Top 5 NBA Storylines



With only 5 days until the highly anticipated 2014 - 2015 NBA Season begins, this is one of the most anticipated seasons in some time. Here are 5 story lines you need to know about as the season tips off October 28th.

5. Hopeless in Hollywood?
    With Kobe Byrant only playing 6 games and the Los Angeles Lakers finishing last season with a pitiful 27-55 record they look to bounce back this season. Last season Kobe Byrant and Steve Nash were both injured early last season and it only got worst from there. Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and Jodie Meeks would later get hurt also, all of these injuries forced the Lakers to sometimes only put 10 or less players in uniform. Then the offseason came and the Lakers would lose Jodie Meeks to the Pistons and 2 time champion Pau Gasol to the Bulls. The Lakers did also add a new coach in Byron Scott and a couple of players like Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin and drafted Foward Julius Randle and Guard Jordan Clarkson. Will Kobe and Nash come back the same players of old and are these new pieces enough for the Lakers to make a playoff push? We will see come this NBA Season.

4. Rookies with Potential
    This years draft class could be the deepest draft class in the last 10 years. With names like Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum just to name a few, looks like these will be fun players to watch as they begin their careers. One important rookie who wasn't drafted this year will be Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers as he will get his first look at NBA action returning from a injury he suffered at the University of Kentucky on February 12th, 2013.Some other notable rookie stories included Andrew Wiggins the 1st overall selection in this years draft by the Cavaliers was traded to the Timberwolves as a key piece in the deal that would send Kevin Love to Cleveland. Jabari Parker who was selected directly after Wiggins by the Milwaukee Bucks will join the likes of OJ Mayo and Giannis Antetokounmpo.Or maybe it could be a big man like Julius Randle or even Australian guard Dante Exum to grab your attention.Which of these rookie will separate from the rest to win Rookie of the Year ?

3. Heat still a hot team in the East
   As we all should know by now LeBron James left the Miami Heat this offseason to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers. Also losing players like Mike Miller , James Jones to the same team. The Heat did keep two of three players in their "Big 3" Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. To fill in the hole left by LeBron James the Miami Heat added two Forwards Danny Granger and Luol Deng. Granger was a former leading scorer for the Indiana Pacers in the past and a all star. Deng is a great defender and also a former all star. The Heat also made a splash in the draft by adding University of Connecticut Guard Shabazz Napier. Napier is a two time champion in college and had a amazing March to lead Connecticut to a championship last year.The East still not as good as the West gives the Miami Heat a chance to be a top 3 seed if all goes well.

2. Can chemistry get the Bulls a top seed?
    Derrick Rose is back and with a improved team. Derrick Rose was the NBA's Most Valuable Player in the 2010-2011 season and since then has suffered knee injury after injury. Rose is back with teammates like Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, and others but after letting go of Boozer the Bulls have adding more pieces. Pau Gasol former Lakers Foward brings a great replacement for Boozer. Gasol averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds a game. His nearly 10 rebounds a game will be a good piece with Noah in their front court. The Bulls also added another forward via the NBA Draft Doug McDermott from Creighton. With more chemistry then other big teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers gives the Bulls a good shot a being the top seed in the East.

1. Return of The King 
  LeBron James made the biggest splash by far this offseason by signing back to his home town and former team the Cleveland Cavaliers. In only a fashion LeBron could by writing a piece for Sports Illustrated named " I'm Coming Home ". Coming back home joins him alongside Kyrie Irving and new coach David Blatt. The Cavaliers would also go to add 2 of LeBron's former teammates James Jones and Mike Miller.The Cavs would go on to add another superstar in a 3 team trade, this deal sent the Cavs past two number one overall selections Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins to the Timberwolves and bringing Kevin Love to Cleveland. Love last year was a 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds a game guy which will bring a down low and outside presence. This is a very strong team and the only thing possibly standing in their way to win the East is themselves or any possible chemistry problems between new teammates.

This is sure to be a interesting year.

Picture via : StarAfrica
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UNC Academic Fraud Investigation



Independent investigations have concluded that the University of North Carolina has been found to be committing Academic Fraud. Professors setting up classes that were easy to pass for their athletes. It was reported that over 1,500 students of the over 3,000 enrolled were attending these "sham classes" for over 18 years (1993-2011).

"Like everyone who reads it, I was shocked and disappointed," UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor Carol Folt said in a public statement. "Those people implicated were terminated and we will cooperate with the NCAA to find the people responsible and hold them just as accountable and take decisive action."

Former players have spoken out and admitted to their participation in said actions. Former UNC basketball player Rashad McCants admitted he took four "No show" classes, failed two other classes and was still put on the Dean's List Honor Roll while he attended school.

Former UNC football player Deunta Williams spoke to ESPN's Outside the Lines and talked about his experience with classes.

"My advisers told me about these classes, these paper classes," Williams said. "You didn't have to show up. You could get help writing your papers. You will get an easy 'B' if you can read at a third grade level and graduate. It couldn't be too hard, your know?"

The "sham classes" were used to elevate the players' GPAs so that they could keep themselves eligible to play during the season. It was no secret that this was going on across the board. Some of the classes that were identified at UNC-Chapel Hill were labeled as "Independent Studies" and even some "African American Studies" classes were apart of these "sham classes."

It is said that it is a system wide corruption in the NCAA, lets take it one step further. When kids are pushed through school with programs like "No Kids left Behind." When schools pass "problem children" just to get rid of them without taking the time to learn what the real problem is, just proves that the entire education system is a complete mess. But lets keep it to college and the always controversial NCAA.

Has the NCAA gone too far this time? Has this whistleblow situation opened that "Pandora's box" filled with corruption? Time will tell but one thing is perfectly clear, something smell rotten on Tobacco Road ... and it is NOT tobacco either.

So much for the "Student-Athlete" concept in college.

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World Series Preview: SF Giants vs Kansas City Royals



Tonight begins the World Series of Major League Baseball and for the first time ever, two wild card teams represent their leagues. The San Francisco Giants, who seem to win a World Series almost every other year and the "Cinderella darlings" the Kansas City Royals, who have not been to the World Series in 29 years (1985 last appearance).

Let preview the matchup that, while appearing on the Mad Scientist podcast on The Sports Chronicles Radio Network, the Dark Knight of Sports predicted before it became a reality.
 Mad Scientist Podcast_MLBtalk_1hourmark

With the visiting team, the Giants, it seems like the edge on offense belongs to them. Power at the plate with Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, power and average with Hunter Pence and a rejuvenated Travis Ishikawa in the lineup, it allows Manager Bruce Bochy to leave extra power on the bench like Michael Morse, who was key in getting the Giants past the Cardinals in the NLCS.

Will Madison Bumgarner continue his postseason dominance? Will Jake Peavy show his "Cy Young" form or the form that can be most erratic? Will the Giants bullpen help or hurt the Giants? When it is all said and done the Giants have been here before. They know how to handle the big lights on the brightest of stages and the fact of a long layoff for their AL opponents, could very well be an advantage in getting a win in the opponent's ballpark.

Not since 1985, has a World Series been played in Kansas City. Ending one of the longest playoff droughts in all of baseball, the Royals look to take every single chance they can to make the most of this chance. Going 8-0 in the postseason, Ned Yost's first postseason, is a huge accomplishment in itself. Add the fact that once the 6th has come and gone, and the Royals have the lead, their bullpen is the BEST in all of baseball.

Speed and defense this year for the Royals has been fun to watch and has driven opposing managers insane in their membrane. All-Star Alex Gordon looks to lead his team with his power and spectacular and AL MVP rookie outfield Lorenzo Cain, looks to continue to have a huge first year campaign adding a World Series ring to his list of accomplishments. Third baseman Mike Moustakas looks to continue his power postseason run as he leads the Royals with four home runs and the continued "Yosting" may just win a World Series for the Kansas City Royals.

The one question is that starting rotation, hence the bringing in of free agent James Shields. Known as "Big Game James" was signed from Tampa Bay for just this occasion, to give a solid game and to dictate the outcome of the series. Can Wade Davis continue his long-inning relief dominance? Can closer Greg Holland continue to be lights out when the ninth comes with a 1-run lead on the line?

As the World Series begins tonight, this game is one that is not for the faint at heart. It will be an up and down series, very intense emotional series. Some even have deemed this series "The Zombie Apocalypse" because of how these two teams have played in the postseason. There is something magical happening in Kansas City this year. Can the magic last to win the World Series for the Royals or will the Zombies in orange, the San Francisco Giants remind the world who they are, a DYNASTY in the world of baseball. The questions begin to get answered tonight on FOX at 8pmEST/5pm PST.

Be sure to follow me on the Twitter machine: @619_Shawn_NYC_E, that's a lot of underscores but that is how I roll on Twitter. Also catch me, The Dark Knight of Sports at faceook.com/LaShawnEncarnacion-The Dark Knight of Sports.
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NFL Power 32

After 7 weeks of the 2014 NFL season, do we really know who'll be in the playoffs or not?  Not really with the exception of the Denver Broncos.  That's the only team in the entire league I can say for sure will be in the tournament.  Okay maybe the Colts and, wait for it........the Cowboys are possibly locks for the post season as well.

I gotta tell ya that this is one of the more exciting seasons to start with the apparent larger scale of parity throughout the league.  This is what makes the week 8 power rankings so difficult to slot 1 - 32.  But to make it easier on myself I'm strictly going with the eye test, some stats and the way the future looks for each team.  So here it goes boys and girls.

1. Denver Broncos
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Arizona Cardinals
6. San Diego Chargers
7. Seattle Seahawks
8. Green Bay Packers
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. Detroit Lions
11. San Francisco 49ers
12. New England Patriots
13. Cincinnati Bengals
14. Kansas City Chiefs
15. New York Giants
16. Chicago Bears
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
18. Houston Texans
19. Miami Dolphins
20. Buffalo Bills
21. Cleveland Browns
22. New Orleans Saints
23. Carolina Panthers
24. St. Louis Rams
25. Atlanta Falcons
26. New York Jets
27. Minnesota Vikings
28. Washington Redskins
29. Tennessee Titans
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
31. Oakland Raiders
32. Tampa Bay Bucs
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1st College Football Playoff Predictions



A week from this coming Tuesday, the NEW college football playoff committee will officially begin putting out their top four teams they see fit for the playoffs for the National Championship. The teams are not just based on their AP and USA Today poll rankings, but also how they perform on the field, quality of opponents as well as potential against other teams in the playoff consideration. Letting the on the field decide, NOT which conference is the best and this year has been one for the ages. So lets review which four teams are the most likely to be IN as well as the first two "OUT" but the chance to move up if a top four team slides out.

1. The Mississippi State Bulldogs: The overall number one team in the country, led by their Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott, has given the number nine ranked offense in the nation a very solid case. With victories over, then ranked opponent #8 LSU, #6 Texas A&M and #2 Auburn. the Bulldogs have made themselves solid contenders as their 19th ranked defense continues to make plays. What things could stop the mojo of the Bulldogs, well two things. Taking their unranked opponents for granted, opponents like Arkansas and Vanderbilt, both school who are well known for crushing championship dreams for powerhouse schools. Then there are the two other games versus ranked opponents, a very ANGRY Alabama Crimson Tide team in Tuscaloosa and then the "Egg Bowl" against Ole Miss in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in the Grove. If all holds to form, it will be these two games that tell the tale for the Mississippi State Bulldogs and their playoff hopes.

2. The Florida State Seminoles: The reigning and defending BCS Champions continue to win despite their 102th ranked rushing attack. Led by Heisman Trophy QB Jameis Winston, the Seminoles and their passing attack, which is ranked 14th in the country, gives the Seminoles to become the 1st repeat championship since Alabama in 2011-2012 season and the 1st team outside the SEC to repeat since Nebraska won their back-to-back National titles in 1994-1995 seasons. (USC disqualified because f Reggie Bush scandal) The Seminoles defense, which is ranked 35th in the nation, is the kind of defense that "bends but does not break" which for the most part is an NFL way of life on that side of the ball. The Seminoles have also beaten some ranked opponents themselves. From the newly ranked Cowboys of Oklahoma State, #5 ranked Notre Dame and #22 ranked Clemson, the Seminoles look to be on a direct warpath to the college football playoffs. The ONLY thing that can get in their way is Jameis Winston himself. His off the field antics continue to be headlines and being connected to a sports paraphernalia website (SAME one that Todd Gurley is being suspended for) getting paid for authenticated autographs, is not good for the Seminoles OR Winston and his future. If accusations become more true than false, that could spiral the Seminoles out of the playoffs all together. They are a completely different team without Winston.

3. The Runnin Rebels of Ole Miss: The confusion of the mascot aside, this Ole Miss team is one team that NO team wants to face. This veteran Ole Miss team is led by their defense, which is ranked #1 overall in the nation, allowing just 10.6 points per game. On offense, they are led by game managing QB Bo Wallace, who can at times be erratic with his play but when the time comes, can make those much needed plays that put his team over the hump. The games against ranked teams Alabama and Texas A&M come to mind as Bo knew what to do, how to do it and beat the teams who were suppose to run roughshod over the Running Rebels. Just goes to show yet again that defense wins championships and Ole Miss continues to prove that theory accurate. What could derail Ole Miss? It is a tough road ahead, upset minded SEC teams like LSU and Arkansas loom ahead as well as ranked teams like Auburn and Mississippi State in the annual Egg Bowl. If the defense holds true and Bo Wallace continues to make plays, Ole Miss has the formula to not just make the playoffs, but win the whole darn thing because "Bo Knows" big plays.

4. The Crimson Tide of Alabama: They may have lost a little mojo after their loss to, then #11 ranked Ole Miss, but have regained their championship form by beating Arkansas in a close win and then blowing out Texas A&M this past week. While the offense is all about the running game of T.J. Yeldon, the one problem remains and that is at the QB position where Sims and Coker continue to be like a hotel door, revolving. The one constant that either QB can count on is Heisman Trophy candidate Amari Cooper who seems to catch everything thrown anywhere near him. His 62 catches for 908 yards and seven touchdowns, his leadership on offense is what keeps the 26th ranked offense on par for the playoffs and that Saban defense, which always seems to be ranked in the top ten every year (3rd this year) continues to make plays as often as he makes NFL prospects. All about consistency with the program out of Tuscaloosa. The ONLY thing that can derail this train is the uncertainty at QB. It is no secret that QB play can make or break a team and their title hopes. Saban has a little time to figure it out and considering how many titles he has, it will not be at all surprising if the Crimson Tide make the playoffs. ROLL TIDE!

First two teams OUT:

1. The Oregon Ducks: The Ducks cannot be ignored as they were once ranked in the top two in the country. Led by Marcus Mariota (Heisman Trophy Candidate), the Ducks 6th ranked offense is one of the fastest offenses in the country. Their defense ranked 48th in the country, which is closely ranked with the Florida State Seminoles, who are ranked 35th in the nation. Not far off in those numbers. As for the rushing attack and passing attack, that is where the Ducks clearly separate themselves from teams like the Seminoles and Ole Miss. There are two things working against the Ducks moving forward. One the quality of opponents they are up against, Stanford and Utah are their last remaining ranked opponents before the Pac-12 championship game. Second, can the Ducks improve their defense to be able to contend against the much more physical SEC and ACC opponents that lurk as the favorites in the college football playoffs? There is no question that the Oregon Ducks are a high-powered offensive juggernaut and that alone is worthy of a playoff spot, if we were playing seven-on-seven flag football The teams above the Ducks are better overall teams and have proven it against much better competition.

2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: They may have lost the game against Florida State last night but the team proved they belong in the college football playoff picture. They had the defending National Champions on the ropes and if they didn't make that offensive pass interference penalty, they would have beaten the Seminoles. QB Everett Golson has returned from his academic suspension, a much mature person and a much better QB as his decision-making skills are MUCH improved under the offensive scheme of Head Coach Brian Kelly. The 16th ranked defense of the Irish is what impressed most last night and what is the mantra for success in football, "Defense wins championships." If Notre Dame can shake off the loss to Florida State and continue beating their remaining opponents, which include ranked Arizona State (who Oregon does not even play in regular season) and their finale against ranked USC Trojans at the Coliseum, then there is no choice but to put serious consideration for a playoff spot to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Irish cannot allow themselves to become complacent in their unranked opponents for those same opponents can beat em if they are not clicking on all cylinders, playing without a sense of urgency. With teams in the SEC still awaiting to beat on themselves, outside conferences still have a chance, especially Notre Dame if they continue the same level of play.
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Is it time for Rex Ryan to leave the Jets?



After yet another brutal defeat, a 31-0 beatdown by the San Diego Chargers, Head Coach Rex Ryan continues to become the flashpoint for debate on whether or not his time with the team is over. Granted Jets owner, Woody Johnson, continues to give his endorsement to Rex but the play on the field tells a entire different story.

The "QB of the future" Geno Smith had just 27 yards passing on just 4 completions in 12 attempts with a INT. After halftime, Rex put in backup Michael Vick to try to get some kind of spark of offense and he did no better. Throwing for 47 yards on 9 completions in 20 attempts but hey Vick didn't throw a INT right?

Let's call a spade a spade, the Jets have never been a team to light up the scoreboard. In the early years of Rex Ryan, when he had Mark Sanchez, their entire game plan was based on keeping the game close, not turning the ball over, but the most important piece, lots and lots of ground and pound running. Those AFC title game appearances are LONG gone, Mark Sanchez is off with the Philadelphia Eagles as a backup QB to Nick Foles and the Jets offense continues to fail and fail miserably.

The strength of Rex Ryan is his defense. He is the "B.A. Baracus" of the NFL as he can take a bunch of undrafted players with a star here and there. Scheme them into a powerhouse that normally ranks top 10 to top 15 every single year. Making players like Darrell Revis, Sheldon Richardson just to name a few. Could it be the system and not the player, perhaps. After all, other players who have moved on from the Jets have not fared well in other places. In the end, the one thing that they Jets could have counted on was that their defense could keep them in games if their offense could just protect the ball ... and obviously that is where the problem lies.

Rex is a defensive GENIUS, there is no question about it. As a head coach however, lets review the records over the last several seasons. 2011 season, 8-8 record, 2012 season, 6-10 record. 2013 season, 8-8 record. 2014 record so far, 1-4 and history is NOT on their side when it comes to teams making the playoffs with this kind of start.

If Lovie Smith, who was fired after finishing a season with 10-6 record can get fired, then why not Rex? If Marty Schottenheimer who coached the San Diego Chargers to a 14-2 record, BEST ever for the franchise, can get fired, then why can't Rex?

As mentioned before, Rex Ryan without question is the best defensive coordinator in the game of football, even is pressing to be one of the greatest of all time. There is, however, a difference between being a defensive coordinator AND being a head coach. Level of responsibility changes, amount of interactions on and off the field increases, etc...

Have the Jets put too much faith in what Rex has done instead of what is Rex is doing? Maybe. Has the front office NOT given Rex what he needs to succeed, perhaps. Bottom line, the Jets and their fans are in for another long grueling that, if history proves anything, will lead to yet another season without a playoff game.

Is it finally time to let Rex Ryan go, that is Woody Johnson's call to answer. If he just listens to the fans and experts, maybe he will pick up.
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BCS WHO???



When this college football season was set to begin, all the talks were about the trouble that the new "playoff system" to determine a National Champion. That the BCS system was going to be missed, that the same schools were going to be the only ones fighting for a championship. Well, after this past weekend, the debate of the BCS being missed has been put to rest.

It was an upset bananza that had started earlier, on Thursday when the unranked Arizona Wildcats went into Eugene Oregon and defeated the mighty Oregon Ducks 31-24. QB Marcus Mariota did not help his Heisman campaign by not being able to finish the late game comeback with a victory as he missed some key throws late.

On Friday, the independent conference lost one of its two potential college football playoff party crashers, when BYU not only lost their star QB Taysom Hill to another knee injury but also lost the game against Utah State 35-20. These upsets were like chicken wings and potato skins compared to the entree of upsets yet to come on Saturday.

On College Gameday picks segment, while she was very entertaining, music sensation Katy Perry made some sense with her picks against the expertise of Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit. Katy knew something was going to happen as she stated "I think this is going to be a big win for the state of Mississippi." Did she see the coming events, no one knows but it didn't take long for the predictions to become a reality.

Top team dominos started falling when 12th ranked Mississippi State blew out 6th ranked Texas A&M 48-31 (scores doesn't depict how mismatched this game was). The next team to fall was in that very game which 1st college football attendee Katy Perry predicted. Ole Miss came back on the shoulders of Bo Wallace and their 4th ranked defense in the country, beating 3rd ranked Alabama 23-17.

So to recap so far, #2 Oregon, #3 Alabama and #6 Texas A&M already have fallen, But WAIT, there's more.

Shortly after the fall of the Crimson Tide, the #25 ranked Horned Frogs of TCU defeated the Big XII powerhouse that is Oklahoma Sooners, the #4th ranked team in the country. Later that Saturday, #8 ranked UCLA would become the fifth team in the Top 8 ranked teams to fall as they lost last to the Utes of Utah 30-28.

Out of the top five ranked teams, ONLY Florida State and Auburn left this weekend unscaved from the upset bug and as for the top 10, four of the top 10 survived this upset weekend. The beauty of college football is that next weekend, two more unbeatens meet as Auburn and Mississippi State will tangle, two definite top 10, if not top 5 teams ready to clash.

It is the FIRST TIME ever that BOTH teams from the state of Mississippi won their games against top ten ranked teams and come next AP polls, will also be the first time ever that BOTH teams are ranked in the top ten. (facts verified via Poll Database)

The biggest issue that most brought up with the departure of the BCS was; "What would we have to talk about?" Well, after this week, there is so much more discussion as to who is worthy and who will be left out of the inaugural college football playoff as the match ups are deciding it, which is exactly how the sports and its championship is suppose to be decided, ON the FIELD, not in a board room.

With Notre Dame and Florida State set to meet in two weeks, the college football playoff picture will become much clearer. When it is all said and done, the once cherished but very much scrutinized BCS is quickly becoming an afterthought. After this week of games, the only question is BCS WHO? Exactly.
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Party like its 1985 for the Kansas City Royals



The last time the Kansas City Royals were in the MLB playoffs, a kid traveled back in time in a souped up DeLorean. Two prize fighters, one from the USA and one from The Soviet Union, were putting the "Cold War" on full display in a more dramatic setting. The Cosbys were on top of the TV World & global awareness started on MTV with "We Are the World."

Last night, 29 years later, the Kansas City Royals ended their long playoff drought with a huge 9-8 victory over the Oakland A's. When that last hit was made by catcher Salvador Perez, who had previously missed 2 key opportunities to win, the celebration and emotions from the Royals blue faithful poured out like the waters of Niagara Falls. The camera even caught former Royals player and hall of famer George Brett in the skybox and his look was one of relief and amazement.

The game was not without drama though. A's Brandon Moss had collected his second home run of the game in the op of the 6th inning which had given the A's a 7-3 lead. For some all seemed lost, but for those on the field wearing blue and to those blue Royals fans, never say never.

Not a home run was hit but 3 runs were scored in the 8th inning. Outfielder Lorenzo Cain brought in a run scored by shortstop Alcides Escobar, who led of the inning with a single and then stole second base. After Cain stole second and first baseman Eric Hosmer singled off A's pitcher Jon Lester (traded over from Boston Red Sox), the A's went to their bullpen and called Luke Gregerson. It was then DH Billy Butler's turn and he came up big with a clutch single bringing in Cain from 3rd. Manager Ned Yost then figured it was time for some "small ball" so he pinch ran for Butler, putting in Terrance Gore. That substitution looked to be working as Gore stole second base. With men on second and third, Gregerson was beginning to show signs of "forcing his pitches" as he threw a wild pitch, scoring Hosmer and allowing Gore to get to third base. ALL of this happening with just one out in the inning. While Outfielder Alex Gordon managed to draw a walk, Perez struck out swinging and Royals second baseman Omar Infante also left Gordon on second with a strikeout. So the ninth would be the inning to either win, lose or at least tie giving the Royals more baseball life.

After a shaky ninth inning from Royals closer Greg Holland, it was do or die time for the Royals. Facing the A's closer Sean Doolittle, Ned Yost went to his bench yet again. He sat put in Josh Willingham for third baseman Mike Moustakas and Willingham delivered with a clutch single. The electricity in Kauffman Stadium was so intense it could have power a small town for over a year. Yost was on once again as he sent in another pinch runner, Jarrod Dyson, the fastest Royal of them all to run for for Willingham. After getting to second on a sacrifice by Escobar, Dyson stole third off Doolittle. The stage was set for what was the biggest hit of the Royals life and right fielder Norichika Aoki was the bat to do it. With one out in the ninth, Aoki drove the ball deep into right field and scored Dyson on a sacrifice fly to tie the game for the Royals, giving the fans some free baseball with extra innings.

The 10th and 11th innings became a pitching duel with no runs scored. The surprising thing was the quick maturing of a young Royals pitcher, Brandon Finnegan, who before tonight, had only pitched seven innings in his entire career. To be put out there in one of the most important games in Royal's history, was a huge burden and this Finnegan kid embraced the challenged and made his mark striking out three A's with his 2.1 innings pitched.

Top of the 12th inning came what was thought to be the nail in the coffin for the Royals when pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo, who had struggled for most of the season, came up big for the A's with a hit and RBI that scored Josh Reddick from third, the Royals went to the well once more to try to find that Royals rally magic. The blast off the bat of Hosmer, that was misplayed by miscommunication by the A's outfielders turned into a much needed one-out triple. Hosmer then scored on a HIGH chopper single by pinch hitter Christian Colon (pinch hitting for Gore). Colon a speedster stole second base with relative ease after Gordon fouled out to third. The stage of redemption was set for Perez and he did NOT disappoint as he hit that ball down the third base line just getting past the glove of A's third baseman Josh Donaldson for the game winning hit. Just under 5 hours later, the Kansas City Royals slayed their 29-year playoff drought demons with a victory and a trip to the AL Divisional Round where the heavily favored Los Angeles Angels await them.

The Oakland A's and their owner Billy Beane were known for one special thing, "Moneyball." For the most part, moneyball is to create a team of talent not based on names but on pure talent and farm systems (for the most part). Last night, the Kansas City Royals beat the Oakland Athletics at their OWN game, moneyball and small ball. The Royals seven steals tied the playoff record for most in a game.

The Angels vs Royals is the modern day "David vs Goliath" and while stories are just stories, we know how this story ended for Goliath and after last night's comeback win by the Royals, let's be sure to not count them out by any means. Sports is about emotion and riding those emotions through the playoffs and the Royals have ALL the emotion which means they have ALL the mojo on their side. No one gave Rocky Balboa a chance vs Ivan Drago and Rocky won an entire nation over along with his victory over Drago. Royal Blue is such a lovely color and the Royals baseball team is a lovely story to follow this postseason for the non-conventional fan.
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The Bewildered Bills


Some fan bases have it bad.  There is just no end in sight to the despair and the heartbreak.  At times there is a glimmer of hope, but that glimmer is so brief at times they wish they never experienced it.
Since 2000, the Bills fan-base has experienced three seasons of being at least a .500 team.  In that time they’ve had 7 head coaches and 8 starting quarterbacks.  One of those quarterbacks was J.P. Losman, who still lurks in the nightmares of Bills fans everywhere.  In 2013 the Bills hired Doug Marrone, who had coached football at Syracuse.  Marrone was 25-25 in the four seasons he coached Syracuse.  Keep in mind, Syracuse played in the Big East Conference, which was pretty much the “junior varsity” of BCS conferences.
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The Bills continued with the “head scratching” moves in 2013 by blindsiding everyone in the draft.  With the 16th overall pick, they selected EJ Manuel out of Florida State.  Even the most dedicated Florida State fans were surprised that a guy who finished his college career with 47 touchdowns and 28 interceptions would be trusted as a “future franchise” quarterback for anyteam.  Considering Florida State won the National Championship the very next season with pretty much the same team and a red-shirt freshman at quarterback – one can understand the skepticism.
The Bills haven’t done everything wrong though. In 2011 they drafted a stud defensive tackle in Marcell Dareus.   They surprised everyone in 2012 when they were able to sign free agent defensive end Mario Williams who many thought was going to Chicago or New York.  Even this year they made two big splashes in the draft trading up for play-maker wide receiver Sammy Watkins, using a second round pick on right tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and signing free agent line backers Keith Rivers and Brandon Spikes.  Give the Bills this – they are trying.  Even with the trying, the latest news of Bills head coach Doug Marrone benching second year quarterback EJ Manuel for veteran Kyle Orton must be disheartening for some close to Buffalo.
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The Bills are 2-2.  They were a seven point underdog visiting Chicago and won, then they crushed division rival Miami 29-10 in Buffalo’s home opener.  The next week was a loss to a San Diego Chargers team that is looking like one of the best teams in the league right now, with Philip Rivers who might be playing like the best quarterback in the league, currently; and last week they loss by six points to the Houston Texans.  Remember how Houston got those six points – two 50+ yard fields goals by Randy Bullock. Of course, there was the pick-6 by JJ Watt which was obviously thrown by EJ Manuel – but let’s think about this one.  Manuel is still young, will still make mistakes and JJ Watt has made some of the NFL’s “elite” quarterbacks, running backs and offensive linemen look flat out “silly,” throughout his career.
So what exactly has Manuel done wrong to get benched?  Let’s take a look at his stat line:
209.5 yards per game / five touchdowns / three interceptions / 6.4 yards per pass / and a completion percentage of 58%.
Matthew Stafford in Detroit has five touchdowns and three interceptions as well, but I doubt second string quarterback Dan Orlovsky is in heavy consideration to be the Lions’ starter. . .
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So if they’re benching Manuel for Orton, Orton has to have a resume that makes this an easy decision, right? Right!?  Nope. Actually Orton’s career averages, which date back to his days in 2005 to 2013 are almost the same as Manuel’s:
200.3 yards per game / 6.6 yards per pass / and a completion percentage of 58.5%.  
Let’s also not forget that Kyle Orton was benched in Chicago in favor of Rex Grossman, who has gone down in history as being probably the worst starting quarterback to have ever played in a Super Bowl; and then while in Denver, Orton was benched for Tim Tebow.  Yes, that Tim Tebow.
So why the move, Marrone?  Why give up on EJ Manuel, who was supposed to be the future face of this franchise, for a guy who was considering retirement just this off-season? This Bills fan-base has enough to worry about after the passing of their legendary owner Ralph Wilson.  The truest Bills fans have thrown ever lasting support to their hero, Jim Kelly in recent months as he battled cancer.  All they want is a reason to feel optimistic.  Benching last year’s first round pick for a guy well passed his prime who never was anything but average – baffles the mind.
If the Jets can stick with and make up excuses for Geno Smith, their is NO reason the Bills can’t do the same for EJ Manuel.
G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio

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Clayton Kershaw, Greatest of All Time?



As wild card play-in games begin to day, the individual awards for MLB begin to be tallied. While the race for AL MVP and Cy Young are tight, there is no question in the NL for either. Most experts agree that Clayton Kershaw in the unanimous choice NOT JUST for the NL Cy Young Award BUT ALSO for NL MVP honors as well. His 21-3 record (BEST in the league), led the league in ERA (1.77) with 6 complete games, 239 strikeouts and his WHIP is a ridiculous (0.857). Not easy for a lefty but since his arrival in 2006, these performances have been a constant, which brings up the early question, "Is Clayton Kershaw the GREATEST pitcher ever?" Lets discuss this.

The 1st thing that is an obvious standout on Kershaw's stat line is his postseason and how poor it has been to date. His 1-3 record in the postseason is bad enough. Add in the 4.23 ERA that he carries during the post season and you have an instant debate. To truly be considered on of the greats, post seasons count, just ask the NFL's Peyton Manning.

When compared to former Dodger's legend, Sandy Koufax, while the numbers may be a little "skewed" because of the era he played in. If you put the two in a vacuum, it may be hard to tell them apart, to judge based on just regular seasons. Let's remember that Koufax had no relief in games, always batted for himself and there were less opponents to face. Kershaw's numbers are relatively equal to Koufax and the dominance is just as such. Koufax over the last 4 years of his career averaged 298.05 innings pitched per year. Talk about a workload, those numbers are "Japanese League" numbers. Players today are not coming close to those numbers. Even Kershaw whose max innings pitched for a season tops off at 236, still not close to Koufax. So stats alone have the comparison skewed, YET, it cannot be ignored that greatness is among us in the form of Clayton Kershaw.

In the end, it will all come down to several things for this young superstar. First, if he can stay healthy. He already had surgery during the last season and came back after the 2014 season was already underway. In the age of many pitchers having "Tommy John" surgery, Kershaw's legacy all depends on his health.

Second, can Kershaw continue these lights out numbers. A former boxer by the name of Mike Tyson comes to mind. The baddest man on the planet during his career, just couldn't keep up the performance. After his loss to Buster Douglas, he was never the same as a fighter. Kershaw's numbers and dominance are very similar to that of Tyson, so the question remains, can Kershaw keep the pace.

3rd and final, his lack of a positive solid postseason will be the deciding factor as to where his legacy ends up. The name Peyton Manning comes up again here as he is the greatest QB of all time ... DURING THE REGULAR SEASON. But come playoff time, Peyton and the talks of all time great becomes a completely different story. Even with one Super Bowl, experts and critics STILL question Peyton's greatness, not as much as before, in the end still do. Kershaw has YET to win an NL Championship and appear in a World Series, let alone win one.

As long as Kershaw is missing a World Series ring, there will always be questions, just as others before him. Does that mean that fans should not appreciate the greatness in front of them, nope. But when the discussions of "All-Time" great come up, then the brakes DO need to be applied just a little bit. Kewshaw is young in his career, so lets enjoy the greatness while he is playing.
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