Who says that the nation’s greatest ever pastime is dead ?

Who says that the nation’s greatest ever pastime is dead ?

Unofficially, the MLB season has started with a two-game series having already taken place between NL West teams the Arizona Diamondbacks (0-2) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2-0) playing their series in Brisbane, Australia,. For managers Don Mattingly and Kirk Gibson . this has been a start to a season, in which , both will be seeking to compensate for poor regular seasons, albeit, that Mattingly was able to lead his Dodgers to the NLCS against the St Louis Cardinals , where the team would fall to the NL Central based Cardinals , in six less than thrilling games , where the overrated Los Angles’ franchise simply fell apart . As to the reason , why this All Star laden team would succumb so easily , can be best summed up by the fact , that there was a great deal of complacency on the part of the players as well as Mattingly and his managerial staff .

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For the defending World Series’ champions the Boston Red Sox , led by manager John Farrell , this past season and their achievements , were nothing short of astonishing. From a last place finish within the . AL East , in 2012, to overcoming the ineptitude showed that season, along with the summary dismissal of Bobby Valentine . The latter, of whom, was simply hired for style over substance.

Farrell was able to lead his team with great deal of aplomb, as they weaved their way through an arduous regular season schedule and then without breaking much of a sweat , romped through the postseason , with a great deal of ease. Now the question becomes for one baseball’s most revered organizations , _____ can they make a successful defense of their title or simply fall by the wayside ? The Boston Red Sox are likely to be the initial prohibitive favorites within the AL East , where the division is likely to be a three-horse race between themselves , the Baltimore Orioles and either New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays, dependent upon which the way the wind is blowing or moreover , dependent upon whom the Vegas odds-makers believe to be the more credible of the two candidates.

As usual the MLB off-season posed a number of questions , of which the biggest had to be , how would the New York Yankees fare in the upcoming season , knowing that this would be Derek Jeter’s last season with the franchise after an two-decade career with the ball-club. A player of his stature, cannot easily be replaced, in spite of the now ongoing debates within baseball circles concerning the player’s career and where he now ranks the all-time greats to have donned a Yankees’ uniform . From my own perspective, I believe Jeter to be amongst the top twenty players in the ball-club’s history and where he might ranks within that number , would be entirely based upon how one might feel about his list of achievements and the era in which he played.

The New York Yankees made a splash during the off-season committing over $300 million to players they acquired to bolster their roster , while having the lost the likes of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson to free agency. That being said, GM Brian Cashman and senior managing partner, Hal Steinbrenner know that this will be a season upon which they will be judged , with the added pressure the fans will want to send off the team’s revered captain with another World Series’ title , which would be in-fact Derek Jeter’s sixth , with baseball’s most successful franchise .

Coming into this season, with another bloated payroll , once again close to , if not exceeding $200 million , one has to ask how much longer the front office can continue to simply splurge on players , while having no real trust within their farm system having drafted presumed talent, in the hope that they would simply blossom and be productive for the franchise. Granted , the measure of success attained over the years , has somewhat downplayed those assertions to an extent , but in reality , they simply cannot be overlooked. Were it not for the benefits, offered by of the club’s ownership of the YES Network and being domiciled in the nation’s largest ad market . I seriously doubt that the New York Yankees would have achieved the measure of success attained under former manager Joe Torre and most recently with their last postseason triumph in 2009 with current manager Joe Girardi .

Girardi and his players will begin their season, with a series against the Houston Astros on the 1st April ,2014 at Minute Maid Park , in Houston , Texas. The likely starters will be CC Sabathia of the Yankees against Houston’s Scott Feldman . For the beleaguered Astros’ franchise , besides their ongoing off the field issues , their biggest hope has to be to avoid and enduring another loss of one hundred games for a third consecutive season , having been able to achieve that feat in 2012 and 2013 . An ignominious feat, while team owner , Jim Crane claims that his ball-club is in a healthy and competitive state. One has to wonder how that can be, while he seeks to sue broadcast partner CSN Houston , parent company Comcast Inc as well as Drayton McClane , the a Astros’ former owner. More to the point, given the fact that Bud Selig was a conduit for the sale , I have to ask, why Crane also has not focused his attention at the MLB Commissioner, with regard to the pending litigation and the very fact that Selig played a large part in the engineering of the sale of the franchise and its relocation from the NL Central in 2012 to the AL West in 2013 ? Bear in mind, that, Crane and the franchise, received a hearty financial “sweetener” n of $100 million to aid in the purchase and in the Astros’ subsequent move to the AL . Conspiracy theory or not, something, really ” stinks “ , concerning this deal, the actions of Jim Crane and that of the MLB hierarchy , as countenanced by Bud Selig .

I will say this for Detroit Tigers’ , owner , Michael Ilitch, he is certainly not afraid of throwing money at players , he believes to be talented enough to aid his franchise in their quest for a World Series ! Something, that has not been achieved by the ball-club in over two decades. The fact that pitcher , Justin Verlander, is one of the highest paid players in the game as well as one of the highest paid pitchers simply has not deterred the owner , who seeks the advice of the team’s general manager , in , Dave Dombrowski . Now with their Tigers’ two-time AL MVP , Triple Crown King and perhaps the best “pure hitter “ in the game , in slugger , Miguel Cabrera . With the player having reportedly ” inked “ a eight-year $248 million deal , with their still being two years left on his existing contract that will pay him $44 million . One has to wonder, what other maneuvers are likely to be engineered within the Tigers’ front office .

The end to this episode, has not yet come to a satisfactory conclusion within the Tigers’ organization with pitcher, Max Scherzer at first turning down an initial offer of a contract extension , said to be an offer worth six-years and $144 million . Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras said to have found the offer derisory and beneath what he believes his client would be worth on the open market. An agent of Boras’ stature and someone who has come to be the bane of general managers around the league, has simply been the main reason why the sport of baseball has become ” financially imperiled ” . Far too many, idiotic fans, believe that MLB remains on sound financial footing, merely because the game’s revenues have been increasing each season. Inflationary issues asides, a great deal of this, has to more to do with the renegotiated television rights , increased ticket , concession prices and corporate endorsement deals . Yet above all , players’ salaries , contract and team payrolls are on the increase , while the quality of the baseball being played is actually on the decline . Granted, Bud Selig can always point to the fact that game attendances , are at a high , but nowhere near an all-time as associated with the game during the fifties , sixties seventies and early eighties . While we have seen larger venues being built, over the past few years, it has not followed through in creating bigger attendances for a number of teams. Small market teams struggle to attract a fan-base big enough to be actually self-sustaining, without the aid of an assist from the MLB hierarchy . Cases can be justified, with the number of teams assisted by the league’s tax-sharing revenue scheme.

In refusing the Tigers’ offer Scherzer puts himself on the part to become a free agent this off-season and it seems highly unlikely that GM Dave Dombrowski to resume negotiations with either the player or his agent. Scott Boras for his part , as an agent over the past decade , has negotiated contracts totaling in excess of $5 billion , and having negotiated the most contracts of clients such as Alex Rodriguez , Mark Teixeira , Stephen Drew , Kendry Morales , Barry Zito , Jered Weaver , Shin Soo Choo and Michael Bourn , through his successful sports’ management agency the Boras Corporation .

With appearances coming in 2006 and 2012 in the World Series for the Detroit Tigers , with the team failing on both occasions , you would have to go back to 1984 , when the ball-club was triumphant over the San Diego Padres in baseball’s postseason fare . Three decades later and one wonders, if a curse was placed over the franchise after that series’ victory. Here, am I thinking , Wrigley Field , the infamous goat and Steve Bartman might be the only things , that fans can have fun with, when it comes to comedic anecdotes concerning the game ! I guess I was wrong in that context and can only hope that when the Tigers begin their 2014 schedule, with their opening home game against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park in Detroit , it will be the start of something special for the ball-club this season.

As much as it pains me to say this , having watched the Chicago Cubs swoon over the seasons , has brought a great deal emotion and in many respects, a great deal of laughter. In spite of, the club’s history and the many great players , that have passed through the locker room down the years. The continued struggles of the franchise, as they seek to win a World Series and to appease and placate their long-suffering fans and the shedding of the myth of the “goat” has been something of a long running soap opera. Steve Bartman’s infamy and stupidity, in some respects, gives you an indication, why the franchise remains in a quagmire , beyond the sheer conceit shown first, by Sam Zell and the current owners of the Cubs , Tom Ricketts and his family . If Ricketts believes spending $100 million refurbishing and upgrading the ballpark is money well-spent, rather than bolstering the current roster , then it gives you an indication as to where his priorities may well lie , even with Theo Epstein being brought in to weave some magic in heading up the team’s Baseball Operations . Epstein’s tenure with the ball-club at present, two years in and the franchise has been moving at a snail’s pace , showing very little sign of progress either on or off the field of play.

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Catching hell doesn’t do Bartman justice ! A bullet to the head , would have been justified .

Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer will seek to bring back some semblance of success , having worked together before, in a similar capacity , while both were with the Boston Red Sox , where they saw a considerable amount of success together as a pairing, in bringing about the first of that franchise’s three most recent World Series’ titles. The Cubs’ long-suffering fans have been waiting for over hundred years to witness a World Title and but for Steve Bartman’s idiocy during the 2003 NLCS , the common feeling might well have been , this was to be their year . Instead, one moment of lunacy, brought about angst , anger, pent-up frustration , threats to endanger the life of Steve Bartman and ,members of his immediate family. Meanwhile , Moises Alou can only feel hard done by, and wishing that if the ball had been struck with a little less strength , it would have been the Chicago Cubs quite possibly winning out , in that now infamous series against the Florida Marlins and then making their way to the World Series that year . If, only and but , all commonly used words in the English language ,and yet when acquainting them with the Chicago Cubs , memories of Alou’s outstretched arms and Bartman snatching that fly ball from within his grasp, spelt disaster for the franchise in more ways than one .

The Cubs will begin with their season, when they take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in their regular season opener , where they will also be opposing the 2013 NL MVP winner Andrew McCutchen, as that team , seeks to take a few more positive steps, after languishing on the outside looking in , having not made the postseason in two decades . Last year, in some respects, was a season of firsts for this ball-club, with a number of players showing a great deal more maturity? Although their postseason foray was not long-lasting, , it was enough give the Pirates a great hope for this upcoming season as Neal Huntington has been finally been given the go-ahead to actually spend some money the roster in acquiring players . A major turnaround , when you consider that for a number of years, team owner , Bob Nutting repeatedly, plead poverty while the ball-club was actually profitable, even if it came by way of the largess of the > baseball hierarchy .

Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle and his managerial staff will have a tough season in seeking to repeat many of the team’s triumphs of last season . Nonetheless , with McCutchen leading the offense and providing his stealth in the outfield as one of baseball’s best defensive players . A great deal is expected of the Pittsburgh Pirates this upcoming season where they are likely to face a stiff challenge from the likes of the St Louis Cardinals , Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers . If the team can simply show some of the form of last season and specifically within their division , then there could very well be a possibility of the ball-club coming away with their first divisional title since 1992 . As I alluded to earlier, the Pirates have spent a long time on the outside looking in and then some !

Exploding salaries and payrolls and the general managers, are expected to work miracles in conjunction with the managers around the league. Moreover, the owners , themselves, many of them are amongst some of the wealthiest individuals in the country or they happen to have been either successful businessmen or quite possibly successful in other chosen endeavors . Peter Angelos a successful attorney and owner of the Baltimore Orioles, not often seen in public , has become something of a recluse. In the past seven years , during his tenure, as the franchise’s owner , I truly believe he and the front office to have been completely negligent in their running of the ball-club ! Granted, a great deal of the idiotic analysis suggested by fans of the team , have merely made suggestions about their draft needs in order to build their farm system for the future and free agent acquisitions , never once questioning the mindset of the owner and the lack of concern or motivation on his part of that of the executives within the front office. Perhaps , it really does come down to the apparent lack of intelligence of the fans and their having little or no damn knowledge as to the inner workings of a business , much less a professional sports’ franchise .

Peter Angelos for his part, may well have left the day-to-day running of the Orioles to his son, John P Angelos , H Russell Souse , Chief General Counsel, Dan Duqutte and former Baltimore Orioles’ player , Brady Anderson . A great deal was expected of the team last season , but unfortunately for Buck Showalter and his staff , the players were not readily equipped to get the job done and garner a wildcard berth . At one point during last season, it looked as if the Baltimore Orioles were capable of actually winning the AL East, but beyond the fascination of Chris Davis and his seeking to <a href=http://mlb.mlb.com/bal/history/uy break the franchise’s single season home run record and the increasing maturity being shown by Manny Machado , there was not a great deal that evolved out of the Orioles’ season during 2013. Their failure in large part, was in simply playing their divisional rivals , tough , during the season and it essentially led to their own undoing . There may well now be a common belief that this season, they are going to be in a position to challenge the might of the might of the Boston Red Sox , New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays , but I do not believe that the team in its present guise is simply good enough to pull off that feat , in spite of their off-season moves !

While Mike Scioscia and Ron Gardenhire look to start their respective seasons, within the AL, for the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins . I cannot help but wonder, with the combined managerial career between the two , all they have to show for that their respective tenures , just happens to be, one World Series’ title , one AL Pennant , several divisional titles and collectively , well over 2000 career wins ( Gardenhire 998 wins and Scioscia 1233 wins) . Yet , I truly believe that both of these well-respected managers, are now past their prime ! Wherein, for owners Arte Moreno and Jim Pohlad , this may well be the season , where should both managers fail to meet expectations, then their careers within the Majors, will come to an abrupt end , with their summary dismissals . It could also mean the end, for general managers, Jerry DiPoto and Terry Ryan . Though, in some circles, it is believed that Ryan will be allowed to remain in his current position, with the Twins, as he seeks turn things around, after the somewhat , recent lean years of under-achievement by his predecessor, Bill Smith . . As the season gets underway, determined by the progress made, we will all be able to judge the fate and outcome of both of these managers. Could a World Series’ win be in the picture for either ? Your thoughts on that and anything else, you believe pertinent to the subject matter, is more than welcome !

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(1) (L-R) NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell and NSW Minister for Arts, George Souris present signed cricket bats to Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers and Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks during the MLB Welcome to Australia Press Conference at Sydney Cricket Ground oon March 18, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Getty Images Asia-Pacific/ Brendon Thorne …..

(2) Diamondbacks manager, Kirk Gibson speaks during the MLB Welcome to Australia Press Conference at Sydney Cricket Ground on March 18, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Getty Images Asia-Pacific / Brendon Thorne …..

(3) Prince Fielder is seen here with Detroit Tigers’ owner Michael Ilitch and GM Dave Dombrowski , after the player was acquired as a free agent by the franchise . Two years of somewhat lackluster productivity having signed a multi-year multi-million deal , Fielder was sent packing along with the remainder of his contract to the Texas Rangers , where the player hopes to resurrect his once prolific career . AP Photo / Joel Harper ….

(4) Scott Boras, baseball’s most well-known and sought after agent . As CEO & Chairman of the Boras Corporation . the agent has a clientele list , that boasts some of the most recognizable and well paid players in the game . Being on this side of the business has made Boras an extremely wealthy man , having harbored dreams of playing in the Big Leagues , where his career did not really pan out . American Pathe Inc @ copyrighted material …..

(5) Steve Bartman and Moises Alou of the Cubs battle for a foul ball in the 2003 National League Championship Series . One moment of apparent infamy and stupidity by Bartman on an October night in 2003 , led to threats on his life and that of his family’s being threatened . Photo by Elsa Martinez/ Getty Images ….

(6) Brady Anderson , right, is seen here with Dan Duquette , as both front office executives within the Baltimore Orioles’ franchise discuss a number of team issues . Anderson , a former player with the ball-club was one of the Orioles’ most popular players during his playing career with the organization. AP Photo / Mason Fuller …..

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The always delectable Bria Myles ! More of Bria for your perusal .

Gotta loves those “lady lumps” !

Damn !

If a tree falls in the woods, can it be heard from afar ?

If a tree falls in the woods, can it be heard from afar ?

As the NBA season now enters the final dozen games of the NBA. regular season schedule, there now seems to be an inevitability about the year for several teams . There are likely to be some tumultuous off-season moves , with quite possibly one or two executive upheavals and perhaps two or three head coaches, losing their current positions. Such is the price of failure, that if the success sought , is not with the immediacy of here and now , then the decision is made for the executive or head coach to jettisoned from that organization.

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With Phil Jackson , having accepted the position to become the Head of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks , the widespread feeling around the league , is that head coach Mike Woodson and several members of his coaching staff will not be asked to return next season. Moreover, Jackson , is now likely to use these final few games of the Knicks’ regular season to assess the makeup of the roster and what are likely to be the team’s overall needs , as they head into the off-season, in preparation for the 2014 NBA Draft .

Phil Jackson has been extremely critical of the New York Knicks and their play , and that is in spite of the team’s recent ten-game streak , during which they posted an 8-2 record . This however, came to an abrupt end, when they succumbed to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers with a four-point 100-96 loss and then follow-up that abomination, with an even more embarrassing defeat , in losing , in a thirty-one point blowout loss 127-96 on Tuesday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles California , to the Los Angeles Lakers , who currently have one of the worst records in the entire NBA. Yet , in recent days , because of this run, there have been some idiotic rumblings amongst Knicks’ fans and analysts alike, that the team might just be capable enough of mounting a credible run , leading them to gain a playoff berth .

Were it not for the pragmatist in me , I would resoundingly state that these fans have lost their minds, but in reality to find an intelligent New York Knicks’ fan nowadays, is somewhat like trying to seek out a completely honest member of Congress or better yet, someone within that hallowed chamber as befitting their intelligence, who is actually capable of succinctly telling and explaining to the public, how the economy still remains in a quagmire in spite of the claims and the statistics yielded by the Commerce Department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Knicks are simply not good enough to mount serious challenge, whereby they can jump ahead of the eighth placed Atlanta Hawks (31-38) or seventh placed Charlotte Bobcats( 34-37) , two teams with a five and two game lead over the ninth placed New York Knicks (29-42) .

With eleven games remaining on the New York Knicks’ regular season schedule , of which four of those contests , at their home venue of Madison Square Gardens in New York City, New York, for which that stage has been a less than pleasant domicile, as a place for the Knicks to defend their home turf. On the road , they simply fare not much better , but somehow , there we have many, singing the praises of a team with a sub.500 record , as if they are a major contender for this season’s NBA title. As absurd as that sounds , it is something one has come to expect of the franchise , who still have ideas of grandeur way above their station. With Phil Jackson, now firmly on-board and looking to entrench himself in the day-to-day workings of the organization, supposedly working alongside GM Steve Mills , it will be interesting to see the dynamics that will take place between Jackson and his subordinate .

The biggest issue Phil Jackson is likely to have , will be seeking to dissuade Carmelo Anthony from opting out of the final year of his existing contract to ‘test’ the free agency market. In knowing that he can obtain a more lucrative contract by resigning with the New York Knicks, I do firmly believe that unless , the front office can prove to the player that it is their intent to bolster the roster. I do fully believe , that he is likely bolt and make a move to a major contender within the NBA. A team such as the Los Angeles Lakers , with a great deal of money under the cap, are likely to try and entice Anthony to make the move to the West coast to play alongside Kobe Bryant , who would undoubtedly welcome the Knicks player’s presence in taking the burden off his back as being the franchise’s primary offensive weapon . Yet , the Lakers too , are not without their own internal problems and struggles , with their being mounting criticism coming from within and outside of the organization.

Former players, Magic Johnson , James Worthy and most recently Byron Scott , have been extremely critical of GM Mitch Kupchak and senior executive Jim Buss , de-facto managing partner of the venerable franchise , where his younger siblings , Jeanie Buss , SVP of Business Operations and Johnny Buss , assistant Head of Scouting , all having significant roles within the organization. Jeanie Buss, the fiancée of Phil Jackson, now has a decision to make, as to ultimately, where her loyalties may well lie. Does she remain in support of Jackson, standing at his side ? Also, what happens when the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks face off in a regular season contest , never mind the fervor likely to be raised , were the two teams to meet in a future NBA title series contest , with the couple on opposing sides of the court ?

Not to be left out of the controversy of the inward struggle within the Los Angeles Lakers, has been Kobe Bryant’s vocal dissent and the very fact that the franchise did not seek to lure Phil Jackson back to an organization. that he coached to five NBA titles during his two tenures with the team. It now makes you wonder what the current intent may well be of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, as they seek to engineer a turnaround of a franchise , that for the most part has been mired in mediocrity all season long .

With Kobe Bryant, seeing his season come to an early end, with a recurrence of an earlier injury, curtailing the shortest playing spell of his extraordinary career . The player has been left strolling the sidelines, watching his teammates , labor for the greater part of the year, under the impression, that they were capable of playing a great deal better , than they have been. Granted, the shellacking of the New York Knicks, provided one of the few positive respites of what has been otherwise, a simply monstrous season, under a clueless ‘ Mike D’Antoni and his beleaguered coaching staff ! With their clearly being no real thought process, as to how he prepares his players for each ensuing contest , one has to wonder what the hell, the Lakers’ head coach feels that he may have achieved , during this season of adversity ?

A Thursday night contest against the struggling Milwaukee Bucks (13-58) at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin , is simply another sign of how far the Lakers have fallen, as their continued swoon, is proving to be so fateful. Not that the decline, likely to continue to the point, where the franchise would become one of the array franchises, deemed a lottery pick in seeking to avail themselves of the number one draft pick , in the upcoming NBA Draft. It has been a considerable period of time, where the Los Angeles Lakers were placed in a position where they had a first round draft pick, that was inside the top five of any draft in recent NBA history.

Before the Brooklyn Nets’ billionaire owner, Mikhail Prokhorov entered the NBA , purchasing the franchise for what appears to be an astonishing sum and along the way simply opening up his check book like a rich benefactor. The capricious spending, amongst NBA team owners , was once led by the Dallas Mavericks’ , Mark Cuban , as the franchise chased after that elusive first NBA title. Having been able to achieve that feat, while feeling the wrath of former NBA Commissioner David Stern , the Mavericks’ owner has paid over $2.5 million in fines levied by the former league executive for the continued criticism of the league itself , as well as the officiating . With the former commissioner , now having stepped down , to be succeeded by Adam Silver, it will certainly be interesting to see the dichotomy of the relationship between the self-absorbed and publicity seeking owner and that of the somewhat taciturn Silver.

Silver has yet to bring about many major edict, as he seeks to stamp his own identity on a league that for almost three decades, was simply viewed as David Stern’s fiefdom, to do with as he pleased . Stern’s dictatorial rule, would make the likes of Pol Pot, Idi Amin , Muammar Gaddafi and even Saddam Hussein shudder. Things were either done to his liking, or you would somehow, feel his wrath directly or indirectly. As to this repeated idiocy, that the commissioner, built the NBA into what it has become. The league’s explosion, into a global phenomenon had more to do with the charisma of Michael Jordan and the marketing ingenuity shown by Phil Knight and his then fledgling sports’ apparel company Nike Inc , with Stern riding in on the coattails of the five-time League six-time Finals’ MVP .

For the Dallas Mavericks, since their decisive series’ victory over the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, the franchise has sought to regain that sort of form. An aging Dirk Nowitzki , around whom the team is still centered , has now become somewhat more athletic , with Rick Carlisle and his coaching staff presiding over the player personnel changes and the revamping of the roster, altogether. GM Donnie Nelson has seen fit to be fiscally responsible paring down the team’s payroll to a manageable size , yet at the same time , the front office executive has his eyes on the upcoming free agency period, where there will be a litany of players , that he feels might be able to assist the organization in winning a second NBA championship.

With the likelihood that this will be the last year with Dirk Nowitzki leading the Mavericks, the task of steering their way through the Western Conference and specifically the conference playoffs , within the conference , will be the toughest thing for the team to achieve. The conference and the divisions themselves, are truly competitive , unlike the morass of mediocrity that the fans have been subjected to within the Eastern Conference and the divisions there. The Miami Heat , as defending NBA champions, might well be everyone’s favorite at present, but in recent weeks, the team has looked far from infallible . If anything, Erik Spoelstra’s players, have looked nothing like NBA championship caliber material, much less defending champions.

As the eighth seed in the Western Conference and if things are to remain as they are, until the end of the regular season . Then, a first round match-up, between the Dallas Mavericks and their instate rivals, the San Antonio Spurs would provide the conference with one of the more enticing contests . That, is not to suggest, that the other prospective clashes are any the less meaningful. Bragging rights, as to who ultimately is said to be the best NBA franchise in the state of Texas will be up for grabs and while fans of the Houston Rockets might beg to differ. I would suggest that the fans there, simply ask themselves the question, when was the last time your team made a deep run into the NBA postseason?

The Mavericks’ recent victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder , was certainly a morale booster for the franchise, as they look to wind down their regular season schedule , in the run-up to the playoffs.

Sixteen consecutive seasons and counting , with the likelihood that this season, once again the San Antonio Spurs (55-16) will make it to the NBA Playoffs for a seventeenth consecutive year . It will be an unprecedented feat , but somehow it will be lost on the rest of the NBA, while not even being appreciated by the league hierarchy or the league’s fan-base . The franchise is simply not seen as one of the NBA’s more glamorous teams or organizations. Granted, there remains a healthy respect of head coach Gregg Popovich , his achievements, while he seeks to win a fifth NBA title as the head coach of the Spurs . Yet, Peter Holt, RC Buford and the rest of the organization are simply viewed as an afterthought around the league and in no way , were they even thought of as a likely contender for this season’s championship. Now with the best record in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference, as well as the conference and league overall . What are the fans, much less the odds-makers to make of another astonishing season from the Spurs?

A fifteen-game win streak has pretty much summed up, why record-wise, the San Antonio Spurs have been the best team in the NBA over the time-span covering this streak and might one now suggest the best team in the NBA all year-long ? Fans and analysts alike, over the season, have been gushing about the Golden State Warriors , Indiana Pacers , Los Angeles Clippers , Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder . On balance, it will be pretty tough to now suggest, that the Spurs will actually come out of the Western Conference playoffs unscathed . The competitiveness within the conference, is far greater than that of their Eastern counterparts , and the consensus remains that the conference champion within the Eastern Conference will come through, far fresher and ready to compete at a far greater preparedness , than their Finals’ opponent.

A five-point win over the Denver Nuggets and leading their season series’ meetings 2-0 , Popovich will take the San Antonio Spurs to the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on Thursday evening , seeking to push that mark to 3-0 , after Wednesday’s home victory over the Nuggets in San Antonio , Texas at the AT& T Center . The Spurs’ head coach has in recent games, been using his triumvirate of All Stars sparingly , in order that Tim Duncan , Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker are ready for the arduous postseason sojourn . Parker at present , remains the team’s biggest health worry , having missed several games over the season , with some form of a malady . A Finals’ MVP in the Spurs’ most recent triumph in the NBA Finals , where a return to that form , would certainly help the franchise in their quest for a fifth title and what would be Parker’s fourth with the team , having part of their success in 2003 , 2005 and 2007 .

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What, to your mind, has been the biggest disappointment within the NBA this season ? In light of the previous question, which team and player do you believe have to be legitimately taken as serious contenders during this postseason ? ? Simply leave a comment as you see fit, on this and anything else you believe pertinent to the subject matter .

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(1) Larry Drew , head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks , whose season has been mired in mediocrity with the team currently holding the worst record within their division , conference and the league . Team owner , Herb Kohl , while seeking to sell the franchise under the understanding that the new owner would retain the team the city of Milwaukee , may well now have to consider the on-court issues of the franchise and what may well be necessary, in order to resurrect the fortunes of the team. The firing of Drew and his coaching staff , is likely to be considered amongst the number of options at the front office’s disposal . Getty Images / Keith Ferguson ….

(2) Milwaukee Bucks’ general manager , John Hammond is seen here alongside head coach Larry Drew . After a tumultuous season with the Bucks’ current record of 13-58 , makes it extremely difficult at this late a stage of the season to see how Drew can bring about some semblance of resiliency to what has been a very dysfunctional team . Getty Images / Mark Hurst ……

(4) LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 27: (L-R) Assistant coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (L) of the Los Angeles Lakers is congratulated by former Laker champions James Worthy and Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper , after receiving his 1988 NBA Championship ring before the season opening game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center on October 27 , 2009 in Los Angeles, California. In recent weeks , Johnson , Worthy and Byron Scott have been extremely critical of the Los Angeles Lakers’ organization and the lack of direction under GM Mitch Kupchak , team managing partner and owner Jim Buss . Copyright 2009 NBAE /Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images …..

(5) Dallas Mavericks’ GM Donnie Nelson is here alongside team owner , Mark Cuban . The rambunctious owner always an attention seeker , has been overly critical of the franchise’s all-time leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki, claiming his lack of productivity has been one of the main causes behind the Mavericks’ lack of success this season . AP Photo / Tim Riggins …..

(6) San Antonio Spurs’ GM RC Buford is seen here with team owner , Peter Holt at the AT&T Center in San Antonio , Texas . Buford has been the main architect of the franchise’s three most recent triumphs in the NBA Finals, having been a been a behind the scenes front office executive before ascending into his present position . For the Spurs in making the postseason this year, this will be their sixteenth straight appearance in the NBA Playoffs since 1997, an NBA league record in terms of consecutive postseason appearances . The team’s head coach Gregg Popovich is the longest continued tenured head coach in the NBA and one of the longest tenured coaches in each of the four major professional team sports covering baseball , football (NFL) , hockey and the NBA , itself . AP Photo / Chris Hodges …….
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That’s not a crossover dribble .

Definitely not a part of either Bucks or Lakers’ team film watching after regular season losses .

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Well the sports’ environment at present has taken a back seat to the NCAA Tournament , with the event itself , having provided the fans with a number of stunning upsets , while there have been some that were not totally unexpected . With the number one ranked Florida Gators having now made their way to the ‘Sweet Sixteen ‘ , the road in some respects does now seem all but clear , for Billy Donovan and his team to capture the program’s third national title in the past eight seasons . Were the Gators’ head coach able to manage that feat , it would certainly make him the school’s most successful coach in terms of national titles won , beating out the likes of Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier .

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From my own perspective , I believe Donovan the equal of both of the aforementioned coaches , albeit that, Meyer and Spurrier left Florida to further their careers , elsewhere . In the case of Urban Meyer, his departure and subsequent criticism of his former employers and the program he coached to two BCS titles , may well have more to do with his egotistical character and the level of criticism aimed at him , with the failure of Tim Tebow to become a resounding success in the NFL . A great deal of that criticism is more than justified , when you simply bear in mind that Tebow’s collegiate career while stellar , at the next level of his evolution , his game simply did not materialize into anything more than that of a moderately average quarterback , who could barely read defensive tendencies , much less make a pass attempt in excess of fifteen yards or more , without their being a tendency of an interception or the pass simply falling short of its target , but there were , the vast majority of less than intelligent Gators’ fans, still singing Tim Tebow’s praises as a player. With his career now coming to an abrupt end , he has now been hired by cable sports’ programming network ESPN to provide fans with his insight into the Collegiate Football and the games , where he will be covering . One can only wish Tebow, all the success possible in his new endeavor , in the hope that he is likely to be more successful in his new vocation.

With a number of programs now having fallen by the wayside, in this particular NCAA Tournament, by contrast , at this point last season , things in some respects were somewhat similar. Florida for its part, have more than justified that national number one ranking , and proof of that , come by way of their regular season schedule and their run through the SEC (Southeast Conference) ,where the team went undefeated , a first for conference play, within the Southeastern Conference. Leading the way for Florida, in terms of the team’s play , have been Casey Prather , Patric Young , Michael Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin , but it has truly been a collective team effort , along with that of Billy Donovan and the coaching acumen shown by his coaching staff , which has taken them this far and proven their season-long dominance this year.

Through their first two games of this tournament, Florida has not truly been tested , with their first round contest against Albany NY being nothing more than a cakewalk , with their 67-55 defeat of that team , before facing an even less sterner test in taking down the Pittsburgh (Panthers) with another somewhat lopsided victory 61-45 . The Gators’ path to the ‘Elite Eight’ in the NCAA Tournament, will see them having to overcome the UCLA Bruins , in what is likely to be the best game scheduled during the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ .

Of the games , still to be played in the round of the Sweet Sixteen , beyond the featured contest, which I believe to be the best at this stage of the tournament. There are games between Iowa State versus Connecticut , Tennessee and Michigan , Louisville (Cardinals) and Kentucky , Baylor and Wisconsin , Arizona and San Diego State , finally Dayton versus Stanford . All great match-ups befitting a tournament, that now lures shall we say, degenerate gamblers into wagering billions of dollars, into the most lucrative sports’ event, for the gaming industry in North America .

Rick Pitino , as the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, when he faces off against an old foe and nemesis in John Calipari , in a contest , of well-versed coaches , that will be a match of wits . What might also make this match-up also intriguing, with both coaches, having reached the pinnacle of collegiate coaching in winning a national title. Pitino, will now seek to take down a program , where, he was once a head coach and a well-respected one at that.

There are few coaches as well-respected as Tom Izzo within Collegiate Basketball and while one can be critical of the game at this level . It has to be said, that with the continued controversy of tainted programs , abuses of privileges and the ongoing issues of recruitment violations . Rarely, has Izzo’s tenure at Michigan St (Spartans) raised any suspicion of the program being mired, in any major impropriety. However, that is not to suggest, that Spartans athletics’ program has been pristine and above-board. Collegiate Athletics has become embroiled and awash, with far too much money , that the temptation to do something amiss, has become even more tempting than ever before. At the same time, the continued incompetency of the NCAA does not cover the distrust that the public has not only the entire landscape of college sports but also the hierarchical structure of the that particular body , under its current President , Mark Emmert , who came to the position, carrying a great deal of baggage of his own, concerning a number of improprieties and a lack communicative and administrative skills .

Izzo and the Spartans, while seeking to make their way to the Elite Eight, are not likely to have an easy time when they face the Virginia (Cavaliers) . Cavaliers’ head coach, Tony Bennett will undoubtedly want to pull off the upset , in taking the program this deep into the quarter-finals of the tournament for the very first time ever. The outcome of this contest, between Michigan and Tennessee , will definitely be predicated upon the offensive prowess shown by both teams and the coaching acumen of the respective staffs.

This NCAA Tournament has certainly lived up to expectations so far and the contests have provided the fans with a great deal more than most would have expected .

The big news within the NBA over the past eight days , has been the New York Knicks’ acquisition of Phil Jackson to head up the franchise’s Basketball Operations and being entirely responsible for all player personnel decisions. Jackson , himself, has been quick to point out, that the level of the play by the current roster has bordered on being inadequate and lacking the basic fundamentals , that the team itself , simply looks like a group of individuals at play on a high school playground. Subsequent to that statement by the Knicks’ front office executive , the players have responded in kind rolling off eight victories in their last ten games , perhaps reminding Jackson that they are capable of playing as a cohesive unit. As to what this might suggest as to the coaching strategies of Mike Woodson and his coaching staff , may well spell doom and his departure from the franchise at the end of this season. Woodson, might not be a proponent of the “Triangle Offense” and Phil Jackson has suggested that the scheme need not be adhered to, by the team, but , what he would like to see, is a great deal more resilience and tenacity from the players.

The New York Knicks’ continued malaise over the past seven seasons at least , has been brought on by the negligence of team owner , James Dolan and the litany of general managers heading up the front office during that time-span. Anyone who would try to suggest that under Isiah Thomas’ tenure , or that of Dave Checketts , Ernie Grunfeld , Scott Layden and in some respects Donnie Walsh , have in some way brought about some semblance of competitiveness to the franchise, need only look at the Knicks’ overall record from 1999 to 2013 and the number of playoff appearances made . In large part, the organization has spent more time acquiring nondescript talent and simply overpaying for the players assembled to represent the team during that time. It is certainly something, that will clearly have to be addressed by Phil Jackson and the staff that he will likely assemble to assist him in that stead, as he seeks to build a roster that will be viewed as a perennial contender, rather than being seen as an also-ran.

A playoff berth is now beyond the New York Knicks’ reach for this season, but in large part several players on the roster will be playing for their long-term future and livelihood with the franchise , in light of Jackson’s wish to revamp this roster. The team (29-41) at present , is lying in ninth place , within the Eastern Conference and three games out from that final berth , which is currently held by the Atlanta Hawks(31-37) as of 23rd March , 2014.

As if to further emphasize the numerous reasons why the Knicks have been woefully inept , consider the fact that at home, they are amongst the worst teams in the entire NBA , never mind the fact that they are simply unable to close out games, but yet the asinine analysis provided by on air commentators would have you believe to the contrary. Sunday’s six-point loss (106-100) at home at Madison Square Gardens in New York City, New York, to the Cleveland Cavaliers , is a damning indictment of not only the poor play of the New York Knicks , but also how damn awful , the Eastern Conference just happens to be overall , in terms of the poor play.

Inconsistency has now become the norm for the New York Knicks , while the air-headed print and television media within the New York market tend to be enraptured by Phil Jackson’s arrival , what they seem to be forgetting is actually how bad this team just happens to be and that is even with Carmelo Anthony having to carry his teammates on his shoulders for the majority of the season. One can choose to spin the tale of the New York Knicks for this season and then suggest that next year all of the events of 2013 , will be forgotten, because Phil Jackson , by then, will have begun to work miracles. Let’s get something clear, Phil can only work with the tools given him and what he has been provided with at this juncture , are a bag of nuts , bolts, and rusty tools, in seeking to get the job done . As to what transpires, in the coming months of this off-season, remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see whether or not, Jackson can indeed revamp an impoverished franchise, with them regaining some semblance of respectability.

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The events of the NCAA Tournament, as they have unfolded, which result has been of the greatest surprise to you ? Which program do you now believe to be in the driver’s seat, with the easiest task of making it to the Final Four and then going on to win the Men’s NCAA title outright ? With Phil Jackson’s introduction as the new Head of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks , do you believe his task will be an easy one to turn things around for the franchise and how much time in your estimation, will it take for him to make the Knicks relevant and competitive ? Simply take time to leave a comment, as you see fit and thank you for the ongoing support of this site, as it is greatly appreciated !

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Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin, bottom, gets past Pittsburgh forward Lamar Patterson for a shot during the second half in a third-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, March 22, 2014. Florida won 61-45 . AP Photo/John Raoux ….

(2) Florida coach Billy Donovan gestures during the second half in a third-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament against Pittsburgh, Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. AP Photo/John Raoux…

(3) Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) and center Patric Young (4) talk on the court during the second half in a second-round game against Albany in the NCAA college basketball tournament against Albany, Thursday, March 20, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack ….

(4) Louisville coach Rick Pitino , right, yells at guard Russ Smith (2) during the second half in a third-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament against Saint Louis , Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack ….

(5) Kentucky head coach John Calipari works from the sideline against Wichita State during the first half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. A highly rated Wichita State team that seemingly could not match the intensity shown by the Wildcats during this contest, which ended in disappointment for the Shockers. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel ……..

(6) Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison (2) passes the ball as Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet (23) defends during the first half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson …..

(7) Tony Bennett head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers . Bennett’s team face the MSU Spartans on Friday , with the victor guaranteed a berth in the Elite Eight as the prize . AP Photo / Rafael Gomez …..

(8) Michigan State’s Tom Izzo whose long and proud coaching resume’ indicates an impressive track record . Getty Images / Keith Turner …..

(9) NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 23: Jarrett Jack (1) of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots against the New York Knicks during a game at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images …
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(10) New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony talks with New York Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson during the second half of the NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden, Sunday, March 23, 2014, in New York. The Cavaliers defeated the Knicks 106-100 . .AP Photo /Adrian Miller …..

(11) New York Knicks’ executive Phil Jackson is seen here, inlaid, team head coach Mike Woodson’s ,whose tenure with the Knicks’ franchise now seems more perilous than ever , with the team not completely responding to his coach style, in spite of a recent impressive run of eight consecutive victories . Yet, the team’s home record remains one of the worst in the entire NBA and one of the numerous reasons why they have fallen out of contention within the Eastern Conference this season. It seems highly unlikely that Woodson will be returning to coach the team next season , with their being no guarantee whatsoever, from the front office , even if there have been some reassuring words coming from unconfirmed sources within the hierarchical structure of the franchise. AP Photo / Lou Mason …..

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In spite of his off the course issues, Tiger Woods still remains the most high-profiled and visible athlete on the planet. Granted, one could surmise that NBA player LeBron James , and Barcelona soccer star , Lionel Messi and his counterpart with Real Madrid , Cristiano Ronaldo , might now rival Woods , rival the PGA Tour player, in terms of popularity , if not commercial endorsement earnings . Tiger Woods has regained his status as a global marketing icon and world number one ranking , having earned on average in excess of $65 million a year , over the past six years, far exceeding that of the aforementioned athletes in question .

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In recent years, however, questions surrounding Woods, have been whether or not, he remains capable of winning another Grand Slam Major. Firmly entrenched for the present in second place, with fourteen Grand Slam titles to his name , four behind his icon and hero , Jack Nicklaus , who leads that illustrious list with eighteen titles over the course of his historic career. Needing another four to tie Nicklaus, seems to have been the toughest thing for Tiger Woods to achieve at this juncture, with his last Grand Slam Major win being the 2008 US Open , where he defeated fellow American , Rocco Mediate in a three-hole playoff contest , which was played at the Torrey Pines Golf Course , in La Jolla , California , a club and course well-known to the Californian native.

Woods’ recent off the course issues have been well chronicled and his handling of the issue and the well-orchestrated presentation of the facts, still leave a lot to be desired, as the player in some respects did seek to apportion blame elsewhere , for his personal infidelities , that led to the breakup of his marriage to former model Elen Nordegren . The golfer, is still represented by Mark Steinberg and his Excel Sports Management Agency Boutique . In stepping away from IMG , which still remains the world’s largest sports’ management company, encompassing a wide a variety of areas, beyond representing a litany of athletes around the globe. Woods now has an agent and a glut of Steinberg’s subordinates to deal with his almost every whim, be it something small, to the more complex , in terms of a grandiose request. In many respects, I believe that may well have been what led to Woods’ fall from grace, beyond his sexual peccadilloes!

In having so many people around him, always willing to say yes and to cater to his very need, made Tiger Woods believe that he was impervious to any type of criticism that was likely to come his way or be leveled at him , even when it came to his play on a golf course .

Having won the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award for the eleventh time of his career , when he won only five times on the PGA Tour last year , without a Major to his name. It could be said that Tiger Woods may well have won the award by default , but consider the fact, that in 2013 , no other golfer on the Tour was as successful, in terms of wins. Phil Mickelson , a considerable talent , has long been considered Woods’ greatest rival , but in the true sense of the word, it has been a rivalry built upon a myth, rather than the evidence being there to suggest otherwise. Rarely have the two played alongside each other , when there is said to have been a Major tournament on the line and when that has said to have been the case , one or the other, has failed to live up to expectations, normally , with Woods gaining the upper hand .

The Washington Post

Tiger Woods faces major decisions about his health and future

By Sally Jenkins , Columnist

View pictured timeline gallery of Woods’ career

By Sally Jenkins, Published: March 19 E-mail the writer

It’s impossible to know how serious Tiger Woods’s back problem is, whether it’s a temporary twinge or a serious herniation. But something more is going wrong with his game than back spasms. Woods is having cramps between the ears as well, the kind that come with fraying nerves, the betrayal of aging, and mental self-doubt.

Woods would not have withdrawn Tuesday from his favorite seasonal fire-starter of a tournament, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, unless he was in genuine physical distress. Bay Hill has long been his favorite tune-up, and obviously he sacrificed it because he’s concerned about his ability to be healthy for the Masters.

The problem is that Bay Hill has always been the place where Woods gets his mind right for Augusta. With eight victories in 16 entries, it’s where he convinces himself he’s in good enough form. The larger and more worrying context to his withdrawal is that, at 38, Woods seems increasingly unable to pull together his game, his body, and his head all at the same time in order to compete for major championships . A bad back, for example, isn’t why he’s become so susceptible to three-putts.

The notoriously close-mouthed Woods won’t describe the exact nature of his back problem except to say he’s treating it with “protocols.” Which has set off a frenzy of speculation over what is plaguing him. Which is the cart and which is the horse, his scattered swing or the injury? Has he become so chronically tweaky and injury-prone, with consecutive seasons of knee, elbow, Achilles’, and back ailments, that he’s less able to work on his game? Or is he more tweaky precisely because he has overworked himself, pushing his body in the gym and on the golf course with constant, torquing, insecure swing experiments?

Woods himself may not know the order, the cause and effect of his problems. There just is an overall sense of physical disorganization: in February in Dubai he seemed healthy but was wild off the tee, so he fiddled with his grip. That seemed to fix something. But then he needed 29 putts on 13 greens.

Woods’s former coach Hank Haney hazarded on his SiriusXM radio show back in January that one of Woods’s problems is that he has over-emphasized upper body bulk, at the expense of other parts of his game.

“My opinion is he did too much of that,” Haney said. “He does a lot of the gym stuff. I know you need to do some for golf, no doubt about it. You need to be in shape, you need to avoid injury, but my opinion is he really overdoes that.”

You wonder if Woods compromised his back with so much weight work.

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If the PGA Tour is to remain vital, as well as vibrant, then beyond Woods’ presence , Phil Mickelson, as well as Rory McIlroy , will have to provide more of a presence and a challenge for the best player of this generation and over the past sixteen seasons. As I alluded to earlier, the World Golf rankings , have Woods, back at the top of the table , with Australian , Adam Scott now standing at number two in the rankings . The 2014 PGA Tour schedule now has a revamped format , with the events starting even earlier than usual, for what now has become almost a calendar year-long season . Tiger Woods, is a five-time winner of the event and was due to be a participant , but has withdrawn, due to recurring back spasm pains . If at this stage of his career, the world’s number one of golfer is now suffering from this type of malady , then the likelihood of his surpassing Nicklaus’ eighteen Major Grand Slam wins, may well be insurmountable , never mind the fact that his seventy-nine career wins now stands second all-time on the careers’ list behind the legendary Sam Snead .

Were it not for Tiger Woods , the PGA Tour would not be in a position, where it has gone from a twenty event schedule and with total prize money of just over $ 6 million year , to where it has now become a multi-billion dollar entity, with over fifty-five events , of which officially , forty are PGA sanctioned for the scheduled calendar , with total prize money exceeding quarter of a billion dollars ($250 million) . I doubt that there are very few professional sports’ circuits, where there are such riches to be garnered, even for non-winners of an event , when a tenth place finish, can attract in excess of $100,000 in prize money, if there is not a tie amongst the top ten finishers !

I believe that Woods still remains capable of surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ all time Majors’ win tally , but much of that will be undoubtedly be predicated upon the player’s continued health issues and that of his mental mindset. There is no denying, at his every best or just slightly below it , he remains leaps and bounds , better than over ninety percent of his fellow competitors on the PGA Tour . The continued idiocy, of his peers having caught up to him, in terms of talent , is merely a way to create further debate , when in reality there is none to be had. Woods may no longer be winning at a constant clip , as first witnessed, in the early part of his career , or at the point , where he won four consecutive Majors , a feat not completed by any other golfer in history . To be truly that dominant, does take talent . and none of his current peers of this generation have been able to achieve that . Furthermore, as if to emphasize Woods influence and dominance on the game , consider the fact that , he is currently the only golfer on the PGA Tour to have won a career Grand Slam and to have won more than eight tournaments in a single season . So when we talk about dominance , why not put it into a real perspective and not through the idiocy of the type of asinine analysis that at times has been provided by the likes of buffoons, such as Johnny Miller and Jim Gray or a columnist such as Christine Brennan !

Were Woods still competing at the Bay Hill Invitational and in contention , then in all likelihood the television viewership is likely to be considerably less than anticipated , another reason why the PGA Tour has become reliant upon Woods more than any other golfer in the game’s history for its rise in prominence, beyond the player’s ethnicity. On the flip side of this equation, it is somewhat unfortunate , that the game especially on the PGA Tour has not seen a greater participation of players of ethnicity that are home-grown and of American origin . Other than, Notah Begay III , the only other minority to compete in PGA Tour sanctioned event just happens to be only Tiger Woods. Neither Woods or PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem have been able to give a convincing enough explanation for such an absenteeism , given the disparity and the very fact that perhaps golf’s most prestigious tournament outside of the British Open , The US Masters , until a few years ago was very much restrictive in its allowance of female members at Augusta , Georgia , never mind the fact, that until Woods’ first appearance in that event in 1997 , when he won the tournament. The last player of color to compete in the event as an invitee who happened to be an African-American or ethnic American , was in fact Lee Elder in competing , in the 1975 Masters.

Golf still has a long way to go before it can actually find an acceptance amongst minorities , wherein the game itself is more affordable amongst the masses, rather than continuing to be a sport, that primarily meets the economic reach of a select few. Tiger Woods and his foundation , may well be trying to change that image as such, but with the main emphasis of the organization being to provide a safe haven for at risk youth and that of a starting point in getting an education and learning self-respect. The fruits of the labor, by way of the PGA have yet to be met , nor have they made their own evidence public , as to having met any of the goals that they are said to have set, in making the game more accessible to minorities at large .

The third round of the Bay Hill Invitational is still in progress , with the lead being held by Adam Scott at -14 , a seven-stroke advantage over second-place J B Holmes , shared also by Chesson Hadley and Francesco Molinari , with Keegan Bradley , a further shot back at -6 under par. Scott will be looking at this , as making further inroads into the world ranking points’ lead that Tiger Woods maintains over him at present , while also seeking to find some form with the first Grand Slam Major of the season less than a month away. The 2014 Masters at Augusta, April 10th to 13th, will be where Adam Scott will be looking to become the first player to make a successful defense of the “Green Jacket” , since Tiger Woods in 2002 , with the world’s number one golfer having won that tournament in 2001 , the year previously.

With the Valero Texas Open , at the AT&T Oaks Course in San Antonio, Texas and the Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble , Texas , being the only two intervening tournaments between now and The Masters , it will be interesting to see whether or not Tiger Woods makes an appearance in either contest in the lead-up to the first Major of the season. Without an appearance , it would be extremely difficult to view the four-time winner of that prestigious event, as a prohibitive favorite , but at the same time , it would also be foolish to count him out altogether , given his experience in the event.

Phil Mickelson will be making an appearance at the Valero Open, hoping to sharpen up his game, in preparation for The Masters . Adding another Major to his career , would prove to be of benefit to a former winner of the Green Jacket and solidify his place as one of the best US golfers of the past decade and a half. Elevation into the World Golf Hall of Fame awaits both Woods, with the duo having already met the criteria for induction into that hallowed vestige of golf’s very best. For the moment however, we can simply watch their exploits on the course , with the continued hope, that they can provide us all, with a great deal more excitement , thrills and great golf over the remainder of their collective careers !

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Share your thoughts with regard to this article and what if anything, do you believe Tiger Woods has actually done for the sport of golf overall ?

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(1) Arnold Palmer , is seen here with PGA Tour professional Tiger Woods after the player won the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational at the Bay Hill Course , in Orlando , Florida , in 2013. It was one five tournament wins for Woods , last season , during which he won over $8.556 million in prize money , pushing his career earnings from golf alone to over $105 million , in prize money alone . He is the first such golfer to achieve that feat , even if one were to take into account inflation , concerning earlier earnings . AP Photo / Chris Belcher ……

(2) Tiger Woods shares a few moments with golf legend Jack Nicklaus as they walk the course prior to the start of the 2000 PGA Championship , which was held at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville , Kentucky ,. Woods go on to defeat Bob Tway to win the tournament . Getty Images / Scott Messner …..

(3) From left to right , Phil Mickelson , Tiger Woods and Adam Scott are seen here at the 2013 Tour Championship , which was played at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta , Georgia . Long considered by the Tour professionals as one of golf’s best tournaments , outside of the four Grand Slam Majors , the event was won by Henrik Stenson of Sweden . Stan Badz/ Getty Images ……..

(4) Golf pioneer Lee Elder gets all emotional, having been greeted by Tiger Woods , after the player had just won The Masters . Elder was the first African-American player to be granted an invitation to play in the event , when golf as a professional sport on the PGA Tour became desegregated in 1961 . Ames Bishop / Ebony Magazine ….. @ copyrighted material all rights reserved …….

(5) Adam Scott hits from the fairway on the fifth hole during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill Thursday, March 20, 2014, in Orlando, Fla ,. Will Allen Jr/ AP Photo ….

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It’s that time of the year again , and things are said be right with the world ….

It’s that time of the year again , and things are said be right with the world ….

It’s that time of the year again, where sports reaches a fever pitch , as several things are about to transpire. The NCAA Tournament for Men’s and Women’s Basketball , will begin to determine a Collegiate Champion. With billionaire businessman Warren Buffett offering a $1 billion prize to anyone predicting the champion , as well as the correct breakdown of the sixty-four team bracket field, it adds a great deal more of an incentive for some of the most ardent fans of the game.

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With Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators being ranked number one in the nation in the polls , the team has also garnered a number one seeding in the NCAA Tournament , whereby they will be in the Southern Region . The team will not kick off their tournament schedule, until, the 20th March , when they will face the winner of the game between Albany and Mount St Mary’s , a contest due to be played on Tuesday , 18th March . The tournament itself , might just be one of the most open in recent years , with a number of programs thought to be in with a serious chance of being this season’s national champion. I have long been an admirer of Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke (Blue Devils) , but their path to the Sweet Sixteen as a number three seed in the Midwest Region , will not be an easy one to traverse. Yet, if the team can exhibit much of the form they have shown throughout the season up to this point, then there is no reason to believe why the Blue Devils cannot mount a serious challenge as Krzyzewski seeks to win his fifth national title.

I may well be wrong in my assumption, but I believe Billy Donovan to be the most under-appreciated coaches in all of college sports, when it comes to a coach who has won multiple national titles in their specific arena . Back to back titles in 2006 and 2007 , cemented Donovan’s legacy with the Gators’ program and placed in my mind , in the upper echelons of Men’s Collegiate Basketball coaches ! ! Donovan’s players, were simply good enough this season , to “sweep through ” the SEC (Southeastern Conference) , going an astonishing 18-0 in conference play and rounding out their record , with a 32-2 finish overall .

Duke will begin their sojourn in the NCAA Tournament, with a first round game against Mercer , on Friday, 21st March , where there will be a slew of games scheduled to be played on the day. For players, such as Jabari Parker , Rodney Hood , Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon , this will provide them the opportunity to display their skills beyond a national audience , as there will be a slew of NBA coaches and front office executives observing not only these players but also the entire talent that will be on display throughout this tournament , with the likelihood , with one of those athletes thought to be good enough not only to be the number one draft pick in the upcoming NBA Draft , but someone around whom, a franchise can be built around . Last season’s top pick , Anthony Bennett of the Cleveland Cavaliers , seems to be struggling to come into his own , having not been able to show the collegiate form which the front office believed could resurrect their fortunes .

From my own standpoint, the NBA in terms of its NBA Draft, might just be the “biggest hit or miss” in terms of assessing talent, next to the idiocy presided over and deemed as the MLB Draft ! A number one pick made there , is unlikely to see any Big League playing time through the first two years of their professional playing career, unless their skills are already highly polished , but yet such players are afforded record signing bonuses , before having stepped onto a baseball field or donning that team’s uniform . Yet it would be remiss to suggest that MLB is the only such area , where this is something that has become a practice , because we have witnessed this also within the NBA and the NFL , in spite of their now being rookie contracts , offered to first round players on a sliding scale , as determined by one’s position of being picked in that first round.

The NBA season itself, has become all the more heightened, as teams now face the final stretch of the regular season, with their not being more than seventeen games left on the schedule, for playoff aspirants to play themselves into contention . Meanwhile , the New York Knicks have made perhaps their biggest acquisition in the past five years, when they made it public, that Phil Jackson would be returning to the franchise where he made a name for himself has a player , winning an NBA title as a member of the 1973 championship winning team . Jackson returns in the capacity of Head of Basketball Operations , overseeing the Player Personnel decisions for the franchise, in which GM Steve Mills will be directly answerable to Jackson, in the franchise’s hierarchical structure . The move itself has to be seen as the last act of a truly desperate franchise that over the past five seasons , has lost its way , edge of competitiveness and simply became a “laughing stock” around the NBA .

The hire of Phil Jackson might not now be enough to deter the departure of the New York Knicks’ best player, Carmelo Anthony , who since being acquired by the franchise as a free agent from the Denver Nuggets , has been perhaps the sole reason to watch the team during that time-span . A prevailing thought in some circles , was that a bold move had to be made by the franchise , as they sought to gain some semblance of respectability. A prevailing thought in some circles , was that a bold move had to be made by the franchise , as they sought to gain some semblance of respectability. What now happens, concerning Anthony’s future with the New York Knicks , will be predicated upon by the overtures made by Phil Jackson and his intent as he seeks to improve the team.

Coming off a 115-94 over the Milwaukee Bucks the team will then play host to the Eastern Conference’s best team in the Indiana Pacers . How the New York Knicks now acquit themselves between now and the end of the season , will allow Jackson a chance to gauge the players on the roster , and which he believes are superfluous to the Knicks’ needs.

In having lost twenty-one consecutive games , I don’t believe that you can be any more critical of a team than need be! The Philadelphia 76ers have been able to do that, without having broken sweat, in terms of the team’s continued .. ineptitude . Team owner, Joshua Harris and GM Stan Hinkie have presided over this mess without having offered the fans an explanation for the Sixers’ malaise. . A 90-99 loss to the Indiana Pacers at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana , Indianapolis , pushed the Sixers’ streak to its current mark, one which is likely to be increased, when the team hosts the Chicago Bulls , at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania , on Wednesday evening.

The Sixers’ Brett Brown , in his rookie season as a head coach , has been placed in an impossible position, where he and his coaching staff are being asked to coach and mold a team, that will continue to struggle over the remainder of the season. . Jason Richardson and Thaddeus Young are the most experienced players on the roster , with twelve and six years’ experience apiece, with the bulk of the players on the team , with no more than four years of NBA tenure. Leadership experience if any , is sorely missed and simply a bye product of an organization where there seems to have been no actual goals or priorities set , other than perhaps the level of mediocrity that might well have been possibly sought.

In the aftermath of what appears to be a seismic meltdown within the NFL , with several players being jettisoned by their respective teams as cap salary casualties . The question now becomes , how will those franchises now seek to make up for those losses, be it by way of the NFL Draft or themselves acquiring a free agent of their own choosing ? Merely speculating, as to how much better a team is likely to become , can only been seen as that and nothing else.

One of the more interesting stories to have come out of this off-season , seen as a precursor and lead-up to the NFL Draft , are teams seeking to position themselves in terms of the salary cap, simply making what on the face of it are decisions that make so obvious sense . To my astonishment , I found out that with the Chicago Bears having rid themselves of Julius Peppers one of the NFL’s leading defensive lineman . In the ensuing moves , they sought to make the team’s quarterback Jay Cutler the highest paid player in the NFL , in terms of the value of his contract , the contract’s length , also by way of a base and average salary , never mind the fact that he also becomes the highest paid player on the Bears’ roster . I can only surmise that Bears’ GM Phil Emery , under the advisement of team Chairman George McCaskey , who happens to be the son-in-law of the franchise’s late founder George Halas , believes Cutler, capable of leading the team to Superbowl. A six-year $126.7 million deal is preposterous for a player whose, playoff record and performances can be best described as mediocre.

How Cutler’s contract might be viewed around the NFL and amongst fans in general , can be best summed up with one of a number of two scenarios. The player is worth it, or Phil Emery and George McCaskey have lost complete touch with their senses or that they felt, that in placing their faith in player by offering him such a long-term contract , it best serves the long-term goals of the Bears as a franchise.

The Bears’ loss of Peppers, will be the Green Bay Packers’ gain , as the player’s arrival , immediately makes the Packers’ secondary a little more formidable and can only add to the likely productivity of that team , defensively. This all could come back to haunt the Bears , who meet their divisional rivals within the NFC North , twice over the course their divisional schedule and in what is said to be one of the most celebrated rivalries in NFL history. With the loss of Jared Allen , as the Minnesota Vikings sought to allow the defensive player to hit the free agency market , it now looks as if the franchise will to get into a rebuilding mode and transition . Beyond Allen’s departure, came the firing also of beleaguered head coach Leslie Frazier , who has subsequently been replaced by Mike Zimmer . The incumbent is likely to bring in, his own group of coaching assistants , as well as seeking to gauge the playing roster as it now stands. Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder’s tenure has not exactly been an encouraging one , with the player simply not being effective , often struggling to play consistently at a high level , while seeking to lead the team to victory .

Jared Allen is likely to sign with a team in due course , but the issue , will be about his contractual worth , given his time in the NFL , though still productive and seen as of one of the league’s top pass-rushers and defensive ends . There are said to be at least six teams interested in Allen’s services , but as of yet, no concrete offers have been made , but in all likelihood this has more to do with the player and his agent , Ken Harris weighing up offers and the one they perhaps feel , best serves Jared Allen and his long-term future .

Minnesota Vikings’ owner , Zygi Wilf may well be secure in the knowledge that the franchise will have a new state of the art venue for the Vikings to play in, as of the 2016 NFL regular season , with the stadium being built with a mixture of private and public financing . However, the window of opportunity for the franchise to win a Superbowl with current running back Adrian Peterson in tow , does appear to disappearing rather quickly. Peterson was the subject of a great deal of speculation , when it was said, that there was a great deal of uncertainty within the front office as to whether or not the player would be cut by the franchise, or retained. Now in the fourth year of a seven-year $96 million contract that was signed in 2012, Adrian Peterson is not due to become a free agent until 2018 , at which time his tenure in the NFL, he will be entering his twelfth year in the league. At which time, it is expected that the player may well have surpassed the league’s all-time career rushing yards’ mark of 8,355 held by Hall of Fame rusher Emmitt Smith . Only Stephen Jackson with 10678 yards leads Peterson amongst active running backs, in terms of career rushing yards.

The Minnesota Vikings’ last postseason appearance came in 2012 , as a wildcard entrant , where they fell short of their goals in succumbing to a lopsided 24-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers . It will be interesting to see what Mike Zimmer and Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman will seek to do in the build-up to the NFL Draft and with regard to the team’s needs also, by way of free agent acquisitions .

There has to a rhyme and a reason behind baseball’s madness and the MLB season , .which unofficially opens on the 22nd March , 2014, with two NL games , as part of a two-game series in Australia, when the Arizona Diamondbacks designated as the home team will entertain last season’s NL West divisional winner and losing NLCS combatant, the Los Angeles Dodgers . While, I have no bone of contention with regard to the league hierarchy seeking to have the game exposed to a greater global audience ! It does seem somewhat remiss, when you consider baseball’s growth domestically is on the decline, within the inner cities , particular amongst the major inner city suburbs. An even greater telling sign , has been the lack of participation in the game of young African-American youths and in some respects, among young male Caucasians. There remains a great deal of interest in the game at the Little League Level , with the Little League World Series drawing high ratings for the showcase domestically, as well as in the foreign markets where the event is televised .

Baseball has painted its image on a myth , that has not really changed , other than that of, how historians have seen to denote the game . In recent weeks we have seen the idiocy behind the claims of ESPN reporter Buster Olney seeking to suggest that because of a statement made by the granddaughter of Hall of Fame great Babe Ruth , that it was his intent to see the game of baseball fully integrated during his time as a player . Olney attributes this all because of Ruth’s apparent friendship with entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson , who was an entertainer at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club. Now unless I am mistaken the era was still filled with a great deal of racism and it was something of a rarity to have an African-American in an all-white establishment , let alone Ruth’s on-field antics at a time when baseball had yet to be fully integrated, but yet we have a clown , such as Olney, trying to suggest that a renowned racial bigot, was in fact someone , who also had a close relationship with a Negro and that in-fact made him more decent and humane . Perhaps, if Buster Olney spent less time trying to wax on lyrically and actually deal in the facts , the game itself , would be better represented , in terms of its history, rather than it being filled with a number of falsehoods.

With the Boston Red Sox having won its eighth World Series title and third , in the past seven seasons . It has to be said, that there now seems to new-found level of confidence within the organization . Granted, the team saw a number of changes to their championship winning roster , with the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury , having joined the New York Yankees having not been able to obtain a renewed contract with his former team , Ellsbury becomes one of a select group of players that will have played for both of the game’s most fabled ball-clubs in the Red Sox and the Yankees .

For the New York Yankees this will be a season, in which we will be able to see whether or not, this team can rebound from much of the adversity that they faced last year . Off the field issues asides , with the Alex Rodriguez saga now put to rest , the team’s inability to stay healthy , along with a lack of productivity, in terms of their pitching and hitting , added to the complexity and woes of the ball-club , beyond Joe Girardi’s inability to get the Yankees’ players to play with any consistency for much of 2013.

New York will begin its regular season schedule on the 1st April against a the Houston Astros , with a three-game set at Minute Maid Park , in Houston Texas , against a ball-club that will be undoubtedly be looking to avert losing one hundred games for a third consecutive season , having achieved that feat in 2012 and 2013 , respectively. The New York Yankees’ fans will have the privilege of seeing the newly revamped team , in their first home series, when they face the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankees’ Stadium , beginning the 4th April March , in a three-game weekend series .

As the season unfolds, it will be interesting to see what transpires in comparison to the first month last season’s schedule and events that unfolded , leading to, in many respects, what was one of the most eventful years in recent baseball history.

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Picture gallery .

In light of the points raised within this article, what are your hopes with regard to the coming weeks, within the world sports ? Simply, leave a comment, as you see fit .

Picture and slideshow gallery details below .

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(1) Billionaire , Warren Buffett , Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway , who has offered a $1 billion prize money to anyone successfully picking out the “prefect bracket” in this season’s Men’s NCAA Tournament , as well as , picking the outright winner as in the determining of a national champion . Pictured here with Buffett is Chris ‘Handles’ Franklin , a member of the Harlem Globetrotters . AP Photo/ NY Daily News / Nati Harnik …..

(2) Scottie Wilbekin of the Florida Gators’ Basketball team celebrates with teammates after the team’s 61-60 victory over the Kentucky (Wildcats) . Billy Donovan’s Gators are the number one ranked team in the nation , also seeded #1 in their regional grouping for the NCAA Tournament , where the program is highly favored to become this season’s national champion . AP Photo Everett Miles …………….

(3) Head coach Billy Donovan talks to Scottie Wilbekin (5) of the Florida Gators in the second half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at The Frank Erwin Center on March 24 , 2013 in Austin, Texas. Getty Images North America / Stephen Dunn …..

(4) Duke’s Jabari Parker is seen here speaking with head coach Mike Krzyzewski during a one-on-one film session . The program is seeking to make a successful and deep run in the NCAA Tournament as Krzyzewksi seeks to win his fifth NCAA title as a head coach . Andrew Sherman / UPI ….

(5) New York Knicks’ team owner , James Dolan & Chairman of Madison Square Garden Entertainment Company Inc (MSE) , parent company of the NBA franchise, is seen here with Phil Jackson , who recently accepted the offer to become the Head of Basketball Operations and a SVP within the front office of the Knicks. Jackson will be in charge of all personnel decisions involving the team and the move is seen as a way of encouraging Carmelo Anthony to remain with the franchise , rather than opting out of his existing contract to test the “free agency market” . AP Photo / Anton Cutler ….

(6) Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears is seen here on the sidelines of Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The quarterback has signed a six-year $126.7 million contract that now makes him the highest paid quarterback and player in the NFL in terms of contract value and annual salary . All of this in spite of a somewhat anemic postseason career in the NFL since his entry into NFL , having been drafted by the Denver Broncos during the 2006 NFL Draft . AP Photo / Jason Marshall …….

(7) Jared Allen a Pro Bowl player with the Minnesota Vikings, having now being discarded by the franchise and having been their all-time sacks’ leader is now looking for a new team as a defensive end . Allen is looking for a long-term contract that is likely to reward him handsomely . Chris Ward / Getty Images ….

(8) World Series’ MVP , David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox will be hoping that he and his teammates can make a successful defense of their World Series’ title won last season , when the Red Sox defeated the St Louis Cardinals with some ease. Ortiz’s career with the franchise and overall , quite possibly makes him a future Hall of Fame candidate . AP Photo / Alexander Hughes ….

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tophatal ………….. 2014/03/19 02:15 PM

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NCAA Tournament schedule 18th March 2014

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NFL news from around the league

2014 NFL Draft and mock draft

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MLB news and press releases for the teams

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Milestones this MLB season (Offense) : Hits , runs scored , home runs , RBI’s , Total bases

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The voluptuous Yaris Sanchez

Stupid is as stupid does , or Dana White showing why he’s seeking to become bigger than his sport …

Stupid is as stupid does , or Dana White showing why he’s seeking to become bigger than his sport …

I do not care who you are as an executive of a company, even if you are its founder or co-founder , you simply cannot and should not believe it right to criticize the most productive or popular of your employees without provocation and without justification ! . Yet, within the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) under the banner of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) , that governing body’s President Dana White continues to ride roughshod over that entity , as if it is his God-given right. His recent criticism of two of the sports’ most popular fighters in Georges St Pierre and Anderson Silva , simply indicates that White has not been fully appreciative of what these two profoundly gifted practitioners have done to make this genre the fastest growing and one of the most popular combative sports in the world. Imagine , the outgoing commissioner of the NBA , David Stern being critical of LeBron James and Michael Jordan , in simply calling both , egotistical and conceited. White for his part was critical of former middleweight champion Anderson Silva for not wanting to compete on regular basis , which is clearly idiotic when you consider that over the past three years Silva made multiple defenses of his middleweight crown in a calendar year before his two recent losses to current champion Chris Weidman .

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In the case of the Canadian , Georges St Pierre , who has relinquished his welterweight title belt , with White suggesting that the champion has personal issues to deal with. It should not be the UFC President’s place , to make such a statement, unless he was given the permission to do so by St Pierre. In recent months, , it was common knowledge that George St Pierre was not completely satisfied with the direction that the sport was heading in, with their being no strict regulations with regard to testing protocols for fighters, fighting outside the state of Nevada , where the UFC is actually headquartered in Las Vegas and where the sport , itself comes under the jurisdiction of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. A body, which in recent months, has come in for a great deal of justifiable criticism, after the asinine officiating at several recent world championship boxing bouts , for which the then state athletic commissioner Keith Kizer stood steadfastly in support of the licensed judges who presided over the bouts in question. Dana White has for his part, has seen several such controversies arise within MMA, and his criticism of the officials in question, has often been a profanity laced tirade , rather than being one that is succinct and to the point. If anything, Dana White has become everything that MMA under his tenure, sought not to be, with has now dragging the sport down to depths of sheer buffoonery with his antics.

White’s business partners in the founding of the UFC, siblings , Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta III have both become extremely wealthy with the founding of UFC, during which time the principal brand has taken over several of their smaller rivals, integrated those brands and marketed them under the umbrella parent banner. From humble beginnings, that brand (UFC) has now become, a multi-billion enterprise , with affiliates around the globe, with the sport’s popularity exploding around the globe and rivaling that of several other martial arts’ related combative sports.

I suspect that White knows , without both Silva and St Pierre as MMA’s two biggest draws , with the exception of light heavyweight champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones , he can either choose to combative towards both fighters, as they seek recuperate from injuries , as is the case with Silva , having broken his femur in his most recent bout in challenging Chris Weidman for the middleweight title . Or in the case of the St Pierre, simple fatigue and the very fact that the fighter had now become disenchanted with the sport altogether . While there is a great deal of positive direction for MMA , complacency is the one thing that cannot be allowed to set in, as has been the case, with the sport of boxing, which has now become so devoid of character and talent , that it now relies simply on the visibility of Floyd Mayweather to keep the sport alive and some might say, relevant , if that is to be correct analogy to be used . Boxing has been dying on its feet for a decade , with their being no undisputed champion in any of the weight categories.

Linear boxing champions, are simply an anathema to a sport, where at one time, fight fans were simply happy to witness a bout , where Mike Tyson was either pummeling an opponent into submission or more often than not , simply knocking them out. The heavyweight division of the sport has become fractured, with the Klitschko siblings, dividing the spoils, between them both. Although, with the recent announcement by Vitali Kiltschko that will retire from the sport relinquishing his WBC title to enter the world of politics and seek democratic reforms in his native Ukraine , which is currently undergoing a civil struggle, with many Ukrainians longing for the days of former Soviet rule, which others seeks a Western style democracy , which both Klitschkos are in favor of .

Vitali’s brother, Wladimir Klitschko continues his career , having made several defenses of his titles , putting together a string of successive wins defenses against nameless faces , which now has him with the third-longest string of title defenses within the division , with seventeen . Only the twenty-five defenses, made by the late and great Joe Louis “Barrow” and Larry Holmes with twenty consecutive defenses have more successful marks . Yet, in terms of longevity, Wladimir Klitschko’s reign as the IBF , WBA , WBO and IBO heavyweight champion , is the second longest in boxing history at eight years, within the heavyweight division . Joe Louis’ tenure of eleven years, eight months and eight days , remains the yardstick against the heavyweight championship reign is measured by.

While Dana White believe he is now in the driver’s seat, in terms of his overwhelming power within the sport , unlimited access to make decisions, as he sees fit, that benefit the sport. It has not gone unnoticed, that he has run afoul of a number of fighters who believe that the UFC President has at times far exceeded his powers, concerning contract negotiations with fighters and their agents or managers as the case maybe , by strong arming, with threats of never having a fighter be promoted or be allowed to fight on any UFC sanctioned or promoted event . These are the antics often heard of and used by noted boxing promoters, Bob Arum and Don King , but you would be hard pressed to hear the UFC President admit to that fact, not now , not ever .

For years the UFC , was dead set against having female fighters within its ranks , but having witnessed the growing clamor for female combatants by the male and female supporters amongst its ranks , Dana White finally acquiesced , when the UFC introduced the bantamweight division as the only weight class for women within the entity’s ranks. Ronda Rousey , the first female champion within division , who remains undefeated , has now become one of the most recognized faces within the genre and overnight she has become a household name , while away from the octagon , Hollywood has recognized her appeal. Rousey, has been tapped to play a role in the third chapter, of the Sylvester Stallone action movie saga , “The Expendables “ . The first two movies combined , have grossed in excess of have crossed the half a billion dollars threshold ($500,00,000), in terms of international gross, and the third installment back with many of the original cast , with the exception of Bruce Willis , is expected to continue the trend , and also become Stallone’s most profitable project, since the Rambo installments came to a welcomed end.

MMA has made giant inroads as a mass appeal sport, amongst young males , far exceeding even Dana White , Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta’s expectations . Moreover, who could have guessed that the growth of the sport would also enhance the sibling’s wealth , now placing them amongst Forbes’ Wealthiest 400 Americans ? Their combined wealth, $2.6 billion , originally built up through their gaming and casino holdings ., still plays a significant part in their business empire, of which Zuffa LLC , is the holding company under which UFC operates, as part of that overall empire. By comparison , White’s wealth is significant, having been a co-founder in UFC and part owner, his estimated worth $200 million, would include his stake in the UFC, which based on current revenues, would realize a value far exceeding $2 billion.

Ronda Rousey has been a breath of fresh air to the sport , bringing along sex appeal , physical savvy and exceptional talent to her art. Not surprising, when you find out that her mother Dr AnnMaria De Mars Ph.D is one of the world’s greatest female judokas , a multiple world champion and the very first American to have won a world championship in the ancient Japanese art . In the world of academia , De Mars is a well-recognized name, excelling in the field of statistics, but it is her work with Native American Indians, that she feels proudest of , alongside that of the careers of her children .

With the absence of both Georges St Pierre and Anderson Silva, it will now be left to stars such as Ronda Rousey , Jon Jones, Cain Velazquez , Chris Weidman , Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis to keep those wheels churning , as well as the excitement created and generated by the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). There is a clear reason why , in terms of demographics , more young males from differing ethnic backgrounds are now drawn to the sport, than they are to boxing . Quality of the contests staged are of the highest standard and rarely is there a situation , where you have a champion seeking to avoid an opponent in a title fight. The same cannot be said, in the world of boxing, where there is not, an undisputed champion, in any weight category. Moreover, at this late a stage, it is highly unlikely , the one fight that should have taken place at least five years ago , will now ever take place .

Manny Pacquiao is no longer fighting to secure his legacy , but to repair it, and inasmuch , he believes that a rematch with Tim Bradley will be his redemption , any thought of his meeting Floyd Mayweather in any type of mega-fight for a multi-million purse, should be put in his rear view mirror. Pacquiao, is past his prime and Mayweather now seems disinterested in meeting the Filipino world champion , for no matter how much money is thrown at him , as a lure . His six-fight guaranteed $200 million deal with Showtime PPV , simply cast aside any doubts, about such a proposed mega-fight , long ago .

The UFC will stage UFC 171 , this weekend , with the stage being set at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas , Texas,. Headlining the event will the welterweight title contest between the division’s top two fighters , with Johny Hendricks taking on Robbie Lawler , with the winner becoming the newly crowned welterweight champion. Granted , there will be those who suggest, that with Georges St Pierre (GSP) having relinquished the crown in absentia , he should be given first right of approval, in facing the winner , upon his return to the octagon. I beg to differ, as I believe that St Pierre, should have at least one fight against a ranked opponent within the division , before facing the victor of the Hendricks’ Lawler bout ! At the same time, given the machinations and manipulative behavior of Dana White , whose idea of showmanship, is to create as much hype and antagonism as can be possibly had, simply to sell tickets and create rabid fervor. I would not put it past him, to be now engineering some type of drama and emotion , where there is none to be had , in preparation for Georges St Pierre’s return to the octagon. As of now, his layoff and that of Anderson Silva’s, whose long-awaited return, might be as long away , as another six months. The void that has to be filled, with the absence of both of these great fighters, it will now be left with White and his PT Barnum style showmanship and its gregariousness, or we can look to the champions within the sport to now step up to the plate. Personally, I would rather, see the likes of Jon Jones , Anthony Pettis and Ronda Rousey , fill the vacuum, left by GSP and Silva, rather than having to witness the antics and petulant immaturity of Dana White !

White seems to be following in the rather asinine footsteps of both Don King and Bob Arum, and we have all seen how fast that sport has now fallen from grace with such a rapid decline in a short space of time. That, is most definitely something, that MMA and the UFC can well do without .

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In all professional sports, we have executives, who oversee the business as well as competitive side of that entity, with them, using their guile and obvious acumen to achieve the very best possible results. What if anything, do you feel is definitely needed for a professional sport to succeed at the highest level , beyond that of the acumen of the senior most executive ? Leave a comment as you see fit on this and anything else that you believe to relevant to this subject matter and thanks as always for the continued support of the site as it is greatly appreciated !

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Picture and slideshow details below .

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(1) Johny Hendricks , center, reacts following a UFC 167 mixed martial arts championship welterweight bout on against Georges St. Pierre, of Canada, on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. St. Pierre won by a controversial split decision. Hendricks will be the main headliner alongside Robbie Lawler when the two meet at UFC 171 for the vacant UFC welterweight title that was vacated by Georges St Pierre . The Canadian fighter will be taking a leave of absence but it is hoped that his return to MMA and the UFC will be a quick return, where he dominated the welterweight division making a record number of title defenses. AP Photo/Isaac Brekken

(2) A clearly shocked Chris Weidman looks on as his opponent , Anderson Silva lies on the octagon mat unable to carry on in their rematch for the UFC Middleweight Title at UFC 168 , a bout which Weidman won on a TKO , after it was confirmed that Silva had in fact broken his leg during the contest . MMA Junkie / Kieran Russell ….

(3) From left to right , Jon Jones , UFC light heavyweight champion , Anderson Silva , former middleweight champion and Georges St Pierre . In recent months UFC President Dana White has been overly critical of both Silva and St Pierre , often disparaging both fighters with the use of obscenities . However, consider the fact , that the two fighters have accounted for some of the biggest television viewership ratings, when their title bouts have been staged and you would have to ask yourself, what is it, that the UFC President is trying to achieve with his gross behavior and attitude towards both fighters . Keith Stewart / AP Photo ….

(4) Co-Owner, UFC, Lorenzo Fertitta , mixed martial arts fighter Junior dos Santos , President, UFC Dana White and Co-Owner, UFC Frank Fertitta attend UFC on Fox: Live Heavyweight Championship at the Honda Center on November 12, 2011 in Anaheim, California. Getty Images North America / Jason Merritt ….

(5) Wladimir (L) and Vitali Klitschko pose with their award for sport at the Bambi Awards 2009 at the Metropolis Hall at the Filmpark Babelsberg on November 26, 2009 in Potsdam, Germany. The two siblings hold all of the recognized and relevant title belts in the heavyweight division of professional boxing but have refused to meet each other in the ring to bring about an undisputed heavyweight champion . The last boxer to hold that distinction was Lennox Lewis of Gt Britain , almost a decade ago , with the division and the sport remaining fractured ever since , without an undisputed champion any professional weight category in the sport. Getty Images Europe / Michel Villagran ….

(6) Regarded in some circles , certainly amongst many boxing historians as perhaps the greatest heavyweight champion of all-time, Joe Louis . His record twenty-five title defenses stands the test of time and is unsurpassed in boxing history. Though many have come to regard Muhammad Ali , as the greatest heavyweight in history , their respective records speaks for themselves . Getty Archives @ copyrighted material ….

(7) UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion , Ronda Rousey , left holds her belt as she stands across from her opponent , challenger , Miesha Tate , prior to their scheduled contest at UFC 168 . Rousey would go on to defeat Tate , keeping her unbeaten record in tact. Already, with a legion of male and female fans , Ronda Rousey has also brought a great deal of “sex appeal ” , having posed nude for SI , as well as doing several other notable magazine pictorial . The lure of Hollywood has also come knocking , with the MMA artist accepting a role in the 2014 release of “The Expendables III” and also unconfirmed reports of her also being cast in the seventh installment of the action movie car chase saga F&F VII (Fast & Furious 7) . Both action movie series have done considerably well at the box office , domestically , but more so, on the international market , which the Hollywood movie industry now relies on , more so than ever before, for their movies to be extremely profitable . AP Photo / Kelly Marshall ……

(8) Headliners at UFC 171 , and fighting for the vacant UFC Welterweight Title Johny Hendricks , left is seen here with Robbie Lawler . The two were promoting the bout in Dallas Texas , where the event will be staged on Saturday night , 15th March , at the American Airlines Arena , in Dallas , Texas . The new champion will be succeeding Georges St Pierre , the previous holder who held the record for the number of title defenses and tenure , in terms of the length of reign . l ……

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tophatal …………………… 03/16/2014

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Damned if you do and damned if you don’t the NFL still getting some play ….

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t the NFL still getting some play ….

Well now that the shakeout has begun within the NFL , with teams simply severing ties with players they felt that were lacking in productivity or in many cases a money-saving exercise through their own capriciousness in seeking to subvert the cap initiated by the league hierarchy. We are now witnessing that many of the general managers around the league are not as smart as they believe themselves to be. Jerry Jones the erstwhile owner of the Dallas Cowboys suggested that the decision to release the franchise’s best defensive player over the past six seasons , DeMarcus Ware , was simply done from a business standpoint . Yet, when you simply look at the team’s statistics for last season , you will see that the Cowboys possessed one of the worst secondary’s in the entire NFL and much of the blame for this has to rest solely on the shoulders of the team’s defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin .

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Slideshow .

I recently read a posting by clearly an ignorant and uninformed Cowboys’ fan, who suggested that Ware’s declining statistics over the past two seasons was the primary reason for the franchise’s malaise. Somehow , I believe that this particular individual has not been watching the team over the past two seasons, to realize that they have not been very good or particularly effective on either side of the ball . And therein lies the idiocy , a fan who clearly is blinded by his own stupidity , that he cannot see or simply state the obvious.

Given Jerry Jones’ miscues over the past few seasons, as it relates to the draft and free agency acquisitions , his explanations not only ring hollow , but it is becoming abundantly clear that the de-facto general manager and owner of the franchise, is not willing to admit that he is prone to making mistakes and there have been countless mistakes made by Jones, when it comes to his assessing the needs of the franchise, in terms of the player personnel and the coaching staff , led by Jason Garrett , whose own tenure must now coming into question , given the lack success.

For the Dallas Cowboys, still, the only way is up , because, even with Tony Romo leading the team and I use that word “lead “ loosely , because the quarterback can in no way be seen as a leader , under any stretch of the imagination ! He has a tendency, to make excuses for his own miscues and haphazard performances , while being handsomely rewarded by the franchise, with an extraordinarily outrageous contract. Further evidence of an organization that for some reason, has the audacity to still believe itself relevant in the NFL, when their last postseason appearance , simply indicated once again stated , why this franchise remains one of the NFL’s most overrated and talked about teams, having not achieved anything of note on the field of play in five seasons.

With DeMarcus Ware’s departure from the Dallas Cowboys, his pickup by last season’s losing Superbowl representative, should be seen as no big surprise. The Denver Broncos naturally , are in need of someone to bolster a secondary, that was simply exposed by the Seattle Seahawks as one of the biggest “frauds” ever to make an appearance in the NFL’s biggest postseason event .

Joining DeMarcus Ware also , at the Denver Broncos , is corner-back, Aqib Talib , whose departure from the New England Patriots might be one of the biggest surprises of this off-season , with the Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick , who having often spoke highly of the player during the regular season , concerning his play and leadership abilities. Somehow, this might not have been echoed on, to GM Nick Caserio , or team owner , Robert Kraft, who suggested, that it would not be his intention, to overpay for any player , he did not deem it worthy. In the absence of Vince Wilfork for much of the regular season , it was Talib who often stepped up into the role of the leader on the New England Patriots’ defense . The Patriots’ loss, will now be the Broncos’ gain .

Now there seems to be a great deal of tumult within the Patriots’ organization , with Vince Wilfork now seeking to depart from the franchise after ten years of service with the New England Patriots. As to whether or not front office is willing to acquiesce to his wish to be released remains to be seen . Wilfork’s departure were that to take place , would be seen as a shocking loss to the New England Patriots , who are definitely in need of someone with a strong character to lead their secondary unit. While many might feel, that the acquisition of Darrelle Revis , will be of benefit to the team , with some suggesting that the Pro Bowl defensive player is an upgrade over the recently departed Talib. At this stage of his career , after a rather unproductive year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers , I believe that Revis has a great deal more to prove than the recently departed Aqib Talib and not the other way around !

It would not be an understatement to suggest that the echoes of that defeat , is still ringing loud and clear , not just within the confines of Mile High Stadium , but also with many of the Denver Broncos’ players , who simply quaked in their boots during their contest against the victorious Seattle Seahawks. The 48-3 shellacking , that John Fox’s players still have no explanation for, is really disturbing to say the very least. In the annals of postseason NFL history the contest is likely to be discussed at great length, because repeatedly , were to told that the game would pit the NFL’s two best teams , the Broncos’ high-octane offense against the league’s best defense in the Seattle Seahawks. What the fans witnessed bore nothing to the claims being made and was just another hyperbole of the stupidity , of what we have come to expect of a league , that in recent seasons, has been devoid of intelligence amongst its hierarchy , owners , union and most certainly amongst the on air personalities, who provide the fans with their analysis.

Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning for whom, this was his third Superbowl appearance of his long and distinguished career , his legacy may well still be intact , but in terms of his window of opportunity to win a second , postseason title might, now seem. beyond the realms of reality. For John Elway , the franchise’s Head of Football Operations, having himself as a player, had a number of disappointments in the Superbowl , with five appearances of his own , before coming away with the two victories that are currently representative of the Denver Broncos’ postseason success in the NFL.

Manning lost one of his favorite receiving targets , when wide receiver Eric Decker chose to sign with the New York Jets as a free agent , rather than returning to the Broncos. How this now equates with what the Jets are likely to achieve this upcoming season, will be dependent upon which player is deemed to be the starting quarterback for the franchise next season , where the choices are Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith .

The status-quo within the AFC, is likely to remain about the same for the present, with both Denver Broncos and New England Patriots being viewed as the two best teams within the conference . Any contest that pits Tom Brady against Peyton Manning be it during the regular season or postseason , will always guarantee an exceptionally large audience as these two veteran quarterbacks have provided the NFL with some of the most memorable contests to be seen in the NFL in the last decade. . Manning having been drafted as the number one overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft and Tom Brady being taken as an afterthought in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft . It has to be said, that in the subsequent years the league has been privileged enough to have witness two of the very best to have played the game at the quarterback position over the time-span in question. With the careers of both now winding down, one could surmise that this upcoming season could very well be the last, in which we are likely to witness both quarterbacks perform at a very high level.

The one thing, that the NFL certainly likes to make their fans completely aware of, is the very fact that their players are well rewarded. Not just by way of their contracts , but also in terms of salaries , cap hit , length of the contracts and the average salaries . By giving that clarity, it makes the brand certainly more appealing , though not necessarily amenable. Unfortunately, the one thing that the league hierarchy has failed to address, has been player misconduct and the very fact that commissioner has repeatedly failed to address the issue head on and the same can be said NFLPA Executive DeMaurice Smith and his continued hypocrisy , along with that of the union’s executive committee and Board of Player Representatives . Less we forget also, the anal retentive fans who continue to come up with the most asinine arguments to placate the monstrous behavior of the players , by using the analogy of locker room behavior and simple immaturity. Last I looked, racism, misogyny , and criminal misconduct were not part of the everyday workplace or condoned under any fucking circumstance , but there does appear to a group of fans without the god given intelligence to actually figure that out for themselves . Which begs the question, the NFL in its present guise, much like its large fan-base might just be devoid of common decency and intelligence overall !

The NFL Combine provided the fans with a precursor , with regard to the College talent, who have declared their eligibility for the upcoming NFL Draft . Speculation continues, as to who is likely to taken number one overall in this upcoming draft. Jadeveon Clowney , Johnny Manziel , Blake Bortles , Teddy Bridgewater , Jordan Lynch , Jake Robinson , Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack are just a few of the names mentioned. However, the likelihood of one of the aforementioned being taken will be dependent upon the wishes of the Houston Texans and their front office led by GM Rick Smith and what he believes will best meet the needs of the coaching staff of Bill O’Brien , who succeeded the ousted Gary Kubiak , as the franchise’s head coach.

For Bill O’Brien who departed from Penn State’s program under somewhat mysterious circumstances , his intent to resurrect the fortunes of the Houston Texans will be a great deal tougher than some will appreciate . Coming off a 2-14 season in 2013 , for a team that lost fourteen straight games , league-high worst amongst the NFL’s thirty-two teams , anyone expecting a quick turnaround for the franchise might well have to rethink that premise. The Texans’ defense was amongst the worst in the NFL and their offense was not that much better and it remains highly unlikely that Matt Schaub , the franchise’s long-time incumbent starting quarterback will be the opening day starter for the upcoming season . Fans of the franchise would like nothing better than to see the team draft the Texas A&M (Aggies’) quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel , who would certainly be a ” major draw” within the state , but questions remain about the player’s character and maturity. If he is to be seen as the franchise’s long-term future and leader, then those issues will clearly have to be addressed by Rick Smith , Bill O’Brien , the player and his representatives.

The upcoming NFL Draft will likely provide the fans with one or two surprises ,but as usual , it certainly will not be the sort laced frilled drama that have the fans questioning the wherewithal of the choices of their teams. Simply put, we will just have to wait and see, what unfolds over the course of this off-season as to witness what may well unfold. As things now stand, there is still a great deal of drama to unfold, with plot-lines that have yet to be fully played out.

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Picture gallery .

The off-season upheavals that have now taken place and with many more still likely to come , it remains to be seen what else is likely placed within our midst as many more stories will transpire . Of the several acquisitions that have taken place, which do you believe will have the biggest impact for a franchise and which do you think is likely to the detriment of a team ?

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Picture and slideshow details below .
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(1) DeMarcus Ware (94) of the Dallas Cowboys is seen here at the franchise’s training facility in Oxnard , California , . Also pictured in the background is the team’s owner and general manager , Jerry Jones . Ware was released by the Cowboys as a salary cap maneuver meant to save the franchise several million dollars . The franchise’s all-time sacks’ leader has since signed a three-year $30 million deal with the reigning AFC champions the Denver Broncos , where he will also be joined by Aqib Talib , himself a casualty of the New England Patriots’ off-season moves of discarding players superfluous to their needs . AP Photo / Paul Richards ….

(2) Dallas Cowboys’ head Jason Garrett is seen here alongside GM and owner Jerry Jones , as they answer questions from the convened press. In Garrett’s three-and-a-half years with the franchise. he is a combined (29-27 .518) without a playoff appearance , since assuming his position in 2010. Jones for his part, steadfastly stands fully in support of his head coach, but having brought in Scott Linehan to be a lead assistant on the coaching staff , it does appear to have caused some friction with offensive coordinator Bill Callahan , said to be not entirely happy with the move. Dallas Morning News / Jorge Rodriguez ……

(3) Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is seen here with team owner Jerry Jones . Kiffin brought in to succeed Rob Ryan has failed to ignite the Dallas Cowboys’ defense which was amongst the worst performing secondaries in the entire NFL during last season . Getty Images / Philip Rouse …..

(4) Corner-back Aqib Talib who was not re-signed by the New England Patriots and another salary cap casualty of the off-season , has signed a multi-year deal with the Denver Broncos . The team’s Head of Football Operations , John Elway believes that the signing will be of benefit to the team’s secondary , along with the well publicized acquisition of DeMarcus Ware . These might not be the last of the ambitious moves made by Elway, as he seeks to bolster the team’s roster. AP Photo / Mark Roth ….

(5) Darrelle Revis (24) , one year off , from a failed experiment in Tampa Bay and having signed a six-year $96 million non-guaranteed contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers , the player was released by the franchise and has since signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots. AP Photo / Jason Fisher ….

(6) Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning (18) is seen here with wide receiver Eric Decker (87) , one of his favorite receiving targets during the 2013 season with the Broncos . Decker has since departed , having since joined the New York Jets for what is believed to be a far more attractive offer than his former team were prepared to make . Getty Images / Nick Martin …..

(7) Blake Bortles seen here performing at the NFL Combine was one of the major reasons why the UCF Golden Knights had a successful season . Bortles is one of a slew of college quarterbacks that are being viewed as a prospective number one overall pick in this upcoming NFL Draft. AP Photo / Daniel Provenza ………

(8) The South Carolina Gamecocks’ Jadeveon Clowney is seen some circles as the prospective number one overall draft pick , with Clowney also expressing his belief that not only is he the defensive player amongst the crop of players on the secondary , but the best college player overall, that will be on parade this entire draft. AP Photo / Michael Priest …..

(9) Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel seen here at the NFL Combine held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis ,Indiana ,. The player met with the press and answered questions posed on what he believes his future prospects are in the NFL. Choosing not to participate in any of the quarterback exercise drills at the Combine, are not thought to have had an adverse effect on where he is likely to ranked or drafted, by analysts compiling their own assessment of the players . The Houston Texans with the number one overall pick are in need of a quarterback , after a dismal year by Matt Schaub , albeit that on the team’s depth chart Case Keenum was able to show some momentary flashes of composure , though not overly convincing enough to have you believe that he would be a desired starter for a Bill O’Brien coached offense. The Texans’ head coach is also thought to be interested in acquiring a veteran free agent quarterback or has been repeatedly reported , his continuing interest in the Patriots’ Ryan Mallett is said to be ongoing . The AFC East based franchise are said to be reluctant in releasing the player , they believe to be a ready made backup and replacement for their long-time starting quarterback Tom Brady . Getty Images / Paul Howell ………….

(10) (L-R) Bill O’Brien , foreground , speaks to the media after being introduced as the new head coach of the Houston Texans alongside general manager Rick Smith and team owner Bob McNair at a press conference at Reliant Stadium on January 3, 2014 in Houston, Texas. Getty Images / Scott Halleran ……

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tophatal ………………….. 03/14/2014

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Milestones due : Career passing TD’s

Career passing yards 25,000 , 35,000 , 50,0000

Rushing yards : 10,000 ,—– 11,000

Rushing touchdowns : 90 and 100

All purpose yards : 15,000 — 16,0000 and 17,0000

Receiving touchdowns : 50 , 60 , 70 and 90

Rushing touchdowns : 50 , 60 , 70 and 90

The running of the Bulls ……….

The running of the Bulls …..

As a youngster growing up in the UK , I caused my Mom a great deal of angst, as she had to raise three kids as a single mother . From my mid-teens, until I made the decision to join the military, I traveled extensively throughout Western Europe, and along the way, becoming fluent in French, albeit that my great grandparents are of Haitian descent , also speaking German and a little Italian . Of all my travels, some of the best experiences I had, were my times spent in France , Spain and Italy . Although, there was a memorable experience on the island of Cyprus, that included a moment of intimacy with a young female in the town of Limassol. Let’s just say, she knew how to “rock the mic’ “ . In the country of Spain, one the of the great experiences to be had , is the “ Running of the Bulls” in the city of Pamplona and if you are brave enough , then it is something that should be experienced , but I can tell you this , it is not for the faint of heart .

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In the NBA this season , many may well have written off the Chicago Bulls and their season , after the team’s point guard Derrick Rose went down with a another knee injury, once again incapacitating him for the season . Bad luck or simply karma, call it what you will. Suffice to say, Rose’s career is now sitting on a precipice and the dangers signs are suggesting , that it could very well be over before he has been able to make a real impact on the NBA. Rose is one of the youngest players ever to have won the NBA League MVP , all at the tender age of twenty-two , having entered the NBA as a first round draft pick of the Chicago Bulls in the 2008 NBA Draft .

With the loss of Rose, in many circles , it was thought that the case would, the Bulls would “tank” the season and simply look towards the upcoming draft to supplement the roster and by way of free agency , and also to jettison high salary capped players in order to make the team cap-friendly and a viable destination for any potential marquee free agent, looking for a fresh opportunity, as well as being viewed as being on a championship-caliber team. I felt at the time, that two of the Bulls’ lead front office executives , GM Gar Forman and Head of Basketball Operations John Paxson made a major monumental blunder in trading away Luol Deng , who at this point had been the Bulls’ best player all season long and who had also shown himself to be a great on-court leader. Yet, somehow what should well have spelt disaster for the Bulls and their season, has now turned out to be something of an opportunity as this Tom Thibodeau coached team , now seems revitalized and induced with sheer optimism , as they seek to play themselves into contention for a divisional crown and a high seeding within the Eastern Conference .

Coming off a very convincing victory over the highly touted defending champions the Miami Heat , you kind of get the feeling that this NBA season might not end up being as uninteresting within the Eastern Conference, as some might have thought it would be , as it appeared that the Heat and Indiana Pacers would have the conference to themselves , with the victor having the “spoils of war” . All of a sudden, with the wheels discombobulating off the vehicles of the Heat and Pacers, there very well could be a great deal to play for, before the regular season ends its schedule.

Tom Thibodeau has proven himself to be one of the better coaches in the NBA and given what he has to work with this season, with the loss of Derrick Rose and the departure of Luol Deng, in making the Bulls still competitive, to my mind he is a worthy candidate to be named the NBA Coach of the Year , as I do not believe that there are any other viable candidates based solely on achievement alone for this season ! ! At 35-29 the Bulls’ mark stands as the fourth best within the Eastern Conference behind the surprisingly resilient Toronto Raptors (35-27) the second placed Miami Heat (44-17) and the Indiana Pacers(47-17) who are a slim three games ahead of their closest rivals the Heat.

While I do not expect there to be a complete falloff in terms of the top two contenders within the Eastern Conference ! I do believe the momentum, now being shown by the Chicago Bulls adds a little more intrigue to the conference, rather than elements there, become something of a foregone conclusion . For Miami, that seven-point loss to the Bulls proved to be a wake-up call, as they rebounded to defeat the Washington Wizards on their home-court with 99-90 victory , with LeBron James leading the way for the Heat with twenty-three points , leading all scorers in the contest. James is seeking to prove to the naysayers that he is not yet ready to relinquish his League MVP crown to anyone as of yet , even if the cries are that Kevin Durant while leading the Oklahoma Thunder to the best record in the NBA is now having a better year from a statistical standpoint . From my own perspective , I believe that Durant apart from having a better season , he is proving , that in allowing his teammates to become involved in many of the team’s victories this season , it is simply not just about him alone . A case can be made that for the Heat , without James , their record would be considerably more troubling . The two players have this season , have stood head and shoulders above their rivals and that includes players such as Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony , who have each had their own individual moments this season .

As the season continues to spiral out of control for the Los Angeles Lakers , there have been very few positives for the franchise over the course of the year. Kobe Bryant still remains sidelined with an injury. Meanwhile, head coach Mike D’Antoni still guides this team with reckless abandonment, having not taught any of the younger group of players a thing with regard to playing defense . Doubt my word, then simply look at the team’s stats and where they lie within the conference and league as a whole. Then you can easily understand the reasons why, the Lakers have been in trouble all season long, in spite of the absence of Bryant. Although their surprising defeat of the Oklahoma City Thunder might well have been the team’s biggest victory of the season , beyond that success there have been very few positives to report.

Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak and team owner Jim Buss , have made several mistakes in the past eighteen months that have come home to roost , by way of a lack of a real scorer on the roster beyond Bryant. An aging Pau Gasol is unable to carry the burden of the team’s offense and one or two individualistic moments from the likes of Nick Young or Jodie Meeks cannot and will not hide the fact that the lineup is simply devoid of depth and real underlying talent. Now the franchise is simply pinning their hopes on the free agency market of 2015 and the likelihood, that there will be a dearth of highly sought after players, hitting the market all at the same time. If as anticipated, the likes of Carmelo Anthony and others do make it known of their intent , then Kupchak is likely to be given the go-ahead to pursue anyone of a number of those highly sought after players with a view to bolstering the roster. From my own standpoint , with next season likely to be Kobe Bryant’s last in the NBA , it will provide the player and the franchise the last opportunity of their winning an NBA title, before his likely retirement. Having signed a two-year $48.5 million contract this past season , the deal itself might well have been seen as outrageous, it does lead many to believe that at this juncture , there is a great deal of desperation within the front office of the organization with Jim Buss being under a great deal of pressure to succeed , while following in the footsteps of his late father , Dr Jerry Buss, the erstwhile late owner of the franchise.

The Los Angeles Lakers will now face another stern test, as the now have a rematch with the Thunder for the second time in the past four days , when they are the guests of their opponents at the Chesapeake Energy Center , Oklahoma City , Oklahoma on Thursday , 13th March, 2014 .

The Western Conference continues to remain as competitive as ever, far more so, than that of the Eastern Conference. While the feeling remains, that the combatants in the West, are likely to be in for an arduous battle, as the playoffs begin , whereas, the East will be as predictable as ever, with the top two teams in the conference, likely to meet, in the Eastern Conference Finals.

It would be fair to suggest that this season has been a profound disappointment for anyone who happens to be a fan of the New York Knicks. The team has under-achieved, with head coach, Mike Woodson being unable to get any semblance of consistency from his players. With a record of 25-40 the team currently lays 3 ½ games out of eighth place for the final playoff berth within the East. The Atlanta Hawks (27-35) , holding down that final spot, have to be fearful of the Knicks finding any sort of momentum enabling a playoff push and erasing that deficit. . For all of the heroics of Carmelo Anthony this season , it is hard to envisage the Knicks finding that sort of resilience at this stage , when in the earlier part of their schedule they have simply not been able to exhibit any type of consistency whatsoever.

James Dolan, owner of the New York Knicks has been very reticent to answer any questions concerning the franchise’s woes. However, in light of his agreement in principle to hire Phil Jackson , former player with the franchise and the most successful coach in NBA history , to now head up the front office as Head of Basketball Operations . It now begs the question , how much power will now be placed in the hands of the former head coach and what will be the long-term futures of both GM Steve Mills and that the current Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson ? With neither being hires of Jackson, one could speculate that both will be allowed to remain with the franchise until the end of the season , before he makes a decision as to whether or not both Mills and Woodson will remain with the organization in their current capacities .

I believe that this hire of Phil Jackson was done in large part, to impress upon Carmelo Anthony , that the franchise now means to do whatever it takes to retain his services , while seeking to build a competitive team to complement his skill-set . The player, himself has not been abundantly clear, as to what his intentions will be concerning his long-term future with the franchise . Yet, if the indications are too believed, then he is likely to opt out of the final year of his contract and test the free agency market. The New York Knicks however, remain with the upper-hand, knowing that they will be able to offer Anthony a long-term deal, paying the player a far bigger contract than any likely suitor will be able to offer as mandated by the league. Yet , for Carmelo Anthony , at this stage of his ten-year career in the NBA , I do not believe it comes down to money , but more so the opportunity to play for a legitimate contender for the NBA title , rather than a franchise that in recent seasons , has simply been an afterthought in the minds of the vast majority of fans of the NBA , with the exception of those who just happen to be fans of the New York Knicks’ franchise.

With their recent lopsided victory over a dour Philadelphia 76rs’ team, the Knicks’ next contest will pit them against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night at the TD Banknorth Gardens in Boston , Massachusetts , against Brad Stevens’ young and inexperienced roster . If New York Knicks are seeking to make a serious run at a playoff berth at this juncture , then this will be a game that they simply cannot afford to lose. As to what the rest of the season now holds for the franchise, remains to be seen , and that of the intent of Phil Jackson , also .

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Picture gallery .

As the NBA season winds down , what are you expecting to see from the teams vying for a playoff berth ? Also, do you believe the hiring of Phil Jackson to head up franchise’s basketball operations will be in their best interests or do you believe that it will add a great deal of uncertainty around the organization?

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Picture and slideshow gallery details below .

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(1) The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona , Spain honoring St Fermin. A seven-day event, that takes place during the month of July . It has become a worldwide event , which has also its detractors , especially amongst animal rights’ group around the globe. REUTERS/UPI …

(2) Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls is seen here centering the arena at the United Center , in Chicago , Illinois, prior to the game before the Chicago Bulls played the San Antonio Spurs at their home venue . Chicago would end up losing the game 104-96 . AP Photo / Keith Kirkpatrick ……….

(3) Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs looks to make the pass during an offensive play during the game against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night , 11th March , during the contest played at the United Center . Also in picture are Jimmy Butler of the Bulls , Kawhi Leonard (21) of the Spurs and defending Duncan , Joakim Noah . AP Photo Keith Kirkpatrick …

(4) Tom Thibodeau converses with Derrick Rose (1) of the Chicago Bulls during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at Phillips Arena on May 6, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. This season Rose has been lost to Bulls for their entire schedule but amazingly enough the team now seems likely to make the postseason without their All Star point guard . Getty Images North America / Kevin C. Cox …..

(5) Chicago Bulls GM Gar Forman , seen here in the foreground, alongside the franchise’s Head of Basketball Operations , former Bulls’ player John Paxson . Forman and Paxson have worked studiously over the past four years in acquiring the talent and then with the hiring of Tom Thibodeau to make franchise a championship contender . Team owner , Jerry Reinsdorf has continued to heap praises upon the franchise’s two lead front office executives . Chicago Sun Times / Eric Moffitt ………

(6) A lost and forlorn season for Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant , who , having been declared done for the year , will now watch from the sidelines as the team embattled the rest of the season , seeking something positive out of it all . In recent months Bryant has been critical of the front office questioning the ambition of Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak and their wanting to make the roster competitive . With no chance of making the playoffs , this could end up being one of the franchise’s worst seasons in recent years in terms their year-end record. Another vocal critic of the Los Angeles Lakers’ has been former player and Hall of Fame great Magic Johnson , currently a senior managing partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ownership group. UPI/ Anthony Hughes …..

(7) NEW YORK, NY – April 5: Phil Jackson , a member of the 1973 Championship New York Knicks team during a press conference before a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the New York Knicks on April 5, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Jackson has agreed in principle to head up the Knicks’ front office operations and will be an EVP & Head of Basketball Operations . GM Steve Mills will have Jackson as his immediate superior , with new executive reporting directly to owner James Dolan , concerning all matters with regard to the player personnel . It is unclear what sort of impression this will make on the pending status of Knicks’ star Carmelo Anthony , who can opt out of his existing contract at the end of this season. Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images ………

(8) New York Knicks’ center . Tyson Chandler (6) is seen here alongside teammate Carmelo Anthony (7) during a game . Both are said to be tired of the team’s losing and the apparent lack of direction coming from the front office and that of the coaching of Mike Woodson. With their season floundering both players are now said to be discussing their futures with the Knicks and it is likely , one , if not both players may well seek to leave the organization . Getty Images/ Martin Stewart ……. …….

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The view from the top of the mountain …

The view from the top of the mountain ….

They’re now perched at the top of the hill and probably not seen as realistic favorites to successfully defend their World Series title, John Farrell and the Boston Red Sox are being admired from afar by the other twenty-nine Major League Baseball teams , believing they too can do something special this season . However, before that becomes a reality , one has to assess the teams that legitimately have a chance to win the title. Though it has been several years since baseball had a repeat champion , if things play out, as some feel that it could , then a fourth World Series title in eight years is most certainly possibility for one of baseball’s most renowned and revered franchises.

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As usual, the AL East , a division that will remain competitive, with the likelihood instead of the expected two-horse race between the Boston Red Sox and the free-wheeling and dealing New York Yankees , we could also see both the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays also added into the mix. All four franchises are managed by four managers, who have taken teams to postseason play, with differing levels of success. John Farrell , having won in 2013, would like to join a select group of managers to have taken a team to successive World Series and winning both, is quite an achievement .

Buck Showalter , is a manager known to come into a franchise and over a period time has been known to have turn things around. Consider the fact, that prior to the success achieved by Joe Torre during the mid to late nineties with the New York Yankees. It was Showalter, who as Torre’s successor was very much responsible and grooming of several of the players who would be the centerpiece of that success of winning four titles within the space of seven years . The praise has been heaped upon Torre’s shoulders and quietly right so, but it should also be remembered Buck Showalter played a part in the nurturing of those players and the success that would come about.

Joe Maddon may well be seen as one of the best managers of his generation not to have won title , but having won a Manager of the Year Award , I doubt that will be enough for a manager who strives for excellence , while simply seeking the best out of his players. Since his succeeding Lou Piniella in 2006, Maddon’s career with the Tampa Bay Rays, has been extraordinary to say the very least. From humbling beginnings with the incumbent manager , this ball-club with a front office headed by senior managing partner Stuart Sternberg , Matt Silverman and general manager Andrew Friedman , the franchise has operated under the usual premise of frugality and not overspending to acquire players and in keeping the payroll within their means. While there have continued to be issues concerning the franchise and attendance levels for their games at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida , the one constant has been group of about 15,000 hardcore Rays’ fans who have continued to support the ball-club through thick and thin , while Maddon has presided over the team as its most successful manager. With that elusive title, being the one thing prize that the owners would like nothing better to see , than it being on display in the trophy room of the Rays’ headquarters. This could very well be the season, where the players on the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster could very well make it happen.

Baltimore for its part, now has to prove to their fans, that they have finally turned the corner and are back to some semblance of respectability . For much of last season, the team was definitely in contention for a wildcard berth and at times. It seemed that, there might well have been a possibility for the franchise to have won their first divisional title in several years. . If this current Orioles’ team is to have any semblance of real success, then it will be predicated upon the players such as Manny Machado , one of the game’s brightest young stars and that of All Star slugger, Chris Davis repeating the form shown in 2013 , when he led the Majors in home runs , well as being in consideration for the AL MVP , which had a repeat winner with the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera laying claim to the crown for the second time in his career.

While I believe that the Baltimore Orioles are capable of pulling off perhaps a number of game and series’ surprises over the course of this season , I am still not convinced that there is the depth needed or the talent on the roster for the team to prevail . I may well be proven wrong, over the course of the season and we will just have to wait and see, what unfolds over the course of the year. Pitching and a steady flow of both Davis and Machado should prove to be an exciting spectacle to watch for the fans in attendance at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, as they take on their divisional rivals.

Having committed over $300 million to free agency acquisition signings , either Brian Cashman is seeking to prove doubters wrong , with both he and Hal Steinbrenner having a plan of action , in terms of how the New York Yankees will acquit themselves this season . A great deal of talk by the owner , in wanting the reduce the team’s payroll , well below $200 million , in order for the ball-club to avoid paying the league mandated “luxury tax” , does seem to be something of anathema to front office and organization in general . It has been a considerable amount of time, since the franchise’s salary obligations were considerably lower than $200 million . Over the past seven seasons the organization’s commitments in terms of payroll obligations have fluctuated between $192 million to a preposterously ridiculous figure of approximately $218 million , when the Opening Day payroll commitment in 2013, for all of baseball’s teams exceeded $3 billion for the very first time in the game’s history. Yet it remains so asinine that you would have the MLB Commissioner Bud Selig seeking some sort of financial restraint from the MLBPA (union) , when neither the owners or the general managers seem to unable to any show constraint, themselves , when many of the most ridiculous contracts offered , in a great many cases , where many of the recipients in question have barely a year of optimum productivity.

As great as most feel, that the New York Yankees’ hopes are likely to be ” win or go home “ and with the emotions now surrounding the club, as Derek Jeter ends his final season with the organization. It is my belief, that even with that, as a lure for the fans , we are likely to see the team fall short of expectations ! Last season , the Yankees were simply uncompetitive throughout much of the year and though one could put down to the litany of injuries suffered by the team , it still did not hide the fact that an aging core of players , with little managerial ingenuity being shown Joe Girardi and his managerial staff , ultimately ad.c led to their demise , with a fourth place finish in the AL East and missing the postseason completely . The hard part for the players this season, will be to gel as a team, while playing at a consistently high level over the course of their schedule.

There are four teams within baseball that are to my mind , are inept, in terms of the front office decisions being made and the constant wish to pay out lavishly for players , only to see them fall from grace in terms of productivity or simply giving the necessary effort. During much of last season , the vast majority of fans were riding on the coattails of the Los Angeles Dodgers with their star laden team , and their top-heavy payroll created the perception that the team would be a shoo-in for the World Series . Were it, not for the efforts of Yasiel Puig the team would never have made the postseason , much less win the NL West , with such ease . That being said , the Dodgers’ inept play in the NLCS against the St Louis Cardinals exposed the team as being flawed in a number of areas that have not necessarily been critically addressed by Stan Kasten and Ned Colletti , other than to make Clayton Kershaw one of the highest paid pitchers , players and with one of the largest contracts ever guaranteed within the game . I guess having a twenty-year $ 8 billion television contract as well as being backed by an ownership group, whose venture capital and investment firm with over $125 billion in assets , does have its merits and perks !

The two leading managing partners in the Dodgers’ hierarchy , Mark Walters and Todd S Boehly , along with former NBA great Magic Johnson have made it known that “ money will be of no object “ as the ball-club seeks to win their first World Series’ title since 1988 . Hard to believe that it has been that long, since the franchise won baseball’s biggest title and were seated atop of the game of baseball . Where the challenges will come from within the division, as Don Mattingly and his staff lead the team into their 2014 schedule will undoubtedly be predicated upon the play of the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants , two teams with a great deal of ambition for this upcoming season .

I believe that the Dodgers can have a great deal of success , but if the team becomes complacent , as was .noticeably seen with a number of their performances last season , then I firmly believe that they will ultimately fail in their goal of winning another World Series’ title this season !

Over the past five seasons Jon Daniels and the Texas Rangers have come repeatedly close to winning a World Series’ title, only to fail at the final obstacle. Former team President Nolan Ryan is no longer with the franchise , having in part, alienated many of partners in the ownership group with his gregarious antics , as well as seeking to usurp the authority of Daniels as the Rangers’ general manager. . Back to back appearances in the Fall Classic, in 2010 and 2011 , only fall short of their goal , has not stymied zeal of the Rangers’ fans , but at this juncture my question would be , can Ron Washington and his staff take this team any further ? Two attempts have ended with two failures , with their being doubts around the game, as to whether or not the Texas Rangers are simply good enough to win the game’s biggest prize.

The Rangers’ team , on paper looks good , but looking good doesn’t necessarily equate with the results on the field, as borne out by last season and Texas’ colossal failure in the AL West . Granted , it is a highly competitive division , where over the past two seasons the Oakland A’s have been the dominant force , and then some . With some major upheavals in the Texas Rangers’ roster during the off-season and with Jon Daniels and this managerial staff are under a great of pressure to succeed. A great deal of money has been vested in the player personnel over the past few seasons, and even with the apparent postseason appearances in two successive World Series, the end results were definitely not to the hierarchy’s satisfaction . This may well be, the last gasp chance for Ron Washington and certain players on the team, by way of the impending free agency status and pay.

If Texas are to contend within the division (AL West) and the AL as a whole, then players such as Adrian Beltre , Prince Fielder , Shin-Soo Choo , Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus will have to be very productive in terms of the team’s offense , and with the pitching having to be, equally effective over the course of the season . That is where the likes of Yu Darvish , Alex Ogando , Martin Perez , Nick Tepesch and Tommy Hanson will have to be totally consistent in their starts over the course of the season with the equal amount of support coming from the bullpen . Texas will officially begins their regular season with an away series against the Tampa Bay Rays on the 4th April April in a three-game series at the AL East divisional contestant’s venue .

Perhaps I am mistaken , but in assembling a roster , with such players such as Mike Trout , Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton , you would have expected a hell of lot more than a team batting average of .254 which ranked third amongst the AL’s fifteen teams last season . Yet, in the case of the Los Angeles Angels , I cannot believe that this would have been enough to satisfy Arte Moreno , the team’s owner or Jerry Dipoto , the general manager ! The team pitching with an ERA of 4.24 , ranking it eleventh in the American League, was obviously the biggest hurdle for the team managed by Mike Scioscia and his staff .

A third place finish, eighteen games out of first place , behind the Oakland A’s , who ran away with the AL West division for a second successive season and there was nothing at all to show for the Los Angeles Angels. Perhaps, the only bright spot for the franchise, remains the blossoming career of Mike Trout , while more celebrated players such as Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, were either sidelined through much of last season with recurring injuries or simply mediocre productivity over the course of the Angels’ season. It is has been far too hefty a price to pay , with Pujols now beginning to make excuses for his own woes, as well as taking slight , about comparisons being made between he and Trout , in terms of their productivity through their first two seasons within the Major Leagues. Pujols may well be a multiple winner of the NL MVP and one of the most productive hitters the game has seen over the past ten years , but now he is becoming something of a grouch , while a number of fans and analysts alike begin to question the value of the contract signed with the ball-club.

Josh Hamilton, has simply been a non-factor with the Los Angeles Angels since joining the ball-club. While he remains extremely popular amongst the fans, I am not so sure that he is seen as the player with the stature of Albert Pujols or the popularity of Mike Trout ! Over the past two seasons , it has been Trout who has literally led the Angels while holding it together, in some semblance of actually being a team of sorts. Now comes the hard part for the Angels’ front office, with their All Star outfielder now arbitration eligible , do they offer the player a multi-year deal , compensatory to his stature , knowing that he does not become a free agent until 2018 , where undoubtedly, were his productivity to remain consistent , he would likely garner the financial offer that would most certainly make him the highest paid player in baseball. This is something that Arte Moreno and Jerry Dipoto will have to mull over as well as the long-standing future of Mike Sciocsia , whom, in having led the Angels to their only World Series’ crown . In the subsequent years since 2002 , they have not been at all that generous for the Anaheim based franchise .

It is hard to view which of the two franchise may well be the worst, the AL West domiciled Houston Astros , who in each of the last two seasons has managed to lose in excess of 100 games or the forever embattled New York Mets , whose fans continue to be delusional and completely out of touch with reality.

Astros’ owner Jim Crane , apart from owning an uncompetitive franchise, is now in the midst of a litigious battle with broadcast partners CSN Houston . CSN’s parent company Comcast , wishes to take the unit into bankruptcy proceedings , having not been able to find a suitable buyer for the Houston based cable outlet and program provider. Crane’s franchise, also happens to be a minority stakeholder in CSN Houston and possible court proceeding, are likely to further hurt the already troubled ball-club from a financial standpoint , in spite of Crane’s insistence the Astros still remain a viable concern. Personally, I would not take anything that a current ball-club owner has to say about their franchise as the truth , from an economic standpoint or with a grain of salt ! Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner, Frank McCourt suggested that his franchise at the time, was on a sound financial footing. It would not be long after that, we would be made aware as to the gross financial mismanagement that took place under McCourt , with him having contravened several of the league’s most “cardinal rules” , as it relates to the operations of a ball club. Taking the Dodgers into bankruptcy proceedings, with Bud Selig , then intervening somewhat surreptitiously , led to the Dodgers being sold to a consortium led by Mark Walters and Magic Johnson , for the now record figure of $2.156 billion.

I do not envy anyone, who now happens to be an Astros’ fan, because I do believe that this season , we are likely to see the franchise lose one hundred games for a third consecutive season. Something, that I do not believe that has happened within the annals of baseball’s history , or since the one hundred and sixty-two game schedule came into being . Bo Porter , manager of the Astros and his staff , will be hard pressed this season, to make a significant improvement over 2013 , during which the team 111 games (51-111).

Since Terry Collins’ installment as the manager of the New York Mets , there has been nothing to suggest that he and his staff possess the wherewithal to make this team a contender , never mind this continued insistence that Sandy Alderson and JP Ricciardi are on the cusp of turning things around as the lead executives in charge of player personnel decisions. If anything, things have deteriorated for the franchise , albeit , that there have been one or two bright spots , but nothing to suggest overall that the team in its current guise will be able to be competitive against the rest of the NL. That certainly was not the case last season , with the Mets falling to a third place finish with 74-88 record , considerably behind the second placed Washington Nationals (86-76) and the Atlanta Braves (96-66) as the winners of the NL East .

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David Wright will remain the focal point of the Mets , as the franchise’s best player and around whom Sandy Alderson has committed to building a competitive roster , through the MLB Draft , frugal trade , acquisitions and assessing the team’s farm system for a crop of good , young and productive players. What now happens concerning the Mets, as a competitive ball club, will be predicated upon the mindset of the players on the team and whether or not under Terry Collins’ guidance they can get the job done. For far too long, the franchise has remained the unwanted stepchild within the New York based media market, as they looked on enviously of their crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees . I think at the end of this upcoming season the Met are liable to be doing the same thing once again , even if the Yankees, themselves, do fail to win the World Series. Your thoughts, on the merits of this piece and anything else you believe to be pertinent, concerning the subject matter.

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(1) Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell , left , is seen here with team owner , John Henry , as they hold the World Series’ trophy. In his first season as skipper of the team , Farrell was able to guide the franchise from a last place finish in the AL East in 2012 , to winning the division , the AL Pennant and World Series’ crown in 2013 by easily defeating the St Louis Cardinals . There is a strong belief within the organization that they are capable of making a successful defense of their title , with Series’ MVP …. David Ortiz making a case for that argument . AP Photo/ Phil Carson …..

(2) Buck Showalter , manager of the Baltimore Orioles is seen here with Dan Duquette (right) , EVP of Baseball Operations for the Orioles’ organization . A disappointing third place finish within the AL East has given both the impetus to make changes within the roster , in an effort to be more competitive within the division this upcoming season . Showalter and his staff hope to make that a reality for the franchise . Getty Images / Parker Hughes ……

(3) Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman , seated left , is seen here alongside team manager Joe Maddon as they discuss the team’s prospects for the upcoming season with the convened press at Tropicana Field , in St Petersburg , Florida , home to the AL East based franchise . picture appears courtesy of TBO.com

(4) Derek Jeter , captain of the New York Yankees is seen here the team’s principal manager partner and Chairman, Hal Steinbrenner after the team’s triumph in the 2009 World Series . With Jeter announcing that after a two decade career with the ball club that it is his i intent to retire at the end of the 2014 season . The question now becomes, who will now seek to fill the void , once the short-stop and All Star finally steps down ? Furthermore, in many circles, while the Yankees have turned to ways of old, in terms of their capricious spending , the feeling more than anything else , with the front office and managerial staff of Joe Girardi having very little faith in the development of the players within the farm system , the organization is being forced to take drastic measures in order to bolster the team’s roster . AP Photo / Robert Matthews ……..

(5) New owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, from left, Robert Patton , Stan Kasten , Mark Walter , Earvin “Magic’ Johnson , Peter Guber , and Todd Boehly pose for a photo at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 2, 2012. The $2 billion sale of the team to Guggenheim Baseball Management whose parent company is the multi- faceted capital investment company Guggenheim Partners Inc , in a deal which was finalized on finalized Tuesday . AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes …..

(6) Texas Rangers’ senior managing partner and Chairman Ray C Davis , left , seen here alongside Nolan Ryan and Bob Simpson . All three partners were part of the consortium that purchased the ball-club from then owner , Tom Hicks and business partner Ken Gillette . At the time of the sale , the franchise had been placed into the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings , having failed to make payments to a number of its creditors and also defaulting on a bank loan . Ryan has seen been ousted as the Rangers’ team President , with the role no longer being recognized by the board members . GM Jon Daniels beyond his role as the general manager , also interacts with the senior executives within the organization. Getty Images / Chris Prentice ….

(7) From left to right , Josh Hamilton , Mike Trout and Albert Pujols . If the team is to contend this season within the AL West , then it will be incumbent upon the trio remaining healthy and productive all season long , along with starting pitcher CJ Wilson regaining the form that made him a once dominant pitcher , during his days with the Texas Rangers and then with some of his early form with . the Angels . Mike Sciocsia as the manager , is under a great deal of pressure to deliver this season , with the growing impatience of team owner Arte Moreno now beginning to echo within the franchise , calling for a major shakeup within the organization at the managerial level , as well as, amongst the playing roster . LA Times / Matt Santos ….

(8) Jim Crane owner of the Houston Astros is seen here seated along with the Astros’ Chief Legal Counsel Giles Kibbe , as Crane reads from a written statement of the ball-club’s intent to sue CSN Houston , Comcast Inc. parent company of the affiliated sports’ broadcast outlet and McClane Champions , the holding company of Drayton McClane , former owner of the franchise . The Astros are one of collective of sports’ franchises that have a minority stake in CSN Houston . Partners also include the Houston Rockets of the NBA and the Houston Dynamo of MLS Soccer . The suit has been filed in the US Federal District Court in Houston , Texas , with a trial date yet to be set for the litigation to begin . This all could have serious ramifications for the viewers within the greater Houston , Texas market area , as the defendants Comcast and CSN Houston are seeking to shutter the operations of the local broadcast outlet, due to sever financial losses . Crane’s counter argument , appears to be that Comcast and its affiliate, are seeking to dupe the consumer and its partners , in order to avail themselves of a greater share of the revenues and profits and not the claims of having lost millions of dollars the operations of the Houston based broadcaster. AP Photo / Martin Groves ……

(9) New York Mets’ shortstop David Wright is seen here in dugouts seated besides manager Terry Collins . Wright was withdrawn from the game against the Milwaukee Brewers by his manager , having suffered a slight injury . There has not been a great deal to smile about since Collins assumed the role as the skipper of the Mets as the team has labored under his guidance . Front office executives Sandy Alderson and JP Ricciardi are steadfastly behind their much talked about manager and his record with the franchise and their being a general view that this season will be all or bust for Collins . A failure to win the NL East or gain a playoff berth is likely to lead to his dismissal , albeit, that he signed a contract extension with the organization recently . Such are the inner workings of the New York Mets , the question now being asked , “is there any common sense to be found within the front office , much less amongst the managerial staff ” ? AP Photo / Martin Inglis ………. .

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tophatal ………………….. 03/09/2014

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When Father Time Comes Knocking, You Can’t But Fail Not To Answer …..

When Father Time Comes Knocking, You Can’t But Fail Not To Answer

There comes a time when you become the elder statesman within your sport, there are calls and suggestions that you retire , or because of injuries suffered , you are no longer productive enough within your chosen profession. This baseball season will see the retirement of baseball’s most popular , with Derek Jeter having announced that 2014 will be his last in a New York Yankees’ uniform . The Yankees’ shortstop has graced the stage for almost two decades as a player having won five World Series’ titles with the franchise , several individual awards by way of the Golden Gloves , and an AL Rookie of The Year Award , but surprisingly never an AL MVP . That asides, when he plays his last regular season game , which will be a game against the Yankees’ venerable adversary , the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston , Massachusetts , we are likely to see one of the most emotional days in recent baseball history .

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I believe that Derek Jeter’s retirement will leave a huge vacuum within the game of baseball and most certainly a huge void on the current New York Yankees’ roster , where he has been the captain of the team for at least the past six seasons. He will depart from the franchise as a leader in several offensive categories but more than anything else , perhaps one of the most beloved and well-respected players in that franchise’s history . As to where he might rank amongst many of the great players to have worn the Yankees’ Pinstripes will now become a matter of great conjecture and debate across the panacea of the game amongst fans, baseball purists and historians alike .

Prior to Jeter’s retirement , the only other player I believe that was held with such high esteem within baseball within the past ten years , who left the game under what, were thought to be his terms, was that of Ken Griffey Jr , the famed outfielder , and son of Ken Griffey Sr . Injuries robbed the former Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners’ player of some of the best years of career , but he left the game with a batting average that one would deem respectable , along with some spectacular highlights as to his phenomenal athleticism in the outfield . Before, there was Torii Hunter and Mike Trout , there was Ken Griffey Jr, simply amazing the fans and analysts alike with his power and fielding . Perhaps only Bo Jackson showing his phenomenal prowess , might well have been Griffey’s equal at a time when the game was a joy to watch and before the “dawn “ of the “steroid era” and the advantages it provided hitters and pitchers alike .

While LeBron James continues to prosper within the NBA , currently making a mockery of many of his peers , perhaps with the exception of Kevin Durant , of whom, many believe may well be James’ closest rival as the best player in the league. Another player , who currently sits on the sidelines while his team labors under the rigors of an arduous season , while failing to live up to expectations. The question now has to be asked , was it really worthwhile for the Los Angeles Lakers to have offered Kobe Bryant that ridiculous two-year contract extension that will pay Bryant $48.5 million over the next two years , ending 2015 ?

As of the 4th March , 2014 the Lakers possessed the worst record in the NBA’s Western Conference and the team was simply uncompetitive under Mike D’Antoni’s coaching and the guidance of his coaching staff . From my own standpoint, coming into this season, I did not see this Lakers’ lineup as being a championship caliber team or a roster capable of winning their division , much less the Western Conference itself ! An aging Steve Nash at the point guard position , is simply not the answer for a team that sought someone who should be more productive, never mind Nash’s ongoing ailments and the fact that he has played a mere handful of games for the team this season . The alternatives for D’Antoni at the position , has been threadbare, along with any type of real productivity.

With Nash intimating that this is likely to be his last season in the NBA , the two-time League MVP , will bow out of the NBA with a list of accomplishments that belie his age , with the one missing notable achievement being an NBA title and championship ring. Steve Nash had a solid career, wherever he played , prior to his arrival with the Los Angeles Lakers at the beginning of last season. One now wonders what might have been, were Nash a part of the team prior to last season , when indeed, the franchise needed a player of his caliber ?

A recent seven point loss at home to the New Orleans Pelicans has pretty much summed up the woes of the Lakers’ season and the very fact that Mike D’Antoni’s coaching has become listless and uninspired , along with the play of this team. One could make excuses, that without Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers are a mere shell of a team. Yet, with Bryant on court , this lineup would simply struggle against many of their peers not just within the conference but across the league as a whole. The team’s record, now reflects a clear indication of they are and have become, and that is even with the advent of GM Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss thinking ahead with regard to the litany of free agents that will hit the market with the front office seeking to maneuver and place itself in better position with regard to its cap space .

For Kobe Bryant , now a seventeen-year veteran of the NBA , he is at the tail end of a career , that has seen him win every individual honor and team honor possible for a player within the league . Now a five-time NBA champion, the possibility of his now winning a sixth title, has seen that window of opportunity greatly reduced. Athletically, he is considerably slower than five years ago , with the explosiveness of his game, is no longer there. The question now becomes, without another marquee name beside him, can Kobe Bryant lead the Lakers to another title? Pau Gasol , has been a willing foil , assisting the All Star guard, but he too has become an aging veteran in the league , and again no longer the player, he was , three years ago . It is my belief that the upcoming season, will be Bryant’s last in the NBA, before he too , chooses to ride off into the sunset under his own steam , rather than being forced out by the team’s hierarchy !

Next up for the Lakers on their schedule , will be a game against their divisional rivals and inhabitants of the Staples Center , the Los Angeles Clippers . With their season series tied at one game apiece (1-1) , this third contest between the two teams , should prove to be very interesting, as Doc Rivers and his players seek to strengthen their grip on the Pacific Division within the Western Conference.

One game above ,500, at 30-29 , the Brooklyn Nets are lucky enough to be playing in a rather uninspiring division of the Eastern Conference . Currently, three game behind the Atlantic East leading Toronto Raptors (33-26) , perhaps the ” surprise”: team of the Eastern Conference this season. It would be fair to suggest, that this Jason Kidd coached Nets’ team , have been a great disappointment this season . . GM Billy King and team owner , Mikhail Prokhorov have simply sought to abandon any type of sound business principles and simply assembled a roster of high-priced players , with an aging core of veterans , in Kevin Garnett , Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to surround the talents of Deron Williams , Brook Lopez and the “highly overrated “ Joe Johnson , whose contract and salary this season is one of the NBA’s biggest travesties and a clear reason why David Stern , the league hierarchy , team owners and general managers have no concept of fiscal responsibility .

What has been abundantly clear, is that the $110 million payroll of the Brooklyn Nets , the highest in the NBA this season , is further proof , that simply assembling roster of high-salaried players , is by no means a guarantee of success. The Nets found that out to their cost last season , with the team failing to make it deep into the NBA Playoffs , as hoped for, by then head coach Avery Johnson and interim replacement P J Carlesimo . The Nets failed to make it beyond the first round , falling to the Chicago Bulls in the best of seven=game series. Complacency, on the part of the players and a complete lack of leadership led to their demise.

If the NBA season were to end today, the Brooklyn Nets’ projected first round opponent, as the number six seed within the Eastern Conference , would see them meet the Toronto Raptors , currently holding down the third seed in the East. The Raptors lead their season series over the Nets 2-1 , and the likelihood of this Dwane Casey coached Raptors’ team overcoming Brooklyn, does seem a real possibility with the Toronto based franchise seeking to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2008 . For Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, after long and illustrious careers in the NBA , this may well be their last chance at combined postseason glory . The duo, were part of the Boston Celtics’ most recent triumph , when a Doc Rivers’ coached team were triumphant over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals with a 4-2 series’ triumph. If the Nets are to have a successful postseason foray, then the leadership abilities of both Garnett and Terry will be called upon , beyond Jason Kidd’s own postseason experience as an NBA champion with the Dallas Mavericks and their triumph over the Miami Heat in 2011 .

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, are likely, future Hall of Fame bound players, given the body of their respective accomplishments as members of the Boston Celtics. Yet, at this stage , with both in the twilight of their careers, it says a great deal about both players and their ambition to go out as champions

Tim Duncan , already a four-time NBA champion, with the San Antonio Spurs , has an astonishing body of work as a player . His relationship with head coach Gregg Popovich , is like that of a father, proud of his first-born son. Duncan has been described as the greatest power forward in NBA history , something that Hall of Fame inductee Karl Malone may not be entirely in agreement with . Yet, you cannot deny that ” Mr. Fundamental” , as he is often known around the NBA, has simply made the position his own , in terms of his accomplishments. Yes, at present, there may well be, power forwards currently in the NBA, who show more athleticism than Duncan and are far more productive , but were you to ask a vast majority of fans would they take any power forward over Tim Duncan when a game is on the line , many of those individuals would definitely not have to think long and hard before coming to a decision .

Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves may well be the best player at the position, currently playing in the NBA , but as he continues to toil away with the Timberwolves , you simply get the feeling that in the end , it will be all for nothing . The Timberwolves’ front office appears to be lost and aimlessly heading nowhere , with their being little to show by the franchise in terms of any tangible success this season.

San Antonio comfortably sits behind the conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder (46-15) , one and a half games adrift , in second place. While, the talk within the conference and league wide, may well be whether or not Kevin Durant can succeed LeBron James and the League MVP . Gregg Popovich has the team concentrated on locking down that second seed and if possible , seeking to erase the Thunder’s conference lead in the coming weeks, as the regular season schedule winds down. If nothing else, one of the prime objectives also, has to keep the Spurs’ starting lineup injury free down that stretch as the last thing wanted , would be for Popovich to enter the postseason without one of the primary starters. Point guard , Tony Parker is currently out of the lineup due to a persistent recurring injury. With the Frenchman being sidelined, it gives the opportunity for Patrick Mills , Danny Green and Manu Ginobli to share the workload, while making up for the loss of the loss of Parker’s productivity , until he is ready to make a full return, to his normal starting duties.

On a four-game win streak and 8-2 in their last ten games , San Antonio appears to be rounding into the right form, as they look to wind down their schedule. . Tim Duncan, the omnipresent force and leader on this team , may well be now looking to the future as all of his career goals have been met. At best , he may well no more than one year of play left within him, as an arduous eighty-two game schedule can take its toll on the human body. Add in the fact, that the seventeen-year veteran of the 1997 NBA Draft , has been one the NBA’s mainstays during that time and it certainly gives credence , that were he to make this his last season in the league , there would be a great deal of applause for one of the great careers in recent NBA history. The accolades and achievements alone , will certainly stand the test of time , for one of the most celebrated and revered players in San Antonio Spurs’ history.

Would it be fair to suggest that during this past Superbowl , Denver Broncos’ quarterback , Peyton Manning might well have had one of the worst days of his already illustrious NFL career ? No one could have foreseen the Broncos being on the wrong side of a rather lopsided and embarrassing 48-3 defeat , suffered at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. That being said, the preseason meeting between the two teams should have been something of an indicator , even if both combatants fielded their second and third stringers throughout much of that game. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks came away triumphant in Superbowl 48 (SBXLVIIII) , while John Fox , his revered quarterback , Peyton Manning and the team are at a loss for words to explain an inexplicable and humiliating defeat .

Is Manning, now five-time League MVP, too old to be playing in the NFL at this stage of his career? Or more to the point, does he still possess the skill-set that have many speaking of him as the greatest quarterback ever to have played the game ? From my own personal standpoint, I believe at best , the quarterback has maybe no more than one or two years left in him, before he should simply “call it quits ” ! It is one thing to play the game because of your unbridled passing for football, it is another however, when all of your mistakes are magnified and placed under the microscope , with many now beginning to question your ability to play the game at the highest level , as has been the case with Peyton Manning.

Manning’s legacy, now has lost some of its shine , as some are likely to suggest, one Superbowl victory in three attempts , is a ‘ poor return’ , for someone who’s said to be the best passer in the game’s history. Then again, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly went to four successive Superbowls with the Buffalo Bills and those four defeats , might well be what he is now best remembered for , rather than his career , and the records he attained while playing for the Bills. In the end , it all comes down to one’s opinion , as to what we believe to be great and what apparently is not so great .

What now happens with Peyton Manning, is now entirely in his hands , not John Fox’s , or John Elway’s , who as Head of the Broncos’ Football Operations , knows that with his incumbent quarterback , that is the best hope for the franchise to obtain a third Superbowl victory. The Broncos, may well seek to draft a quarterback in the latter rounds of this upcoming draft , while grooming that player for the future. Under Manning’s tutelage, that passer is likely to learn a great deal about the game, more so, than from any quarterbacks’ coach currently coaching in the NFL.

It seems somewhat ironic, that as I write about this topic, a decision, is made, by the Broncos to sever ties with one the franchise’s best players in its history. If the rumors are to be believed then today, John Elway cut defensive back Champ Bailey , saving themselves several million dollars under the cap , and maneuvering the franchise to either acquire a corner-back via free agency to draft one that specifically meets the team’s needs. The analogy of a “shut-down ” corner-back has been often used to describe players such as Deion Sanders and Nnamdi Asomugha , yet when I look at both of the players in question , the one thing that comes to mind , that neither was ever renowned for , was their alleged ” toughness ” , “willingness ” to ” make ” or take a hit , much less tackle an opposing offensive player. I may well be wrong, in my summation of both, but I seriously doubt it! Bailey for his part , has put together a Hall of Fame caliber worthy career , that places him amongst the upper echelons of the players to have played the position .

Pat Bowlen , owner of the Denver Broncos and John Elway will have a number of decisions to make this off –season in the lead-up to the NFL Draft. The disappointment of the postseason , with the only respite was having won the AFC West ahead of a now resurgent Kansas City Chiefs and the same can be said of the San Diego Chargers . It now makes the upcoming season all the more intense , because a great deal more will be expected of the franchise and their fans in attendance at Sports Authority (Mile High Stadium) Field in Denver , Colorado. The window of opportunity for the franchise to make it a reality , to win “now” , will prove to be all the more difficult , for Peyton Manning and several of his veteran teammates on the Broncos’ roster . The loss of Champ Bailey ,notwithstanding, business decision as it may well have been, , where this now leaves the franchise might well be gauged in some ways by the decisions made last season in preparation for their year . Their draft class proved to very good and their acquisitions were more than adequate, in meeting the needs sought. If that can be replicated this off-season, then there is no reason to believe why the Denver Broncos cannot make a return to the postseason. As to where they then go from there, will obviously be predicated upon the play of their renowned quarterback.

In the NFL much like the NBA and MLB , athletes actually playing past their prime is not actually unheard of . For many it comes down to their love of the game and their wanting to prove their doubters wrong. I believe that in the cases of Derek Jeter , Kobe Bryant , Champ Bailey and Peyton Manning , it has been more to do with their passion for the game more than anything else ! All are undoubtedly great athletes in their own right and with the likely retirement of Champ Bailey , we are now left to savor what else the remaining triumvirate of players will offer the fans .

Boxer Bernard Hopkins , currently seen as the linear champion within the light-heavyweight champion will seek to make another defense of his WBA and IBF titles when he meets Beibut Shumenov (14-9) at the DC Armory in Washington , DC on the 19th April , 2014. You may well think the proposed bout is nothing out of the ordinary , but consider the following , the champion is forty-nine years of age , fast approaching his fiftieth birthday on 15th January , 2015. His less experienced opponent , thirty year old Shumenov , from Kazakhstan , was five years old when Hopkins fought his first professional bout . Since then , Hopkins has won titles at the middleweight division , unifying it as an undisputed champion , moved up to the light-heavyweight division , won , lost and regained the title within the weight category and he now seeks to unify that division , all as he approaches his fiftieth birthday. Say what you will, it is either the “ Elixir of Youth” or “Father Time ” that either makes or breaks athletes who seek to be active at the later stages of their professional lives .

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What are your thoughts on the merits of this post ? By all means , do take time to offer up a comment on this and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter.

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Picture and slideshow gallery details below .

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(1) New York Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter is seen here congratulating teammate Alex Rodriguez after the team’s triumph in Game Six of the 2009 World Series . The Yankees would go on to be triumphant in winning the series with complicit ease in defeating the Philadelphia Phillies , in bringing about the franchise’s twenty-seventh World Series title . Jeter made the announcement prior to the New York Yankees’ Spring Training schedule , that 2014 , his twentieth in Major League Baseball would be his last season as a professional baseball player . AP Photo / Marcus Howe …..

(2) NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 11: Derek Jeter (2 ) (R) and Alex Rodriguez (13) of the New York Yankees look on from the dugout in the ninth inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium on August 11 , 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images ….

(3) Ken Griffey Jr , left is seen here alongside his father Ken Griffey Sr in the dugout of a game played against the Kansas City Royals at the Kingdome in Seattle , Washington , that would prove to be historic . The event would be the first time that a father and son played in a Major League Baseball game where they were suited up on the same team , in this case the Seattle Mariners . Courtesy of MLB.com MLB properties ….

(4) Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach Mike D’Antoni is seen here court-side with Kobe Bryant during a game played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles , California . The team has struggled this season , with Bryant sidelined due to an injury. Without him , it has brought about a telling perspective as to how much the player is missed when he is not on the court alongside of this teammates to provide the bulk of their offensive productivity . Bryant currently believes that the Lakers stand an outside shot of gaining a playoff berth within the Western Conference as the NBA season winds down with the final games of the schedule due to be played on 16th April, 2014. For Los Angeles that final game will be played against the San Antonio Spurs . Getty Images / Stephen Harper ………..

(5) Lakers’ teammates Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash , who between them have over a combined thirty years of NBA playing experience. The two guards have been limited to the number of games which they have played together this season , for the franchise , leading to their abysmal divisional and conference record . AP Photo / Mark Anderson ….

(6) Brooklyn Nets’ teammates Kevin Garnett (2) and Paul Pierce (34) of the Brooklyn Nets are seen her during a game played at Nets’ spacious home venue the Barclays Center , in Brooklyn , New York . Along with Jason Terry , the three former Boston Celtics’ players were brought in to provide some much-needed experience on a Nets’ roster that was lacking in leadership as well as defensive capabilities . Yet the team’s season has been in different , with a great deal of inconsistency being down by the team as a whole, leading to the belief that a postseason appearance , not beyond the franchise , is likely to be a short run , because of a lack of consistency being shown . GM Billy King has sought to “right the ship” , having traded Jason Terry to the Sacramento Kings , but yet the results still remain indifferent . It is likely that at the end of the season , the decision will be made not to retain either seasoned veteran , of Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce as the front office seeks to rebuild the roster around the talents of their All Star players , Deron Williams and Brook Lopez in the build-up for the 2014-15 NBA season . With a $110 million payroll , the highest in the NBA this season and with the franchise obligated to pay the “mandatory luxury tax” under the league hierarchy mandate. That sum will be in excess of $72 million and likely to lead to another financial loss for the second consecutive season for the Brooklyn Nets’ franchise . Billionaire team owner , Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to spend money in order to bring the Nets their first NBA title , but at what cost to his own financial acumen ? Getty Images North America / Erica Price ……

(7) San Antonio Spurs’ All Star and power forward Tim Duncan is seen here with head coach Gregg Popovich . Having won four NBA titles together in tandem as head coach and player , the two are seeking to emulate feats achieved by Michael Jordan , along with Phil Jackson and again of Jackson with Kobe Bryant in having won four or more titles together , as a head coach and player tandem. A fifth title eluded the pairing of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich last season , when the team failed to take a-hold of their NBA Finals ‘ series against the Miami Heat , leading to a decisive game seven loss and leading to the Heat’s third title in the past seven seasons. Getty Images / Harry How ….

(8)Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) talks with head coach John Fox during practice Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Florham Park, N.J. The Broncos are scheduled to play the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 , in East Rutherford, N.J. What should have been a triumphant event for the duo of head coach and quarterback , ended up being a somber occasion after the Broncos’ humiliating loss to the Seahawks . AP Photo/ Garrett Jeffries …..

(9) Defensive back , Champ Bailey of the Denver Broncos speaks to the convened press prior to the Superbowl . The twelve-time Prow Bowl selection was cut by the Broncos after a stellar career with the franchise . Seen as business issue with the team avoiding a $10 million cap hit , Bailey made it clear that he has no intention of retiring and would like resume his NFL career elsewhere this upcoming season . A round pick , seventh overall by the Washington Redskins in the 1999 NFL Draft , the defensive player would prove to be effective in his rookie season with the Redskins . AP Photo/ Vince Gallagher ……

(10) Bernard Hopkins , not due to turn fifty until 15th January ,2015, will be making a defense of his IBF and WBA light-heavyweight world titles on the 19th April against Beibut Shumenov , from Kazakhstan , in what will be Hopkins’ second defense of his IBF belt . This will be the fighter’s thirtieth world title fight at either the middleweight and light-heavyweight division . Bernard Hopkins made twenty consecutive defenses of the middleweight title , unifying the division and become the last undisputed champion in any weight category of professional boxing in the past decade. Ring Magazine / Ronny Mercer @ copyrighted material … ……

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tophatal ………………. 03/06/2013 —- 10:54 AM

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I think she’s missing some type of exercise equipment , but I could , very well be wrong . Nah !

You can talk a good game, but can you play one?

You can talk a good game, but can you play one?

There are some troubling times ahead for the NBA , even if the outgoing commissioner would not like to admit that fact. Three decades in charge of the league and it could be said that David Stern turned a pondering sport and its brand into a multi-billion dollar global phenomenon . With global revenues now exceeding $5 billion annually, one has to be thankful Stern, as the league’s highest ranking executive, was as successful as he was. That being said, it was not without controversy, with the league and the owners seeking to apportion blame elsewhere for many of the problems, they themselves created. With something of an imbalance and with the NBA seeking to have a soft “salary cap” , it still leaves the league in somewhat of a perilous situation. Nonetheless, the league hierarchy has sought to proceed ahead under its current guise, neither seeking to truly solve that particular issue and several others that they currently face.

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David Stern’s successor , Adam Silver , brings in a new era of leadership and likely some change, with their being something of a smooth transition with his predecessor’s departure and his ascent to the current position as the NBA Commissioner. What Silver has witnessed this season in the league, as there has been for several of the past seasons , has been steadying decline of the play within the Eastern Conference of the NBA. If things were to get considerably worse , the league’s Board of Governors might have to consider either realignment of several of the divisions or quite possibly delve into the contraction of under-performing franchises , with the league taking over those teams , compensating the owners and then seeking to re-assign the players there , unto the rosters of the remaining franchises. That might sound a bit drastic, but consider the alternatives, as they might currently stand? The play continues to deteriorate and the consumers known as the fans, are still asked to endure such mediocrity , while the league itself continues to profit financially from it all and that hardly seems fair, at all.

While the Indiana Pacers (45-15) are running away with the Eastern Conference lead and well on the way to being the NBA’s first fifty-game winner of the season. It begs the question, in spite of the dour play within the conference , can Frank Vogel’s players knock off the reigning champions in what is likely to be a repeat of last season’s conference finals ? While both the Pacers and the Miami Heat have both suffered losses this season , these two teams are by far in a way the best two franchises within the conference and amongst the upper echelons of the league’s best teams this season.

LeBron James continues to be the player we have seen , since he entered the league in 2003 , during which he has redefined his game as well coming into his own as the NBA’s best player. Already, a four-time league MVP and two-time Finals’ MVP, James, has all but answered, just about every question of by doubters , as to the proficiency of his play , with a punctuation mark, suggesting there is still a great deal more to come from the ten-year veteran. This season, what appears to be a captivating battle has begun to unfold, concerning LeBron James and the player, many believe to be his closest rival as a nemesis and what could likely be a budding rivalry for individualistic and team honors in the coming years. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder lead the Western Conference and the player is now considered to be the leading contender for the league MVP this season . Durant and LeBron James during their tenures in the league, have provided the NBA with some classic contests, with both individuals showing why they are considered the best two players in the NBA.

Frank Vogel and the Pacers could very well now be in the driver’s seat, after what I believe to be a coup-de-gras by the front office , in acquiring Evan Turner to bolster what should already be considered a very good Indiana Pacers’ roster in terms of its depth and talent . The fact that Pat Riley of the Miami Heat , did little in terms of adding to the Heat’s roster at the trade deadline could very well come back to haunt the front office executive and the Heat’s coaching staff led by Erik Spoesltra . Coming off a narrow three-point victory over the hapless Utah Jazz , Indiana’s next opponent will be the high-powered offense of the Golden State Warriors, led by Steph Curry , whose match-up against Paul George of the Pacers should prove to be very intriguing.

9-1 in their last ten games the Miami Heat could be considered the hottest team in the NBA over that time-frame and clearly the reason why many believe them to the odds-on favorite to repeat as a three-time NBA champion . As LeBron James goes , then so does this team, albeit, with at times , some threadbare support from his teammates. Yet, it has been in the postseason, where James has excelled , as he has repeatedly led the team in their most recent postseason triumphs . Saturday’s lopsided victory over instate rivals the Orlando Magic , further emphasizes why the Miami Heat will continue to make light of their regular season schedule , as Erik Spoelstra gauges the performances of his players in the lead-up to the NBA Playoffs.

The impact that Dwight Howard was meant to have , after being acquired as a free agent by the Houston Rockets , has not been as dominant many thought it might have been. Granted, the Rockets currently have the fifth best record , in the Western Conference with a mark of 40-15 ,as of the 2nd March . Yet, many believed, that this team would be contending at least for a top-three berth within the conference. Though I do not consider it to be a major disappointment , I do believe that with Dwight Howard , what you see is what you get , in terms of a player who at times , does not fulfill the talent that he is said to have. As good a center, as is he said to be , I do not believe him to be the most dominant player at the position , currently playing in the NBA ! If anything, I believe the player tends to simply take his foot off the gas pedal and go through the motions, while allowing others around him to lead . A clear case can be made, that Dwight Howard would never have fit in with any type of team he would have been surrounded by, had he remained in Los Angeles playing for the Los Angeles Lakers . A failed experiment from the start and failed experiment in the very end !

Kevin McHale has proven himself to be an astute head coach, along with his coaching staff , in getting this Rockets’ team to play some up-tempo basketball, while gaining themselves a credible spot in the conference rankings. The team however, is fortified by the talents of James Harden , while being ably supported by Chandler Parsons , Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin , Patrick Beverley and Jordan Hamilton . A true test of the team’s ambitions will be on view , when they play host to the Miami Heat, at the Toyota Center, in Houston , Texas on Tuesday night . That contest should tell us a great deal about McHale’s players their mindset as they head down the final stretch of their regular season schedule. Certainly, a chance to see two of the NBA’s most productive scorers , with James Harden facing off against LeBron James , should prove to be very interesting.

To my mind one of the more surprising twists of this season, has been the fact that Kevin Love still remains a player with the Minnesota Timberwolves ! They may well have an outside chance of garnering a playoff berth in the Western Conference , but at this stage of the season , I believe that it might well beyond the reach of the team ! Five and a half games out of the final playoff spot, that is currently held by the Dallas Mavericks (35-25) , the Timberwolves would have to jump ahead of the ninth placed Memphis Grizzlies (33-25) , while hoping that both the Mavericks and Grizzlies make monumental . slip-ups in their next couple of games . A highly unlikely scenario at this point of the season, when teams are not likely to be overly complacent , but then again, who could have really foreseen that the Eastern Conference would prove to be such an embarrassment as an advertising model for the NBA ? Well, the end of the season is barely a month away, with most teams having no more than twenty-five games remaining on their regular schedule. Those with intestinal fortitude, are likely to rise to the occasion, while others are likely to falter at the very last hurdle.

Kevin Love has proven to be one of the few bright spots on a Timberwolves’ team that struggled has throughout of the season, while Rick Adelman and his coaching staff have simply been outmaneuvered and out-coached at every point of the season that has mattered most to the organization. From my own perspective, I now believe that it is time for Flip Saunders , Head of Basketball Operations and GM Milt Newton to seek a trade and obtain the best possible value for their Timberwolves’ All Star power-forward , Kevin Love ! It simply serves absolutely no purpose to have the player struggle, night in and night out , all to no avail , while wasting his talents with a franchise that seems to show no signs of life or actual ambition ! These are the very same issues, that led to the growing discontent with Kevin Garnett while , a player with the Timberwolves . His subsequent departure, still did not manifest itself, by way of anything positive for the franchise.

Outwardly, Love has remained loyal to the Minnesota Timberwolves, not wanting to say anything, that might be taken out of context, as a way of showing his discontent, but if the rumors are to be believed , then this off-season a confrontation is likely to be in the offing, when the player is likely to meet with the front office to discuss his immediate and long-term future . I believe that he is likely to opt out of the final year of his contract and test the free agency market , rather than remaining in Minnesota, because I do not believe that owner , Glen Taylor or any of the front office executives possess the acumen needed to build the Timberwolves into a legitimate NBA title contender !

Monday night, places the Minnesota Timberwolves back into action, as they face the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center , in Denver, Colorado, A third consecutive win for the Timberwolves, would provide the team with a great deal of confidence, but they first have to make that a reality , rather supposition.

Not for the first time, this season, have the Sacramento Kings suspended player, DeMarcus Cousins for conduct detrimental to the team . Each and every time, he has run afoul of the organization, the front office has seemingly , given him what on the face of it seems a slight reprimand. A one game suspension for physically assaulting an opposing player , is simple idiocy ! Yet , these are the times that we are living in , where athlete misconduct on or off the court , is no longer frowned upon and the lame ass apathy of some of the dumbest mother fucking fans, is to simply excuse that type of behavior altogether or come with the rather inane statements such as “ locker room behavior “ , or ” boys being boys” . Last I looked, these were grown individuals and not middle or high school players , making complete asses of themselves ! The league hierarchy under David Stern was weak and remains weak , because the NBPA remains in an extreme position of power, not necessarily unlike their counterparts within the MLBPA , NFLPA and the NHLPA ! Anyone who believes that to be the contrary , I would now like them to plead their the case , for the opposite view !

DeMarcus Cousins as a player in college , had real “character issues” , that were never addressed by the coaching staff ,led by John Calipari , a coach known shall we say , “let things slip by him “ ? I have never really thought, highly of Calipari, in terms of his character or the litany of issues that have followed him continuously over the course of his coaching career ! Allegations of recruitment violations, players with failing academic standards, still being allowed to play on his teams, as well as possibly monetary inducements for players in terms of their of productivity. Like it or not, there had to have been a multitude of reasons, why a number of programs where John Calipari has coached , have felt the wrath of the NCAA , though not to the point where there has been an outright accusation leveled at the head coach. While Calipari’s outward image appears pristine, something ” rotten smells ” this side of Denmark , as it relates to this particular head coach !

The Sacramento Kings’ own fortunes in recent years, can be best summed up with these words “the Maloof Family , with reckless abandonment , all but ruined the franchise and in the aftermath of it all , were on the precipice of duping the idiotic members of the city’s council to bail the franchise out of their financial plight ” . All of this under the watchful eye of David Stern , who in some circles, has been viewed as the savior of the NBA. The former NBA Commissioner , simply, takes on the battles, he knows he can win outright , while apportioning blame elsewhere, for his incompetency or web of deceit , when caught in an actual lie.

With the worst record in the Western Conference , a mark of 20-39 , is a true reflection of what the Sacramento Kings have been about all season long. Long gone, are the glory days , when the high-flying Kings were a dominant force within the conference led by All Star Chris Webber and the team was seen as a perennial contender for year-end honors. Feast or famine, can best now sum up the franchise, but in reality, there has been a great deal more hunger, as the fans of the organization, yearn for years past. There’s not enough food on the table and there certainly is not enough talent on this roster , to even deem them worthy of being thought of as even a moderately average team , if that !

The Kings’ remaining regular season schedule , is not necessarily daunting, and victory over the New Orleans Pelicans may well be sign that the team is determined to go out with a great deal of determination . DeMarcus Cousins remains the best player on the Kings’ roster , but herein lies the issue, he is a troubled individual who remains immature and unable to handle the real pressure of being assumed the leader of the franchise . Other than Rudy Gay , there is absolutely no real reason to believe that GM Pete D’Alessandro can continue to believe that Cousins is a valuable asset to this team and the organization as a whole , not with the continued problems that he provides. Sacramento, may well to decide to cut their losses and seek a trade of the troubled player.

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Vivek Ranadive having recently purchased the franchise may well now be having regrets , because I personally believe he was “ sold a bill goods” , that were in no way shape or form is what he was told it would be ! Thankfully , Microsoft Chairman Steve Ballmer and his business partner , billionaire venture capitalist Chris Hansen dodged a bullet , when they failed in their bid to purchase the team , having bid a great deal more than the reputed $575 million paid by Ranadive’s consortium . With the league’s hierarchy’s, reluctance to relocate the franchise to Seattle, Washington, as was previously discussed between Stern and the potential purchasers. I can only assume , with David Stern reneging on that deal, having given Ballmer firm assurances that there would not be a problem , it simply shows that the former commissioner is really a less than honorable individual .

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The second half of the NBA season is already underway, what do you hope to see in the latter stages of the schedule ? Also, which player or group of players, have provided you with the greatest surprise over the course this NBA season ? Of the teams in contention, for a divisional or playoff berth, which do you believe , are likely to triumph and to fail ?

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(1) David Stern is seen here handing the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Miami Heat team President Pat Riley after the team’s triumph in winning the NBA title in 2013 , having won in a tough seven-game series against the San Antonio Spurs in a thrilling NBA Finals’ series , 4-3 . Stern formally stepped down as the NBA Commissioner after thirty years as the league’s highest ranking executive . He is succeeded by Adam Silver , who hopes to make a smooth transition into his new role . AP Photo / Chris Hughes ………..

(2) Nicola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic is seen here challenging the New York Knicks’ Tyson Chandler during a game played at the Amway Center in Orlando , Florida on the 23rd December , 2013 . The Magic would go on to lose the contest 103-98 with both teams under-achieving this season within their respective divisions as well as the Eastern Conference , there is likely to be major shakeups within the rosters of both franchises during the off-season . NBAE/ Getty Images / Max Miller ….

(3) February 27, 2014 The Milwaukee Bucks gave the Pacers a formidable test on Thursday night, but Indiana made enough plays down the stretch to come away with a 101-96 win in a game played in Milwaukee , Wisconsin,. Roy Hibbert recorded a double-double (24 points, 12 rebounds), while Paul George added 18 points , eight boards, and six assists . NBAE Getty Images / Frank McGrath ….

(4) LeBron James of the Miami Heat goes up for the dunk as he rises above Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller of the Charlotte Bobcats in a game played at the AA Arena in Miami , Florida on Monday night . James would go on to score a career-high 61 points during the contest , which the Heat won convincingly. This has been the second time this season , that the Bobcats have given up more than sixty points to a player during their schedule with the first such incident , coming when they played the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden , where Carmelo Anthony torched the team a career-high , also, of sixty-two points . AP Photo / Emile Toussaint …..

(5) Kevin Durant (35) of the Oklahoma City Thunder is seen here alongside the Miami Heat’s LeBron James (6) . Both players are the leading candidates for this season’s League MVP . Their rivalry may well be the best to be seen in the NBA in several years , but not yet on the level of the classic match-ups between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson , which many purists believes set the bar for individualistic rivalries within the NBA and from a team standpoint , especially in many of their postseason contests . Durant and James have met once in a postseason series with the Miami Heat prevailing in their 2012 NBA Finals’ , with a rather lopsided series’ victory. AP Photo / Mike Patton ….

(6) Houston Rockets’ center Dwight Howard (12) looks to make the play against Miles Plumlee of the Phoenix Suns in a game played between the two Western Conference teams on the 23rd February , 2014 . The Rockets would defeat the Suns 115-112 . NBAE /Getty Images / Ross Hart ……

(7) Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love, left, drives as Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game , Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Minneapolis. The Clippers won 102-98 . These two young players are two of the brightest young stars to have entered the NBA in the past seven seasons . AP Photo/Jim Mone ….

(8) Kentucky coach John Calipari thinks 6-11 center DeMarcus Cousins should go top 3 in this year’s NBA Draft. But GMs fear the player’s immaturity , which has been justified since his entry into the NBA as a first round draft pick in 2010 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings . US PRESSWIRE/ Mark Zereof ……

(9) Sacramento Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins is seen here with the team’s head coach Michael Malone on court sidelines during a game at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento , California . After a recent on-court physical altercation with an opposing player where Cousins is said to have punched his opponent in the lower abdomen and then having been ejected for his conduct , he then verbally assaulted the referee , using several profane expletives , heard within earshot of the crowd . DeMarcus Cousins was fined $20,000 and suspended for one game, forfeiting his $ 44,000 game check . . Vivek Ranadive , the Kings’ owner , will meet with GM Pete D’Alessandro and Michael Malone to discuss the troubled center’s ongoing behavioral problems . All signs seem to be pointing to the fact that the franchise may well seek to trade the player this off-season rather than retain his services . This recent suspension has been the third of DeMarcus Cousins’ three-year career in the NBA and poses the question as to his lack of maturity while in college at the University of Kentucky and since his entering the NBA in 2010. AP Photo/ Chris Affeldt ……

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Never too early to start to review the baseball season, but I think that until the official Opening Day of the 31st March , when the vast majority of teams get their schedules underway , there will not be a great deal to discuss . The exhibition Spring Training schedule merely provides the fans in general a chance to see the players up close and personal, as they get into rhythm for the commencement of the regular season and that arduous one and hundred and sixty-two game schedule .

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Now while the off-season has been about the formal announcement by Derek Jeter , that 2014 will be his last season in the Major Leagues, brings about an end to the career of one of the best New York Yankees’ players of the past fifteen years . With Jeter’s announcement , we now see the last remnants of a core of five players , including Derek Jeter, that were part of one of the richest eras in recent New York Yankees’ history. Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada , Andy Pettite and the famed short-stop, made up that core managed by Joe Torre , that won four World Series titles in a seven-year span from 1996-2003 , with six appearances during that times-pan in the Fall Classic. New York’s most recent appearance in the World Series resulted with another win in 2009, with the team being managed by former player, Joe Girardi . The incumbent manager, will seek to resurrect the ball-club’s fortunes in 2014 after a somewhat understated season in 2013 .

Having missed the postseason and with a great deal of off-season drama provided by the ongoing issues of Alex Rodriguez , the New York Yankees will begin their season without the now suspended third baseman as they embark on a Spring Training schedule with something of a newly revamped roster . Major financial commitments were made to several new acquisitions, spearheaded by their signing of Japanese pitching ace Masahiro Tanaka , and that of former Boston Red Sox player Jacoby Ellsbury . How this all pans out for the AL East franchise will be dependent upon the mindset of these newly acquired players and whether or not they gel with their new teammates. From my own perspective , I believe the Yankees on balance to be no better than the third or fourth best team within the division , with the defending divisional champions the Boston Red Sox leading the way , followed by last season’s runner-up in the AL East the Tampa Bay Rays in second place, with the Baltimore Orioles edging the New York Yankees , who are then followed by the Toronto Blue Jays .

While the New York Yankees have a great deal to prove this season , perhaps no two teams, than the Los Angeles Dodgers and their AL counterparts the Los Angeles Angels are under the greatest pressure to succeed this year. The Dodgers’ failure was compounded by a lackluster effort, in the NLCS series against the St Louis Cardinals last season . Between these two teams, they have committed in excess of $360 million in salary obligations for their respective rosters. For Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia the writing could very well be on the wall if both the Dodgers and Angels fail to show some type of competitiveness over the course of the regular season schedule. For owners, Arte Moreno , Magic Johnson , Mark Walter and Peter Guber , the frustration has to be setting in, having seen their teams fall almost at the last obstacle. Or in the case of the Los Angeles Angels, simply failing to be even remotely competitive within the AL West , where the Oakland A’s are now proving to be a dominant force within the division.

Were it not for Mike Trout, perhaps the only real reason to watch the Angels play , I do not believe that there would be a great deal of interest in the team at all ! Josh Hamilton has become more of an enigma and Albert Pujols in many respects, has suffered through a litany of ailments that were not present in the early part of his career , but such was the willingness of Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno to sign the player, when he became a free agent , that they felt that advantages, far outweighed the disadvantages of the two-time NL MVP . This season has to be a bounce back year for both Hamilton and Pujols, considering the financial outlay made to both players this season. The Angels will begin their regular season with a three-game home series against the Seattle Mariners at Angels’ Ballpark , in Anaheim , California , where the Mariners will be parading their $240 million dollar man, in, Robinson Cano . A bold move, for a ball-club with hopes of an ambitious season, but whose last postseason appearance seems like eons ago, with little to show by way of tangible success in the subsequent years . The first game of that three-game set, will be on the 31 March, 2014.

Twelve years and counting, since the Seattle Mariners made the postseason, where a 4-1 series’ loss to the New York Yankees in the 2001 ALCS was the height of their season , beyond winning the AL West that year. How Lloyd McClendon and his staff handles this young team at its core, will be one of the determining factors as to how successful the Mariners will be and whether or not Robinson Cano can be the presumed leader of that group of players.

Jim Leyland has proven to be one of the most successful managers of his generation , by way of his accomplishments, in usually being able to field competitive teams , and mold young players and then turning them into All Stars and MVP caliber stars. A case can be made that he played an early part in the career of slugger Barry Bonds while both were with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Leyland as the well-respected and Bonds as the player, but perhaps, an even better example , was witnessing the rise in prominence and stature of Miguel Cabrera as a player with the Detroit Tigers where for eight years Leyland and Dave Dombrowski rebuilt that ball-club from the ground up and turned the Tigers into a perennial AL Central contender . Two AL Pennants , with World Series appearances in 2006 and 2012 , being the height of his accomplishments with the franchise. Yet, the 1997 World Series , where he took a lightly favored Florida Marlins’ team , that would prevail over the Cleveland Indians, represents the highlight of his managerial career .

While I believe that the Detroit Tigers will prove to be a formidable team within the AL this season , I am not so sure that they will be able to overcome the naiveté shown in recent seasons, when have entered the postseason ! Brad Ausmus may well have succeeded Leyland as the manager of the current team, which has a great deal of talent , headlined by Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander , but it will be interesting to see how they fare over the course of the season with a new manager in tow .

If there has been one particular franchise in Major League Baseball , who has not failed to deliver when it comes to showing levels of mediocrity , then it would have to be the Kansas City Royals . Granted, until last season , that claim could also be shared with the Pittsburgh Pirates , but with the NL Central franchise making the postseason , and having an NL MVP winner in Andrew McCutchen and thereby ending their drought of over two decades of mediocrity of non-postseason appearances. Fans of baseball are now left with the Royals and their twenty-eight seasons of ineptitude , where their last postseason appearance came in 1985 , which resulted in a loss to the St Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

With the team now owned by former Wal-Mart CFO David Glass , who has systematically shown himself to lacking a real trait as an alleged business minded individual as the ball-club , from year to year , has failed with ever-increasing regularity to meet even their own fans’ expectations of any tangible level of success . How they remain a viable concern as a baseball franchise, comes down solely to the fact that beyond being aided by the league’s luxury tax scheme, they have what can be best described as a moderately envious television broadcast contract within their local media market. How Glass succeeded at Wal-Mart , but somehow is unable to show his acumen with the baseball franchise, is something that can be discussed amongst the masses at a later date , with a great deal of objectivity and subjectivity. Suffice to say, in some circles , the Kansas City Royals as an organization might now be looked upon as “Ma and Pop “ business , in comparison to the likes of the Boston Red , Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees .

A third place finish in the AL Central with an 86-76 record still was not enough to be good enough to even come remotely close to obtaining a wildcard berth for the postseason . Once again, he Kansas City Royals would be left on the outside looking in, as another season came to an abrupt waste . Ned Yost and his managerial staff will certainly be looking to enter with this season with a positive attitude as will the team , headed by list of some very good young players , but unfortunately, no real veteran that could be looked upon, as a the presumptive leader of this core group . If the Royals are to succeed this season, then it will certainly have to be with the likes of the James Shields , Eric Hosmer , Omar Infante , Alex Gordon , Mike Moustakas , Jeremy Guthrie and a bullpen led by Luke Hochevar , playing at an optimum level , with their being something of a falloff in the play of fellow AL Central residents the Cleveland Indians , Detroit Tigers , Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox .

Kansas will begin its regular season schedule, with a game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. It will be part of a three-game home series’ opener for the Tigers, as they too embark upon their season schedule.

It does seems inconceivable that a team with the vast resources of the Toronto Blue Jays cannot field a competitive side that is a perennial contender within the AL East. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) , as the parent and holding company is one of the largest sports’ media conglomerates in the world. A number of its brands are well-recognized names within the North American sports’ market. Presiding over the conglomerate as the CEO & President Tim Leiweke , who is ably assisted by several top executives and a Board of Directors and that oversee various parts of the operations of this multi-billion dollar conglomerate.

The Blue Jays for their part, entered last season with high ambitions , having <a href=http://baseball assembled a group of high-priced free agents , were then signed to ludicrous contracts or wherein, having been acquired via a trade their existing contracts were honored. Amongst the players acquired , were Jose Reyes and RA Dickey with a view . of challenging the likes of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees within the AL East for divisional supremacy. The fact that the team failed miserably , beyond the issues of injuries sustained by a number of players, had more to do with the brashness and arrogance of an organization who felt that assembling a high-priced roster was some kind of guarantee of success without their being any sign of leader from anyone of the team roster much less the level of incompetency shown by John Gibbons and his staff . Inasmuch, as a player, being able to hit home runs to all parts of a field may well be exciting, the talents of Jose Bautista are simply being wasted on a team that simply has no chance in hell at present of winning the AL East in its current guise !

What the Toronto Blue Jays lack in leadership and talent, simply cannot be made up, for by splurging capriciously in assembling a group of players, that simply do not gel together as a team, playing in unison. John Gibbons is likely to be given the chance to prove that last season, was merely an aberration, but given the fact that the four other teams in the division are likely to have improved , it is likely that another fifth place finish within the AL East is not out of the realm of possibility for the team. Even more daunting and unbelievable, is the mere fact that other than the New York Yankees’ victories in the 1998 and 1999 World Series. The last back-to-back winners of the title, was in fact the Toronto Blue Jays , who accomplished that feat in 1992 and 1993 , which in fact was the very last time that the ball-club made an appearance in the postseason . When the Blue Jays embark upon their regular season sojourn , I believe that the team will be hard pressed to compete within their division, much less win in excess of eighty games ! They will being that schedule, with a road game series on the 31st March with a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida,.

Ron Gardenhire may well be one of the more under-appreciated managers in baseball , but I now believe it is time for the Minnesota Twins’ manager to step down from his present role ! Success for Gardenhire if nothing else, has come close within his grasp , only to be clutched from him at the last moment. However , in recent years he has been ill-served by the general managers of the ball club and a number misfires in terms of the players drafted by the organization. Currently, serving the Twins in the role as GM is Terry Ryan and his tenure, has now come under closer scrutiny after the departure of fan favorite Justin Morneau , who was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August of 2013 , by the Twins. Morneau and Joe Mauer were said to be the two figureheads, which the franchise were going to build around for their long-term future. Yet, that would never actually materialize into anything tangible, with both players suffering injuries and never playing more than a few games together, before one, if not both, were felled by an inexplicable malady. Add in the fact that owner , Jim Pohlad , felt it necessary to offer both players outrageously exorbitant contracts at a time when franchise was said to be undergoing some severe financial difficulties. Kind of makes me wonder, how in hell many of baseball’s current ball-clubs can actually exist , given the stupidity of either an owner or a general manager within an organization !

Over the past five seasons, the best finish for the Minnesota Twins has been in 2009 and 2010 , when the ball-club captured back-to-back AL Central divisional titles and made their way into the respective postseasons of both years . Their forays in either case, ended all too abruptly, with the team being outplayed by their opponents. . This season Joe Mauer is back, with a team built around youth , experience and a managerial staff again with Ron Garendhire in charge, hoping to make some inroads into a division has now become extremely competitive with the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians likely to be seen as the prohibitive favorites for the divisional title.

if one can be critical of Bud Selig , in his handling of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bankruptcy procedure filings . Then we should be ” damning ” in his culpable actions, while both Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon placed the New York Mets in an equally precarious situation as the joint owners of the ball-club , surreptitiously used the franchise as vehicle to hide profits gained in the Bernard Madoff “ Ponzi Scheme” , by transferring ill-gotten gains from their investment company Sterling Equities Inc into the coffers of the Mets. Perhaps, I am mistaken , but when I hear the commissioner repeatedly regale us with his idiocy , as to the financial well-being of the game , while the actions of owners such as Frank McCourt , Fred Katz and Fred Wilpon have bordered on being criminal . To my mind, both Selig and the league’s CFO Jonathan Mariner , cannot step down soon enough from their present positions within the league hierarchy ! Bud Selig’s intent, is to formally step down as the commissioner of baseball in 2015, but who knows , at this juncture ?

As to the New York Mets , they will continue to be everything they see in the new York Yankees , but without the organization inwardly , having the guile or intelligence to do what is right, to make that franchise an actual success. Sandy Alderson and J P Ricciardi are being overpaid, while offering up nothing tangible of note since both ascended to their current positions within the franchise. The ball club remains in something of a precarious position as they had to subordinated a great deal of debt, while approaching several financial organizations for additional “cash” to remain financially solvent. Never really a good thing, when the on-field product is lackluster and the attendance levels at Citi-Field can be best described as moderately average . All this, for a ball-club, that is in the nation’s largest advertising market ?

David Wright remains the New York Mets’ player, but there remains really little around him to be truly impressed by, in term of depth of talent . Terry Collins and his staff will have their work cut for them over the course of the season, as they seek to bounce back from a third place finish within the NL East , twenty-two games behind division winners the Atlanta Braves (96-66) .

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The one thing we do tend to know about New York sports’ fans in general, is that they tend wax on lyrically about the past when their teams are not doing well, in the moment . A case can be made, concerning the Mets also , as it has been considerable period of time since that franchise made the postseason much less, won a World Series’ title, but if you were to listen some of the fans of the franchise , they would have you believe that those events were but, a few years ago. The ball-club’s last postseason appearance came by way of their run in the 2006 MLB Playoffs , before going down 4-3 to the St Louis Cardinals in the NLCS . The second of their two Word Series’ triumphs, came in 1986 , in their memorable series’ victory over the Boston Red Sox, but since 2006 the years since, have been lean and not at all too kind, to the organization at all, and deservedly so , considering the ongoing stupidity of joint-owners, Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon. Two individuals, that the game of baseball could well do without , but somehow the league hierarchy would have you believe that the likes of Katz , Wilpon , McCourt and David Glass have been good for Major League Baseball . I beg to differ on so many counts, just as I believe, that Bud Selig’s tenure as commissioner , has been far too long and to the detriment of the game in general ! What thoughts, if any, do you have concerning the points raised in this article? Chime in, with a comment as you see fit.

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Picture and slideshow gallery details below .

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(1) Carlos Beltran of the New York Yankees is seen here with his wife Jessica Beltran , as he is formally introduced to the convened press at Yankees Stadium in New York . An unrestricted free agent , Beltran was signed by the Yankees shore up their offense as well as providing what they believe are his defensive abilities in the outfield . The player has spent the past few seasons with the St Louis Cardinals where he was productive for NL Central based franchise and now also becomes one of a select group of players to have donned the uniform of both New York based MLB franchises as a player . AP Photo / Hector Rivas …….

(2) From left to right, Andy Pettite , Derek Jeter , Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada . This quartet of players have been together for some of New York Yankees ‘ biggest triumphs and disappointments over the past eighteen years . It now begs the question , will the franchise ever see that type of success again with regard to number of titles won between 1996 and 2004 , with the last of the ball club’s triumphs coming in 2009 with Joe Girardi as the manager ? The four titles won together as teammates prior to Girardi becoming the manager were all achieved under Joe Torre , now an executive within the MLB hierarchy . Getty Images / Richard Moss …..

(3) Mike Scioscia manager of the Los Angeles Angels and Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers . Both managers will be under a considerable amount of pressure this season to succeed , as a great is expected from within their divisions . AP Photo / Paul Walters …..

(4) MINNEAPOLIS, MN – MAY 11: Manager Jim Leyland (10) of the Detroit Tigers gets between umpire Victor Carapazza (85) and Miguel Cabrera (24) of the Detroit Tigers after Cabrera was ejected by Victor Carapazza during in the sixth inning of their game against the Minnesota Twins on May 11, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tigers defeated the Twins 9-7 . Leyland has been the biggest influence in the stature that has made Cabrera a two-time back to back AL MVP’s having first won the title in 2012 , when also he became a Triple Crown winner . Last season Miguel Cabrera defeated Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels for his second league MVP. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images ….

(5) Ned Yost manager of the Kansas City Royals is seen here with team Chairman and owner David Glass . Both will be seeking to make further inroads this upcoming season with a view to perhaps landing the AL Central divisional title or at best a wildcard berth for the postseason . Neither of which has been achieved in several years by the franchise in terms of the divisional title win or the postseason . Getty Images North America / Harper Greene …..

(6) Tim Leiweke CEO and of MLSE , the multi-billion dollar sports’ conglomerate that owns the Toronto Blue Jays as well as several other sports’ brands known to the public worldwide . Getty Images / Todd Richards …..

(7) Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire laughs after CEO Jim Pohlad (not pictured) teased, “We went with a 2-year deal because we’re pretty sure we can get Gardy his 1,000th win somewhere,” during a press conference announcing that the Twins and Ron Gardenhire agree to 2-year contract extension at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn., on Monday, September 30, 2013. At right is General Manager Terry Ryan. Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin ….

(8) New York Mets’ short-stop David Wright is seen here with the team’s Head of Baseball Operations , Sandy Alderson . The executive believes that this season the team has within their sights a ninety -game winning season , which be believes will be enough to secure the NL East divisional title . The franchise has not won a divisional title in several years and it is hard to envisage them doing so given their record within the division over the past eight years and overall . AP Photo /. Billy Irving …… :

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