All posts by Dan Lagnado

Dan served as a producer of ATV's SportsZone for two years while also hosting segments on baseball, American University athletics and football. He also served as on-air talent for the Patriot League Network, broadcasting American University sports. Additionally, he is a writer for both AroundCiti and isportsweb.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

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.

Federer and Sharapova reach milestones in Melbourne

The Australian Open is in full swing and  and as the first major of the year, it serves as a chance for some of the game’s best players to get back into the swing of things and ramp their game back up to their top level.

This year’s tournament, though it has already seen some upsets of top players, some of the biggest names in the sport have been cruising along as expected. On the men’s side, each of the top 4 seeds have made it through to the third round with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic already on to the fourth. On the women’s side, the 1, 4 and 5 seeds are through to the fourth round, with #3 seed Garbine Murguruza still left to play.

In their most recent matches, Federer, the men’s #3 seed, and Maria Sharapova, the women’s #5 seed, each reached significant career milestones.

Starting with the winningest player of all time, Federer earned his 300th Grand Slam match victory by beating Grigor Dmitrov in 4 sets 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Federer is at this point simply expanding his own record as he sits 67 wins ahead of Jimmy Connors. Federer, at 34, is also the oldest man to reach the round of 16 since Andre Agassi in 2005. Federer will face the 15 seed, David Goffin in the next round.

maria sharapova
Maria Sharapova has struggled in her career against Serena Williams but has 598 wins against everyone else

Sharapova is a 5 time Grand Slam winner and won in a championship in Melbourne in 2008. Though she faltered in the second set, she did go on to win the deciding third against young American Lauren Davis by a score of 6-1, 6-7, 6-0. For Sharapova it was her 600th career victory, a milestone that she joked was a reminder that she was getting old. Sharapova will face #18 Belinda Bencic in the fourth round and might face another match against Serena Williams in the quarterfinals if both women win their next matches.

As the Open heads into its second week, the match-ups start to get much more interesting as many of the unseeded qualifiers will have fallen, setting up ranked matches such as the classic Sharapova-Williams bout.

Should there be concern about Rafa Nadal?

The Australian Open is in full swing and as is the case with every tennis tournaments, there have already been upsets in the first round. On the women’s side, the number 32, 31, 29, 25, 22, 16, 8 and 2 seeds have all gone down. Most significant are the losses of Simona Halep, the #2 seed behind Serena Williams, Serena’s sister Venus, who came in as the 8 seed and the local favorite of my current home, Caroline Wozniacki.

The men’s draw is no stranger to upsets either. I previously mentioned the loss of the #17 seed Benoit Paire to Noah Rubin but the number 20, 11 and 5 seeds have also lost. But it’s that 5 seed that it’s time to talk about.

Rafael Nadal lost in the first round of a major for just the second time in his career. The first came at Wimbledon in 2013 when he lost to Steve Darcis. In this case the loss is a bit more respectable. Nadal fell to fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who has had a lengthy and successful career, in 5 sets. But it’s notable because of how Nadal’s career has gone in recent years. If this had happened a few years ago, it would have been seen as a simple blip, such as when he lost to Robin Soderling in the French Open, a tournament he has dominated in his career.

But if you combine this loss with his recent performance, it reveals something more alarming: that Rafael Nadal may have begun the downward spiral towards retirement. Nadal has won 14 majors and was, at one point, the best player in the world. But from there he began having problems with his knees, which kept him off the court and caused his ranking to drop. He has since been surpassed by the other members of the men’s tennis Big Four-Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic- as well as Stan Wawrinka.

Despite the injuries, Nadal had managed to maintain enough of his championship form to remain competitive. At least until 2015. 2015 was the first season that Nadal did not make a single major final for the first time in 10 years. Nada himself had spoken about a loss of confidence given last year’s performance, though he had said that he had like his performances from the early tournaments of 2016.

This loss now makes 5 consecutive majors without even a semi-finals appearance from Nadal (and 6 of the last 7), with his last win coming at the French Open in 2014. 2015 also marked the first time Nadal competed in all 4 Majors since 2011.

I’m not saying Nadal will never win a significant tournament again. The next Major is the French Open, which he has dominated for his entire career. But not everyone has the longevity of Federer and it may be time to recognize that Nadal may not be able to compete with the best of the best for much longer outside of his magnificence on clay.

Thumbs up: Noah Rubin

I’m going to be honest here. This story makes me feel quite inadequate. But nonetheless I have to give a big thumbs up to Noah Rubin. Who is Noah Rubin? Good question.

Noah is a 19 year old American tennis player playing in the 2016 Australian Open. And Noah, just this weekend, won his first career professional tennis match.

But there’s more than just someone getting their first win. Rubin earned his first win, in a major tournament as just a wild card entry and ranked a lowly 328 in the world.

The American teenager ousted the 17 seed, Frenchman Benoit Paire, in straight sets, 7-6 7-6 7-6 to earn his first major victory. Though Paire was clearly not pleased with his own performance and his 72(!) unforced errors, I give a lot of credit to Rubin for being able to take advantage of the mistakes and string enough points together, even if Paire was not so complimentary of the youngster.

Beyond simply congratulating a young American tennis player, I feel a closer connection to this story. Noah Rubin hails from Long Island, New York and has actually played tennis at the same club where I used to back when I was playing sports rather than blogging about them. While I don’t know him personally-he is younger and much better than I am-I still feel like he deserves the shout out and that I have some connection to him and his success.

Additionally, since the retirement of Andy Roddick there has been a bit of a talent vacuum when it comes to American men’s tennis. John Isner is probably the best America has to offer at the moment on the men’s side but he struggles to make it deep into any major tournaments. Any potential young talent is worth keeping an eye on.

Rubin will advance and play another Frenchman, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, in the second round. Good luck to Noah and way to represent Long Island tennis!

Thumbs up: Blair Walsh

Now I know many of you reading the headline are asking “why are you giving a thumbs up to the dude who lost a playoff game for the Vikings?” And that is a fair question to ask. But bear with me and you’ll see why.

As mentioned above, Walsh, in the eyes of some, is the reason that the Vikings lost to the Seahawks last weekend in the playoffs. By the same token, the score was 10-9 so Walsh was the only reason the Vikes kept the score close, but you can understand the frustration at a missed 27 yard field goal, which is considered by many to be a chip shot.

But alas Walsh does miss his field goal and I’m sure got loads of hate from Minnesotans on Twitter. Though not everyone was so upset. A group of students at Northpoint Elementary School wrote Walsh letters of encouragement and had them sent to Vikings headquarters. For the students this was a class exercise on empathy.

But Walsh took it another step forward. He delayed his trip out of town-which takes courage in and of itself because I’m sure he’s not the most popular guy in Minnesota right now-to visit the school. He personally thanked the students for their messages and imparted some wisdom to the students as well.

Check out the video from ESPN here.

So that’s why Walsh gets a thumbs up. Because despite the miss, he remained a good and upbeat person and that’s exactly the person you want to be sending young children a message.

New head coach spells end for Manziel in Cleveland

The Cleveland Browns have made yet another coaching change, hiring Hue Jackson to be their 6th head coach since 2008. Jackson replaces Mike Pettine, who was fired immediately following the Browns’ final game of the season.

Jackson had previously been the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals. His last head coaching job was in 2011 when he went 8-8 in his only season with the Oakland Raiders.

Jackson has just been introduced as the new head coach, but reports are already out about Johnny Manziel’s status with the team. The first reports out of Cleveland is that during his interview and meeting with team ownership, Jackson requested that the team “move on” from the troubled quarterback.

For all his success at Texas A&M, Manziel hasn’t quite found a way to translate that to the professional game. He has lost training camp quarterback competitions twice, once to Brian Hoyer and once Josh McCown. He did get some chances to play due to injuries and while he had moments of the Manziel we saw at A&M, overall the success hasn’t been there at the professional level. He is 2-6 as a starter in his two year career with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

But beyond the mediocrity on the field, Manziel has had off the field troubles as well. He is often seen out partying either during bye weeks or just regularly during the season. This past year he notably was late for his concussion tests because of a late night, wore a disguise to go to a party towards the end of the season and was benched after a video appeared on Instagram of him at a party back in Texas.

Prior to the season, Manziel voluntarily checked himself into rehab in an attempt to curb some of his risky behavior.

There is no word on how this transaction may take place, but whether he is released or traded, Cleveland has likely seen the last of Johnny Football.

Road Teams Sweep Wild Card Weekend

For the first time in NFL history, four road teams all won in one weekend of the NFL Playoffs. Beginning with the AFC leg on Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs went to Houston and shut out the Texans, while the Steelers edged one out in Cincinnati against the Bengals.

Be sure to check out SportsZone’s analysis of Game 1 and Game 2.

Moving on to the NFC leg on Sunday, once again it was the road teams who got the job done. In the early game, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks began their attempt at reaching a third straight Super Bowl and used a strong 4th quarter and a little luck to knock off the Minnesota Vikings 10-9. In the night-cap, the Green Bay Packers turned in the best offensive performance of the weekend to defeat the Washington Redskins 35-18.

What this weekend shows is that age and experience may be more important than straight up talent when it comes to the playoffs. Despite being the higher seeds, all 4 home teams had quarterbacks making their first ever playoff start: Brian Hoyer, AJ McCarron, Teddy Bridgewater and Kirk Cousins.

Bridgewater and Cousins are certainly considered to be the franchise quarterbacks for the Vikings and Redskins respectively and may well go on to have great careers, but this weekend they played second fiddle to Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, two of the best in the game.

Hoyer has been a journeyman for much of his career and struggled to stay on the field this season. However, when he was on the field, he helped the Texans win games along with their stout defense and the breakout season of DeAndre Hopkins.

McCarron served as the backup to Andy Dalton and made 4 starts after Dalton broke his thumb. He handled his new role quite well, going 2-2 and helping the Bengals to earn a #3 seed. That said, if he remains with the Bengals he should return to a backup role.

On the winning side of the weekend are quarterbacks and teams that have much more playoff experience. Alex Smith and the Chiefs last made the playoffs two season ago when they blew a huge lead to Andrew Luck and the Colts in the first round. Smith showed that the Chiefs learned from that experience and earned his second career playoff win in 4 starts.

The other three winning quarterbacks have a combined 4 Super Bowl wins. Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers each have made the playoffs 8 different times and Russell Wilson has made three straight playoffs and been to the Super Bowl twice.

Something else to take from this historic weekend is that playoff seeding may be a flawed system. Both the Texans and Redskins had higher seeds despite having worse records than the teams the played against. Houston and Washington both finished at 9-7, enough to win the two weakest divisions in football this year, and played Wild Card teams, Kansas City and Green Bay, with 11 and 10 wins respectively. Additionally, the New York Jets, who finished at 10-6, the same record as the Steelers and Packers, missed out on the playoffs entirely despite finishing with better numbers than 2 playoff teams.

Next week’s match-ups will be the Steelers facing the Broncos, the Chiefs at the Patriots, the Packers at the Cardinals and the Seahawks facing the Panthers.

Chiefs snap playoff winless streak

In what was certainly the least exciting of the 2 AFC Wild Card Playoff Games of the 2015-2016 postseason, the Kansas City Chiefs shut out the Houston Texans 30-0.

Houston is the first team to get shut out in the playoffs since 2005.

Kansas City earns their first postseason win since Joe Montana was the quarterback way back in 1994. They had lost 8 straight in the playoffs until their win Saturday.

Everything came up the Chiefs’ way from the opening kickoff when Knile Davis went 106 yards to the house for a 7-0 lead. From there, KC’s vaunted defense took over the game. Brian Hoyer turned the ball over 5 times, with 4 interceptions and a fumble lost, and was sacked 3 times. He ended the game with a 1.7 passer QBR out of a possible 100.

2014 NFL Pro Bowl
Alex Smith continued his stellar postseason play (10 TD, 1 INT in 4 games) as the Chiefs earn their first postseason win in over 2 decades.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg)

Kansas City’s offense was far from perfect but it was certainly more than enough. Alex Smith threw for just 190 yards but added a touchdown strike to rookie Chris Conley, while Spencer Ware added 67 yards and touchdown on the ground. Much of the damage came in the second half with both offensive touchdowns coming in the second half hour of the game.

One major loss for the Chiefs in a day when all else had gone nearly perfectly was a knee injury to Jeremy Maclin. Maclin was promptly ruled out for the remainder of the game and will have MRIs as early as Sunday. The team fears that Maclin suffered a significant ACL injury in his right knee, the same knee which he had injured twice previously. In Maclin’s absence, tight end Travis Kelce had himself a day racking up 128 yards on 8 catches.

On Houston’s side of the ball, J.J. Watt was made into a non-factor by Kansas City’s scheme and then left the game in the third quarter with a groin injury and did not return. He also got his first career rushing attempt out of the Wildcat formation deep in KC territory and lost one yard. Hoyer was intercepted the following play. Alfred Blue rushed for 99 yards in the loss, though 49 came on one play, and DeAndre Hopkins had more receiving yards (69) than the rest of his teammates (67). Whitney Mercilus had all 3 of the Texans’ sacks on the day.

Kansas City will head to New England to play the Patriots to put their 11 game winning streak on the line against Tom Brady and company.

Thumbs Up: Mike Piazza

When Mike Piazza was traded to the New York Mets I was three years old. When he left the Mets, I was 10. Now, I know that even 10 is a young age to watch and fully understand sports.

But I remember Mike Piazza.

Many people of my generation born around the same time as me, recognize David Wright as the face of the Mets. And they should. Wright has been with the Mets for 11 years and he is the captain after all.

But I do remember a time before there was David Wright. When the guy you wanted at the plate in a big spot wore number 31 and not number 5.

For the longest time, the Hall of Fame was full of myths and legends. The Hank Aarons and Jackie Robinsons and Willie Mayses of the world. Those players whose feats you heard about but couldn’t understand because you weren’t there.

Now I’ve reached the point in my life where the inductees are people that I’ve seen play. Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. are all players who, though it takes effort, I can remember having seen.

But none of them have the impact that Piazza did for me. Everybody picks out their favorite player on their favorite team, either consciously or subconsciously. The first guy that I came to recognize as a good player, the face of a team and someone who brought hope and joy to fans was Mike Piazza.

There is something special to me about seeing Piazza get elected to the Hall of Fame. New York will always love Mike. We will always remember the late game dramatics and the heroism. The monstrous power and the healing power of one swing.

But beyond all that I will always have a soft spot for Mike Piazza. He was my first sports hero and this election is an honor that was 4 years overdue for the greatest offensive catcher in the history of the game and a man who was a pleasure to watch play the game of baseball.

So thumbs up and congratulations to Mike Piazza on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Now the Mets need to get with the program and retire his number 31.