Red state , blue state ….

Red state, blue state ….

So here we are at a historical moment in the nation’s history , as Donald Trump upset the status quo to become the nation’s forty-fifth President (elect) having easily defeated Hillary Clinton for the highest political office in the land. The surprise concerning the result, did not only come from the fact Clinton’s campaign was no lethargic, but also failed to appeal and gain widespread support across the nation. From my own standpoint, having to choose between the lesser of two evils, when the candidates involved . have been described as two of the most despised candidates in the nation’s history, has played a large part in the divisiveness seen during the entire Presidential campaign. Now that this is all over, the nation can now seek to heal the wounds , but I guess , the losers having seen their candidate so handily defeated, will now begin to question what and why things went so badly.

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In the world of sports the fallout has already began in the world of baseball . Having won a memorable World Series , the Chicago Cubs will now seek to bolster their roster, while also rewarding a number of their players who played a part in the team’s success during the regular and postseason. Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon and his managerial staff are to be commended on a spectacular season. Who knew that the ball-club’s one hundred and eight-year old curse would come to such an emotional end ? World Series MVP and veteran player Ben Zobrist exemplified the Chicago Cubs’ never-say die attitude throughout the postseason. Maddon may well have caused palpitations among the Chicago fans with some of his game decisions , but the fact they panned out and the team was victorious in defeating the Cleveland Indians says a great deal about the ingenuity of the manager and the faith of the front office in Joe Maddon’s abilities.

While the Chicago Cubs are still riding high, another baseball’s revered franchises now seems to be returning to ways of old. The New York Yankees after a disastrous season seem to be intent on making a big splash during this off-season , with general manager Brian Cashman possibly willing to spend as much as $100 million or more to acquire key players he believes will be of benefit to the team . There is no denying the Yankees’ weakness was their pitching , with only Masahiro Tanaka proving his worth among the starting pitchers . The relievers on the roster were barely average and clearly the many needs of the Yankees during the off-season go way beyond just pitching. New York’s offense was very inconsistent and many of their high-priced offensive players showed a lack of real productivity when it mattered most. I don’t believe Cashman will be given the go-ahead to spend capriciously, but I do believe Hank Steinbrenner and Hal Steinbrenner will see it as only fitting the ball-club seeks to be as competitive in the market as many of their big-market rivals such as the Los Angeles Dodgers whose payroll for the upcoming season is likely to remain above $200 million .

Teams are now looking to shed players who will be placed on the free agent market which is likely to cause something of a major frenzy. Many of baseball’s biggest and most prominent agents will be seeking to get the best possible deal for their respective clients. Rumors are also flying around, with the Detroit Tigers possibly being among the biggest sellers , seeking to off-load two of their biggest stars , Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera . The thought of GM Al Avila considering such a move is unlikely to sit well with the Tigers’ fans, but I do get the feeling team owner Michael Ilitch has become dissatisfied with the lack of postseason success . If he is pressing the front office executives and managerial staff to make these bold moves , I do not believe it will sit well with the fans of the Detroit Tigers. The ball-club’s failure at the highest levels of the game has more to do with the lack of consistency needed rather than blaming the players.

This past season Detroit’s failure came from their not being competitive in a number of tight games and manager Brad Ausmus’ questionable decision-making during several vital games. The failure to win the AL Central and even gain a postseason berth laid with the managerial staff more than anything else. Should both Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander be traded , both players will come at a very high price , given their respective market-value.

Like any other previous MLB off-season there will continue to be a frenzy within the market, with teams scurrying to get the best players available. Will your team be one of those profiting from these transactions ?

Should there be cause for concern at this stage of the NBA season ? Unless you happen to be the Philadelphia 76ers , you might as well say it’s business as usual . Not much has changed since the end of last season and the beginning of this season with the Sixers still looking lamentable in just about every facet of the game. Only the New Orleans Pelicans (0-8) currently have a worst record than the 76ers at this stage of the season. With both teams yet to record a victory, it will be interesting to see which the duo will be the first to join the rest of the league’s twenty-eight teams to have recorded a win. Brett Brown head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers will have his team in action on Wednesday night when they face the Indiana Pacers in a game being played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Arena in Indiana , Indianapolis .

The New Orleans Pelicans will not be in action until Thursday 10th November when they tip-off against the Boston Celtics in a road game against their Eastern Conference opponents .

Since his abrupt and somewhat unexpected departure from the Miami Heat , it is has been rumored the relationship between Dwyane Wade and Heat President Pat Riley had become very animated , with few cordial words being exchanged between the duo. Considering the ongoing PR nightmare concerning Miami’s decision to jettison Chris Bosh , one has to wonder if there’s any truth to the fractured relationship between Riley and the three players , who have been instrumental in bringing the Miami Heat their last two NBA titles. Coincidence or conspiracy , it does seem strange within the space of two years , LeBron James , Bosh and Wade are no longer part of the Miami Heat playing roster . Financial hardships notwithstanding, I find it extremely hard to fathom the incompetence shown by Pat Riley and there being no apparent input or formal statement coming from team owner Micky Arison .

As of the 9th November the Miami Heat posted a record of 2-4 , placing the franchise near the bottom of the East Conference. In their last game the Miami Heat fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a twelve-point loss on the road , losing 97-85 , with Russell Westbrook continuing his amazing season . On Thursday , Dwyane Wade with his teammates on the Chicago Bulls will visit the American Airlines Arena in Miami , Florida , for Wade’s first game at the venue , since signing with the Bulls as a free agent during the off-season. Wade will be looking to inflict even more pain on his former team , while placing the Chicago Bulls to be in a very good position at this early stage of the NBA season , which is still in its infancy . The game will be seen as either vindication for the release of Dwyane Wade should he play poorly and the Chicago Bulls lose the contest, but should Chicago be victorious , then there are likely to be questions asked of Pat Riley , the coaching staff of Erik Spoelstra and the entire front office . Wade remains one of the Heat’s most beloved and popular players in franchise history .

At point will the fans of the New York Knicks realize Phil Jackson and the entire front office are selling them a bill of goods with no value ? This Jeff Hornacek coached team has become an embarrassment so early in the season , that it is not unreasonable to believe the Knicks are likely to be a sub .500 team at the end of this regular season .

Jeff Hornacek has a team which remains inconsistent at home as well as on the road and there appears to be no real signs of change in terms of their play . Acquiring both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah was meant to provide the team with a great deal more competitiveness on both ends of the floor . In their last game the New York Knicks were tested in their fourteen-point victory over the Brooklyn Nets , previously to which, they fell to the Utah Jazz , 114-109 , with both games being played at Madison Square Garden , in New York City, New York . Next up for the Knicks will be a game against the Boston Celtics , a match-up likely to test both of these Eastern Conference teams.

The Western Conference has always been considered to be the better of the NBA’s two conferences. Teams there tend to be far superior to their Eastern counterparts. I also believe there happens to be far more talented players within the West , altogether and that is even with the four-time League MVP LeBron James’ heralded exploits over the course of his career . Two games currently separate the top-five teams within the Western Conference , with the Los Angeles Clippers (7-1) leading the way with the best record among them all . Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers has seen his team rise to the occasion with the play of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul being one of the primary reasons why the franchise has been so successful up to this point of the regular season.

Doc Rivers will see his team in action when the Los Angeles Clippers will be in action on Friday night when they face the Oklahoma City Thunder . It will be one of the top games being played on the night .

It came as no real surprise when Luke Walton was named as the head coach to succeed Byron Scott , after Scott’s dismissal by the front office . Walton was the lead assistant to Steve Kerr , head coach of the Golden State Warriors , whose record-breaking season in 2015 came to an abrupt end in the NBA Finals and their series’ loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers . The Los Angeles Lakers have gotten off to an inauspicious start to their regular season schedule. While the fans may well be expecting wins , Luke Walton simply seeks a steady improvement from his players and their willingness to accommodate his strategies.

The heady days are now long gone where the Los Angles Lakers were perennial contenders or winning back-to-back titles . Kobe Bryant’s retirement after an astonishing career with the Lakers , has become a precursor to a new chapter in the franchise’s history. With the Buss family still the primary owners of the club, it will be interesting to see how they herald in this new beginning. Their have placed their faith in the acumen of Luke Walton, his coaching staff to lead and the players will now have to respond . Whether or not the fans will have the patience to endure what is hoped be to the learning process of the playing staff and its growth, remains to be seen .

It is not yet clear who should be seen as the vocal and team leader of this Los Angeles Lakers’ playing staff , but all signs seem to pointing in the direction of Lou Williams . The veteran presence of Luol Deng should provide some leadership , but I believe it will take a great deal more than just Deng’s leadership to ensure any type of real success . Williams and his teammates were in action on Thursday night when they faced the Sacramento Kings and made a spirited comeback for a decisive victory over their conference rivals in the West. Luke Walton had to be pleased by what he witnessed from his team and their performance . It bodes well for the Los Angeles Lakers’ next game when they tip-off against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie Center in New Orleans , Louisiana on Saturday , 12th November , 2016 .

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The divisiveness and rancor seen from this political season , as evidenced with the Congressional and Presidential election , hasn’t yet spilled over into the world of sports , but there is an underlying element in the behavior of the personalities involved. At times it can be and lead to “ win at at any cost” and then in the aftermath, you seek to clean up the mess , though not necessarily in the best way possible .

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Tophatal ………… 2016/11/09

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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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It’s Not Over Until The Fat Lady Sings …

It’s Not Over Until The Fat Lady Sings …

A game-seven will now be played in this year’s NBA Finals , providing the league hierarchy with the climactic and suspenseful finish they will be hoping for. Conspiracy theorists wherever they might be , will continue to question the veracity of the officiating and whether or not the league itself actually intervened at any point during the series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors . No matter what the outcome in the Finals . there will be questions asked which I doubt NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will proffer up a satisfactory answer ! Clearly the referees have shown their inconsistency throughout the NBA Playoffs and during the entire NBA Finals, in the lead-up to a series’ deciding game seven which will take place at the Oracle Arena in Oakland , California on June 19th , 2016.

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There was a great deal of frustration on the face of Steph Curry during game six , which resulted in the Warriors’ loss and Curry being ejected , having thrown his mouthpiece into the crowd during game-six played at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland , Ohio on Thursday night. Golden State were outplayed and failed to get off to a fast start at the intent of Steve Kerr and the Warriors’ coaching staff . Sunday’s game could prove to be fateful if the defending NBA champions allow the Cleveland Cavaliers to dictate the pace of the game for its entire forty-eight minutes. Losing this game and their title would prove to be disastrous after such a sensational regular season for the Golden State Warriors. League record or not , the emphasis for the franchise was to make a successful defense of their title.

I do believe there is a great deal of merit to the claims , the NBA Playoffs have proven once again what we know to be true and it is the very fact, the hierarchy is unwilling to admit the officials are very poor and there seems to be a declining standard of the officiating talent among their on-court officials. The NBA Referees’ Union might believe this to be the contrary , but there seems to no denying the fact the league has a problem which it has failed to address over the past decade.

I’ll say this for the MLB season at this point of the schedule and it is the fact we have seen some stellar pitching from the starters and an abundance of offensive woes among several of the teams . No-hitters though not a rarity , have been seen already this season , but we have to see a perfect game . Offense from the players , has been somewhat sporadic, but in recent days we have seen Victory Martinez put on an amazing performance for the Detroit Tigers . Martinez set the trend which would lead to the Tigers’ most impressive performance of their season while leading the team to a victory over the Kansas City Royals , with the Tigers’ catcher hitting three home runs in the contest . The Detroit Tigers will be back in action on Friday when they face the Kansas City Royals in the resumption of their current series between these two AL Central combatants . Michael Fulmer will be on the mound for the Tigers as he faces the Royals’ Yordano Ventura in a match-up of two very good AL starting pitchers.

Give credit where it’s due , because even light of Jose Reyes having served a fifty-one game suspension for domestic violence and aggravated assault the Colorado Rockies are well within their right to rid themselves of the short-stop. Reyes has been designated for assignment , but will be hindered by the fact the player will be owed $40 million on the two remaining years of his existing contract . Playing sub.500 baseball the Rockies now find themselves sitting third within the NL West with a 32-33 record . Eight games behind the division leading San Francisco Giants (41-26) and three games out of a wildcard berth , the team over their last ten games are 8-2 . Yet within an un-competitive division, it simply isn’t good enough place them as a serious contender within their division.

The departure of Jose Reyes I certainly don’t believe will be on any great loss for the Colorado Rockies, given his lack of productivity since being acquired by the ball-club from the Toronto Blue Jays . Colorado has not reached the heights expected of the ownership group or their fan-base over the past ten years and it is becoming increasingly clear the management as well as the front office has become increasingly impatient with the lack of consistency and progress sought. The franchise’s farm system has talent , but there appears to be no one among their Minor League System capable of stepping up to the plate and leading by example. Among the Rockies’ starters it is already clear that has been the case , as seen with their play over the course of the season.

In the Colorado Rockies’ last game they they had an easy 6-3 victory over the struggling New York Yankees in a home contest played at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado on Wednesday evening . Walt Weiss and his Rockies’ managerial staff will prepare the team for a three-game weekend schedule against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark , in Miami Florida.. The first of the three contests will take place on Friday and Colorado will have starting pitchers Jon Gray of the Rockies facing Adam Conley of the Miami Marlins . Both of these teams are seeking to make an impact within the NL with an eye gaining a wildcard berth at least . It remains to be seen if either can make it a reality , but it will be interesting to see how things pan out at the end of the season.

Ichiro Suzuki has now amassed more than 4,000 career hits over the course of professional baseball career, but a large proportion of those hits took place while he played in the Japanese League . However, baseball’s hierarchy has seen fit accord Suzuki’s achievement of recently garnering his four thousandth two-hundred and fifty-seventh hit , accrediting as if it were an MLB career record . Now while it is an achievement within itself , it does not equate with what is still considered to be the legitimate record held by Pete Rose , whose 4,256 career hits which is seen as the all-time record. Rose may will still remain on the outside looking in as a pariah . Yet it does seem hypocritical of MLB to afford Suzuki this accomplishment and then overlook the career statistics put up by Hideki Matsui . Ichiro is still twenty-three hits shy of the 3,000 hits’ career plateau and would have to play another six more seasons to reach the league record set by Pete Rose in MLB (Major League Baseball) based on his current pace .

Only a game and a half out of the NL wildcard berth it has to be said the Miami Marlins have been one of the surprise teams in the NL this season. Yet from my own perspective , I do believe this Don Mattingly managed team will have to do a great deal more prove their detractors wrong in suggesting this group of players are not competitive enough to win a World Series title . The struggles of the Marlins have been there for all to see over the course of this season and I doubt things are likely to change anytime soon !

Something strange is happening in the state of Texas and it has nothing at all to do with the Dallas Cowboys . While year in year out great things are expected of the NFL franchise , you have to admit . it is always great to see the Cowboys’ repeated pratfalls , with Jerry Jones , the front office and their often injured quarterback Tony Romo continue to make the same old excuses for another poor season . The less news’ coverage to the Dallas Cowboys during the off and regular season , the better off we all are as sports’ fans. While the Cowboys wallow in self-pity and ridicule , the Texas Rangers are having a good season, leading the AL West and playing some solid baseball . Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels has shown a great deal of faith in Jeff Banister and his managerial staff this season while the Texas players have gone about their business with a great deal of professionalism.

Heading into their weekend series’ schedule of games Jeff Banister and the Texas Rangers will be seeking to increase their AL West divisional lead over their rivals by taking down the St Louis Cardinals , whom they will face at Busch Stadium , in St Louis , Missouri , with the first of those games taking place on Friday evening. Cole Hamels will be representing the visiting team when he faces Michael Wacha of the Cardinals.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the few teams in baseball who can continue to spend capriciously on talent while their apathetic and clueless fans wistfully believe the money is being well-spent and getting absolutely nothing in return . Dumping an ineffective veteran Carl Crawford made a great deal of sense given the fact the player was well past his prime and no longer seen as a leader. Utter stupidity by former GM Ned Colletti was simply one of the signs that this organization still remained in a quagmire after the sheer lunacy seen from former team owner Frank McCourt . The Dodgers’ financial troubles notwithstanding, in the four seasons since being acquired by a cabal of billionaire entrepreneurs , very little has changed with the mindset of the franchise. Common sense now seems to be prevailing with Andrew Friedman having been brought in to lead the Baseball Operations , while Farhan Zaidi was installed as the general manager.

Having to play catch up in a division where it was felt the Dodgers would be totally dominant this season , we are beginning to see a number of weaknesses on the roster . The team lacks consistency and have not been able to put together a winning streak of more than four games during their entire schedule at this point of the season. Over their last ten games heading into their current schedule the Los Angeles Dodgers are an abysmal 4-6 . On Friday night the Dodgers would be playing host to the Milwaukee Brewers with Julio Urias on the mound for the home team against the Brewers’ Zach Davies . Having lost their Thursday night meeting against Milwaukee , it is easy to see why the Dodgers are such an inconsistent team . There is some great young talent being developed within the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system , but it will take time for that talent to prove to be effective long-term, in spite of what has been seen from Yasmani Grandal , Julio Urias and Corey Seager .

A great deal of pressure has been placed on the shoulders of Dave Roberts , with his having succeeded Don Mattingly as the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I believe Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi will continue to show faith in the manager and his staff , but I also feel should things continue to head South , then this entire lineup could be blown apart , rather than having to witness the Dodgers’ continued futility.

If a case can be made for the unexpected season the Chicago Cubs are now having , then this must be the year where the stars are in alignment and something special could very well happen. Then you remember these are the Cubs we are talking about , a franchise whose fortunes over the last e ninety-five years reads like a sob story , never mind delving into their postseason woes . Theo Epstein , GM Jed Hoyer and the entire Cubs’ front office and ownership now seem to be on the same page. Add in the fact the organization now has one of the best managers in all of baseball. A winning formula now seems to be in place with Joe Maddon and his managerial staff to go alongside a team of truly determined players eager to win.

The Cubs have simply been relentless throughout much of the season winning games with ease , throughout the months of April , May and now in the month of June . The team has a healthy 10 ½ game lead over their nearest divisional rival in the NL Central . A lead I might add, which is the biggest in all of baseball’s six divisions . The Chicago Cubs have to be seen as a shoo-in to not only win the division , but also a leading contender for the NL Pennant , solely based upon their record. One could allude to their play which is head and shoulders above all of the NL teams , if not the entire league . A weekend schedule which began yesterday will see the Chicago Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates , another divisional rival . Friday’s result saw the Cubs annihilate the Pirates without their breaking sweat during in the game . Wrigley Field in Chicago will be the scene for today’s action when the two teams resume their schedule with Jonathon Niese on the mound for the Pirates against Jon Lester of the Cubs.

Current NL Cy Young Award winner and Cubs’ All Star Jake Arrieta is considered to be the best starting pitcher on Chicago’s daunting rotation . Arrieta is having an astonishing season , but while I believe him to be one the best pitchers in the National League , he has to be perhaps one or two tiers lower than Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers . This year’s NL Cy Young Award could very well come down to the achievements and consistency seen from both of these starting pitchers and I believe should they meet head to head at some point during the season, we could very well witness some of the best pitching to be seen anywhere within the game !

Picture gallery . By clicking on an individual image you can view that picture in a reformatted size along with a narrative.

With the final of the NBA Finals set for Sunday evening prime-time what do you expect to see from both teams and have you been completely satisfied by these contests throughout the series ? Furthermore with the MLB season having now played a quarter of the scheduled games have you been impressed by certain teams and which ball-clubs and players do you believe to have been the biggest disappointments to date ?

Tophatal ……….. 2016/06/17

NBA news

NBA Playoffs (2016)

NBA Finals (2016)

NBA Playoffs’ game-logs

NBA Finals’ team stats (last six games)

NBA team lineups (NBA Finals)

NBA champions

This month in NBA history

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MLB news

MLB schedule three days at a glance (including probable pitchers )

MLB results 16th June

MLB divisional standings and wildcard standings

This week in baseball history

On this day (17th June) in MLB history

MLB transactions (June 2016)

MLB team valuations

The Cause of A Great Man ….

The Cause of A Great Man …

The death of Muhammad Ali brought an outpouring of grief , sorrow and sadness as literally tens of millions from around the world sought ways to express their condolences. Various media sources had their tributes and the print media in particular paid their respects with full-page articles , op-ed pieces and even comments sought from the public , in letters sent to the newspapers. Obituaries were also resplendent with the announcement of Ali’s death and of course the Hollywood literati also mourned the death of the fighter in their own inimitable way.

From my own standpoint , much of what I have read in the recent days subsequent to Muhammad Ali’s death has reminded me how little things have really changed since the days of his seeking to speak out against the injustices wrought upon minorities here in the United States , the country’s entry into the Vietnam War and his stance taken as a conscientious objector. Many seem to forget , the fighter was well within his right not to fight in the war even though he had been drafted. Politically motivated or not , the verdict of the US government could not sway Ali in his determination. The boxer may well have been leveling his criticism at the government , but in reality, a great deal of what he saying was indeed true and even judging by his vocal opposition to the war and the US government’s mistreatment of minorities. If you take a look at the racial divide now in place within the country, the economic and social angst , without seeing a number of the current Presidential candidates using race as a platform for their political diatribe and you have to really wonder how much a real social advancement has actually been made in the US, altogether .

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I have long admired Muhammad Ali as a fighter, humanitarian and a genuinely passionate individual. He brought a voice to the issue of the downtrodden , when many of his boxing peers at the time remained silent. Even his most famous opponent of his illustrious career , Joe Frazier was very critical of Ali and his antiwar stance. Yet , if anything Frazier could very well have been thought of as an ‘Uncle Tom ‘ , with his own stance and obeisance of not wanting to offend his Caucasian associates within the sport and the public in general. Floyd Patterson , himself a former boxer , was also critical of Ali and beyond the three-time world heavyweight champion’s choice to change his name and religious faith from being a Christian to a Muslim , was also seen as a threat. The perception being , Ali’s choice of aligning himself to the Nation of Islam and its then leader the Honorable Elijah Muhammad posed a real threat to the country. Anti Muslim sentiment then and even more so now , but no one seems to give a damn, that the biggest threat posed to the country remains the ineptitude of the US Congress and successive Presidential administrations over the past four and a half decades. It is simply the downright ambivalence and stupidity of the electorate along with the ongoing nonsensical diatribe of politicians at the local, state and national levels which continues unabated.

As a youth , my fondness for the sport of boxing came from my father who was as passionate about the sport as he was about Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Sonny Liston . It would be his fight against Liston where Ali would make his name professionally, when he won the world heavyweight title for the first time. A successful defense against Sonny Liston and the drama which surrounded the bout still draws a great deal of attention and criticism to this day. Muhammad Ali would go on to make eleven successful defenses of the world heavyweight title (WBA/WBC) before he suffered a loss to Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden , New York City, New York on the 8th March ,1971. There were three now classic fights between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, which are considered to be among the very best in boxing history . Nothing before or since has been considered close in comparison , though everyone will have their favorite bouts or series or trilogy of fights between famed boxers over the years.

Perhaps the fight which might resonate the most with fans of Muhammad Ali , has to be the bout against George Foreman , who at the time was considered to be the most lethal fighter of his generation. Forman was known for his punching power and his ability to knock an opponent out with either hand. Foreman would defend the title he won in defeating Joe Frazier by making a defense against Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa , Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) on 30th October , 1974 . In a result which was seen as one of the biggest upsets in boxing history , Ali as the challenger would defeat Forman in the eighth round by a TKO (technical knockout) . These two protagonists would never meet again professionally in a boxing ring , but a long-lasting friendship would begin , lasting right up to Ali’s death.

If Muhammad Ali’s greatest professional triumphs were said to have taken place in the ring , then he also had a number of demons outside it , which I believe arose from what he saw as a blatant disregard of human rights , a government still steeped in racism , with a wish to disenfranchise segments of the population. Forget about the protests about the Vietnam War and simply look at the facts as they stood at the time during the Civil Rights’ Era of the sixties and the lead-up into the seventies. Politics was divisive , the Klu Klux Klan wielded a great deal of power not just in the Deep South, but across the country. Yet, there are those who try to gloss over those rather abhorrent moments in history and simply deem it as being an idyllic period in the nation’s history and this was particular true from the White perspective. There were also internal fractions within a number of black organizations , as the unity sought within the NAACP and Nation of Islam (NOI) might well have been orchestrated by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) as a way weakening the growing power of both groups. Funny isn’t it this sought of attention was never seen as appropriate in dealing with the violent actions of Klu Klux Klan , as then FBI Director J Edgar Hoover only felt there to be a threat against the country by either Communists and organizations such as the NAACP and Nation of Islam , whom he felt to be subversive and a danger to national security.

The Vietnam War was a sham and the country’s involvement the conflict brought a great deal of loss for the nation, with so young men dying for no apparent reason , other than the fog , folly and down right stupidity with the decision-making of the Congress and President at the time. Those returning heroes in many cases , were not seen as heroes in some circles , but more so as murderers and many of them also returned , psychologically battered and mentally unstable . PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome) was not yet a syndrome or psychosis which was fully understood by the medical establishment and even to this day the Department of Defense and the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs ) are not able to fully appreciate the ravages of this illness, much less treat the sufferers of this illness appropriately or with dignity. So in effect it was better deflect the incompetence of an administration, , by haranguing an athlete , Muhammad Ali , who sought to speak out about social indifference , the folly of war and the fact he felt his country had no respect for many of its citizens .

Four-plus decades on and there have been few athletes in today’s arena who are willing to speak out on social injustice. In many respects so-called acts of opposition are orchestrated and rather comedic with regard to the effect sought. Nowhere has this been more self-evident than with the rather innocuous stance taken by the NBA and a number of the high-profiled stars within the league in the aftermath of the death of teenager Trayvon Martin . Since then , there have also been some rather tedious and asinine PSA’s (public service announcements) on the issue of gun violence , but no real vociferous calls for any type of real dialogue concerning the issue.

Muhammad Ali may well have set a template for athletes to be vocal on issues of social inequality , but far too many of today’s superstar athletes are far too concerned with endorsement deals , accumulating wealth or simply being boorish in terms of their conduct in public or private . Ali gave of himself monetarily , in a variety of causes which he truly cared about around the world, but a great deal of this seems to be forgotten by those who only seek to oppose what he stood for .

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While the world mourns Muhammad Ali’s passing , the eulogies continue across various media formats , with a cast of thousands posting daily about their memories of one of the most widely recognized athletes in history and how much he meant to them. As a youth my memories of him have to proven to be long-lasting , but it has been my respect and what he has stood for, which has my ultimate admiration ! The cause of a great man can be deemed as doing something great , but I feel it can also mean having a lasting impression on others, where they also seek to change a life for the better. Not only do I believe Ali has been able to achieve this feat, he has also changed the viewpoint of many on how we also look at our political leaders and question their conduct while in office.

Tophatal …………………..

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Boxing news

World Boxing Association (official website)

World Boxing Council

International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF)    and IBHOF Inductees (modern)

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 !

By clicking on an image you can view the frame in a reformatted size along with a narrative.

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

🙂

MLB news

MLB schedule three days at a glance

MLB probable pitchers (24th May)

MLB standings (divisional) and wildcard standings

This week in baseball history

On this day in MLB history

MLB free agents (2017) and available free agents

MLB team payrolls

Highest paid salary (base 2016)

MLB postseason history

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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Exit stage right or is it , stage left ?

Exit stage right or is it , stage left ?

Well , the curtain has finally come down on the career of the NFL’s , five-time League MVP and two-time Superbowl champion Peyton Manning . With the undoubted acclaim which will now come , it does appear the recent controversy surrounding Manning’s career will bear some light upon how he is viewed in certain circles. To my mind the Denver Broncos’ quarterback is among the best quarterbacks of his generation and I would certainly rank him among the top-five players at the position in NFL history.

Peyton Manning will have his detractors, but what cannot be denied, has been the tenacity shown by the player and his willingness to take a team on his back and lead them with a great deal of authority. He is one of the few quarterbacks over the course of their careers to have averaged at last ten wins per season throughout their tenure. Manning could teach his younger sibling Eli Manning a thing or two about what it is like to be a leader , while also seeking to limit the excuses when his performances have been poor.

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Courtesy of ESPN (Transcript of Manning’s retirement speech)

Transcript of Peyton Manning’s retirement speech

ESPN.com Staff

Here is the transcript from Peyton Manning’s retirement speech Monday:

“In my very first NFL game, I completed my first pass to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. I threw a touchdown in that same game to Marvin Harrison, who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame this August.

“The quarterback for our opponent, the Miami Dolphins, was — after my dad, my favorite player — Hall of Famer Dan Marino, who on the first third down of the game completed a 25-yard skinny post. And it was the damndest throw I’d ever seen.

“Later, I completed a pass to tight end Marcus Pollard down the middle and somebody hit me really hard and after I got up, I told myself, ‘I know I can play in this league.’

“Later in that struggling season, we played in and lost to Baltimore. It was the first time that the Colts had returned to Baltimore since they had moved back in 1984. We didn’t exactly get a warm reception that day. The fans were screaming at me and I kept thinking, ‘Hey, I was only 8 years old then, get off of my back.’

“I had met him once before, but when the game was over I had the chance to shake Johnny Unitas’ hand. He told me, ‘Peyton, you stay at it. I’m pulling for you.’

“Well, I have stayed at it. I’ve stayed at it for 18 years and I hope that old No. 19 is up there with his flat top and maybe his black high tops on and I hope he knows that I have stayed at it, and maybe he’s even a little proud of me.

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Click on link to read article in full.
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In many respects it was clear to see , this was bound to be Peyton Manning’s last year in the NFL after nineteen seasons torturous play and the type of physical exertion on his body , which left him mentally and dare I say it physically in a state of disrepair. What I believe was a telling sign during this last season , was Manning admitting the fact he played through one or two games injured and that his throwing arm , showed signs of weakness and some nerve damage. Wear and tear and most notably the accuracy of his passes were very telling and to the detriment of the team. Either way, had Peyton made the decision to return for a nineteenth season , I do believe Broncos’ Head of Football Operations and a former quarterback for the franchise , John Elway would have made the decision not to re-sign Manning, solely for the reason of cap space availability and avoiding having to pay the player the almost $20 million he would have been due in 2016. The era of Brock Osweiler now beckons and it will be interesting to see what the future now holds for the Broncos , as well as for Osweiler, who now steps into some rather gigantic shoes , having to succeed Peyton Manning.

The baseball season has started and already the game finds itself in the midst of further controversy. New York Yankees’ pitcher Aroldis Chapman has been given a thirty-game suspension by the league hierarchy for conduct unbecoming the game , after his being charged with domestic violence . The player’s act of contrition has been somewhat lukewarm and one has to bear in mind while seek to portray it all as a random act , it is believed this was not be the first time Chapman has been abusive towards his spouse, although there are no records counteract the allegations. Baseball much like the NFL has been slow to react to the issue of domestic abuse and the social ramifications seen from the behavior from the athletes with both sports. It certainly has not helped with either union , from the MLBPA and the NFLPA remain so silent on this issue , which itself is extremely disturbing. Rob Manfred , the current MLB Commissioner , his predecessor Bud Selig and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appear to be no clearer to addressing the issue , much less having sought to make the public aware of their respective leagues’ stances on what has become a social virus.

Another controversy engulfing the sport of baseball was the lifetime banishment of New York Mets’ pitcher Jennry Mejia , for a third positive test of a banned substance (performance enhancing drug / PED), in violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. For the current NL Pennant winners this was just another blow for the franchise , many of whom believe the Mets might be the team to beat this upcoming season within Major League Baseball. Pitching might well have been the strength of the New York Mets’ team last season , but I do believe they will be hard-pressed to eclipse the form shown during the early rounds of the postseason before the World Series failings against the Kansas City Royals .

Mets’ manager Terry Collins has yet to give a public statement concerning Mejia’s lifetime ban and what might be even more nonsensical concerning the player’s banishment is the little known fact , Jennry Mejia can be reinstated by the league hierarchy after two years at the league’s discretion. Mejia can return to the game, but Pete Rose remains a pariah within the game of baseball ? This is the sort of stupidity Major League Baseball has become known for , along with the buffoons at the upper echelons of the game, who clearly show no common sense whatsoever.

The New York Mets are involved in two split-squad games involving the St Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers as opponents on Monday afternoon. Reigning World Series’ champions the Kansas City Royals will be taking on the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s in another set of split-squad games being played.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been in charge of the Chicago Cubs’ front office , dealing with all of the franchise’s player-personnel dealings, while the Ricketts’ family as the owners of the Cubs have sought to bring back some shine to the club’s laughable legacy over the past eighty-five years . It is bad enough Tom Ricketts has now seen fit to embroil himself in the current political climate with a Super-PAC (Political Action Committee) now in place , which is said to favor ‘ Conservative Causes ‘ and policies , while also seeking to oppose the support of Republican Presidential candidate and the party’s front-runner for the nomination , Donald Trump . It is at times like this , which has me wondering where the two areas collide , but then I look at how baseball and specifically the MLB hierarchy plays both sides of the political aisle , as they seek to maintain their status and hold unto their antitrust exemption granted to them by the Congress. Massaging the egos of the five hundred and thirty-five members within the legislature , does have its merits.

From my own standpoint, I don’t believe the Cubs will be competitive enough to be a force within the NL Central . Joe Maddon and his managerial staff , along with the team will need to be completely focused if they are to compete with their divisional counterparts this upcoming season. The Cubs’ season will begin with a game against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday , 4th April , in what will be viewed as the road game for the Chicago Cubs.

So at what point , do the naysayers start to it up and take note , the Golden State Warriors are for real and their exploits this season are not just a flash in the pan ? Over their last fifteen games, led by Steph Curry and his teammates , have been “torching” their opponents with ease , while , posting the best record in their division , as well as the Western Conference and the league , overall . The question now remains , can this Steve Kerr coached team which has set franchise records and league records , as they seek to surpass the achievements of the Chicago Bulls and the record breaking season on their way to the NBA championship in 1995 and eliminate the Bulls’ mark from the record books ? The Bulls went 72-10 during that year , with Michael Jordan leading the way for the team . A recent loss by the Golden State Warriors suffered at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers has done nothing to deter the Warriors , as they seek to make press along with their historic run this season. The victory has been one of the few bright spots for the Lakers this season and I firmly believe , Byron Scott will not be returning to the franchise next season to coach this Los Angeles’ team . With Kobe Bryant’s retirement coming at the end of this season , the prayers being asked by the franchise’s fans is their wish the Lakers pursue Kevin Durant who will be one of the many free agents , but among the marquee list of players who might be looking for a new home which beckons in the 2016 NBA season.

A prohibitive favorite to win the League MVP for a second successive season , Steph Curry has been rewriting the records books and stamping his mark on what might turn out to a historic season for the player and this Warriors’ team. The consensus appears to be , not that Golden State will break single season mark of the Chicago Bulls , but which team in the league has the best chance of defeating the team during the NBA Playoffs. Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs might well have the second-best record in the league , but the Spurs have proved to be no match for their conference rivals during their meetings this season . I am inclined to believe that will also be the case should the two teams meet during the Conference Finals this postseason ! Golden State will back on court , Monday night , when they face the Orlando Magic in what will likely turn out to be a thoroughly entertaining game.

The UFC staged another of their marquee events with two title holders being the main draw for their fight card of UFC 196 , which was staged at the MGM Grand Arena , Las Vegas , Nevada , this past Saturday, 5th March, 2016. Heading up the card were title Conor McGregor facing Nate Diaz , as McGregor faced Diaz in a catch-weight contest without his Lightweight Title not on the line. The other main attraction was Holly Holm making the first defense of the UFC Women’s Bantamweight title against Miesha Tate , A title which Holm won A in convincing fashion , defeating former champion Ronda Rousey . What should have been a lopsided contest turned out to be a shocking defeat for Holm , as she surrendered her belt in an unbelievable manner.

Two major upsets all on the same night , with McGregor being forced to submit by Nate Diaz and Holm’s inexplicable loss , has left many wondering, is the depth of talent in the UFC really that good or is it merely the hype and the skilled marketing by UFC President Dana White , which has us believing , the bouts staged, are as good as advertised ?

For Holly Holm, it’s back to the drawing board and for Miesha Tate, she can look forward to a lucrative payday , with a contest being lined up against former nemesis Ronda Rousey. Conor McGregor for his part, might well have been magnanimous in his loss , but I cannot help but wonder , during the pre-fight publicity junket , all of the well-staged publicity was all being done in the name of hype for a champion , McGregor, took his opponent way too lightly and who was very much complacent during the bout against Nate Diaz !

The English Premier League (EPL) is now heading into the final stretch of what has turned out to be a surprising season . Sitting at the top of the divisional standings are the surprising minnows of the division , Leicester City . Bought by the current owners for less than $500 million dollars just under four years ago . Should , Leicester win the title , it would be the biggest upset in English soccer history, since the Premiership came into being. The likes of Chelsea , Arsenal , Manchester United and Manchester City with their big-money stars and an abundance of success , have been cast into the shadows by an exceptional all-round team managed by their unheralded coach Claudio Ranieri , are now on the cusp of achieving something truly historic for the club.

In their most recent game , Leicester City were the victors over Watford , winning the game 1-0 . Granted , the Premiership contests are not known for high-scoring games , but what was on evidenced in this contest , was the stealth and resilience shown by Ranieri’s players . Next up for Leicester City will be a game against Newcastle on March, 14th, 2016. A victory in this game , while not making the conclusion of the season a formality, it would certainly go a long way in laying the foundations of what has been a memorable season for The Toffees , as they are more commonly known by their fans. What comes out of this season could very well set the template moving forward for a number of teams in upcoming seasons. Clearly , n the case of Leicester City as well as the Kansas City Royals , Golden State Warriors and Denver Broncos, their success was attained by the use of due diligence , an eye for detail and placing an emphasis of having the players and management in place to achieve their goals sought.

Do you believe the decision made by Peyton Manning to retire from the NFL was the right choice   ? Of the sporting events  that  took place over this past weekend , which would you consider to be the most relevant of all ?

 

 

 

 

 

Tophatal ……………. 2016/03/07

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EPL Premiership soccer , Premiership news

This past weekend’s results , form guide

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So What Am I Missing Here ?

 

 

So What Am I Missing Here ?

Here we are once again and with a new Superbowl champion, with the Denver Broncos having triumphed over an under-achieving Carolina Panthers’ team. During this off-season teams with their front office executives and coaching staffs are seeking to make roster, cuts with the cutting of players, impending free agents as they seek to pare down cap commitments with a view to preparing themselves for not only the upcoming NFL Draft but also, what has become the usual free-agency free-for-all and all too ridiculous off-season drama repeatedly seen at this time of the year.

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Already, a number of high-profiled players have been let go by their teams with the recent announcement by the Chicago Bears that their veteran running back Matt Forte will not be returning to the franchise in 2016. Which begs the question , where will Forte now end up and is he willing to take pay cut in order to fulfill his ambition of winning a Superbowl title ? If that were not enough, the ongoing drama which still surrounds the future of Johnny Manziel , still looms large for the Cleveland Browns even in the aftermath of the idiotic claims now being made by Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam , that he and the coaching staff were lied to by the Texas & AM Athletics Department and coaching staff about the conduct and demeanor of Manziel , while he attended the school as a player. I am sorry, but given the repeated media coverage of quarterback’s conduct both on and off the field, it has me wondering if the Browns’ Scouting Staff and coaches actually used diligence before coming to the decision to draft Manziel in the 2014 NFL Draft as the twenty-second overall pick in the first round of the Draft that year ? Since then, the alleged flashes of brilliance shown by the player have been about as illuminating as damp squib on the 4th July. Now with a giant shadow being cast over Johnny Manziel’s future in the NFL , his issues with sobriety and allegations of domestic violence, his unwillingness to check himself into rehab , event at the request of his own father.

One no longer needs to question the fact, the Cleveland Browns should cut ties with the player and now seek to rebound from the farce of making the former Heisman Trophy winner the focal point of their future. At no point during Manziel’s tenure was there ever a glimpse of the acclaimed brilliance he was said to possess at the collegiate level ever bearing fruit for the Browns. Bear in mind also , the team struggled throughout much of the season , where they would finish up with a 3-13 record for a last place finish in the AFC North and one the worst records in the entire AFC, not to mention the league itself. Cleveland’s offense was as bad as their record suggests and the team’s defense was equally inept . With teams having to declare their pare down of payroll in order to free up cap-room availability , it will be interesting to see what now takes place between now and the 1st March.

Calvin Johnson , wide receiver with the Detroit Lions is now said to be mulling retirement after another disappointing year by the team. It has to be said the blame must lie with the fact the player has been let down once again by an inept coaching staff and front office . I believe a great deal of the blame must also rests with team quarterback Matt Stafford who continues to be a conundrum and enigma all rolled into one. From my own perspective, I believe Stafford along with Matt Ryan , Jay Cutler , Ryan Tannehill , Sam Bradford and Tony Romo are the most overrated quarterbacks now playing in the NFL. Now there are those who will point to the fact , Romo remains consistent during the regular season, but the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback is now softer than a roll of Charmin’ tissue paper and unlikely to be healthy enough to play a sixteen-game schedule. And it will always come down to the fact repeatedly. Romo in the postseason, is as poor as his record suggest without his being the constant butt of so many jokes , his continually seeking to blame others for his own poor play and his lack of leadership.

 

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Jim Caldwell , head coach of the Detroit Lions is seen here speaking with team quarterback Matt Stafford (9) . Caldwell’s position with the team could be in jeopardy  there appears to be mounting speculation he could be relieved of his coaching duties during this off-season. GM Bob Quinn is undecided and has met with Martha Firestone Ford , owner of the franchise and members of the Ford family, as well as other senior executives to discuss the head coach’s future . The possibility of Jim Caldwell being fired seems likely , but it would only add to the increased turmoil and lack of stability for the Lions who have gone through several head coaching changes over the past ten years . AP Photo / Sarah Carson …

If Calvin Johnson does make the formal announcement to walk away from the game then the fans of the NFL can feel privileged enough to have seen one of the best wide receivers of this generation . Certainly , Johnson when judged against his peers , has shown the consistency not often seen and while there are those chomping at the bit concerning the exploits of Odell Beckham , other than the hype there has been little of note achieve by Beckham or the New York Giants since he was drafted by franchise. Granted , the same can be said concerning Calvin Johnson , but bear in mind the Detroit Lions , have only made the postseason on two occasions since 2009, first in 2011 and then again in 2014 , where their forays were short-lived and nothing of note was achieved.

Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell will be hard-pressed to get this team back on track this upcoming season and with improvement seen with the Minnesota Vikings along with the ever-present, Aaron Rodgers guiding the Green Bay Packers , I do believe Detroit will be playing catch-up once again this upcoming season ,while the Packers and the Vikings remain the dominant forces within the division (NFC North) for this year !

For their own part, Detroit will almost certainly be looking to make some changes to last season’s lineup and the likelihood of several of their free agents not returning after an unproductive season is seen as inevitable. Lions’ GM Bob Quinn will be under a great deal of pressure to make the changes necessary , as he seeks to improve the roster in the run-up to the NFL Draft and preseason.With the free agency market being what it is, I also believe he will be seeking to make some rather fascinating moves , delving into the alternatives available to him there , seeking one or two options as he surveys that particular landscape. For the moment, Matt Stafford’s appears to be safe, but I can’t help feel , if the opportunity arose for him to trade the quarterback , it would be taken at the drop of a hat and close out what has been a rather disappointing tenure by Stafford, whose seven years in the NFL have proven to be underwhelming .

$20 million a year can get you a great deal in the NFL , but there are too few quarterbacks in this league actually worth the sum , who are capable of winning consistently in today’s NFL. Now consider the fact Sam Bradford of the Philadelphia Eagles , who becomes a free agent during this off-season , is now seeking such a deal , it begs the question will the front office staff continue with their idiocy after the hire and then firing of Chip Kelly and the ignominy of his tenure with the franchise ? Bradford at best , is no more than a backup quarterback for any franchise in the league, but given the Eagles’ poor pass offense , among the coaching staff of new head coach Doug Pederson. Bradford is thought to be the best of an awful bunch.

The Philadelphia Eagles had a litany of issues all over their roster and much of it stemmed from the fact during Kelly’s tenure , the franchise never had a propensity for playing defense and this run-gun- mentality of the team’s offense barely served them any purpose or brought about any tangible success. Yet somehow , purely upon his accomplishments with Oregon , Kelly was thought to be a football genius.

Having been hired by the San Francisco Forty Niners to succeed Jim Tomsula , Chip Kelly will be allowed a “second bite of the apple” , on a team with issues both on and off the field , and where there is said to be little faith in the acumen of GM Trent Baalke or team Chairman & owner Jed York . If the rumors are to be believed , with Chip Kelly longing to reunite with Sam Bradford and bring him to San Francisco , then one has to ask, what does the future hold for Colin Kaepernick and his remaining with the team ?

We are all aware of the decline in Kaerpernick’s play since 2014 and his being more concerned with his high-profile image , contract-value , than actually leading his team . Which all stems from the quarterback’s lack of maturity , leadership ability and being caught up in his own world. Back to back postseason appearances and there were comparisons being made with Niners’ legends Joe Montana and Steve Young in some circles . Pump the brakes and take a step back for a minute or two and then start to look at when and where the decline began for not only Kaepernick , but also for the Forty Niners where they now find themselves in their present predicament. The team in its present guise might not even be the best in their division and I certainly believe the Seattle Seahawks will remain the “ cream of the crop” within the NFC West . Seahawks ‘ quarterback Russell Wilson has to now be considered an elite quarterback in this league and as a Superbowl winning quarterback , I believe that he is only going to get better . He has shown the temperament , has the backing of his teammates , but also , he has shown himself to be a leader, leading by example and his teammates seem to be more than willing to follow his lead. I doubt the same can be said of Colin Kaepernick at this moment in time !

Jim Harbaugh’s wish to part ways with the San Francisco 49ers , were two-fold in the premise leading to his departure . Harbaugh’s relationship with Trent Baalke and Jed York had soured , his failure to hold his players accountable for their conduct off the field as well as on it was there for all to witness ( Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald ) , but idiot fans of the franchise seemed to be more concerned with the malaise and folly of the two front office executives. During the off-season Chip Kelly and his coaching staff will seek to assess the merits of the current roster while also assessing the potential free agents heading to the market , as Trent Baalke and coaches seek to bolster the roster. This upcoming season will be make or break for Colin Kaepernick, while Chip Kelly’s first season with the San Francisco 49ers will also come under a great deal of close scrutiny. Abject failure is not something likely to be tolerated by the fans of the franchise and many of their former players still closely associated with the organization.

Four Superbowl victories for New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick has pretty much sealed his legacy as perhaps the best NFL coach of his generation, as well as perhaps being one of the most despised individuals in NFL history. There is no denying the franchise has now become the most hated in the league ,along with the never ending controversies which have dragged down the image of the Patriots’ organization. Team owner Robert ‘ Bob’ Kraft remains all powerful, though his relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has soured in aftermath of the ‘ Deflate-Gate’ . Though the allegations against Tom Brady were not necessarily groundless, but the league hierarchy’s presentation of their case in front of an arbitrator in a US Federal Court smacked of incompetence and showed that Goodell and his minions are in fact imbeciles . It should tell you a great deal about the case when the league’s own Chief Legal Counsel Jeff Pash refused to testify on behalf of the NFL in the presentation of their case against Brady. The decision by Pash , pretty much handed the victory to Brady and his legal representatives and guaranteed his four-game suspension being lifted.

New England’s loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship game led to their falling short of making a successful defense of the title won last season. For Tom Brady and his teammates , this is not an off-season for them to ponder what went wrong, but for the coaching staff and front office to assess how the team can actually get better. The Patriots struggled on offense when it mattered the most in their encounter against the Broncos and for Brady this was not one of his better encounters against Peyton Manning during the postseason .

Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia will likely seek to strengthen the team’s defense , while also looking add to the team’s offensive corps of players. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has to be aware the team’s rush offense was something of a letdown , while offensive line is in need of a major upgrade to protect Tom Brady and allow the quarterback more time in the ‘pocket’ . There is the feeling Belichick working in conjunction with GM Nick Caserio , will add Matt Forte to the team’s roster , while releasing one of the Patriots’ quantity of running backs among the lineup from this past season. We know the league to be a ‘cut-throat’ business at this time of the season and I expect New England to be no different from any of the other franchises around the league as they make the cuts they believe necessary in preparing for the NFL Draft and free agency.

With the NFL cap figure expected to be $155 million for 2016, the New England Patriots find themselves in a favorable position should they make place themselves in a position, to make a big splash for marquee free agent as mentioned earlier (Matt Forte) . Things worked out well for several teams at this point last season , as they sought to bolster their rosters through free agency and in some respects it played a part in the success of the Denver Broncos during the postseason.

Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins may well have won the NFC East , a division I believe to be one of the worst in the entire NFL , but the thought of Cousins now on the cusp of seeking and being signed to a multi-year deal does seem daunting. The Redskins’ front office could seek to ‘franchise tag’ the quarterback and then simply offer him a one-year deal equivalent to the average earnings for a top-five paid passer in the league. Whether not Cousins is said to be worth such a deal , is dependent upon what you might believe are his attributes as a passer ? Jay Gruden witnessed his team grind out a rather mediocre 9-7 record to secure the divisional title before being upended in the wildcard round of the postseason in a rather embarrassing loss to the Green Bay Packers. Cousins and the Redskins were simply out of their depth against a superior team, with a far better coaching staff than those at the disposal of Jay Gruden.

A great deal of the deliberations this off-season will not only surround the status of Kirk Cousins but also , his teammate and fellow draftee from 2012, Robert Griffin III . Griffin was the second overall pick taken in the draft behind quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts . In what would appear to be all of the alleged warning signs, the feeling seems to be the coaching staff and front office no longer have any implicit faith in Robert Griffin’s abilities , while also, his being a malcontent and a major distraction. Injuries have played a part Griffin’s fall from grace, beyond the erratic play and willingness to sacrifice himself needlessly to make a ‘big play’. Gruden’s predecessor Mike Shanahan was never really able to get the best out of Griffin , even after his leading the Redskins to a postseason appearance in 2012, his rookie season. From thereon-in , his demise has been swift and somewhat demoralizing. If Robert Griffin is cut, then he could very well be signed by a team in need of a player with regular season experience , primarily in a backup role to a starter. Griffin still believes himself to be a front-line starting quarterback and more than capable of leading a team. With his career now at a crossroads , it is extremely difficult to suggest where Robert Griffin now goes from here. At the start of 2012 , so much was expected of the player after a stellar career at Baylor (Bears) , which now seems to be stuck in a morass.

Redskins’ team President Bruce Allen and team owner Dan Snyder have yet to make a public decision concerning the beleaguered quarterback and even GM Scott McGloughlan seems reluctant to discuss the matter in public , but there are swirling rumors now being floated, a decision has been made , Robert Griffin III , will be be released by the franchise. The release of Griffin would save the Washington Redskins $16.2 million against the team’s cap for 2016 and will go a long way in creating cap space and their pursuit of several highly-prized free agents as well as possibly ‘ tagging’ Kirk Cousins, rather than signing him to a multi-year deal .

Basking in their return to the greater Los Angeles area , the St Louis Rams will return to the roots and become associated with the city where they first garnered fame . For Jeff Fisher and Stanley Kroenke , this becomes the chance to perhaps see an appreciation in the Rams’ value and profitability as well as the notable rise in attendance likely to be seen in 2016. For the fans of the Rams within the community this brings about their long wait for the return of a franchise to the city of Los Angeles . OK, one can choose to ignore the era of the Oakland Raiders when they were known as the Los Angeles Raiders and given the abysmal record of the Raiders since 2004 , I think just about anyone who has a vested interest in the NFL will simply ignore the AFC West based franchise and the systematic incompetence seen with Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie . The less said about Raiders’ season of ignominy the better off the whole would appear to be.

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Kurt Warner , left , is seen here being hugged by Dick Vermeil after the St Louis Rams’ victory over the Tennessee Titans in the Superbowl . Neither Vermeil or Warner are currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame , in spite of both having been retired for several years and having met the eligibility requirements .

For Jeff Fisher and this current crop of players , several of whom are unlikely to be on the roster for this upcoming season. I believe a fresh start with new faces might provide the franchise with something it has long sought and that is a chance to return to competitiveness seen when Kurt Warner was ruling the roost with the ” Greatest Show on Turf”” . Those days are long gone and the Rams haven’t come close to achieving the sort of notoriety seen when they won the Superbowl.

Last season for the St Louis Rams was a year when nothing seemed to go right for the team, from week two right to week six . A 7-9 record was just an indication of where the Rams stood at the end of the regular season and in reality it told us a great deal about the team in general . Nick Foles is being asked to place a great deal of the burden upon his shoulders and to lead the St Louis (Los Angeles) Rams this season and I believe it will be far too tough a task for him , even if surrounded by complementary players suitable to his skill-set . Foles is a creature of habit and his not being able to think outside the box , is not something we have not seen from the player at this point of his career . This will have to be the year, where Nick Foles convinces us all , how great he can be under the guidance of Jeff Fisher’s coaching staff and his sortie of teammates. While I believe Foles to be a good quarterback, I am yet to be convinced he is the kind of player capable of leading the Rams a Superbowl victory !

Three things will unfold this season for the Dallas Cowboys . One , Jerry Jones will finally get another chance to see the good and the bad side of the Dallas Cowboys and two , he will have to make a decision as to whether not he can still stand by Tony Romo as the starting quarterback of the team. Finally, he has to come to his senses as to the merits of Jason Garrett’s tenure as the head coach of the franchise. Romo’s postseason record notwithstanding , but Garrett’s own achievements have been equally abysmal , in spite of his being given the keys to the “Kingdom” , an alleged Ferrari , which he hasn’t been able to get out of first gear. The Dallas Cowboys might well be worth an estimated $4 billion and have the luxury of playing in cavernous and ostentatious Texas (AT&T ) Stadium , built at the reputed cost of $1.4 billion ,but the Cowboys in their present guise will never make an appearance at their home venue as a participant in the Superbowl and I am prepared to go on record and state Tony Romo will not be leading the franchise to a Superbowl victory ! He may well say all of the right things , but his window of opportunity has now firmly closed and he can simply dream of what might have been. Romo can continue to dream , where in his world and fantasies of make he belief he raises the Lombardi Trophy in victory around, with the team owner and teammates.

In recent years injuries have plagued Tony Romo and we are no longer guaranteed the fact , he can play a full sixteen-game regular season schedule and if that were not enough, is not enough , the depth on the roster at the quarterback position is very weak . Anyone under the misconception , Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden were the answers to Jason Garrett’s and Jerry Jones’ prayers, are completely delusional . This off-season , a decision has to be made concerning the Cowboys acquiring a decent backup starter for Romo, as well as the drafting of a very good college quarterback who will be groomed for the future. As to whether or not Wade Wilson , quarterbacks’ coach for the Cowboys , can make that all a reality remains to be seen, dependent upon the decisions made by the Cowboys during the upcoming NFL Draft. Dallas has not drafted a quarterback since taking Stephen McGee in the 2009 NFL Draft . McGee’s career statistics if nothing else , simply makes for a good way to pass the time or for a piece of Cowboys’ trivia of not so fun-filled facts. Either way, it sums up the Dallas Cowboys’ continually abysmal record in the NFL since 2008. All of the excuses in the world , cannot hide the fact, you cannot dress up a pig and call it a sow . Oink, oink , oink !

This season could very well be the last year we all get to see Tony Romo is a Cowboys’ uniform as his best years are now behind him and not ahead. His career plateau has been reached , Pro Bowl appearances and personal achievements , but an elusive Superbowl ring and victory will not be on his career resume’ upon his retirement , not unless it is in some other capacity , either as a backup starter or in some coaching capacity of the future.

What moves do you believe will take place during this off-season in the NFL ? Which teams are likely to benefit from this free agency period in the run-up to the NFL Draft ?

 

 

Tophatal  … 2016/02/24   By clicking on an image seen below you can view the picture in a reformatted size alongside the accompanying narrative.

 

NFL news and NFL  transactions  (February 2016)

2016  NFL  Draft & NFL  Combine  news

NFL free agents

Projected team salary caps

Top-capped players in 2016

NFL transactions (March 2015)
NFL archived news

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Don’t sell yourself short, as the media and sports in general has a way of doing that

Don’t sell yourself short, as the media and sports in general has a way of doing that

Well, with the NFL season now in our rear-view mirrors , even with the media extolling the virtues of the Superbowl L (SB 50) , it showed be noted what should have been an exciting game, turned out to be a nondescript error prone event . The Denver Broncos came way with a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers , as Peyton Manning won the second Superbowl title of his career. Now we will all wait and ponder whether or not the four-time winning League MVP will ride off into the sunset by formally announcing his retirement from the league.

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Manning for his part has not revealed what his intentions are likely to be , but we should bear in mind the player has to notify the Broncos’ front office of his intent by no later than midnight Wednesday, February 29th in order to not obligate the Denver Broncos having to pay him for the upcoming regular season. Elsewhere around the NFL , the stories remain the same, as teams now begin their off-season deliberations as to which players they will keep and which they will let go. Personally, this is the one time of the year which I completely become disinterested in concerning the NFL ! Likewise for the NFL Draft and all of the prognosticators and prognostication as to which rookies are likely to end up where.

The Air Canada Centre in Toronto , Canada , will be venue where the 2016 NBA All Star Weekend scheduled events will take place . For the fans in attendance at the league’s mid-season showcase event , there will be a cavalcade of staged shows of which the main events will cover this entire weekend beginning on 12 February, 2016 . Their (NBA) schedule resumes on 18th of this month with the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs riding high atop of the Western Conference as well as the two having the best record in the NBA . Looming ominously close to the two Western Conference based teams are the Oklahoma City Thunder , led by the explosive duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook , it is easy to understand why this Billy Donovan coached team has cast a giant shadow over the entire league as of late . While the big news’ stories in the NBA in recent weeks, have been the summary dismissals of David Blatt from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Derek Fisher by the New York Knicks from their respective coaching positions. Blatt has been replaced by his one-time assistant Tyronn Lue , while Fisher’s successor just happens to be , Phil Jackson’s former assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers , former player Kurt Rambis . GM’s David Griffin of the Cavaliers and Steve Mills in conjunction with Jackson made the decisions to dismiss the their hand-picked candidates.

From my own perspective , these choices were simply ridiculous on the face of it . with neither David Blatt or Derek Fisher having any NBA coaching experience at all, much less dealing with megalomaniac characters of today’s NBA players ! If a coach is unable to deal with today’s stars within the league, then there is absolutely no chance of success whatsoever.

In the Eastern Conference , the Miami Heat are having issues with regard to their consistency as well as player behavioral issues. Hassan Whiteside , considered to be a player likely to be one of the future faces of the franchise , might just have to be the straw that broke the camel’s back with his petulant behavior when the Heat faced the San Antonio Spurs . In an act filled with histrionics , Whiteside felt it necessary to elbow the Spurs’ Boban Marjanovic , drawing a flagrant foul and ensuring Miami would be at a disadvantage in the game. It would be a contest where the Miami Heat would end up losing , further endangering their position within their division and conference .

Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers continue struggle and as the team with the worst record in the NBA , their season has become one of dire absurdity and incompetence on so many levels. Brown’s coaching staff is bereft of coaching acumen and the players are not particularly good . While Sixers’ owner Joshua Harris has suggested it has always been his wish to see the Sixers become a competitive franchise , but everything the front office has sought to do over the last five seasons by way of the NBA Draft has been an unmitigated disaster. Former Sixers’ GM Sam Hinkie was ousted and former USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo has been brought in to become Head of Basketball Operations for the franchise , overseeing all of the player personnel decisions . Over their last ten games Philadelphia has struggled against all competition , much to the dismay of their long-suffering fans. In their last game the Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Sacramento Kings , while putting up anemic effort against their Western Conference opponent .

George Karl might well feel embattled, given the poor record of the Sacramento Kings as of late. Karl met Kings’ GM Vlade Divac to discuss the merits of the team and I am likely to believe his own long-term future. Calmer heads prevailed , with Divac placing his faith in the veteran head coach. DeMarcus Cousins , Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay are considered the three best players on the Kings’ roster , which is centered around youth with some veteran experience. Cousins might well be the best big man in the game far outstripping the talents of centers and forwards such as Dwight Howard , Dirk Nowitzki , Paul Millsap , Greg Monroe , Kenneth Faried , LaMarcus Aldridge , Marc Gasol , Andre Drummond , Nikola Vucevic , Pau Gasol and Kevin Love . What definitely hasn’t been a boon for the Sacramento Kings has been the fact, the team has one of the smallest margin ratios (+/-) determining victories , while also having the propensity on defense for allowing triple-digits in defeat. Something which doesn’t bode well for the Kings over the remainder of the season .

After the All Star Break , George Karl will have the Sacramento Kings prepare for their next game , where their scheduled opponent will be the Denver Nuggets , as the two Western Conference teams seek to make their regular season series a competitive one ,as evidenced by last season’s contests between the pairing.

If the rumors are to be believed , which in part I do doubt , then the thought of GM Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets now seeking to trade Dwight Howard , seems to make about as much sense as their acquiring the center to begin with. Howard’s game has been on the decline and the last three years have proven to be the case. He is no longer a dominant defensive player and if nothing else he is not even capable of being a facilitator much less a great defensive presence. Long gone are the days where Dwight Howard was a force to be reckoned with. He cannot be considered one of the best centers in the NBA and he has offered very little to the Houston Rockets since being acquired by the franchise. The Rockets remain James Harden’s at will and it is his team , but unfortunately, the role players around him as a supporting cast are nowhere to be seen.

If there are parties with a vested interest in acquiring Dwight Howard and taking on the remainder of his salary for this season, then those might be the teams who are now sitting on the cusp of a playoff berth or seeking to add some offense to their respective lineups. Far be it for me to suggest, but I believe the window of opportunity for Houston to win an NBA title are very remote. Against their conference opponents this season the Houston Rocket are barely an afterthought . A mere half-game behind the eighth placed Utah Jazz , if James Harden is able to lead this team into the NBA Playoffs , there is no denying they will make a quick first round exit either at the hands of the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs.

Steve Kerr has returned to take command of the team his lead assistant Luke Walton coached so admirably during his absence. It would be remiss to suggest the Golden State Warriors haven’t torched their opponents all season long , on their way to the best record in the league . Questions are now being asked is this team better than the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls which went on to win the NBA title that season in astounding fashion? Seventy-two wins and only ten losses provided the NBA with the best regular season record in league history. Kerr was a part of the team in question and now he’s seeking to have this current Warriors’ team look to obliterate that mark.

The scary thought concerning the Golden State Warriors, is how good they are, but also the fact, they now seem to be a much better team than they were last season . There can be no denying, they swept through their conference with ease during the postseason and during the NBA Finals of last season, they completely outplayed the Cleveland Cavaliers and defeated them with utmost ease. The one-two-three combination punch of Step Curry , Klay Thompson and Draymond Green make the Warriors a formidable opponent for any team in the NBA . This is borne out by the fact they enter into the Pre-All Star Break with the best record in the league.

The NBA continues to be concerned with image, yet their main priority , remains profits above all other issues , but yet when the players’ behavior drags that image down its hierarchy , owners and union appears to be bereft of intelligence and a sense moral outrage or for that matter, duty. It took years of self-indulgent and totally abhorrent behavior before David Stern actually got off his fat ass to do anything about Donald Sterling and his racially inflammatory remarks and if that were not enough , we still have an aging homophobic octogenarian , Rich DeVos showing totally indignance towards the LGBT demographic , while idiot fans try and point to his philanthropic efforts within the greater Orlando area. Perception can create a myth about an individual, but nothing explains a person more than their words or deeds.

In the case of Rich DeVos , it has been more about his words and then those around jumping to his support by suggesting his statements are misconstrued. Pretty much sums up the whole political arena as well and the shit-loads of buffoonery , one tends to see when they talk about political correctness. but never seem to throw in terms such as common decency or etiquette . Then again, this is the country where idiot politicians are not exactly held to a high standard to begin with and both sides of the political continue with their buffoonery . Caught in the middle of it all , are the hierarchies within professional sports and collegiate athletics and their self-absorbed stupidity and lack of indignation.

David Stern has been nothing more than a bloviate ass , while Commissioner and his hand-picked successor Adam Silver has shown no sign in changing course. Silver has sat back , said and done nothing concerning the recent tactless behavior of Blake Griffin , the Los Angeles Clippers’ forward when it is within his power to do so. Granted, it has also taken a while for the Clippers’ organization itself to even issue a statement concerning the player’s altercation with another employee in a public place. While Blake Griffin’s apologetic tweet on social media might have showed contrition , in reality was a well-managed and orchestrated response in part thought up by his agent and done in conjunction with the Clippers. It has not lessen the blow and it certainly has not lessened the continued low image the league now has with the fans when it comes to the conduct of the players. It would not be so bad were it not for the fact the NBPA (union) remains in denial and where its leadership has done little to suggest they are dealing with such issues.

The only issue where all parties now and will forever agree upon , is seeking to increase the profits of the league at the expense of actual decency. Their rather hypocritical and self-indulgent PSA ( public service announcement) take on gun violence was insulting , as it was mismanaged and about as thought-provoking as watching paint dry . The NBA hierarchy , players and owners are completely out of touch with reality , as are many of the fans , when it comes to social issues. In part this is due to their ambivalence , stupidity , lack of intelligence and their willingness to be led by taking in the information provided them by the media (print, radio and television) .

What do you expect to see during the All Star Game weekend break ? Do you also believe the Golden State Warriors have a very good chance of breaking the regular season record of 72-10 achieved by the Chicago Bulls ?

Tophatal …. 02/12/2016

By clicking  on  an  image  seen below   you can view the  picture  in a  reformatted  size  along   with   accompanying   narrative.

NFL news

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NBA news

NBA transactions

NBA results 11th February

NBA standings (divisional)

NBA standings conference

NBA schedule to date

NBA teams’ stats offense and defense

NBA players’ stats

 

NBA players’ stats (rookies)

 

2016 NBA All Star Weekend

NBA All Star history

 

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Too late the hero …

They came they saw and thought they would conquer , instead the heavily favored Carolina Panthers laid a monumental goose-egg as they were outplayed , outcoached and made to look ordinary in their loss to the Denver Broncos. For their part, the Broncos avenged their horrendous loss of two years ago, when they fell asleep at the wheel in their embarrassingly lopsided defeat to the Seattle Seahawks. Panthers’ quarterback , Cam Newton the presumptive League MVP was harassed all game-long by the Broncos’ defense, with Vonn Miller having an exceptional game , while being named Superbowl MVP.

Too late the hero

They came they saw and thought they would conquer , instead the heavily favored Carolina Panthers laid a monumental goose-egg as they were outplayed , out-coached and made to look ordinary in their loss to the Denver Broncos . For their part, the Broncos avenged their horrendous loss of two years ago, when they fell asleep at the wheel in their embarrassingly lopsided defeat to the Seattle Seahawks . Panthers’ quarterback , Cam Newton the presumptive League MVP was harassed all game-long by the Broncos’ defense, with Vonn Miller having an exceptional game , while being named Superbowl MVP. The resulting 24-10 win by the Denver Broncos, brings to an end one of the best seasons seen from an NFL franchise in terms of their defensive capabilities seen during the regular and postseason . Denver’s defense was exceptional and their play-making ability exhibited in the Superbowl was nothing short of spectacular.

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For Peyton Manning , the question remains, does he now bow out on a career-high , having won his second Superbowl or does he return for one more year with the Denver Broncos ? Certainly, he will be getting advice from his family and closest friends but I believe Manning also seek advice from Broncos’ Head of Operations and former quarterback John Elway , whose career with the franchise have been etched in Denver Broncos’ folklore. Denver came into this game as the overwhelming underdogs , but when it mattered the most, it was the defense who stepped up to the plate to make this victory all the more satisfying for their fans and the organization.

This off-season , I have no doubt John Elway , the front office and the coaching staff of Gary Kubiak will go about assessing the team’s needs in the run-up to the 2016 NFL Draft . With notable free agents on the roster who will undoubtedly be looking to get paid , one could reason , Elway will not be rushed into things concerning the Broncos’ roster and their off-season dealings. Having been the architect of this team , drafting and acquiring free agents to bolster the roster , adding depth to the team overall. It could be said , Elway should be taking as much credit for this success , as the players on the team.

There was a solemn note to this Superbowl with John Elway acknowledging words of appreciation for team owner Pat Bowlen who was unable to attend Sunday’s event. Bowlen has been the ever-present figure presiding over the franchise almost from its very start. Ill-health has taken its toll on this much revered owner and it seems only fitting that the Denver Broncos’ greatest player was the person offering Bowlen , his best wishes.

Carolina Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera , obviously disappointed with his team’s loss , was the first to acknowledge this was a learning experience for his players . In his post-game interview the coach praised his opponents while stating his team will get better and they have learned something from this loss. The disappointment on the faces of the Panthers’ players was there for every one to see and the gut-wrenching way with which they discombobulated, was all the more unbelievable. Mistimed efforts by the receivers , Cam Newton being harassed and pressured played a part in the Carolina Panthers’ downfall. Furthermore, with Ron Rivera’s coaching staff not adapting the to Wade Phillips’ defensive strategies have me wondering , did this have more to do with Panthers not figuring out they were going up against the NFL’s best defensive team during the postseason ? As good as the Denver Broncos were said to be defensively, Carolina through their sheer desperation simply had no real answer , their world came crashing down because they lacked composure and an unwillingness to change or battle their opponent head on.

With the result of the Superbowl now known , we will see how the NFL Draft pans out as the teams make their choices on Draft Day. The Tennessee Titans will have the privilege of making the first pick in the upcoming draft and it will be interesting to see the decision made by the Titans’ front office as they seek to fortify a roster around the skill-set of Marcus Mariota . The only way is up for the Titans after another disastrous season in the NFL and while Mariota was able to show signs of leadership and composure , when the surrounding cast appears to be nothing more than mediocre , then there is not a great which can be done and that was clearly the case for Mike Mularkey and his coaching staff . Mularkey replaced Ken Whisenhunt who had been fired earlier in the season after the Titans’ inauspicious start to their schedule . There are a litany of issues which needed to be addressed by the Tennessee Titans during the off-season and while one can only hope to see some signs of improvement from the AFC South based franchise, I am of the opinion they are likely to struggle again this upcoming season !

Over the last ten years the Dallas Cowboys have sought ride into the postseason on the shoulder of Tony Romo . Suffice to say, I believe Cowboys’ owner and GM Jerry Jones has spent way too much time hyping up the franchise while making a great deal of money over-charging fans for a rather mediocre product ! Romo’s postseason malaise have been well-chronicled along with his continuous excuses and the very fact he is no longer able to play a regular sixteen-game schedule . During this off-season the quarterback will once again be undergoing surgery, having re-injured his shoulder. Can we just say , if Romo were a race horse who repeatedly suffered the same injury , he would have been euthanized ? Head coach Jason Garrett , continually the ‘pet poodle’ of Jerry Jones , is simply proving whether or not he has on-field talent, slight or genuinely very good , he cannot get the best out of those players , much less truly indicate he has a modicum of coaching acumen. The losses suffered by the Cowboys this past season were as just as much the players’ fault as it was Garrett’s and his ill-prepared coaching staff’s .

I have never really been enamored with the Dallas Cowboys and this constant belief they are ‘ America’s Team’ . It is said , if you tend to spread the message long and loud enough , then people are likely to believe it. Well, I do believe the Cowboys alongside the New England Patriots are the most despised teams in the NFL , while also being the most hated in North American professional sports !

It would be a safe bet to suggest , when Tony Romo was lost the Dallas Cowboys during the season, their year was essentially over. Neither Matt Cassel or Brandon Weeden as Romo’s under-studies were able to get the job done as the team’s starting quarterback, replacing the Pro Bowl player . Cassel was never consistent enough and Weeden was simply out of his depth.

The losses suffered by the Cowboys this past season were as just as much the players’ fault as it was Garrett’s and his ill-prepared coaching staff’s. Dallas having finished their season with a 4-12 record will have the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. If their first round draft based on the team’s needs are anything to go by, then there is a very distinct possibility Jerry Jones will likely take a quarterback , but this purely based on speculation from my own perspective ! The Cowboys’ needs are vast and varied and given Jones’ inclinations , just about anything is possible. One can only hope this upcoming season the Dallas Cowboys will have their game faces on , rather than being dressed in clown costumes and performing like the NFL’s answer for ‘comedic relief’.

Not one to pour salt into the wounds ,but in the aftermath of another deplorable season if all the fans of the St Louis Rams can feel excited about is their imminent return to the greater Los Angeles area , then it is to their shame. Rams’ owner and eponymous billionaire and husband of Ann Walton-Kroenke , of the Walton family fortune . Stanley Kroenke , as the owner of the NFL franchise has presided over a disaster since he acquired the team and this move can and should be seen as nothing more than to take away your attention away from what has been another year of just incompetence from the top on down . Jeff Fisher and his coaching staff appeared lost and the players seemed to be lost all season long. There was but one bright spot to this team and it was the play of their rookie running back Todd Gurley . While others might be calling for the names of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston for the NFL Offensive Rookie of The Year . To my mind , Gurley made enough of an impact to have outshone his contemporaries from the 2015 NFL Draft class ! Whether or not the Rams’ running back wins the award remains to be seen.

Jeff Fisher and the St Louis Rams never seemed to be in control of their own destiny from the start of the season , right until its very end and their 7-9 record was reflective of that very fact . Poorly led on the field of play, their quarterback play it has to be said , neither Nick Foles and Case Keenum were up to the task of leading this team.

Stanley Kroenke having bought a large parcel of land outside the town of Industry , California will now seek to build a stadium which will in all likelihood will be publicly financed, while the surrounding area for the stadium will be for commercial and residential use , all under the umbrella of one of Kroenke’s commercial enterprises. While the Rams’ fans in Los Angeles might not seem perturbed with the use of public funds to aid one of the richest men in the country with one of his whims, it plainly speaks to the ignorance of the fans of the NFL in general and their lack of economics. As to the NFL hierarchy , well with the move having been approved, this is one more feather in the cap for Roger Goodell , whose own image is in need of something positive . His leadership of the NFL has been one of the poorest in living memory and perhaps among those of his contemporaries within MLB (Bud Selig and Rob Manfred) , NHL (Gary Bettman), NBA (David Stern) and NASCAR (Mike Helton).

If the St Louis Rams’ season was said so monstrous , then for the Oakland Raiders theirs was simply dire and one where there was little of note to take seriously. Jack Del-Rio did all he could without their being anything to show for it at the end of the day. Now with team owner Mark Davis and GM Reggie McKenzie having met with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson , CEO of Sands Corporation the entertainment and gaming conglomerate with a major presence in Las Vegas , Nevada as well as throughout much of the Far East . Adelson proposes the building of a vast stadium for the Raiders , along with a mix of commercial and residential real estate . As to what the NFL will make of this all , given their given wish not to be closely involved with the gaming industry , is somewhat hypocritical , when one considers professional football is a major source of revenue for the industry. Something the league hierarchy is well aware of and lately, several influential owners have been pressing Roger Goodell to loosen his stance with regard to their being no association.

Personally, I believe the league and the gaming industry to be hypocritical , as are the laws which prohibit wagering on sports’ events around the country ! The US Justice System and the States Attorneys’ General have bigger fish to fry , than seeking to punish with impunity , the gaming industry and those who make a living from it.

Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie’s meeting with Sheldon Adelson also took in the local political dignitaries, along with senior members of the Las Vegas City Council . If their weight is thrown behind such a proposal , it will be interesting to witness how the NFL will seek to dissuade its members from allowing the relocation of the Oakland Raiders. While I have no problem with NFL franchises seeking to move , I do have a problem with team owners believing it best for municipalities , county or state governments to be at the beck and call when it comes to the financing of stadiums ! Less we forget , the NFL remains a tax-exempt organization , where only the teams , and the league’s employees are taxed. Bear in mind also, in 2014 , Roger Goodell’s salary exceeded $25 million dollars , and were he a player in the league that year, he would have been among the highest paid in the NFL . I am sure when the next CBA (collective bargaining agreement) meeting is due to take place between the union (NLFPA) and league hierarchy , the issue is likely to be raised by its leadership and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith . I mean is there any way Goodell can truly try and justify his salary ?

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Tophatal …….. 02/08/2016

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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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The wheels on the bus goes round and round , round and round …

The wheels on the bus go round and round

We have passed the midway point of the number of games played over the course of the NBA season, but we have yet to see the events of the 2016 NBA All Star Game , which will be played at the Air Canada Centre home to the Toronto Raptors. Both conferences this season have seen their ups and downs as well as with the intra-conference match-ups between the East and the West. In the Western Conference the Golden State Warriors have led the way for much of the season , but as of late the Warriors have suffered a few slip-ups , as the San Antonio Spurs have made inroads into Golden State’s lead in the conference. Within the Eastern Conference , last season’s losing finalists the Cleveland Cavaliers are having problems of their own over the last six games. Now while many are claiming injuries have plagued the Cavaliers this season, I believe the real issues for Cleveland has been the fact players have yet to gel as a team.

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In the lead-up to the All Star Game , it will be interesting to see how the teams will fare in comparison to last season at the same point of the NBA schedule. For the most part it should not come as a surprise to see how good the Golden State Warriors continue to be. They have hardly skipped a beat since winning their title of last season. While Steve Kerr has been absent due to health issue, his assistant Luke Walton has taken over the reins as the team’s head coach. Walton has shown the uncanny acumen not often seen from a coach with such limited experience in his role , but when you take into account his experience as a former player and the success achieved with the Los Angeles Lakers , it easy to understand why he has been able lead this team with such authority in his role as the head coach.

The Warriors’ front office , headed by co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have seen the value of the franchise appreciate since their purchase of the Golden State Warriors, along with the continued press coverage given to the team and their stars such as Steph Curry , Klay Thompson , Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala . Given the Warriors’ impressive start to the season , before their recent setbacks , there was a thought the team was capable of surpassing the all-time regular season wins’ total of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10). They remain on par to exceed sixty-five wins along with the possibility of the Warriors making a successful defense of their NBA title. I certainly believe Golden State is capable enough of winning the championship , but their path to the title could be derailed by the San Antonio Spurs , who over their last fifteen games have been among the best teams in the league. San Antonio currently has the second best record in the NBA and their making inroads into the wins’ total of the Golden State Warriors.

As the reigning NBA League MVP Steph Curry is having an exceptional season with some terrific performances for the Golden State Warriors. He is the consensus leader to win the NBA League MVP Award for a second successive season following in the footsteps of some his most recent peers LeBron James and Steve Nash who have won back to back League MVP Awards. If there is more than one possible challenger to Curry’s chance to win the award , it could well be from the likes of Kawhi Leonard , Kevin Durant , Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James. Golden State will next take to the court when they face the Chicago Bulls led by Jimmy Butler , who appears to have assumed the mantle as the leader of this team. Butler’s teammate Derrick Rose remains an integral cog to the franchise , but with his injury woes in recent years , it is hard to try and now justify the financial investment in the point guard .

I am not so sure what to now make of this idiocy with some analysts and New York Knicks’ fans regaling the world with the fact the franchise is now worth $3 billion , while also being the most profitable team in the NBA . Personally, I believe the fans of the Knicks should be more concerned they are no better than a .500 team of players, where there is very little depth to the lineup overall . Perhaps the one saving grace of the season happens to be Carmelo Anthony leads the team in scoring , while rookie , Kristaps Porzingis is having a very good season among all rookies to have played on average twenty minutes or more per game. Derek Fisher is still learning on the job , while being provided with very little aid from his coaching staff . There won’t be any calls as of yet , for Phil Jackson to make a welcome return court-side, but who can what is likely to happen should the Knicks continue to falter ?

Derek Fisher will be preparing the New York Knicks for their next encounter when they tip-off against the Los Angeles Clippers at home in Madison Square Garden , New York City, New York on 22nd January .

I think it is a pretty safe bet to suggest the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers will most certainly lose their fortieth games by no later 1st February , based on their propensity for losing over the last eighteen days ! Both of these teams are in complete disarray with neither Jim Buss as owner of the Los Angeles Lakers or Sam Hinkie of the 76ers having a clue how the resurrect the fortunes of their respective franchises. Mitch Kupchak is like a blind man without the aid of a walking stick and guide dog when it comes assessing talent for the Lakers’ roster. Philadelphia might be even a worse situation given the fact former general manager Sam Hinkie was relieved of his duties and Jerry Colangelo was brought in to become Head of Basketball Operations for the franchise. I believe the Los Angeles Lakers won’t be making any moves concerning the roster and will simply play out the rest of the season, hoping to make some sense of it all. Kobe Bryant will end his illustrious career with another losing season added to his resume’ .

Jerry Colangelo will have to completely reassess the Sixers’ organization from top to bottom , starting with the front office , moving down to the coaching staff and the entire playing roster. Certainly for Brett Brown as the head coach , his days have to be numbered and the same has to said of coaching assistants. Among the players it is hard to say where on should start and end. The drafting of players for this franchise has been a monumental bust with a number of the players taken in 2012 , 2013 , 2014 and 2015 are no longer with the Sixers. This can be best summed up by looking at the attendance levels for the Sixers and the team’s record over the past three years. Philadelphia has now become a bad franchise getting worse and unlikely to turn things around anytime soon. In their last game the Philadelphia 76ers were able to overcome the Orlando Magic defeating their conference counterparts 96-87. The Los Angeles Lakers were not so lucky, falling to the Sacramento Kings 112-93 .

Anthony Davis remains a prodigious talent and that can be seen from his impact with the New Orleans Pelicans and on the NBA. The power- forward has to be viewed as the best player in the league at the position. As the number one overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Not due to become a free agent until 2021 , he is still in his rookie deal , but will undoubtedly be looking maximize his worth as league one of the league’s premier power forwards .

Over their last eleven games the Pelicans have struggled to stay abreast of their Western Conference counterparts as well as the rest of the NBA . In their last contest the New Orleans Pelicans had a fifteen-point win over the Minnesota Timberwolves , defeating their opponent 114-99 and will prepare for the next game when they face the Detroit Pistons at home , playing at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans , Louisiana on Thursday, 21st January , 2016. The Pelicans are 3 ½ games out of a playoff berth within the Western Conference based on the current standings as of 20th January. The eighth and final berth is currently held by the Sacramento Kings (18-23).

To my mind the team which has proven to be the biggest disappointment this season , has to be the Houston Rockets ! Somehow they have found a way to be lackluster , complacent and playing with no passion , while head coach JB Bickerstaff tries to make sense of his best lineup from among his twelve man roster. James Harden remains the Rockets’ best player even if he doesn’t provide a great deal of defensive presence for Houston. As a defensive unit overall the Rockets are giving up 105.7 points per game the fourth highest in the NBA , with only the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers allowing more points per game .

Harden and his teammate Dwight Howard were seen as the one-two punch likely to bring some resolve for the Houston Rockets, but since Howard’s acquisition by the franchise the Rockets have failed to deliver in numerous ways. Dwight Howard has proven to be an enigma and a conundrum all rolled into one. He is no longer the player who was once dominant defensively , having won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award on more than one occasion. The rumors continue to percolate that the Rockets might well seek to trade the center at the trade deadline, if the team isn’t in contention for a playoff berth . Where the Houston Rockets now go from here will be incumbent upon the players themselves and coaching acumen shown by the coaching staff.

The Denver Nuggets have not been a force to be reckoned with in the George Karl was head coach of the franchise and while Carmelo Anthony was the talk of the town as a player with the Nuggets. The last postseason appearance for Denver was several years ago and the makeup of the roster at the time was considerably different than it is today . The Nuggets fell to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the Western Conference postseason from 2012 . This season under the coaching acumen of Michael Malone the Denver Nuggets are struggling to compete in the Western Conference while not yet making their presence felt within the Northwest Division .

In their last game played , the Nuggets performed poorly ,suffering loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder , led by Kevin Durant who was the leading scorer in the contest. I believe this to be an inexperienced Nuggets’ team still finding their way through the season and their unlikely to be considered a contender for their division or a playoff berth this year. Denver will play host to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday evening, where Danilo Gallinari will be looking to put in a another solid performance for the Nuggets.

I will continue to say this until I am blue in the face and taking my last breath , the best and most successful NBA franchise over the last two decades is and will be the San Antonio Spurs ! Fans of the league who remain oblivious to this fact, have spent too much time drinking the Kool Aid , while being enraptured with the play of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and others. During the time-frame in question , the Spurs have quietly ran off eighteen straight seasons of NBA Playoff appearances and won five NBA titles , a feat unmatched by any other franchise in NBA history , much less North American professionals sports’ franchise history. Yet, because the San Antonio Spurs are not in a top-five market among market advertisers or within the cultivated texture of the Madison Avenue executives and NBA fans in general , the Spurs are often ignored and mildly admired .

The Golden State Warriors may well have bolted out of the starting gate with an impressive start to their season reeling off victories at an amazing rate , but over the past the twelve games Golden State have played second fiddle to the San Antonio Spurs in more ways than one. Steph Curry might even have the League MVP Award all sewn up , given his performances and leadership shown with the Warriors , but if there is a serious contender to the race, then Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs would fit the bill , as he has been the primary reason San Antonio remains within a hair’s breath of Golden State’s record at this point of the season. A conference finals’ clash seems assured, if these two teams remain consistent , albeit , the Oklahoma City Thunder are close by (third best team in the West) watching things unfold.

Kawhi Leonard’s statistics might not match up favorably to Steph Curry’s , but there are intangibles being overlooked as to what he has brought to the Spurs since he was acquired in a trade with the Indiana Pacers . A choice I now believe Pacers’ executive Larry Bird must deeply regret ,having selected Leonard as a first round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft . by the franchise.

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San Antonio over their next few games will be hoping to keep the momentum going and they have a fairly easy test in their next game when they face the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center , Los Angeles , California should prove fruitful. Yet , it will be San Antonio’s scheduled contest at Oracle Arena on Monday night which will provide them a real test , when their opponent will be the Golden State Warriors. This game should be something of a barn-burner between two highly proficient teams skilled at just about every position on the floor.

Through the first half of the NBA season what do you believe has been the most surprising story to come out of the schedule ?
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Tophatal …. 01/21/2016 7:47 pm

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Tit for tat …

With the weekend results now in within the NFL the constant there appears to be with regard to the postseason , has been the fact any showdown between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will draw the nation to their television sets.

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Granted, when the New England Patriots play as the guests of the Denver Broncos , this game will be the marquee match-up of the conference championship games being played next weekend. Regular season and postseason meeting between these two prolific quarterbacks have become drama and a thrill ride ever since these two players entered the league. It would not be remiss to suggest the NFC championship game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers will be taking a backseat to the AFC championship game. There Carson Palmer will seeking to create an upset with the elimination of the Panthers, but I believe with the season had by Cam Newton we are likely to see Newton and the Panthers make their first appearance in the Superbowl !

Back to the AFC contest and the expectations for Broncos’ head coach Gary Kubiak , his coaching staff and in particular Peyton Manning. Kubiak succeeded John Fox and now having taken the team to the brink of another Superbowl appearance , the thought has to be ,can Manning guide the team to another Superbowl victory, which would be the second of his illustrious career ? As the Denver Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlem seeks to overcome his medical issues the debilitating illness of early onsets of dementia , it has to be said beyond the drama off the field , there will be a great deal of drama on the field when this game kicks off.

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(1) Tom Brady (12) of the New England Patriots has another postseason meeting with Peyton Manning (18) when the two teams meet in the AFC championship game this upcoming weekend. Brady has met Manning on several occasions during the postseason and regular season with a favorable record overall. AP Photo/ Matt Wilson

 

An exceptional season for the Carolina Panthers coming within earshot of only the second unbeaten season in NFL history , since the inception of the sixteen-game regular season schedule. The Panthers’ lone defeat came at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons , where Panther’ head coach Ron Rivera rested several of his starters during the waning during the second half of the game , leading to their 15-1 record . It was perhaps in the Panthers’ best interest to have lost the game and concentrate on the ultimate goal of the postseason and a Superbowl victory. Getting past the Arizona Cardinals will prove to be a tough task, but not an impossible one for the best team in the NFL. It is a game where the two opposing head coaches Bruce Arians and Ron River a will have show all of their acumen , once this contest gets a full head of steam.

With the recent announcement by wide receiver Reggie Wayne , it is intent to retire from the NFL , this Hall of Fame bound player steps away from the game and he has to be recognized as one of the best players of his era at the wide receivers’ position. His career stats place him in the upper echelons of his contemporaries, as well as his peers . His relationship with former teammate Peyton Manning is well-respected by both players and among their contemporaries. Wayne was unable to find a permanent team during this past season and now with his career having wound down , there is no need for him to assess where he ranks among his peers.

If one of Reggie Wayne’s contemporaries Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions has seriously mulled retirement , then one has to consider his position and the fact his talents have been wasted with the Lions over the past five years. The struggles of the franchise have been well-chronicled and the brunt of this malaise has to borne out by Ford family as the owners of the Lions and the clear ineptitude shown by the front office as well as the list of head coaches to have held the position over the last decade. Who can forget their 0-16 season, where the team at the time , from week to week sank to new levels of ineptitude. .

I have long been a admirer of Calvin Johnson and his retiring from the game I would have to say , would come as a complete surprise ! Johnson’s angst is understandable , where another season of incompetence was there for everyone to see with the team’s failure this season in the NFC North and the lack of real progress seen with Matt Stafford. I believe Stafford to be overrated , with his continued failings there for everyone to see ! Calvin Johnson is not due to become a free agent until 2020 , but with the continued disillusion of the wide receiver there might well be a chance the front office might well relent and possibly trade the player , knowing they would be able to obtain a slew of players in return. It remains to be seen if GM Bob Quinn would believe such a deal to be in the Lions’ best interests. For the moment Jim Caldwell’s job appears to be safe as the head coach of the team and there is no apprehension on my part in believing another year of this team failing to make the postseason and Caldwell would be relieved of his position. For the moment Jim Caldwell’s job appears to be safe as the head coach of the team and there is no apprehension on my part in believing another year of this team failing to make the postseason and Caldwell would be relieved of his position !

Eight wins in two seasons and Lovie Smith’s coaching career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ tenure with the franchise came to an abrupt end, after the decision was made to fire the head coach. Needless to say, the finger-pointing began with blames being apportioned right across the board. Idiotic praised, was heaped upon the shoulders of the team’s top , draft choice and the number one overall pick from this past season’s draft as Jameis Winston’s rookie season was an inauspicious one . A 6-10 season summed up the incompetence seen , even if Winston threw for over 3,000 yards and had a five-touchdown performance game for the Buccaneers . The only player on the team to have truly made an impact was running back Doug Martin who amassed over 1.200 rushing yards to finish among the top-ten rushers in the league for this past season..

Lovie Smith’s firing has led to the promotion of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter , who in his formal acceptance of the position stated , he would seek to improve the Buccaneers’ performance of the franchise . I believe it will be a tough task for a rookie head coach whose head could be on the chopping block.. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to have a revolving door with regard to the head coaches of the franchise over the eight seasons . Needless to say, GM Jason Licht’s position could come under a great deal of scrutiny during the upcoming season should the Buccaneers fail to contend. The only way is up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as this franchise seeks to reinvent themselves once again . Can it get any worse for this NFC South based franchise, whose only lasting moment of glory was their Superbowl victory over the Oakland Raiders ? This has been the only thing the Buccaneers’ fans have been able to cling unto for just over a decade. There is likely to be a big reassessment of the Buccaneers’ roster by the front office with several players likely to be jettisoned this off-season.

Other than the NBA , MLB and the NFL there are few sports in North America where a $20 million a year salary seems to be the norm. Within baseball , this stat is very much the norm , as too with basketball as well as football . Leading the way among the players with this classification are those with their guaranteed contracts , salaries and the fact a number of them have failed to live up to perceived expectations . With millions being paid out annually in salary commitments , it begs the question how can the NFL continue with their antitrust tax exempt status while teams at the drop of a hat, pending league approval , leaves a municipality in something of a rut ? Stadiums have been built for these professional franchises , whose owners are among some of the richest individuals in America.

With the recent announcement that the league hierarchy had granted their approval for the relocation of the St Louis Rams whose billionaire owner , Stanley Kroenke is the sixty-fourth richest individual listed on Forbes’ 400 list. Kroenke’s estimated $7.4 billion dwarfs many of his contemporaries within the league and the fact his franchise and the San Diego Chargers have been granted their relocation wish to move to the greater Los Angeles area.

Stanley Kroenke purchased a large tract of land in the city of Industry , California hoping to develop the acreage , with a stadium as well as commercial development, covering retail and entertainment concerns . The proposed stadium however is unlikely to be private-financed , with the belief , Kroenke and the league seeking the financing of the venture, coming by way of public funding (bond issue) jointly by the cities of Industry and Los Angeles . This proposal may well sit well with fans of the Rams, who would have yearned to see the NFL brought back to the greater Los Angeles area , but beyond that, their concerns on the impact to the infrastructure of the cities in question as well as the ongoing budgetary woes for both municipalities, isn’t within their sphere of thinking.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will continue to wax on lyrically concerning how competitive the league has become , its growing impact from an economic standpoint , which seems to be the only issue the commissioner can point to as a sign of positive growth. . Elsewhere, under his leadership, he remains an abysmal failure on a litany of issues encompassing the NFL . .Issues which the league has failed to address with any degree of their outcomes being long last ing much less being morally correct. .

As the NFL postseason comes into view what if anything are you hoping to see from the games being played this upcoming weekend ?

Tophatal …..

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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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I love the smell of Napalm in the morning …

I love the smell of Napalm in the morning !

Well, in the  aftermath a tumultuous  NFL season we now know the twelve teams   to have made the NFL postseason. The New Denver Broncos and New England Patriots are the two top-seeds within the AFC, leaving the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals as the top seeded contenders within the NFC.

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Results   emanating   from Sunday’s games left us in no doubt who the top teams were within the    conferences after the two hundred and fifty-six games played. As usual with the postseason approaching , speculation will be raised to the possible coaching carousel likely to take place. There is the likelihood we might well have seen the last game coached by Tom Coughlin   as the head coach of the  New York Giants   after the team’s rather embarrassing loss to divisional rivals the Philadelphia Eagles.

With Chip Kelly’s abrupt firing by the Eagles’ front office , the number of coaches terminated this season are numbered at four , with the recent dismissals of Mike Pettine with the Cleveland Browns and Jim Tomsula with the San Francisco 49ers . As abysmal a season had by each of the teams in question , they were not the franchises with the worst record in the NFL during the 2015 regular season schedule . That accolade belonged to none other than the Tennessee Titans (3-13) a mark which was also shared with the Brown. What this might suggest about both teams can be best summed by their results over the course of the season and their statistical play throughout.

With the top two teams in each conference having a bye in the wildcard round of the postseason , teams seeded three through six will begin the playoffs with the scheduled games due. Those match-ups are likely to prove very intriguing with perhaps the best of the bunch being the NFC contest , which pits the Seattle Seahawks against the Minnesota Vikings . The two opposing quarterbacks Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Teddy Bridgewater of the Vikings, will provide the fans to see two of the more productive passers within the NFC this season.

Though we have not yet reached the midway point of the NBA season there can be no denying which team has been the best in the league at this point of the schedule. Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors have set a blistering pace leaving others in their wake . Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr , in his absence has seen his understudy Luke Walton guide the team with a great deal of coaching acumen , leading a number of analysts to believe, Walton will likely be pursued by a number of teams at the end of the season, once the customary firings begin to take place. There are likely to be at least six teams seeking the former player’s services, but I do believe he will be reluctant to leave, unless his desired destination is with a franchise where there is a more than reasonable chance of success.

Coming off another victory , Curry and his teammates will next take to the court to face the Charlotte Hornets at the Oracle Arena , Oakland, California on Monday, 4th January . This should prove be an easy win for the Warriors against an Eastern Conference opponent given the team’s record against the conference and their record at home . The Hornets for their part will be looking to keep apace within their conference as well as against a Western Conference opponent where the team has had relatively little success this season.

The Los Angles Lakers (8-27) and the Philadelphia 76ers (3-33) have combined for eleven regular season wins at this point of the season , having played roughly thirty-five games. It would be fair to suggest both teams could very well end up with what would be franchise lows in terms of regular season victories. There also appears to a remote possibility the Sixers are well on their of equaling the NBA league-low number for regular season wins, a mark held by 1973 Philadelphia 76ers .Wins have been have been very difficult to come by for this Brett Brown coached Sixers’ team . Philadelphia’s last victory came on the 30th December when they defeated the Sacramento Kings by the score of 110-105. The team’s next game will be a home contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday evening.

For Byron Scott and the Los Angeles Lakers , their season has been one of sheer ineptitude with only sparing glimpses of Kobe Bryant at his best among the players on the Lakers’ roster. It is hard to envisage where the Lakers now go from here , as GM Mitch Kupchak and team owner Jim Buss have very few alternatives with regard to the depth on the roster. Capable perhaps of only playing for their self-respect, the Los Angeles Lakers do not appear to have a short-term, much less a long-term strategy once Kobe Bryant has played his last game for the franchise. Bryant made it official , this would indeed be his last year with the Lakers , formally announcing his retirement for the end of this season. Unlikely to be a major player in the free agency market , salary dumping or otherwise, Kupchak can only seek to assess the current crop of Los Angeles Lakers’ players and go from there with regard to rebuilding the roster. With a game coming up against the Golden State Warriors , which will be on the road , it will be interesting to see how the team will fare against a conference opponent , the reigning NBA champions .

The College Basketball season is now in full swing and with the teams gearing up towards ‘March Madness’ ,and it has been an interesting season , which has meandered its way through a slew of games. Seated atop of the rankings are the Kansas Jayhawks (12-1) under head coach Bill Self and his Jayhawks’ team . Wayne Selden , Perry Ellis and Frank Mason are the leading scorers for the Jayhawks , but a great deal of praise this season has been heaped upon Ben Simmons of the LSU Tigers . Simmons is considered to be a consensus first round lottery pick and the likely number one choice of the team privileged to have the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft . Judging by his game that is not without merit for a player whose all-round skill-set has been compared to has been compared to four-time NBA League MVP and Cleveland Cavaliers’ player LeBron James . Great praise indeed, but I believe it to be way too premature to be making such comparisons ! The LSU Tigers have an upcoming game against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks will have pride of place when they tip off against the Oklahoma Sooners in a battle of top-ten ranked teams.

We know the SEC to be the best conference in College Basketball and there can be no questioning of that very fact. The programs within the conference, speaks volumes as to the quality of play witnessed each year. Florida are now going it alone without Billy Donovan going as the head coach of the program. His successor Mike White is being asked to fill a big pair shoes after the considerable success achieved by Donovan during his reign. Florida is off to an inauspicious start to their season and their most recent game was an exhilarating victory over the Georgia Bulldogs with a fourteen-point 77-63 win . White and the Gators will be on the road to face the Tennessee Volunteers in a contest which should bring out the best in both teams.

I have to admit in recent years I have grown tired of the sport of boxing ! It remains corrupt , devoid of real leadership at the international level and most notably without any real transparency by way of leadership here in North America. The USBA which is affiliated to the IBF remains a constant joke, like many of the international counterparts which now hold sway over the sport internationally. Consider the fact there is no undisputed champion in any of weight categories and it is easy to understand why this sport is dying on its knees and close to being in need to resuscitation.

Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao may well have brought back a certain amount of excitement in what was Mayweather’s last professional bout which saw close out his career with an unbeaten 49-0 record. In reality however, this fight was five years too late and simply lacked the excitement the fans truly hoped for . Lackluster, would be too soft a word to describe the title fight , where both fighters walked away with an estimated $300 million to split between them , Mayweather taking the larger slice of the purse before taking into account another $200 million in television rights from the overseas sales and merchandising revenues grossed.

From my own perspective , I believe Floyd Mayweather will make a return to the ring to push his record to 50-0 . Mayweather has not really fought anyone of consequence in the past four years and even though his resume’ boasts and unbeaten record , along with multiple title defenses , one could suggest the record might well stand the test of time , but it truly lacks the hyperbole many believe it deserves.

Several boxers at the welterweight and light middleweight division would undoubtedly like to head into the ring and got toe-to-toe with Floyd Mayweather, but herein lies the caveat with the unbeaten fighter. He cherry-picks his opponents and simply added insult to injury , when he chose Andre Berto , to push his record to 49-0 . Berto was certainly undeserving of a title shot and the fact he was not high enough within the welterweight category clearly indicated the titleholder wanted a “patsy ” in the opposite corner for his last professional bout.

It has been ten years since the heavyweight category last had an undisputed champion with the last titleholder of the titles being British fighter Lennox Lewis. Since Lewis’ retirement from the ring there have several claimants to the differing established belts as recognized by the four main international governing bodies. Unfortunately, the entities in question have failed to give the fans what they yearned , a unified and undisputed champion. Siblings Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko for years, each held claim to one version of the title but refused to defend their versions against each , seeking to unify the division. With Vitali having retired it was left to Wladimir to reign supreme over the division , which in many ways he had done with a string of successful defenses, against less than credible opponents.

Yet in what was believed to a bout where he was considered to be a clear-cut favorite , he fell to the boxing skills of Tyson Fury of Great Britain in what some considered to be one of the biggest upsets in recent boxing history. The bout itself was far from being an instant classic but what it lacked in drama was made up for with the passion shown by the challenger as he wrestled away the title from the Ukrainian champion. However, in what one could only deem as farcical the IBF (International Boxing Federation) has seen fit to strip Tyson Fury of the belt he legitimately won in the ring. The explanation if it is to be believed, smacks of stupidity on the part of the governing body and from the former titleholder , Wladimir Klitschko , who was said to be not only upset with the decision rendered by the judges in a fight he lost in a unanimous decision, but also by the fact Fury sought not to grant him an immediate rematch within ninety days. If boxing has a flaw , then it is one of its own self-importance and indulgence , where the fighters themselves lack as much credibility as the various governing bodies which preside over the sport.

Boxing has lost a great deal of credibility around the globe, albeit , if there are claims it remains the one pugilistic and combative art form every fight fan yearns for . I am not so sure those claims are any longer legitimate and can be proven. While boxing has seen a marked decline , the rapid rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) now under the banner of the UFC , seems to be giving fans something they really yearn for. UFC has brought legitimacy and business acumen to a sport which has now become the fastest growing participant sport across the globe. Many of the fighters within the UFC stable of MMA stars are fast becoming recognized names as well Hollywood action stars and crossover celebrities. Suffice to say, the UFC hierarchy under Dana White has struck box-office gold , even if White is considered to be a dictatorial executive.

Ronda Rousey’s shocking and surprising loss to Holly Holm may well prove to be a welcome change for the sport and actually shape the direction and open even more opportunities for women who might see an interest in entering the genre. Rousey created a buzz needed when many felt MMA had lost some of its appeal. Now with her defeat, her drive and eagerness to reclaim her Bantamweight title could be the best thing to happen to Women’s MMA as well as the UFC in general.

In recent months several champions have seen their reigns come to an end within the UFC and added new honorees within the sport. It could well be seen as a good thing for MMA and its viability long-term if the excitement created can be maintained . Certainly , Dana White is taking a new approach of growing the UFC brand globally as well as expanding across North America , with the executive’s biggest wish being to see the sport be granted the license to promote and stage events in New York State.

For some strange reason the State Legislature of New York State sees no need to grant a license and continues to show their disapproval of a sport they deem barbaric. Last I looked, with the issues stemming from the NFL and how that particular league hierarchy has dealt with the issues of chronic head trauma , I would have to say the New York State Athletic Commission has been oblivious to the idiocy of Paul Tagliabue and his successor Roger Goodell , who have somehow chosen to remain in the dark ages as to the deniability of the damages caused from years of brutal head to head helmet contract driven by the physicality of football within the NFL. The league itself , still seeks to challenge the multi-billion dollar settlement obtained by retired by players in a Federal Appeals Court ruling , while also seeking reinstate their four—game suspension of Tom Brady for his alleged involvement in Deflate-Gate. Begs the question, at what point will both the New York State Athletic Commission and the NFL hierarchy actually wake up and smell the coffee , much less the napalm ?

Sports in general as always is in need of a good shakeup , be it at the competitive level or among its hierarchical leadership structure. One thing for sure, without real change , things tend to stagnate and show signs of recession rather than real growth or excitement.

Tophatal ………. NB : By clicking on the individual images seen below you can view them in a reformatted size along with a narrative.

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