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All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/five-american-league-players-new-teams-watch-2015
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Fear not baseball fans — Sunshine and warmer weather are on their way, and spring training is knocking on Old Man Winter’s door. Thankfully, it is almost time for baseball, as camps are in full gear in Arizona and Florida.

 

Many players are getting acclimated to new spring training surroundings, as these past few months proved to be busy for general managers, agents and players alike. Between blockbuster trades and free agents signing robust contracts with new teams, there has been no lack of player movement this offseason.

 

Lucky for you, Athlon Sports has kept a close watch on the MLB Hot Stove while you’ve been shoveling snow. So get your pencils and scorebooks ready as we list the Five American League Players on New Teams to Watch in 2015.

 

Related: Five National League Players on New Teams to Watch in 2015

 

Hanley Ramirez, OF, Boston Red Sox

Yes, you read that correctly — Hanley Ramirez, outfielder. Fenway Park’s Green Monster in left field is now Ramirez’s responsibility, which is somewhat perplexing since Hanley has never played outfield — ever. The Boston Globe reports that Hanley has bulked up to 240 pounds, which seems excessive for his slender 6’2 frame, but whatever keeps Ramirez in the lineup will certainly be welcomed by the Red Sox.

 

Ramirez has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, playing in over 150 games just once in the past four seasons. When Ramirez has been healthy, he’s been outstanding. In just 86 games in 2013, Ramirez hit .345/.402/.638 with 20 homers and 25 doubles. With the Marlins in 2009, Hanley was second in MVP voting as he led the NL in batting, posting a robust .342/.410/.543 slash line, hitting 24 homers, 42 doubles, with 106 RBIs.

 

The Red Sox have made Ramirez a key ingredient in their rebuild after their 2014 first-to-worst slide, signing the Dominican native to a four-year, $88 million contract. Ramirez is just one the fresh faces in Boston that also includes new additions Pablo Sandoval, Wade Miley and Rick Porcello. The Sox hope that with Ramirez’s new, fine-tuned figure, he’s able to return to the player he was for the Marlins, a three-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, MVP candidate, and 2006 NL Rookie of the Year.

 

If HanRam can remain fit for duty, look for him to park a few long balls over the Monster in left field — and then have no clue how to play the giant green wall on defense.

 

Nelson Cruz, DH/OF, Seattle Mariners

Cruz was the steal of last winter when he signed a one-year deal with the Orioles for $8 million. Cruz went on to have a career year, hitting 40 homers, 32 doubles, and knocking in 108, as the O’s clinched their first AL East title since 1997.

 

Cruz was seen to be a risky signing in 2014 as he was coming off his suspension for his connection with the Biogenesis scandal. Since the suspension, Cruz has shown contrition and done well for himself, signing a four-year, $57 million dollar free-agent contract with the Mariners this winter. The M’s desperately needed a bat in a lineup that ranked 27th in doubles, 19th in runs scored, 19th in RBIs, and 15th in home runs in 2014.

 

Cruz spent a lot of his time in Texas (2006-13) splitting time between corner outfield spots and DH. Similar to his time in Baltimore, Cruz won’t be playing in the field. Cruz’ job will be simple, drive in runs and hit the ball out of Safeco Field — no easy task.

 

The Mariners know what they are getting in Cruz, as his career numbers have been generally consistent over his 10-year career. The question is how will the rest of Seattle’s lineup develop around Cruz’ big bat? The addition of Cruz could very easily help All-Star third baseman Kyle Seager reach yet another level and lead to more pitches for Robinson Cano to crush into the short porch in right field. Our eyes will be locked on the Emerald City this summer as the Mariners push for their first AL West crown since 2001.

 

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Detroit Tigers

The last nine months have been a wild ride for Cespedes.

 

Last July, Cespedes won his second straight Home Run Derby crown and was becoming a household name for his cannon throws from left field, gunning down runners at the plate from the depths of O.co Coliseum. On the July 31 trade deadline, A’s GM Billy Beane shocked the baseball world by trading the Cuban outfielder to the Red Sox for Jon Lester — typical Beane.

 

Cespedes put up marginal numbers in Boston, including a .240/.296/.423 slash line and only five homers and 33 RBIs in 51 games, making him expendable during the Red Sox' facelift this past winter. On Dec. 11, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington pulled the trigger on a trade with the Tigers, landing starting pitcher Rick Porcello and sending Cespedes to Motown.

 

Cespedes is now part of a Tigers lineup that features aging stars Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera, both of whom are recovering from offseason surgery, a starting rotation that lost Max Scherzer and Porcello, and also is banking on Justin Verlander to return to 2011 form, and a Tigers bullpen that ranked 27th in ERA in 2014.

 

This 2015 Tigers team is not the same squad that won four straight AL Central titles. Unless names like Nick Castellanos, Anthony Gose, and J.D. Martinez can produce, the Tigers will have a hard time competing with the likes of the Royals and White Sox later in the summer. If for some reason the Tigers are once again in the postseason hunt come September, Cespedes will be a major reason why.

 

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago White Sox

If you are still debating whether or not Samardzija should have picked the NFL over playing baseball, you've missed his transition into a certifiable top of the rotation hurler.

 

The righthander known as Shark was traded to the A’s last July along with fellow Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel, as part of Billy Beane’s effort to make a deep October run. The trade between Oakland and the Cubs sent A’s top prospect and Athlon’s No. 4 overall prospect, Addison Russell, to the Windy City.

 

Since Theo Epstein & Co. took over the Cubs' front office four seasons ago, there was always a disconnect between Samardzija and the brass. Shark wanted a long-term deal worth top-end money, while the Cubs liked Samardzija but were hesitant to sign him long term.

 

After being traded to Oakland, Samardzija pitched admirably. In 16 starts for the A's, Samardzija had a 3.14 ERA with 99 strikeouts and a 0.931 WHIP. Beane, in his constant state of wheeling and dealing, dealt Samardzija back to the place where his major-league career began — Chicago. But this time, Shark would be pitching on the Southside. Samardzija became an integral part of Chicago’s Executive VP/President of Baseball Operations, Kenny Williams’, personal episode of Extreme Makeover: White Sox Edition.

 

Samardzija is now featured at the top of a Sox staff that includes ace lefty stud Chris Sale and newly acquired closer David Robertson, along with new faces in the field: Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche to complement Cuban sensation Jose Abreu. The White Sox are now in prime position to overthrow the Tigers as kings of the AL Central and Shark is a big reason why.

 

Didi Gregorius, SS, New York Yankees

The one person in all the world that is genuinely excited about Alex Rodriguez back in Yankee pinstripes is Didi Gregorius. You might be asking yourself — who is Didi Gregorius?

 

And why is he happy A-Rod is back?

 

Gregorius is the shortstop replacing Derek Jeter, and he is really, really happy A-Rod is back. Rodriguez’s return means less spotlight on the Captain’s replacement as he gets antiquated to baseball’s biggest stage, Yankee Stadium — which probably makes skipper Joe Girardi happy too.

 

Once all the Rodriguez hoopla dies down, all eyes in New York will be on Gregorius. Every at-bat, every ground ball to short, every strikeout, error, and base hit will be compared to that of Jeter. It’s unfair, but also inevitable.

 

Gregorius was originally signed by the Reds in 2007 as a free agent from Amsterdam — yes, baseball is played in the Netherlands, too. He spent the previous two seasons in the Diamondbacks' organization where he appeared in 183 games. Gregorius’ bat is a work in progress. His best year was in 2013 where he appeared in 108 games, batting .256/.313/.366 with 16 doubles, 28 RBIs, 7 HRs, and 37 walks. Defensively, Gregorius is considered average to below average in terms of defensive runs saved or prevented — but that’s okay, so was Derek Jeter.

 

What Gregorius does have going for him (maybe), is his age and he is inexpensive. At 26, he is four years younger than the second-youngest player expected to be a regular for the Yanks (Chase Headley) and is making approximately $500K this season. Maybe that is enough to save him from the New York media on a Yankee team that is a long shot to make the postseason — but probably not.

 

Welcome to the Bronx Zoo, Didi.

 

- by Jake Rose

Teaser:
Five American League Players on New Teams to Watch in 2015
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/sec-east-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings
Body:

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.

 

Georgia is the early favorite in the SEC East for 2015, but the Bulldogs will be pushed by Florida, Missouri and Tennessee. The Volunteers are a team on the rise under coach Butch Jones, while the Gators have the talent to rebound in coach Jim McElwain’s first year. The Tigers have key personnel losses to address, but coach Gary Pinkel’s team always seems to find the right answers to reload the roster.

What are the key questions and storylines shaping each SEC East’s roster and outlook for 2015? Let’s take a quick look at the seven teams and the priority list for each coach. 

 

SEC East Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch
 

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)

 

1. Georgia

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2 SEC)
Returning Starters:
Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Brian Schottenheimer (offensive coordinator)

Rob Sale (OL coach)
Thomas Brown (RB coach)

 

Georgia's Spring Priorities


1. Quarterback Battle
New play-caller Brian Schottenheimer doesn’t need to overhaul the offense with Nick Chubb leading the way at running back, but the Bulldogs have question marks in the passing game. Who will replace Hutson Mason at quarterback? Will it be Brice Ramsey (24 of 39 for 333 yards last year)? Or will Faton Bauta or Jacob Park push for the job this spring?

2. Who Emerges at WR?
The Bulldogs are losing their top two receivers (Chris Conley and Michael Bennett) from last year. If Malcolm Mitchell can stay healthy, he could be one of the top receivers in the SEC. While Mitchell and tight end Jeb Blazevich are solid targets, Georgia needs a few more playmakers to emerge this spring.

3. Development of the Secondary
Georgia’s secondary entered last season with plenty of question marks but allowed only 10 touchdown passes in SEC contests. This unit loses only two key players from the 2014 depth chart and the overall experience and snaps in coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s defense should help the secondary improve in 2015. How will this unit replace cornerback Damian Swann after he earned second-team All-SEC honors last year?
 

 

2. Missouri

2014 Record: 11-3 (7-1 SEC)
Returning Starters: Offense - 6, Defense - 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Barry Odom (defensive coordinator)

Ryan Walters (Safeties coach)

 

Missouri’s Spring Priorities


1. The Next Standouts at DE?
Missouri consistently produces standouts at end under line coach Craig Kuligowski. Will that trend continue in 2015? The odds are in the Tigers’ favor, but this is a big spring for Marcus Loud, Charles Harris and Rocel McWilliams. Junior college recruit Marcell Frazier will arrive this summer.

2. New Targets for QB Maty Mauk
In his first season as a starter, Maty Mauk had his share of ups and downs. Mauk completed only 48.9 percent of his throws in SEC games but also limited his interceptions to just four over the final seven contests. How much will Mauk improve this offseason? It’s critical for the junior to take the next step for Missouri to contend in the East.

3. New Receivers
Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White all depart, leaving Nate Brown (five receptions) and Wesley Leftwich (three receptions) as the top returning wide receivers. Mauk’s development could be tied to how quickly Missouri can reload in the receiving corps.
 

 

3. Tennessee

2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 8

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Mike DeBord (offensive coordinator)


Tennessee’s Spring Priorities


1. Improving the OL
Tennessee allowed 43 sacks in 13 games last season. But there’s reason for optimism in 2015 with the return of four starters and improved depth. How much will this group progress? This spring will provide the first glimpse for coach Butch Jones.

2. Development of QB Joshua Dobbs
New coordinator Mike DeBord is tasked with getting quarterback Joshua Dobbs to the next level in his development. Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 469 yards and eight scores over the final six games. If the junior takes another step forward this offseason, he should be in the mix for All-SEC honors in 2015.

3. Next Step on Defense
After allowing 6.1 yards per play in SEC-only contests in 2013, the Volunteers lowered that number to 5.4 in 2014. With eight starters back, it’s possible Tennessee takes another noticeable jump in defensive production. End Derek Barnett is one of the nation’s rising stars at defensive end, and the addition of tackle Kahlil McKenzie is another example of how the team’s talent level has improved under coach Butch Jones.  

 

 

4. Florida

2014 Record: 7-5 (4-4 SEC)
Returning Starters:
Offense – 4, Defense – 7

Key Coaching Changes:

Jim McElwain (head coach)
Doug Nussmeier (offensive coordinator)
Geoff Collins (defensive coordinator)
Randy Shannon (co-defensive coordinator, LB coach)


Florida's Spring Priorities


1. Quarterback Battle
Treon Harris started the last six games as a true freshman last season and passed for 1,140 yards, nine scores and 10 picks. Can he build on his freshman campaign or will he be pushed for time by redshirt freshman Will Grier?

2. Rebuilding the OL
While the quarterback position will garner most of the offseason storylines, the offensive line could be a bigger problem spot for Florida in 2015. Only one starter (Trip Thurman) is back, as this unit must replace center Max Garcia, left tackle D.J. Humphries, guard Tyler Moore and tackle Chaz Green. How will this unit jell in the spring?

3. Replacing Dante Fowler
With seven starters back, the defense should once again be the strength of this team. But the Gators have one critical void to address, as end Dante Fowler left early for the NFL. Fowler led the team with 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss in 2013.  

 

 

5. South Carolina

2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:
 

Jon Hoke (Co-defensive coordinator)


South Carolina’s Spring Priorities


1. QB Battle
Dylan Thompson departs after guiding South Carolina to a 7-6 record in his only full season as the starter. Sophomore Connor Mitch (2 of 6 in 2014) holds the inside track to replace Thompson, but the battle in Columbia is far from finished. Can Perry Orth, Michael Scarnecchia or incoming freshman Lorenzo Nunez unseat Mitch this offseason?

2. Restock the OL
South Carolina has significant personnel losses at each offensive unit. But the offensive line might have the biggest shoes to fill with the departure of standouts Corey Robinson (LT) and A.J. Cann (guard). Could Brandon Shell flip from right tackle to the left side?

3. Finding Answers on Defense
South Carolina’s defense ranked 12th in the SEC by allowing 30.4 points per game in 2014. Coach Steve Spurrier is turning to a familiar face in Jon Hoke to find some answers this spring. Six starters are back from last season, and a handful of young players should benefit from another spring to develop. Improving the pass rush and secondary will be two areas of specific focus for Hoke.
 

 

6. Kentucky

2014 Record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Shannon Dawson (offensive coordinator)
Andy Buh (OLB coach)

 

Kentucky’s Spring Priorities


1. Replacements at Defensive End
Mark Stoops and coordinator D.J. Eliot have some major renovations ahead at end this spring. Gone are Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree, two standout performers who recorded 12 of Kentucky’s 27 sacks last season. Junior college recruit Alvonte Bell could help, but he won’t arrive until this summer. Expect junior Jason Hatcher to play a key role in replacing Dupree and Smith.

2. Patrick Towles
In his first full season as the starter, Towles threw for 2,718 yards and 14 scores and added 303 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Can he take the next step in his development this spring? Redshirt freshman Drew Barker was a touted prospect from the 2014 signing class and will have a chance to push for the job this offseason.

3. Improvement on the OL
Only one team (Tennessee) allowed more sacks in SEC games than Kentucky last season. The Wildcats gave up 27 sacks in eight games and must replace left tackle Darrian Miller this spring. This is a big spring for returning starters Zach West, Jon Toth, Ramsey Meyers and Jordan Swindle to build chemistry for 2015.

 

 

7. Vanderbilt

2014 Record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 9

 

Vanderbilt’s Spring Priorities


1. Find a Quarterback
New coordinator Andy Ludwig inherits an offense that managed only 12.8 points per game in SEC contests. Improving the offense starts with finding a quarterback. The Commodores aren’t hurting for options under center, as three players have started a game and Shawn Stankavage is ready to push for time after a redshirt year. Can Ludwig settle on a clear No. 1 passer?

2. Development at WR
New receivers coach Cortez Hankton opened spring practice looking for more playmakers. With inconsistency at quarterback, evaluating the Vanderbilt receiving corps isn’t easy, but only two receivers – C.J. Duncan and Latevius Rayford – caught more than 20 passes in 2014. Can young players like Caleb Scott, Ronald Monroe, Rashad Canty and Trent Sherfield emerge as threats to help Duncan and Rayford in 2015?

3. Derek Mason’s Defense
In addition to his duties as the head coach, Derek Mason is now Vanderbilt’s defensive coordinator. That’s a lot on Mason’s plate, but as his tenure at Stanford showed, he’s one of the nation’s top defensive signal-callers. With Mason having a full spring to work with a unit that returns nine starters, how much can the Commodores’ defense improve in 2015?

Teaser:
SEC East 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-basketball/west-virginias-non-conference-schedule-could-impact-mountaineers-ncaa-tournament
Body:

As the regular season comes to an end West Virginia currently sits in a three-way for third place in the Big 12 with two games remaining. The two-game gap between the Mountaineers and Kansas means WVU still has a shot a share of the Big 12 regular season title. At 22-7 overall, the Mountaineers are guaranteed to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. However, most projections, including USA Today, still have the Mountaineers as a No. 6 seed. The question is why?

 

Although the Mountaineers sit at 10-6 in arguably the toughest basketball conference in the nation, their RPI is still 22. The problem WVU is facing now is not something it can fix, at least not this season. WVU currently has a non-conference strength of schedule ranking of 227. It should be noted that its non-conference RPI is 9. Unfortunately, there are teams the Mountaineers have played that have not helped the cause in the least and I think everyone knows where I am going with this.

 

After the Marshall game, WVU coach Bob Huggins expressed his feelings regarding the yearly series with the in-state rival. He stated that it was not beneficial to play them and it looks as though he was correct. Marshall currently boasts an RPI of 299, making the Thundering Herd the worst team WVU has played this season. While many felt Huggins’ rant was solely in response to Marshall head coach Dan D'Antoni, it is now obvious his statements regarding the series are valid no matter the reasoning. Huggins did go on to say that he would like his team’s non-conference schedule to consist of teams that were ranked in the RPI’s top 100.

 

WVU still has the opportunity to improve its seeding moving forward with games against the aforementioned Jayhawks and Oklahoma State remaining before the Big 12 Tournament. However, some early non-conference games have hurt the Mountaineers. Don't get me wrong, the Wofford and NC State wins are big resume builders as NC State is looking like an NCAA Tournament team and Wofford finished the season at 25-6 and is favored to get the Southern Conference’s automatic bid by winning its tournament. However, there’s still reason for the Mountaineers to be somewhat concerned based on these earlier non-conference matchups and the current RPI of those teams:

 

Marshall (W 69-66) RPI 292

Northern Kentucky (W 67-42) RPI 267

College of Charleston (W 86-57) RPI 295

Monmouth (W 64-54) RPI 189

 

Looking at the overall body of work, WVU has a very impressive resume with five wins over teams that appear poised to make the NCAA Tournament. However, it is now clear that Huggins had a valid point regarding the Mountaineers’ non-conference schedule. The Mountaineers are also just 4-7 against the RPI top 50 this season. The only team with a higher RPI and a worse record against the RPI top 50 is North Carolina at 3-8.However, the Tar Heels have the second-toughest schedule in the nation, while the Mountaineers’ strength of schedule sits at 40.

 

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

Teaser:
West Virginia's Non-Conference Schedule Could Impact Mountaineers' NCAA Tournament Seed
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-march-2-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for March 2:

 

This slideshow of NASCAR WAGs shows that drivers take a back seat to no one in the hot significant others department.

 

• MVP candidates getting testy: James Harden nailed King James right in the plums.

 

The Duke student newspaper broke a blockbuster story regarding the basketball program.  Coach K will not be pleased.

 

• It's March, meaning it's a good time to let KenPom count down the most tense NCAA Tournament games since 2010.

 

Here are the 30 Nicest Guys on the PGA Tour. I can personally vouch for No. 2.

 

Colleague David Fox lays out the smorgasbord of sports options on Netflix.

 

Marshawn Lynch shared his thoughts on The Call with the media. The Turkish media.

 

Watch Ronda Rousey's latest title defense. Trust me, you have time. Just don't blink.

 

Meditations on the passing of three cultural icons.

 

Longform read from Charles Pierce on Tark the Shark.

 

Nationals second sacker Danny Espinosa has an insane 'stache.

 

• Shades of Shaq: NIU center Pete Rakocevic destroyed a goal yesterday.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 11:29
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/ranking-american-league-ballparks-2015-expert-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports has polled 10 experts from around Major League Baseball in an effort to find the best place to watch a game.

 

Based on criteria like fan support, home field advantage, amenities, tradition, surrounding area, facilities, gameday atmosphere and more, our 10 experts have ranked all 15 American League parks for 2015.


Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

The Voters:

 

Tyler Kepner, NY Times

Andy Baggarly, AndrewBaggarly.com

Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

John Tomase, WEEI

Juan Rodriguez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun Times

Bill Plunkett, Orange County Register

C. Trent Rosencrans, Cincinnati Enquirer

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jack Magruder, FoxSportsArizona.com

 

The Results:

 

Scoring: A first-place vote is worth one point, a second-place vote is worth two points and a 15th-place vote is worth 15 points. The lowest score is voted the best stadium in the American League.

 

 ParkTeamPoints (1st)
1.Fenway Park14 (7)
2.Safeco Field31 (1)
3.Camden Yards33
4.Target Field50 (1)
5.Yankee Stadium55
6.Kauffman Stadium60 (1)
7.Comerica Park72
8.Angel Stadium80
9.Progressive Field83
10.Minute Maid Park99
11.Globe Life Park106
12.Rogers Centre113
13.U.S. Cellular Field120
14.O.co Coliseum141
15.Tropicana Field143

 

The Analysis:

 

Fenway Park dominates

Four different parks got first place votes but The Green Monster ran away with top billing in the American League. The third-smallest park in the majors seats just 37,499, but brings it strong with character and tradition. The neighborhood is great, the team is constantly competitive (normally) and the fan support is as good as any in the sport.

 

 

Underrated small markets

The other three first-place votes went to “small market” parks Safeco Field, Target Field and Kauffman Stadium. Traditionally, these three teams haven’t won a ton of baseball, but have had their moments (SEE: 2014). But all three scored very high with the experts. In fact, the Mariners' home park ranked No. 2 in the AL while the Twins' new building finished fourth.

 

Polarizing Yankee Stadium

Some love the façade, location and enormity of the new Yankee Stadium — it got six third-place votes. And some hate the cavernous, corporate expanse in the Bronx — it got a 12th- and a 13th-place vote as well. Love it or hate it, it’s still a bucket list item for any baseball fan.

 

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

A tip of the cap to the Orioles' home stadium as it finished third in the AL in our voting. When it was built, it was considered a first of its kind and has led the way in reinventing the way MLB built stadiums. Now, with the team winning, Camden Yards is one of the best spots in the league to catch a game.

 

Trop edges O.co for last

Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay is considered the worst stadium in the AL and has spurned plenty of relocation discussion for the Rays. But it’s only slightly worse than Oakland’s O.co Coliseum. The Trop landed four last-place votes and was ranked no higher than 13th by any voter. O.co got six last-place votes, but scored an 11th- and 12th-place vote, keeping it just barely ahead of Tampa Bay. For me, being outdoors alone makes it better.

 

 

Teaser:
Ranking the American League Ballparks in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Marc Leishman, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-28-marc-leishman
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 28: Marc Leishman

Born: Oct. 24, 1983, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $2,558,657 (32nd) World Ranking: 52

Brandel Chamblee's Take

In 2009, Leishman became the first Australian in the history of the PGA Tour to win Rookie of the Year honors. And though he has won only once on Tour through 2014, when asked who they think will break through with a major win soon, many of the caddies point to this talented Aussie. In 2013, he finished fourth at The Masters, and last year he finished fifth at the Open Championship in addition to finishing in the top 10 in the last two WGC events. His upright swing gives him a powerful high ball flight and a heavy hit that sets up perfectly for the tucked pins on hard greens that one faces at the majors as well as many other events along the way.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 14
Wins: 0

2014 Performance:
Masters - Cut
U.S. Open - DNP
British Open - T5
PGA Championship - T46

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T4 (2013)
U.S. Open - T51 (2011)
British Open - T5 (2014)
PGA Championship - T12 (2013)
Top-10 Finishes: 2
Top-25 Finishes: 3
Missed Cuts: 6

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.

 

Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 10:36
Path: /college-football/acc-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings
Body:

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.

 

Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech are the early favorites to win the ACC in 2015, and each team opens spring ball with plenty of question marks. Who will replace Jameis Winston at quarterback for the Seminoles? How quickly will the Tigers reload in the trenches? And for the Yellow Jackets, can they find a few options at running back and continue to develop on defense?

What are the key questions and storylines shaping all 14 teams in the ACC and outlook for 2015? Let’s take a quick look at the 14 teams and the priority list for each coach. 


ACC Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch
 

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)

 

ACC Atlantic

 

1. Florida State

2014 Record: 13-1 (8-0 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense - 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:


Brad Lawing (DE/OLB coach)

 

Florida State’s Spring Priorities

 

1. QB Battle
All eyes in Tallahassee this spring will be on the quarterbacks. Who replaces Jameis Winston in 2015? Sean Maguire has the edge in experience, but he will be pushed by redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino.

2. Revamping the OL
Line coach Rick Trickett is going to be busy this spring. Florida State loses four all-conference performers in the trenches, including Cameron Erving and guard Tre Jackson. Sophomore Roderick Johnson is a key part of the rebuilding effort, but who steps up at the other four spots?

3. Defensive Line/Secondary
Florida State returns seven starters are defense, but the personnel losses are heavy. Gone are defensive linemen Mario Edwards Jr. and tackle Eddie Goldman, along with cornerbacks Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams. There’s no shortage of talent at either position, it’s just a matter of finding the right mix for coordinator Charles Kelly.
 

2. Clemson

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2 ACC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 2

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Jeff Scott (co-offensive coordinator)

Tony Elliott (co-offensive coordinator)

Brandon Streeter (QB coach)

 

Clemson’s Spring Priorities


1. Rebuild the DL
The Tigers were hit hard by departures on the defensive line, as six key players from last year’s rotation expired their eligibility. The biggest losses are end Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett – a pair of first team All-ACC selections in 2014. End Shaq Lawson is a breakout candidate, and the incoming freshman class should provide some immediate help.  

2. Tony Elliott/Jeff Scott
Chad Morris was one of the nation’s top offensive coordinators, and there’s no doubt his departure will have some impact on Clemson’s offense in 2015. Quarterback Deshaun Watson won’t practice this spring due to ACL surgery, but this is Scott and Elliott’s first chance to coordinate the offense. What tweaks or changes will they unveil?

3. Answers on the OL?
Although Clemson has one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks (Watson) and a loaded group of receivers, the offense won’t click unless a few answers are found in the trenches. Left tackle Isaiah Battle and center Ryan Norton are the only returning starters from a group that allowed 27 sacks in 2014. Who steps up this spring?
 

3. Louisville

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 4

Key Coaching Changes:

None


Louisville’s Spring Priorities


1. Settle on a QB
Three quarterbacks made a start for Louisville last season, and the competition will add a fourth name this spring with Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson eligible after sitting out 2014 due to NCAA rules. Can the Cardinals settle on a starter?

2. Revamped OL
Replacing receiver DeVante Parker will be a challenge, but a bigger concern for Louisville has to be the offensive line. Three starters are back for 2015, including center Tobijah Hughley and tackle Aaron Epps. However, the three departing players each earned at least honorable mention All-ACC honors last season from a unit that allowed 40 sacks.

3. Replacements on Defense
Each unit on Louisville’s defense will be replacing a key player for 2015. Gone are standouts in rush end Lorenzo Mauldin, end B.J. Dubose and defensive backs Charles Gaines, James Sample and Gerod Holliman. The cupboard isn’t completely bare for coordinator Todd Grantham, but there will be some retooling this spring. Keep an eye on Georgia defensive back transfers Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons.
 

4. NC State

2014 Record: 8-5 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 7

Key Coaching Changes:

George McDonald (WRs coach)


NC State’s Spring Priorities


1. New Names at WR
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is coming off a solid first season as NC State’s starter (23 TDs, 5 INTs). However, Brissett is losing a couple of his receivers from last season, including standout Bo Hines (45 catches) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. This is a big spring for receivers Bra’Lon Cherry and Johnathan Alston and tight end David Grinnage.

2. New Tackles
Solidifying the offensive line will be a key spring storyline for NC State as it hopes to climb in the Atlantic Division next year. The line allowed 22 sacks in eight ACC contests and must replace both starting tackles (Rob Crisp and Tyson Chandler). Will replacements emerge this spring?

3. Next Step on Defense
NC State allowed 5.4 yards per play in ACC games last season, a sizeable decrease from the 6.3 allowed in 2013. There’s room for improvement with seven starters returning, but the front seven has a few holes to address with the losses of end Art Norman, tackles Thomas Teal and T.Y. McGill and linebacker Rodman Noel.

 

5. Boston College

2014 Record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense –4, Defense – 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:


Todd Fitch (offensive coordinator)
Brian White (WR coach)
Coleman Hutzler (Special Teams/OLB coach)

 

Boston College’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Replace QB Tyler Murphy
Tyler Murphy’s one season at Boston College was a success, and coach Steve Addazio opens spring ball looking for his next signal-caller. Sophomore Darius Wade (3 of 6 in 2014) opens as the frontrunner, with Elijah Robinson and Troy Flutie also in the mix.

2. Revamp the OL
Adding to the overall uncertainty on offense is the departure of four starters from one of the ACC’s top lines. Harris Williams is the unit’s top returning option after missing nearly all of last season with an ankle injury. How quickly will this group jell?

3. Few Holes on Defense
With six starters back, the defense should be a strength for coach Steve Addazio. There are a few key personnel losses to address, including end Brian Mihalik (4.5 sacks), linebacker Josh Keyes (66 tackles) and defensive backs Manuel Asprilla and safety Dominique Williams. With a new quarterback and offensive line, the defense may have to carry Boston College early in 2015.
 

6. Syracuse

2014 Record: 3-9 (1-7 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 3

Key Coaching Changes:

Tim Lester (first full year as OC)
Bobby Acosta (moves from TE to WRs coach)
Jake Moreland (TE/OT coach)
Joe Adam (OG/C coach)


Syracuse’s Spring Priorities


1. Settle on a QB
Terrel Hunt missed the final seven games of 2014 due to a leg injury, and in his absence, three other quarterbacks received playing time. Hunt is the favorite to win the job once again, but sophomore AJ Long showed promise in a limited stint. The spring will also be Tim Lester’s first as the full-time play-caller for Syracuse.

2. New Options at RB
Lester has some work to do at running back this spring, as Syracuse lost Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore. Ervin Phillips is slated to move to a hybrid running back/receiver role, leaving George Morris II and Devante McFarlane as the top options at running back. Will Morris II or McFarlane claim the job? Or could the Orange turn to an incoming freshman in the fall?

3. New Faces on Defense
Only three starters are back on defense, and this unit suffered critical losses with the departure of end Micah Robinson, nose tackle Eric Crume, linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch, and safety Durell Eskridge. Coach Scott Shafer and coordinator Chuck Bullough will be busy restocking each unit and getting a look at several different options this spring.  
 

7. Wake Forest

2014 Record: 3-9 (1-7 ACC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:


None

 

Wake Forest’s Spring Priorities


1. Addressing the OL
Wake Forest allowed a whopping 48 sacks in 2014. And it wasn’t just pass protection that was a problem, as the Demon Deacons managed only 1.3 yards per carry. Two starters depart, including guard/center Cory Helms. Can this unit take a step forward?

2. Find a Threat at Running Back
In addition to addressing the offensive line, Wake Forest has to find a threat at running back to take the pressure off of quarterback John Wolford. Dezmond Wortham and Isaiah Robinson are the team’s top returning options, but incoming freshmen Rocky Reid and Matt Colburn could compete for playing time in the fall.

3. New Starters at CB
The combination of Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel was one of the nation’s underrated duos at cornerback. Both are off to the NFL and leave big shoes to fill for 2015. Josh Okonye and Brad Watson were listed as the backup corners last season and figure to get first crack at the starting jobs in the spring.
 

Coastal Division

 

1. Georgia Tech

2014 Record: 11-3 (6-2 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense - 7

Key Coaching Changes:

None


Georgia Tech’s Spring Priorities


1. Restock the Backs
Quarterback Justin Thomas is back, but the Yellow Jackets need to retool their options at the A-back and B-back positions. Synjyn Days, Deon Hill, Charles Perkins, B.J. Bostic, Tony Zenon and Zach Laskey all depart. Broderick Snoddy and Dennis Andrews are the top returning backs, but other players need to emerge. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman C.J. Leggett.

2. Find the Next Standout at WR
Micheal Summers (seven catches) and Antonio Messick (one reception) are the only returning receivers with a catch from 2014. DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller combined for 13 touchdown receptions last year and will be missed. Can Georgia Tech find another go-to option (or two) for Thomas?

3. Filling a Few Voids on Defense
Seven starters return from a defense that allowed 25.7 points per game in 2014. This unit could improve with its core returning largely intact, but the departure of tackle Shawn Green, linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and safety Isaiah Johnson creates a few question marks for coordinator Ted Roof to address this spring.


2. Virginia Tech

2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 8

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Zohn Burden (WRs coach)


Virginia Tech’s Spring Priorities


1. Improvement at QB
In his first season as Virginia Tech’s quarterback, Michael Brewer threw for 2,692 yards and 18 scores. While Brewer had some solid performances for the Hokies, he also tossed 15 interceptions. With another spring to work under coordinator Scot Loeffler, Brewer should be more comfortable in this offense in 2015.

2. Solidifying the OL
The Hokies have allowed at least 30 sacks in back-to-back seasons. This unit has to take a step forward for this team to contend in the Coastal Division, and there’s plenty of uncertainty with three starters departing. Guard Wyatt Teller is a promising building block for 2015.

3. New Safeties
With eight starters back, combined with the return of tackle Luther Maddy and cornerback Brandon Facyson, the Hokies should have the best defense in the ACC next year. If there’s one concern for coordinator Bud Foster, it has to be at safety with the loss of Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner. Who will emerge to fill this void?

 

3. North Carolina

2014 Record: 6-7 (4-4 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 10, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Gene Chizk (defensive coordinator)

John Papuchis (LB coach)

Charlton Warren (DBs coach)


North Carolina’s Spring Priorities


1. Mitch Trubsiky’s Time to Shine
With Marquise Williams out for spring practice due to injury, Mitch Trubisky will take control of the offense. Williams is still expected to be the starter in the fall, but this is Trubisky’s opportunity to put a little pressure on Williams.

2. More Development From the OL
All five starters return from an offensive line that gave up 25 sacks in ACC contests. In addition to providing better protection for Williams and Trubisky, this unit needs to get a better push for the rushing attack (just 3.7 yards per carry in conference games).

3. Defensive Improvement

If North Carolina can improve slightly on defense in 2015, this team can contend in the Coastal Division. The good news is coach Larry Fedora hired a good defensive staff, headlined by coordinator Gene Chizik. Additionally, six starters are back from a unit that also has plenty of young players returning after garnering valuable experience last year. There should be improvement in 2015. But how far along can Chizik bring this defense?


4. Miami

2014 Record: 6-7 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 5

Key Coaching Changes:

Kevin Beard (WRs coach)
Randy Melvin (DL coach)

 

Miami’s Spring Priorities

 

1. More Improvement on Defense
On defense last season, the Hurricanes showed some improvement on the stat sheet by cutting their yards per play allowed from 5.8 in 2013 to 4.8 in 2014. While that’s a positive step, more is needed from the defense in 2015. Five starters are back, but this unit loses standout linebacker Denzel Perryman.

 

2. New Targets at WR
Quarterback Brad Kaaya should push for All-ACC honors in 2015, but question marks exist about the receiving corps this offseason. Big-play threat Phillip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford have expired their eligibility. Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios and Malcolm Lewis are talented, but all three need a big offseason to help replace some of the production left behind by Dorsett and Walford.

 

3. Restocking the OL
The Hurricanes had one of the better offensive line units in the ACC last season, allowing only 21 sacks and helping rushers average 5.3 yards per carry. Three starters are gone from last season, but there’s enough returning personnel to keep the line performing at a high level. How quickly will this unit jell in spring practice? 
 

5. Pittsburgh

2014 Record: 6-7 (4-4 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Pat Narduzzi (head coach)

Jim Chaney (offensive coordinator)

Josh Conklin (defensive coordinator)


Pittsburgh’s Spring Priorities

 

1. More Help for Chad Voytik
Voytik isn’t necessarily guaranteed the starting job, as Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman is expected to provide competition. Regardless of which quarterback starts, the receiving corps needs more consistent options to emerge. Tyler Boyd is one of the best in the nation, but the passing game would benefit if another receiver or two take a step forward.

 

2. Defensive End
The Panthers are thin on proven options at defensive end after Shakir Soto and Rori Blair. Expect to see coach Pat Narduzzi and coordinator Josh Conklin spending plenty of time evaluating their options at this position, and there’s some help on the way in the form of junior college recruit Allen Edwards this summer.

 

3. Improving the Secondary
Pittsburgh’s secondary finished 43rd nationally in pass efficiency defense last year but also gave up 12 plays of 40 yards or more. This unit returns nearly intact, with safety Ray Vinopal the lone departing player with significant experience. This will be a big spring for young players like Avonte Maddox and Reggie Mitchell in the new defensive scheme.

 

6. Duke

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Matt Guerrieri (safeties coach)


Duke’s Spring Priorities


1. Thomas Sirk at QB
Duke has nearly completed spring practice, and Sirk seemed to distance himself from the other quarterbacks this offseason. Coach David Cutcliffe is one of the nation’s top offensive minds and should develop Sirk into a solid starter for this team. Sirk’s progression will be critical for Duke’s chances at winning at least nine games for the third season in a row.

2. Restocking the OL
An underrated part of Duke’s improvement under Cutcliffe has been the play of the offensive line. But this unit enters 2015 with a few missing pieces, including standouts Laken Tomlinson and Takoby Cofield. Can line coach John Latina keep this unit performing at a high level?

3. Revamping the DL/LB
The Blue Devils allowed 192.9 rushing yards per game last season and lose five key performers from last year’s unit. Linebacker David Helton (134 tackles) is a big loss, but the return of Kelby Brown should alleviate some of the concerns for this unit. Revamping the defensive line should be the bigger concern for Cutcliffe.
 

7. Virginia

2014 Record: 5-7 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 4

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Chris Beatty (RBs coach)
Dave Borbely (OL coach)


Virginia’s Spring Priorities


1. Rebuilt Front Seven
The Cavaliers allowed only 5.1 yards per play on defense last season. Repeating that total in 2015 could be difficult with the departure of end Eli Harold and linebackers Max Valles, Henry Coley and Daquan Romero. This is a big spring for talented sophomore tackle Andrew Brown and senior Kwontie Moore to help fill the voids in the front seven.

2. Consistency at QB
In his first full season as Virginia’s starter (nine games), Greyson Lambert threw for 1,632 yards and 10 scores. With another set of practices to work as the starter, the coaching staff hopes Lambert takes the next step in his development. If not, Matt Johns (8 TDs, 5 INTs) was effective in limited action and could push for more snaps.

3. Better OL Play
Virginia was solid in pass protection (16 sacks allowed last year), but the offensive line helped to generate only 3.7 yards per carry. Three full-time starters are back from last season, and the Cavaliers regain the services of Ryan Doull (guard) and Jay Whitmire (tackle) for 2015 after both players missed time due to injuries in 2014. Can this unit develop under new coach Dave Borbely?

Teaser:
ACC 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bulls, NBA
Path: /nba/jeff-van-gundy%E2%80%99s-feud-chicago-bulls%E2%80%99-front-office-rages
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Jeff Van Gundy was always a thorn in the side of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. Taking over for Pat Riley when he left the New York Knicks for the Miami Heat, he persisted in coaching squads that did everything they could to batter MJ and the Bulls to death.

 

Now Van Gundy is all but retired from coaching, working color commentary for ESPN and ABC. But his ire for Chicago’s basketball club doesn’t seem to have changed as his job has.

 

Among swirling rumors of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau — a former assistant to Van Gundy with the Knicks and Houston Rockets — potentially being on the hot seat, JVG let loose on the Bulls’ front office on a January 23, ESPN telecast of a Bulls game against the Dallas Mavericks.

 

“I think right now, it’s almost criminal … what [Thibodeau is] having to endure with some of the fringe media,” Van Gundy said. “Attacking his job status, attacking his personality. This isn’t new to Chicago Bulls basketball, all the way back to Phil Jackson. The team has publicly supported their coach while privately, oftentimes, undermining that same person. You saw it with Vinny Del Negro, Scott Skiles. Think about it, they ran Phil Jackson out after winning all those championships.

 

“Listen, I read every Chicago story and there is no doubt that the Bulls organization has the media, with a few exceptions, in their hip pocket. And for whatever reason, they have taken their sights on Thibodeau when all he’s done is deliver greatness here in his five years.”

 

Van Gundy has been told to cool it by Thibodeau’s agent, among others, but he’s apparently not getting the message. During the Bulls’ 98-86 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on ABC yesterday, Jeff poured some salt in Bulls general manager John Paxson’s wounds.

 

"John was really mad at me,” Van Gundy said. “I mean, it's not like I traded LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas.”

 

Cruelly bringing up bad moves of management past? This sounds eerily similar to the way our president recently ripped on Michael Jordan

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 10:03
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/best-sports-movies-documentaries-and-tv-shows-streaming-netflix
Body:

The weather may have you stuck inside the house or summer sports just don’t do it for you. Either way, you’re grasping at some kind of sports programming in these difficult times.

 

Maybe it’s time to fire up Netflix and see what you can find. Let us be your guide, sports fan. There may be something you’ve missed on America’s favorite streaming service. Trust us, there’s a lot.

 

The Athlon staff has compiled its favorite sports programming on Netflix — films, documentaries and television series — right here. Luckily all of ESPN’s 30 for 30 programming, not to mention SEC Storied, ESPN Films and Soccer Stories are all available. If you notice that our list is a little 30 for 30-centric that’s because... a) those documentaries are very good and... b) they make up the overwhelming majority of the sports content on Netflix right now.

 

Feel free to bookmark this page or check back. We’ll do our best to keep up with the monthly changes.

 

1. Hoop Dreams (1994)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Basketball

Hoop Dreams one of the greatest sports documentaries of all time — or simply one of the greatest documentaries period. Steve James follows two African-American teenagers in Chicago, William Gates and Arthur Agee, as they try to pursue the NBA from a young age. The film is more than 20 years old (and the footage more than 25), but the themes are all too universal — issues of race, poverty, the education system and precocious kids expected to shoulder the load for an entire family. “People ask me will I remember them if I make it,” Gates says. “I tell them, will you remember me if I don’t.”

 

 

2. Jerry Maguire (1996)

Genre: Drama

Sport: Football

Perhaps Jerry Maguire became too quotable for its own good — “show me the money!” and “you had me at hello” — but it’s the perfect crowd-pleaser. A movie about a sports agent just barely fits into the sports movie category but it has enough drama and sports to fit outside of the romantic comedy box. Jerry Maguire is full of sports cameos, and like any Cameron Crowe film, it has a perfect soundtrack. Jerry Maguire took home a best supporting actor nod (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and was nominated for best actor (Tom Cruise) and best picture.

 

 

3. The Two Escobars (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Soccer

Arguably the top installment of ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 series, The Two Escobars is bigger than a sports documentary and portrays a level of politics and organized crime more dramatic than any fiction. The film traces the intertwined stories of drug lord Pablo Escobar, a passionate supporter of Colombian soccer, and defender Andres Escobar, whose own goal cost the country the 1994 World Cup.

 

 

4. Friday Night Lights (2006-11)

Genre: TV drama

Sport: Football

The low-rated but beloved television series has little in common with the classic Buzz Bissinger book and the movie aside from the title, the West Texas setting and Connie Britton. The on-field action is quality, and the off-field drama is heavy. Just power through that subpar second season, y’all. Trust us.

 

 

5. Rudy (1993)

Genre: Drama

Sport: Football

People either love or hate Notre Dame, and the Hollywood version of Daniel Ruettiger’s story may take a few liberties here and there. Still, Rudy is a classic sports movie, the underdog story of the walk-on too small to play college football. But the film doesn’t have to be totally true to life for us to get misty eyed near the end.

 

 

6. Without Bias (2009)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Basketball

Basketball fans of a certain generation vividly remember the when the learned of the death of Len Bias, the Maryland basketball star who died in 1986 after a cocaine-induced heart attack. As college players, Bias was mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan. Bias' death, brought about by casual drug use, shook the sports world. 

 

7. You Don’t Know Bo (2012)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Football/Baseball

Bo Jackson holds no major professional sports records. His trophy case includes “only” a Heisman Trophy and an MLB All-Star MVP award. Yet he was one of the most spellbinding athletes of a generation. This doc, one of the best installments in the second run of 30 for 30s, explains why he came around at the perfect time — just at the start of the modern sports marketing, highlight and video game age and just before the cynicism of the steroid era took over.

 

 

8. The Best that Never Was (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Football

Before Rivals.com, before five-star recruits, before 24-hour coverage of National Signing Day and before televised commitment announcements, there was Marcus Dupree. In 1981, Marcus Dupree of Philadelphia, Miss., was one of the most coveted recruits of the era. The high point of his career, though, was his freshman season at Oklahoma. This is how a promising future can detour.

 

9. Bad News Bears (1976)

Genre: Comedy

Sport: Baseball

Yes, that’s the original Bad News Bears with Walter Matthau, not the more PC remake featuring Bad News Bears. It’s a classic, but this is not one of those saccharine kids sports movies. The language, the casual racism and sexism, the drunk coach — how did this movie get made?

 

10. Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns (1994)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Baseball

Baseball romanticism is laid on pretty thick, especially after all that’s happened to the sport in the last 20 years — the dominance of football as the nation’s new pastime, the baseball strike and steroids. Still, no documentary more perfectly portrays baseball as a part of American culture. With 10 installments, Ken Burns’ Baseball is exhaustive, but all of it is necessary.

 

11. I am Ali (2014)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Boxing

No summation of great sports films would be complete without representation from The Greatest. This isn’t necessarily best Muhammad Ali documentary — When We Were Kings would be in that discussion, but it’s unavailable on Netflix now — but it does show a different side of one of the greatest athletes in American history.

 

12. Knuckleball! (2012)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Baseball

Pitchers are all a little strange. And there’s no stranger pitch in the arsenal than the knuckleball. The exclusive fraternity of knuckleballers — Tim Wakefield, Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough and R.A. Dickey — discuss why the pitch saved their careers and why a knuckleballer is always flirting with disaster. The film centers on Wakefield, but the moments with Dickey, filmed a year before he won the NL Cy Young in 2012, are especially poignant.

 

 

13. Pony Excess (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Football

What does it look like when an athletic program gives into the dark side (at least as far as NCAA rules are concerned)? This is the answer. SMU football wasn’t the biggest rule-breaker in the history of college athletics, but it was among the most brazen and certainly the most harshly punished.

 

14. Varsity Blues (1999)

Genre: Drama?

Sport: Football

Don’t trust anyone born between 1980-85 who can’t identify a character (Billy Bob), a line (“I don’t want your life”), an artist represented on the soundtrack (Foo Fighters, Green Day) or a scene (whipped cream bikini) from this film, the apex of 90s teen movies.

 

15. Days of Thunder (1990)

Genre: Drama

Sport: Racing

We could dismiss Days of Thunder on a few counts: It’s “Top Gun in a Stock Car,” it’s a not-great Tom Cruise movie when the actor could do little wrong, it’s John C. Reilly’s second-best racing movie. Or we could point out all the plot holes and head scratching moments. No, Days of Thunder hasn’t aged very well — if it was any good back in 1990 — but it’s plenty nostalgic for moviegoers of a certain age.

 

16. Coach Carter (2005)

Genre: Drama

Sport: Basketball

Before Samuel L. Jackson was in Avengers movies and Channing Tatum was in ... everything, they starred in this high school basketball film. The story is a familiar one as a coach lays down the law for a troubled basketball team in the inner city. Jackson, though, is the perfect badass to take the title role.

 

17. Survive and Advance (2013)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Basketball

There was only one Jim Valvano. One of the most colorful personalities in college basketball is known now as much for his ESPYs speech and the Jimmy V Foundation as his 1983 national title at NC State. That’s a good thing.

 

18. No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Basketball

Before he was one of the most electrifying NBA guards ever, Allen Iverson was a “transcendent” high school athletes in the words of Hoop Dreams director Steve James. James tells the complicated story of the trial and conviction of Iverson after a riot in a bowling alley in Virginia when Iverson was 18. James, also a native of Hampton, Va., takes great care in portraying the racial tensions surrounding the arrest of a local legend.

 

19. Elway to Marino (2013)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Football

Think the NFL Draft is bonkers now? How about the 1983 first round that featured three Hall of Fame quarterback alone. The first one taken (John Elway) wanted nothing to do with the team that drafted him. The last one taken in the first round (Dan Marino) fell due to rumors drug use.

 

20. Run Ricky Run (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Football

In 2004, Ricky Williams may have been one of the most polarizing athletes of the time when the star running back abruptly left the Miami Dolphins amid repeated failed drug tests. Was Williams selfish? Was he battling bipolar disorders? Or was he misunderstood? Director Sean Pamphilon pulls back the curtain and we’re not quite sure.

 

21. Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? (2009)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Football

Before Donald Trump became ... whatever you think he is now ... he was the most important owner in the USFL. Director Michael Tollin, who worked for Trump and the New Jersey Generals, retraces the history of a league that took on the NFL and produced six Pro Football Hall of Famers. Was Trump’s ownership the death knell of the league or was any competitor to the NFL doomed for failure?

 

 

22. Once Brothers (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Basketball

As basketball became a worldwide sport, many of the NBA’s international players couldn’t help be impacted by political strife back home. Few conflicts were as bloody as the breakup of Yugoslavia. In Once Brothers, former Lakers center Vlade Divac of Serbia, revisits his relationship with Drazen Petrovic of Croatia. The two won a World Championship for Yugoslavia but were driven apart by civil war in their home country. The two were unable to reconcile before Petrovic’s death in 1993.

 

23. The U (2009)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Football

How did the Miami Hurricanes of the 80s and 90s go from being a college football afterthought to one the biggest villains in sports history? Let the players, coaches and Luther Campbell explain.

 

24. Kings’ Ransom (2009)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Hockey

The first installment of ESPN’s 30 for 30 was the perfect table-setter for the rest of the series — a major story told in a new way by an expert director. Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) examines the unthinkable trade that sent the greatest hockey player in history from Edmonton to Los Angeles.

 

25. The Karate Kid (1984)

Genre: Kids
Sport: Martial arts
Does it count as a sports movie? A coach, a kid, an underdog. Yep. Wax on, wax off.

 

 

Others of note:

 

The Fab 5 (2011)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Basketball

In the 1990s, starting this many freshmen was revolutionary. Not to mention the baggy shorts, black socks and shaved heads. So much about basketball we take for granted in 2014-15 started with Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. The story, of course, wasn’t all rosy.

 

Jordan Rides the Bus (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Basketball/Baseball

Remember when Michael Jordan left basketball in the prime of his career to play minor league baseball and not all that well? The writer and director of Bull Durham takes a look in this 30 for 30 installment.

 

Straight Outta L.A. (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Los Angeles

Ice Cube directs what would become one of the staples of the 30 for 30 series, in particular how a sports team or athlete becomes intertwined with a community, this time with Los Angeles and the Raiders.

 

The Legend of Jimmy the Greek (2009)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Gambling

The 30 for 30 series took more risks early on, and few are more emblematic of that spirit than The Legend of Jimmy the Greek. A doc about rough-around-the-edges gambling guy narrated by a stand-in for Jimmy the Greek? That spirit had dimmed in following installments.

 

June 17th, 1994 (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Basketball, O.J. Simpson, et al

It’s hard to imagine a day in the life of sports being more dramatic than this day in 1994 when O.J. Simpson’s Ford Bronco was chased on the streets Los Angeles, when the Knicks were playing in the NBA finals and when Arnold Palmer played his last round in the U.S. Open. It also captured a time when all of this played out on live television rather than social media.

 

Necessary Roughness (1991)

Genre: Comedy

Sport: Football

Sinbad, Rob Schneider, Scott Bakula and Kathy Ireland. The only way this movie could be more 90s is if it were on VHS.

 

The Last Gladiators (2011)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Hockey

Hockey fans love enforcers, but the life of Chris “Knuckles” Nilan was more than fights on the rink.

 

Bigger Stronger Faster (2008)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Steroids

Director Christopher Bell explores the 2000s steroid scandals from a different angle, that of the non-professional athlete, and takes a look at the image of mixed messages (Gov. Schwarzenegger) and other performance enhancements in sports.

 

Everest (1998)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Mountain climbing

Originally filmed in IMAX, but now that enough viewers have HD big screens and surround sounds, it’s time to take this picturesque to the “small” screen.

 

Requiem for the Big East (2014)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Basketball

Why were sports fans sad to watch the traditional Big East slip away? This is the reason. The Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry, the colorful coaches, the physical play, Madison Square Garden. The league started from humble roots, built itself up on ESPN and then collapsed under the weight of football.

 

Silly Little Game (2010)

Genre: Documentary

Sport: Fantasy sports

Find out why you need to blame a bunch of newspaper schlubs and professors meeting in a rotisserie restaurant created the biggest time vampire for football and baseball season.

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The Best Sports Movies, Documentaries and TV Shows Streaming on Netflix
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: AL East, American League, New York Yankees, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/new-york-yankees-2015-preview-and-prediction
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The Yankees committed almost $500 million to new players before 2014, yet their record actually got worse. Their first multi-year playoff drought of the wild card era seems likely to stretch to three years in 2015. The Yankees, as usual, have the flashy names and the gaudy payroll, but they again won’t have the elite-level production to go with it. Almost all of their important players are over 30, making them prone to injury and increasingly less likely to rediscover their youthful primes all at once.

 

Rotation

The Yankees have two starters on contracts worth more than $150 million, and neither is a safe bet to hold up all season. CC Sabathia, 34, made only eight starts last season because of knee injuries, and it could be that the traits that made him such a highly respected ace — always taking the ball, willing himself deep into games — have irreparably worn him down. With Masahiro Tanaka, it’s all a matter of his elbow: Tanaka, 26, was every bit as good as advertised last season, until a partial UCL tear cost him most of the second half. Uncertainty clouds his immediate future. Michael Pineda has been prone to injury, but with his lethal slider, he’s overpowering when available. As the Yankees await Ivan Nova’s return from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent last April, they will see what they get from Nathan Eovaldi, the hard-throwing righthander they acquired from Miami in December. Eovaldi’s high-octane fastballs have yet to match his production, but he’s only 25 and worth a long look. The veteran Chris Capuano is his opposite in every way: a lefthander who relies on guile. 


Bullpen

The Yankees have spent the last few years trying to hit Andrew Miller in the American League East, and they gave up on solving him when they signed the former first-round pick to a four-year, $36 million contract. It was a smart way for the Yankees to use their payroll advantage on a mid-level star who carries less risk but can still make a major impact. Miller and All-Star Dellin Betances both struck out over 100 hitters last season and will form a nasty bullpen endgame for the Yankees, no matter which one ultimately ends up as the closer. Justin Wilson, a hard-throwing lefty with control issues, joins the middle relief corps with right-handed strikeout specialists David Carpenter Adam Warren and versatile long man Esmil Rogers. The swing-and-miss stuff of the Yankees’ relievers will make the bullpen the team’s strength.

 

Middle Infield

The good thing about Derek Jeter’s replacement at shortstop, Didi Gregorius, is that he is only 25 years old and is a high-impact defender with a strong arm and the kind of range Jeter never had. The bad thing is that he’s already with his third team and could not stick as the starter for the woeful 2014 Diamondbacks. Gregorius is a left-handed hitter with decent pop, but he struggles to hit lefties and projects to be, at best, a .240-.250 hitter. Brendan Ryan, another smooth defensive player, is also a light hitter but will start for Gregorius against lefthanders, at least sometimes. At second base, the Yankees brought back Stephen Drew on a one-year deal to solidify the position after trading Martin Prado to Miami. The team also will try and determine if prospects Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder can be the long-term answer. Pirela, 25, has played every position but catcher and pitcher in the minors, but he has played second more than any other spot and hit .305 with 42 extra-base hits and 15 steals at Class AAA last season. Refsnyder, 24, had never played above Class A before last season but hit .318 at the two highest minor league levels.

 

Corners

Mark Teixeira started his Yankees career by finishing as the runner-up for the AL Most Valuable Player Award and making the final putout of a World Series championship. That seems like a long time ago. Minor injuries nag at Teixeira, who turns 35 in April, but he still managed to come back from a serious wrist injury and make 508 plate appearances. The Yankees’ best hope is that the further removed Teixeira gets from his wrist trouble, the more closely he’ll resemble the feared slugger of old. But just in case, they have Garrett Jones to help out. Jones, the former Pirate and Marlin whose power will play well at Yankee Stadium, will play first base when Teixeira needs a rest or a day at DH. Across the diamond, the Yankees brought back Chase Headley on a four-year contract. They loved him in the field, at the plate and in the clubhouse last summer, and if Headley can match his Yankees on-base percentage (.371) with decent power and solid play in the field, that’s enough. His switch-hitting is also appealing to the Yankees. On Headley’s days off, Alex Rodriguez could spend some time at third. The Yankees won’t over-expose Rodriguez in the field, though, so he’ll get most of his playing time at designated hitter and some at first base.

 

Outfield

While Jacoby Ellsbury’s on-base percentage slid to an unacceptable .298 in the second half, the Yankees were mostly pleased with the first season of his extravagant seven-year, $153 million contract. Ellsbury excelled in center field and teamed with left fielder Brett Gardner to form a dangerous slashing tandem atop the order, with respectable power and game-changing speed. Right fielder Carlos Beltran, however, was a bust in his first season in the Bronx, unable to perform as he did in St. Louis because of a bone spur in his elbow that required surgery on Sept. 30. Beltran should be healthy now, but he turns 38 in April, and the rigors of everyday duty in right field might be too much to withstand, especially for a player the Yankees signed through 2016. The Yankees need to play him at DH as much as possible, but other creaky veterans need time there, too. 

 

Catching

The Yankees like to perpetuate the narrative that Brian McCann figured things out in the second half, but the numbers don’t back that up. He had a better slugging percentage after the All-Star break, but he hit just .221 with a pitiful .274 on-base percentage — both figures even worse than they were in the first half. The Yankees plainly need a lot more to justify their five-year, $85 million investment. It paid off with a steady hand behind the plate and a team-leading 23 homers, but the .286 OBP made McCann, on the whole, an offensive liability. 

 

DH/Bench

If only the Yankees could use three or four players at DH, they’d have a much better chance of holding up through the season. Teixeira still has value in the field, although his body could use the occasional rest at DH. Beltran, with his surgically repaired elbow, could also use more time here. But as long as Rodriguez is on the team, he should get the bulk of the playing time at DH. If A-Rod stays away from performance-enhancing drugs, he’s going to need a natural way to heal that crumbling body every day. Beating it up by playing in the field won’t help, so DH looks like his best spot.

 

Management

Joe Girardi usually knows how to juggle a roster of veterans, but he hasn’t been able to cajole a successful playoff push since 2012. That’s hardly his fault, though, since neither of his last two teams had any right to produce a winning record, given their meager statistics. Even so, a third straight year out of the playoffs can’t be good for Girardi’s job security, even in the more rational world of Hal Steinbrenner. General manager Brian Cashman made deft deadline moves last summer, proving his worth to Steinbrenner, but the Yankees’ biggest organizational advantage remains their ability to spend on free agents or afford to take on other teams’ unwanted contracts.

 

Final Analysis

The Yankees always have hope, because most of their players have, at one point in their careers, ranked among the game’s best. The question is whether they can do it again. Don’t bet on it. It’s increasingly a young man’s game, and if the Yankees continue to rely on the overpaid and over-the-hill, they could be stuck on 27 championships for a long time.

 

2015 Prediction: 4th in AL East

 

Projected Lineup

CF       Jacoby Ellsbury (L) Success rate of 84.6 percent on steals is second among active players, trailing only Carlos Beltran.

LF       Brett Gardner (L)      His 17 HRs were a career high, but .327 OBP was lowest since 2008 rookie season.

RF       Carlos Beltran (S)   With 373 HRs, trails only Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray and Chipper Jones among switch-hitters.

C         Brian McCann (L)    Hit only four of his 23 homers on the road in unimpressive Yankee debut.

1B       Mark Teixeira (S)      Still owed $45 million for next two seasons after batting just .216.

3B       Chase Headley (S)             Has just 26 HRs, 99 RBIs since his 2012 breakout (31 HRs, 115 RBIs) with Padres.

DH      Alex Rodriguez (R) Will collect $6 million when he hits sixth HR of the season to tie Willie Mays on career list, with 660.

2B       Stephen Drew (L)    Back with Yankees after hitting just .150 in 46 games following July 31 trade from Red Sox.

SS       Didi Gregorius (L)   Substantial upgrade over Derek Jeter in the field, he must learn to hit lefties to fulfill offensive potential.

 

Bench

2B       Rob Refsnyder (R)  Should get a shot to play after a .297/.389/.444 slash line in three season in the minors.

C         John Ryan Murphy (R)        Strong second half at AAA gives the 2009 second-round pick from Princeton the inside edge for backup job.

OF       Chris Young (R)       Small sample, but Yanks loved what they saw after he flopped with Mets.

SS       Brendan Ryan (R)   Great glove, but bat was worse than Yankees expected, at .167.

1B       Garrett Jones (L)     Veteran has hit at least 15 homers in each of his last six seasons, including 27 with Pittsburgh in 2012.

 

Rotation

RH      Masahiro Tanaka    Two-start cameo in September wasn’t enough to quell fears about troublesome elbow.

LH       CC Sabathia             Has a 4.87 ERA in last two seasons, but expects to be healthy after knee surgery.

RH      Michael Pineda        Fragile but dominant, with a .208 opponents’ average in 41 career starts.

RH      Nathan Eovaldi        MLB hitters can handle his heat; he led National League in hits allowed last season (223 with Miami).

LH       Chris Capuano        Veteran had six quality starts in 12 tries for the Yankees late last season.

 

Bullpen

RH      Dellin Betances (Closer)   Exactly 50 percent of his outs came via strikeout (135 of 270).

LH       Andrew Miller            Fastball and wipeout slider make him a devastating late-inning weapon.

RH      David Carpenter      Acquired in early January, Carpenter gives the Yankees another strikeout specialist in the bullpen.

LH       Justin Wilson           Durable and tough on lefties, but high walk rate is worrisome.

RH      Adam Warren           Full-time relief role suited Warren, who held lefties to .178 average.

RH      Esmil Rogers           Before he was hit hard in season finale — four ER in 0.1 IP — had a 3.28 ERA for Yanks.

 

Beyond the Box Score

MVP shutout One way to measure the Yankees’ lack of 2014 impact was in the voting for the AL Most Valuable Player. Not a single Yankee got even so much as a 10th place vote from 30 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The last time the Yankees were completely shut out of the MVP vote was 1992, their last losing season. The Yankees also had no pitchers listed on any Cy Young Award ballots.

Stability at the top Only two general managers have been in their current jobs longer than the Yankees’ Brian Cashman — Brian Sabean of the Giants (1996) and Billy Beane of the A’s (1997). Cashman, who took over as GM in 1998, isn’t going anywhere soon. Despite missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, the Yankees re-signed Cashman to a three-year contract in October. “We know from our fan base’s perspective that we need to do better than we’ve done for the past two years,” Cashman says. “I say that for myself as well. Being in my chair, I’m responsible for it all — offense, defense and pitching. I’ve got to find a way to get our fan base back to enjoying October sooner than later.”

International spending bonanza The Yankees were assigned a $2.19 million bonus pool for international signings last summer, but with their farm system struggling, they blew past that limit. The Yankees spent more than $14 million to sign nine of the top 25 international free agents on MLB.com’s list. As a result, the Yankees will pay a 100 percent tax on their pool overage, and they must wait two years before giving more than $300,000 to another amateur on the international market.

Filling up fast The Yankees staged four promotions last season to honor their past, giving plaques in Monument Park to Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill and Joe Torre. The team also retired Torre’s No. 6. The Yankees have no set criteria for whom they honor, or how, leading to a somewhat haphazard process in which many stalwarts, including Hall of Famers like Waite Hoyt and Joe Gordon, are not represented at all. Bernie Williams is not a Hall of Famer, but he spent many more years in pinstripes than Gossage, Martinez, O’Neill and Torre, and will be honored with a plaque in 2015.

 

2014 Top Draft Pick

Jacob Lindgren, LHP

The Yankees’ free-agent shopping binge cost them their first-round draft choice in 2014, and they did not make a selection until No. 55 overall. But they were thrilled to land Lindgren, a left-handed reliever from Mississippi State who led the nation in strikeouts per nine innings as a junior, with 16.3. Lindgren played at four levels in his professional debut season, ending up at Class AA Trenton, where he fanned 18 in 11.2 innings. Lindgren could make an impact this season, and possibly even land on the Opening Day roster in a setup role. Lindgren has a deceptive delivery, his slider may be the best in the Yankees’ farm system, and his fastball can hit 94 mph with sink.

 

Top 10 Prospects

1. Luis Severino, RHP (21) A 6'0" righthander from the Dominican Republic with a high-90s fastball and a baffling changeup, Severino pitched in the Futures Game and reached Class AA Trenton, where he had a 2.52 ERA in six starts. He could make an impact as soon as this season.

2 . Gary Sanchez, C (22) Still highly regarded, but the Yankees’ commitment to Brian McCann blocks him behind the plate, where he’s shown a strong arm and improving defense. Decent power is a plus, off-field disciplinary issues a minus.

3 . Greg Bird, 1B (22) Led the minors in walks in 2013 with 107 and was the 2014 MVP of the Arizona Fall League, with a .313 average and six homers in 26 games.

4. Aaron Judge, OF (22) The 32nd overall pick in 2013, this Fresno State product hit 17 homers with 78 RBIs and reached High-A last season. He had a lot of walks, but also lots of strikeouts.

5. Rob Refsnyder, 2B (24) With a .300 average, a .389 OBP and decent power at Class AAA, line-drive hitter should have a chance to make an impact very soon.

6. Ian Clarkin, LHP (20) Added a cutter to low-90s fastball and curve last season, but has pitched only one game above Low-A.

7. Jacob Lindgren, LHP (22) Versatile southpaw was dominant as both a starter and reliever during his time at Mississippi State.

8. Eric Jagielo, 3B (22) Notre Dame product hit 16 homers with strong .354 OBP at High-A Tampa.

9. Luis Torrens, C (18) Signed for $1.3 million as a shortstop from Venezuela in 2012, he’s shown good skills behind the plate in low minors.

10. Domingo German, RHP (22) Aquired from the Marlins in the Martin Pardo deal, German is a strike thrower who has tremendous upside.

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New York Yankees 2015 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: AL East, American League, Boston Red Sox, MLB, News
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With all due respect to Space Mountain, Goliath and the Viper, the wildest roller coaster in the United States currently resides in Fenway Park. From worst to first to worst to … first again? — the Red Sox have put their fans through a stomach-churning wringer, sandwiching the elation of the 2013 World Series between a pair of lost seasons, not to mention an epic collapse in 2011. The Red Sox can only hope that this is the dawn of a new age of stability, however. They recognized the error of relying on too many youngsters simultaneously last year and imported a number of veterans this winter. They’ve remade much of the roster and virtually all of their rotation and have built the best lineup in the division. In what projects to be a down year for the AL East, that should be enough to return to contention, where the coaster can perhaps once again provide thrills instead of dread.

 

Rotation

This group will ultimately determine the team’s fate. Stalwarts Jon Lester and John Lackey are gone, and the Red Sox chose to replace them with pitchers they hope are about to make the ascension to ace. Their primary offseason target was Detroit’s Rick Porcello, 26, a six-year veteran coming off his best season (15–13, 3.43), and a pitcher the Red Sox believe is ready to take the next step. In a similar boat is 28-year-old Wade Miley, a former All-Star who struggled last year with Arizona (8–12, 4.34) but struck out a career high 183, suggesting the stuff is there. If either fails to emerge as a No. 1, there’s always old friend Clay Buchholz, a true Jekyll-and-Hyde performer, or Justin Masterson, who is expected to improve after battling injuries (7–9, 5.88). All three newcomers are groundball pitchers. Joe Kelly rounds things out.


Bullpen

The first move of the winter flew largely under the radar. The Red Sox re-signed closer Koji Uehara for two years and $18 million. Because Uehara doesn’t rely on power, the Sox believe he will remain effective into his 40s, a la Trevor Hoffman. The rest of the pen is a bit muddled. Junichi Tazawa returns as the primary setup man, even though his fastball has lost just enough steam to leave him as a borderline power pitcher. The Red Sox also retained lefty Craig Breslow, who never seemed to recover from his workload in 2013 en route to a horrible 2014 (2–4, 5.96). Virtually every other spot will be up for grabs in spring training, with veteran Edward Mujica looking to rebound, newly acquired Anthony Varvaro and Robbie Ross trying to find a home, youngsters Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes doing battle, and a lefthander like Tommy Layne perhaps claiming a specialist role. Former All-Star Alexi Ogando also could factor into the mix if he’s able to show he’s recovered from the elbow inflammation that limited him to just 27 appearances last season with the Rangers.

 

Middle Infield

Maybe this is the year Dustin Pedroia stays healthy. His will and determination remain beyond reproach, but he has undergone hand or wrist surgery in three straight offseasons. All that slicing and dicing has cut into his power, with his OPS falling in each of the last four seasons (from .861 to .797 to .787 to .712). He’s still a Gold Glover, but the Red Sox need his pop, too. Meanwhile, double-play partner Xander Bogaerts will be manning one of the most pivotal positions on the field. He’s not only coming off a down season offensively, but his defense also often appeared shaky, and the Red Sox have left him with no safety net after signing a trio of groundball starters. The team believes the 22-year-old will eventually be a star — for now it’s simply asking him to make routine plays in the field. And speaking of stars, Boston hopes it has found its next one in Yoan Moncada. The Red Sox signed the 19-year-old Cuban free agent in late February, committing $63 million ($31.5 as a signing bonus to Moncada, $31.5 to MLB as a 100 percent overage tax for exceeding their allotment of international bonus money) to the switch-hitting shortstop who could end up at second or third or even in the outfield by the time he arrives in the majors.

 

Corners

Say hello to the Panda. The arrival of Pablo Sandoval should solve the vexing problem of wildly subpar third base production the last two seasons. Sandoval is everything the Red Sox seek — a durable hitter in his prime with a flare for the dramatic, a slightly above-average fielder, and a high-energy leader who should light up the clubhouse. He’s also one of the best low-ball hitters in the game, an area of emphasis with the strike zone dropping precipitously over the last three years. The solid Mike Napoli returns at first base, presumably recovered from the injuries that slowed him last year, with his 25-homer potential and clubhouse leadership intact.

 

Outfield

The arrival of All-Star Hanley Ramirez positions the Red Sox with one of the deepest lineups in the American League. The deal wouldn’t have been possible without Ramirez volunteering to forgo a career as an infielder to take a stab at left field. Ramirez hits lefties (.307) and righties (.298) and will play every day. Center likely will go to Cuban import Rusney Castillo, who tore up the Puerto Rican winter league after impressively hitting .333 with two homers in a brief September call-up. Right field is up for grabs, although it’s hard to see the Red Sox going in any direction other than with Mookie Betts, who has all the skills to be an All-Star leadoff hitter. Betts carries himself with a swagger that has earned him the immediate respect of the team’s veterans.

 

Catching

The Red Sox have proclaimed a willingness to hand things over to strong-armed Christian Vazquez, an advanced game-caller and pitch-framer who must answer major questions about his bat. Perhaps the Red Sox will be able to carry a .200 hitter if the rest of the lineup mashes, because the feeling is that Vazquez is only a one- or two-year stopgap until prospect Blake Swihart arrives. Ryan Hanigan fills the David Ross role of veteran who can play more than the typical backup if needed. He hits lefties well (.762 lifetime OPS), though he was better against righties last year.

 

DH/Bench

The name of the game here is flexibility. Brock Holt can play anywhere and would pull on catching gear if asked. His surprising ability to hit lefties from the left side last year (.293) helped fuel an eighth-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. Daniel Nava’s skills against right-handed pitching will find him some playing time in either the outfield or at first. Ramirez, a former shortstop and third baseman, provides options in an emergency. The interesting decision will be finding a role for either Shane Victorino or Allen Craig. The remade roster likely squeezes out one, if not both. Victorino, if he heals from back surgery, has the higher upside and is the more battle-tested player.

 

Management

A year after pushing all the right buttons, manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington took a step back, along with the rest of the organization. Cherington’s relative inaction left the 2014 team with too many holes, and Farrell never figured out how to make the right moves with an offense that ranked in the middle of the pack in on-base percentage but bottom of the barrel in runs scored. That was last year, however. In the big picture, the team remains in good hands. Cherington is at his best when juggling a complicated offseason, and this past one certainly qualifies, with Castillo (signed in August), Sandoval, Ramirez, Porcello, Miley and Masterson coming aboard, to name a few. Farrell, meanwhile, is a proven leader who has already helmed a World Series winner. 

 

Final Analysis

The Red Sox are right where they want to be — as $200 million underdogs, if that’s possible. They’ve built a roster in the spirit of the out-of-nowhere 2013 World Series winners, although they’ve gambled a bit more, since their buy-low acquisitions are primarily in the starting rotation. One of last year’s biggest problems — a lack of depth up and down the roster — is no longer an issue. The lineup is deep, with Betts ready to step forward and the projected seven-eight hitters possible stars in Castillo and Bogaerts. While the jury very reasonably remains out on whether the Red Sox are built to win in October, there’s no question they’re at least constructed to get there.

 

2015 Prediction: 1st in AL East

 

Projected Lineup

RF       Mookie Betts (R)      Betts has potential star written all over him. The Sox love his combination of on-base, speed and swagger.

2B       Dustin Pedroia (R)  Are Pedroia’s hands/wrists a time bomb? We’ll find out. He has vowed to return stronger than ever.

DH      David Ortiz (L)           Time keeps on ticking, and Ortiz keeps on slugging. The ageless DH seeks his third straight 30-100 season.

LF       Hanley Ramirez (R)            Ramirez has agreed to move to the outfield, where his bat still profiles as one of the best in the game.

3B       Pablo Sandoval (S) Get ready for the Panda. The Red Sox expect that Sandoval will plug their gaping hole at third.

1B       Mike Napoli (R)        It’s easy to forget that before badly dislocating his finger last year, he appeared capable of a career year.

CF       Rusney Castillo (R)            Was signed to hit leadoff, but with that job likely going to Betts, the $72.5 Million Man can ease into things.

SS       Xander Bogaerts (R)           Bogaerts shouldn’t feel the pressure to be a star hitting at the bottom of the lineup.

C         Christian Vazquez (R)         The Red Sox have built a deep lineup, but the rifle-armed Vazquez is the one potential hole. 

 

Bench

OF       Shane Victorino (R) Coming off back surgery, Victorino is a man without a position and could be moved.

OF       Daniel Nava (S)       Provides real value from the left side of the plate on a roster that is otherwise heavily right-handed.

UT       Brock Holt (L)           One of last year’s few bright spots is Holt, who’s not an everyday player, but could excel in a super-utility role.

C         Ryan Hanigan (R)   Hanigan was acquired for Will Middlebrooks and could play regularly if Vazquez struggles.

 

Rotation

RH      Rick Porcello            The Red Sox hope Porcello can continue to build off a strong 2014 and become an ace.

LH       Wade Miley   Miley had career-highs in ERA (4.34) and WHIP (1.401) in his final season in Arizona.

RH      Clay Buchholz          There’s no more enigmatic player on the team than the wildly talented, equally inconsistent Buchholz.

RH      Justin Masterson     The Red Sox believe Masterson’s struggles last year (7–9, 5.88) were purely injury-related.

RH      Joe Kelly        Kelly impressed during his two months, featuring a 95 mph fastball and winning four of his final five starts.

 

Bullpen

RH      Koji Uehara (Closer)          The indomitable closer turns 40 in April, but the Red Sox don’t expect him to slow down anytime soon.

RH      Junichi Tazawa        Tazawa has settled in as a strikeout-an-inning arm in the eighth, and will continue to fill that role.

LH       Craig Breslow          Breslow returned on a one-year deal after a brutal season that saw his ERA soar to a career-worst 5.96.

RH      Edward Mujica         Mujica lost 1 mph off his fastball (to 91 mph) and saw his walk rate climb to 2.1/9 IP last season.

RH      Anthony Varvaro       Acquired from the Braves, Varvaro posted a career-low walk rate (2.1) last year while posting a 2.63 ERA.

RH      Brandon Workman  He’s fearless and has an attacking mentality, but his stuff isn’t overpowering, and he can be taken deep.

LH       Tommy Layne          Layne impressed in 30 games (0.95 ERA) and could join Breslow as the second lefty in the pen.

 

Beyond the Box Score

Memorable debut Red Sox fans will never forget Rick Porcello’s first start at Fenway Park, in 2009, when the 20-year-old rookie drilled Kevin Youkilis and incited a bench-clearing brawl. After Porcello signed, he wasted little time when asked for his most memorable Fenway moment: “Getting thrown out in the second inning my rookie year. Getting charged by Kevin Youkilis.” It should be noted that Porcello stood his ground and body slammed the enraged Youk.

Native son Catcher Ryan Hanigan will become the fifth Massachusetts native to play for the Red Sox in the last decade. The Andover native joins Chris Capuano (Springfield), Alex Hassan (Quincy), Rich Hill (Milton) and Manny Delcarmen (West Roxbury).

No love lost Oh, what might have been. When the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez in free agency, it opened the possibility of reuniting Ramirez with former minor league teammate Jon Lester, who made no secret of his dislike for the then-shortstop at the 2010 All-Star Game. “I’d have a better chance of being struck by lightning than me and him getting a pizza together,” Lester said at the time.

Big-time bowler Where does Mookie Betts get his incredible hand-eye coordination and ability to perform under pressure? It might have something to do with bowling. Betts is a tremendous bowler who took up the sport as a child and still rolls regularly. He has bowled a 300 game and an 800 series and was good enough to turn pro, had he so desired. Also, take heart Red Sox fans — he’s named after Mookie Blaylock, the former NBA All-Star, not Mookie Wilson.

Fun fact Random fact about manager John Farrell — he ended Paul Molitor’s 39-game hitting streak in just his second big league start in 1987, taking a no-decision against Teddy Higuera in a 1–0 loss to the Brewers. The game ended with Molitor on deck. “Rick Manning drove in the winning run in the 10th,” Farrell said, “and got booed off the field.”

King of gluten Wade Miley did not take kindly to friction with the Diamondbacks over the composition of his diet. His former team’s biggest complaint? That he ate too much gluten. The 6'0", 220-pounder is not having any of it, telling WEEI in Boston that, “You can’t tell me Babe Ruth ever stopped eating gluten.”

 

2014 Top Draft Pick

Michael Chavis, SS

The Red Sox used their first pick on one of the more intriguing power prospects in the draft. Chavis, a product of Georgia’s East Cobb baseball factory, isn’t huge (5'10", 190), but he owns tremendous bat speed and serious pop. He won a Perfect Game home run derby as a high school senior, and after a slow start to his pro career, finished with a .425 slugging percentage in the Gulf Coast League. He hit .379 with a homer and 1.057 OPS over his final 15 games. A shortstop at Sprayberry High School, Chavis will probably end up at third base in the long run. While Chavis has a big swing capable of producing loft, the Red Sox liked him because he’s calm and controlled at the plate. Another plus: His makeup and work ethic drew raves from rival scouts in the lead up to the draft.

 

Top 10 Prospects

1. Blake Swihart, C (23) Swihart has all the tools to be a star, with athleticism that reminds more than one observer of the Giants’ perennial MVP candidate Buster Posey.

2. Henry Owens, LHP (22) While there are questions over how Owens’ fastball (92 mph) will play in the big leagues, there’s no questioning his secondary stuff, which includes a plus changeup.

3. Yoan Moncada, IF (19) The switch-hitting Cuban is probably at least a year or two away from the majors, but the Red Sox hope their patience, not to mention the total of $63 million they invested to sign him, will pay off in a big way.

4. Rafael Devers, 3B (18) Remember how hyped Xander Bogaerts was when he arrived stateside? Devers has outperformed him at a similar age/level thus far and is the organization’s Next Big Thing.

5. Manuel Margot, OF (20) He posted one of the most tantalizing seasons in the minors as a teen, batting .293 with 12 homers and 42 steals between two levels of Class A.

6. Brian Johnson, LHP (24) Johnson’s pure stuff isn’t jaw-dropping, but he effectively mixes four pitches in the style of a crafty lefty.

7. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP (22) Rodriguez has a changeup that rivals Owens’, but he pairs it with a fastball that regularly reaches 97 mph.

8. Matt Barnes, RHP (24) Barnes’ 2014 season ended in the big leagues, where he passed fellow pitching prospects Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo (traded to Texas in January). 

9. Deven Marrero, SS (24) Marrero may never hit, but there’s no doubting his glove. He has a strong arm and tremendous instincts.

10. Sean Coyle, 2B (23) Mildly reminiscent of former Sox prospect Jed Lowrie, Coyle’s a similarly undersized infielder with surprising pop.

 

— Written by WEEI.com columnist John Tomase (@jtomase) for Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine.

Teaser:
Boston Red Sox 2015 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /mlb/baltimore-orioles-2015-preview-prediction
Body:

After posting a winning record in three consecutive seasons, the Orioles could be challenged to finish above .500 in 2015 due to a lack of significant activity over the winter. They re-signed Delmon Young shortly before Christmas, but he’s more of a DH-type and not a suitable replacement for outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, two important bats that departed via free agency. There’s no Cruz to fall into their laps this spring, as he did last year before leading the majors with 40 home runs. The Orioles should benefit from the return of catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado from season-ending surgeries, but making the playoffs for the third time in four seasons looks like a longer shot than it did in October.

 

Rotation

The Orioles will rely heavily on their starting pitching and depth to stay in the playoff picture. They’re carrying six starters for five spots — Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez — and are reluctant to part with an arm in order to improve in another area. They’re not going with a six-man rotation, so someone will move to the bullpen or Gausman will be optioned. Jimenez was a bust after signing a four-year, $50 million deal, but Chen won 16 games and Norris 15 to establish career highs. Gonzalez posted a 2.19 ERA in his last 11 starts. Top prospect Dylan Bundy, recovered from Tommy John surgery, likely will start the year at Double-A, but he could be an option to start later in the summer.


Bullpen

The Orioles lost lefthander Andrew Miller to free agency, and he’s going to be hard to replace after holding opposing hitters to a .119 average and posting a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings with the Orioles after being acquired from the Red Sox on July 31. They signed lefthander Wesley Wright to a one-year, $1.7 million contract after the Cubs non-tendered him. Zach Britton, in his first season as closer, registered 37 saves in 41 opportunities. Lefty specialist Brian Matusz returns, though he’s also trade bait. Righthanders Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter are quality late-inning options. Hunter brings the heat with his upper-90s fastball. Brad Brach can work in a variety of roles but is most important as a right-handed long man. T.J. McFarland could return as a lefty long man, but the Orioles may not want to carry four southpaws in their bullpen. He’s a candidate to start at Triple-A. Ryan Webb has another year and $2.75 million on his contract. The O’s selected Logan Verrett in the Rule 5 Draft and traded for Jason Garcia.

 

Middle Infield

The Orioles’ double-play combination remains intact after shortstop J.J. Hardy signed a three-year extension in October. He’s the leader of the infield and a dependable fielder. However, his home run total dropped from 25 to nine. Jonathan Schoop made most of the starts at second base as a rookie and hit 16 home runs, but he needs to improve on a .209 average. He’s got a rifle arm, and he ranked eighth among major league second basemen with 89 double plays turned. Former Rule 5 pick Ryan Flaherty can back up at both positions. He started the season 0-for-17 before singling on April 6 in Detroit. The Orioles signed Rey Navarro to a major league deal and view him primarily as a second baseman, though he also plays short. Manager Buck Showalter said he’s more willing now to move Machado from third base to short if Hardy is injured. The team also signed former San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera to a one-year deal at the start of spring training. The NL stolen base leader in 2012, Cabrera was suspended for 50 games in '13 for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. With Hardy seemingly entrenched at short, Cabrera could potentially fill in at second or serve as an utilityman and late-inning pinch runner off of the bench, if he makes the team.

 

Corners

Machado returns after undergoing surgery on his right knee in August. He’s now had procedures on both knees in the last two years. He was sorely missed at third base, where he won a Platinum Glove in 2013. Machado also was suspended five games this summer for intentionally throwing his bat on the field in a June 8 game against Oakland. He could use a fresh start this season. First baseman Chris Davis was handed a 25-game suspension on Sept. 12 for a second failed test for Adderall. He has one game remaining on it, which removes him from the Opening Day lineup. Davis led the majors with 53 home runs in 2013, but he hit only 26 last year as his average dipped to .196. Flaherty can play both first and third as part of his super-utility role, and Jimmy Paredes remains an option. He’s more bat than glove, however. Steve Pearce can play first base and may be given a chance to back up at third. Pearce established career highs across the board, including doubles (26), home runs (21), RBIs (49) and games (102). The Orioles claimed Ryan Lavarnway off waivers, and he’s capable of playing first. First baseman Christian Walker, one of the top prospects in the organization, made his major league debut in September and eventually could return to the big club.

 

Outfield

Center fielder Adam Jones is the only remaining outfield starter from last season. Jones posted his fourth consecutive season playing 150 games and recording at least a .280 average, 25 doubles, 25 home runs and 80 RBIs, joining Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray as the only Orioles to accomplish the feat. But who’s playing left field and right field this year? Pearce could be the primary starter in right, and Alejandro De Aza could mostly play left and replace Markakis atop the order. De Aza batted .293 after being acquired from the White Sox on Aug. 30. He just needs to improve his splits against left-handed pitching. David Lough got off to an awful start in his first season with the Orioles, but he batted .356 in his final 52 games beginning July 6. He also provides plus-defense and much-needed speed. Young is a below-average fielder but can play left or right if needed. The Orioles also acquired Travis Snider from the Pirates in late January. Snider, who has yet to put it all together in his seven-year career, could end up stealing one of the starting corner spots, provided he makes the final roster.

 

Catching

Wieters played in only 26 games before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on June 17. He may not be ready for Opening Day. Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley — who wasn’t re-signed — did an admirable job as fill-ins. Joseph threw out 21 of 55 (38.2 percent) runners attempting to steal. His work behind the plate kept him in the majors as a rookie. Lavarnway, claimed in December, and Steve Clevenger are also viable options.

 

DH/Bench

Pearce could get plenty of starts as the DH, but Young was re-signed primarily for that role. Lavarnway could be a backup catcher and first baseman if he makes the team. Flaherty and/or Cabrera figure to make the club as super subs, and Lough should be an extra outfielder again. The Orioles signed Hassan off waivers and will give him a chance to win a backup outfield job. Paredes can move around the infield. Joseph is the favorite to serve as the backup catcher, but the position is unsettled.

 

Management

Executive vice president Dan Duquette was named Major League Executive of the Year by several media outlets. The Orioles have posted winning records in all three seasons since they hired Duquette, who has a knack for making under-the-radar moves that pay huge dividends. Showalter won his third BBWAA Manager of the Year Award, and he remains one of the best acquisitions in franchise history. He changed a losing culture, which isn’t easy. Owner Peter Angelos, heavily criticized in the past for meddling, has stepped back in recent years and trusted his baseball people. With two playoff appearances in the last three years, it’s hard to argue with the results.

 

Final Analysis

The Orioles have a nice core of players and a rotation and bullpen that could carry them back to the playoffs. They’re set in center field and at third base, second base, first base and catcher. But getting back to the American League Championship Series, where they appeared for the first time since 1997, will be difficult without Cruz, Markakis and Miller. The Orioles aren’t willing to spend big in free agency or make a bold trade, and their reluctance to dip into their pitching depth to acquire a big bat could come back to haunt them.

 

2015 Prediction: 3rd in AL East

 

Projected Lineup

LF       Alejandro De Aza (L)           Acquired last year from the White Sox, he’s the leading candidate to replace Nick Markakis atop the order.

3B       Manny Machado (R)           Former Platinum Glove winner recovering from second knee surgery in two years.

1B       Chris Davis (L)         Home run total dropped from 53 to 26, but he received exemption to use Adderall in 2015.

CF       Adam Jones (R)       Made his fourth All-Star team and won his fourth Gold Glove last season.

DH      Delmon Young (R)  Batted .302 in 83 games and went 10-for-20 as a pinch-hitter during the regular season.

C         Matt Wieters (S)        Could be final season as an Oriole after undergoing Tommy John surgery on right elbow.

RF       Steve Pearce (R)      Manager Buck Showalter said in December that Pearce would be in right if season started that day.

SS       J.J. Hardy (R)            Needs to rediscover his power stroke after home runs dropped from 25 to nine.

2B       Jonathan Schoop (R)         Hit 16 home runs as a rookie in 2014 but a .209 average leaves much room for improvement.

 

Bench

C         Caleb Joseph (R)     Nice story as a 27-year-old rookie who threw out 38.2 percent of runners.

OF       David Lough (L)       Plus-defender who can play all three outfield positions and bring needed speed element.

INF      Ryan Flaherty (L)     Valuable reserve played all four infield positions and the outfield last season.

INF      Everth Cabrera (B)           Made first trip to All-Star Game in 2013 as a Padre then missed 50 games because of ties to Biogenesis scandal.

 

Rotation

RH      Chris Tillman            Former second-round pick started on Opening Day and in Game 1 of the ALDS and ALCS.

LH       Wei-Yin Chen          Orioles resisted trade offers for Chen after he won career-high 16 games.

RH      Bud Norris     Won a career-high 15 games and posted career-low 3.65 ERA in first full season with the Orioles.

RH      Miguel Gonzalez      Vastly underrated despite posting 2.19 ERA in final 11 starts last year.

RH      Kevin Gausman       Has minor league options and could be sent down or sent to the bullpen.

 

Bullpen

LH       Zach Britton (Closer)           First year as closer was a rousing success with 37 saves in 41 opportunities.

RH      Ubaldo Jimenez       Could get back in rotation after disastrous first season with Orioles.

RH      Darren O’Day           Posted career-low 1.70 ERA and didn’t allow a run in 58 of 68 outings.

RH      Tommy Hunter          Lost closer’s job in May but posted 1.77 ERA in final 43 appearances.

LH       Brian Matusz            Would prefer to start, but the Orioles like his splits vs. left-handed hitters.

RH      Brad Brach    Didn’t get much attention after arriving from San Diego but won seven of eight decisions.

LH       Wesley Wright          Signed to one-year, $1.7 million deal to help ease loss of Andrew Miller.

 

Beyond the Box Score

Home sweet home The Orioles captured their ninth AL East title last season, but it was the first time they clinched via a win at home since 1969. That’s a big reason why players celebrated so enthusiastically on the field. The Orioles clinched in Milwaukee in 1997, 1983 and 1973, in Detroit in 1974, in New York in 1971 and in Washington in 1970. They clinched in 1979 despite losing to the Indians at home.

Double-figure winners The Orioles had four starters — Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez — record at least 10 wins for the first time 1997. They matched Mike Mussina, Jimmy Key, Scott Erickson and Scott Kamieniecki.

Big hitters The Orioles led the majors with 211 home runs, 25 more than the Rockies and 34 more than the Blue Jays. Their 107 home runs at home were the most by an American League club. The Orioles have hit 200 or more home runs in three straight seasons for the first time in franchise history.

Back to back The Orioles became the fourth team since 1920 to have two different players win the home run title in consecutive years. Chris Davis won it in 2013 and Nelson Cruz won it in 2014. They joined the Yankees’ Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio in 1936-37, the Athletics’ Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco in 1987-88, and the Giants’ Barry Bonds and Matt Williams in 1993-94.

Saves from the southpaw Zach Britton, in his first season as closer, became only the seventh AL lefthander to record 37 or more saves in a season. Britton is just the second Oriole, joining Randy Myers, who had 45 saves in 1997.

Road kill Chris Tillman was undefeated in his first 15 road starts until he lost in Toronto on Sept. 26. Tillman’s 8–1 record away from home tied for the second-best road winning percentage in a season by an Orioles pitcher. Scott McGregor holds the record by going 14–1 in 1983. Had he won or taken a no decision in that game vs. the Blue Jays, Tillman would have had the most road starts in a season without a loss (16) since 1914.

Deep roster The Orioles used 23 different players on Sept. 7 against the Rays, the most by the club since also using 23 on Sept. 14, 1960 at Detroit.  The franchise record is 24 in a Sept. 7, 1958 game against Boston.

 

2014 Top Draft Pick

Brian Gonzalez, LHP

The Orioles forfeited their selections in the first two rounds after signing Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz as free agents. They took Gonzalez with the 90th overall pick after he went undefeated in his senior season at Archbishop McCarthy High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Gonzalez committed to the University of Miami before signing with the Orioles and went a combined 0–1 with a 1.34 ERA in 10 starts between the Gulf Coast League and short-season Class A Aberdeen. He allowed 21 hits, walked 10 and struck out 36 in 33.2 innings. He could move up to Low-A Delmarva in 2015. There’s no way to project his arrival date in the majors at such a young age, but the Orioles love his potential.

 

Top 10 Prospects

1. Dylan Bundy, RHP (22) The former first-round pick is recovered from Tommy John surgery and trying to climb back to the majors. He should start 2015 at Double-A Bowie.

2. Hunter Harvey, RHP (20) First-round pick in 2013 with a plus-fastball and plus-curveball is recovered from a flexor mass strain in his right arm that ended his second professional season.

3. Christian Walker, 1B (24) Walker, a fourth-round pick in 2012 out of the University of South Carolina, was named the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Year.

4. Chance Sisco, C (20) The top catching prospect in the system won the South Atlantic League batting title with a .340 average at Class A Delmarva.

5. Dariel Alvarez, OF (26) Alvarez, the second Cuban player signed by the Orioles, projects as a right fielder with a plus-plus arm. He hit above .300 at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk last season.

6. Zach Davies, RHP (22) Davies’ stock is really on the rise since the Orioles chose him in the 26th round of the 2011 draft. He may possess the best changeup in the farm system.

7. Tim Berry, LHP (24) Berry slipped to the 50th round of the 2009 draft after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. He posted a 2.53 ERA in his last eight starts at Double-A Bowie.

8. Mike Wright, RHP (25) He’s got a mid-90s fastball and a possible future as a late-inning reliever if there’s no spot in the Orioles’ rotation.

9. Mike Yastrzemski, OF (24) The grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski played at three levels of the system in 2014, finishing up at Double-A Bowie.

10. Jomar Reyes, INF (18) This is all about upside. Reyes is raw but he’s got impressive tools, including a strong arm and developing power.

Teaser:
Baltimore Orioles 2015 Preview
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/what-going-kansas-freshman-cliff-alexander
Body:

Forget the question of why isn’t Cliff Alexander playing for Kansas. Now, the quesiton why isn’t Cliff Alexander available at all.

 

The Jayhawks’ freshman forward will not play Saturday against Texas due to what Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger has described as a precautionary measure related to Alexander’s eligibility.

 

“The NCAA has alerted us to an issue that could affect Cliff’s eligibility,” Zenger told KUSports.com. “As a precautionary measure Cliff will not take the court until we have resolved the issue.”

 

Alexander’s absence is another development in a strange season for the highly touted freshman, who was ranked the No. 4 prospect in the class.

 

In his last three games, Alexander has played 27 total minutes, no more than 11 minutes in a game. During that span, he’s converted just one field goal. Coach Bill Self has been more likely to play junior Jamari Traylor and sophomore Laden Lucas with Perry Ellis in his frontcourt, even if Alexander’s statistical profile at least indicates he’d be the most productive option.

 

At this stage of the season, a top-five prospect and potential NBA lottery pick averaging just 17.6 minutes and 7.1 points per game is bizarre, but this isn’t the first time this season Self has limited one of his star freshmen.

 

Forward Kelly Oubre, ranked No. 8 in the class, was seldom used in November and early in the Big 12 schedule. Oubre has started every game since Dec. 20 and played 32 minutes as recently as Feb. 16 against West Virginia.

 

What all this means for Kansas’ postseason and BIg 12 hopes remains unclear. The Jayhawks have won 10 consecutive Big 12 titles but have only a one-game lead in the standings with three regular season games to go.

Teaser:
What is Going on With Kansas Freshman Cliff Alexander?
Post date: Saturday, February 28, 2015 - 16:12
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/terry-rozier-louisville-learning-win-without-chris-jones
Body:

Louisville’s other starting guard seems determined not to let the abrupt dismissal of Chris Jones damage the Cardinals’ season. 

 

Sophomore Terry Rozier saved Louisville from a bad loss to Georgia Tech when he had 22 points on Monday in a come-from-behind 52-51 win. Against the Yellow Jackets, Rozier shot 8-of-19 (42.1 percent) from the field as the rest of his teammates shot 12-of-35 (34.3)

 

He got more of his teammates’ support Saturday against Florida State, but the effort was just as key as he moved into the point guard role. Rozier had a rough shooting day, converting only 3-of-14 from the floor for 10 points. He contributed in other ways as he added a career-high nine assists and six steals in an 81-59 rout of Florida State in Tallahassee.

 

Just as important, Wayne Blackshear emerged for 18 points against the Seminoles. The Louisville forward has all too often been a non-factor but has scored in double figures in each of the last three games after being shutout by Syracuse on Feb. 18.

 

If this is enough for Louisville to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, the Cardinals will find out in the next week. Louisville’s two wins without JOnes have come against Georgia Tech and Florida State — two teams ranked 80th or lower on KenPom.com. The Cardinals’ last two games are at home against Notre Dame and Virginia.

Teaser:
Terry Rozier, Louisville Learning to Win Without Chris Jones
Post date: Saturday, February 28, 2015 - 14:57
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-game-preview-and-prediction-arkansas-razorbacks-kentucky
Body:

No question, SEC basketball is better than it has been in a number of years.

 

The league should send its most teams to the NCAA Tournament since 2011, including the presumptive No. 1 overall seed in Kentucky.

 

The question, though, is if any of these teams can touch the Wildcats. Granted, few teams in any league can approach the Wildcats this season. There's no shame if Arkansas, Georgia, Texas A&M and Ole Miss can't finish off the Wildcats; Kentucky isn’t 28-0 because the SEC is a mediocre league.

 

At the same time, though, Kentucky hasn’t played a ranked team since a 58-50 win over Louisville on the road on Dec. 27. That changes Saturday when unanimous No. 1 Kentucky faces No. 18 Arkansas.

 

Does that mean that win streak will come to an end at Rupp Arena? Even though Arkansas is having its best season since at least 2008, upsetting Kentucky, at least so far this season, has been impossible.

 

Arkansas at Kentucky

 

Site: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.

Time: Saturday, 4 p.m. Eastern

TV: CBS

 

What’s up for grabs?

Kentucky’s undefeated season. If Kentucky is going to go to the SEC Tournament undefeated, this week may be the toughest stretch of the year. The Wildcats will face arguably the No. 2 team in the league in Arkansas and then face a solid Georgia team in Athens — the Bulldogs lost in Lexington on Feb. 3 without top player Marcus Thornton.

 

You’ll tune in to watch: Bobby Portis vs. Willie Cauley-Stein

The top contender for SEC Player of the Year may play for Arkansas rather than the nation’s No. 1 team. That’s as much of a reflection of Kentucky’s overall talent and balance as Portis’ season itself at 17.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-11 sophomore takes on the toughest assignment for any forward in the country against Cauley-Stein and Kentucky’s bigs. 

 

Pivotal player: Andrew Harrison

Kentucky’s sophomore point guard has been all over the place in recent weeks, 23 points and seven assists against Georgia one game, one point and two assists against Florida the next. Coming off of five points, three assists and no turnovers against Mississippi State, Harrison now faces the toughest pressing and trapping team in the SEC. Arkansas is 15th nationally in defensive turnover rate (23.3 percent).

 

Pivotal player II: Michael Qualls

Arkansas swept its regular season meetings against Kentucky last season largely due to the 6-foot-6 guard Qualls. The junior scored 18 points against Kentucky in Fayetteville and 14 points in Lexington, shooting a combined 11-of-17 from the field. Will Qualls and Anthlon Bell be able to knock down shots from the perimeter to keep Kentucky’s defense honest?

 

Biggest question: By how much will Kentucky rule the offensive glass?

This is the biggest advantage Kentucky will have against Arkansas, or most teams. The Wildcats lead the SEC in offensive rebound rate in league games (36.9 percent) while the Razorbacks are last in the league in defensive rebound rate. In Arkansas’ last game, an 81-75 win over Texas A&M, the Aggies destroyed the Hogs on the glass for 22 offensive boards.

 

Predictions

David Fox: Kentucky 70-60

Mitch Light: Kentucky 73-64

Jake Rose: Kentucky 81-65

Teaser:
College Basketball Game Preview and Prediction: Arkansas Razorbacks at Kentucky Wildcats
Post date: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 16:20
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Mavericks, Rajon Rondo, NBA
Path: /nba/things-are-going-south-fast-between-rajon-rondo-and-mavericks
Body:

It looks like it’s becoming safe to say that the Dallas’ Mavericks December trade for Rajon Rondo was a mistake.

 

The former Boston Celtics point guard was suspended for the Mavs’ 104-87 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, after a dispute with head coach Rick Carlisle in a Tuesday night victory over the Toronto Raptors:

 

And now, we’re starting to see reports of Rondo’s desire to leave Dallas this summer — when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

 

Rondo has previously been linked to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, particularly because of a well-publicized breakfast the two shared, and because of Bryant’s very transparent attempt to recruit Rondo to Tinseltown.

 

For Dallas, such a story can’t exactly be devastating. Before bringing Rajon to Texas, they were boasting the league’s best offense and winning at a .700 clip with a 19-8 record. They’ve been 20-13 since Rondo came to town — good for just a .610 mark — and they now trail the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers in offensive efficiency.

 

Rondo has visibly depreciated as a player. His shooting percentages have plummeted, especially his almost unbelievable 31 percent from the free throw line, and he can no longer take it to the rack and finish with flourishes of brilliant, spontaneous creativity like he used to.

 

When Rondo was one of the best players in the league during the Celtics’ run to the 2010 NBA Finals, his famously difficult personality was worth the trouble. But injuries and age caught up to him fast, and now he’s caught battling with a coach who wants him to keep the ball moving through pre-planned sets, instead of taking his time with the shot clock to try bending and breaking the court against the power of his vision.

 

When you’re great, you can get away with a lot. But Rondo looks more mediocre than great these days, and he’d likely do well by himself to keep his head down and trust the championship culture he’s in, instead of trying to transcend it.

 

But if he doesn’t, and he goes to the Lakers after a failed stint in Dallas, we can all look forward to an even more tragicomic NBA spectacle in Hollywood, where Bryant and Rondo run inefficiently amok on the fuel of former glory.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 14:37
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-27-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 27:

 

Margot Robbie, who is slowly taking over the Internet, has a movie opening. Oh, and Will Smith's apparently in it, too.

 

Some guy caught a monster catfish. Nature is terrifying.

 

• Yesterday was dominated by the llamas. Oh, and the dress. The Internet is a weird place. 

 

• Of course, the self-righteous among us ordered us to stop focusing on the dress and think about more important stuff.

 

Kevin Stallings went a little nuts, but nothing like the hot takers online.

 

• Borrowing a page from his idol Seve's playbook, Sergio Garcia hit a ball that was totally submerged, and made par.

 

So why don't the Yankees just dump A-Rod?

 

The Jackie Robinson of the NBA died yesterday.

 

Jay Cutler has lost Jon Gruden. And Gruden loves everybody.

 

Grantland had a bracket to pick the best Second Banana of all time. His name is George, and he lives with his parents. This is the second contest he's won.

 

• Here's the offending Kevin Stallings comment, which ESPN's cameras helpfully picked up.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 11:43
All taxonomy terms: Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James, NBA
Path: /nba/lebron-scores-42-cavs-spank-warriors-statement-win
Body:
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have now won 18 of their last 20 games, with their most recent victory being arguably their most impressive.

 

Cleveland tallied a 110-99 victory over the vaunted Golden State Warriors Thursday night, keyed by LeBron’s 42 points and 11 rebounds. The Cavs, for the most part, cruised through this one — they held double-digit leads through much of the second half. And the Warriors looked a rare form of frustrated, with head coach Steve Kerr getting so heated during a lecture to the referees that he had to remove some clothing:

 

Things are looking real good for Cleveland these days. With perhaps their biggest roadblock to the NBA Finals in a state of crisis — the now Derrick Rose-lesss Chicago Bulls — there’s seemingly only the Atlanta Hawks between them and a shot at the Western Conference champion in June. And if last night was any indication, the Cavs aren’t exactly intimidated by the West.

 

Maybe the most encouraging thing about their recent run is the chemistry of it. Kevin Love has begun to find his spot in the team’s system, crashing the defensive glass and throwing dazzling outlet passes to several strong finishers on the break, and getting loose for scoring assaults from behind the three-point line.

 

The Cavs’ acrimony of earlier in the season is becoming a distant memory, and it’s hardly difficult to see why: they’ve got the best player in the world. LeBron is not just a freak athlete; he’s also a one man system, and when he’s happy and healthy, his locomotive breakdown of defenses and passing vision is really all you need to get everyone involved.

 

Right here, right now, Cleveland looks every bit like the favorites to win the NBA title.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 10:46
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kevin-stallings-yells-player-earth-spins-axis
Body:

No one is innocent in the latest edition of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee in-state rivalry.

 

Not Kevin Stallings. Not Wade Baldwin. Not the Vols coaching staff. And especially not the media.

 

Here is the incident in question after Vanderbilt topped Tennessee 73-65 in Knoxville on Thursday night (via ESPN):

 

 

This is a heated rivalry in which tempers can flare easily. It happens from time to time in sports and it happened on Thursday night.

 

But the Earth shouldn’t be spinning off its axis because a hard-nosed coach disciplined his player harshly. Or a player sort of maybe kind of lacked sportsmanship by clapping a few feet away from an opponent he just beat. Or a losing assistant coach tattling on a teenager.

 

And the media should be ashamed of itself for writing headlines that make readers think that Stallings threatened to kill his player.

 

Stallings has apologized. Baldwin is okay with his coach’s actions and has apologized too. The Vols took their medicine in the loss column.

 

 

Can we (the media) stop making this into more than it is and move on, please?

 

Teaser:
Kevin Stallings Yells at a Player, Earth Spins off Axis
Post date: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 10:10
All taxonomy terms: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/alex-rodriguez-con-man-returns-baseball
Body:

Alex Rodriguez asked for this. Remember that. On Feb. 17, 2009, upon reporting to the Yankees’ spring training camp for the first time as an admitted steroid cheat, Rodriguez told a packed news conference, with typical grandiosity: “The only thing I ask from this group today and the American people is to judge me from this day forward. That’s all I can ask for.”

 

Well, judgment day is upon us. Rodriguez returned to the Yankees’ active roster after the last out of the 2014 World Series, ending a season-long suspension for his latest dalliance with performance-enhancing drugs.

 

Incredible, isn’t it? Even in an era of rampant doping across the sports landscape, Rodriguez stands out as one of the slimiest characters of all. When he asked for that fresh start, it seemed like a reasonable request. Sure, his misdeeds with the Texas Rangers would always stain his glittering career record. But most fans are willing to forgive a lapse in judgment.

 

Yet look at what Rodriguez did with that second chance: The very next season he went right back to cheating, scheming for an illegal chemical advantage through a shady Florida clinic and its sleazy head, Anthony Bosch. When he was caught, Rodriguez did what he does best: lie. He didn’t know Bosch at all! He never used banned drugs! He’ll expose this “witch hunt” in court!

 

Wrong. The richest baseball player ever could not buy his way out of this one. Major League Baseball banned Rodriguez for all of 2014 — and, oh yeah, he admitted everything to the DEA anyway, as revealed by the Miami Herald.

 

Rodriguez did, in fact, pay Bosch about $12,000 a month for roughly two years. He did, in fact, get pre-filled syringes for hormone injections into his stomach. Bosch did, in fact, draw A-Rod’s blood in the bathroom of a nightclub.

 

What a guy.

 

The Yankees could have made a bold statement. They could have cut Rodriguez and told the world that the kind of person who makes such despicable decisions has no place in their uniform. But that’s not how things happen in the real world.

 

While the Yankees were thrilled to have Rodriguez’s $25 million off their payroll for 2014, they still want to save more from the ludicrous 10-year, $275 million contract they gave him after the 2007 season. The Yankees owe Rodriguez $61 million in salary for the 2015-17 seasons, and for all of their animosity toward him, the money talks loudest.

 

Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine covers the diamond and circles the bases with enough in-depth preseason analysis, predictions and other information to satisfy fans of the national pastime from the Bronx to the Bay and everywhere in between. Order your copy today!

If the Yankees had released Rodriguez before he suited up for them again, they would have been obligated to pay him everything they owe. But if Rodriguez breaks down physically while employed by the team — if he re-injures his hip, for example, and is forced to retire — then insurance could cover 80 percent of his remaining salaries.

 

Yet there is also a somewhat unsettling reason the Yankees are keeping their most notorious player in pinstripes: They just might need his bat.

 

Yes, Rodriguez missed all that time. Yes, he turns 40 in July, with a body he has treated like a science experiment for more than a decade; who knows the real effects of all those injections, testosterone “gummies,” surgeries and everything else? But when Rodriguez played for the Yankees in 2013, he wasn’t all that bad — at least by the low standards of the team he left behind in 2014. As the Yankees staged a year-long farewell tour for captain Derek Jeter, they staggered through their worst offensive season in more than two decades. Rodriguez’s OPS over 44 games in 2013 was .771. Of the 11 players with the most plate appearances for the 2014 Yankees, nobody had an OPS that high.

 

The Yankees have been careful to keep their expectations guarded. They say that they do not know what to expect from Rodriguez. They have talked to him about playing first base and getting starts at designated hitter in addition to his old spot at third. But they have also tried to advance a storyline that Rodriguez’s work ethic will serve him well.

 

“He’s fit,” owner Hal Steinbrenner said late in the season. “Alex is a hard worker. Alex will be ready. We’ll just have to go from there, see how he does, see how he responds to playing every day in spring training. Point is, he’s in good shape. And that’s not surprising.”

 

Rodriguez, a hard worker? Spare us, Hal. This is one of the all-time con men in sports history. Plenty of athletes deserve the honorific “hard worker.” The painfully insecure Rodriguez, who has repeatedly chosen to take shortcuts in his career, is not one of them.

 

Rodriguez was so desperate for a boost in the 2012 playoffs that he flew Bosch to Detroit. He and Bosch had code words for drugs: Rodriguez insisted on calling them “food” in their text messages. When Bosch slipped once, Rodriguez texted him back: “Not meds, dude. Food.”

 

That sounds like the ham-handed ploy of a Scooby-Doo villain, but Rodriguez was sophisticated enough to beat all the drug tests he took. That is part of the reason baseball investigated Bosch’s Biogenesis clinic so aggressively. It served as a warning to any other would-be cheaters: Even if you pass the tests, we will hunt you down and suspend you.

 

Now that Rodriguez has served his penalty, he faces the harsh judgment he said he welcomed in 2009.

 

Yankees fans largely cheered him in 2013, while he was denying wrongdoing while appealing what was first a 211-game ban. Chances are, those fans will cheer him again, simply because he is wearing their team’s uniform. Road fans will taunt Rodriguez, but that will be nothing new. Neither will the avalanche of attention from the news media, which is also familiar to the Yankees as a team.

 

“We’ll deal with it,” manager Joe Girardi said in November. “I know there’s going to be a lot of attention. But very similar to when he came back a couple of years ago, there was a lot of attention the first week and then everybody disperses and covers other stories around the country. We’ll have to deal with a lot in the beginning, but it’ll spread around the country. It always does.”

 

Girardi is probably right about that, and nobody seems to care much that the vibe around the team will be so polluted by the presence of baseball’s biggest disgrace. What matters to the Yankees now is the faint hope of saving money — and the perhaps even fainter hope that Rodriguez might actually be able to help the team win.

 

Even if he does, though, Rodriguez’s past decisions have put him in a box. How can he possibly play well without cheating when he has shown repeatedly that he believes he must cheat to succeed? If he somehow does play well, few will be gullible enough to believe it.

 

Rodriguez has 654 career home runs. His 660th, if it ever comes, will trigger a bonus of $6 million. So will career homers No. 714, 755, 762 and 763. The bonuses were supposedly included in his deal as part of a marketing arrangement between the player and the team to celebrate his pursuit of the career home run record. Really, though, it was a clever way to make an extra $30 million and push the total value of his contract over $300 million.

 

Knowing Rodriguez, he will feel no shame if he hits No. 660, which would tie Willie Mays for fourth all-time. Here’s hoping he does it on the road, so his magic moment is drowned out in boos — a full-throated verdict for a fraud who literally asked for it.

 

— Written by Tyler Kepner for Athlon Sports

Teaser:
Alex Rodriguez: A Con Man Returns to Baseball
Post date: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations, here is how the rosters of the Power 5 conferences, American Athletic Conference, BYU and Boise State stack up against one another.

 

Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:

 

 Team'15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.111111.048-628-4
2.3410324.448-728-4
3.732564.644-1027-5
4.5261476.841-1223-9
5.21112937.436-1624-12
6.6811857.640-1425-7
7.96131189.431-2115-17
8.21934119.629-2117-15
9.1017172410.031-2121-15
10.1310518911.037-15--
11.81815151013.242-1126-6
12.4724201413.822-277-25
13.151416121314.039-1326-10
14.1159163515.235-1717-16
15.162119131216.248-731-5
16.191620171617.640-1221-11
17.3820462618.831-2018-14
18.271214103319.228-2216-16
19.12197194520.435-1923-13
20.17158462021.226-2511-21
21.24135172223.442-1228-8
22.233023282125.025-2510-22
23.263718232425.631-2219-17
24.292721213626.833-2019-13
25.313522301727.037-1622-10
26.183825223427.432-2015-17
27.282928431929.428-2316-16
28.142430483129.430-2018-14
29.222537333229.842-1225-7
30.402832322531.435-1722-14
31.493229262331.819-3010-22
32.372627274632.640-1226-10
33.334146251832.626-2413-23
34.354839341534.216-339-27
35.414235293035.434-1722-14
36.392234503736.414-344-28
37.202340356536.634-1923-13
38.363631364937.628-2316-18
39.324736452937.839-1322-8
40.253943315739.036-1721-12
41.423144414841.230-2217-19
42.343338653941.839-1623-9
43.556050242743.232-2015-15
44.474526475644.227-2411-21
45.484341385244.420-3010-22
46.446347374046.227-2314-22
47.585358402847.427-2415-17
48.624433425847.825-2714-16
49.303459547249.826-2511-21
50.515142565551.014-346-26
51.636145444351.224-2615-21
52.457049643853.219-316-26
53.534652556253.626-2412-20
54.435476524453.833-2121-11
55.674053536856.214-347-23
56.544961745157.838-1427-9
57.466554586758.016-339-27
58.566755605358.243-1028-5
59.615766595459.425-2613-19
60.696863514759.637-1423-7
61.755548814260.210-382-34
62.505870626360.628-2415-17
63.645073616161.822-2811-19
64.605287714162.220-3012-20
65.715660675962.616-348-28
66.687668396463.010-394-32
67.526267666963.218-3111-21
68.657262497564.617-338-24
69.596664727066.234-18--
70.907456577370.034-1823-10
71.7059811015072.236-1625-7
72.797871686672.421-2915-17
73.917569797177.031-2022-10
74.737185738377.022-2612-19
75.727989927781.819-3013-19
76.9810565708083.615-339-21
77.928982838185.415-3510-22
78.1128079897987.824-2718-14

Conference Breakdowns:

 

No. 1 and it’s not even close

Fans in other regions don’t want to hear it, but the best rosters are in the SEC. It doesn’t mean Ohio State, USC, Texas or Florida State aren’t loaded (because they are). But no league can match the depth of talent of the SEC. Five of the top eight most-talented teams in the nation are from the SEC. Eight of the top 16 and 11 of the top 26 hail from the SEC. Vanderbilt is the least-talented team in the SEC (14th), but would rank eighth in the ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten. No other league has more than five teams ranked in the top 26.

 

SEC's average class ranking: 19.6

 

Defending champs

Ohio State tops the Big Ten charts by a wide margin with a greater disparity than any other league. Michigan is second in the Big Ten at No. 17 nationally (or ninth in the SEC). The Buckeyes would have the best roster in the Pac-12 and Big 12 as well. The message to the rest of the Big Ten is clear: Join the Buckeyes' recruiting party or get left in the dust. There is a reason OSU will likely enter 2015 as the No. 1 team in the nation.

 

Big Ten's average class ranking: 40.6

 

Pac-12 rising

The Pac-12 is the No. 2 league in the nation, closing the gap on the SEC over the last few seasons. It’s done so by hiring a great commissioner, adding a glut of great coaches and major financial investments in facilities and branding. It’s paid off on the field and on the trail. The Pac-12 trails only the SEC with five rosters ranked in the top 25. Additionally, three-fourths of the league is ranked 46th or higher — better than every other league not named the SEC.

 

Pac-12's average class ranking: 35.3

 

Dichotomy in the Big 12

The lack of elite-level talent in the Big 12 should be concerning. The league boasts only two teams (Texas, Oklahoma) inside the top 30 and is signing fewer top-100 players than any other league. The good news is the middle of the conference is fantastically competitive. The Big 12 has five teams ranked between 30th (Oklahoma State) and 38th (West Virginia). While this league may be lacking in elite, five-star talent, the heart of this league is extremely competitive.

 

Big 12's average class ranking: 37.4

 

What to make of the ACC?

Florida State is stacked and a proven commodity. Clemson has long been the second-most talented roster in this league. Miami has elite upside but is still mired in scandal/rebuilding mode. Otherwise, the better recruiting teams in this league have wildly underachieved of late (Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia) and the last two Coastal Division champs have wildly overachieved based on talent (Duke, Georgia Tech). The middle tier of teams, which includes rising power Louisville, needs to elevate itself nationally if the ACC wants to regain national notoriety among its Power 5 brethren.

 

ACC's average class ranking: 40.1

Teaser:
Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2014
Post date: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Louis Oosthuizen, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-29-louis-oosthuizen
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 29: Louis Oosthuizen

Born: Oct. 19, 1982, Mossel Bay, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 (7 on European Tour)  | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $946,134 (101st) World Ranking: 44

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Oosthuizen is hard to put on this list, because the Tour’s ranges are littered with players whose veins are coursing with ambition, and sometimes one wonders if Louis has a pulse at all. And yet, one can not deny his obscene talent. Players, caddies and all who have a chance to witness his game in full flight are agog at what he can do with a ball, as we all were in watching him win the Open Championship by seven shots in 2010 with a driving exhibition that had longtime observers struggling for comparisons. His up-and-down game seems to rise with his interest, and with that being the case he ended 2014 on a high note. I would love to see him play with great intensity for an entire season, and if he did, he could easily do this year what Martin Kaymer did last year.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 25
Wins: 1

2014 Performance:
Masters - 25
U.S. Open - T40
British Open - T36
PGA Championship - T15

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 2 (2012)
U.S. Open - T9 (2011)
British Open - 1 (2010)
PGA Championship - T15 (2014)
Top-10 Finishes: 3
Top-25 Finishes: 7
Missed Cuts: 12

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.

 

Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 17:32
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-26-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 26:

 

• Big news day for Ronda Rousey: She's embroiled in a verbal catfight with Arianny Celeste (pictured); she wants to win her upcoming bout so she can afford Pacquiao-Mayweather tickets; and she's rooting for Pacquiao cause he was nice to her.

 

Kevin Garnett got a nice welcome in his return to Minnesota.

 

• Sad: Josh Hamilton's apparent relapse. The booger sugar's bad news. 

 

Curt Schilling to Twitter creepers: Hands off my daughter.

 

• Picture this: LeBron James and LeBron James Jr., both in the NBA, circa 2024.

 

Here's video of Bill Belichick trying to figure out how to set the clock in his car.

 

Florida State's Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 30 points in the final 4:39 of his team's loss to Miami. That's not a misprint.

 

Long read about the latest round of brouhahas over analytics.

 

• On top of everything else, Aaron Hernandez is a bad tipper. Or at least bad at math.

 

• Zach Randolph launched a halftime buzzer beater from beyond halfcourt.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 14:44
All taxonomy terms: College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/sec-stadiums-enjoy-snow-day
Body:

A few SEC stadiums looked a little different on Thursday morning thanks to Mother Nature.

 

A late February snow storm provided a winter blast for a few SEC programs, which produced some cool images – and a snowball fight.

 

Here’s a look at a Snow Day in the SEC:

 

Tennessee

 

Arkansas

 

Ole Miss

Mississippi State

Teaser:
SEC Stadiums Enjoy a Snow Day
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 14:41
Path: /nba/kevin-garnett%E2%80%99s-return-minnesota-was-very-exciting
Body:

Like Odysseus before him, Kevin Garnett has gone through a long, weird journey that’s led him back to the only true endpoint: home.

 

After a trade returned him to the Minnesota Timberwolves last Thursday, Garnett made his first appearance in his new/old jersey with the ‘Wolves last night, as they beat the Washington Wizards 97-77 at home.

 

A standing ovation and overall roaring performance from the crowd accompanied KG’s return. 

 

"I've been back before and I never paid attention to how much love is here still for me because I'm too busy being focused on the game," Garnett told reporters. "And tonight it was just over the top. I did not know the city missed me like this. I don't think that you can ever wish or ever think the city loves you like this. But to see it is reality and I'm very appreciative.”

 

His impact on the floor was minimal — despite starting, Garnett played only 19 minutes, scoring five points to go with eight rebounds. That’s about as much as the 38-year-old can offer now, statistically.

 

But there’s no mistaking the extra energy and inspiration his homecoming gave the team. A hungry young squad keyed by the burgeoning rookie superstar Andrew Wiggins completed a 35-point swing after a 15-point deficit early on, to wallop the slumping Wizards. Washington’s 77 points marked a season-best defensive outing from Minny.

 

"Tonight's event was bigger than the game," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders told reporters later. "It's about bringing a family member back home.”

 

The ceiling is high for Minnesota. Wiggins is surrounded by a lot of talented players his age, like Gorgui Dieng, Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne, Shabazz Muhammad and the recently overlooked Ricky Rubio. Let’s see if Garnett can help this roster mature quickly, and be more than the sum of its unseasoned parts.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 13:34

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