Pace of play set to change baseball


Baseball is America’s pastime. You might not be able to tell from ratings alone, and even if you ask Americans, only about 9 percent will tell you that it’s their favorite sport.

Although the 2017 post season had more viewers than ever and drew more attention from networks than it has in years, the sport seems to be hitting a lull as a whole. This is largely due to the extremely long regular season and the length of the games, averaging a record three hours and five minutes in 2017.

Due to the groaning from fans, the MLB has started to experiment with new rules raise the pace of the game and make it more exciting. Now the MLB has a tough question on their hands; how do they implement new rules to try and bump popularity without upsetting or alienating the audience they already have?

The first rule that was introduced in 2018 was a new mound visit rule. Starting opening day of the 2018 regular season, each team was allotted 6 mound visits per game, gaining an extra visit for each extra inning of play (if necessary). This is a very small change but was not met with open arms my MLB players, especially catchers.

“Big change? I am not quite sure, but it’s going to be different and difficult because you are limited on the amounts you can go out there,’’ said Gary Sanchez, catcher for the New York Yankees. “It’s a combination of things. Sometimes you go out there to help in any way possible to calm [the pitcher] down. Sometimes it’s to change the signs, sometimes it is both.”

While Sanchez and other catchers are less than thrilled with the new rule, it doesn’t appear that it will change the sport in a way that many fear the rules that follow may. During the offseason, the MLB began discussions to add two new rules that could fundamentally change the sport.

First, it was suggested that managers of the losing team could choose whatever three batters they wanted to lead off the 9th inning, rather than picking up where the lineup left off in the 8th. The next rule brought up would place a runner on second base at the start of each extra inning. Both of these rules were suggested to limit the length of games and prevent extra innings from becoming too, well, extra.

While limiting mound visits may cause catchers to rethink their strategy, trying to take extra innings out of baseball would be like taking overtime out of football or basketball. There are no ties in baseball, so as the sport stands now they play until there is a winner, whether that’s in the 9th inning or the 19th.

The majority of players, fans and sports news media alike are all firmly against this radical of a change in the sport.

“Some of the greatest clutch moments in MLB history came when the best hitter in the order was not hitting,” said CBS sports writer Matt Davis. “Sometimes the best hitters on the team do come up and come through due to the natural order of things.”

Baseball has been around for more than 100 years and has been played by the same basic rules for all that time. Why change it for an audience that you don’t even have yet? Although these rules may leave many scratching their heads, it seems like they will work their way into the game with time. So, will players and fans embrace the new game or will it be the downfall of America’s pastime?

The end of one and done in basketball?


In lieu of the recent FBI probe and the end of March Madness, another topic has come into focus regarding college basketball. Is the one and done good or bad for the sport, and more importantly, the player? A number of freshman stars declared for the NBA draft after their first year in the NCAA, which begs the question, what did they gain?

Following their exit from the NCAA tournament, Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley Jr., Mo Bamba, Michael Porter Jr., Lonnie Walker Jr, Mikal Bridges, Colin Sexton, and many other stars declared for the 2018 NBA draft.

All of these players are currently freshman in college but are set to leave school before even completing a full year. In fact, Michael Porter Jr. only played in two college games, yet he has decided to enter the NBA Draft. The one and done era of college basketball is in full swing, but it may be coming to an end soon as many believe that the trend isn’t great for the game itself.

“Nowadays, these coaches are just like daycare owners,” said Kevin Durant, a former one-and-done player at the University of Texas. “They’re like, We’re just going to get these guys for a year and we’re not going to really coach them, because I know they’re going to be out the next year. That’s not how basketball’s supposed to played. That’s not how you’re supposed to be coached. You can’t teach the game like that.”

Durant raises an interesting point there, as these players are essentially a rental for the school’s program. They go to classes for a semester and a half so that they are eligible to play and practice, and then sign with an NBA team for however many millions of dollars they are offered. They aren’t part of a plan for the future of their teams, as they’ll be gone in a few months, so it puts coaches in a very tough spot.

What can they possibly teach a kid whose goal is to leave for the NBA in eight months? Preaching teamwork and creating a drive for a national championship, which is an extremely team-oriented goal, isn’t going to hit home with a kid who’d rather be drafted in the Top 5, which could cause a rift in the team.

Players and the sports news media alike seem to agree on what the future will hold for college basketball and the one and dones. The most common belief is that the NCAA will require its athletes to play for at least two years before entering the draft, and as a result, more of the top players may end up skipping college to either play overseas or enter the draft right out of high school.

This would result in college basketball becoming more of a team game as opposed to one centered around stars and their supporting cast, while top talents could compete at a higher level and develop quicker, along with the ability to market themselves right out of high school. Whether this eventually materializes or not, it will be interesting to see the direction that NCAA basketball heads in during the next five or so years.

New NFL rules met with criticism


Football has long been one of the most violent sports in the country. Although rules have been implemented over the year to try and slow the speed of the game down and limit injuries, the recent prevalence of CTE in former players has caused the league to take drastic measures.

While helmet-to-helmet hits on a defenseless player have resulted in a 15-yard penalty and often a fine, NFL owners unanimously passed a new rule to give a 15-yard penalty to any player that lowers his head to initiate contact along with a possible ejection, defenseless or not.

Back in the 1950s, pretty much anything went in the NFL. Form tackling as we know it today wasn’t necessarily as ubiquitous when player like Dick Lane were running around the field clothes-lining opposing receivers or yanking them down by their face masks. In today’s game both of these techniques will result in a personal foul, but there weren’t any players barking about how it would change the way that the game is played.

Players across the league are not happy with the new rule, and thing that it could be disastrous for the sport.

“They better figure out a way to narrow down the interpretation of a foul here,” said offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, who played eight years in the NFL. “The game is played too fast to determine on-the-field ejections.”

Richard Sherman, a corner for the 49ers, is also having a hard time figuring out exactly how he’s going to do his job this upcoming season. “It’s ridiculous. Like telling a driver if you touch the lane lines, you’re getting a ticket. [It’s] gonna lead to lower-extremity injuries.”

Sherman raises an interesting point here that the news media hasn’t fully embraced. While many members of the media have noted that this rule will likely reduce the amount of concussions in the sport, they fail to address the other injuries that will result from lower tackles.

Just last year superstar Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a season-ending injury when he was hit below the knees by a defender. This hit was scrutinized for week and labeled a dirty play, but if you can’t hit high and are a dirty player for going low, there is nowhere left to go.

“I don’t know how you’re going to play the game,” all pro corner Josh Norman told USA Today, and honestly, I’m not sure either. In a game where the low man always wins, being penalized for dipping your head will certainly result in some controversial flags and ejections.

Has March Madness gotten too mad?


March Madness has become one of the biggest events that all of sports have to offer. Even though it is a college tournament, it draws more than 20 million viewers live and roughly 70 million more on live streams, according to the NCAA.

It seems as if wherever you go during the month of march, the tournament will be on somewhere. Perhaps the biggest reason for the tournaments popularity stems from its unique one and done format that allows some of the greatest upsets sport fans have seen in their lifetime.

A total of 68 teams make the NCAA tournament every year and are split into four divisions seeded 1-16. The one seed plays the 16 seed, the two the 15, and so forth. While the higher seed is supposedly the “better” team, the better seed can be sent packing after one bad game. Fans love to see a two-seed taken out by the underdog 15 and are even excited by a six-seed losing to an 11. However, the 2018 tournament has been like none that came before it.

Before this year, No. 1 seeds were 132-0 in the first round of the tournament against 16 seeds. This all changed when 16th seeded University of Maryland Baltimore County beat top-ranked Virginia by 20 points. This was the crowning jewel in a first round that saw 13 seeded Buffalo beat 4 Arizona, 11 seed Syracuse beat 6 seed TCU, 11 seed Chicago Loyola beat 6 seed Miami, and 13 seed Marshal beat 4 seed Wichita State.  The madness didn’t stop there, as Syracuse and Chicago Loyola both knocked off highly ranked 3 seeds in the following round, 9 Florida state stunned 1 Xavier, and 7 Nevada came back from a 20-point deficit beat 2 Cincinnati.

While upsets are usually greeted with excitement, this year’s tournament has gotten some coverage that you may not expect. Many analysts and media members, most notably ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, believe that there are too many upsets this year, and that the absence of top ranked teams is making the later rounds of the tournament less exciting. It seems paradoxical, as the news and sports media want to see upsets but also want to see the highly seeded teams with top players, so what is the right balance?

On the day following the first round, stories covering UMBC’s historic win were atop of both ESPN and Bleacher Report’s homepage. While these stories draw more views than a one seed beating the 16, upsets lead to second and third round match-ups of less popular teams, causing stories to get thinner and less popular.

The average fans love to see it, but the news and sports media and purists wish it would stop. It is all up to preference, but the fact that there have been so many upsets thus far that the sports media have started to switch their side is something we may never see again.

In sports, there are consequences


The unspoken rules of sports might be the some of the hardest to understand, but result in some of the harsher punishments. For example:

  • Don’t steal when you are up more than 10 runs in baseball.
  • Don’t run up the score when you can take a knee in football.
  • Don’t take the open layup in the end of a basketball game that was decided long ago.

Do any of these and you’ll find yourself at the mercy of the other team. Essentially, you need to play hard enough to win a game but not too hard to the point of showing up the other team even if you weren’t trying to do so in the first place.

Easy, right?

The Philadelphia 76ers were up by eight points with 12 seconds left when Dario Saric ran the floor for an easy one-handed dunk. The Cavaliers were not a fan of this move and Jordan Clarkson threw the ball at Saric in disgust, causing a small scuffle to break out on the court.

“Uh, basketball, that’s it,” Clarkson said after the game. “Part of the game. If anybody says different, that they wouldn’t have did that, that they’d have did something different or anything else, they are lying. Especially if it was at that [point] of the game.”

Clarkson seemed to take exception to the fact that Saric took an easy bucket when the game was “already over,” but analysts and former players alike were quick to take the other side.

Many said that if Clarkson didn’t like the fact that he scored as late as he did, he shouldn’t have let him score. If the Cavs kept it a close game, the problem wouldn’t have risen. Others said that if they were Saric, they would have dunked it twice as hard and stared down the crowd to put an exclamation point on the game.

However, Saric can likely expect a hard foul the next time these teams meet just like a baseball player should expect a fastball to the back after taking too long to round the bases after a home run.

It’s not too often that you see the news media take the same side as the players but, in this case, it’s usually only the team that’s losing that feels their actions were justified. If it were the other way around, the Cavs would have looked at it from the side of the Sixers and news media, but athletes, no matter what age, hate nothing more than getting shown up in a loss.

ESPN ASU report could be flawed


While few people were taking the NCAA’s side after the results of the recent FBI probe were released, many could agree on one point; Arizona paying $100,000 to five-star phenom Deandre Ayton to attend the university was certainly crossing a line.

However, new reports are surfacing that lead many to believe that ESPN could have inaccurately reported the details of a wiretapped phone call involving Arizona’s head coach Sean Miller.’s Mark Schlabach originally reported that Arizona’s head basketball coach was overheard talking to Christian Dawkins on an FBI wiretap about a $100,000 payment for Deandre Ayton. This sent the news media and fans into a buzz, as paying six digits for an athlete was unheard of before the report.

The news could result in Ayton losing eligibility, along with Miller losing his job as Arizona’s head coach.

While this was shocking at first, a major hole in the story was evident. According to McCann, “relevant FBI wiretaps in the investigation did not begin until 2017—months after five-star recruit Deandre Ayton had already committed to Arizona in Sept. 2016.”

So, why would Arizona be attempting to pay a player to come to their school when he had already made the decision to do so? 247Sports first reported that the wiretapped calls referenced by ESPN were made between June 19 and Sept. 25 of last year, and not during Ayton’s recruitment.

Along with this fairly new information pointing out the flaws in ESPN’s report, why wouldn’t the FBI have indicted Miller if it had a tape of him speaking with Dawkins? It doesn’t line up.

“I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying Deandre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona,” said Miller. “In fact, I never even met or spoke to Christian Dawkins until after Deandre publicly announced that he was coming to our school. Any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate, false and defamatory.”

After dropping such a bombshell on College Basketball, it seems like the corruption case is becoming weaker and weaker as time goes on. Not only did the NCAA not have much support from its fans and former players, but now it appears as if its reported information doesn’t even line up with the claims. It will be interesting to see how this ongoing story concludes in the coming months.

FBI’s NCAA probe receives backlash


Yahoo Sports published documents on Friday containing information from the FBI’s probe into college basketball’s corruption and it could alter the future of the sport itself.

With big name programs like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and others being listed for potential impermissible benefits and preferential treatment for players and families, college basketball is under a microscope with nowhere to hide. What’s interesting is that coverage has not been scrutinizing these teams for breaking the rules, but has instead been looking at the rules themselves and the NCAA.

The NCAA and its members are essentially a brand that makes money off of college kids, but doesn’t pay them. Meanwhile, these same kids aren’t allowed to make any money themselves off of their talents. While the NCAA and its members are making billions of dollars off of college basketball players, they are quick to turn around and deem them ineligible to play if they receive any benefits.

While the violations range from an agent buying Duke star Wendell Carter Jr dinner to Deandre Ayton receiving about $100,000 to play for Arizona, it doesn’t really matter whether a player receives a dollar or a million. College athletes can’t get paid for their talents and services, nor can they market them in any way.

While the FBI is punishing schools and players for breaking the rules set by the NCAA, it is interesting to see former and current players along with college and professional analysts side with the young athletes. A common theme is rising to the surface as more and more voices weigh in, and it’s becoming evident that the real villain in this story is the NCAA, and that it is almost laughable that the players see no return from the profit that they are responsible for.

“Don’t play in the NCAA tournament,” Jalen Rose, a former NBA player and current NBA Reporter, said. “Send a message young fellas … go for the money.”

Perhaps the best course of action is to go right after the NCAA where it hurts them the most; their pockets. If the players can’t make any money, than neither can the NCAA, who deem it fair that they should be able to keep every penny of the $10.8 billion that the TV deal for march madness will bring them during the next 14 years. But the players, who are the sole reason for the tournament’s popularity, will see none of it, and be deemed ineligible to play if they want to sell their own autographs.

Charles Barkley admits to playing drunk


In a recent interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,former NBA all-star and current TV personality Charles Barkley admitted that he once played a game while drunk when he was the member of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The segment was full of laughs and was brushed off as a laughing matter. So, why are other athletes’ careers ruined due to the same actions, but the news media covers Charles Barkley’s story like it’s a joke?

The most recent instance of an athlete derailing his or her career due to substance abuse would be that of Josh Gordon. Gordon was a very talented receiver for the Cleveland Browns and burst onto the NFL scene in 2013 where he led the league in receiving yards in only his second year.

Unfortunately, Gordon had been struggling with addiction and found himself out of the league by 2015 due to their substance policy. Gordon was crucified by the news media, who dug to uncover all they could about his early life. Gordon decided to beat the press and tell all himself, sharing how his abuse went as far back as getting drunk before games in high school to simply see if he could outperform others even while intoxicated.

Luckily, Gordon has since attended rehab and been reinstated by the NFL, but it’s interesting that he was put under a microscope when he slipped up, but jolly Charles Barkley was able to laugh it off. It wasn’t even as if he simply got a little buzzed before the game, as he directly stated “I was blasted … I’m not gonna lie.”

I understand that Gordon had a serious problem, but it doesn’t mean that the same acts on a less serious scale shouldn’t be ridiculed. Barkley continued to mention that he had been drunk, or at least hungover, for games on numerous instances, so it seems unfair that he was met with laughter and not scrutiny. It seems like the news media start to play favorites when covering athletes and it is starting to come off as unprofessional.

National signing day creates a new buzz


On Wednesday, high school athletes made decisions that would change their lives forever.

On national signing day, the top unsigned football recruits from across the country decide where they are going to attend college and play football for the foreseeable future. While this is a very important and usually personal decision for the athlete, it has evolved to a news media frenzy.

Whereas athletes would once “announce” their commitment by signing in the comfort of their own homes, ESPN and other sport networks have changed the game and created a full day special broadcasting top recruits’ announcements. This has resulted in some fairly humorous displays on live TV from athletes trying to outdo each other with their creative commitments.

To start off the day, four highly recruited members of American Heritage High School took to ESPN to announce their decisions. While it appeared like it would be a fairly normal segment, things took an odd turn when two of the recruits decided to announce their decisions using a “Chucky” doll as a prop. Yes, that “Chucky,” the one that probably gave you nightmares as a kid.

While Nesta Silvera, a four-star defensive tackle that committed to Miami, simply held the doll in his hand while making his announcement, his teammate did him one better.

Four-star linebacker Andrew Chatfield reached for a University of Miami hat sitting on the table, just to drop the hat and pull the “Chucky” doll from under the table, and the doll happened to be wearing a University of Florida hat, which Chatfield proceeded to put on his own head, cementing his commitment. While there have been props used before, none have been quite as odd as this.

Up next was probably one of the most memorable moments in recent memory of national signing day. Four-star outside linebacker Quay Walker picked up and put on a University of Tennessee hat during his announcement Wednesday. While Tennessee fans across the country were surely leaping from their seats with excitement, it was short-lived.

Walker than removed the hat, threw it into the crowd, and removed his jacket and pants to reveal a Georgia polo and khakis with the Bulldogs logo plastered all over them. To top it off, he threw on a Georgia sun hat as his family members behind him revealed Georgia apparel of their own. Tennessee fans certainly weren’t happy, but it proceeded to blow up on social media along with ESPN and other sport platforms.

With the amount of news media coverage this event gets, many are beginning to worry that national signing day is becoming more of a “who can outdo who,” in regards to the most memorable announcement.

Personally, I couldn’t care less. For a lot of these kids, it’s their first time in the national spotlight, so of course they’re going to ham it up. This will be remembered as one of the most important days of their lives, so they have every right to live in the moment, and I certainly don’t mind getting a good laugh out of it either. Sports are supposed to be fun, and the news media surrounding these announcements really lets the athletes enjoy their moments.

Biggest pro baseball draft bust ever?


After five years, former Major League Baseball No. 1 pick Mark Appel is stepping away from baseball at the age of 26. While he was “as risk-free a pitcher pick as has ever been made,” according to Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated, he never played a game in the Major Leagues and will become only the third first overall pick to do so.

Taken first overall in the 2013 draft by the Houston Astros, above National League MVP Kris Bryant and reigning American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, the expectations for Appel were through the roof. While many scouts and evaluators thought that he would rise to the majors quickly, some even stating that it may take less than a season, Appel amassed a 5.06 ERA and a 1.519 WHIP over five seasons in the minors. Hardly the numbers of a No. 1 pick.  

Before the 2014 season, Appel was ranked at the No. 17 overall prospect in baseball but started to fall further and further down after posting a 9.74 ERA in 44.1 innings. These numbers weren’t just bad, they were absolutely awful. In the same year, the average ERA of pitchers in the Major Leagues was 3.74, a whopping six points less than Appel who was pitching against single A hitters. To put this in perspective, only about 10 percent of the hitters Appel was facing were likely to make it to the major leagues.

The next three seasons followed the same trajectory for Appel as finished with ERAs of 4.37, 4.46 and 5.14.

After taking a step back, Appel is excited to move forward with his life. He graduated from Stanford University before going to the pros and is now looking to attend business school at Rice, University of Texas, Texas A&M, Stanford, Harvard, Penn, Northwestern or the University of Chicago.

While some scouts have recommended that Appel attempt a comeback as a reliever, as a litany of failed starters have done successfully, it seems like he’s happy pursuing a life outside of baseball.

It’s easy to ask the question, “What if?” What if the Astros had selected Kris Bryant with the No. 1 pick? What if they took Aaron Judge? What if Appel lived up to the hype?

Luckily for the Astros, Carlos Correa (2012 first overall pick), George Springer (2011 11th overall pick) and Alex Bregman (2015 second overall pick) were able to lead the team to the 2017 World Series title, certainly numbing the pain of their failed number one pick in 2013. While these three picks hit, Mark Appel proves that there are certainly no guarantees in the MLB.