-MVP season in 2011, Kemp was limited to 106 games in 2012 due to hamstring and shoulder injuries, and there is some concern that Kemp’s power could take time to return. If the rest of the Dodgers’ potentially potent lineup is productive, there won’t be as much pressure on Kemp. Crawford and Ethier are much more questionable commodities. Crawford was a complete bust with the Red Sox. Health issues were only part of his problem, and Crawford has a long way to go to rediscover the game that produced four All-Star selections and a Silver Slugger award with Tampa Bay. Ethier has become a flawed player since his All-Star selection in 2010, posting disturbing splits against left-handed pitching. That could be less of a problem with a much deeper lineup around him in 2013.
For all the headline-grabbing moves the Dodgers made last season, one of the most pleasant and valuable developments was the emergence of A.J. Ellis at age 31 as a rare commodity — an everyday catcher capable of contributing offensively. Ellis hit .270 with 13 home runs and a robust .374 on-base percentage that was critical in helping turn over a National League lineup. Defensively, he handled the Dodgers’ evolving staff well enough to have a catcher’s ERA of 3.31. The Dodgers are confident enough in Ellis’ ability to reproduce that performance in 2013 that they could stick with inexperienced Tim Federowicz as his backup.
The Dodgers added an important, versatile piece when they traded for Schumaker. He provides a left-handed bat off the bench capable of filling in for Kemp and Crawford in the outfield if they are not at full strength after 2012 surgeries (as well as providing balance at second base with the right-handed Ellis). The rest of the bench is an assortment of spare parts left over from last season — Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Uribe, Punto and Federowicz, the backup catcher.
Has any GM in baseball weathered a wider swing in fortunes than Colletti over the past few years? Colletti has gone from needing to pinch pennies and make do with limited resources in the dying days of the McCourt era to the free-spending billionaire-backed days of the new ownership. But the high payroll and big investment made in these Dodgers have created high expectations that both Colletti and Mattingly will have to meet — or likely feel the heat.
The Dodgers will carry the highest payroll in baseball history during the 2013 season — and big bucks have not always brought big success for their predecessors among baseball’s biggest spenders. The Dodgers changed a third of their roster on the fly last season, adding a passel of former All-Stars. It remains to be seen how that group will play together, and health issues (with Crawford and Billingsley, in particular) could scuttle any progress made. Playing in the same division with the Giants (World Series champions in two of the past three seasons) also presents a large challenge. Given all that the Dodgers’ new owners have invested in the past year, however, anything short of a playoff spot and deep run into the postseason would have to rank as a disappointment.
LF Carl Crawford (L)
Dodgers are counting on combination of good health and escape from Boston to revive his career.
2B Mark Ellis (R)
Veteran second baseman came back after nearly losing leg from fluke injury in May.
CF Matt Kemp (R)
Talk of 50-50 season disappeared with injuries in 2012 — but massive potential remains intact.
1B Adrian Gonzalez (L)
Career .244 hitter at Dodger Stadium, second-lowest of any park in which he’s played (.236 at Tropicana Field).
RF Andre Ethier (L)
Has gone from foundation piece to flawed complementary player (poor lefty-righty splits) in matter of months.
SS Luis Cruz (R)
Feel-good story with breakout season in 2012 after 12 seasons in pro baseball with six organizations. Will spend the first two months at shortstop.
C A.J. Ellis (R)
One of only four catchers in NL last year to start at least 125 games (Buster Posey, Miguel Montero and Yadier Molina).
3B Nick Punto (S)
The solid defender will fill in at third as Cruz shifts to short while Hanley Ramirez recovers from a torn ligament in his thumb.
UT Jerry Hairston Jr. (R)
Played well in super-utility role last season until hip issue that led to surgery became problematic.
2B-OF Skip Schumaker (L)
Could see plenty of playing time as multi-position backup — and protégé of hitting coach Mark McGwire.
IF Juan Uribe (R)
Has hit .199/.262/.289 in first two years of misguided three-year, $21 million deal.
C Tim Federowicz (R)
Could head back to Triple-A if Dodgers sign a more experienced backup for Ellis.
UT Alex Castellanos (R)
Appeared in 16 games last season as a rookie, entering five times as a pinch-runner.
LH Clayton Kershaw
Young ace is 35–14 over past two seasons, lowest ERA and WHIP in NL each year.
RH Zack Greinke
$147 million man only 10th in wins (57), 24th in ERA (3.37) among starters since 2009. Elbow inflammation is a red flag.
RH Chad Billingsley
Offseason rehab and throwing program have put surgery for partially torn elbow ligament on hold — for now.
LH Hyun-Jin Ryu
Led Korean Baseball Organization in strikeouts five times in seven seasons — but will that translate to MLB?
RH Josh Beckett
ERA dropped from 5.23 with Red Sox to 2.93 as Dodger last season, but WHIP didn’t (1.33).
RH Brandon League (Closer)
Lost closer job in Seattle but finished season with one run, eight hits, 27 strikeouts in final 27.1 IP with Dodgers
RH Kenley Jansen
Has closer stuff and could be back in that role quickly if League’s Seattle struggles resurface.
RH Matt Guerrier
Veteran presence was lacking for much of 2012 due to elbow problems.
LH J.P. Howell
Held left-handed batters to a .200 batting average with the Rays in 2012.
LH Ted Lilly
Dodgers’ surplus of starting pitching could land a veteran like Lilly (recovering from shoulder surgery) in the pen.
RH Ronald Belisario
Struck out 69 last season and allowed just 47 hits.
RH Aaron Harang
Evidently, he’s still in the league.
A band of misfits won the World Series in 2010. Two years later, the Giants simply banded together. Their second title in three seasons felt more scripted than ad-libbed, as a fantastic defense made plays behind a talented pitching staff, and NL MVP Buster Posey steadied the entire operation from behind the plate. The Giants survived six playoff elimination games and became the first NL team since the Big Red Machine in the 1970s to win two World Series in a three-year span. But these Giants aren’t seen as a dynasty yet, mostly because they’ve had so much turnover in their everyday lineup. There will be new challenges as the Giants seek to wear the crown a bit better this time around, especially since the archrival Dodgers all but broke into Fort Knox while loading up their roster with former All-Stars since the middle of last season. Even though the Giants brought back all their impact players from a year ago, they might be considered, by some, underdogs to win the West. It’s a role that has suited them just fine.
The Giants received at least 30 starts from five different pitchers — and all five return this season. Stalwart ace Matt Cain had no complaints after signing a $112 million extension, throwing the first perfect game in the Giants’ 129-year existence, starting for the NL All-Star squad and capping it off with another World Series ring. Madison Bumgarner, who turned 23 in August, topped 200 innings for the second consecutive year. Well-traveled Ryan Vogelsong proved his breakout 2011 campaign was no fluke; he led the NL in ERA as late as Aug. 12 and completed at least six innings in each of his first 21 starts — the longest streak by a Giant since Atlee Hammaker in 1983. As for Barry Zito, long the butt of jokes for his $126 million contract? He paid dividends as the Giants went 21–11 in his starts — including 14 consecutive wins to end the season, if you include his three playoff starts. Those fantastic four made it easier for the Giants to absorb a wildly erratic year from two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, whose 5.18 ERA was the highest among all NL pitchers to qualify for the ERA title. But this lines up to be the NL’s best rotation in 2013.
It’s hard to replace a ninth-inning presence like Brian Wilson, but the Giants made a successful adjustment after the black-bearded Taco Bell pitchman was lost to elbow surgery on the season-opening road trip. After non-tendering Wilson and letting him become a free agent, the Giants will be in committee mode again to open the season. Sergio Romo is expected to get first crack at the ninth inning after he fearlessly threw his sweeping slider and 88 mph two-seamer to escape every big spot in the playoffs. The Giants re-signed valuable lefthander Jeremy Affeldt to a three-year contract and wrapped up righthander Santiago Casilla for three more years, too. Casilla saved 19 of his first 20 chances last season before yielding the closer job in July. Sidewinding lefty Javier Lopez also returns; he’s allowed one home run in two-plus seasons as a Giant.
Brandon Crawford is a Bay Area native who grew up idolizing Royce Clayton. When Crawford took over the everyday shortstop position, his idol gave him one piece of advice: Stabilize the infield. Crawford struggled to do that in the first two months of last season while committing 12 errors in his first 59 games. But he committed just six miscues after that, and he was a playmaking force in the postseason while mixing in a few clutch hits. The Giants paired Crawford’s youth with second baseman Marco Scutaro’s professionalism after they acquired the league’s best contact man (he misses on just 5.3 percent of swings he takes) from Colorado at the trade deadline. Scutaro, the NLCS MVP, hit .362 for the Giants during the regular season, and he carries a 20-game hitting streak into 2013. The 37-year-old probably won’t approach those numbers, but he’s a reliable hit-and-run presence for a team that thrives on crossing the plate without home runs.
The bad news: Pablo Sandoval spent a lot of time on the disabled list for the second straight year. The good news: The switch-hitter has no more hamate bones to break, after dealing with surgeries to repair fractures in both hands. Sandoval, the World Series MVP by virtue of his three-homer game off of Justin Verlander, is forever on the verge of an MVP-caliber season. Although his weight is scrutinized, he’s a gifted athlete who moves well enough to be a solid defender at third base. Brandon Belt endured an up-and-down first season but showed flashes of the pure-hitting talent that allowed him to rocket through the minor leagues. The former pitching prospect is a Gold Glove-caliber presence at first base, even if he hasn’t put up the kind of power production associated with the position. Expect Posey to log 30 or so starts at first base as the Giants seek to save the legs of their most gifted hitter.
Angel Pagan’s career year included a MLB-leading 15 triples, which broke the Giants’ San Francisco-era franchise record previously held by Willie Mays. The club responded by signing him to a four-year, $40 million contract — a bit of a reach for a 31-year-old who’d only played in 125 games twice in his career. But the Giants didn’t have another in-house candidate to replace Pagan’s leadoff presence, since top prospect Gary Brown isn’t ready yet. Right fielder Hunter Pence reached 100 RBIs for the first time in his career, and even managed to knock in 45 runs in 59 games as a Giant despite hitting .219. The Giants’ toughest task in the outfield will be replacing the production of Melky Cabrera, who was leading the majors in hits and runs on Aug. 15 when he was suspended 50 games for a positive testosterone test. Gregor Blanco, a non-roster invitee last spring, will get the bulk of time in left field. But a former 2010 World Series hero, Andres Torres, was re-signed to a one-year contract and will compete for at-bats. The switch-hitting Torres is likely to start against lefthanders.
What a difference Posey makes. In 2011, when a vicious home plate collision destroyed his ankle and ended his season in May, the Giants coughed away the division in the final eight weeks. Posey didn’t take long to reestablish his offensive presence and poise behind the plate. He’s the cleanup centerpiece the Giants had lacked ever since Barry Bonds retired. Posey became the first Giant since Bonds in 2004 to drive in 100 runs; more notably, he became the first NL catcher to win a batting title since Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Not bad, considering it was his first full season in the bigs.
Joaquin Arias is a better right-handed hitter than the numbers indicate, and he can fill in at three infield positions. Backup catcher Hector Sanchez developed a good rapport with Lincecum and Zito, and the switch-hitter is far from an easy out. Aubrey Huff and Xavier Nady are gone, so the Giants could look within the system for depth, with outfielders Roger Kieschnick and Francisco Peguero knocking on the door.
In three seasons, Bruce Bochy went from being viewed as a slow-talking retread to a certifiable genius with a Hall of Fame résumé. He brilliantly shuffled a tired rotation in the postseason and turned Lincecum from an inconsistent starter into a radioactive weapon in long relief. Brian Sabean returns for his 17th season — the longest consecutive tenure of any current GM in the game. It’s hard to find a manager and GM who are more on the same page than Bochy and Sabean.
Not only did the Giants get the band back together by re-signing Pagan, Scutaro and Affeldt, but they also brought back a 2010 World Series hero in Torres. They can’t count on smooth sailing to another division title, though, given their rivals’ free spending.
CF Angel Pagan (S)
Rare hitter whose game thrives at AT&T Park, which is made for triples.
2B Marco Scutaro (R)
Veteran knocked in 44 runs in 243 at-bats after joining the Giants last summer.
3B Pablo Sandoval (S)
Judged Miss Universe pageant over the winter, now hoping for an all-world season.
C Buster Posey (R)
Patient, disciplined, confident and calculating; Posey is a pure hitter.
RF Hunter Pence (R)
Plate discipline is lacking, and he doesn’t look pretty, but he still finds a way to drive in runs.
1B Brandon Belt (L)
The “Baby Giraffe” hit .254 before the break, .293 after it; only hit seven home runs in 411 at-bats.
LF Gregor Blanco (L)
Superb defender is a solid OBP guy but wears down when he plays every day.
SS Brandon Crawford (L)
Wasn’t even a finalist for the Gold Glove last season, which was a crock.
OF Andres Torres (S)
A year after trading him to Mets for Angel Pagan, Giants scooped him up again as a free agent.
INF Joaquin Arias (R)
Former top prospect hit .303 vs. left-handed pitching in his first season with the Giants.
C Hector Sanchez (S)
Caught 25 of Barry Zito’s 32 starts and 16 of Tim Lincecum’s 33, allowing Buster Posey’s legs to stay fresh.
1B Brett Pill (R)
Beat Clayton Kershaw with a two-run homer, but had arthroscopic knee surgery in March and will miss the start of the season.
OF Francisco Peguero (S)
Tooled-up and with a cannon arm, Peguero needs to get on base more to become an everyday player.
RH Matt Cain
His 14 strikeouts in a perfect game matched Sandy Koufax for the most all-time.
LH Madison Bumgarner
His 16 wins were most by a Giants lefty since Kirk Rueter in 1998.
RH Tim Lincecum
Delivery was a mess as he led NL in losses, runs allowed, earned runs, wild pitches; second in walks.
LH Barry Zito
Pivotal win in Game 5 of NLCS at St. Louis was his first in postseason since 2003 with A’s.
RH Ryan Vogelsong
Postseason ace (3–0, 1.09 ERA in ’12) has thrown 41 quality starts over last two regular seasons.
RH Sergio Romo (Closer)
Only Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and Eric O’Flaherty posted a lower ERA among NL relievers.
LH Javier Lopez
Sidearm specialist held lefties to a .191 average and did not allow a hit in 3.0 postseason innings.
RH Santiago Casilla
Had a 1.82 ERA after Aug. 1 but didn’t regain closer role; saved 25 games total.
LH Jeremy Affeldt
Filthy curveball artist has thrown 42.2 consecutive innings without allowing a home run.
RH George Kontos
Made huge improvement stranding inherited runners, especially in playoffs.
RH Chad Gaudin
Is now pitching for his eighth franchise in last six seasons.
LH Jose Mijares
He had seven holds and a win after joining the Giants in early August.
Despite new ownership and a new TV deal, it looks like it’s going to be more of the same for the Padres. While the NL West rival San Francisco Giants are coming off a second World Series title in three seasons and the Los Angeles Dodgers continue to spend lavishly, the Padres appear content with the status quo. They hope Chase Headley will replicate his big season, and they will continue to build from within. They don’t seem inclined to go after big-name free agents, even though they are bringing in the fences at Petco Park. The Padres were so bad in April and May that a strong second half couldn’t lift them out of fourth place.
The Padres were hit particularly hard by injuries to starters last season, beginning when projected Opening Day starter Tim Stauffer was scratched hours before first pitch due to a sore elbow. Stauffer came back in May and made only one start before the injury flared up again. Then again, it wasn’t a powerhouse rotation to begin with. Edinson Volquez, one of four players obtained from Cincinnati for Mat Latos, bounced back nicely from a disappointing final season with the Reds. Jason Marquis made 15 starts after coming to San Diego from Minnesota, and posted the lowest WHIP (1.302) of his career. Eric Stults seemed to get better as the season progressed. The Padres won eight of his final 10 starts. Tyson Ross, who never found his groove in Oakland last season, has earned the fifth spot with s strong spring.
Injuries weren’t limited to the rotation. Huston Street, who replaced Heath Bell as the closer, was on the disabled list twice, with lattisimus dorsi and calf injuries. Nonetheless, he made his first All-Star team and converted 23-of-24 save opportunities. The Padres gave him a $14 million, two-year contract extension. San Diego will look for some stability in the bullpen, where 19 different pitchers made at least one appearance last year. The pen featured seven rookies, including righthanders Brad Boxberger (2.60 ERA in 24 games), Brad Brach (3.78 ERA in 67 games), Dale Thayer (3.43 ERA in 64 games) and Nick Vincent (1.71 ERA in 27 games). Luke Gregerson is the only remaining pitcher from San Diego’s former 1-2-3 punch in the pen, which included Mike Adams and Bell.
The Padres injected some life into their dismal season when they released second baseman Orlando Hudson and placed shortstop Jason Bartlett on the disabled list with a knee injury on May 17. On the same day, the Padres brought up Everth Cabrera, who has been with the Padres off and on since 2009, and exciting Alexi Amarista, who stands just 5'7" and was obtained from the Angels in the deal for reliever Ernesto Frieri. Cabrera became the first Padres player to lead the National League in stolen bases, swiping 44 bags in 48 attempts. While Cabrera took over at shortstop, Amarista split time with Logan Forsythe at second base. Forsythe is the projected starter at second, but Amarista will definitely be in the mix. Top prospect Jedd Gyorko could force himself into the picture if he continues to hit well.
After failing to put up the kind of numbers expected of a third baseman in his first four big-league seasons, Headley more than made up for it with a career year in 2012. The Padres, who control Headley’s rights for two more seasons, would like to see him do it again. He’ll get a late start this season due to a fractured thumb that will cost him the first month or so. With a more aggressive approach and adjustments to his swing that helped him cope with spacious Petco Park, he hit .286 with 31 home runs and led the National League with 115 RBIs. Headley was rewarded with his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, and he finished fifth in NL MVP voting. On the other side of the infield, Yonder Alonso had a solid rookie season. He started 144 games at first base, hit .273 and led all big-league rookies with 39 doubles, which set a Padres rookie record. Alonso is one of four players obtained from the Reds for Latos the previous offseason.
Two of the three probable starters, left fielder Carlos Quentin and center fielder Cameron Maybin, have contract security. The Padres haven’t yet bestowed that on right fielder Will Venable. Quentin had a mixed season, showing the power the Padres sought when they obtained him from the White Sox but missing considerable time after having arthroscopic knee surgery during spring training. Quentin played in only 86 games, hitting .261 with 16 homers and 46 RBIs in 284 at-bats. After being reinstated from the 15-day disabled list on May 28, he announced his arrival by hitting five home runs, four doubles and driving in nine runs in his first six games. If he can stay healthy, he can do some damage at Petco Park. The Padres gave Quentin a $27 million, three-year contract that runs through 2015. During spring training, the Padres signed Maybin to a $25 million, five-year contract. He started slowly but set career-highs by playing in 147 games and driving in 45 runs, and tied his career-best with 44 walks. Maybin made several spectacular catches, including robbing Matt Kemp of a go-ahead homer in a Padres win at Dodger Stadium in early September. Venable made a career-high 103 starts, 80 of them in right, while hitting .264 with nine homers. Chris Denorfia started 60 games in right and proved his worth by setting career-highs with a .293 average, 102 hits, 19 doubles, 56 runs scored and 130 games played.
The Padres were thrilled with Yasmani Grandal after he made his big-league debut on June 20. He hit .297 with 16 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs in 60 games, with 52 starts. Then they were shocked when Grandal was suspended for the first 50 games of 2013 after testing positive for testosterone. Grandal’s suspension gives the job back to Nick Hundley, who seemed expendable after an awful season. Hundley was given a $9 million, three-year contract extension during spring training, then proceeded to hit just .157, was demoted to Triple-A and then, after being recalled, suffered a season-ending knee injury. Backup John Baker also returns.
Denorfia is practically a starter, platooning with Venable in right field and also making starts in left and center. Amarista excited fans with his speed and hustle as he played second base and a little bit at shortstop. Baker ended up starting 52 games at catcher and will be called on again early this season due to Grandal’s suspension. The Padres like Mark Kotsay’s veteran leadership — in the clubhouse as well as in the dugout — so much that he’ll be back at age 37.
The Padres picked up the options for 2014 and ’15 for manager Bud Black, who is the eternal optimist. On one hand, he’s perfect for this club because of his positive nature. On the other hand, there are some who would like to see Black get on his players more. Like Bruce Bochy before him, Black seems destined to shepherd a team that’s barely given a fighting chance by ownership. General manager Josh Byrnes says the Padres were inspired by seeing another low-budget team, the Oakland A’s, reach the playoffs last season.
The Padres teased their fans with a strong finish in 2009, followed by a 90-win 2010 season that fell just short of the playoffs. They appear to be following the same script, although losing 10 of their final 15 games of 2012 put a damper on what had been a strong second half. The Padres might inch closer to finishing .500 or slightly above, but that’s probably about all the fans can expect this season. If they’re really going to contend, that probably won’t happen until 2014 or later. Their payroll is expected to increase beyond last year’s $55 million, but much of it will go toward salaries decided in arbitration rather than to free agents. A big clue came when the Padres were extremely quiet during the Winter Meetings.
SS Everth Cabrera (S)
Recalled on May 17 and became first Padre to lead NL in stolen bases with 44 in 48 attempts.
2B Logan Forsythe (R)
Played in 91 games, including 73 starts at second, and hit .273 in first full big-league season. Could lose playing time to top prospect Jedd Gyorko, who will fill in at third during Headley's absence.
3B Chase Headley (S)
Former second-round pick became the first player in Padres history to have two months with 30-plus RBIs. Will miss the start of the season with a fractured thumb, but hopes to return in April.
LF Carlos Quentin (R)
Limited to 86 games after knee surgery; five of his 16 homers came in his first six games.
1B Yonder Alonso (L)
Made 144 starts, had .348 on-base percentage and hit .273 with Padres rookie-record 39 doubles.
RF Will Venable (L)
Played in career-high 148 games, including 103 starts; tied career-best with .264 average.
CF Cameron Maybin (R)
Set career highs with 147 games played and 45 RBIs and tied career-high with 44 walks.
C Nick Hundley (R)
Rough year included demotion to minors, .157 average and season-ending knee injury.
C John Baker (L)
Played in 63 games and started 52; threw out only 9-of-58 basestealers.
UT Jesus Guzman (R)
Utilityman made first Opening Day roster and started 65 games at three different positions (plus DH).
OF Mark Kotsay (L)
Hit .271 with two homers and nine RBIs as pinch-hitter; started 29 games. Should make a terrific manager some day.
OF Chris Denorfia (R)
Made career-high 77 starts in outfield; batted leadoff in 45 games, hitting .303.
IF Alexi Amarista (L)
Injected life into middle infield after trade from Angels; first career home run was game-winning grand slam.
RH Edinson Volquez
Was 11–11 with 4.14 ERA in first Padres season; threw first complete game, a one-hitter vs. Houston at Petco.
LH Clayton Richard
Workhorse set career-highs with 218.2 innings, 14
victories and 31 homers allowed.
RH Jason Marquis
After release by Twins was 6–7 with 4.04 ERA in 15 starts for Padres before breaking left wrist.
LH Eric Stults
Waived by White Sox; went 8–3 with 2.92 ERA in 18 games with Padres, including 14 starts.
RH Tyson Ross
Struggled mightily with Oakland last season, but has rebounded with a strong spring.
RH Huston Street (Closer)
First-time All-Star converted 23-of-24 save opportunities; earned two-year extension.
RH Luke Gregerson
Had career-bests with 2.39 ERA and nine saves in team-high 77 appearances.
RH Dale Thayer
Was 2–2 with 3.43 ERA and seven saves in 64 games in his longest big-league stint.
RH Brad Brach
Was 2–4 with 3.78 ERA and led all NL rookies with 67 appearances, second-most on team.
LH Joe Thatcher
Bounced back from 2011 shoulder surgery to pitch in 55 games, going 1–4 with 3.41 ERA.
LH Tommy Layne
Made jump from Double-A to majors, going 2–0 with a 3.24 ERA in 26 appearances.
RH Anthony Bass
Split between rotation and pen; went 2–8 with 4.73 ERA and had first career complete game and save.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for March 29.
• They're about to start playing games that count in MLB. These lovely WAGs will be watching, including David Wright's fiancee, Molly Beers (pictured).
• A roundup from last night, which saw another No. 1 seed go down to defeat.
• Noted white man Doug Gottlieb planted his foot in his mouth last night, but Sir Charles has his back.
• Step aside, Tebowing and Kaepernicking. Now we've got Dufnering. And it's tremendous. Here are three of the Duf-man's buds showing us how it's done. Note the half-pack of Skoal in the lower lip.
• Big Ten and Pac-12 fans might wonder how anything SEC football-related could be underrated, but here you go: The SEC's All-Underrated Team for this spring.
• Lane Kiffin, report to the principal's office: Pac-12 coaches on the hot seat.
• Yesterday's incoherent tweet was a joke, but now that Phil Jackson is on Twitter, let's hope for a continuing stream of zingers like these.
• Jerry Buss continues to burnish his reputation as a ladies' man even in death. There's news that he left a Bentley and a condo in Hawaii to a 20-something girlfriend.
• An announcer accidentally referred to a part of the male anatomy. Uncontrollable giggling ensued. If that's your idea of entertainment, enjoy today's video.
--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
• The Tournament's second weekend is upon us. To celebrate, Coed presents the Cheerleaders of the Sweet 16.
• Florida Gulf Coast is only the latest in a long history of NCAA Tournament Cinderellas. Here's a rundown from Mandatory.
• All good things must end, and the Bulls, minus three starters, ended the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. After the game, some dumb fan tried to grab a souvenir from an angry LeBron, who was in no mood to suffer fools, possibly because he's tired of the hack-a-Bron strategy that opponents are using.
• SEC East, beware: Georgia has an x-factor for the upcoming college football season.
• The latest from USC (okay, Spurrier, we'll call them the other USC), including video of Matt Barkley's reaction to his Pro Day performance.
• Today in signs and wonders: A Reds fan created a "miracle pancake" with the Cincinnati logo, then offered it on eBay.
• Phil Jackson joined Twitter yesterday. His avatar is badass, but apparently it's tough to type with all those rings.
• Pot, meet kettle: Rick Reilly asked Aaron Craft about being annoying.
• Today's video: One last moment of anti-Heat schadenfreude, courtesy of some dude named Jimmy Butler.
--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
• The Big 12 didn't have a very good hoops season. Only one team from the league, perennial power Kansas, is still alive. But that doesn't mean the league's cheerleaders aren't among the elite. Here's a sample.
• The last time the Heat lost, the Harlem Shake video had not been released. Those were glorious times.
• Dirk Nowitzki vowed in late January not to shave until the Mavs reached .500. He's working on an epic beard. Deadspin brings you its evolution.
• Once upon a time, Mark Cuban was sleeping on a floor with six other guys in a three-bedroom apartment. What he and other wildly successful people were up to at age 25.
• The U-Dub is an intriguing team to ponder for the 2013 college football season. Here's the news from Seattle from ace Pac-12 bloggers Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell.
• Randall Cunningham, who was years ahead of his time, turns 50 today, and he looks every bit of it. And I suddenly feel very, very old.
• Dubya was on hand last night to watch Brittney Griner score 33 points, six of them on three dunks. Well, not dunks like you and I think of them, but dunks nonetheless.
• The Phillie Phanatic tried to make out with the local Fox traffic reporter. When you see her, you'll understand why.
• Phil Mickelson hits an amazing flop shot over a guy standing right in front of him. That guy is more trusting than I am.
• It may seem paranoid for coaches to close spring practices to the media, but they have their reasons.
• Blake Griffin hit what would have been the season's best buzzer beater. Unfortunately, he cheated and it didn't count.
--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
• Today's celebrity gossip: "Nashville" actress Hayden Panettiere is once again dating meathead boxer Wladimir Klitschko, if their PDA at Sunday's Heat-Bobcats game is any indication. That's them, being photobombed by Rory McIlroy. Now back to our regular programming.
• Along with the shining moments, March Madness brings with it some crushing disappointments. Here are 10 of the biggest so far.
• LeBron James celebrated the Heat's 27th consecutive win with an amazingly dorky videobomb. It's good to be the King.
• Attention Pac-12 fans: If your team's out of the tournament (or even if it's not), there's plenty of football news going on. Kevin Gemmell has it covered.
• They'll rearrange your face, then tell you you're still ugly: The best MMA trash-talkers.
• It's spring break time for many students. Of course, there are some athletes for whom spring break is a constant state of mind.
• Each fall in the SEC brings an amazing influx of new football talent. Here are the 25 newcomers to watch.
• Arizona pitcher Daniel Hudson didn't like his new baseball card. And no wonder: The photo they used was from his season-ending injury.
• A tennis player was stung by a wasp in an indelicate place. She did not enjoy the experience.
• The Red Sox are having trouble selling tickets. The solution: Cheap beer!
• Nike has an interesting take on Tiger Woods' return to the top. Wonder if Elin agrees with the sentiment?
• Today's video amazingly combines elements of hockey, hoops and drinking into one amusing package.
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• Step aside, Katherine Webb: It's Amanda Marcum's time. The wife of Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield is ready for her close-up. That's her in the photo, in case you were wondering.
• FGCU's a great hoops story, but you want a human interest angle? They've got that covered, too.
• Shane Larkin is Miami's best player, but Julian Gamble is college basketball's best photobomber, and it's not close. Another Hurricane superlative: Jim Larranaga busted out the best postgame coach dance of all time, and nominations are now closed.
• Here's some crack for hoops junkies: 16 amazing stats from the Tournament's first weekend. Also: An assortment of first-weekend superlatives.
• Baseball royalty: Mets PR director Jay Horwitz is the King of the Butt-Dialers.
• Here's an opinion that's sure to generate discussion: AJ McCarron will go down as Bama's greatest quarterback ever. Remember, this is the school that produced Joe Namath.
• Sergio Garcia made his reputation as a 19-year-old hitting a closed-eyes shot from the base of a tree at the PGA Championship. Yesterday, he topped himself: Sergio hit a shot out of a tree. I've had to hit it out of the trees plenty of times, but not like this.
• Instant classic: Tiger, Arnie and Trevino go Ninja for EA Sports.
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