Archive for April, 2013

Closers killing N.L. Central teams


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher has a chance to lead his team in saves this year after he replaced John Axford at closer. Photo by: Steve Paluch

Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Jim Henderson has a chance to lead his team in saves this year after he replaced John Axford at closer. Photo by: Steve Paluch / Flickr

Like a good NFL quarterback battle, there’s always someone looking over the opening day closer’s shoulder in Major League Baseball. The young 2013 season has already seen a few teams make a switch at the position due to a lack of talent, while other clubs have been hindered by injuries to their late-inning men. Organizations look at their closing situations through a microscope and for a lot of teams, the leash isn’t long to keep the job. No other group of squads knows those facts as well as the five members of the National League Central.

The closer carousel is at full spin for the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs. Before the season, it didn’t seem like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh had solidified the role with one clear option, either. There’s no question, just one month into the season, there’s been way too many late-inning blow ups from teams in the N.L. Central. In fact, the division leads the majors in blown saves by four with a total of 13. Furthermore, four closers in the National League have two blown saves (the American League has none) and of the four, three of them pitch for N.L. Central teams.

 

 

The solution for such a problem could be swapping the bad for the unproven or pitch the hot hands in the ninth. But the Central’s potential replacements for its troubled closers haven’t exactly proven themselves. Of the five teams, three squads have put at least two different hurlers in save situations and the result was a blown save. At the end of the day, my guess is that baseball fans will be seeing a lot of different players in the ninth inning for N.L. Central teams. Only the Cincinnati Reds seem like they have a permanent solution for the ninth inning in Aroldis Chapman. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Pirates do too with Jason Grilli, but as for the rest of the bunch, there is still a huge question mark looming over the heads of late relievers in their bullpens. Here’s a closer look and ranking (from worst to best) of each team’s current closer situation:

5. Chicago Cubs, tied for last place in MLB blown saves

• The Problem: The Cubs have the company of the St. Louis Cardinals in the blown saves department. The only difference is Chicago has used four players in save opportunities who ultimately blew the opportunity. Those pitchers are the likes of opening-day closer Carlos Marmol, MLB rookie Kyuji Fujikawa and veterans Shawn Camp and Michael Bowden. So what’s the problems with each of those players? Marmol has always been shaky and I was actually shocked he got the nod as Chicago’s opening day starter. Fujikawa has never seen MLB hitters before this year. And when it comes to Camp and Bowden, they’re simply just not closers. • The Solution: What I don’t understand is why the Cubs won’t give the big lefty James Russell a shot. He is clearly the best option out of Chicago’s bullpen right now, leading the teams relievers with a 0.00 ERA in just under five innings of work. Russell is clearly underused, which is a head scratcher because he was effective as the team’s temporary closer last year when he picked up a couple of saves and even recorded a 7-1 record as a late-inning reliever. (more…)

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Longest sellout streak in major pro sports comes to an end at Fenway Park


The Boston Red Sox sold out in a record 820 straight games at their famed Fenway Park. Photo by: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Boston Red Sox sold out in a record 820 straight games at their famed Fenway Park. Photo by: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

Feedcrossing.com syndication

There have been numerous boasts from professional sports teams across the world regarding sellout streaks. However, nobody really knew which ones were to be believed. One that was confirmed to be true was that of the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball. The ball team sold out 820 straight games at its home of Fenway Park before seeing that streak come to an end on April 10. It’s believed to be the longest sellout streak in major professional sports.

The streak didn’t end by just a few tickets though as the Red Sox saw it come to a conclusion with about 7,000 empty seats in the stands. The official capacity for evening games at the stadium is 37,493, but just 30,862 tickets were sold for their game against the Baltimore Orioles, which they dropped by a score of 8-5. The sellout streak started back in May of 2003 and it also included playoff games. The previous mark was set by the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA. Portland managed to sell out 814 consecutive home games between 1977 and 1995.

When regular-season games only are taken into consideration, the Red Sox sold out 794 straight contests, which is also a major sports record. Boston demolished the old mark of 455 which the Cleveland Indians set between 1995 and 2001. John W. Henry, the owner of the Red Sox, said that the streak took place at the best ballpark in America and he thanks the Boston fans and players for it. He added that the franchise is looking forward to beginning a new streak and hopes fans in the area will also be able to enjoy their baseball at Fenway Park for generations tom come. (more…)


WrestleMania 29: Where It All Happens … Again … and Again … and Again …


Wrestle Mania 29 has a lineup that should have WWE fans on the edge of their seats. Photo by: Ed Schipul / Flickr

Wrestle Mania 29 has a lineup that should have WWE fans on the edge of their seats. Photo by: Ed Schipul / Flickr

BY BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com blogger

There’s an inherent feeling about the 29th edition of WrestleMania — that it is predictable. And, after looking at the card, a fan could probably easily deduce many of the outcomes.

You see, despite all of its glory, history, pageantry, etc., this year’s ‘Mania lacks a certain luster, notoriety, and even buzz. Maybe it’s the lack of a solid build (courtesy of the creative team’s indecisiveness), the fact that it’s going to be hard to top last year’s spectacle, or maybe it’s because of this…

Rematches. Rematches galore. Rematches that make the official line-up look a big bag of “we saw that coming.”

Even as a wrestling fan, I’m finding it hard to remember that The Granddaddy of Them All is taking place this Sunday, emanating from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey/New York. For all the reasons listed above, I’m not as excited as I have been in years past, which might be why I scheduled a golf outing with some friends for that afternoon and why I’m also more amped for the Season 6 premiere of Mad Men that night.

Nevertheless, it is still WrestleMania and a lot of the time, the WWE does its best work when they have their backs against the wall to put on a good show, and this feels like one of those times. So, without further ado and rambling, let us dive into the night’s matches…

UNDERCARD

Intercontinental Championship: Wade Barrett (champ) vs. The Miz (Preshow match)

This is actually kind of a rematch as well, as these two have battled quite frequently on episodes of RAW and SmackDown and have had numerous encounters, leading to the feud. Barrett has held the title since December, and has succeeded in every title defense. He is one of the future stars of the company, and deserves the push he has been getting. However, The Miz hasn’t had a good win in a while and has started to take on some of the characteristics of his kind-of-now-mentor, the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, including having Flair bestowing his legendary submission move, The Figure-Four Leg Lock. This could actually be a solid opening match to get the crowd started and start the night off right, even if it is just on the preshow.

• WINNER: The Miz (more…)


Flynn, Palmer trades headline 2013 NFL quarterback carousel


BY KEN KELLY, Feedcrossing.com syndication

NFL quarterback Carson Palmer was traded to the Arizona Cardinals this week for a couple of late round draft picks. Photo by: Jeffrey Beall / Flickr

NFL quarterback Carson Palmer was traded to the Arizona Cardinals this week for a couple of late round draft picks. Photo by: Jeffrey Beall / Flickr

The latter part of the free agency period saw several quarterbacks find new homes.

Kevin Kolb signed a two year, $13 million dollar contract with the Buffalo Bills to take over for the recently departed Ryan Fitzpatrick. Matt Flynn was traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the Oakland Raiders  for a fifth round draft pick in 2014 and a conditional late-round pick in 2015. Carson Palmer was subsequently jettisoned from Oakland along with a seventh round pick to Arizona in exchange for a 2013 sixth-round pick and a conditional seventh-round pick in 2014. All these quarterbacks were in desperate need of a fresh start and each will now get just that with a new team. In today’s bonus article, we break down each move and discuss its dynasty implications.

In Buffalo, Kolb finds himself as the favorite to be the starter in week one. At this point, the only real competition would come from Tarvaris Jackson and that’s a battle Kolb should win rather easily based on talent alone.  He was a disaster in Arizona, starting just 14 games in two years after signing a a six-year, $65 million contract. It’s fair to wonder if Kolb’s confidence has been shaken to the point of no return. After being beaten down by defenses taking advantage of an atrocious offensive line in Arizona, he displayed “happy feet” in the pocket and looked more concerned about being hit than finding open receivers. Kolb will need to quickly get his confidence back if he’s to do anything in Buffalo. (more…)


Waiting for a new home: Couch Side’s top 10 available MLB free agents


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Outfielder Grady Sizemore may have missed the entire 2012 season, but he is still available to baseball teams as a free agent. Photo by: Keith Allison / Flickr

Outfielder Grady Sizemore may have missed the entire 2012 season, but he is still available to baseball teams as a free agent. Photo by: Keith Allison / Flickr

When thinking of a new topic for my weekly blog, I remembered a recent conversation with one of my good friends.

I was complaining about my fantasy baseball team from a year ago and he had his own sorrows about how the injury bug bit his relief pitchers so badly in 2012. He had Mariano Rivera and Brian Wilson, which led me to quickly say, “can you believe he is still available?” His quick response about Wilson was slightly below a quiet yell, saying, “I know!”

The conversation sparked me this week to look a little deeper into players who didn’t receive contracts — major league or minor league — this offseason. The list of course has some duds on it  like Jason Bartlett and others who aren’t really relevant like 51-year-old Jamie Moyer. However, there is still a handful of players who most fans would’ve pegged to land on one team or another in 2013. Here’s a look at my top 10 of those still available free agents:

10. Roy Oswalt, 2012 team: Texas Rangers (4-3 record, 5.80 ERA, 59 strikeouts in 17 games): Oswalt is at the bottom of the list because he couldn’t make it through 2012. The Rangers signed him as a flyer, but it didn’t pay off. It still puzzles me that he is still available, though, considering his career ERA is 3.28 and he is less than 200 strikeouts away from 2,000.

9. Orlando Hudson, 2012 team: Chicago Whitesox / San Diego Padres (.204 avg., 3 HR, 28 RBI, 6 SB in 86 games): Hudson is just a few years removed from making the National League All-Star Team. However, since then, his average has dipped so bad it’s really no surprise no one took a chance on him. It’s sort of weird because even Chone Figgins was given a Spring Training spot by the Miami Marlins.

8. Francisco Rodriguez, 2012 team: Milwaukee Brewers (2-7 record, 4.38 ERA, 3 saves in 78 games): K-Rod not finding a home in 2013 is somewhat of a shocker. Sure, he blew some games for the Brewers last season, but there are teams still in need of closers. His past spunk could still be enough for him to wear the cleats again in 2013 and there is surely a team that will look his way when a late-inning pitcher hits the Disabled List.

7. Jim Thome, 2012 team: Baltimore Orioles / Philadelphia Phillies (.252 avg., 8 HR, 25 RBI in 58 games): It took a while for Thome to find a home in 2012, but once he did, the designated hitter did surprise some. There’s no doubt the power is there. And to that point, if Jason Giambi can find playing time with the Cleveland Indians, then so should Thome with one of the other 29 teams.

6. Freddy Sanchez, 2012 team: Did not play (2011 stats – .289 avg., 3 HR, 24 RBI in 60 games): The injury bug perhaps bit Sanchez the worst of any position player on this list and it may just cost him another shot at playing professional baseball. It’s pretty sad, considering Sanchez was the National League’s batting champion in 2006. There’s just no way to tell if he can bounce back to major league form. It could also be his defense that is holding him back.

5. Dallas Braden, 2012 team: none (2011 stats – 3-3 record, 3.00 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 3 games)

Braden’s multiple shoulder surgeries probably have raised a lot of red flags. According to his Twitter account we also shouldn’t expect him to be back anytime soon as he said he threw to a catcher for the first time in months during a session in February and it wasn’t close to what he expected. It may take a few years for him to return to the majors, but if he shows any glimpse of the upside he once possessed,  baseball fans could see another Scott Kazmir like comeback. Let’s not forget, Braden was on his way to the top in 2010 and he even tossed a no-hitter that year.
(more…)


Couch Side Podcast Episode 52: Final Four Preview


Find out in this week's episode who Couch Side has winning it all in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Photo by: Jason Helle / Flickr

Find out in this week’s episode who Couch Side has winning it all in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Photo by: Jason Helle / Flickr

BY Couchsideshow.com staff

CLICK HERE TO START LISTENING: 

In the 52nd episode of Couch Side, hosts Wade McMillin and Craig Paul talk a lot of hoops. Special guest and senior blogger Matthew Vinsko joins the podcast this week to discuss his win in Couch Side’s All-Time NBA Fantasy Draft and he sticks around to banter about the NBA playoff picture. Then, Craig and Wade preview the Final Four and give their predictions of who will reign supreme on the college hardwood in 2013. The hosts wrap up this week’s show with headlines from around the NFL, many of which have to deal with quarterbacks finding new homes. Click below to start streaming, downloading or subscribing to the Couch Side podcast:

•  Click here to stream the Couch Side Podcast Episode 52: Final Four Preview, via our host site, TalkShoe

• Click here to download the Couch Side Podcast Episode 52: Final Four Preview, via our host site, TalkShoe

• Click here to stream, download or subscribe to the Couch Side Podcast Episode 52: Final Four Preview, via iTunes