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

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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 ?

Tophatal

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