Carolina Panthers

Greg Hardy’s Outlook with the Cowboys

The Carolina Panthers have had a productive off-season making quiet moves to improve the team. One big decision they made was to let troubled defensive end Greg Hardy walk in free agency. Many fans didn’t like the decision because of his play on the field, in his 5 seasons with the Panthers he collected 142 tackles and 34 sacks a nightmare for quarterbacks to face.

Unfortunately, he was the latest player to get in trouble to commit domestic violence, it is no surprise to me because he was scary looking with all of that face paint he had on during games, even off the field, he had a creepy look it even scared me, I can’t imagine what was going through quarterbacks heads. The decision to let him go came from owner Jerry Richardson, the right one in my opinion, although you are losing a great player on the field the team will no longer have to deal with the questions and baggage that Hardy now has.

Hardy wasn’t on the market for too long when the Dallas Cowboys inked him to a 1-year 13.1 million dollars. This pick-up does not surprise me because the Cowboys are notorious for picking the bad boys, he and Dez make a nice pair in that regard. This contract includes a lot of incentives because the Cowboys have not guaranteed any money he must earn it.

Here is the breakdown
• Base salary: $750,000
• Per-game 53-man roster bonuses: $9.25 million
• Incentives: Max of $1.804 million.
• 8 or more sacks 500,000
• 10 sacks 1 million
• 12 sacks 1.4 million
• 14 or more sacks 1.804 million

For the Cowboys this is good, on the field he is a deadly weapon on the defensive side of the ball. He is facing discipline from the league for the domestic violence it as has been reported maybe 6 games, but the hearing has been put on hold for now. This move is an opportunity for Hardy to show he can act right off the field and just play football, because we all know he can do that.

I love watching Hardy play football, but I hope he is suspended through the Panther game for Cam Newton’s sake. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out for all parties involved.

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Atlanta Braves

2015 Atlanta Braves Starting Rotation Preview

The Changes 

In an off-season that has seen many moving parts, the starting rotation no different parting ways with Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy both of them had to have their 2nd Tommy John before the 2014 season. Also losing Ervin Santana to the Minnesota Twins, he had 14 and 10 record with a 3.95 ERA.

The Braves couldn’t afford to keep Medlen or Beachy due to the injury history, but they were very effective while with the Braves while healthy so I wish the best! The team was outbid was for Ervin Santana, these three were important for the rotation in the time they pitched for the team they will be tough to replace. The 2015 rotation is going to be a mix of veterans and young guys following the Jon Hart blueprint of this  off-season.

Ace Julio Teheran

Teheran is the leader of this rotation even though he is just 24 years old; he carries himself like a 10- year veteran. He was the most consistent pitcher last year for a team that was offensively challenged averaging nine strikeouts per game. He still managed a 14-13 record with a 2.89 ERA and his 1st All-Star appearance. Overall he has a 29-22 record with 3.19 ERA, very impressive for a guy who is just getting his career started.

For 2015 Teheran is going to be the leader once again, setting the tone for the other guys to follow all year-long. Hopefully the revamped offense that is figured to strikeout less will help Teheran post great numbers and take the pressure off every pitch and allow for a mistake or two, that he could not afford last season.

Number 2 – Alex Wood

Alex is a crafty Left-Hander with a herky- jerky motion that creates an uncomfortable at-bat for everyone. In his two seasons with the Braves he has split time as a starter and a reliever. In 2014 he was 11-11 with a 2.78 ERA, the majority was spent, as a starter where I believe is most effective because it allows him to get in a rhythm with his mechanics and get into hitters heads. Overall he is 14-14 with 2.89 ERA, also very impressive for a guy that I remember seeing pitch in High school.

In 2015 he should be more comfortable not having to fight for a roster spot, as he has the past 2 seasons. He no longer will have to worry about his role on this team, he will be a starter for many years to come. I expect him to be very solid again this season and a great compliment to the rotation with his unique delivery.

 Number 3-Shelby Miller

Shelby Miller was the key piece in the Jason Heyward deal, this deal wasn’t well received on the Braves side because Jason Heyward was beloved on and off the field. This trade looks to be  a win-win, the Cardinals got an awesome defender, great speed and still developing offensively. The Braves got a 24-year-old power arm with great upside.

Shelby Miller had a great start to his Braves career this spring, showing why they would pull the trigger on this young arm. He has a power fastball and sinker these are his best pitches mixing in a change-up to keep hitters honest. Shelby is coming off a solid 2014 with a 10-9 record and a 3.74. Overall he is 26-18 and a 3.33 ERA. A great start to his career that is just getting started.

In 2015 he will look to make an impact on his new team right away and build on 2014. He is a welcome addition to the rotation and after facing Alex Wood who is more of fineness pitcher. Miller’s power will be an advantage after the unique delivery of Wood, just another thing for opponent to think about when facing the Braves.

Number 4-  Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy Rodriguez was a low-risk high reward signing this off-season due to recent injury history. He has taken this opportunity by the horns this spring, in 5 starts he is 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA and 13 strikeouts. He has made a great first impression if he keeps this up the Braves rotation might be deeper than expected.

In 2015 I expect him to be a veteran presence and most importantly give this team a chance to win every night. The keys for a successful season is to obviously stay healthy as he has battled arm and shoulder injuries over the past few years. On the field he has a tendency to be a little wild, hopefully he has that under control. I expect him to be one of the nice surprise for the Braves this season.

Number 5- Eric Stults

Eric Stults is another veteran Jon Hart has brought in this off-season, many think he could be this years version of Arron Harang He has had an up and down career going 35-43 with a 4.12 ERA mostly with the Padres, his numbers will not jump out at you, but he is another veteran presence at the back of the rotation that can help the young guys.

He is also taking advantage of the opportunity with the Braves this spring with a 1-0 record and  a 2.57 ERA, he doesn’t light up the radar gun topping out at 90 mph, but he knows how to get hitters out. In 2015 I also expect him to be solid and give the team a chance to win every time out.

Overall 

This rotation is a perfect mixture of power and finesse it has a chance to surprise people with the solid spring they are all having. The offense will be a key to take press off of every pitch, if that happens we have a chance to put up a lot of W’S this season with the back-end of the bullpen and those possibilities. It will be exciting to watch!

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Golf

Brooks Koepka Gets 1st PGA Tour Win

Coming into Phoenix there were tons of storylines, including the season debut of Tiger Woods. We all know how that ended up, so no need to relive the horror that took place. Phil Mickelson was in the 132 player field as well, and he had a lofty expectations due to the prior success he has had at this tournament, winning just two years ago. Phil was on a 59 watch, which is the most exciting thing that happens in golf; unfortunately, that didn’t happen, as he missed the cut for the first time since 2009. Definitely not the way those two wanted to begin their 2015 seasons.

That opened the door for the field to make a statement, and that is exactly what Brooks Koepka did. The 24-year-old from the University of Florida State is a two-time All-American that has Bubba Watson type power, and that gives him a leg up on the rest of the competitors off the tee. He didn’t take the traditional route that most PGA Tour players take. Instead of the Web.com Tour, Brooks went the European Challenge Tour route, which, he said, taught him how to deal with failure and become a better player and person. He was able to get a win on the European Tour in Turkey, building his confidence that he could beat anyone anywhere.

He proved that this weekend, coming from 3 strokes behind leader Martin Laird on Sunday, posting a 65, and holding off Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama, and Ryan Palmer. Koepka’s defining moment was a 50 foot eagle from off the green to give him the lead for good. He had to hold his breath because Matsuyama had a putt to tie and send the two players to a playoff. Matsuyama missed the putt, and that was it. Brooks Koepka was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open champion.

Brooks Koepka’s driving accuracy was the reason he came back to win, as he didn’t miss a fairway on the Saturday or Sunday. That’s an amazing fairway hit percentage. The little known American has now made a name for himself in the golf world, as he is now the 33rd ranked player in the world and one to watch out for come April for The Masters.

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Uncategorized

Jason Day Wins The Farmers Insurance In A Playoff

The Famers Insurance open started with all eyes on Tiger Woods as he looked to bounce back from his worst performance as a professional. He wasn’t able to do so as he re-injured his back due to what he termed defective glute muscles, this forced him to withdraw for the 3rd time in last 8 starts leaving his future in the balance. Phil Mickelson didn’t have much either, struggling on the greens, going in between putting grips, causing him to miss consecutive cuts for the 1st time since 2002. They are searching for answers. Winter rust?

Torrey Pines showed why it was a U.S. Open venue in 2008, with thick, lush rough that made many shots impossible making par feel like a birdie many times on Saturday and Sunday. Harris English made it look easy the 1st 2 rounds without a bogey looking totally in control and poised to get his 2nd career win. He headed into Sunday tied for the lead with JB Homes at 9 under par and many others breathing down their necks at 8 and 7 under. Setting up an exciting final round where anything could happen.

It was survival of the fittest type of final round that saw everybody drop shots, it was a grind it out type of day for everyone. At one point in the round there were 11 players within 2 shots of the lead. JB Holmes had an up and down front 9 that saw him make just one par, but was able to bounce back and make 2 birdies to grab the lead at 10-under 2 shots clear of second, it looked like double digits were going to win The Farmers Insurance Open.

Jason Day methodically made his way around the course with an even front 9. The turning point for him was 16 when he drained a 42-foot putt to tie him for the lead. Scott Stallings, the defending champion, threw himself in the picture when he holed a bunker shot on 13 for eagle that also tied him for the lead. Jason day and Scott Stallings were in the clubhouse at 9 under waiting to see if they would get to play in a playoff.

JB Holmes came to 18 with an advantage because of his his power off the tee and it being a par 5, it felt like a pretty good bet he would make a birdie with his tee shot right down the middle. He will be rethinking his choice to lay-up, making the 3rd shot longer than needed. His 3rd shot, hung up on the ridge leaving it 16 feet away from the hole, much longer than planned for the win. With 2 feet to go it looked like it was going to drop, but it stopped two inches to the right. Close, but no cigar. He was also at 9 under making him the 3rd in the playoff. Harris English came to 18 needing a birdie to tie as well. English birdied 18, making him the 4th man in the playoff. This is the only way this tournament should have gone because of how closely it was contested.

The 1st playoff hole was 18 Scott Stallings and Harris English hit it in the rough and that cost them as they made par. Jason Day and JB Holmes were able to take advantage of their power and make birdies. There were 4 now there are 2, JB Homes and Jason Day headed to the par 3 16th. JB Holmes stepped up first with a lot of adrenaline as he fired it over the green up against the TV Tower.

Jason Day stepped up and fired a laser right over the pin to 15 feet; impressive considering the average proximity to the hole was 38 feet the hole. JB Holmes had a difficult lie and it was tough to stop as it went 10 feet past for par. Jason Day was able to cozy his up and make par, JB just missed his par making Jason Day the 2015 Farmers Insurance Champion. With this win Jason Day becomes the 4th ranked player in the world, an already feared golfer, just got scarier look out for him in the majors!

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Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves Positional Preview: 2nd Base

The Atlanta Braves report to spring training in less than 2 weeks and with so many moving parts this off-season it will be interesting to see how the entire team looks while gearing up for the 2015 season, but one position everyone will have their eyes on is second base.

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This position has been a revolving door of disappointments whether because of performance reasons or injury. In 2015 they are looking to have more stability and with the signing of Alberto Callaspo they have done that. He is a versatile veteran who can mentor the young guys they have coming up through their system. He is also a great contact hitter that will give you a good at-bat every time he steps into the box. Although he is not the long-term solution he will be a great stopgap for the young guns coming up.

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Top prospect Jose Peraza is expected to get his feet wet at sometime in the 2015, he has been in the system since 2011. He is not much of a power threat with only 5 homers in his career but he does have a .306 career batting average showing he is a good contact hitter and he has a little bit of speed as well with 177 stolen bases. His defense is the thing that needs work, but I am sure working with Andrelton Simmons will help that weakness in his game. Peraza and Simmons look to be the Braves infield duo for many years to come.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Texas Rangers
Lastly Phil Gosselin is another option at the position and likely the backup to Alberto Callaspo until Peraza is deemed ready for the big leagues. Gosselin spit time with Tommy LA Stella in 2014 and he proved to be serviceable, hitting .266 in 46 games. He was also an asset of off the bench providing a speed option late in games. Gosselin’s role will increase in 2015 and with more at-bats he should be more productive and again an impact player off the bench.

2nd base will be one of the intriguing positions to watch with a mix of veteran players and young guys ready to prove themselves. Peraza will have the most eyes on him in spring training, as he has been a top prospect in the Atlanta Braves farm system since he started in 2011. It will be fun to see how he fairs and how the Braves do as a whole at that position, considering it has been a struggle to find any answer at 2nd base over the past couple of seasons.

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Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves 2015 Bullpen Preview

THE CHANGES

The Atlanta Braves have gone through a face-lift this off-season at almost every position; the bullpen is no exception parting ways with Jordan Walden in the Jason Heyward trade. The flamethrower served as the Braves set-up man and had a very effective 2014 season posting a 2.88 ERA in 58 innings pitched. He did have some injury issues, but he should be a valuable asset to the Cardinals bullpen in 2015.

The Braves also parted ways with long man/7th inning guy Anthony Varvaro. He was able to get the Braves out of some sticky situations last season. He was very valuable in many different roles in parts of 4 years with the Braves. The overhaul wasn’t finished there, as they traded David Carpenter to the Yankees. He served many roles for the team serving time as the 7th and the 8th inning guy and even had a few appearances as the closer when guys needed rest in the Braves bullpen. He posted a 6-4 record with a 3.54 ERA in 2014. These were 3 key players in 2014 that Jon Hart has elected to trade away.

2015 Bullpen

The Braves have gone though a youth movement throughout the roster but Jon Hart has taken a different approach to the bullpen, signing low-risk/high reward veteran relievers like Jim Jonson and Jason Grilli. Guys that were once All-Stars trying to regain that form. All these spots will be determined by spring performances, the only spot that is a lock is closer which will be occupied by Craig Kimbrel again.
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Closer- Craig Kimbrel will no doubt anchor the bullpen once again in 2015. He has been one of the most dominate closers in the game since debuting in 2010. Recording 186 saves out of 205 opportunities(90% success rate) and posting a 1.43 ERA thus far in his career he has been almost automatic. The only question is how many opportunities will he have this season with all the changes made to the offense. Also if the Braves fall out of contention, he might be in a different uniform after the trade deadline, should Hart move him and take advantage of his great value.
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Setup- Jim Jonson I believe will bounce back from a terrible seasons split between Detroit and Oakland that saw him get booed countless times as his sinker continuously stayed in the middle of the plate. He posted a dismal 7.09 ERA, his career worst. I don’t think he will go back to his Baltimore days where he recorded back to back 50 save seasons, but I think he will be a serviceable and do a good job setting up for Kimbrel.

MLB: Atlanta Braves-Photo Day

Setup- Jason Grilli is another veteran trying to get back on track over the past few years. He has battled injuries that forced him out of the closer role in Pittsburgh and his ineffectiveness in other roles landed him with the Angles where he did a decent job, but not where he would like to be. In 2014 he posted a 4.00 ERA in 57 games and a 1-5 record, definitely not the All-Star caliber stats he posted in 2012 with 32 saves and a 2.48 ERA leading the Pirates bullpen. I think a change of scenery and some new voices will help him be effective for the Braves in 2015. He will likely fill a 7th or 8th inning role as well, depending on the match-ups.
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Long Man- James Russell was picked up by the team at last year’s trade deadline from the Cubs as they needed someone that could get left-handers out. Luis Avilán had a go in that role but struggled mightily and they needed an insurance policy. James did a pretty good job, but strangely enough he was more effective against right-handed hitters posting just a 2.29 Era and a mediocre 4.09 ERA against lefties. Overall it was a decent 2014 season, posting a 2.97 ERA, in a split year with the Cubs and Braves. In 2015, I see him as the designated long man because of his experience as a starter with the Cubs in years past. He could be a valuable asset.
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Left Handed Specialist- Luis Avilán will also look to bounce back from a rough 2014 season that saw him get sent back to the minors. He posted a 4.57 ERA and a 4-1 record in 62 games with the Braves. He posted a rough 4.50 ERA against lefties whereas in 2013 he was virtually untouchable against lefties posting a 0.59 ERA. It became a confidence thing for him when they sent him down to Triple A to work things out, it got worse as he posted a 5.40 ERA and couldn’t get anyone out. 2014 was a lost season for him. The good thing is he can wipe the slate clean and hopefully return to his old self in 2015.

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Left Handed Specialist- Josh Outman, another one of Jon Hart’s veteran signings this off-season, split time with Cleveland and New York very briefly in 2014. He had a very effective season, posting a 4-0 record with a 3.28 ERA. He like James Russell, was more effective against right-handed hitters posting a 1.69 ERA and 3.28 ERA against lefties. This year he will be there just in case Luis Avilán struggles again. I see him as a versatile piece that could be used in any match-up situation. He is another left-handed pitcher and they are like precious stones in the Major Leagues. The Braves have 3 that can be mixed and matched to create a big advantage against teams.

The last spot in the bullpen is up for grabs, as Right-Hander Shea Simmons had to have Tommy-John surgery. The spot will go to whoever pitches the best in spring training. The 2015 season is going to hinge on bounce back performances from veterans. If they can bounce back, there is a lot of optimism for this bullpen due to the experience that Hart has acquired.

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Uncategorized

James Hahn Grabs 1st Tour Victory in Playoff

The PGA Tour has provided great finishes in the early part of the season; the Northern Trust Open was no different. It was another survival of the fittest type of final round with lighting greens that made the players want to pull their hair out. It was fitting that a playoff was needed to determine a champion.

The playoff was between long- hitting Dustin Johnson, Englishmen Paul Casey, and unknown American, James Hahn. It came down to Dustin Johnson and James Hahn after magical short game shots with impossible lies and angles, they were able to convert the unlikely birdies. Paul Casey was unable to make a par eliminating him from the playoff.

Up next was the, par 3 14th that saw both Dustin Johnson and James Hahn throw darts at the flag setting up a putting contest to determine a champion. Dustin Johnson putted first and it burned the edge opening the door for James Hahn to claim his 1st victory, with virtually the same as regulation he took advantage and drained it for the win! This was another tournament that showed the parity on tour with many 1st time winners already this season.

Getting to Know Your Winner

James Hahn is a 33-year old journeyman, an All-American from Cal Berkley. He didn’t finish his college career because he felt overwhelmed with both golf and school obligations. He worked in advertising for a little while, after that he was a salesman at a Nordstrom Shoe store and, with just 300 dollars to his name he decided to give golf another run.

He wasn’t known for his play before this victory, he was known for his dance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The 16th is the craziest hole on the PGA Tour with thousands of fans not afraid to tell you what they think of your shot. James Hahn provided some excitement after making a birdie he broke out the Gagnon Style Dance to pump up the crowd!

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James Hahn will now be known forever as a PGA Tour winner! Powered by a clutch weekend performance saw him shoot back to back 69’s and prove he could play with the big boys. With this victory he jumped from 297th in world to 86th, he also earned a spot in the Masters and maybe most importantly the check that comes along with the victory. He is such a great story for the golfing world, hopefully he can continue his good play throughout the rest of season and career.

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