Phil vs Carmelo

New York Knicks’ star forward, Carmelo Anthony, has recently received a lot of attention in the media for his open dispute with Knicks’ president Phil Jackson. The dispute has stemmed from Jackson’s willingness to publicly put his own players under a microscope.

Jackson is a well-known and well-respected NBA coach with 11 championships to his name; not to mention the two he won with the Knicks as a player in the early 70s. In total, Jackson holds the NBA record for most championships as a coach and a player.

While he undoubtedly holds a very impressive resume, many would argue that Jackson is pushing for an outdated system. He is known for his use of the “triangle offense,” which can be successful when implemented by the right players. Knicks’ coach Jeff Hornacek, however, has not made consistent use of the triangle. He usually opts for a more fast- paced approach that the players responded to earlier in the season.

After getting off to a fairly strong start, the Knicks have struggled as of late. Some blame the problems on the difficult transition of key players from Chicago to New York, and even the team’s star Carmelo Anthony for holding the ball for too long.

Even the team’s president, who should be one of the biggest advocates of the players, has more or less thrown his star player under the bus.

The true problem with the Knicks lies in distractions off the court. At the heart of these distractions is Jackson himself. After the Knicks won four consecutive games in December, the team’s president publicly called out Anthony for being a ball hog.

Jackson’s comments came as a shock, especially because the Knicks were doing so well at that time. Among other factors, the timing just didn’t make sense.

It has become more clear now that Jackson’s plans for the future of the Knicks do not include Carmelo Anthony.

The two have rarely seen eye-to-eye on the team’s operations and plans for the future, but Anthony has always seemed more willing to work with Jackson for the success of the team. After a meeting between the two this week, it appears that Jackson is less eager.

In the meeting, Jackson reportedly asked if Anthony even wanted to be a Knick anymore. Time and time again, Anthony has proven himself and his love for New York to the organization and its fans. He is the centerpiece of a team that has great potential. In his meeting with Jackson, Anthony reiterated his desire to stay with the team. His only roadblock might be his own president.

Many Knicks’ fans fear Anthony will soon grow tired of Jackson’s shenanigans and accept a trade to a team that gives him a more immediate chance of winning, and less of an everyday battle with the front office.

Tensions are high in the Knicks’ organization. The team is struggling and certainly cannot afford to lose Melo. He has been a power force, team leader, and model citizen for the Knicks since 2011, and should not have to continuously answer for the president of the organization.

If someone has to go in order for the Knicks to have success, it has to be Phil Jackson.

image: http://clutchpoints.com/

Domestic Violence in Professional Sports Is Out of Control

Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia is currently facing the consequences of a domestic violence incident that took place at his home in New Jersey. He was arrested on Nov. 11th,  2016 and later released on $1500 bail. Major League Baseball has yet to take any disciplinary action against Familia, but it is almost certain that a suspension will be issued for the start of the 2017 season.

What makes the incident even more appalling is that Familia was featured in an ad campaign launched by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence just under a month before his arrest. The #NotAFan campaign features other big names in the sports world such as Joe Girardi, John Starks, and Rod Gilbert who say that they are a fan of their team, but not a fan of domestic violence. http://www.notafandv.info/

It is a sad reality that we are no longer surprised when we hear of another case of domestic violence at the hands of a professional athlete. However, in the case of Familia, it is nothing short of shocking that he did this such a short time after pledging that he would not.

Familia’s case is unfortunately one of the many related to domestic violence that professional sports have seen in recent years.

Former Colorado Rockies’ shortstop, José Reyes, also had a recent run-in with the law for domestic violence. After an incident in Oct. 2015 that left his wife with injuries to her leg and scratches on her neck, Reyes was arrested, and shortly after released on only $1000 bail; an insignificant amount compared to his yearly salary. Nothing further came of the investigation as Reyes’ wife was unwilling to cooperate as a witness.

Reyes was signed by the Mets in 2016. He made significant contributions to the team as they overcame injuries to key players en route to the wild card game. His domestic violence incident surely lurks in the back of the minds of some fans, but it is my belief that for most it is an afterthought.

Sticking with baseball,  Aroldis Chapman of the Chicago Cubs was the first athlete to receive disciplinary action from MLB after its implementation of the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse policy. As a whole, this policy serves to hold players accountable for their actions in the realm of domestic violence. Chapman violently assaulted his girlfriend in his home in Miami in Oct. 2014, and was not eligible to play at the start of the 2015 season, when he was a member of the New York Yankees.

While it is progressive that MLB has taken the steps necessary to implement a policy against such actions, it will be curious to see whether or not preliminary discipline actually deters future incidents. In other words, I’m not sure that the precedent of a 30 game unpaid suspension has significant enough a financial impact on players to prevent future infractions of the sort.

In addition, a short-term unpaid suspension is 100% NOT sufficient enough a punishment for such appalling actions. It is a dismal part of our culture that props athletes up on such a pedestal that cases like these are forgotten shortly after they occur.

In the NFL, we have seen far too many domestic violence cases in recent years. The first to occur in the 2016 year was the case of Johnny Manziel. The former Cleveland Browns quarterback was dropped by both the team and his agent after an incident that left his ex-girlfriend deaf in one ear.

Another substantial case of domestic violence involving an NFL player was that of Ray Rice. Rice was arrested in May of 2014 for the assault of his then fiancée, now wife, in an elevator in Atlantic City. A video surfaced of Rice dragging an unconscious body out of the elevator after he had knocked her out. The former Baltimore Ravens running back was dropped by the team, and the league suspended him indefinitely. While this is certainly a more severe punishment than those handed down by the MLB, I do not believe that it is sufficient enough given the actions taken by Rice.

After the Ray Rice incident, the NFL vowed to take action in combating the widespread problem of domestic abuse across the league. Public service announcements, including a very powerful one that can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTJT3fVv1vU were created by the organization No More, and supported by the NFL. This one in particular was showcased as a commercial during Super Bowl 49.

While the NFL has taken some initiative in their disciplinary actions against offenders of domestic violence within their business, are they really doing enough? I’m not sure that enough can ever be obtained in this sense. Despite the NFL’s attempt at progression, we seem to hear of new cases of domestic abuse on a regular basis. The problem lies in the fact that professional athletes are under the impression that because they are professional athletes, they can get away with this behavior having only suffered the loss of a minor portion of their income. Or, worst case scenario, getting dropped by a team and having to wait on another to pick them up.

Ultimately, the problem of domestic violence in Major League Baseball and the National Football League is completely out of control, and nothing up to this point has been overly effective in combating it.

image: http://www.wsj.com/

How Jose Fernandez Deserves to be Remembered

I’ll be the first sports fan to be frustrated with an owner or manager who is not honest with the media. People who are dedicated to their sports teams have an absolute right to know what is going on. No beating around the bush- tell me straight if our ace needs Tommy John surgery. Tell me straight if you won’t be calling up that prospect until August.

However, when it comes to real issues that affect people’s lives, leave out the details.

The death of Jose Fernandez has left the baseball world mourning. It was heartbreaking news to so many at its onset. Since then, we remain brokenhearted at the disregard for loss of life painted by headlines that attribute the deaths to Fernandez’s potential substance abuse on that night.

It is no right of the public to have any information regarding the boat crash that may lead to the misconception that Fernandez was anything short of a fantastic man.

The fact is that we lost three young men on that night to things that young people often find themselves involved with. It is a tragic loss of life that while preventable, does not warrant attribution of blame.

Jose Fernandez was truly incredible.  He was so vibrant and passionate. He was one of the few who  played the game purely out of love; never mind the fact that he was wildly talented. He deserves to be remembered for his excellence on and off the diamond, and not some headline that links him to drugs or alcohol. Those who love him have certainly suffered enough.

1992-2016

image: http://thecomeback.com/

Catch the Heartbreak

Prior to their 2015 surge to the World Series, the New York Mets experienced a nine-year drought of postseason-less baseball. This brings us all the way back to 2006, a year of wide-eyed young stars and seasoned veterans. The perfect combination, or so they had thought, to bring Queens its third championship in franchise history. Team chemistry had a lot to do with the success of the 2006 Mets. All of their hard work culminated to a National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

With their entire season on the line, the Mets sent Oliver Perez to the mound against Jeff Suppan in Game 7. The game was tied at one going into the sixth inning. What happened in the top of that inning would be forever etched in MLB history as one of the greatest defensive plays in the sport’s postseason history. Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen of a home run at the left field wall and doubled off Jim Edmons at first base to end the inning. Had he not made “the catch,” the Cardinals would have been up by two runs, which would have likely put the final nail in the coffin for the Mets. Fittingly, the advertisement along the left field wall at Shea Stadium was AIG’s slogan, “the strength to be there.”

Despite Endy’s heroics, the Mets would lose that game in 2006, sending them packing until they finally reached the postseason again in 2015. Fast forward one year later, and the Mets are in the 2016 Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants, trying to scratch and claw their way back to the NLDS.

The stage was set at Citi Field for the ultimate pitchers’ duel between Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner.

Each ace battled their way into the late innings of the game without allowing a run. Just as Perez did ten years prior, Syndergaard got into a bit of a jam in the sixth inning. With a man on second, Brandon Belt hit the ball to deep center field.

Curtis Granderson, who was playing center that night, had been having a mediocre year until about September. Once that final month hit, he turned on the jets, and had the breakout month the lineup desperately needed. Already a hero for his crucial role in getting the team to the do-or-die game, Granderson tracked the ball over his head all the way to the warning track, and made an incredible catch as he crashed into the wall.

Witnessing this from the right field stands transported me, and likely many other Mets fans, back to Endy in ‘06. But this time, ten years later, we were confident the results would be different.

They weren’t.

The Mets fell to the Giants after closer Jeurys Familia allowed a three-run homer to Conor Gillaspie in the ninth inning. A defeat equally, if not more crushing, than the one in ‘06.

The moments when Chavez and Granderson made their catches were the moments all Mets fans and players alike had the same thought: “We are not losing this freaking game.”

Hang in there Mets fans. Here’s hoping the third time will be the charm for a season-saving catch that will actually save the season.

images:
http://www.northjersey.com/
http://www.newsday.com/

Bartolo Colon makes history twice in a week

We all know the ever-growing legend of Bartolo Colon, the nearly 43-year-old pitcher for the New York Mets. Bartolo has been nothing if not solid in his two years with the Mets and has had incredible longevity to stick around for what is now his 19th season. But in his last two starts he has entered the record books in two unique ways.

On Monday against Atlanta, Colon earned his 220th career win. Not only is that the highest number among active pitchers but it also moved him past Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez into second place on the All Time list of Wins by a Dominican born pitcher. Colon is now only behind Juan Marichal.

And then just yesterday, Colon was at it again launching a two-run home run off of James Shields in San Diego for his first career home run. In doing so, Colon became the oldest player to hit their first career home run, moving past another Hall of Famer in Randy Johnson.

There is usually nothing more fun than watching a Bartolo Colon start. At nearly 300 pounds Colon certainly doesn’t look like he should be a professional athlete and yet his feats of athleticism are remarkable. Last year Colon set a career high for hits in a season. He continues to be a control wizard and rarely walks anyone. He’s exceptional when it comes to fielding his position and the Mets even made a Spring Training drill in honor of Colon and last year’s behind the back flip to first base against the Marlins. And his at bats are usually top entertainment, mostly as a result of wild swings and an ill-fitting helmet. But on some beautiful occasions, Colon makes contact and if he gets all of his bulky frame behind a ball can get some serious exit velocity on it. And if he does, more often than not he carries the bat with him to first base.

If there’s one thing to take from this it’s that there is absolutely nothing Bartolo can’t do and that we should strive to live our lives as happily as Bartolo Colon does. #BigSexy2016

Can They Get There Again?

In 2015, the New York Mets fell just short of their first World Series title in nearly 30 years. They were defeated four games to one by the Kansas City Royals in a series that, in hindsight, should have been much closer. Many even say that the Mets should have taken the series, as they had late leads in games one, four, and five. While I do credit the Royals for their relentless comeback efforts, and their ability to capitalize on errors made by the Mets in the late innings of games four and five, I wholeheartedly believe that the Mets  ultimately acted as their own worst enemy.

Mets closer, Jeurys Familia, who had been nearly perfect all season, blew three saves in the World Series. Two of these blown saves were direct results of errors made by Mets infielders (second baseman Daniel Murphy, and first baseman Lucas Duda). Perhaps it was the pressure that took a toll on the team during those late innings. Many of the 2015 Mets players had never played in such high stakes games before. Going into 2016, I believe the experience they have gained will propel them right back to the Fall Classic, and that we are likely to see a different outcome. I could very well see the 2016 World Series featuring the Royals and the Mets once again, but I believe the Mets have what it takes this time around.

2016 holds more promise for the Mets than ever before, with a key returning bat in Yoenis Céspedes, new additions in Asdrúbal Cabrera and Neil Walker, and the resurgence of Zack Wheeler to undoubtedly the best (and newly postseason experienced) rotation in baseball. All of this under the leadership of the Captain, David Wright, leaves me with little doubt that Mets can perform to at least the standard that they set in the previous season.

With all of that being said, I do not by any means believe that the Mets will run away with the league championship, or even the division title. The Washington Nationals will yet again pose a significant challenge to the Mets in the East, but the Mets’ rotation is what should ultimately lead them passed worthy competitors.

Other teams will now be more eager than ever to knock off the reigning National League Champions in what should be a very exciting season.

Here’s to 2016.

image: http://www.wsj.com/articles/who-is-this-team-and-what-have-you-done-with-the-new-york-mets-1445523148

 

 

Success and Pay Not Correlated in U.S. Soccer

The  U.S. Women’s National Team has made the latest move in an ongoing dispute over the  unfair treatment they receive from the United States Soccer Federation. The five most renowned players have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under which  they accuse the United States Soccer Federation of gender discrimination. Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Alex Morgan and their lawyer Jeffrey Kessler- who defended Tom Brady in the infamous “Deflategate”-  have stepped forward citing the wage gap between the men’s national team and women’s national team to be unfair considering the success the women’s team has had. Even though the five women are the ones who filed the complaint Sauerbrunn states, “the decision to file was wholeheartedly supported by the entire team.”

The United States Soccer Federation has argued that the reason behind the women’s pay is that they negotiated for a salary based system over the bonus system that the men negotiated to have. Even so, according to Kessler the team has “a very strong case of blatant gender discrimination.” The statistics support Kessler’s claim; the wage gap between the two teams is incredibly high. Each member on the women’s team will make about $1,350 if they win, and if they lose they get nothing. On the other hand, the men’s team could each make up to $17,625- depending on how high the opposing team is ranked. Even if they lose, the men’s team is still looking at making $5,000. So, even after losing a game the men’s team still makes $3,650 more than what the women’s team makes for winning. Since each team is required to play at least 20 friendly matches it’s very obvious that in the end the wages won’t even come close to each other. Imagining that the women’s team wins all 20 games they would make $27,000 each, and if the men do the same they could make up to $352,500. If the men’s team lost all 20 games they would still be making $100,000, which is still $73,000 more than what the women’s team would make for winning all 20 games.

The United States Soccer Federation also argues that the five team members and their lawyer have picked the most successful year for women’s soccer and it is resulting in misleading conclusions. Yet, the Women’s National team has brought in a revenue of $17.7 million, much more than what the Federation had anticipated. The Women’s World Cup Final was also the most watched soccer game in United States television history with  25.4 million views. With three Women’s FIFA World Cups, four olympic gold medals, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup seven times, and one Algarve Cup- one of the most prestigious women’s tournaments-, Carli Lloyd rightfully states “I think that we’ve proven our worth over the years.” Dates for any action that will occur with the complaint are still being negotiated.

Major League Baseball Returns to Cuba, first time since 1999

On a day that was marked with a dark cloud over the terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium, many were able to seek solace with a landmark event that occurred in Havana, Cuba. For the first time since 1999, a Major League Baseball game was played in the country that, for decades, had been relatively closed off to the United States. A symbol of renewed openness and relations between the United States and Cuba saw Presidents Obama and Castro sitting behind the netting at Estadio Latinoamericano as the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Cuban National Team in a Spring Training exhibition game.

hoyla-fgal-cubacastroobama-029
Rays players line up with Cuban children for the singing of the respective National Anthems

The Rays defeated the Cuban National Team by a score of 4-1 as Dayron Varona made his return to his native Cuba, leading off for Tampa Bay. Prior to stepping into the batter’s box, Varona received a standing ovation from all fans in attendance; he is the first player to ever defect and then return to play in his home country. After the game, Varona expressed the entire thrill of the trip, from seeing his family for the first time since his defection to playing in front of his home crowd. The first pitch of the game was hit to the right of first base by Varona;  a high pop-up that resulted in the first out. When asked why he swung at the first pitch, Varona stated that he might as well hit the ball as hard as he could because “it would make it to the Hall of Fame” anyway.

The last visit by a Major League Club to Cuba happened 17 years ago when the Baltimore Orioles played in a Spring Training game. Today’s game showcased something much different. It was filled with a capacity crowd of 55,000, celebrating the “open door” relations between Cuba and the United States, it was a homecoming for Dayron Varona, and it was a game filled with symbolism and exuberance.

Said Ray’s starting pitcher, Matt Moore, “It’s really great, you know, this is something that feels like a very big game back home. … I’ve had the opportunity to be in the playoffs a few times, and this feels like that kind of an event.” Moore, like others were amazed by the entire scene, from the thrill of the game to the political and organizational underlying significance. Baseball may finally be open to Cuba and Cuba to baseball. We might see an influx of Cuban players in the game; players who no longer feel the need to run under cover of night and defect from their home just to achieve a dream of playing in the Major Leagues. Cuban players were also incredibly excited about the opportunities this day brought with Cuban player, Rudy Reyes giving his view of the game, “A lot, this game meant a lot, because of the brotherhood there will be from now on.”

Notes:

-Notable members of the crowd included Secretary of State, John Kerry, Yankee icon Derek Jeter, Rachel Robinson, widow of the late Jackie Robinson, and Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred.

-Cuban pitcher and 19-year major leaguer, Luis Tiant and former Cuban National player, Pedro Luis Lazo threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Estadio Latinoamericano

-Though there was much excitement over the game, Cuban protestors and dissidents interrupted ESPN’s Bob Ley throwing pamphlets and calling for freedoms

h/t:

-http://m.mlb.com/news/article/168496904/historic-rays-cuba-game-filled-with-thrills

-http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/15045394/tampa-bay-rays-beat-cuban-national-team-landmark-game

AU Men’s Hoops takes home 2 conference honors

As the regular season is all wrapped up and Patriot League postseason match-ups are set, the conference awarded it’s annual awards. And despite finishing in the bottom half of the standings, AU had two notable names come up with big honors.

First, senior, Jesse Reed was honored with a selection to the All-Patriot League Second Team. Reed led the Eagles in scoring for the third consecutive season (12.8 PPG), as well as in rebounds (4.3 RPG) and assists (2.1 APG). This is Reed’s third straight all-league honor as he was named to the third team last year and the second team in 2014. Reed now has 1375 points in his career at AU currently good for 16th in program history and #2 among active players in the conference.

AU’s second big honor came when freshman Delante Jones was named to the conference’s All-Rookie team as well as the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. In his first season of D1 basketball, Jones averaged 12 points per game while adding 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 28 games and 23 starts. Jones quickly impressed coach Mike Brennan to become one of two freshmen in the 2015-2016 starting lineup along with James Washington. Washington and Jones should play important roles both this postseason and moving forward to the long term for American.

Jones was selected by the 10 coaches in the conference and likely saw a boost in votes after reaching double figures in points in 12 of the Eagles’ last 13 games. He is the first Eagle to win Rookie of the Year honors since Derrick Mercer in 2006.

The sixth seeded Eagles will look to continue their season when they travel to face #3 Boston University on Thursday in the Patriot League Quarterfinals.

The Curious Case of the Premier League

The Barclay’s Premier League has long marketed itself as the most unpredictable league in the world. And while in most years the claim serves as a strong advertisement and nothing more, this year the words are quite true.

Look no further than the league leaders with 15 games left to play. Don’t rub your eyes, that is Leicester City’s name you see atop the table. Led by the dynamic duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the Foxes have taken the English league by storm. While the struggles of Chelsea (in 13th place) and Manchester United (5th) have allowed room at the top of the table, Leicester City was not supposed to be a beneficiary of these struggles. Leicester was supposed to be in a relegation fight with new manager Claudio Raneiri, not a fight for a Champions League spot.

With each passing week, people claim Leicester City’s bubble will pop and they will return back to earth, and with each passing week Vardy, Mahrez and Co. prove everyone wrong. Vardy set the Premier League record for consecutive games with a goal when he scored in 11 straight matches in during a red hot period from August to November and has managed 16 goals overall. Mahrez, not to be overshadowed by his teammate, has managed 13 goals, giving Leicester two of the top five goal scorers in English soccer.

It is now too late in the season to say Leicester City is a pretender. They must be strongly considered to fight Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham for the Premier League title.

News just this week has made Leicester’s case for the title even stronger. Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City’s $90 million man, suffered ligament damage in a League Cup match against Everton that will sideline him for up to 6 weeks. This injury coupled with Arsenal’s recent struggles (2 points from their last 3 matches) make it really seem plausible that it could be Leicester City’s year.

Leicester’s magical run at the top of the league has masked some of the other unpredictable elements of this year’s Barclay’s Premier League. West Ham United, Southampton, Stoke City and Watford (all typical mid-table/relegation fighters) sit on the top half of the table within 5 points of a Europa League spot. Tottenham is experiencing a youth revitalization under Mauricio Pottechino and are threatening to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since the departure of Gareth Bale. Liverpool is struggling under new manager Jurgen Klopp, Everton is underperforming for its talent level and AFC Bouremouth is surviving comfortably in its first top flight season in its 125 year history.

Yet all these stories are being overshadowed, rightfully so, by little Leicester City. Will Leicester City keep up their torrid pace and win the league? Who knows. They’ve already dodged what many perceived as a major bullet in retaining Mahrez and Vardy during the transfer window.

This Premier League season truly has been unpredictable and will be must watch TV from now until a winner is crowned in mid-May.

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