Same old story, just another day …

Same old story , just another day ….

The big story coming out of the world of sports was the decision made by the IOC President Thomas Bach and the Executive Committee not to issue an automatic ban for the Russian delegation heading to the Rio Olympics beginning next month. The decision has caused a great deal of dismay among other members countries , because there was clear evidence the Russian Olympic Federation knew that numerous athletes due to represent the country had been embroiled in a massive scandal , with their having tested positive repeatedly for banned substances not only in violation of the IOC rules, but also in contravention of the WADA standards. Bach , for his part, the decision made was simply done as a way of not punishing athletes within the Russian delegation deemed to be clean. There appears to be a double-standard in place by the IOC and the hypocrisy not withstanding , this remains an institution of questionable morals and principles.

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It has long been held the International Olympic Committee (IOC) operates under its own set of rules , offers very little transparency , along with corruption being rampant at all levels of the governing body. Brazil as the host nation has spent tens of billions of dollars to host the 2016 Olympic Games , while its own government undergoes severe changes , claims of massive corruption , a stagnant economy and need we be reminded of the ongoing threat of Zika Virus , as well as the possibility of a terrorist attack being staged at these games ?

From my own perspective, I do believe the right decision would have been the complete expulsion of the Russian Team from the games in Rio ! The excuses coming from not only Russian Olympic Federation as well as the country’s President Vladimir Putin have been asinine at best. Yet at the end of the day , a great deal of the blame for this morass lays squarely on the shoulders of the IOC.

Major League Baseball is now entering the final quarter of its regular season schedule and there is still a great deal to play for within a number of divisions . Granted , a number of teams have failed miserably this season and now we have the looming situation of the trade deadline with several ball-clubs looking to off-load players after a an un-competitive season. Rumors are now swirling that the New York Yankees might be major sellers on the market , with Aroldis Chapman being among a number of the players GM Brian Cashman might seek to move. Add in the fact two of the highest paid players on the Yankees’ roster have under-achieved this season and you could well understanding the reasons why Cashman would want to also shed Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira from the lineup. Due to receive a combined $45 million in 2016 and owed in excess of $80 million on the remainder of their respective contracts. It is easy to conclude why now might be the right time get rid of both Rodriguez and Teixeira . Neither player has lived up to the expectations sought and have not provided any type of veteran leadership for this team. Likely to miss the postseason in 2016 after a rather lackluster display with a wild-card round loss to the Houston Astros in 2015 . There are likely to be some major upheavals with the New York Yankees during this upcoming off-season.

Having won a World Series’ title managing the New York Yankees, Joe Girardi might also now be on the hot seat , as I believe the front office will view the franchise’s recent lack of success has a great deal to do with the lack of managerial acumen shown Girardi and his staff since the ball-club’s triumph over the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 with a 4-2 series’ victory . Coming off a weekend series’ schedule against the San Francisco Giants , Joe Girardi will now have to seek some consistency as they round out their schedule for the month of July. The New York Yankees will begin three-game road trip against the Houston Astros , starting Monday 25th July at Minute Maid Park in Houston , Texas. Michael Pineda will be on the mound for the Yankees as he faces Dallas Keuchel of the Astros. Winning the series will be imperative for New York if they are to have any chance of resurrecting their season. It is my belief this would be the right time for baseball’s most successful franchise to start rebuilding again from the ground up , assessing the quality of their players within the farm system beyond their never-ending quest to continually overpay for free agents or make the sort of idiotic deals the New York Yankees have come to be known for in recent years .

If the New York Yankees are said to be in need of success then consider the situation now facing the Los Angeles Dodgers . The franchise in the past four years have committed to paying out over $1 .2 billion in salaries during the time-frame in question. To the dismay of baseball purists , the fact there is this belief, money can buy success , the Dodgers remain an intense study as to how asinine this exercise can be. This season the Los Angeles Dodgers remain by far the highest salaried team in the game of baseball , outstripping their closest rivals by a considerable margin. Managing partner Mark Walter and his associates within the front office have to be dissatisfied with the performances of the team this season. Struggling to keep apace with the San Francisco Giants within the NL West , the Dodgers are now in something of a dogfight for a wild-card berth within the NL. Manager Dave Roberts and his managerial staff will be preparing the team to face the Tampa Bay Rays at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles , California on Tuesday afternoon. Chris Archer of the Rays will be starting pitcher for the visiting team when he faces Bud Norris of the Dodgers. If nothing else , this should be a guaranteed win for the home team as their games against the Tampa Bay Rays have tended to be lopsided affairs over the past eight seasons.

It’s now or never for the Los Angeles and a case can be made that several of the players on this roster , their jobs are most certainly at risk. It remains to be seen what changes could be made by GM Farhan Zaidi and Head of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman . Both of these Dodgers’ executives would like to move away from the often capricious decision-making seen with former GM Ned Colletti not longer the team was brought the present owners in 2012 . Colletti was given cart-blanches do whatever it took place a competitive team on the field of play. The Los Angeles’ most recent postseason mishaps are now well-chronicled and was an indication as to the bloated ideas seen within the organization at all levels, along with the ongoing complacency seen .

With a little over two weeks before the NFL kicks off its preseason the usual amalgam of new surfaces and once again player misconduct rears its ugly head alongside the ongoing woes of Johnny Manziel . Considered a major NFL bust and it is easy to understand why this Heisman Trophy winner failed miserably at the professional level . Manziel was overrated, lacked maturity and certainly lacked the skills needed to be a successful quarterback in this league. Johnny Manziel’s former team the Cleveland Browns now appears to be in safe hands after the franchise acquired Robert Griffin III to helm the team at the quarterback position. I am not so sure what to expect of the Browns this season , but I feel they are likely to improve on their showing of last year. The Cleveland Browns’ preseason schedule , merely a warm-up for their regular season foray will certainly be interesting.

Marshawn Lynch announced his retirement from the NFL , having fulfilled a professional ambition , winning a Superbowl title. The running back’s success with the Seattle Seahawks has been well-chronicled . Seattle will likely enter the season as the prohibitive favorite to win the NFC West , with their biggest challenge quite possibly coming from the Arizona Cardinals within the division . As with all regular season contest these two divisional adversaries will meet twice over the course of the regular season , home and away . Opposing quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer will be tested in each of these contests . The first meeting between the two NFC West combatants will take place during week seven at University of Phoenix Stadium in Tempe , Arizona on 23rd October , 2016. Their final meeting of the regular season will be week sixteen at Century-Link Field in Seattle Washington , when the Seattle Seahawks will play host to the Arizona Cardinals.

The departure of Marshawn Lynch will undoubtedly leave a void within the Seahawks’ organization How they compensate for this loss will be dependent upon what Pete Carroll may well feel needs to be done to replace a player of Lynch’s caliber. There is depth on the roster and what appears to be a number of players eager to fill the role of starting running back for the team. Richard Sherman a teammate of Marshawn Lynch is unconvinced of his the running back’s retirement , but Lynch remains adamant his decision is final and that his eight years in the NFL are enough.

Tom Brady w ill not seek to appeal the Federal Appellate Court ruling which upheld his four-game suspension , clearing the way of his back-up Jimmy Garopollo to lead the New England Patriots through their first four games of the regular season. Meanwhile , Brady’s contemporary, the recently retired Peyton Manning has been cleared by the NFL of any alleged wrongdoing of his having used a banned substance . The facts of the league’s investigation are unlikely to be made public , but there will continue to speculation as to whether or not the NFL wished to make an example of Brady , while giving Manning the benefit of the doubt. Over the last decade and half these two quarterbacks have come to represent the face of this league , with the pairing having won six Superbowls , six League MVP’s and four Superbowl MVP’s .

While I believe was guilty of deception , I do not believe the league hierarchy had substantive evidence to fully prove their case , with much of the evidence built around hearsay , rather than factual and physical evidence. Also , it seemed somewhat suspicious that the league’s Chief Legal Counsel Jeff Pash was not called to give evidence in the original arbitration case on behalf of the NFL.

Of late the NBA has found itself embroiled in a mess of its own making. Four prominent NBA players have suddenly believe it right to be socially conscious. Dwyane Wade , Carmelo Anthony , LeBron James and Chris Paul now taking a stance against gun violence and the deaths of not only law enforcement officers , but also civilians. These deaths have now become cannon fodder for both Presidential candidates , who seem intent for the most part, to make use of the grieving families’ misfortune, without offering up any type of solution themselves. It would not be so bad , but there now seems to be no implicit faith in either the FBI , the Civil Rights’ Division of the US Justice Department much less Barack Obama during the waning days of his Presidency. Obama is lame-duck President , offering nothing decisive by way of leadership , merely offering up rhetoric and pragmatic statements on socioeconomic issues involving African-Americans. For these four stars now offering up their own stance on the issue of gun violence , it is somewhat laughable, considering over the past five years hundreds of lives have been lost, but now with law enforcement running amok , this issue has now become a racial morass, widening with each passing moment.

Following in line with what we have seen within the NBA , the WNBA in recent days, fined several players on the Indiana Fever , an undisclosed sum for their having worn black T-shirts stating “Stop The Violence” , prior to an NBA game. Lisa Borders , President of the WNBA has since rescinded the fines , with their being public outrage from fans and analysts for the actions taken by the league hierarchy. The self-righteous pomposity of the NBA seems to have found its away across to the WNBA , with their being equal amounts of bombastic pomposity and incompetence to be seen within both leagues. Adam Silver who succeeded David Stern as the NBA Commissioner, has chosen to remain silent on the latest national controversy, yet this was the very same league , who two decades ago sought to use the genre of gangsta-rap as a marketing tool to lure in the urban youth of America. Less we forget, the imagery often associated with the music form in particular , was gang violence , but somehow this must have been lost on the NBA hierarchy as well as the players’ union (NBPA) .

NBA great Michael Jordan has now began to chime in on not only the Black Lives Matter’s campaign , but also the stance being taken by the league’s players. Somehow , I would take more of an interest , if I were really sure that Jordan was in fact serious with his intent ! The billionaire owner of the Charlotte Hornets may well have raised millions through his charitable foundation to aid the need of under-privileged youth across America , but yet, while at the height of his playing career , not once was this icon ever vocal on a social issue of any importance. Not even when it was associated with his biggest corporate endorser Nike Inc , whose business as well as labor practices have come under close scrutiny from Human Rights activists and non-governmental agencies across the globe.

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Repetitive motion appears to the cycle of news not only within the world of sports, but also on the national scene as a rather disturbing trend continues unabated . What thoughts if any , do you have on the points raised within this article ? Simply leave a comment as you see fit and

Tophatal ….. 2016/07/25 08:43 pm

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The Long Walk Home or Is It To Nowhere ?

The Long Walk Home or Is It To Nowhere ?

While there appears to be apparent apathy , indifference and now the fomenting of xenophobia in recent weeks either being perpetuated by the media , political candidates as well as on both sides of the political aisle. The fact of the matter remains , with the recent stance being taken by NBA stars after the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers . I have to ask if their actions are not too little , too late , given the fact these atrocities being perpetuated by law enforcement officers. Personally , I believe after the impassioned statement made by actor Jesse Williams , the athletes were shamed once again into taking a stance ! From my own standpoint , I find far too many of today’s athletes are self-indulgent, with their greatest concern being, personal success, how much wealth they can amass, how much money can they earn by way of endorsements and how they are perceived by the public by enlarge.

When you have the likes of Floyd Mayweather bragging about the money he can earn in and outside of the boxing ring ,while still believing himself above the law and then see the ongoing hypocrisy of today’s NBA stars and realize the fact they measure up so poorly in comparison to many of their predecessors when it comes to dealing with and protesting social issues. I have to question their actual motives and whether or not there is genuine altruism on their part !

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The retirement of NBA star Tim Duncan after nineteen-years of unprecedented success with the San Antonio Spurs , brings to an end one of the truly great careers in recent league history. Duncan , a five-time NBA champion , three-time Finals’ MVP , two-time League MVP and fifteen time All Star leaves the NBA and there will definitely a large void left to be filled on the Spurs’ playing staff . The acquisition of Pau Gasol may well go some way in filling Tim Duncan’s shoes , but I get the feeling as good as Gasol just happens to be , he may well never be able to replace a superstar of Duncan’s stature. The Spurs’ power forward who along with Kobe Bryant recently played their last seasons in the NBA have brought about an end to a two-decade span during which both of these players were truly dominant at their respective position and among the best of their generation.

Gregg Popovich who drafted Tim Duncan , has the greatest respect for the player he believes has been the franchise’s greatest asset during his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs .

Over the years , hierarchies behind sports such as baseball , basketball and football have carried a truly poor image when it comes to addressing the issue of social injustice never-mind the issue of race relations. While idiots continue to suggest Barack Obama has done more to create a greater divide in the chasm of race in the country. I have to ask the question , what the hell do those morons think was happening during the Civil Rights’ era and the early twentieth century , when African-Americans were not afforded the right to vote , have equal access to an education , much less be able to use a public restroom without being attacked ? Now within the Justice System many of the alleged advances made by way legislation within Congress and now within the US Supreme Court , are now being repealed or weakened , to make sure the oppressors will always have the upper hand.

MLB will resume the second-half of its schedule and you now have to question if many of the big-spending teams are capable making a genuine run to the postseason, much less be in with a chance of winning their division. Speculation appears to be mounting the New York Yankees will be dumping salary and unproductive players faster than leaves descending from trees during the Fall. Team manager Joe Girardi has seen his players under-perform and having no real chance of winning the AL East . Over their last ten games as of the 14th July the Yankees are 5-5 with their last victory coming against the Cleveland Indians on the 10th July . The New York Yankees will begin a weekend series against divisional rivals the Boston Red Sox where both Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz are having excellent seasons for the Red Sox. Season series between the two teams have become what many of us have expected from two franchises looking to make sense of their season. Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox will be on the mound when he faces Michael Pineda of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York on Friday evening.

Michael Pineda is thought to be one of the players are willing to trade prior to or at the trade deadline. Desperation has become the new normal within this Yankees’ organization as the front office is steeped in failure with another abysmal season coming into focus. Having made the postseason in 2015, their stay came to an abrupt end suffering a wild-card loss to the Houston Astros . In 2016 there has been no sense of urgency from this Yankees’ team whatsoever and no excuses should be made concerning injuries suffered to any of their front-line starters .

If the New York Yankees are said to be struggling then this season at this point of their schedule has to be seen as one hell of a triumph for both the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers , the two teams with the best records in their respective leagues. San Francisco will be meeting the San Diego Padres in a road game , while the Rangers will be facing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago , Illinois .

As the saga continues , it might now be time for Tom Brady to bow out gracefully , rather than continue to his futile effort to prove his innocence. Brady’s latest setback in the never-ending episode of Deflate-Gate has taken on every twist and turn. However, with a Federal Appeals Court ruling that his four-game suspension be upheld , the player’s only alternative is to petition the US Supreme Court to hear his case as a final act of binding arbitration . The New England Patriots’ quarterback has been fighting relentlessly to prove a point, while the league hierarchy has simply seen public opinion move further into their corner.

There will not be a great financial loss for Tom Brady , should he decide to sit out the four games mandated by the NFL , as the player renegotiated his contract for this upcoming season which would see him being paid a base salary of $1 million dollars for the upcoming year. Brady’s signing bonus of $13,000,000 would go untouched by the league. Somehow , I believe every scenario which would could have been planned for, was dealt with by the player’s representatives as well as the NFLPA (Players’ Union) .

New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft remains livid as to the latest outcome and I somehow feel his relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will become more strained and great deal more testy. Kraft was among Goodell’s biggest proponents to succeed Paul Tagliabue to the position as the league’s highest ranking executive. Now with the relationship almost untenable , I do not believe there can be any scenario where the two executives can ever be viewed as close confidantes. Head coach Bill Belichick will now seek to have Jimmy Garoppolo ready for the season with the backup quarterback being given a lot of reps during training camp , the preseason and of-course through the first four games of the Patriots’ regular season schedule . If the team can go at worst 2-2 , then it can be considered a success to the start of their season.

Tom Brady’s likely return would come in week five when the New England Patriots are due to meet the Cleveland Browns led by their new quarterback Robert Griffin III , in a game to be played at First Energy Stadium (Paul Brown) in Cleveland , Ohio on October 9th , 2016,.

Through two rounds of the British Open , Phil Mickelson has a one-shot lead at the Royal Troon Golf Course in Troon , Scotland. Mickelson skirted history during the first round of the tournament , when he shot a sixty-two (62) for a nine under-par (-9) , a record for the first round in the Open . Whether or not ‘ Lefty’ as he is lovingly known can win this Grand Slam major , as usually this tournament , considered to be the toughest of all the Majors , tests the wills of the competitors over the final two rounds.

With over $80 million in career prize money , five Grand Slam tournament victories , Phil Mickelson needs only the US Open to notch a career Grand Slam , while also having won forty-two times on the PGA Tour. His career is considered to be one of the best over the past two decades , but the long-held contention that he would prove to be a formidable rival to Tiger Woods has never materialized on the Tour. Granted, Woods’ own career has been in a steady decline over the past three years and while he still remains popular , his is no longer considered to be the best golfer in the world .

The UFC garnered some negative as well as positive coverage over the past ten days. On the negative side UFC President Dana White had to announce for the second time . former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones had been suspended , having tested for a banned substance. The suspension was recommended by USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) and a two-year ban was the recommendation of the panel. Jones has the right to appeal the suspension , but the train of thought among many analysts of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is that his career might well be over. Jon Jones and those within his inner circle have vehemently denied any wrongdoing , but his explanation wreaks of inaccuracies . Furthermore , his coming forward with such a tepid excuse of not knowingly taken a banned substance after his first infraction, leaves a lot to be desired. The positive news emanating from the UFC was the sale of the organization for a reputed $4 billion to WME/IMG , making Dana White , Frank Fertitta III and his brother Lorenzo Fertitta extremely wealthy men. All three will still retain a minority stake in the company , with White being retained in his current position. What this now means for the organization and any further expansion remains to be seen, as the new owners survey their latest asset and acquisition.

UFC’s most recent event UFC 200 was not all thrills and spills with the main card , having been decimated after the announcement of Jon Jones’ suspension in the lead-up to his challenging Daniel Cormier for the title he once held. Cormier had to take on Anderson Silva in a non title fight, while the top bout featured Miesha Tate losing her Women’s Bantamweight Title to Amanda Nunes in surprising fashion . Add in the comical return of the overrated Brock Lesnar and you could say the ” circus was back in town ” . Now we have the comical elements of the WWE now entering its ranks , with the organization now pushing more for the idiotic antics often seen in professional wrestling , rather than the UFC seeking to make its mark and inroads into the base once held by boxing .

Floyd Mayweather , gone and so too has Many Pacquiao , with both boxers calling quits , after almost two decades a piece in the sport of boxing . Their super-fight turned out to be a monstrous bore , with fans being overcharged to witness two boxers whose contest came at least five years after both fighters were no longer at the pinnacle of their respective careers. Boxing has now become a lackluster sport , still controlled by major promoters Bob Arum , Don King and Oscar de La Hoya , The latter entered the sport as a promoter after a classic career in the ring. Instead , all de La Hoya seems to be offering the fans are promises which have yet to be fulfilled.

On Saturday night Deontay Wilder will make a defense of the Heavyweight title when he defends his crown for the fourth time when he faces Chris Arreola in defense of his WBC crown . This is not a fight I believe fight fans will be relishing, given the challenger’s lackluster record over his past six fights . Arreola often comes into a bout out of shape and unwilling to fight , in spite of claims he possesses a knockout punch. Wilder will be fighting in his hometown of Birmingham , Alabama at the Legacy Arena , where there will be a sell-out crowd for the defending champion and heavily backed favorite. I expect Deontay Wilder to make another successful defense of the heavyweight title before seeking out a much sterner opponent for his next defense. The thinning of the herd within the division lessens the chance of his meeting a credible challenger . Tyson Fury has his long-awaited rematch coming up as he defends the versions of the titles he now holds , when he meets Wladimir Klitschko . The Ukrainian fighter is hoping to rebound after his astonishing loss to the English-born fighter last year in what was seen as one of the biggest upsets in recent boxing history.

Boxing longs for an undisputed heavyweight champion , something which we have not seen in over a decade and it should also be remembered , currently there are no undisputed champions in any of the weight categories of the sport. We have a litany of alphabet organizations governing the sport and none seem to be in unison , seeking to make boxing more engaging for the fans or competitive with regard to the title fights being staged.

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I am being continually told , how far this country has come in the past two-hundred and forty years since its founding and specifically since the end of the American Civil War. The so-called advancements made, have been played out on a battlefield of hate, greed, corruption , cynicism , a great deal of racism and xenophobia . It is certainly being played out in the current political arena on both sides of the political divide. The things which allegedly made America great, are no longer being seen and the country itself , has lost the respect of its closest allies. Only a fool will try to suggest the contrary. The country has to be shamed into doing what is morally right and more often than not has been reactive rather than being proactive. Yet it seeks to be the moral beacon of light for the rest of the world . There is a great deal the country still has to learn and the biggest lesson of them all , has to be the respect of others as well as preserving its own dignity. Something which seems to be lost among its political leaders, athletes and dare one say even among its populace ?


Tophatal …. 2016/07/15

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Save It For Another Day ….

Save It For Another Day …

OK, so the country is in a state of shock after the events of the past seventy-two hours and I am of the belief , you cannot change a country, when the mindset of the political leaders remains ambivalent , rhetorical and pragmatic . The United States of America no longer remains the Land of The Free , but it has become about the have’s and have not’s . No other country on the earth judges its people than by the wealth amassed and the power one has by the fortune amassed. From my own standpoint , I no longer wish to make any type or real observation concerning the country , because I know in essence, things are unlikely to change , no matter who takes power at the highest levels of political office .

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In the world of sports , the NBA’s off-season has taken shape with a spate of transactions and the ongoing stupidity exhibited by analysts such as Charles Barkley and Stephen A Smith . The duo have taken things to a new level of such idiocy with their statements concerning Kevin Durant’s departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors . How little they seem to remember , when it came to the orchestrated and embarrassing performance by LeBron James , when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat and where James would lead the Heat to two of their three NBA titles while he played for the franchise. Rather than address the fact , the NBA is no longer about team success , but more so about singular titular achievements of the league’s superstars. The fans of the NBA now have to put up with the utter bull$hit exhibited by individuals (Barkley and Smith) who clearly want to proffer up idiotic opinions, with the belief they will be listened to with a great deal of clarity and real intellect.

Dwyane Wade’s shocking departure from the Miami Heat to join the Chicago Bulls was more of a jolt , than Kevin Durant’s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder. Heat Team President Pat Riley has played footloose and fancy-free over the last six seasons conjuring up the success for their franchise. Yet, his plan had to unravel , because the financial burden for the Miami Heat had become too much to bear. Wade for his part sacrificed professionally as well as monetarily in order to facilitate the wishes of the front office executive Yet at the end of the day , as we all know the NBA has been nothing more than a business , with team success being secondary in nature and nothing more than a bye product of it all.

In reality the league (NBA) has become entity without any heart , soul or real competitiveness, where they are no longer any great team rivalries , player rivalries or in-depth skill-set. There are but a handful truly great players in the NBA , with the coaching also being rather mundane, if not pedantic , bordering on being less than average.

Away from professional basketball , Major League Baseball is on the cusp of taking its mid-season break for the events of this year’s All Star Game being held at PETCO Park , home to the NL’s San Diego Padres . Teams are still vying for divisional supremacy as well a vital playoff berth within each league. Of late things have slowed up for the Chicago Cubs who at one point had the best record in all of baseball. That mark now belongs to the San Francisco Giants who are bring pressure to bear on their divisional rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers whose gargantuan payroll dwarfs so many of their rivals within the NL West as well as the rest of MLB . Over the last ten games played , the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays have been the two best teams in baseball , with each compiling an 8-2 record . Though it is not reflected in their divisional standing within the NL East or the AL East where they sit several games behind the respective divisional leaders.

Coming off their last contest the Toronto Blue Jays were 5-4 winners over the Detroit Tigers in a game played the Rogers Center in Toronto , Ontario. The two teams will face each other again on Friday evening , with the Blue Jays seeking to inch closer the Baltimore Orioles , who currently lead the AL East . In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies , it has been a lack of consistency throughout much of the season which has led to their faltering behind the Washington Nationals and New York Mets within the NL East . Thursday’s embarrassing loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver Colorado , proved to be something of a setback for this Phillies’ team , but they will get the chance to rebound from the defeat , when they meet in the resumption of their regular season series this Friday.

At this point last season , the standings within the game gave us no real indication as to how the postseason would play out for the participants . I certainly believe the last month of the regular season will play a part in what we could very well expect during the postseason foray for the teams. For now, the fans will prepare as the All Star Game festivities get underway , with the beginning of the mid-season showcase starting with starting with the Celebrity All Star Game on Saturday, followed by Sunday’s Home Run Derby , with the pinnacle being Tuesday’s big event of the whole showcase. The AL and NL rosters for the game might well have been filled with surprises , but when you consider this is nothing more than love-fest , which comes courtesy of fan voting , rather than on the merits of the accomplishment of the players up to this point of the season. Then there are bound to be a number of grievances from various arenas covering the game of baseball. Yet at the end of the day, the fans simply want to be entertained, while seeing a very competitive contest from the best players the game has to offer.

What should have been one of the biggest promotions in UFC history with the scheduling of UFC 200 , will now turn into something of a nondescript spectacle. One of MMA’s biggest stars, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones has been forced to withdraw from his proposed Light Heavyweight title bout against reigning champion Daniel Cormier . Jones has tested for a banned substance and a mandatory two-year suspension by WADA comes strong on the heels of the fighter just returning to the octagon having tested positive for cocaine after his having originally defeated Cormier in defense of the title he had to relinquish . Jones has pled his innocence stating that he could have only tested positive having taken a prescriptive medication for which he wasn’t aware was among the list of substances banned by the UFC. Plausible or not , Jon Jones has become the unwanted face of the sport because of his past offenses in and outside of the octagon. Jones , alongside Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey , are the three biggest draws in the sport , which at present is truly bereft of a breakout star, given the fact in recent months, each of the three fighters mentioned suffered losses professionally in the octagon or their reputations have been sullied with some negative press, because of actions outside the sport. UFC President Dana White , whose avuncular style and dictatorial leadership of the UFC has drawn negative reviews , is now pressed in having to deal with another damaging blow the sport.

Criticism from many circles concerning the UFC’s business dealings with contracted fighters signed to the company are not misplaced , in spite of claims to the contrary by White , and UFC’s owners , Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta . UFC 200 will still be staged , but the main attraction on the card will mark the return of former Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar who will face Mark Brown , while Miesha Tate will defend her Women’s Bantamweight title against Amanda Nunes . Daniel Cormier is likely to be tested in his bout when he faces off against Anderson Silva the former UFC Middleweight champion. These three bouts will highlight the main card for the evening’s events staged at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas , Nevada on Saturday , 9th July, 2016. If nothing else, UFC needs a shot in the arms after all of the negative publicity surrounding the Jon Jones debacle as well as the uncertainty concerning Conor McGregor’s future within Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). The Irishman seems unfazed by the antics of the UFC President , knowing full well the UFC needs him more than he needs the sport. Contract obligations asides , his staged announcement and walking away from sport was nothing more than hyperbole.

Brock Lesnar’s return will certainly give us something of a comedic spectacle, given the fact his reign as the former champion was short-lived . All-American or not , Lesnar has limited skills as an MMA fighter , where his greatest strengths are his wrestling and physique.

Serena Williams will be looking to add to her twenty-one singles’ Grand Slam titles when she faces Angelique Kerber of Germany in the Ladies’ Singles Finals at Wimbledon. Kerber , defeated Williams to win the Australian Open in Melbourne , this past January, depriving the American of her chance to equal Steffi Graf’s modern era Open record of twenty-two Grand Slam singles’ titles. Serena Williams will enter the Finals at Wimbledon as an overwhelming favorite , but I believe Angelique Kerber is not to be underestimated ! Williams is by far the best player of her generation and among the top-five female players in the history of tennis, but it is difficult to suggest she is the greatest female player of all-time. Her career record while outstanding , would pale into comparison when measured against the likes of Martina Navratilova , Steffi Graf , Billie Jean King and Margaret Court .

If Serena Williams fails in her quest on Saturday afternoon , it will not be for the lack of trying , but questions will certainly once again be raised where she ranks within the pantheon’s of the women’s game should she falter again , at the hands of Angelique Kerber.

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro , Brazil are just over month away and while IOC President Thomas Bach assures the world at large everything is OK. What cannot be hidden from the public , is that the country remains beset by political scandal , has an outbreak, which many believe Brazil cannot contain , in spite of assurances from the nation’s Health Ministry and the WHO (World Health Organization) . While I believe the ‘Zika Virus’ outbreak is a real cause for concern, my greatest fear, is that Brazil and its security apparatus will be unable to handle a terrorist attack . The whole world will be watching the biggest sporting spectacle to be staged each quadrennial and I have to admit , I will be fascinated to see many of the events unfold. Team USA will seek forge unity , trying to unite a nation divided by racial and economic divides , while idiot politicians and members of the media seek to suggest the nation is more unison, when it faces its greatest adversity. Nothing could be further from the truth, as there remains a perpetuation of xenophobia fomented in the bigoted rants of political commentators , Presidential candidates and even idiot members of the populace , who know little of the nation’s history, much less the reality of the real world .

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Recent tragic events , which we have now borne witness to via media resources, reminds us why very little has changed in the US over the last six decades, much less since the nation came into being. All men are not created equal and they are certainly not treated fairly under the law. Anyone with an iota of intelligence can see that for all sense and purpose the United States remains divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. It is the way in order to keep the status quo as is, with those in power , controlling the wealth and suppressing the freedom of others, specifically those who are of an ethnic background.

Tophatal …………. 2016/07/08

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A Swing and A Miss ….

A Swing and A Miss ….

Well, we’re just passed one-quarter way through the MLB schedule for this season and already there has been a managerial casualty , unlikely to be the last of the season . Fredi Gonzalez’s dismissal as the manager of the Atlanta Braves was not that much of a surprise, given the fact the team possessed the worst record in all of baseball. Elsewhere , the Chicago Cubs have caught everyone off-guard with their resolute play while leading the NL Central . Already , there has been growing discussion as to which players have been performing well and should be considered among the front-runners for an appearance at the All Star Game which is being held at Petco Park , home to the San Diego Padres . It will be interesting to see which players will obtain the largest tally of votes within the AL and NL for baseball’s mid-season showcase event.

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Several teams this season will be under a great deal of assessment from the fans as well as the analysts at large , most notably the New York Yankees who are still in transition after the retirement of former team captain Derek Jeter . This team seems to have lost its direction , while there appears to be no apparent leader , or anyone capable of showing the leadership qualities often seen by Jeter at his very best. Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi and his managerial staff have been nonplussed by the lack of competitiveness shown by the players and I fully expect there to be some major shakeups among the playing the staff , if the team is not in a position to be challenging for the AL East divisional title or a wildcard berth during the waning months of the regular season schedule. Over their last ten games the New York Yankees have posted a 7-3 record , but still placing them third within the division, 5 ½ games behind the Baltimore Orioles (26-16) .

On Tuesday afternoon the Yankees will be playing host to the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium , in the Bronx , New York . On the mound for the New York Yankees will be Nathan Evoldi (4-2, 4.44 ERA) against R A Dickey , the Blue Jays’ knuckle-baller. The contrasting styles of the two starting pitchers should make for an interesting contest.

If the Yankees are to have any chance of winning the AL East then their play will have to be far more competitive than the fans have seen this season and it is especially true against their divisional and AL rivals . It remains to be seen whether or not Joe Girardi can win the second World Series’ title of his managerial career with the first coming in 2009 when the franchise won their very last world championship .

Robin Ventura and the Chicago White Sox (27-19) have made a solid and surprising start to their season , but over their last ten games the team has been far from impressive with a 3-7 mark , leading an AL Central division where the reigning World Series champions the Kansas City Royals are within striking distance of the division leading White Sox. Ventura is in his fifth season as the manager of the Chicago White Sox , having succeeded Ozzie Guillen who had been fired by former GM Ken Williams after what was thought to be a great deal of dissension and off the field issues between the manager and front office executive. Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf backed Williams’ decision wholeheartedly and the hiring of Ventura was something of a formality. The White Sox manager and his staff will be hoping the players can meet the expectations of their fans and the front office , as their postseason appearances over the past six seasons have been rare. In fact Chicago’s last appearance came in 2008 when they made it to the divisional round of the postseason that year . Their subsequent 3-1 series’ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays ended their postseason sojourn for the year.

The Chicago White Sox will be preparing to take on the Cleveland Indians at US Cellular Field in Chicago , Illinois on Tuesday evening, in a meeting of the top two teams within the AL Central . Chris Sale of the White Sox will be seeking to become the first ten-game winner in the Majors this season. Sale remains unbeaten (9-0) , heading into the game against the Cleveland Indians and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his spectacular start to the year.

During his astonishing career Ichiro Suzuki has hit some highs in terms of his personal achievements in the Majors . The one thing missing from the player’s mantelpiece is a World Series’ ring and title. He has been lucky enough to have played for three famed ball-clubs , but his postseason forays have been noticeably paltry , primarily because neither the Seattle Mariners , New York Yankees or Miami Marlins have made that much of an impact in the postseason over the past five years . Ichiro is now in his first second season with the Marlins , where he is seen as one of the team’s seasoned veterans . The player now stands on the threshold of joining a select group of players with 3,000 career hits and a career batting average of .300 or more . One should also remember at the height of his career he was also one of the best outfielders of his generation and though not as athletic as when he first entered the Majors in 2001 , winning the AL Rookie of The Year as well as ALMVP . Ichiro is still able to pull of a spectacular defensive play and showing why he is so respected among his peers.

Miami Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly has inherited a team filled with talent , but they have yet to meet their potential and whether or not the players are able to do so will be dependent upon the motivation brought by Mattingly and his managerial staff . With established stars such as Ichiro Suzuki, Giancarlo Stanton , Jose Fernandez , Marcell Ozuna , Wei-Yin Chen and Christian Yelich . it is hoped this will be the season where the Marlins prove to be competitive enough to take on all-comers. Having won two World Series during their history , it could be said the franchise has far exceeded expectations during their two decade existence , but with a relatively new stadium , baseball within South Florida has yet to grab hold of the community at large .

The Miami Marlins still have sparse attendance levels for their home games and being on the road does not appear to have whetted the appetite of the fans of the teams they tend to be playing in those contests. Baseball in the state of Florida at the Major League Level is about as popular as a bikini contest featuring grossly overweight females who believe themselves to be supermodels on a catwalk. Both images have about as much appeal as watching paint dry in the hot sun. Playing in the non-competitive NL East , the Marlins will find themselves this season as perhaps the fourth best team in the division, behind the Washington Nationals , New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies . Holding up the rear would be the Atlanta Braves , whose season continues to be abysmal .

The Miami Marlins will be looking to make inroads into the divisional lead of their rivals when they play host to the Tampa Bay Rays at Marlins Ballpark, in Miami on Tuesday evening. Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays when he faces Tom Koehler of the Marlins.

Call me naive, but you will have to prove a hell of lot to me in order to justify being paid $28 million a year , as is the case with Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers . Granted , the remaining two years on the player’s contract is guaranteed by his former team the Los Angeles Angels . Yet, I get the feeling neither team will be the benefactor in this deal. Hamilton has yet to play a full season for the Rangers ,ever since his return back to Texas. During the time-frame in question his productivity for the Texas Rangers has bordered on being mediocre. All this from a player who still believes the Angels did not come to his support after his sobriety issues once again hit the headlines. Josh Hamilton’s fall from grace was of his own choosing and twice before , the Angels came to his support , by assisting the outfielder get into a rehabilitation program for individuals who suffered with alcohol and chemical dependency (drug abuse). Somehow this must have escaped Hamilton’s attention, when he harangued the Angels’ organization , directing his vitriol at former general manager Jerry Dipoto and team owner Arte Moreno .

Courtesy of ESPN

MLB Rumor Central: Will Josh Hamilton return to Texas in 2017 ?

Any hopes that Josh Hamilton would provide a late-season boost for the Texas Rangers ended Monday when the club announced the 35-year-old outfielder will have left knee surgery.

Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers (Getty Images/ Bill Butler)

Hamilton, already on the 60-day disabled list, has only 170 regular-season at-bats and eight home runs since being re-acquired in a trade with the Angels last year.

General manager Jon Daniels said Hamilton intends to play in 2017, which will be the final year of his five-year, $125 million contract. There is no guarantee, however, that Hamilton’s return will be in Texas.

“We’re not ready to address that yet,” Daniels told Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News.

There is little financial risk in bringing back Hamilton since the Angels will be picking up all but a small portion of his remaining salary. The Rangers, however, might balk at using a roster spot on Hamilton since they will have no idea on what they will get in return. Texas was left short-handed by Hamilton’s injury issues this spring, contributing to its pursuit of free agent Ian Desmond.

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Josh Hamilton is now on the Texas Rangers’ disabled list (DL) and will be lost to the team for the rest of the season . Due to become a free agent in 2018 , I certainly don’t believe Jon Daniels would be willing to sign the player to a long-term deal as the risks far outweigh the advantages . Hamilton is no longer at the peak of his career and he has never provided any sense of leadership or maturity with any team he has played for. A player like Josh Hamilton has been a great disservice to the game of baseball , in spite of the accolades feted on the outfielder. Unfortunately, baseball has become such a parody of all the things once thought to be pure about the game , it is easy to understand why it has been bedeviled by scandal and lack of leadership and incompetence throughout its history. There are those who still to suggest the social significance of the footsteps taken by the sport , but at the end of the day it has counted for absolutely nothing.

Hector Santiago of the Los Angeles Angels will be on the mound when he faces Colby Lewis of the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Stadium in Arlington , Texas on the 24th May , 2016. A continuation of the current series between these two long-established AL teams.

Perhaps it’s too early to start talking awards and the leading contenders for AL MVP, NL MVP , Cy Young Award , and Rookie of The Year . But there are several extremely great candidates for each given their productivity for their respective teams. In the AL for MVP , it could come down to the usual list of suspects with among the front-runners , Miguel Cabrera , Mike Trout , Josh Donaldson , Robinson Cano , Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr . All of the players mentioned have stood out for their teams and they are one of the major reasons why those clubs have been prominent in the standings. In the NL we have Ben Zobrist , Ryan Braun , Yoenis Cespedes , Bryce Harper and Nolan Arenado to name but a few. It would be safe to say no matter which way you try to disseminate the argument , Clayton Kershaw remains the best pitcher in baseball by a wide margin . His success this season has been staggering and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher looks as if he is certainly the guy to beat in the NL for this year’s Cy Young Award. In the AL , you can take your pick from Chris Sale whose season just seems to be getting better with each game. His challengers could come from among the following candidates , Rich Hill , Jose Quintana , Danny Salazar , Chris Tillman and Josh Tomlin . Among the Rookies within the NL and AL , it will come down to the consistency shown these youngsters over the course of the season and their quest for Rookie of The Year honors within each league .

Joe Maddon has been a very good manager and in recent seasons he has shown why he is so well-respected among his peers. Having won the AL Manager of the Year while with the Tampa Bay Rays , it is quite possible he could be the leading contender for this season’s award within the NL. The Chicago Cubs are still flying high and have not been truly tested to date within the Majors , while having being among the best of the teams within the National League. Buck Showalter has the Baltimore Orioles leading the AL East and looking to make their way back to the postseason. The team has been playing with a great deal of resolve with Manny Machado showing why he is one of the best short-stops in the game. As the Orioles’ manager Showalter has been able to resurrect the fortunes of the franchise and make them relevant once again. All that is now needed , is a prolonged postseason run and their chance of winning World Series title. If this is to become a reality , then the effort from the players will have to be a concerted all-round push over the course of the season. Showalter remains my personal favorite to win his fourth AL Manager of the Year Award !

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What are your impressions of the first-quarter of the MLB season and which teams do you believe to be in danger of falling from grace and which do you believe are firm contenders for the pennants this season as well as the World Series ?

Tophatal ….. 2016/05/24


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Walk before you can run ….

Walk before you can run …

You play with zeal or create the environment at least play up to the level of your opponent. It has certainly been the case within the NBA and how the teams have fared. All season long the Golden State Warriors have appeared to be on pace to break the regular season record for wins in a season . Several players on the Warriors’ roster have been weary and it has begun to take its toll on the Golden State with the recent performances of the team. With the best record in the NBA and a three-game lead in the wins’ total over their closest rivals the San Antonio Spurs , has provided us with every indication why why the Western Conference is far superior to the East and the teams, there. As the NBA season now winds down , with less than five games to play, the teams with a chance of a playoff berth are seeking to make that one final push for a postseason berth.

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Steve Kerr and his coaching staff will have to assess the playing staff and how best to deal with the recent lapses seen with the Golden State Warriors over their last eleven games. One thing is very clear, heading into the NBA Playoffs the Golden State Warriors will be seen as the prohibitive favorites to make a successful defense of their title. If there are to be any challenges coming from within their conference , then they will be met head on , as I do not believe Steve Kerr or his players are going to be complacent . With the majority of the teams having played seventy-nine games of the NBA’s arduous eighty-two game schedule , there is still something to play for. In the case of the Golden State Warriors their task is to win the final three remaining games on the schedule and in doing so, they would break the long-standing record of the Chicago Bulls which has stood for two decades. The record has stood since the 1995-96 season was thought to be beyond the reach of so many teams. Chicago’s roster included three Hall of Fame players , with Michael Jordan , Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Also part of that historic lineup was Steve Kerr the current head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Kerr having won titles with the Bulls , also went on to win titles as a member of the San Antonio Spurs .

The first of the three remaining contests of the Warriors’ schedule will see them facing the Memphis Grizzlies on the road on the 9th April , with their final two games against the San Antonio Spurs and the return engagement with Grizzlies to close out the season and their season series against Memphis. Greatness, as adjudged by their season exploits can then be compared to the Chicago Bulls’ own regular season achievements from the 95-96 season. Yet, if Golden State fails to win the NBA title this, then their season will simply be one which goes down in record books as great , but not outstanding.

If pressure is being brought to bear on any team within the NBA, then a great deal of it has to be on the Cleveland Cavaliers . Last season’s beaten finalists , along with their four-time League MVP and star player LeBron James will have to prove they are now ready to take on the might of not only the Eastern Conference , but also the best to come out of the West , should the Cavaliers make it to the Finals. Cleveland have been the runaway leaders within the Central Division all season-long . The team’s record also can be attributed to the coaching acumen of Tyronn Lue , who succeeded David Blatt , who had been fired by the front office , headed by team owner Dan Gilbert and GM David Griffin . Whether or not LeBron had any real influence in Blatt’s termination will remain subject to a great deal of conjecture and debate. Tyronn Lue and his coaching staff will now prepare the team for their final stretch run to round out the schedule .

A knock against the Cleveland Cavaliers might well be the fact they have not been as dominant as many believed they would be , whereas , last season the team proved themselves overpowering against their conference rivals . The make-up of the roster has changed , but injuries have played a part in the dominance sought , apart from lack of direction with David Blatt. Tyronn Lue’s contract with the franchise ties him the Cavaliers for the next three seasons. Lue and the Cleveland Cavaliers will on the court this weekend as they seek to secure their position as the number one seed in the East. On Saturday evening the Cavaliers will be the guests of their conference rivals the Chicago Bulls at the United Center , Chicago, Illinois.

If the standings remain as they are with the teams maintaining their current positions, then the first round match-ups for the NBA Playoffs should prove to be very interesting . The scenarios would be set, where the Cleveland Cavaliers would meet the Indiana , while in the Western Conference the Golden State Warriors would find themselves in a first round contest against the Utah Jazz . There is every possibility a first round upset could be in the making , but that would be totally dependent on the mindset of the underdogs and whether or not they have the belief to turn things upside down.

Just a few games into the MLB season and already the Tampa Bay Rays are facing difficulties . Not a good sign for a team with hopes of making the postseason after a rather disappointing year in 2015. Kevin Cash and the Rays’ managerial staff expected the team’s offense to be at the top of their game., but to date, they have been an unmitigated disaster. Throw in the fact the pitching remains suspect and I get the feeling the Rays will struggle to contend against their divisional rivals as well as the rest of the league !

Chris Archer is believed to be the best starting pitcher among the pitching rotation , but his season yet to be the standout , whereby he could be possibly thought of as a potential Cy Young Award candidate . Issues asides, the Rays’ ownership group have erred and blundered from pillar to post since the departure of Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman . Blundered trades , being unable to sustain themselves financially and yet we hear the idiocy of clueless fans and analysts within local area talking about the franchise’s profitability . Without the tax-sharing revenues the ball-club would barely turn a profit. Clueless individuals , just as we have seen among the cabal of political candidates seeking the Presidency, we ill continue to hear utterly stupid statements without any basis in fact. We have seen it repeatedly with the Rays’ ownership led by Stuart Sternberg .

In their last scheduled game the Tampa Bay Rays were sent crashing to a 6-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on the 8th April at Camden Yards / Orioles Ballpark , in Baltimore , Maryland . The team will resume the series after a rain delay with the Rays and Orioles taking to the field again on Sunday afternoon. Jake Odorizzi will be the visiting pitcher starting for the Tampa Bay Rays as he faces Vance Worley of the Baltimore Orioles.

With the announcement by Alex Rodriguez , 2017 will bring about the culmination of his well-chronicled and controversial career . The prevailing questions likely to be raised , are can the New York Yankees win another World Series championship and where does Yankees’ slugger stand within the pantheon of the game ? Rodriguez will likely fall short of baseball’s most hallowed record , the all-time career home runs’ total held by Barry Bonds , now a member of the Miami Marlins’ managerial staff. Joe Girardi and his staff must be pondering whether or not this team is capable of winning a World Series , but more so , being competitive enough to beat their divisional rivals . A 3-2 start through their first five games of the season isn’t an indicator as to what to expect from the Yankees, but I believe a much clearer picture will surface by late June .

This will be a trying year for the New York Yankees , where the heart of the roster , this in an aging core among the players taking to the field for the franchise. Last season having made the MLB postseason the Yankees were swept aside with ease by the Houston Astros in the wildcard round . Completely outplayed , the team was never in with a chance to challenge the Astros. It should also be noted , leading into the postseason Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia revealed he had been suffering with alcoholism , though not having undergone treatment. Sabathia also revealed, at no time during his appearances made for the team was he ever a detriment to his teammates. One could either take those statements as a euphemism or see them for what they actually are, a player in complete denial.

The New York Yankees will be on the diamond for their regular season scheduled game on Tuesday 12th April against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Center in Toronto , Ontario. On the mound for the visiting team will be Masahiro Tanaka who will be facing Aaron Sanchez of the Blue Jays. John Gibbons and the and Toronto Blue Jays’ managerial staff will be looking to have his team prepared to the encounter the New York Yankees for not only this game , but also their year-long series of contests at home as well as on the road.

Buck Showalter as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles will be looking to make a serious enough challenge this season within the AL East as well as the league overall . Off to a fast start with an unbeaten record (6-0) the Orioles find themselves sitting atop of their division and they are the only remaining unbeaten team in the league as of the 11th April . Showalter will be looking to players such as Chris Davis and Manny Machado to spearhead the team this season as the Orioles look to make a postseason appearance . Prior to 2012 the last visit made to baseball’s postseason festivities for the Baltimore Orioles came in 1997 , when the ball-club made it to the ALCS where they lost to the Cleveland Indians in six games . In their last contest , during which there was a great deal of controversy to how the game ended , as Baltimore beat the Boston Red Sox 9-7 . Taking the field as their starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles’ game on Tuesday afternoon will be Mike Wright when he takes on Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox .

I believe the Baltimore Orioles are capable of a postseason berth within the AL this season, but the team has to play with a great deal more urgency and consistency over the course of their schedule.

The Arizona Diamondbacks certainly have a great deal invested in Zach Greinke as the franchise made a big splash during the off-season signing the player to an enormous multi-year deal making him one of the highest paid starting pitchers in baseball. With the contract comes a great deal of expectation for a player who last season was among the best pitchers in the game. Greinke after an amazing season with the Los Angeles Dodgers would lose out on the NL Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs’ starter Jake Arrietta winning the award in 2015.

Arizona’s front office led by GM Dave Stewart , lead managing partner Ken Kendrick and his associates are seeking to resurrect the fortunes of the Diamondbacks and the signing of Zach Greinke along with several other transactions were a way of letting the fans know the ambitious intentions of the organization.

Chip Hale and his managerial staff have to be extremely optimistic about Arizona Diamondbacks’ chances this season as the team looks to play itself into contention. The NL West will be a ‘tough nut to crack’ as a division and the Los Angeles Dodgers will be looking to continue their recent dominance there. I certainly believe given the Dodgers’ recent lapses during the postseason , while they might well remain the favorites to repeat as the divisional champions , there is a belief their lineup is far from a convincing favorite to make a prolong run during the MLB postseason. Lack of leadership and managerial astuteness have brought about the misfortunes for the Dodgers in recent seasons. The Arizona Diamondbacks should be able to take advantage of the situation. Granted, Dave Roberts in his first season as the Los Angeles Dodgers has been entrusted to lead the team . With a multi-million dollar payroll and players at just about every position deemed to be an All Star or an emerging star. It will be interesting to see how both Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers will fare over the course of this season. Their regular season meetings should prove to be very competitive contests on the road as well as at home. These two teams will be meeting on Tuesday afternoon at Dodgers Ballpark in Los Angeles , California , where the opposing pitchers will be Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks against Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers.

This MLB season is liable to be an interesting one, with several teams out to prove themselves. I certainly believe with the team payrolls having increased over the past five years , top-flight players now > come at a high premium .

The profits and value of the ball-clubs have increased , but so too has the level of uncertainty and sustainability of the teams at the lower end of the economic base , as they continue to struggle . Something the league hierarchy continually fails to address .

What thoughts if any do you have on this NBA season and how do you believe the teams will fare during the NBA Playoffs ?

As the opening week of the MLB season gets underway , which are the teams which you believe will have the most to prove ? Chime in with your thoughts as you see fit on this and anything else you believe relevant to the subject matter.

Tophatal ….. 2016/04/08 04:59 pm 

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The Year of Living Dangerously …


The Year of Living Dangerously

No more queries as to the morass of underwhelming season in the NBA where the singular high points have been the exploits of the Golden State Warriors and their dominance of the league. Steve Kerr and his team have been barely challenged within their division , conference and the league as a whole. Last season’s League MVP , Steph Curry , is all but certain to repeat as MVP and it would appear nonsensical, were Kerr not named Coach of The Year after another astonishing season .

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Golden State are well on their way to beating the exploits of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls , who would go on to win the NBA title that season with Michael Jordan winning the trifecta of a championship ring , League MVP and Finals’ MVP on the way to the franchise’s historic season. Kerr was a member of the championship winning team of the Chicago Bulls from that year, which was coached by > Phil Jackson . For the legendary coach, he now finds himself overseeing a rather disappointing New York Knicks’ franchise , whose season has been a rather turbulent and indecisive one. At every turn , nothing but incompetence has been on display by the team, while apologists for Phil Jackson continue to come up with the most asinine of excuses to try to fend off the lackluster efforts of Jackson as a front office executive . Phil Jackson’s persona remains larger than life , as does his ego , which rivals that of GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump .

While Golden State continues to remain dominant inching closer to the 72-10 record-breaking mark of the Chicago Bulls , the question now being asked , which of the Warriors’ conference rivals during the upcoming NBA Playoffs might be capable of dethrone the reigning NBA champions. The only other team who has been able to mount a serious challenge to the Golden State Warriors this season have been the San Antonio Spurs . The likelihood of these two teams meeting in the Western Conference Finals seems all but certain , with only a major upset , being the only thing on the horizon likely to make this not appear to be a reality. San Antonio will be back on the court Monday night to face the Memphis Grizzlies on the road , where Tim Duncan and his Spurs’ teammates will be looking to take down the Grizzlies. Golden State will be looking to knock off another Eastern Conference opponent when they face the Washington Wizards on Tuesday evening. .

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has provided its fair share of surprises during the tournament with seeds falling left , right and center at the drop off a hat< . Now the only remaining number one seed from the four regions , just happens to be Roy Williams’ , University of Carolina Tar Heels . Williams’ team has been exceptional throughout the tournament , coming through a very tough regional phase , where they are also joined by Syracuse (Orangemen) , Oklahoma (Sooners) and Villanova (Wildcats) . All four teams have paid their dues and justifiably they have made it through to this stage of the competition. The quartet of teams will face off on 2nd April , when Villanova will face Oklahoma and North Carolina will tip off against Syracuse. These two games should provide a great deal of excitement for the fans in attendance as well as the millions of viewers nationwide who will be watching the television broadcast.

Officially and it is still seven more days until the start of the MLB season, with a full schedule of games to be played on Monday 4th April , 2016. Defending World Series champions the Kansas City Royals will be looking to make a successful defense of the AL Pennant and world championship . From my own perspective , I believe the Royals have been the best team in the AL over the past three seasons and through astute managerial acumen and GM Dayton Moore not plunging headlong into over paying for talent on the team roster , it has served the Kansas City Royals extremely well.

Kansas City has four games left on their exhibition schedule before embarking on the regular season with their opening game against the Arizona Diamondbacks , in a two-game road series , beginning on the 1st April.

Of the teams under the greatest pressure this upcoming season , I believe both the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers Angels have the most to prove ! Dave Roberts might well have succeeded Don Mattingly as the Dodgers’ manager , but with a multi-million dollar payroll and a roster laden with stars , there can no longer be any excuses being used for the club’s repeated failures. For Roberts’ counterpart with the Angels , Mike Sciocsia is under as much pressure. I believe team owner Arte Moreno will seriously consider the future of the managerial staff and it will come with the due diligence expected to be seen from Billy Eppler , who succeeded Jerry Dipoto in the position as the Angels’ general manager .

Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are expected to play significant roles in the Los Angeles Angels’ season as was the case in 2015. Their pitching staff is expected to be far more productive , but I do believe it has been the lack of consistency which has been the team’s downfall in recent years ! One more slip-up on the part Mike Sciocsia and his staff this season and I believe Billy Eppler will have no alternative , but to fire the franchise’s longest-serving manager . Sciocsia will undoubtedly be looking to get the Loss Angeles Angels off to a fast start this season and their schedule begins in earnest with their opening game of the regular season schedule , which pits them against the Los Angeles Dodgers on the 1st April at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles , California,. For Mike Trout this might be the year where he more than anyone else on the Angels’ team has to take the lead and show his commanding presence . because I believe Albert Pujols while still a great player , is no longer capable of consistently putting up the prolific numbers often seen before. Granted , last season was among the best seen this former multiple NL MVP , but it begs the question can he once again reproduce that form while leading the Los Angeles Angels to their first World Series’ title since 2002 ? If that is to be the case then Angels will most certainly have to get the better of their AL counterparts and specifically the Kansas City Royals.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will enter this season with by far the largest payroll of baseball’s thirty teams. All this for a franchise which has spent in excess of $1.2 billion on salaries since the team was purchased by Guggenheim Baseball Properties LLC , who parent company Guggenheim Partners is one of the nation’s largest venture capital firms with assets of over $200 billion . Senior partners in the ownership group of the Dodgers are former NBA star Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson , Hollywood mogul Peter Guber , senior executives from Guggenheim Partners , Todd S Boehly and Mark Walter .

The Dodgers had been purchased for the extraordinary sum of almost $2.2 billion , at the time a record for the sale of a North American professional sports’ franchise. Based on the value of the teams in MLB , the NFL and the NBA . It could be suggested the owners might well have overpaid , solely based on the assessed market-value and brand name , rather than the true-value of the franchise. It should also be noted at the time of the sale , the Los Angeles Dodgers were emerging from bankruptcy proceeding brought on by the rather duplicitous business dealings of the club’s former owner Frank McCourt . Former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s actions during this whole process , should not go unnoticed , as it appears his influence held sway even over the whole process over the Dodgers’ emerging from the bankruptcy proceedings . Those who believe otherwise, are either naive , or simply have no real idea concerning the nuances of sports economics and the business of finance.

The Los Angeles Dodgers need to win now and not one or two years from now. It seems remarkable , that it has been over twenty-five years since this franchise won its last World Series’ title. NL Pennant appearances and the recent miseries associated with those appearances can pretty much sum up the woes of this organization over the past two decades.

This will be the penultimate season of Alex Rodriguez’s two-decade career. The New York Yankees’ current DH has made the decision to announce his formal retirement at the end of the 2017 season. If based on his current productivity , Rodriguez will fall short of the all-time career home-runs’ record at present held by another disgraced player , Barry Bonds , batting instructor for the Miami Marlins . Their careers have taken similar paths and the notoriety has not stopped there as during the latter years of their heralded careers. Their links to the steroid era became linked to one of the most infamous sordid chapters in the history of baseball. Forget the White Sox scandal and the idiocy of Pete Rose, Bonds and Rodriguez have shone a glaring spotlight on baseball which showed us , not only the depth of deceit within the game , but also the duplicity of the MLBPA (union) and the ambivalence of the league hierarchy under Bud Selig and now Selig’s successor Rob Manfred . Baseball’s hierarchy looked the other way , while taking the money , running with it and extolling the era of steroids as one baseball’s most exciting chapters while being in complete denial and that was even with the advent of in-depth investigative reporting into not only the BALCO ‘ Scandal ‘ and Biogenysis , which some fans to this day ,remain ambivalent about . with their nonsensical statements . Which again goes to show, sports’ fans in North America were never that intelligent to begin with , even when the facts are laid out right in front of their very eyes .

New York Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi will have his work cut out for him this season and I believe it will be his toughest yet, since he succeeded Joe Torre to become the franchise’s manager. He has one World Series’ title to his resume’ , but beyond that , there has been very little which one would deem to be a great deal of success. A disappointing showing in 2015 within the AL East and the team’s early dismissal in the wild-card round of the MLB postseason summed up a disastrous year for the Yankees last year. Alex Rodriguez can become only the fourth player league history to pass the seven-hundred career home-runs’ plateau and he will likely achieve the milestone by his thirtieth game of the 2015 season . Rodriguez should hit that mark during the early part of August, based on current projections for the season.

Of the three players to have hit seven-hundred career home runs, only Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth are currently in Baseball’s Hall of Fame , in Cooperstown, New York . Barry Bonds is eligible and his name will be on the list of nominees for 2017 as a repeat entrant . Alex Rodriguez will not become eligible for that accolade until 2022. Like Bonds, I do not believe he will voted into the Hall of Fame as a first time ballot nominee ! It will likely be several years before either of the players’ eligibility will be taken seriously by the voters within the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) who adjudicate the ballots after these nominations are put forward by baseball’s hierarchy . Alex Rodriguez is thirteen home runs away from reaching this historic milestone of seven-hundred home runs and it seems inconceivable his career is still being looked upon in a number of circles, as being historic . Yet, this is what the game of baseball has now become over the past two and a half-decades , because of the cheating , posturing within the game by the players , owners and league itself. Corruption , breeds contempt and along with it comes the loss of honor , integrity and fairness of competition within the game .

This will be a make or break year for the New York Yankees and we know there are several players on this roster who are way past their prime , while being paid an exorbitant salary and offering little in return . CC Sabathia , Jacoby Ellsbury , Mark Teixiera , Michael Pineda and Brian McCann are all being paid a king’s ransom , but in large part the failure of the franchise since 2009 has come about by way of the poor management structure . lack of developing talent at the Minor League Level and poor draft classes and transactions over the years . GM Brian Cashman also bears a great deal of responsibility for this , as do the senior members within the ownership structure , headed by the Steinbrenner family . Having the most profitable team in baseball as well as the most valuable has always created pitfalls for the game’s most successful franchise . When the Yankees are winning , no questions are asked, but when the team is losing, then everyone takes aim and justifiably so , because this has been an organization which often makes repeated excuses for poor management decisions made within the hierarchy .

The New York Yankees will begin their regular season schedule with a contest as part of a three-game series against the Houston Astros , who defeated the Yankees in the wildcard round of the postseason of 2015. It remains to be seen what type of season will be had by the New York Yankees , but it will be interesting to see how things unfold for the franchise over the course of their schedule.

What do you believe has been the most surprising issue you have witnessed during the course of this year in the NBA , College Basketball ? Also, what are your own expectations for the upcoming MLB season ?

Tophatal …….. 2013/03/28

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Cleveland You Have A Problem …

Cleveland You Have A Problem ….

Expectations were high in 2014, when the Cleveland Browns drafted Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel . After a successful college career with the Aggies, within many circles it was felt if Manziel could reproduce the form seen with Texas & AM and then the Browns’ future would be secured with a franchise quarterback. In the ensuing years Johnny Manziel’s notoriety around the NFL has more to do with his off-the field antics than anything achieved on the field for the franchise. Granted, Cleveland Browns are now on their second head coach during Manziel’s short career with the Browns , but the players lack of maturity , sobriety issues and his having been dropped by his agent the LeBron James’ owned sports management company , should indicate the ongoing problems of the player and the fact he hasn’t shown the propensity to change his behavior.

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Even in light of the front office upheaval, with the firing of former GM Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine , it became abundantly clear, the Browns’ issues stemmed beyond Johnny Manziel’s inconsistency and the incompetence shown by Mike Pettine and his coaching staff. During the 2015 season, at no point was Johnny Manziel able to lead the Browns with any degree of success , where the team’s best player either on defense and offense, were Karlos Dansby and Gary Barnidge being the team’s best option on offense. Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel shared the quarterback duties for much of last season , but neither player truly proved to be productive when called upon to lead the team.

The Cleveland Brown’s financial commitment thankfully, has been nothing more than Johnny Manziel’s rookie contract and their likely releasing the player as of the 1st March , provides them with the chance to move forward without the troubled quarterback. Seeking to resurrect the fortunes of the Cleveland Browns will be the team’s new head coach Hue Jackson and his coaching staff . Jackson’s tenure with the Oakland Raiders was well-chronicled and the sheer ineptitude shown by the front office of the AFC West based franchise led to his being blamed for the Raiders’ misfortunes and subsequent firing . From my own perspective , I believe the Cleveland Browns wasted a draft pick on Johnny Manziel when they were far better options for the Browns at the time of making their choice. Such was the hyperbole over Manziel , that forgotten in this all, was the player’s lack of maturity , intelligence and temperament. I certainly don’t believe it would be in a team’s best interest to acquire Johnny Manziel as a backup or a as a third string starter on the roster of any NFL franchise. There are far too many distractions which come along with the player as well as his lack of command and skill-set as a player in the league.

LeBron James is not a coach-killer ? Well it remains to be seen , but with the firing of David Blatt , and the subsequent promotion of Tyronn Lue , leads me to believe things were not smooth as first thought. Cleveland Cavaliers’ team owner , Dan Gilbert and GM David Griffin made the decision to fire the embattled head coach. What may well have brought about Blatt’s demise were the recent performances and the Cavalier’s embarrassing loss to the Golden State Warriors . During a brief spell in mid-January , the Cleveland Cavaliers struggled as they lost to Golden State and the San Antonio Spurs , the top-two teams in the NBA. The real issue for the Cavaliers I believe , is the very fact they are not getting any real productivity from their bench and we have also seen a real lack of productivity from Kevin Love throughout much of this regular season.

If the Cavaliers are to have any chance of making a successful return to the NBA Finals , then their record against their conference rivals as well as the Western Conference will have to be considerably better than their current record indicates. The return of Kyrie Irving to the Cavaliers’ lineup should help the team a great deal and add to what Tyronn Lue will be seeking from his players in the lead-up to the All Star Break . Cleveland will be back on-court tonight when they face the Charlotte Hornets on the road in an Eastern Conference clash .

David Griffin may well seek to keep the Cavalier’s roster intact rather than perhaps move an impending free agents or make an ill-advised salary dump , or simply look to bolster the lineup , but the one thing I believe which cannot be denied, will the LeBron James’ ‘ factor ‘ as to his wants and needs for this team. f the Cavaliers do take the plunge and make a play for a marquee free agent , then we could see Cleveland make a big play for one of the presumed elite players likely to be on the open market. With a payroll currently set at $109.2 million the highest in the NBA , the Cavaliers also find themselves $39 million over the NBA salary cap and they are likely to be taxed at the league mandated $1-50 for every dollar the franchise remains over the cap . A luxury tax bill of $53 million could make a serious dent in the operational costs and profits of the Cleveland Cavaliers. It is something I am sure Dan Gilbert and the members of the front office are keenly aware of.

Terry Francona seems to have settled in nicely as the manager of the Cleveland Indians , but last season had to be seen as a tremendous disappointment for a team with postseason ambitions . The Indians came up short , playing ‘second fiddle’ to the likes of the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins within the AL Central this past season. Fortune favors the bold and the Indians have not waded into the water to make any major moves , but the front office know the fans of the Cleveland Indians will be expecting more from their team this season. It will be interesting to see if team owner , Lawrence J Dolan seeks to fulfill their wishes of bringing a World Series title to the city of Cleveland and this respected franchise . Postseason appearances for the Indians have been rare in recent seasons and their last appearance in the Fall Classic was in the 1997 World Series which ended in a 4-3 series’ loss to the Florida Marlins, later to become the Miami Marlins .

Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff has expectations too and he expects Terry Francona and his managerial staff have this team ready and prepared for the onslaught of a rigorous regular season schedule . Granted, before entering the fray , the Cleveland Indians’ coaching staff will be assessing the team’s strengths and weaknesses during their Spring Training schedule , as they pour over their forty-man squad as well as their non-roster invitees. The team additions which have come by way of free agent signings and waivers will be seen as beneficial for the ball-club.

The Cleveland Indians ended last season on a losing streak , but had won six of their last ten games to close out the regular season. Cleveland’s final game of the season would result in a 3-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox , with the Indian’s record for the year being 80-81 , with one game being postponed due to bad weather and never fulfilled as part of their regular season schedule. The players on the Indians’ roster who Terry Francona believes can lead the team to success will be seasoned veterans , Mike Napoli , Carlos Santana , Rajai Davis, Josh Tomlin and Corey Kluber. This roster is very young at its core , but great things are expected from this team over the course of the season. Whether or not the Cleveland Indians can contend against their divisional rivals will be based on the mindset of the players and the coaching acumen shown by the managerial staff.

Over the past two seasons the Kansas City Royals have proven to be the cream of the crop and I believe they are the team to beat within the AL Central this year ! As the defending World Series’ champions the title remains theirs to lose and while I believe there will be a spirited challenge from the Cleveland Indians , I do not believe it will be enough to derail Royals divisional or postseason aspirations ! The Indians will begin their regular season schedule with a game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park , Arlington , Texas on 1st April , but their home opener for the regular season will be on the 4th April against the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio,. Both games should prove to be interesting contests for the Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Browns have not been able to bring a Superbowl title to the city of Cleveland , the NBA franchise within the city in spite of the superstar status of LeBron James , as the Cleveland Cavaliers remain nothing more than an alluring attraction, while the presence of the Cleveland Indians within MLB , seems to be that of a franchise longing to belong , but repeatedly failing to meet expectations. Suffice to say, Cleveland , “ you have a problem “ , because other than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame there is absolutely nothing on show to offer the visiting sports’ fan by way of real entertainment.

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So you think you know sports ?

So you think you know sports ?


Well, with the Superbowl slowly approaching and the two participants from the AFC and NFC now in preparation for the NFL’s showcase event. Away from these preparations , we have a litany of news surfacing concerning a number of the league’s franchises. Outside , what appears to be an idiotic remark by Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton interjecting the issue race into the mix, with his stating being a ‘ black quarterback’ in the NFL makes him a target for criticism. I beg to differ Cam, what will make you a target for criticism for the NFL and analysts in general , would be the issue of the Panthers performing poorly and the team not winning. The fact of the matter has been , the Carolina Panthers reeled off fourteen consecutive wins during the regular season , with the team’s only loss coming at the hands of their divisional rivals the Atlanta Falcons.

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Cam Newton for his part through much of the season played at a consistently high level and had several career firsts during the season as well as career records . Head coach Ron Rivera has to be entirely happy with what he saw from his team as they ended the regular season posting a 15-1 record, best in the NFL. Carolina’s opponent for the Superbowl game on the 7th February will be the Denver Broncos , who will be led by their veteran quarterback Peyton Manning. For those questioning Manning’s ability this season , they should consider the fact for much of the year the player was playing injured , something his critics obviously overlooked with their rather asinine prognostication and claiming Manning player was past his prime and his playing days were in fact over. Peyton Manning simply does what he does best and that is to answer those critics by leading the team into the postseason and unto another Superbowl appearance, the third of his career and the second for the Broncos in the last five seasons .

This game is the match-up the fans and analysts undoubtedly wanted to see, with the two best teams in the league vying for the Lombardi Trophy. Carolina are likely to be viewed as slight favorites in the game by the odds-makers in Las Vegas. Gambling on the’ big game’ should run into several hundred million dollars , if not at least one billion or more.

The fiftieth edition of the Superbowl and this is the game the NFL wants to be seen as the event which takes them into the latter half of the decade , with the fans expecting a great deal more. The league and its’ major corporate sponsors will be looking to this game to be a tremendous success competitively and from a commercial standpoint.

The NFL hierarchy has granted permission to the St Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers to relocate to the greater Los Angeles area. Rams’ owner , billionaire real estate and sports’ mogul Stanley Kroenke having bought a vast track of real estate in the town of Industry , California , will now be looking to both municipalities , Industry and the city of Los Angeles to finance a stadium, which will house a proposed new venue for the NFL franchise . While fans of the Rams rejoice about the return of the NFL to the city of Los Angeles , I seriously doubt they are intelligent enough to realize that ramifications involved , both cities proposing the use of taxpayers’ funds for the building of a new stadium for a billionaire who is among the four hundred richest people in America as well as being among the list of billionaires with a net worth exceeding $5 billion . The cities of Industry and Los Angeles still have their fiscal budgetary woes and the league hierarchy likely pressing both cities to facilitate their financing of a new stadium for the St Louis Rams. Stanley Kroenke has not been totally upfront on his proposals , other than to state stadium and the surrounding area will see an aesthetic use of the land with a mixture of commercial and residential use surrounding the $1 billion stadium.

The Spanos family, owners of the San Diego Chargers have not stated categorically, they will relocate the Chargers’ franchise, but all signs seems to be the pointing to the fact , with their negotiations with the city of San Diego at an impasse , their only alternative would be the move to Los Angeles.

The Oakland Raiders after another unfulfilling season in the league , have now sought to make themselves part of the NFL news’ cycle , with front office having met with officials from the city of Las Vegas to discuss their moving the state of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas. Over the past two-and-a-half decades the Raiders have long felt the city of Los Angeles has been theirs by territorial right, albeit the franchise has remained noncompetitive since 2004 and have not made a postseason appearance since their loss in the Superbowl to the Tamp Bay Buccaneers . In the ensuing years the Raiders have been a joke and through a string of head coaches since Bill Callahan took the team to their last Superbowl appearance.

Mark Davis as the owner of the Oakland Raiders has remained impervious to the criticism leveled at him by the fans and analysts alike and with each passing season of abject failure , there appears to be no real signs of improvement from any member of the team. Derek Carr was seen as something of a savior for the franchise , but in reality , he cannot do it all by himself and as a quarterback , as he has yet to attain the leadership skills sought to lead the Raiders where they need to be. Carr and the Oakland Raiders were not competitive enough to be viewed as a significant contender within the AFC West or AFC throughout much of this past season. Davis’ reasons for wanting to relocate the Raiders stems from greed and the fact the league hierarchy under Roger Goodell , have never looked favorably on his wish to have the sole territorial rights for the greater Los Angeles area , going unchallenged as the sole NFL franchise within Los Angeles. The NFL would have to grant their blessing for a proposed move by the Oakland Raiders and that is unlikely to happen in time for the upcoming 2016-17 season and so in all likelihood, such a move might not take place for at least another two years .

As baseball enters its silly off-season of movers and shakers among the executives , owners and agents negotiating contracts for free agents and players in arbitration , an interesting morsel of baseball historical news was revealed . Trades and free agent acquisitions have taken place at a fairly rapid pace , with several players signing lucrative deals during this off-season. Yet I believe the biggest news to hit the cycle to hit the world of baseball was the announcement that Ken Griffey Jr and Mike Piazza were to be the two players inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame for the class of 2016. Both players I believe were thoroughly deserving of this illustrious privilege , the highest honor possible for a player outside their winning a World Series’ ring. Future Hall of Fame eligible players for 2017 and 2018 are those who have met the eligibility requirements or those from the past, who will be appearing on ballot as a repeat eligible player .

With each passing year baseball seems to find itself dealing with some form of controversy or this never-ending idiocy of either the MLB hierarchy dumb-founded fans talking about Major League Baseball expansion. Were it not for the fact the hierarchy continues to be so damn clueless , along with the vast majority of the game’s fans and their not realizing the vast majority of the teams are barely financially viable , but yet the talk of expansion continues to raise its ugly head. For the Tampa Bay Rays having seen their hopes dashed repeatedly for a chance to build a new stadium within the city of St Petersburg or the greater Tampa area , as the franchise now appears to be on the verge of leaving the state altogether. Clearly the powers that be , among the civic dignitaries for cities of St Petersburg and Tampa cannot justify or explain to their residents, a thoroughly good reason why public funding should be used to build a stadium for a franchise whose attendance levels have continued to sit among the bottom half of baseball’s thirty teams.

At no time during the Rays’ two decade plus existence has the franchise ever seen those figures be ranked among the top-ten clubs within baseball’s attendance levels . The game is barely viable as a sport during the regular season for the two professional teams within the state of Florida , with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins struggling to remain competitive as well as seeing an upswing in attendance. The game of baseball is barely viable as a sport during the regular season for the two professional teams within the state of Florida , with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins struggling to remain competitive as well as seeing an upswing in attendance.

Baseball only remains relevant within the state of Florida during the Spring Training schedule , because of the abundance of teams who make use of the state for their Spring Training habitat and schedule.

So as the NBA season meanders along we are beginning to see the continued mediocrity of the teams , who are simply fighting to play themselves into contention for a Draft Lottery pick. The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers continue to vie for the worst record in the entire league and with good reason, given the mediocrity seen with their continued play. The Eastern Conference remains abundant with its ineptitude and far be it for me to suggest , but anyone who still believe the Cleveland Cavaliers are even remotely capable beating the top five teams in the West Conference over a seven-game series , then those fans of the Cavaliers had better think long and hard as to how good they believe Cleveland to be.

LeBron James might not have played a part in David Blatt’s firing, but after it was revealed his relationship with Blatt’s successor Tyronn Lue went beyond a head coach , player relationship , one has to wonder what were the behind the scene maneuvers which led to David Blatt’s downfall and his firing by GM David Griffin . The Cleveland Cavaliers will be back on court when they take on the Detroit Pistons on Friday evening , 29th January , 2016.

I have never been convinced the NBA has ever sought to be truly tough on their players, when it comes to reprehensible behavior ! Granted, David Stern might well point to the fact , Latrell Sprewell was fined and suspended for his now well chronicled altercation with P J Carlessimo and then we have the idiocy of Gilbert Arenas and his former teammate Javaris Crittenton trying to prove their manhood , by drawing their guns in the locker rooms of the Washington Wizards as a way of resolving an argument over a gambling debt. Suffice to say beyond that idiocy , we also have to deal with the widespread homophobia and misogyny constantly at play within the NBA . Need we forget also, the league hierarchy’s poor response to Donald Sterling’s ignorant racial rants which took time for the league to deal with in a timely manner. What else would you expect of a hierarchy ran by a group of predominantly aging Caucasian males who preside over the upper echelons of the NBA ?

There are teams we know in the NBA who are seen as perennial contenders within this league and among them one might consider the Los Angeles Clippers to be among the elite teams . However, in light of the news Blake Griffin will be missing from the team’s lineup for the next five weeks , one has to wonder what the player was thinking when he got into an altercation with Mathias Testa , an equipment manager with the Clippers’ organization. Griffin has since issued an apology on Twitter apologizing to his fans and the Los Angeles Clippers for his conduct. This is not the first time Griffin’s temper has gotten the better of him and the player’s lack of maturity must now come into question and what his loss may well mean to the team in the coming weeks.

Doc Rivers , as the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers appears to be more concerned with the loss of the player . rather than Griffin’s conduct and the fact neither he, the Clippers or the league have seen fit to take action against the player. What this suggests about the NBA and perhaps the Clippers to lesser extent , is the feeling unless a player has committed and charged with a a felony , then he should be treated with ‘kid gloves’ and the presumption of innocence. However, when one takes into account a repeat offender as is the case with Blake Griffin, then you have consider the hypocrisy of the league and the Los Angeles Clippers at this juncture.

With the All Star Game a little over two weeks away it will be interesting to see how the teams position themselves for the second half of the season and their continued ambitions over the remainder of the schedule.

With the first Grand Slam Tournament of ATP Tour and WTA entering its final phase it has been interesting to note the speed with which the ATP hierarchy has shrugged off the claims of their being widespread gambling within the world of Men’s Tennis and that certain players had been paid to “ throw matches” . In a report actually commissioned by Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) which governs the men’s sport , they went on to state that the evidence was inconclusive but they would take it under advisement pending a meeting of their Executive Committee before issuing a formal statement. The fact that sixteen of the world’s top fifty players were named in this report, should be a cause for concern, not only among the fans of the game but also for the International Tennis Federation (ITF) but also the IOC (International Olympic Committee) .

Novak Djokovic the world number one among the Men’s Rankings has seen his name associated with this report and the player has acknowledged the fact that early in his career he had been approached to throw a game , which in the end he refused to do.

The Australian Open has always been the first official Grand Slam Tournament on the tennis schedule for the game’s calendar year. Many of the world’s top-ranked men and women will be competing at the event in Melbourne , Australia , with the Men’s Finals taking place on Sunday and the Women’s Finals on Saturday afternoon. This two-week event takes its toll on the players both mentally and physically because of the humidity and heat which remains constant throughout the tournament . Serena Williams will be looking to make a successful start to the season as she once again looks to possibly rewrite tennis history.

Serbian. Novak Djokovic a five-time champion at the Australian Open will simply be looking to solidify his position atop of the Men’s Rankings and win his sixth title at this particular event. The story itself concerning gambling within the sport of tennis is nothing new , but what might be considered unnerving has been the fact the ATP hierarchy has not taken the claims of the investigation seriously, albeit , in the past , at least three players within the rankings have either been fined or suspended after allegations were proven that they had thrown matches for financial gain , to the benefit of the illegal bookmakers bribing the players in the match fixing.

Tennis alongside , professional soccer on the continent of Europe, has long been a target of not only organized crime and their involvement with gambling on sports , but there are claims now being made , many of these criminal enterprises and syndicates would like to ultimately make their way across the Atlantic, get a firm foothold in North America and a piece of the multi-billion dollar gambling industry which takes place here, covering the entire gamut of sports at the collegiate and professional level. We know from years past, illegal wagering and the shaving of points , have taken place within the world of College Basketball . Within College Football and the NFL , one could make allegations , there too , such activity might well have been widespread , but as we know , it is not something the NCAA or the NFL would like to discuss openly in public.

From my own perspective with their being so much money awash within the world collegiate sports and at the professional level , claims of match fixing . corruption and bribery will always be common place and no matter how much oversight is said to be taking place , somewhere and somehow those involved will always be able to find a way to elude the very people said to be overseeing the sport. Does anyone truly believe the sport of boxing remains clean and is still above reproach given the lack of oversight by the numerous international governing bodies now presiding over the sport ? Chime in with your thoughts as you see fit on the points raised within this article.

Tophatal ….. 01/29/2016

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Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and bestow greatness upon those who are deserving of it …

Major League Baseball made their formal announcement for the inductees of the 2016 Hall of Fame class , with Ken Griffey Jr and Mike Piazza leading the list of nominees for the class. Among the list were also, holdovers from 2015 , where the likes of Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds , Mark McGwire , Gary Sheffield and Roger Clemens were the most recognized of the names .

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First time nominees for the 2016 class provided the fans with new names , many of whom like Piazza, Sosa, Bonds , McGwire, Sheffield and Clemens were closely associated with the steroids’ era of the late eighties and through last decade and entering into this decade. While the stoicism of the BBWAA continues to be one where they consider themselves the bastion of all things pure about the game of baseball. What cannot be denied has been the mere fact the Baseball Writers’ Association (BBWAA) has been hypocritical in their addressing and reporting the issues and evidence of the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs within baseball.

While there will be continued claims the players who ran afoul baseball’s archaic rule were not breaking the law, what was paramount once the were rules in place, players simply ignored the rules and a rampant epidemic ensued, with a widespread pandemic use of banned substances at the Minor League Level as well at the Major League Level (MLB) . During Bud Selig’s reign as the Commissioner of baseball , his apathy knew no boundaries as the ball-players eschewed the rules and cheated their way to fame, glory and a great deal of money while defrauding the public and obliterating some of the most hallowed records in the game of baseball. Selig’s successor Ron Manfred appears to be walking the same path as his predecessor and the claims made by Bud Selig , that baseball now has the most stringent testing policy in all of professional sports is as comical as it sounds.

Ken Griffey Jr’s long anticipated Hall of Fame induction was a certainty , as the player’s career and the fact he remained untainted by allegations of steroid use added to the aura which surrounded the long-time Seattle Mariners , Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox standout outfielder and multi-faceted All Star. What seemed inconceivable about Griffey’s balloting, was the fact he failed to garner a unanimous vote with three judges failing to cast a vote in his favor. Only Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver in BBWAA history has garnered more votes, but Griffey leads by way of the percentages received .

Mike Piazza’s career has been well-chronicled and he is considered to be one of the best offensive powered catchers in baseball history. Like Griffey, he was never able to capture that elusive World Series’ ring , though each made postseason appearances at various points of their respective careers. With these modern-day icons entering the Hall of Fame , one now has to ask the pertinent question , at what point will either the BBWAA and baseball”s hierarchy truly seek to address the issue of steroids still being proliferating the game of baseball and when will the Players’ Union (MLBPA) actually seek to themselves address the issue , deal with the underlying problems and educate their members as well as the players at the Minor League Level as to the inherent dangers of misusing steroids and other banned substances? It was never dealt with by former Executive Directors Donald Fehr , the late Michael Weiner or , Wiener’s successor and current union Executive Director Tony Clark .

In 2017, the list of eligible players due to be part of the year’s ballot for induction into the Hall of Fame will once again have the players who failed to obtain the required seventy-five percent of the voted for enshrinement will be once see another crop first-time eligible nominees as well as holdovers . I am inclined to believe those players will not make the cut once again and among the fresh faces on the ballot, it will be difficult to truly suggest a case can be made for several of the players viewed as eligible. The most likely candidates to receive the votes assuring their induction would appear to be Vladimir Guerrero, Jorge Posada , Trevor Hoffman , Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Mussina . Their careers I believe , should assure them of induction, but again, given the pomposity of the BBWAA , nothing is guaranteed or even written in stone.

Far be it for me to suggest the off-season shakeups which took place , with a number of players finding new homes , having declared their free agency and we witnessed the type long-held belief, baseball’s front office executives and owners are nowhere as smart as they believe themselves to be. The Los Angeles Dodgers with their $300 million payroll of last season will enter 2016 , with a newly revamped roster , new managerial staff with Dave Roberts succeeding Don Mattingly as the team’s manager. Less we forget also, Zack Greinke opted for free agency and then signed a six-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks . From my own perspective, while the addition improves the look of their starting pitchers’ rotation, it doesn’t mean the Diamondbacks can be considered legitimate contenders for the NL West. The division I believe remains the Dodgers’ to lose , unless we see the reemergence of the San Francisco Giants , who in 2015 failed miserably in just about every aspect of their game.

This upcoming season in baseball should be an eventful one , with these two divisional powerhouses Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants likely to entertain their fans throughout their seasonal meetings as witnessed last season. These two ball-clubs will begin their regular season schedules with Dave Roberts taking the Los Angeles Dodgers crosstown to meet the Los Angeles Angels in a game to be played at Angels Ballpark in Anaheim, California on 2nd April, 2016. The Arizona Diamondbacks will be play host to the current World Series’ champions the Kansas City Royals , while the San Francisco Giants will play the Oakland A’s at the O.Coliseum , Oakland , California ,.

The talents of Mike Trout are being wasted , while he remains the focal point of the Los Angeles Angels and as good as the Angels were last season , with Trout and his teammate Albert Pujols pounding out hits and home runs with such regularity. You have wonder why Mike Sciocsia and his managerial staff failed to guide the team to the MLB postseason . It was widely felt Mike Sciocsia would have been fired , but instead , it was GM Jerry DiPoto who abruptly left the organization , disillusioned that he was being undermined by the manager as well as not having the total support of Arte Moreno , billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Angels.

Billy Eppler has since succeeded DiPoto as the general manager and the Angels were not major players in the free agency market during the off-season. What we are likely to see from the Angels, are refocused efforts, with an emphasis on youth , with the offense built around Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Personally, I believe the real weakness with the Angels has and will remain their lack of depth among the pitching staff. Their relievers and starters have to be more consistent throughout the season rather than showing a great of inconsistency.

The past two seasons have indicated to us how good the Kansas City Royals just happen to be and their emphatic triumph over the New York Mets was one of the most lopsided World Series played over the last ten years. Terry Collins’ Mets team were never in the running for the NL East based ball-club to win the series. The pitching and hitting for the New York Mets was ineffective and there was never a player on the roster ready to lead by example. In the case of the Royals there was an eagerness about the team and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the greater good , while playing as a team .

Kansas City Royals’ GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost will enter this season looking to fortify their position as the best team in baseball. Kansas’ biggest challenge could come from the likes of the New York Yankees , Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers over the course of their schedule in 2015. Having lost Johnny Cueto to free agency with the pitcher joining the San Francisco Giants , thereby strengthening what will be a very good pitching staff. Moore will will undoubtedly seek to bolster the team’s own pitching rotation during the off-season. Pitchers and non-roster invitees will be invited to Spring Training which is just over six weeks away.

Whatever is now happening with the Cincinnati Reds the blame for the team’s woes this past season are firmly being placed at the door of GM Walt Jocketty and his inability to acquire and draft players capable of creating a team which can compete the NL Central much less within the rest of baseball. The Reds have not a made recent postseason appearance in a number of years and the thought of relevance concerning the organization is whether or not Pete Rose will ever be reinstated or ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame. With Rose’s rejection to be reinstated within baseball, it has all but closed his chances of receiving the game’s biggest honor , beyond winning a World Series , is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Rob Manfred doesn’t believe there has been enough contrition on the part of the former Cincinnati Reds’ manager and player.

As to the Reds’ continued woes , the managerial staff seems beside itself and while Joey Votto remains the focal point of the team, there is a common belief Walt Jocketty is on the verge of having a fire sale, gutting the roster and simply going with players from their farm system as well as retaining players who are inexpensive in terms of their salaries . The payroll for the Reds this upcoming season will be among the lowest in all of baseball .

Bryan Price will enter his first season as manager of the Cincinnati Reds hoping to imbue the team with confidence and the belief they are are capable of competing with the best the game has to offer. The first month of the team’s schedule should tell us a great deal about the team and whether or not Price has the Reds on the right track. Cincinnati will begin their regular season schedule with a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday 4th April , 2016 at Great American Ballpark , Cincinnati, Ohio,.

Out with the old and in with the new as Don Mattingly comes into town, expected to do great things in resurrecting the fortunes of the Miami Marlins . Mattingly leaves behind a $300 million payroll team of the Los Angeles Dodgers to now steady a capsized vessel known as the Marlins , where the payroll of the team is now a minuscule. Since 2012 , the struggles of the Miami Marlins have been well-chronicled and a year during which former manager Ozzie Guillen led the team into an abyss while portraying himself as a bigoted buffoon , repeatedly exhibiting the type of behavior often associated with someone who shows a great deal of ignorance . A last-placed finish within the NL East forced the hand of the front office leading to his dismissal and the implosion of the roster during off-season of that year. Many of the high-priced acquisitions were sent packing elsewhere and the roster since then has been completely been completely reassembled along with managerial turnover having been equally indecisive.

The biggest news’ splash made by the Miami Marlins was their decision to sign big league slugger and their All Star player Giancarlo Stanton to a multi-year $325 million deal , making the player among the highest paid individuals in baseball. Stanton for his part has been productive for the franchise and perhaps the sole reason to watch the team play, albeit, they have for the moment still been able to retain their NL Rookie of The Year pitcher Jose Fernandez . Yet, it doesn’t mean GM Michael Hill isn’t willing to listen to offers for their young star , in spite of the often mistimed releases from the front office concerning updates regarding Fernandez.

Heading into this season it will be interesting to see what Don Mattingly and his managerial staff will have to offer this Marlins’ team by way of their managerial ingenuity and what the players themselves will seek to do once on the field. Miami’s biggest obstacle to winning the NL East and securing themselves a postseason berth , will undoubtedly come from the newly revamped roster of the Washington Nationals , who have to be seen as the preseason favorites to win the division as well as quite possibly the NL Pennant . With a new manager in tow , Dusty Baker taking over the managerial duties and Bryce Harper now proving himself the best all-round player in the NL , all signs could very well be pointing to an exciting season for both of these two teams.

For Bryce Harper having come into his own last season, showing prodigious talent and maturity , the player will now seek to have another emphatic season , while trying to impress upon Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo he is worth being offered a long-term deal tying him to the Nationals and the organization’s aspirations of winning a World Series. Scott Boras , Bryce Harper’s agent, will undoubtedly seek to make his client the highest paid player in the game and a multi-year $400 million deal will likely be sought by the agent. Mike Rizzo and the Nationals’ owner , Ted Lerner might not be willing to pay a King’s ransom while the ball-club seeks to remain viable and enlarge its fan-base .This could very well be the year where records within the game are set to be broken. but not necessarily for the right reasons.

An exciting year awaits within baseball, if the teams believed to be good enough can meet or exceed the expectations of the fans and analysts alike . The Kansas City Royals will be hoping to hold unto their crown while seeking to fend off all challengers seeking to dethrone them as World Series champions. Which players and teams do you believe will prove to be dominant this upcoming season ?

Tophatal ….

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To keep or not to keep …

To keep or not to keep …

So here we are in the aftermath of what was meant to be an exciting World Series with the Kansas City Royals winning only their second title in three decades . With the series’ victory comes the issue of having to deal with the retention of several of their high-priced and and desirable free agents . The Royals’ front office headed by Dayton Moore whose astuteness over the past seven years has been the primary reason behind the success of the Royals and in particular this season.

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With several top players now coming to the free agency market this off-season, baseball will now be in a frenetic frenzy as teams will be seeking to pick up the best of the players now available. This now has to be the case with several top-notch starting pitchers on the market with Zack Greinke , David Price and Jordan Zimmerman being the most desirable of the pitchers now on the open market.

For the likes of the New York Mets , losing contenders in this past World Series , their chance of seeking to improve, could prove to be extremely difficult , as I believe the front office will be hard-pressed to keep a number of their free agents , given the fact the Mets remain far from being stable financially .

While I have no doubt the New York Mets are a very good team , I do believe with the NL being so poor in terms of the play seen throughout most of this past season even more evident during the postseason and the errant play of the losing team . There was nothing at all to ever suggest the Mets as managed by Terry Collins was ever favored at any point to win the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. In every aspect of the game the Mets were simply outmatched and outplayed .

Among the New York Mets’ free agents this off-season are Anthony Recker, Bartolo Colon , Daniel Murphy , Yoenis Cespedes and Bobby Parnell . Murphy may well have been the Mets’ postseason hero, but it remains to be seen whether or not the front office hierarchy are willing to up the ante concerning his expiring contract and pay the player in line with what his agent may well feel he deserves. The Mets’ $120.4 million payroll of 2015, placed the ball-club in among the middle ranks of the teams , with the Los Angeles Dodgers being bogged down by their gargantuan $316.6 million of salary commitments , by far the highest in all of baseball last season.

If the New York Mets can make a satisfactory response to a likely contract demand by Daniel Murphy and his agents , then I believe it could very well lay the groundwork for the ball-club proceeding forward, as they have few alternatives at their disposal within their roster , much less within their farm system , with regard to a player who was as productive as Murphy during the regular and postseason. A great deal has been made about the acumen of Sandy Alderson and JP Ricciardi , as the two most senior executives within the Mets front office, heading up the Baseball Operations for the NL East based franchise , but in reality , this past season the team was barely challenged within their division and the rest of the NL was simply horrific with their displays during the postseason. I certainly do not believe either St Louis Cardinals or Los Angeles Dodgers would have been capable of defeating the Kansas City Royals over a seven-game stretch during the World Series ! Neither one of the two aforementioned teams were simply good enough when called upon to show their true worth when it mattered the most.

If there is hype to be found then you can count on it always surrounding the New York Yankees . Granted, this franchise remains among the most revered in baseball, but you simply cannot hide the fact since their last triumph in the World Series , this has been a franchise found to be wanting on all levels. There is no team leadership and Joe Girardi has proven to be nothing more than a manager who is unable to motivate his players , getting them to play at their highest level possible. The continued excuses to be found in print or by way of radio and televisions are from apologists for the continued mediocrity shown by the team. Even more so, has been the idiocy of those who now feel Alex Rodriguez should be commended for a great season during his comeback , after a year away from baseball due to his year-long league mandated suspension.

Rodriguez’s productivity might well be commended . but in all sincerity , given his lack of contrition, use of the press and race-baiting to create the subterfuge of his being the victim of a witch-hunt for his repeated action in violating the league’s steroid program . I believe there is little for which Alex Rodriguez should now be commended for , even if he has recently passed some of the most hallowed records in the game. Cheaters should not be rewarded for their gross misconduct under any circumstance , albeit , his penance remains something of a slap on the wrist. His return to the game witnessed, Rodriguez back to being among the highest paid players in baseball, while the front office of the organization still came across looking like complete buffoons.

The New York Yankees lacked pitching and offense throughout much of the regular and postseason . There now seems to be desires to rid themselves of players they believe to be no longer necessary to their needs , with continued speculation concerning the immediate futures of Brett Gardner and Ivan Nova. Now bear in mind Mark Teixeira was once again missing from the lineup for a sizable chunk of the regular season, while being paid over $20 million a year to remain being sidelined. Teixeira has become injury prone and of no real use to the Yankees , because of his lack of durability and being able to stay injury-free .

If the Yankees are seeking to offer up Brett Gardner and Ivan Nova as trade bait , along some players still being owed sizable sums on the remaining years of their existing contracts or entering arbitration. It simply proves once again Brian Cashman is prepared to go all-in even when the cards in his hand are not actually favorable . Try as he might , it is becoming increasingly known the Yankees’ general manager has little faith in the farm system and even less with the current roster of active players on this squad.

Having won three World Series’ titles during a six-year span , Bruce Bochy as the manager of the San Francisco Giants has to be seen as one of the better managers within Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, this past season the Giants were never able to contend within the NL West and were clearly like a capsized vessel taking in water , as they flailed about within the lower rungs of the NL wildcard race. Giants’ GM Brian Sabean might well contemplate stripping the cupboard bare as he seeks to rebuild the roster, given the inconsistency shown last season. Tim Lincecum a two time NL Cy Young Award winner is now set to become a free agent as well as having been a hero on in two of the Giants’ three recent World Series victories. While I believe the Giants would be foolish to allow the pitcher to leave , it could possibly be the move needed to be made among several others Brian Sabean is likely to make over this off-season.

Lincecum has not been the pitcher we have seen in recent years , because of niggling injuries and a lack of consistency . Yet the same could be said of several of the Giants’ players over the past two years and the very fact the ball-club is no longer one of the most feared teams within the National League. Perhaps complacency might well have set in after all of the success attained under manager Bruce Bochy or it might well have been the zeal to win was no longer apparent with the team. Either way this off-season will prove to be an eventful one for the organization.

For all of the hype and and bravura surrounding the talent of Chris Davis , I consider the player , one whose legacy will be judged by the fact even after the alleged era of steroids within baseball was deemed to be on the decline, the Baltimore Orioles’ slugger still managed to have his name intertwined with all of the other players involved in this sordid chapter within baseball. Davis was also the subject of a league-mandated suspension for the use of a banned substance in spite of his denials and pleas of innocence .

In the aftermath of a miserable 2015 season where the Orioles failed to contend within AL East . This off-season for Baltimore , will prove to be a very eventful one as the front office seeks to make a number of changes to the roster, while the managerial staff of Buck Showalter remains intact.

With Davis now set to become a free agent , there is likely to be several inquiries made as to the slugger’s availability , but with the Toronto Blue Jays’ perennial All Star slugger and multi-purpose player Jose Bautista possibly coming to the free agency market . There will be a great deal of intrigue as to how the deck of cards are likely to fall, concerning which of these two players are likely to be offered a sizable contract for their services as well as a likely destination. The Boston Red Sox are in need in a productive bat , given the team’s woes this past season and the lack of run productivity.

Jose Bautista and Chris Davis have been two of the prolific home-run hitters within the AL over the past four seasons and consistency has been the norm for the Blue Jays’ slugger in particular. Bautista could very well choose to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Blue Jays, knowing a six or seven-year $100-$150 million deal would be fair market value for a player of his pedigree.

Having made the postseason for the first time in over twenty years , the Toronto Blue Jays were expected to make great inroads in this past season ,but the team failed miserably at the the penultimate hurdle, losing the AL Pennant to the Kansas City Royals . Buoyed by baseball’s best offense , the Blue Jays during their series against the Royals lacked the bite expected, with Ned Yost and his managerial staff outmaneuvering his counterpart Josh Gibbons’ staff , while falling short of their intended goal .

With rumblings of discontent within the Blue Jays’ organization and the owners being dissatisfied with the team’s failure during the postseason. It has been the contemporary drama to unfold, with the departure of long-time general manager Alex Anthopoulos , simply bailing on the Toronto Blue Jays. Chairman Edward Rogers has not seen fit to issue a formal statement as to the reasons behind Anthopolos’ leaving , but it is rumored the executive felt it best to leave in search of other professional avenues of career advancement , than quite possibly being forced out . For now the the former executive awaits a call from a team in need of his acumen and undoubted talents .

Two years into his ten-year $240 million contract and the Seattle Mariners’ slugger Robinson Cano is now said to be disgruntled. Unhappy with his current situation within the Mariners’ organization . It would appear Cano might become the cancerous growth , liable to spread within the ball-club , eating away internally and destroying anything it touches within its path. Were that to happen , it would set the franchise back into a tailspin , where the Mariners were among one of the worst teams baseball for a considerable period of time. You would have to go back to 2001 to record the last time the Mariners won a divisional title and the last time they made a appearance in the postseason came that very same year , when they lost the ALCS 4-1 to the New York Yankees. The Yankees would go on to lose the World Series in seven games suffering defeat at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Co- World Series MVP’s were Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling , with the two starting pitchers being the primary reason why the Diamondbacks won their only World Series’ title in the history of the franchise.

If the rumors are to believed with Robinson Cano wishing to return to the New York Yankees , then the Mariners’ front office would be foolish not to acquiesce to the player’s demands even if it mean their having to pay in part the remainder of Cano’s contract. Such are the vagaries and idiocy of the guaranteed contracts within baseball, unless there are buyout clauses in place , which only tends to take place where a player opts out of the final year of a contract.

Seattle chose to hedge their bets and made Cano the centerpiece of the team , built around an aggressive policy insisted upon by former GM Jack Zduriencick , who has since been replaced by Jerry Dipoto as the new general manager of the Mariner’ franchise . The senior-most board members of the Seattle Mariners’ ownership group have presided over a decade-long reign of incompetence and negligence , both on and off the field of play. Managers have come and gone without their being any degree of consistency or any major success. Granted, the franchise has churned out All Stars and great players such as Ken Griffey Jr , Edgar Martinez , Ichiro Suzuki and Alex Rodriguez to name but a few , but the one thing missing , remains the World Series’ trophy and an AL Pennant over the last fifteen years.

It may well be something of a stretch to see Robinson Cano make a quick exit and possible return to the New York Yankees, but I believe the AL West based franchise will do their utmost to keep the player , having built their hopes around him . It would be too much of a financial loss to bear, unless they could get something of equal value in return from an interested party wishing to acquire the player.

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Which player or teams do you believe will likely have the biggest impact on this off-season with their being so many trades likely to take place ?

Tophatal …. .. 2015/12/01


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Trials, tribulations, a whole lot of grief and angst …

Trials, tribulations, a whole lot of grief and angst

In the aftermath of another not so overwhelming MLB postseason , with the Kansas City Royals winning their second World Series in the franchise’s history , things are suddenly taking on a new shape in the world of baseball. With the Winter Meetings just over a month away , several players have declared free agency , with perhaps the biggest surprise of being Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers .

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Greinke had an exceptional year for the team , but the Dodgers’ postseason foray ended up being nothing more than a glimpse of recent past seasons.

There was nothing about this Don Mattingly managed team which suggested the NL West champions were in with a serious chance of winning the NL Pennant and being the National League’s representative in the World Series. Now it will be, back to the drawing board for front office representatives GM Farhan Zahidi and Head of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, as they seek to rebuild the roster through likely free agent acquisitions and their farm system .

Don Mattingly is no longer a part of the managerial staff , having agreed to mutually part at the end this postseason. While there was considerable success under Mattingly, the Dodgers’ non appearance in the Fall Classic only added to the ball-club’s ongoing woes. There can be no excuses made for the abysmal failure witnessed over the past six seasons by this organization and their having spent over $1 billion in players’ salaries during the time-frame in question.

Zack Greinke’s decision to opt out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent , will now add to the plethora of pitchers now on the market this off-season. Teams in need of very good starting pitching will be required to pay top-dollar for a number of these prized assets.

There are times within world of baseball where one has to take a step back , d simply observe the frailties within the game and among the players . New York Yankees’ starting pitcher CC Sabathia with his admittance , that he has a sobriety issue as an alcoholic, makes you wonder why an athlete would seek to ruin their career for the sake of a momentary high. Sabathia for his part , made this disclosure while on morning television , explaining in the aftermath of the Yankees’ wild-card loss to the Houston Astros , he checked himself into a drug and alcohol dependency program. Given the recent woes of Josh Hamilton of the Texas Ranger, this issue I truly believe, just happens to be more widespread within the game, than teams and front office executives would care to admit ! As for the MLB hierarchy, given the ongoing lack of a really in-depth testing program for users of banned substances , this is just another glaring headlight the game of baseball can really do without.

There have been no formal comments coming from the New York Yankees’ front office concerning CC Sabathia’s current situation and while the player is due to become Yankees’ free agent this upcoming season, it remains to be seen whether or not he is likely to be re-signed by the franchise. Bud Selig and now his successor MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred have been twirling their fingers and thumbs not seeking to work in conjunction with the MLBPA (union) on a wide variety of issues within the game. The relationship between these two entities, has become adversarial , rather than one of bipartisanship when dealing the problems within the game of baseball.

It seems hard to believe that in 2008, the Detroit Lions were win-less during a regular season , with sixteen consecutive losses on their record. The team’s statistics during the year remains among the worst in NFL history. Rod Marinelli coached the Lions at the time and along with the coaching staff and it was clear they were completely out of their depth. This season bearing a record of 1-7 and it would appear the Lions are on track to have another morbid year in the NFL. Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford is having a season he would rather forget , while the talents of wide receiver Calvin Johnson are being wasted on a team which has showed absolutely no signs of winning a game at all this season.

Detroit’s only win of the season so far , came during their week six victory over the equally abysmal Chicago Bears as the two NFC North divisional rivals met in that particular contest. With a bye-week during week nine the Detroit Lions can rest their weary bones while preparing for their week ten contest against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin on the 15th November , 2015.

Matt Stafford’s record (2-7) against the Packers has not been a favorable one , with his last victory against this divisional rival coming in week three of the 2014 regular season. The Lions’ issues this season have come in various guises, with the defense and offense being mediocre at best.

The disarray within the Lions’ organization, particularly within the front office has led to the firing of GM Martin Mayhew and Team President Tom Lewand , but the coaching staff of head coach Jim Caldwell have been kept for now , but I expect if there are likely to be changes should the Detroit Lions fail to turn their season around before the end of their schedule. Mayhew’s firing has led to added responsibilities and a first within the NFL , as Allison Maki becomes the first woman in NFL history to hold the position of general manager for an NFL franchise. It will be a joint role , to be shared between Maki and Sheldon White as interim general manager .

Likely to be also clear, will be the impending future of quarterback Matt Stafford , a first round draft pick from the 2009 NFL Draft. Stafford , who is not due to become a free agent until 2018. Stafford’s three-year $53 million contract , with $41 million guaranteed , expires in 2017 and should the Lions seek to trade the player , they would still be liable for the remainder of his guaranteed money. Matt Stafford is not one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL in spite of the fact he has amassed a great deal of yards during his playing career. He has not proven himself to be a leader , vocal or otherwise as a player with the Detroit Lions. This I believe is what is sadly missing from this Lions’ roster , beyond the ongoing incompetency of the coaching staff !

William ‘Bill’ Clay Ford as one of the team owners of the Detroit Lions has sat idly by as the franchise has gone through a quick succession of head coaches over the last eight years . The off-season I believe will bring a great deal more upheaval within the Lions’ organization , far more than anyone might have thought possible.

It would be fair to suggest the NFC is having something of a down year, with some notable teams within the conference still struggling at the mid- point of the season. Of late, fans of the San Francisco 49ers (2-6) are decrying the fact how quickly the team has fallen off the face of the map after the successes of 2012 and 2013 . There is no denying successive postseason appearances had the Forty Niners’ fans wanting more, but a great deal of complacency set in among the play and coaching staff of former head coach Jim Harbaugh.

This season the plight of the Niners has become worse , with head coach Jim Tomsula considering the improbable with the benching of Colin Kaepernick , perhaps the best offensive weapon on the entire roster. For their part, team CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke have offered little or no explanation behind the team’s fall from grace. The warning signs were certainly there last season , ending with sheer embarrassment for the NFC West based Forty Niners. Off the field issues with Ray McDonald and Aldon Smith , clearly showed the franchise to be lacking in moral fiber , while it would appear everyone seemed willing to give Jim Harbaugh a pass, as things continually spiraled out of control. Harbaugh was just as much to blame for San Francisco’s woes , as Trent Baalke and Jed York. Colin Kaepernick for his part, in spite of his postseason heroics still had his stuck firmly in the clouds, beyond having signed his ludicrous contract .

Heading into their week nine contest against the Atlanta Falcons (6-2) the San Francisco 49ers will be looking to right their ship , which is still struggling to stay afloat. If Colin Kaepernick is benched in favor of his backup Blaine Gabbert, it is hard to envisage how Gabbert would be viewed as a better option than Kapernick in this contest . While I don’t believe Jim Tomsula will be fired from his position, I do think the head coach will be in the unenviable of situation of being cast as the ” real villain” of this current situation, when everyone from the front office on down has played an equal part in the franchise’s woes seen this season.

There remains a great deal of idiocy among many of the so-called sports’ fans who genuinely believe they have some insight on sports in general and in particular the NFL. Recently on a visit to sports’ site , the contributor suggested with his declining play , Denver Broncos’ (7-0) quarterback Peyton Manning was no longer capable of playing at a high level or leading a team to a postseason berth. Now given Manning’s play since joining the Broncos as a free agent in March of 2012. In the three years since the Broncos’ ascent to the top of the AFC West which has gone unchallenged by their divisional foes and again in 2015 , the team is back to its very best , starting their season with a seven-game unbeaten streak. So much for this idiocy of Manning not being able to play at a consistently high level. In their week eight game against the then unbeaten Green Bay Packers beat their NFC opponents with the utmost ease destroying the Aaron Rodgers’ led Packers defeating them 29-10 .

The defeat for Green Bay derailed their chances of an unbeaten season, while the Denver Broncos , New England Patriots (7-0) and Cincinnati Bengals (8-0) seek AFC supremacy within their conference , with the three teams still unbeaten entering into the week nine NFL schedule .

With the NBA season still in its infancy , with the majority of teams having only played six games, there is only one franchise that remains unbeaten. Defending NBA champions the Golden State Warriors (6-0) are leaving no one with any doubt, , why they won the title last season. With few changes to their core roster of last season , the Warriors have simply began from where they left off at the end of the regular and postseason. The fact they have won their first six consecutive games of this season, should not come as a surprise to anyone, even to those who still believe last season’s beaten finalists the Cleveland Cavaliers were the better team .

Reigning League MVP , Steph Curry has lit up the scoreboard in each of the Warriors’ victories and this season he already has a season-high 50-point game for the year. LeBron James may well be the best all-round player in the game, but Curry isn’t that far behind, with the shadow also of Kevin Durant also to be considered as part of the equation.

Golden State in their last game , subdued the Denver Nuggets on their way to a 119-114 victory and quite obviously the best record in the Western Conference. Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr and his coaching staff will now prepare the team for their next game where their opponent will be the Sacramento Kings in a contest to be played at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California on Saturday, 7th November ,2015.

With both New York based NBA franchises struggling at this point of the season and in all honesty, it does not come as a surprise to me at all ! The Brooklyn Nets (0-6) and the New York Knicks (2-4) have mediocre records and are struggling within their divisions as well as within the Eastern Conference. For head coaches Lionel Hollins of the Nets and Derek Fisher of the Knicks , this might be the last opportunities provided to them in their respective positions , because I feel , if both should fail this season , then there would be no alternative than their firings by Billy King of the Nets , Steve Mills and Phil Jackson of the Knicks. It is certainly not difficult to understand how bad both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have been , when you consider the underwhelming talent on their respective rosters. The Brooklyn Nets were on the wrong side of another loss on Saturday night , coming at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks , another in a long line of mediocre performances by the Nets this season.

If the intent of Phil Jackson was bring about change since he assumed control as Head of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks. Then the change witnessed by the fans and Knicks’ fans in particular, has been a complete embarrassment for the franchise and the NBA in general . Derek Fisher and this Knicks’ coaching staff remain deep, in over their heads and Phil Jackson’s apparent acumen as a front office executive is and will remain overrated , in spite of his idiots still coming to his support , suggesting he still remains a basketball genius. As a coach yes, but in his current role , he has become an absolute joke.

Billy Donovan is now the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3) and the expectations are once again high for this team. The loss of Kevin Durant for a large chunk of last season led to the Thunder missing the NBA Playoffs by the slimmest of margins . This season Durant and Russell Westbrook will seek redemption and lay claim , they are the equal of the Golden State Warriors and among the best within their conference. A Sunday afternoon home game for the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Phoenix Suns should prove to be an interesting contest for both of these Western Conference based franchises.

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As the sports’ world meanders through the usual glutton of stories, it appears the salacious and the mundane tends to get the front page notice while the events on the field will at times take a backseat to it all.


Tophatal … 2015/11/07

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Clearly, they know not what they do …

Clearly, they know not what they do ….

Well as the MLB postseason come into the nation’s focus after a thrilling game one in the World Series with the Kansas City Royals beating the New York Mets in a thrilling fourteen innings’ thriller . Game two on Wednesday night might not live up to the fireworks seen in game one. Again the two teams will be back it at Kauffmann Field in Kansas City , Missouri with the Royals looking to take a 2-0 lead in the best of seven-game series. If the New York Mets were to lose the game, then their task of looking to win the franchise’s first title in almost three decades would become even more difficult. This is a Royals’ team , once given an advantage, they are not likely to relinquish it without a fight, something I do not believe the Mets have within them , and the game one result was merely proof of that fact.

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On the mound in game two for the Kansas City Royals will be Johnny Cueto facing Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets.

Away from the field of play, former Philadelphia Phillies’ player Lenny Dykstra continues to be as much an embarrassment to himself as his post career has been , with a litany of financial , legal and personal issues. Dykstra now claims he hired private investigators to dig up dirt on Major League umpires in order to blackmail them. From my own point of view, the former big league player should not necessarily be been , but most certainly he does not need to be heard. Away from the camera is definitely better, than seeing him on camera.

Don Mattingly is now seen as the leading candidate to become the new manager of the Miami Marlins and once again we have a franchise in need of not only an identity , but also one in need of a leader and players capable of winning. The Marlins have not made the postseason since 2003 when they last won the World Series for the second of the franchise’s two triumphs in baseball’s postseason finale. Beyond players with the stature of Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton there has been little of note to be excited about concerning this NL East based franchise. Marlins’ Ballpark in Miami , Florida , remains cavernous entity, barely filled to capacity (34,500) for the team’s home games played at the venue.

One seriously doubts in 2016 , things will be any different for the ball-club, as they seek to make their presence felt within baseball. One also seriously doubts Don Mattingly will be able to show the managerial acumen needed to guide the team where they want to be. I understand the fact Mattingly was admired for all the recent success he attained with the Los Angeles Dodgers , but in essence , he was given the keys to a Ferrari , but in the end, he stalled at the most crucial of moments , never managing to get the team to the “ Big Dance” . By comparison the Marlins , have few players of any real talent beyond Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez , so it is hard to imagine how much of an impact as a manager he is likely to make with this team.

Marlins’ GM Michael Hill and team owner Jeffrey Loria have repeatedly flubbed their lines and the maneuvers made concerning the player personnel in recent years has left , little to be admired at all. Decisions will have to be made concerning several of the Marlins’ impending free agents as well as seeking ways of paring down the team’s salary for the upcoming season. While I do not believe the Miami Marlins will be major players in the free agency market during the off-season , I do expect them to make one or two acquisitions . Whether or not, Don Mattingly becomes the new manager of the Miami Marlins will solely be made upon the desire of both parties to work out a deal based on their needs .

Last night saw the opening tip-off for the official regular season start of the NBA and the defending champions the Golden State Warriors began the defense of that title. With a target on their back , this is now the team to beat in the league . Dating back to the NBA playoffs and then the latter part of the regular season , Steph Curry and his teammates have been the “ class of the league” on the road or at home . Almost unbeatable wherever they have played and it was nowhere more evident than in the NBA Playoffs themselves. Golden State’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans was easy, with Curry getting a game-high forty points , leading all scorers in the contest.

Next up for the Golden State Warriors will a contest against Western Conference rivals the Houston Rockets in a game to be played at the Toyota Center in Houston Texas on the 30th October , 2015. I believe the Warriors will remain a force to be reckoned with over the course of this season especially within their conference and division.

Another year and yet again , the news’ print will encapsulate what is likely to make the Los Angeles Lakers tick ? With the declining skill-set of Kobe Bryant , I do not see any real long-term for the franchise. LeBron James won’t be leaving Cleveland unless Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert fails to massage the player’s easily bruised ego once again. Lakers’ fans hope that it will be either James or Kevin Durant looking to assume the mantel of the next big thing in Los Angeles . At this moment in time, the Lakers might just be the worst NBA franchise in the state of California . Who would have thought the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings might have more going for them competitively than the Los Angles Lakers ?

Byron Scott and the coaching staff have to also deal with the nonsensical ideas of the Buss siblings , while also having to deal with Mitch Kupchak . Scott may well have been a second-tier member of the Showtime Lakers and having some success with the Brooklyn Nets , but his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers has been unmitigated disaster on every level. Byron Scott’s coaching staff remains clueless and the franchise’s development of players from within , has proven to fruitless and the draft history in recent years, have yet to bear fruit. This past season and the NBA Draft therein, had the Lakers taking D’Angelo Russell , Larry Nance Jr and Anthony Brown . This season will tell us a great deal about these players and whether or they can give to the team .

The Los Angeles Lakers will begin their schedule with a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves , where the visiting Timberwolves are still mourning the loss of Flip Saunders who died earlier this week from the debilitating illness , Hodgkins’ Lymphoma . As the NBA mourns and is saddened by the death of Saunders , life must go on and so too will the game, as the league’s fraternity remembers one of their very own. These two teams will have a great deal to play for over the course of this season , though I do not expect both to be clear-cut favorites to make the NBA Playoffs.

In recent years , sixty-win seasons have not been the norm for the Atlanta Hawks , but yet, the playoffs have remained their Achilles’ Heel . For all the team camaraderie seen , this has been a franchise short on success , while being very talented. However, the NBA remains a league which tends to remember its franchises based on the success achieved and that means the winning of titles and not singular achievements.

Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer will be expected to take this franchise back the NBA Playoff this season, where it is hoped they can make a much greater impact than seen last year . With something of a rebuilt roster , draft picks . free agent acquisitions , Budenholzer and the front office will expect the Hawks to compete all season-long , with the certainty of a playoff berth as part of the plan, with the goal being an NBA championship. Having stumbled out of the gate losing to the Detroit Pistons , the Atlanta Hawks will now prepare for the New York Knicks in a game to be played at Madison Square Garden , New York City, New York on Thursday night.

We are almost at the midway point of the NFL season and the fallout will continue , along with the likelihood there will be at least one more coach-firing before the season ends. As to who might be the leading candidate, is now a matter of not when this is now going to happen , but how soon this will all take place. . The week eight opener will provide the fans with the opportunity to see Miami Dolphins (3-3) taking on the New England Patriots (6-0) in an AFC East divisional clash . For opposing quarterbacks , Tom Brady of the Patriots and Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins this contest should prove to be in an interesting contrast in styles .Brady will likely lead the Patriots to their seventh consecutive win of the season and also improve on his record against Miami. However, with Deflate-Gate still fresh in the minds of many . even after the debacle of the league hierarchy’s case against the quarterback, I cannot help but wonder, when and if this will all end !

Roger Goodell remains adamant , justice must be seen to be done ,but as commissioner , he has failed to answer questions about why Chief Legal Counsel & SVP Jeff Pash failed to give any testimony whatsoever to bolster the NFL’s case against Tom Brady. Something does stink in Denmark , otherwise known as the NFL headquarters and if the fans who are still in uproar would actually care to use some common sense , rather than being bellicose and absolute @assholes , then they would see the league is just as complicit in this mess, as are the Patriots.

The best game on the weekend schedule during week eight might well be the contest between two unbeaten teams . Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (6-0) will take their show on the road to face the Denver Broncos (6-0 at Sports Authority Field /Mile High Stadium , in Denver , Colorado, where Peyton Manning awaits his NFC guests. Questions have continued to swirl concerning Manning’s apparent decline, but on any given day when not even seventy-percent fit , the four-time League MVP is still a great deal better than many of his counterparts within the NFL . This game should prove worthy of the audience’s viewing and I believe the winner will be in line for a divisional title as well as a playoff berth for the postseason .

For both Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers their accomplishments can be debated, but a second Superbowl victory for either would certainly pave their way to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Two weeks ago, F1 (Formula One) race car driver Lewis Hamilton won his third consecutive Grand Prix race of the season , winning the US Grand Prix . With the victory Hamilton also secured the world title and with it, the third of his career and a part of racing history among his peers and predecessors.

Lewis Hamilton has become the most high-profiled and most popular driver in Formula One racing and granted Kimi Raikkonen has won the title four times during his career , both still trail far behind seven-time champion Michael Schumacher still considered the greatest driver in history. Schumacher’s record speaks for itself and one of the reasons why he still revered within the sport and worldwide as a sports’ icon.

In the aftermath of his US Grand Prix victory we witnessed the ugly side of Formula One Grand Prix , with the rather disgusting and petulant tirade from the British driver , Lewis Hamilton. If there is one thing this sport does not need in terms of its image being dented and it is its most popular driver acting like a thug , with his use of profanity directed towards a fellow driver. As to the message Hamilton was trying to send , while also wanting to be viewed as a role model youngsters. I am not so sure he has an explanation , much less his act of contrition being believable.

Formula One racing has yet have a firm footing on the North American continent and specifically within the United States , where it lags behind NASCAR and the IRL (Indy Racing League) in popularity , attendance levels and television ratings. All three sports are seeing marked declines in the three areas in question and in spite of the format changes within NASCAR , with the impending retirements of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart within the sport. NASCAR now finds itself at a point where it is now looking for the younger drivers within its fold to make an impact and bring in a new star with likability. Dale Earnhardt Jr remains popular, but his having not won a NASCAR title at the highest level , speaks as to the volume of his lack of success , while still being so popular.

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As a sport’s fans do you believe athletes have to set an example concerning their conduct in the eyes of the public ? Or do you believe human frailties can be overlooked when at a moment’s notice their anger and emotion is shown ?

Tophatal ……… 10/28/2015 11:50 pm

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Busta Rhymes & Method Man (Tical) ” What’s Happening ”

News , views and chews ….

As Major League Baseball awaits the victor of the ALCS series which now stands at 3-2 , with the Kansas City Royals leading the Toronto Blue Jays in the series. We await the outcome of game six which will be played at the Kauffmann Field , in Kansas City . Missouri, on Friday evening.

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Taking the mound for the home team will be former AL Cy Young winner David Price who will face Yordano Ventura of the Royals in what will be a pivotal game for both teams. A win for Kansas puts them in this year’s World Series , while a win for the Blue Jays forces an exciting game-seven decider between the two AL teams. Awaiting the winners of the AL Pennant will the their NL counterparts the New York Mets , whose convincing series’ win over the Chicago Cubs was as good as the Mets have been in a recent postseason foray. Both their pitching and offense was of the highest level expected from a well-managed Terry Collins’ team.

Away from the on-field foray has been the big news to hit the world of baseball with Don Mattingly and the Los Angeles Dodgers mutually agreeing to part ways. Unfortunately, the public explanations being given in the interviews granted to the press remain unconvincing from both parties , with neither the front office executives or Mattingly , himself , being truly convincing with their summation as to the reasons behind their abrupt dismemberment. One thing is for certain , Andrew Friedman as the Head of Baseball Operations has been given full control to make the decisions necessary to bring about a real turnaround for this franchise. The complacency seen which has been seen from the Dodgers over the past four seasons during the MLB postseason , is unlikely to be tolerated by Friedman or the team’s general manager Farhan Zaidi.

Having spent over $1 billion on salary since their acquisition of the franchise the owners have seen the team simply implode at almost every hurdle during recent postseason play . This season in particular the Los Angeles Dodgers were never good enough to convince anyone they could be seen as the presumptive favorites for the World Series. A $315 million payroll , the highest in the game , and all we witnessed from the Dodgers throughout much of the season were the thrills and spills of a highly overrated team. Granted, Zach Greinke had an exceptional season for the team and will likely be crowned the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Typically, one would laud the feat as being a great achievement, but in retrospect , singular awards while credible , for this franchise the only success sought, was that of a World Series’ triumph , something last achieved by the Dodgers in 1988.

There can be no denying the NFL season so far has proven to be nothing more than the usual storm in a teacup. Granted, there are several teams we knew would be either be bad or just mediocre , while there will always will be one or two surprises which have left us bewildered. Who knew at this point of the season the Cincinnati Bengals (6-0) would be one of the best teams in the AFC as well as the league in general ? Coming off a week six victory over the Buffalo Bills. The Bengals have a bye-week during week seven , whereby they can rest and recuperate before resuming their schedule in week eight , with a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 1st November,2015.

Two games on this weekend’s schedule , will likely have the fans’ attention, will be conference contests featuring the New York Jets facing the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro’ Massachusetts. Tom Brady is having an excellent season and it would appear the idiocy of the Deflate-Gate scandal now seems to be in the rear view mirror of the four-time Superbowl winning quarterback. No doubt Brady will be looking to extend his regular season record against the Jets , while the team seeks to increase their lead over the Jets within the AFC East. The other game of note, pits the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants , in a must-win contest for both teams. Given the mediocrity of the NFC East . there remains the possibility that the winner of the division could be no better than 8-8 or 9-7 at the end of this season.

Eight weeks into the College Football season and as expected , the talk begins as to which teams are deserving to be called the best in the nation. The Ohio State Buckeyes remain unbeaten and atop of the heap in the College Football rankings . Saturday afternoon , the Buckeyes will be on the road as they visit Piscataway , New Jersey to fact Rutgers University. Somehow , I believe this game will end in a rout , with Ohio extending their unbeaten run to twenty games dating back to last season. This Buckeyes’ team is playing at an exceptional level , barely being challenged by their opponents this season.

Texas Christian (TCU) , Baylor, Utah and LSU (Tigers) are among the unbeaten teams all vying for a playoff berth. Les Miles head coach of the Tigers will be hoping to see his team prove their worth in their scheduled contest on Saturday afternoon when they face Western Kentucky. Leonard Fournette , Louisiana’s all blistering running back will be looking to excel in this game while also showing himself to be a viable candidate for this year’s Heisman Trophy.

With four games left to the College Football schedule , there remains a great deal to play for as the season seeks slowly winds down .

The NBA regular season will begin on Tuesday 27th October , but for the moment the preseason is still winding down. Defending NBA champions the Golden State Warriors will be looking to make a successful defense of their title while also seeking to become the first back-to-back titlists since the Miami Heat were able to were able to achieve the feat in 2012 and then again in 2013 . The team was unable to make it a triple , succumbing to the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 . This season the Heat will seek to make their presence felt within the Eastern Conference where the Cleveland Cavaliers will be seen as the prohibitive favorites for the conference title.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the elder statesmen on the Heat’s playing staffand they are being entrusted to lead a roster with a mix of youth and experience. Erik Spoesltra and his coaching assistants will certainly have their work cut out for them over the course of Miami’s schedule. The team will begin their regular season schedule with a home game against the Charlotte Hornets on 28th October, 2015 . However, I believe the true test for the Miami Heat will come in their conference meetings with the Chicago Bulls , Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks , three of the better teams within the Eastern Conference , based on last season’s standings. The Heat will also be counting on their young rookie Justise Winslow to make a major contribution to the team this season , as he comes under the wings of his mentor Dwyane Wade.

For the Eastern Conference champions of last season , the Cleveland Cavaliers after being soundly beaten by the Golden State Warriors in last season’s NBA Finals , this season will be their chance at seeking redemption. The Cavaliers’ front office led by team owner Dan Gilbert and GM David Griffin have acquiesced to all of LeBron James’ whims facilitating him with a roster , he believes can win the franchise a title. Big money contracts have been offered to players such as Tristan Thompson , with the hope Thompson can prove to be productive for the team.

LeBron James and his Cavaliers’ teammates will begin their regular season schedule against divisional rivals the Chicago Bulls in their game to be played at the United Center in Chicago , Illinois,. While I believe the Cleveland Cavaliers remain the best team in their conference, and likely to repeat as conference champions this season, my belief remains the this team will struggle to beat any of the top-three teams within the Western Conference.

Kevin Garnett has returned to the franchise where he first made his professional league debut. The fact that Garnett now in the twilight of his career is once again with the Minnesota Timberwolves seems not only fair , but brings back memories of a time when he was among the best all-round players in the league, able to play every position possible , without there being a problem for this once agile player. Now he brings to this team , age , experience and a basketball mind second to none , with perhaps only Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant with an adept knowledge of the game and what is needed to succeed. Having won a title with the Boston Celtics as well as multiple appearances as NBA All Star and a League MVP in 2003 . It could be said Garnett’s career has come full circle, without him having much else to prove , other than being a mentor to a young team in need of real leadership.

Flip Saunders , head coach GM , Head of Basketball Operations as well as a minority stakeholder in the Timberwolves, will seek Kevin Garnett’s assistance in providing the on-court stability needed to make Minnesota competitive this season. Karl-Anthony Towns the franchise’s first round draft pick , alongside Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio are seen as the primary contributors for the team as they embark upon their schedule. The true test for the Minnesota Timberwolves will come when they take on the best the Western Conference has to offer , beginning with their regular season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Speculation will continue to surround the events which led to former NBA star Lamar Odom being found lying unconscious in the room of a Nevada brothel. Unfortunately, this simply adds another episode in the life of a player who never lived up to the expectations sought as a parent or as a teammate , in spite of the sympathetic words now being used as a cacophony to make up for another athlete’s shortcomings as a habitual drug user.

Odom through his publicists and his estranged wife Khloe Kardashian have thanked the press and public alike for their well-wishes , but this latest episode cannot hide the fact the NBA actually continues to enable and facilitate the use of banned substances within the game. The league’s so-called policy on banned substances remains weak and the fact the NBPA has sought to weaken the original structure of the policy simply goes to show how much of a ferret David Stern just happened to be, before handing over the reigns as commissioner to his chosen heir-apparent Adam Silver. The NBA Commissioner has yet to issue a public statement concerning Lamar Odom’s issues, purely on the basis the player is no longer active within the league. However. it should be noted , Odom never officially announced his retirement from the NBA and was still hoping to pursue a career , by returning to the league, signing with a team seeking an experienced veteran.

The NBA Commissioner has yet to issue a public statement concerning Lamar Odom’s issues, purely on the basis the player is no longer active within the league. However. it should be noted , Odom never officially announced his retirement from the NBA and was still hoping to pursue a career , by returning to the league, signing with a team seeking an experienced veteran. It seems doubtful a franchise would be willing to risk all. after this latest debacle concerning Lamar Odom.

Speaking of athletes with some off-field issues , with his recent plea agreement with the State’s Attorney’s Office former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones has been reinstated by the UFC , allowing the fighter to makes his return to the octagon. Jones was stripped of the title , after it was revealed he fled the scene of traffic accident while under the influence. It was later revealed the fighter had high level traces of cocaine within his system. Now while he has attended drug intervention program and the fact UFC President Dana White issued an indefinite suspension of the former champion. What cannot be denied, has been the fact, White has been very lax in whom he chooses to punish with impunity when he feels it is necessary.

Jon Jones in his last bout before being stripped of the title tested positive for a banned substance and it was widely reported that several top executives were prive’ to the fact Jones’ test had come back positive on the eve of his title defense against Daniel Cormier. Dana White for his part brushed aside those claims aside , stating it was pure fabrication on the part of detractors of the UFC. However, the Nevada State Athletics Commission which governs the sport within the state has records to prove the UFC hierarchy were well aware of the positive tests. Cormier the current Light Heavyweight Champion would like to make a defense against Jon Jones , knowing such a match-up would lead to a big money payday for himself as well has his challenger. There are very few fighters with the appeal and athleticism of Jones within the UFC at present and the biggest draw currently is the Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey who seems be totally unbeatable within her weight class.

Rousey will be looking to parlay her ongoing fame and notoriety in her next bout when she meets Holly Holm at UFC 193 scheduled to take place at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne , Australia on the 15th November, 2015.

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In light of the latest occurrences in the world of sports what do you feel will be the main talking points in the coming days or over the next week ?

Tophatal …

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A Diamond In the Rough

A Diamond In the Rough ..

The MLB postseason is now upon us and baseball’s most famous and successful franchise bowed out with an unceremonious loss in the wildcard round of the postseason. Needless to say , the front office of the New York Yankees led by senior managing partner Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman , will seek to rectify what I believe to be a ship , sinking faster than the Titanic. This Yankees’ roster was not built for the postseason and this constant idiocy as to the season of alleged acclaim by Alex Rodriguez should be lauded is simply a damning indictment of the game in general, as well as the very fact , Rodriguez’s act of contrition was simply not believable or actually one of solemnity.

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Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi will now have to look to next season and the players likely to be promoted from within their farm system for their solid contributions and consistency over a one hundred and sixty-two game schedule. The New York Yankees failed miserably in seeking to win the AL East and barely survived obtaining a wildcard berth within the AL.

Alex Rodriguez for his part may well have had one his best seasons in recent years after his suspension from the game in 2014, but in all essence the three-time ALMVP has been a poor excuse as a player and leader with the Yankees and his failure to be seen as the heir-apparent to Derek Jeter , shows that the monies invested in the slugger has been poorly served.

The New York Yankees’ dismissal at the hands of the Houston Astros in the wildcard round resulted in a 3-0 home defeat at Yankees Stadium in New York City , New York on the 6th October,2015. AJ Hinch and his Astros’ managerial staff having advanced through to the ALDS , where they are currently locked in a competitive series with the Kansas City Royals , which might just be the best series being played at this stage of the baseball postseason. Houston are seeking to be the AL’s 2015 version of their AL opponents , who last season played some exhilarating baseball before falling in the World Series to the San Francisco Giants. With the series now tied 2-2 , the all pivotal game five will now be about which team desires the win the most , knowing full well the winner has the advantage , with the series now being theirs for the taking. On the mound on Wednesday evening ,will be Collin McHugh of Astros to face Johnny Cueto of the Royals at Kauffman Field in Kansas City Missouri ,.

Runaway winners of the NL West and it would appear the Los Angeles Dodgers should view this postseason , as one would believe destiny is meant to be on their side. Don Mattingly has seen both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke have exemplary seasons for the Dodgers with both likely to be among the leading candidates for the NL MVP . There have been solid contributions all round from the entire playing staff over the course of the season. Mattingly knows this is likely to be his last chance to guide the Dodgers to a World Series’ title given their woes in recent postseason appearances. Repeatedly caught like deer in headlights the ball-clubs woes have been well-chronicled. Having spent in excess of $800 million on salary commitments between 2013 and 2015 , with a recent change in front office hierarchy. It has become abundantly clear , lead managing partners Mark Walter , Todd Boehly and Magic Johnson are no longer prepared to tolerate the lackadaisical approach of the managerial and playing staff.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have wasted numerous chances in their NLDS contests against the New York Mets to have taken a 3-0 lead, but instead after Monday’s night’s astonishing 13-7 loss to the Mets, I am not so sure the Dodgers can still be seen as the presumptive favorites in the series as thing have been currently unfolding. These two teams will resume their series on Tuesday evening with Clayton Kershaw on the mound to face left-hander Steven Matz in a crucial game four to be played at Citi-Field in Flushing , New York.

Finally, it looks as if the Chicago Cubs have finally assembled a roster capable of making a deep postseason run. Granted, for the past four seasons Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer as the senior-most front office executives in charge of the Cubs’ Baseball Operations have squandered their chance to make the ball-club a viable competitive franchise until this season. Joe Maddon was brought in to add some managerial acumen to the playing staff. Locked in a highly entertaining NLDS contest against the St Louis Cardinals , Maddon and his players have now got the Cardinals on the ropes, looking to land that “knockout punch” in this series. Chicago has squared the series at taken a 2-2 with game five the schedule for (Tuesday) tonight , when the two teams meet at Wrigley Field , in Chicago , Illinois with John Lackey of the Cardinals facing Jason Hammell for the home team


Game three of this series , fans witnessed the Chicago Cubs play some great all-round baseball , playing to their strengths while showing some of the weaknesses within the St Louis roster . Mike Matheny and the Cardinals will be looking to even the series , rather than falling deeper into a bigger series’ deficit , on the verge of bounced from the postseason.

Josh Hamilton is back with the Texas Rangers while teammate Prince Fielder is having one of the best seasons of his career. Together the two have played their part in the Rangers winning the AL West and with it a postseason berth . All square in their ALDS contests against the Toronto Blue Jays , Texas will be looking to win another ALCS Pennant , while for the Blue Jays, this has been their first appearance in the postseason in over two decades. Toronto by far the best team in the AL all season long in terms of their offensive productivity , easily won the AL East , subduing their divisional opponents and along the way their being singular season performances from their big hitters on the team’s roster. Jose Bautista , Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin have been the main reasons behind the Blue Jays’ productive offense, while David Price, Mark Buehrle , R A Dickey and Roberto Osuna have played their roles effectively with their pitching.

John Gibbons
as the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays might well be a consensus favorite for the AL Manager of The Yea , but with other candidates such as Ned Yost and A J Hinch , this all could make for a very interesting race for the award. From my own perspective all three are noteworthy candidates for the award !

Over the past four years the problems of the New York Mets have been well-chronicled both and off the field. Doubts have been raised as to the mettle of the team , while Terry Collins and his managerial staff have at times made some rather unfathomable moves concerning the playing staff. Sandy Alderson and J P Ricciardi have held sway over this all, while in the background Fred Wilpon , Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz have watched closely over the problems and progression of the franchise. It should be noted in the darkest times of Mets’ problems , there was a possibility the ball-club might not have survived , with it being on the verge of bankruptcy . Persistence was the key along with the favorable views and help of financiers on Wall Street, the New York Mets survived their financial woes with the owners of the ball-club coming out unscathed with their reputations somewhat intact.

Tuesday night’s meeting between the Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers will tell us a great deal about the New York based franchise and whether or not this postseason will be the one where they will rise to the top of the baseball world. The pitching staff has excelled to the point where the arms of Jeurys Familia , Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey , Noah Syndergaard and Hansel Robles have carried the staff to their current position . Yet , while the pitchers have received a great deal of praise throughout the season, the Mets’ offense have also won over the fans and analysts with their timely hitting and productivity. It is clear baseball needs for there to be a presence of either of the two New York based franchises playing a part in the postseason. Without either the New York Mets or New York Yankees , the interest in the Fall Showcase becomes almost irrelevant. The television ratings will take the expected fall-off unless there is a Cinderella type aspect to the postseason , there rarely is a reason to be a willing participant in watching the postseason unfold.

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Legends and legacies are made during the MLB postseason and this year it is hard to say which player is likely step up and make their presence felt with either the bat or the ball . It will incumbent on the stars or some might say the leaders on their respective teams, step up to the plate and really lead by example , rather than remaining in the shadows. Which player or team do you believe will accept the challenge this postseason and simply rise to the occasion ?


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The buck doesn’t stop here but it should …

The buck doesn’t stop here but it should …

So  two weeks into the  NFL season and already we’re  witnessing  how  banal so many of the teams just happen to be . Nonetheless, things are likely to get far more problematical for several of these franchise before possibly getting better.

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In the NFC East , the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants having opened their respective season schedule with two consecutive losses are proving to be among the pick of the litter when it comes to sheer ineptitude. Far be it for me to suggest, but head coaches Chip Kelly of the Eagles and Tom Coughlin of the Giants are likely to know their jobs are on the line. Team owners , Jeffrey Lurie and John K Mara cannot be entirely happy with what they have both witnessed from their respective teams to start the season.

The Philadelphia Eagles were on the wrong side of an inept performance , with a week two loss to the Dallas Cowboys , whose 20-10 victory , also saw the loss of quarterback Tony Romo due to an injury. This all could spell some serious issues for the Cowboys, having lost Romo quite possibly for a sizable chunk of their regular season schedule. Dallas’ head coach Jason Garrett will now have to reassess Tony Romo’s fitness and the likelihood of possibly going with his backup, Brandon Weeden , should Romo not be available for Dallas’ week three contest against the Atlanta Falcons on the 27th September, 2015 at Texas Stadium in Arlington. Texas,. Inasmuch as analysts and fans alike try to attribute Tony Romo’s toughness to his abilities , in reality the player lacks real leadership and tends to apportion blame elsewhere when his play has been mediocre.

A great deal is being asked of Brandon Weeden, should he be entrusted with the task of leading the Cowboys into battle against the Falcons next Sunday.

For the New York Giants and their start to the season appears to be inexplicable, but at the same you cannot overlook the fact Eli Manning and his teammates have failed to deliver when all is said to be on the line. Granted, Manning has led the Giants to two highly celebrated Superbowl victories over the New England Patriots in the last six seasons. Losses in week one and week two to the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons respectively, have left many wondering where do the New York Giants now go from here. The Giants’ defense and offense have proven to be equally inept and with receivers Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz yet to show anywhere near the skill-set sought for the team to viewed as legitimate contenders within the league this season. Cruz remains sidelined and there seems to be no indicator as to when the Giants will see his return to their starting lineup. The New York Giants’ next game will pit them against the Washington Redskins on the 24th September , 2015 in a Thursday night contest.

Over the last two seasons , I believe quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford have failed to show what they are capable of players in their respective roles. With the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions both getting off to inauspicious starts to their season , these two teams are likely to be in for a torrid time as the NFL schedule pans out. Neither the Bears or Lions can afford to go through their first three games with consecutive losses , but given their play at present , it simply doesn’t bode well for either of these two teams. Sunday afternoon, we witnessed the Chicago Bears falling to the Arizona Cardinals in a high-scoring contest 48-26. Stafford and the Lions fell to the Minnesota Vikings in a result which simply reflects how bad Detroit just happens to be , as they succumbed to the Vikings 26-16.

While I am not about to suggest at this point of the season the NFC as a conference is less superior than the AFC , there do seem to be pointers which may reflect this position , albeit , two weeks into the schedule should not be truly reflective of the position. By week four , one quarter of the way through the NFL season , the teams should have found their rhythm, as they look to play themselves into divisional and conference contention.

There are thirteen games left in the baseball schedule , for the league’s thirty teams , with several of the divisions still to be decided as of the 20th September . For much of the season , both the St Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals have remained among the two best ball-clubs within the game. Whether or not the two teams will clash in this year’s World Series remains to be seen and will be predicated on their play as schedule plays out to the likely intensity we have seen in recent weeks. The Royals under manager Ned Yost might well be seen as the likely front-runner for this year’s AL Manager of the Year , with among his closest rivals being AJ Hinch , John Gibbons , Jeff Banister and Paul Molitor .

The Kansas City Royals coming off a decisive 10-3 win over the free-falling Detroit Tigers will seek to increase their lead within the AL Central when they face the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle , Washington on 22nd September ,2015. On the mound for the Mariners will be Hisashi Iwakuma as he faces Jeremy Guthrie of the Royals.

Kansas now has the inside track on the division, with the Minnesota Twins unlikely to build up a big enough challenge for the AL Central. With the reverberations from the faltering Tigers , in the aftermath with the abrupt departure of former GM Dave Dombrowski . There is now the belief that Dombrowski’s successor Al Avila will make the decision not to extend the contract of the team’s manager Brad Ausmus , leading to further turmoil within the organization. The Tigers’ players have yet to make their thoughts known on the possible departure of Ausmus , but there seems to be a widespread belief Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are not entirely happy with the situation, in spite of their indifferent seasons and it is easy to understand the many reasons why the Detroit Tigers have failed so miserably this year. The changes for the Tigers during the off-season could very well be dramatic and very nerve shattering, as a number of high-priced players are likely to be jettisoned. Seeking to assess the players , within their farm system is now likely to be an option for Al Avila , as looks to rebuild for next season.

It would be the ultimate tale of sheer stupidity if Mike Matheny was not awarded the NL Manager of the Year Award for this season. He has clearly been the best manager in baseball this year and has been a worthy successor to Tony La Russa . If Matheny can now take this Cardinals’ team in the postseason where they are likely to be the clear favorites for the NL Pennant , then there is no reason to believe why St Louis cannot go on to win their twelfth World Series title, with their last coming in 2011 when they crushed the the Texas Rangers in seven games . The series’ result might suggest the Rangers might have been in with a chance through the entire seven-game series, but at no point did they ever take advantage of St Louis during the showcase series’ finale .

Mike Matheny and the St Louis Cardinals have been a model of consistency throughout much of the season , with their pitching and offense being equally potent on all fronts. To round out their three-game weekend schedule against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago , the Cardinals came away with a well-deserved 4-3 victory over their divisional rivals . On Monday evening the St Louis will play host to the Cincinnati Reds , with John Lamb of the visiting team on the mound to face his opposing number , Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals.

With Tiger Woods now falling off the face of the PGA Tour and this ongoing stupidity he still remains the biggest draw in the game. I have to wonder what type of idiot , there remains within realms of the sports’ world in terms of the fans who simply have no idea as to what the hell they are talking about ! Woods has not come close to winning a tournament on the PGA Tour in almost two years and his last major Grand Slam title was almost six years ago . He has fallen so far down the world rankings (292 nd) , that he is no longer deemed to be a worthy talking point , unless you want to discuss his ongoing medical ailments. A second back surgery , is now in the offing and Woods’ game has deteriorated to such an extent , that only the player himself has any belief he will be able to resurrect his play to the level where he was once considered the heir-apparent to Jack Nicklaus .

There are now much younger players on the Tour , who are just as determined as Tiger Woods , when he was at his best , but they have shown themselves to be more resilient and less prone to litany of mistakes which have become part of Woods’ current persona on a golf course. Jordan Spieth , Rory McIlroy and Jason Day have become the new faces of the PGA Tour , as well being major draws , and a boost to the television ratings.

Jason Day’s five wins on the season which include the PGA Championship , The Barclays Championship and this past weekend the BMW Championship has pushed the Australian to the top of the world rankings , pushing both Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy to second and third within the standings. With those five wins and ten top-ten finishes on the PGA Tour , Day tops the Fedex Cup standings and is line for the $10 million payout which comes with a first place finish in the Fedex Cup overall final placings. If golf and in particular the PGA Tour is to withstand the loss of Tiger Woods and the deterioration of his game. Then the likes of Jason Day , Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will now have to stand tall in face of the overwhelming odds that fans yearn a dominant and charismatic player within the sport. Woods had the game, but his indiscretions and willingness to cite others for his problems, was simply another indication of a self-absorbed athlete who yearns the limelight but when faced with off-field adversity, they simply haven’t the intellect to handle it well.

A top-five finish in the Tour Championship at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta , Georgia , which is the final tournament of the PGA Tour schedule , could see Day come away with the $10 million bonus payout and quite possibly the Player of the Year Honors, albeit , Jordan Spieth’s two Major victories on the year do make his credentials all the more impressive. Yet if consistency is to be the measure on the season , then the Australian has fared better than his American counterpart.

There are howls of laughter as Floyd Mayweather Jr maintains his wish to now retire from the sport of boxing, having defeated Andre Berto in the defense of his WBA and WBC welterweight titles . Still recognized by Ring Magazine and several of the top analysts within the sports as the Pound-for-Pound King of The Ring and best fighter on the planet. I personally do not believe Mayweather can simply walk away from his unbeaten 49-0 record without seeking to push that mark to 50-0 ! Granted , for an athlete who in the last two years has earned in excess of $400 million from the sport of boxing , there might be few challenges left for a fighter of his caliber. He has the admiration of legions of fans the world over , but he has never been able to truly gain the respect of some of the passionate fans of the sport as well many of the women who follow the sport of boxing from afar.

Floyd Mayweather has failed miserably in trying to allay the persona of his misogyny and denigration of women, albeit , his open invitation of Jen Welter to a press conference and to his bout with Berto was met with a great degree of sarcasm and some embarrassment for Welter , who initially accepted the invitation for both events. Yet it cannot be denied , with Mayweather’s well-chronicled troubles concerning his ex-fiancee and the mother of two of his children , there can be little left to believe the boxer is indeed trying to change his ways. His publicists and management company are trying to create the persona of a social activist , philanthropist and boxing promoter seeking to not only clean up the sport, but also show Floyd Mayweather to be a man of the people. Yet, when it is all said and done, the boxer’s actions outside the ring and his outlandish behavior simply proves the persona created has been nothing more than a charade.

Mayweather still yearns the respect of the purists who cover the sport within the media , even with his impressive fight record. Mayweather Promotions Inc , the boxer’s own management company will certainly be surveying the landscape for a fighter seen as his next challenger. A rematch against Manny Pacquiao would simply be a waste , considering the hype over their first fight and lack of competitiveness seen from the Filipino boxer on his way to a unanimous defeat, was not only embarrassing for the sport of boxing, but also a general fleecing of the paying public and the reputed $500 million gross revenues gained from the bout. Mayweather’s reputed $300 million payday before expenses for the highest grossing title and fight in boxing his history, was nothing more than a comedic mess of gigantic proportions.

The international governing bodies (IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO) for the sport of boxing have been nothing more than a travesty , with Mauricio Sulaiman , Gilberto Mendoza , Daryl Peoples and Francisco Varcarcel have simply forgone their obligations to oversee the sport with robust stewardship, instead leaving it to the unscrupulous boxing promoters to reign over the sport, while leaving the Nevada State Athletic Commission with their connivance and corrupt activities continue to make a mockery of boxing . Conflicts of interests, inexperienced ringside judges adjudicating title bouts have seen the state Athletic Commissioner Francisco Aguilar has been quick to suggest the officials who have judged many of the most recent title fights within the state’s jurisdiction have been without reproach. Yet, in the aftermath of the fiasco concerning the judging Mayweather’s most recent bouts against Manny Pacquiao and Andre Berto has left a great deal to be desired about Aguilar’s claims.

If boxing is left in something of a void in spite of the rise of Deontay Wilder as a titleholder among the heavyweight champions. Yet in reality, Wilder can only be seen as seen as either stepping stone for Wladimir Klitschko to further enhance his claims of being the best heavyweight boxer in the world. Klitschko’s own record has been filled with challengers whose records if nothing else, can only be viewed as comedic and idiotic. The rise of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) under the UFC banner , has seen the growth of the fastest growing combative sport in the world. UFC’s fighters are now becoming household names with Ronda Rousey leading the way for the sport along with the sudden emergence of Fabricio Werdum as the undisputed heavyweight champion. Werdum’s devastating victory over Cain Velazquez was not only for the title was not only exciting but it also breathed life into a sport , where in recent months , we had witnessed the fall of established stars such as Jon Jones , Nick Diaz and Johny Hendricks either through misdeeds outside the octagon ring or through poor performances within.

UFC President Dana White has proven to be an autocratic and somewhat tyrannical ruler of the governing body of the sport , dictating his whims as to what he believes best serves the interests of the sport. Unfortunately. White has proven to be less than forthright as to a number of decisions he has made concerning fighters, who are known to have known to have used substances prohibited by the UFC. Dana White has been complicit in allowing fighters such as Jon Jones , Nick Diaz, Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen to have fought , having then been tested for a banned substance.

Sonnen, now an analyst covering the UFC has not issued a statement concerning his twice being suspended for the use of performance enhancing drugs , while Nick Diaz has continually derided White and suggested he will continue with his use of marijuana as and when he pleases. Silva a former middleweight champion will be making his long-awaited return to the octagon, but with the revelations of his testing positive steroidal medication as well as for an anxiety medication during his rematch with Chris Weidman for the middleweight title at UFC 183.

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Sports , amateur and professional sports, have now become a fickle industry promulgated by profligate athletes and hierarchies, where accountability has become a simple bye-word for lack of leadership, athletes without any real integrity and the continued belief that an act of social responsibility paints them as a person moral integrity.

Floyd Mayweather continues to be indicative of such a persona , while Tiger Woods might well now be wishing he could turn back the hands of time. Hierarchy leaders such as Roger Goodell, Adam Silver , Garry Bettman , Dana White , Rob Manfred and Mark Emmert have become oblivious of what needs to be done to actually clean up the mess they preside over , and can only point to the one known fact they actually care about and that is to make millions of dollars at the expense of the consumers , otherwise known as the fans. Accountability remains the farthest thing from their minds while the fans remain apathetic to what is actually now within their midst.


Tophatal ……. 2015/09/21

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