• Flurry of birdies puts Longhorns at third after first day of Amer Ari

    The Longhorns used six birdies over the final two holes to finish in third place in the first round of the Amer Ari Invitational on Wednesday in Kona, Hawaii. Birdies by senior Cody Gribble and juniors Toni Hakula and Brax McCarthy at the end of their rounds helped Texas finish with a 9-under 279.

    Both Gribble and freshman Brandon Stone shot a 3-under 69, placing them at a tie for 10th individually so far. Hakula finished one stroke behind them with a 2-under 70 and is tied
    for 14th.

    Stone got off to a fast start to the tournament with a birdie on the second hole and an eagle on the fourth. His round after that point was quiet, tallying another birdie and an eagle.

    Gribble, on the other hand, had a steadier round. After making par on the first three holes, Gribble birdied the fourth hole before a bogey on the sixth. He birdied the ninth and the 17th and 18th to end his day.

    TCU and UCLA finished the first round tied for the lead, each shooting an 11-under 277. TCU’s Daniel Jennevret’s 5-under 67 put him first individually.

    Texas, the defending national champion, will begin its second round Thursday at 11:30 a.m.

  • Best under-the-radar moves of the MLB offseason

    It is almost time.

    With a week to go until pitchers and catchers begin to report to their respective camps in Florida and Arizona, the MLB hot stove is beginning to cool down with teams starting to turn their attention to the upcoming season. There are a few big-name free agents left on the market, including pitcher Kyle Lohse and outfielder Michael Bourn, so there are still options out there for teams to try and improve themselves between now and Opening Day, but for the most part, the flurry of activity is coming to an end as we head toward April.

    Everyone took notice of the Brinks truck that the Dodgers backed into Zach Greinke’s driveway over the winter. We all saw the Angels bolster their outfield with the addition of Josh Hamilton.
    We all heard about the trades involving Justin Upton and James Shields that have them changing addresses. Here we’re going to analyze the top three moves that mostly flew under the radar this offseason, strengthening each respective team without breaking the monetary or prospect bank.

    1. Torii Hunter signs in the Motor City

    In one of the very first moves of winter preceding the onslaught of activity, the Detroit Tigers upgraded their outfield by signing aging veteran Torii Hunter. While the prime of Hunter’s
    career is in his rearview mirror, he proved this past summer with the Los Angeles Angels that he can still be a cornerstone, batting a career-best .313 while knocking in 92 runs. Hunter had the fifth-best Wins Above Replacement in the American League amongst position players with 5.5, which would essentially make him the second most valuable player on the Tigers roster if he can keep up that production. The Tigers made it all the way to the World Series last fall before falling to the Giants, but the addition of Torii Hunter should provide a nice boost to help
    get them over the hump. Even better for the Tigers is the price tag that came with him. While the Angels signed Josh Hamilton for $125 million over five years, the Tigers added the American
    League’s second most valuable outfielder last season for only $26 million over two years. He may not be the Torii Hunter of old, flashing the leather in centerfield and robbing home runs, but his
    stats prove him to be a valuable asset, and the Tigers hope they can milk the last productive years out of him in the search for a World Series title.

    2. The Blue Jays sign outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal

    As of today, it certainly seems as though the Toronto Blue Jays were the big winners of the winter. They made a couple of blockbuster trades, including the R.A. Dickey deal, along with the massive trade they made with the Miami Marlins that landed them Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson. While those two trades certainly help the Blue Jays become instant contenders, the signing of Melky Cabrera for two years and $16 million flew mostly under the radar due to the rest of their seismic activity. Cabrera was enjoying an MVP-type season with the Giants last summer, hitting a whopping .346 before he was suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. While Cabrera may not have the type of season with the Blue Jays that he was having with the Giants, he is certainly still a valuable asset, and at $8 million a year, he is an efficient asset. Cabrera’s 2012 was an outlier in statistical terms to the rest of his career, but he’s always been a serviceable piece. If he does replicate the tear he was on in San Francisco, then the Jays may have themselves the steal of the offseason.

    3. The New York Mets acquire minor leaguers Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard in exchange for R.A. Dickey

    OK, so this trade may have been classified as a blockbuster when it went down, but not because of what the Mets landed. In mid-December, the Mets sent the reigning National League
    Cy Young winner to Toronto in exchange for a plethora of highly ranked prospects. While Dickey being dealt did send some shockwaves through Major League Baseball, not many people
    took notice of what the Mets got in return for the 38-year-old starter. In the deal, they landed the top catching prospect in all of baseball, Travis d’Arnaud, along with hard-throwing pitching
    prospect Noah Syndergaard. While dealing a Cy Young winner is tough, Dickey wasn’t a typical ace. His age makes him a risk to sign long-term, and relies on the often unreliable knuckleball.
    While Dickey’s last two seasons were booming successes, the Mets capitalized on his value, and in return landed the type of haul that can change a franchise's future. The Texas Rangers did an about-face when they dealt slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Braves, and it would appear as though the Mets just made a similar type of deal. Yes, this trade wasn’t quite under the radar, but what the Blue Jays acquired was.

  • Joe Flacco has last laugh after vindicating Super Bowl victory

    When Joe Flacco said he thought he was the best quarterback in the NFL in a radio interview last April, most people thought he was crazy.

    I know I did.

    It was like saying Crocs had the most swag in the market when they came out.

    Eli Manning went through the same type of scrutiny when he claimed that he was one of the quarterback "elites" in 2011, and he had to win the Super Bowl just to prove that claim. Surely, Flacco knew better than to make an assertion that exceeded a two-time Super Bowl champion.

    But throughout the season I watched, as did others who doubted, as Flacco outperformed his opponents, defeating supposed superiors throughout the postseason and amid the purple and white confetti it was he who held the Lombardi Trophy, smiling as if to say, “I told you so.”

    After throwing for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions throughout the playoffs and earning Super Bowl MVP honors, Flacco proved his claim with the best postseason performance by any quarterback since Joe Montana in 1989.

    Here's that list of quarterbacks who I thought were better than Flacco, and how Flacco proved me wrong. In short, the five-year quarterback out of the University of Delaware went mad scientist on everybody, and it was he who had the last laugh.

    Quarterbacks better than Flacco (as of last April)

    1. Aaron Rodgers
    Why:
    For one, I don’t see Flacco saving anyone money on their auto insurance. Secondly, he needs to earn MVP status before he passes Rodgers. With 45 touchdowns and six interceptions on the year, Rodgers put up video game-like numbers, leading the Packers to a 15-1 season. One of the few flaws to his season came in the Divisional Playoffs, being outplayed by Eli Manning, another quarterback seeking elite status.
    Why Not:
    As reigning Super Bowl MVP, Flacco earned the status I said was necessary. In contrast to Rodgers, his video game-like numbers came in the postseason with 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games; the best playoffs performance by a quarterback since Joe Montana in 1989. There are three quarterbacks in NFL history who everyone wants to be compared to: Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and John Elway. Flacco’s got one. But unlike Rodgers, he won’t be saving anyone money with the contract he will be receiving.

    2. Drew Brees
    Why:
    After breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record that had stood for 27 years, I thought Brees was on his way to being named league MVP. Like Rodgers, Brees has proved essential to the team’s success, bringing it from the bottom of the NFC South to Super Bowl champions only two years ago. With 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns on the season, Brees has stated a better case for being named “the best” along with his leadership role with his teammates.
    Why Not:
    Brees had almost the same success in the 2012 season as he had in the year prior, and his team missed the playoffs. Although they were without Sean Payton for the year, I still believe that disproves my theory of Brees’ vitality to the team’s success, or at least diminishes it. However, Brees just may be the closest argument to Flacco’s claim. Brees threw the ball almost 140 more times than Flacco, and without the consistent running game and defense that Baltimore possesses, New Orleans was in more of a position to pass the ball more frequently. There are many arguments that can be made for Brees’ case against Flacco, but Flacco can always play the “I’m the Super Bowl MVP” trump card. We are talking about the present, anyway.

    3. Tom Brady
    Why:
    Although Flacco outperformed Brady in the AFC Championship (2011), one cannot argue against the consistency that Brady has had. Throughout the season (2011), Tom Brady’s performance in the AFC Championship was the only game in which he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns. Although Brady is in a more pass-oriented system that has given him 70 more attempts than Flacco, he has completed around 10 percent more of his passes and threw the same number of interceptions.
    Why Not:
    Flacco has not only once again outplayed Tom Brady in the postseason, but improved his completion percentage, pulling within three points of Brady. Flacco also showed maturity throughout the postseason, completing deep passes that he normally would have thrown inaccurately, such as the 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones that sent the Ravens into overtime with the Denver Broncos.

    4. Peyton Manning
    Why:
    Even with three neck surgeries in a span of 19 months hanging a veil of uncertainty over his future, Peyton Manning is higher up the ladder than Flacco. Manning is almost his own offense. He is crazy smart and picks defenses apart. Earlier I discussed how essential Brees was to the Saints. The Colts went 2-14 without Manning. Now that Denver has claimed him, it will be interesting to see how the No. 1 rushing offense will adapt with Manning. He might be at the tail end of his career, but his name is about to go right alongside Unitas, Montana, and Elway when it comes to greatness, and I think even at his lowest point he will outperform Flacco.
    Why Not:
    This argument will sound much like the case against Brady. Manning gets the credit for being able to bounce back after a season-ending injury like he had. I don’t know what exactly they did over in Europe (perhaps moose antler spray), but Peyton was certainly back up to speed. In fact, he threw for more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than he did when he took the Colts to the Super Bowl in 2009. So why is Flacco better? For some reason I keep likening these comparisons to a schoolyard fight. You’ve got the big kid versus the average kid, and all day before recess everybody makes their predictions based on what they can see. Well in this case, Manning’s the big kid and Flacco’s the average kid. Manning has the better statistics and he’s beaten up all the other kids that have come through the fourth grade as he’s been held back (metaphorically speaking). But head-to-head, in the midst of the fight, Flacco outperforms. He makes the big plays, he throws for more yardage, more touchdowns and a higher completion percentage in their Divisional Playoff matchup. In that sense, I consider him the better quarterback. But I guess it depends on what you value. By the most current sense of the word, Flacco is better than Peyton Manning.

    5. Eli Manning
    Why:
    I decided to put Eli up here because I feel this leads up well to the point I’m trying to make: You have to earn your spot to be listed up here. Eli went out on a limb and said he was "elite," then played elite, beating most of the quarterbacks on this list along the way. So Flacco… Your turn.
    Why Not:
    Flacco certainly followed up with his turn, beginning his case ironically against the Giants in Week 16 when he threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-14 win that gave the initial nudge that was the falling out of New York’s season. From then on he would not throw another interception, outperforming Eli and the rest of those on this list in backing up his claim.

    Flacco and the Ravens organization will now enter the offseason, writing up what many expect to be a very sizable contract. But who knows if Flacco will accept the
    offer? He might think he’s worth more. He is mad after all.