In this day and age, the NFL is regarded as the most popular sports league in America as 35 percent of sports fans call the NFL their favorite sport, followed by Major League Baseball (14 percent) and college football (11 percent).
Most fans consider Pete Rozelle, the late former commissioner, to be responsible for the NFL’s immense popularity; however, over the last decade, the NFL’s success can be attributed to elite quarterback play.
When mentioning the NFL’s elite quarterbacks Denver Bronco’s Peyton Manning (age 38), Green Bay Packer’s Aaron Rodgers (age 30), New England’s Tom Brady (age 37), New Orleans’ Drew Brees (age 35), and Pittsburgh Steeler’s Ben Roethlisberger (age 32) are always at the top of every NFL analyst’s list.
Their résumés are impressive and illustrate why they are considered elite and so entertaining to watch.
Collectively, these five quarterbacks have eight Super Bowl victories, 13 Super Bowl appearances and 32 division title in the past twelve years. There have only been two years since 2002 when none of these quarterbacks were playing in the Super Bowl (Super Bowls XXXVII and XLVII). Not to mention, all five quarterbacks this season are in the top ten for most passing yards and touchdowns.
So what will happen to the NFL when they all retire?
Football fans everywhere should feel blessed to have had the privilege to watch these great quarterbacks in action on Sundays over the past decade. When they retire, the league will not be the same. Their successors have shown potential but they aren’t as consistent as the current elite quarterbacks.
Most NFL analysts believe that the quarterback position will continue to evolve from a pocket passer style of play to a dual threat style of play, meaning a quarterback who is a threat to throw the ball downfield and rush for big plays.
This dual threat style of quarterback play has been problematic for many defenses around the league as quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III have all thrived in this new era of NFL football.
However, the NFL is a league of adjustments. As defenses have been able to figure out how to contain these dual threat quarterbacks, their style of play has been less impactful. This season, these dual threat quarterbacks are a combined 20-23-1 and none of their respective teams are a lock to make the playoffs, as all of the quarterbacks have struggled.
Of all the younger quarterbacks in the NFL, Indianapolis Colt’s quarterback Andrew Luck has shown the most potential in becoming one of the elite as he currently leads the league in passing yards and is second in touchdown passes. However, Luck is considered to be more of a pocket passer than a dual threat quarterback.
This dual threat style of play at first seemed like the future of the NFL but has proven to be less effective and not as enjoyable to watch for NFL plans.
The NFL will most likely still be the most popular sport in America but the switch from pocket passing quarterbacks to dual threat quarterbacks will diminish its overall popularity.
Major League Baseball’s GM meetings take place next week in Orlando, Florida. On Dec. 9, the annual Winter Meetings will kick off in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. These next few weeks are some of the craziest in the baseball year. There is expected to be a flurry of free agent signings almost immediately. The landscape of the league figures to look quite different by Opening Day 2014. Here are three former Texas Longhorn players who are currently free agents.
JP Howell—Relief Pitcher
2013 team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Previous contract: One year $2.85 million guaranteed, with $1.75 million in potential incentives
Howell is coming off an excellent 2013 season in Los Angeles. The 30-year-old southpaw posted a 2.03 earned run average in 62 innings. In those innings, he surrendered just 42 hits and featured a solid 2.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s a lefty specialist, and there isn’t a team in the majors that couldn’t use one. He doesn’t have plus velocity—he generally hits about 87 to 90 mph on his fastball—but this can really sneak up on hitters because he does have a dazzling off-speed repertoire. He is looking for a multi-year deal, and I think he gets it for around 4 to 6 million dollars per year. It’s likely the Dodgers, with their limitless cash, will re-sign Howell.
2013 team: Cleveland Indians
Previous contract: One year $2.825 million, with $50,000 in potential incentives
Stubbs can be a decent asset to a contending team off the bench, but he won’t get paid much this offseason. In 2013, he hit .233 with 10 home runs and 45 runs batted in. So he’s got some pop and also has an ability to spray the ball to all fields to drive in runs. The glaring problem is his atrocious strikeout rate. In 430 at bats, he fanned 141 times—that’s a whopping 32.7 percent. He does take walks at a respectable rate of 10.2 percent.
If he wants a chance to start in center field, Cleveland is about as good a team as he can be on. Otherwise, he’ll be in the dugout most of the time. His career .310 on base percentage is just far too low to merit consistent time with any contender.
Brandon Belt—First Baseman
2013 team: San Francisco Giants
Previous contract: One year, $531,500
Belt is far and away the best former Longhorn player in the majors right now. For just over $500,000, the Giants got a tremendous bargain for Belt’s production last season. Last season, he finished with a .289 batting average in 509 at bats. He hit 17 home runs and drove in 67 RBI. His OBP was a solid .360, so he takes his fair share of walks as well. He was also effective defensively at first base.
He is a left-handed power bat, and many teams envy a hitter who brings that to the table. Now, if the Giants want him to stick around, it’s time for them to pay up—Belt more than deserves it. But he’s been given one-year deals for the last three seasons and may want to get out of San Francisco for a bit to test his interest on the market. With his 2013 numbers, he’s earned a more secure and lucrative contract, maybe in the neighborhood of two to three years, 5 to 7 million dollars per year. The Giants likely have the room to re-sign him if they choose to.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947. His career numbers and impact on the game earned him an induction into Cooperstown the first time he was on the ballot. In 1997, 50 years after Robinson changed baseball forever, Major League Baseball retired his number 42 throughout the entire league.
There were 14 players currently wearing 42 when MLB decided to honor Robinson by retiring his number, allowing them to wear it through the end of their career.
In 2013, only one of those 14 are still wearing number 42 on the baseball diamond, Mariano Rivera.
Rivera was signed out of Panama City, Panama by the New York Yankees on February 17,1990 for $3,000. When the Yankees flew him to the states to get started on his professional career, Rivera had never been on an airplane, spoke no English, and by his own account, wasn’t even a pitcher.
He made his major league debut in a start against the Angels on May 23, 1995, giving up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-0 Yankees loss. A few weeks later, he was sent right back tot he minors.
Rivera was recalled by the Yankees later that June and would go on to make six more starts that year. His first relief appearance came on August 1, 1995, and no one could have foreseen the greatness that was about to proceed for the next 19 years.
Led by his infamous cutter, Mariano Rivera would start his ascent in the Yankee bullpen, garnering Cy Young votes as the Yankee set-up man in 1996 and finally claiming the closer job in 1997. As the saying goes, the rest was history.
With a week left to go in his career, Rivera is the most dominate reliever in a century of baseball. His 652 saves are better than future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman’s by 51. Rollie Fingers had 341 in his 17 years, Dennis Eckersley had 390 in his 24-year career, and Goose Gossage had 310 career saves, and each of those greats are already in Cooperstown.
Known as the “Sandman” for his entrance song “Enter Sandman” by Metallica that plays through Yankee Stadium when he comes jogging in from the Yankees bullpen to get the final three outs, Rivera has been a transcendent athlete during his time in the Pinstripes.
He is the only player in Major League Baseball to record the final out in four World Series, doing it in 1998, 1999, 2000, and the 2009. Rivera closed out 16 postseason series, and is the only player to be named Most Valuable Player in a World Series (1999), League Championship Series (2003), and All Star game (2013). Rivera set the standard for closer efficiency in his role at the back of the Yankees bullpen, essentially doing it all with one devastating pitch.
The Yankees are arguably the most polarizing franchise in American sports, but one thing nearly everyone can agree on is a mutual infatuation with Rivera, who did it with class and a smile the entire time.
If Robinson hadn’t done what he did way back in 1947, there is a chance that the greatness of Rivera wouldn’t be a tale that we tell our children for decades to come. Rivera will be the last player to ever wear number 42 for a Major League Baseball team, and I’m sure Robinson couldn’t be more proud, smiling down on his number for the last time in this closing week of 2013.
Rivera may not have impacted the game in the same fashion as Robinson, but his presence will surely never be forgotten, and baseball will miss him. There isn’t a better player, or man, to close the book on number 42 for the last time.
After Buster Posey broke his fibula and tore three ligaments in his ankle in 2011, I expected Major League Baseball to take measures toward protecting their players and prevent what happened to Posey from happening to anyone else. However, as seen with the recurring bone-crushing collisions at home plate every year, the MLB has not acted.
This controversial topic gained steam this week after two current MLB managers and former catchers, Mike Matheny and Bruce Bochy, both stated their beliefs that MLB should ban the baserunner’s option to slam into the catcher at full speed when attempting to score a run. According to Matheny, Bochy and ESPN senior baseball writer Buster Olney, change to the rule is “not a matter of if, but when.”
Last year during Posey’s NL MVP campaign, Bochy told him to avoid blocking the plate at all costs because the Giants could not afford to lose the best hitter in their lineup. Posey got extremely lucky that his collision with Scott Cousins in 2011 did not have a more severe impact on his career. The Mets handled the situation similarly with their promising catcher, Travis d’Arnaud. Coaches decided to forbid him from standing his ground at home plate. He has already injured his knee once, and as a catcher, another injury would not bode well for the longevity of his career.
Player safety should take precedence over everything when it comes to the sports and entertainment business. Some might argue that collisions add to the excitement of the game and is a financial incentive because it attracts more fans, but I don’t buy that argument for a second. Catchers who support the proposition to ban collisions at home might ask their opponents, “Have you ever been blind-sided by a 220-pound athlete running at full speed?” Most football players sure have, and these collisions at home plate are horrifically similar to the jarring hits banned in football. I believe baseball should and will follow the NFL’s example but the time table of implementation is anyone’s guess.
I can’t help but wonder if Posey had not returned from his injury by winning the NL MVP or had he not returned to baseball at all, whether or not the MLB would have chosen to take action at that point. Perhaps in this case, the phrase, “...until someone gets hurt” could be translated to “…until someone’s career ends.”
Yesterday, Olney tweeted a very interesting side of the argument. The tweet read, “An evaluator I talked to loosely pegged the dollar value of one attempt at blocking home at $125,000, vs. '12 value of Posey to SFG -- $36m.” (via @Buster_ESPN)
Death, taxes, and professional baseball players cheating. Those are the three things we can assuredly count on in this life of ours. On Tuesday, a potential new list of performance enhancing drug users was revealed by a clinic in Miami, allegedly tying Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Gio Gonzalez to the use of human growth hormone and anabolic steroids.
Shocked, aren’t you?
All of the players tied to the report from Miami have claimed the accusations to be false, including Alex Rodriguez who hired a Miami attorney to defend him on the case. Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals pitcher who finished the season with 21 wins, most in the National League, stated Tuesday, “I’ve never used performance-enhancing drugs of any kind, and I never will.”
While the public stands from a distance to hear the outcome of Major League Baseball’s newest steroid saga, the teams of the players in question haven’t. According to league sources, the Yankees are trying feverishly to find a way to void the contract of 37 year old Alex Rodriguez, who still has over 100 million dollars owed to him.
While nobody has been proven guilty in this round of steroid finger pointing, yet, one thing is clear. The game is still not as clean as it needs to be, and they appear to have a way to go to get it as clean as they desire. Take Melky Cabrera for instance. Cabrera bounced around the league as a serviceable fourth outfielder for years with a number of different teams. All of a sudden in 2012, he breaks out in San Francisco, and was arguably the front runner for National League MVP before he was caught using PED’s. Even after he was caught cheating, he parlayed his huge season into a two-year, 16 million dollar deal from the Blue Jays.
Cheat, get caught, make 16 million dollars to play baseball. Sounds simple enough, right?
While Major League Baseball is leaps and bounds ahead of where they were on drug testing a decade ago, the punishments need to be more severe to deter the players from playing their own version Russian roulette. Anyone in their right mind would juice, produce at a high level, and take a 50 game suspension if it meant they would get paid eight million dollars over the next two years.
With all the money to be made in Major League Baseball these days, players will do anything they can to stay on top of their game. What we do know is that until the consequences become more severe for players who are caught, they will keep spinning the wheel of fortune on PED’s. Hopefully that day comes in the near future, or baseball fans everywhere will continue to have doubt creep into their minds every time one of their own has a season to remember. Something that is all too unfortunate for the ones who do solely perform on God given ability, not scientist given.
When asked earlier this year what his favorite rule change in Major League Baseball was, Elvis Andrus didn’t say it was instant replay. Or the designated hitter.
He didn’t say it was interleague play or the fact that the All-Star Game determines which league’s representative will get home field advantage in the World Series.
No, instead, Andrus expressed his approval of the new Wild Card system.
“All of those games make the game more interesting,” he said. “I love the idea of the extra Wild Card. Fans will enjoy that extra game and it’s a chance for another team, so it’s always good for fans to be able to see that.”
“Interesting” may not be the word Andrus would use to describe the new playoff format now.
Not after the Rangers blew a four-run lead for the second time in three days, falling to the A’s, 12-5, Wednesday at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in their regular season finale. The Rangers were swept by the A’s and did not win the American League West despite leading the division for 178 days — the most by a team that didn’t win its division since the divisional era began in 1969.
Instead of popping champagne, Texas will try to regroup in time for its Wild Card game against the Orioles in Arlington. For a team that has lost five of their last six games and nine of their last 12, that will be much easier said than done for the slumping Rangers.
Only two teams have erased deficits bigger than the 13-game hole Oakland dug itself out of to win the AL West this year, as the A’s went 57-20 (.740) in their last 77 games, winning their last six.
But even numbers as mind-boggling as those don’t explain the full magnitude of what happened in Oakland, Calif. on Wednesday afternoon.
Josh Hamilton settled under a fly ball in shallow center field off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. What should have been an inning-ending can of corn turned into a two-run error as the A’s took a 7-5 lead in a six-run fourth inning, one frame after the Rangers pushed five runs across. The A’s would score the last 11 runs of the game.
Hamilton was one of the biggest reasons why the two-time defending AL champion Rangers were in such great position to win a third straight division title. But that moment epitomized Texas’ recent struggles. The Rangers, who held a 13-game lead over a previously nondescript A’s team and who held a 5-1 lead over this same squad before the fourth inning began, were suddenly trailing and eventually without a division crown that seemed wrapped up this time last week.
It will be interesting to see how the Rangers respond.
Did everybody just see that? Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giant’s outfielder, just took a bullet aimed straight for Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s head. On Friday, Cabrera requested through the MLB players union that he be disqualified for the 2012 National League batting title.
Cabrera, playing in his seventh full major league season, was enjoying a breakout campaign out by the Bay Area in San Francisco. He was hitting a whopping .346 through 501 plate appearances. He was the National League MVP of the All-Star Game in Kansas City, Mo., and was presumably on his way to being the National League MVP of the season. He was also on his way to a big pay day when his contract was due to expire at the end of the season. And just like so many before him, it all came crashing down around him when it was announced that he had tested positive for testosterone. He was suspended for 50 games for violating the MLB drug abuse policy, and his entire stellar season would be remembered with a hint of resentment from the fans who have been cheated in a similar fashion all too many times.
But Cabrera still had a chance, even after being caught cheating, to be listed in the history books as the 2012 National League batting champion.
It was announced Thursday through the commissioner’s office that if the season ended with Cabrera still in the lead in the batting race and on Friday he was still leading second-place Pirates’ outfielder Andrew McCutchen by seven points, then he would be crowned as the batting champion because of a quirky rule.
Did you catch that? The guy who failed a drug test for performance-enhancing drugs would still be remembered in history as the batting champion. Let it sink in.
Of the four big sports in North America, baseball has suffered plenty of black eyes. While Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and a slew of others are being held out of Cooperstown, N.Y., for their alleged performance-enhancing drug use, all of their records still stand just as pristine as ever.
Those games happened, and this isn’t “Men in Black” where you can simply flash all of America and make them forget that magical season when McGwire and Sosa were going toe-to-toe for the single season home run record. We can’t forget the season just a few years later when Barry Bonds blew past the both of them.
The point is, if Bud Selig didn’t have his head in the sand for a decade-plus on the steroid issue, those records wouldn’t be tainted. Hank Aaron wouldn’t be second on the all-time list for home runs, behind someone like Bonds, who put on almost 40 pounds of muscle over the course of his 22-year career. Those records will forever be tainted because Selig was reactionary instead of being proactive.
Now six-and-a-half years after Major League Baseball adopted its new drug-testing policy to cleanse the game, we still have superstars faltering and tainting records and personal achievements. 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun failed a drug test a month after he received the prestigious award. And while Braun had the test overturned on a strange appeal, the award still holds a bit of question, even if Braun is matching his MVP numbers this season under a presumably clean slate.
If Melky Cabrera had not taken himself out of the running for the National League batting crown, which he likely would have won, baseball would have affectively not taken a positive step forward since the days of the “juicers.” Cheaters would still be embraced as historical icons, and the game’s integrity would continue to sink like the Titanic.
Instead Cabrera did what was right, something Bud Selig cannot seem to wrap his mind around. Cabrera took the bullet for a spineless commissioner in hopes of returning integrity back to America’s pastime. And while Cabrera still cheated, he at least owned up to his mistake and made it right, something the cheaters before him did not. He ensured that the proper winner will win the batting title the right way, not by cheating the game and all its fans that crave to put the days of tainted baseball behind them.
And with a swift and not so subtle stroke of the broom, all of Ryan Braun’s issues were swept under the rug, presumably to die and be forgotten. With one final verdict from an appeals committee, the immediate future of the slugging left fielder became infinitely clearer.
Over the winter, it was discovered that the National League MVP had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, registering the largest amount of testosterone seen under Major League Baseball’s new drug testing program.
And even with the positive test coming into public light, now we’re all suppose to forget it happened. Forget the last three months of scrutiny, forget the positive test. The guy triggered the test using herpes medication, nothing to see here.
Sorry to disappoint you Mr. Selig, but it doesn’t quite work like that. Your superstar has been cast in a negative light, and no appeals board will change that. And it’s hard to not look past the hypocrisy of this turnout compared to another famous failed drug tests since the new testing program was implemented in 2004.
Manny Ramirez tested positive for steroids, for the first time, in 2009 while with the Dodgers due to a drug prescribed to him and didn’t receive such favorable help from baseball’s big wigs. Even though he did not fight the suspension, it didn’t appear as though he got the guidance Braun got. Ramirez, although beloved by most baseball fans everywhere, was a somewhat polarizing figure in the game, causing mild issues amongst baseball’s front office elite with his silly antics and flippant attitude. Braun is more of a baseball golden boy, seemingly never causing issues except to opposing pitchers. He plays in Commissioner Selig’s hometown of Milwaukee, and is seen as one of the good guys in the game. For a sport trying to turn the page on the steroid era of the early 2000’s, it sure seems like Major League Baseball is trying anything to keep faith in its superstars amongst the masses, something that was shattered by the likes of Mark Mcgwire, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens.
The bottom line is this: athletes, especially in today’s society that is extremely paranoid about cheaters in sports, are ultimately responsible for what goes into their bodies. Manny Ramirez took a prescribed drug and got busted, why is Ryan Braun any different?
Fortunately for the slugger, he’s on baseball's good side, and his season will start April 6th against the Cardinals instead of May 31st against, ironically, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Several hopeful players prepare to take a few swings during the Texas Rangers open tryout Wednesday. Over 300 people tried out.
It was the chance of a lifetime, an opportunity that only seems to emerge from big-budget Hollywood movies. Hundreds of hopeful ballplayers descended upon Round Rock to take a crack at being the newest Major League Baseball player.
The Rangers, in association with their Triple A affiliate the Round Rock Express, held open tryouts at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The tryouts brought in more than 300 baseball players from around the country praying for the opportunity to live out their singular boyhood dream.
“This opportunity means the world to me, and it’s something I’ve dreamt about since I was six,” said Austin-American Statesman employee and former high school catcher John Quintillo. “Besides my fiance, baseball is my No. 1 love.”
The tryouts brought out a range of hopefuls with varying degrees of skill and a number of different motivations for trying out.
Corey Peoples, 23, first picked up a baseball when he was 6 years old in Victoria, Texas. Peoples is on a baseball scholarship at a junior college in New Mexico, and he drove more than 10 hours to try out for his family as much as himself. He said the potential contract could help pay for his mother’s overdue medical bills, as well as provide for his young nephews.
“This opportunity would mean having a chance to pay off my mom’s brain surgery, as well as getting my nephews out of the situation they are in,” Peoples said. “Right now they are all living in a four-bedroom house with eight people in it. They need a place to play.”
Peoples’ brother, Blaine, died last year. He said that he was also trying out in his honor.
Round Rock Express General Manager George King was among the scouts assessing the talent. Although the chances of anyone making it are slim, he said open tryouts are still important and have yielded some success in the past.
“We have a great example on our own roster right now of someone who was lying out there and no one found him yet, and that’s Mark Hamburger, who is a relief pitcher for us,” he said. “In 2007 he walked into the Metrodome in Minneapolis for an open tryout like this with the Minnesota Twins and walked out with a professional contract.”
King also said the tryouts represent a throwback to a brand of baseball that is slowly disappearing.
“It used to be a normal thing in old-school baseball,” he said of the open tryouts. “It’s more rare these days with the sophistication of scouting, but there is still the belief out there that no matter how good that system is, there are still diamonds in the rough. This is the original American Idol. It’s been around as long as baseball’s been around.”
Just as baseball is part of the fabric that makes up America, so too are big dreams. Andrea Newton went to the tryouts to watch her 18-year-old son. She sad he has dreamt of this moment his whole life.
“It just makes me proud just to see him out there giving it his all, ” she said.
According to Rangers management, the team didn’t offer any of Wednesday’s prospects a contract, but were nonetheless impressed with a handful of players. And although no one got the call from the majors at this tryout, the dreams of these lifelong baseball lovers still lives on.
Printed on 07/21/2011 as: Dell Diamond hosts first-ever open tryouts
The program raised $25,000 to grant fellowships to five different research teams from University funds, College of Communication funds and donors, said Texas Program in Sports and Media executive director Michael Cramer in an email. The research projects will contribute to the developing field of sports and media, said program manager Christopher Hart.
“The cultural footprint of sports and media is vast,” Hart said. “For unknown reasons, there hasn’t been near the level of scholarship as there has been in other culturally significant areas.”
The research teams applied for the program in the middle of April and were officially chosen in May. All five teams that applied were granted fellowships and belong to various schools in the College of Communication.
Professor Tracy Dahlby was granted $5,500 to study the Cleveland Indians, the first Major League Baseball team to offer exclusive seating for social media journalists. Avery Holton, a graduate journalism student working under Dahlby, said this policy is different from those of other Major League Baseball teams.
“Basically, Major League Baseball has been very slow to adapt to social media producers,” Holton said in an email. “They’re somewhat ignoring social media producers who could provide valuable exposure.”
Holton said the grant money will help pay for trips to Cleveland. He said the project will help the researchers learn how sports teams can profitably work with social media and how the Cleveland Indians’ policies will affect the rest of the league.
Associate journalism professor Renita Coleman was granted $5,000 to study how photojournalists’ gender impacts sports coverage. Coleman will supervise Carolyn Yaschur, the graduate student who came up with the research idea after speaking to a former boss about who would fill her position.
“He made this offhand comment: ‘Well, men and women just shoot differently,” Yaschur said. “To my knowledge, there’s no research out there investigating the differences between the way men and women photojournalists shoot, and in particular, the way men and women cover sports visually.”
Yaschur said understanding how gender impacts photojournalism is important in today’s visual society.
“Because we’re such a visually dominated society, we’re bombarded with images all the time,” she said. “The factors that come into how photojournalists make their photos are important because it impacts our perspective of the world as viewers.”
Other projects include the creation of digital media archives for football programs in Dallas and El Paso, research on how media coverage of football affects future players’ expectations and an exploration of how parents’ control of sports watching on TV affects childrens’ views of