July 30, 2019
It’s official Pittsburgh Pirates fans. The Bucs have hit rock bottom and not just by holding onto last place in the National League Central division.
Last night the Pirates lost to the team that used to sit in last place in the division, the Cincinnati Reds and lost in a most embarrassing way. Not only did Pittsburgh trade Jordan Lyles to the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the game he was also scheduled to start Monday night’s game.
So replace him, manager Clint Hurdle sent an inexperienced Alex McRae to the mound, a man who had not yet started a game in the major leagues and a player holding a 0-3 record. End result? McRae gets shellacked and the Pirates get spanked 11-6. The worst part of the game? The most embarrassing aspect? That the Pirates surrendered 10 of those 11 runs in just ONE inning.
The onslaught came early. Cincinnati put up a 10 spot in the second inning and only scored one run after that. This is the 9th straight loss for the Pirates and they haven’t had a losing streak like this in eight seasons. In 2011 they lost 10 in a row. For McRae, he was only able to get four batters out as the Reds experienced their biggest outage since 2015.
For Cincinnati it was role reversal as they yielded 10 runs in a single inning to division rival St. Louis just a little under two weeks ago as that score was much closer than what took place last night. The Cards won that game 12-11. In that ill-fated second frame, the Reds hammered out six hits and earned three walks. 13 batters came to the plate in just the second inning. A grand slam by José Iglesias was part of that 10 run outburst.
To add insult to injury, Cincinnati saw every player that came to the plate in the second inning also cross home plate for a run. The Reds have not done that since 1975 when they accomplished the feat against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That was the year of the “Big Red Machine.” The Reds also scored 10 times in an inning on August 24, 2015 when they beat up on the Tigers. For Clint Hurdle, times are tough. In this stretch since the all-star break, the Pirates have led an opposing team just three times once the fifth inning has been played.
“It's hard right now, there's no doubt about it. We battle adversity in different areas just about every night”
One other topic today worth mentions. Kudos BIG TIME to UFC fighter Cris Cyborg who is standing up the “bully” known as UFC President Dana White. Cyborg says she will not sign a new contract with the UFC until White apologies. Her comments:
“Of course he has to apologize. I think he has family, he has kids. ... I don't know if he has a heart, but I think what he's doing is not just touching me because he doesn't like me. He's touching the people around me, he's touching my family and it's not right. I'm suffering bullying. Where is the code that you don't do this? He is the boss. How does the boss make fun of his athlete? ... You have to have rules. This is not right. Every woman deserves the right to go to work in an environment free of sexual harassment, online bullying, and work place intimidation.”
It's a shame that more fighters are jumping on Cyborg's bandwagon especially the female fighters. If that was the case then perhaps we could rid the sport of Dana White once and for all.
July 29, 2019
In 2018 the Pittsburgh Pirates finished in fourth place in the National League’s Central Division but had a winning record of 82-79.
To reach that number of victories this season, it would mean the Bucs would have to win 36 of their final 57 games. That does not seem possible given the Pirates are driving themselves further down in the basement of their division. Having lost eight games in a row and nine of their last 10, the 2018 season has turned quite ugly for the Buccos.
On this date last season, Pittsburgh had a record of 55-52 and was in third place seven games back. They had also taken two out of three from the New York Mets in a weekend series at PNC Park. This past weekend the Mets swept the Pirates and pushed them 10 games back in the division, a full three behind the fourth place Cincinnati Reds. At the top of the division it’s a three way race with the Cubs and Cardinals both at 56-49 and Milwaukee one back at 56-61.
In one year’s time on the same date, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had a change in their record by winning nine fewer games and losing an additional nine games. During the first half of this season it appeared the team had potential to compete for a wild card and possibly division title. Now, their season is all but over and fans are not happy. Especially with management. The trade deadline is in two days but the Pirates have yet to make a major move. The clock is ticking…
If you don’t think Albert Pujols is going to be a first ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame, think again. He’s a shoo-in. This weekend he blasted home run number 650 and is now sixth all time just 10 behind the legendary Willie Mays and 46 behind Alex Rodriguez.
Only five other players have hit more, Mays, Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds, the all-time king who hit 762. To further cement his candidacy, Pujols also became the first player in history to not only hit 650 or more home runs but he also have 650 or more doubles. Now with 653 two-baggers for his career, Pujols is just four behind Nap Lajoi for seventh place, and 12 behind George Brett who is in sixth.
Reachable for Pujols on the doubles list is also the fifth most in history set by Craig Biggio who had 668. The all-time leader is Tris Speaker who hit 792 doubles in his 22 year career. Of the honor Pujols told the press:
“I think there are 20,000-plus players that have come through this game, and to be able to be the only one to do that, it's just pretty special.”
On the stupidity side of baseball this weekend, Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer got shelled by the Kansas City Royals yesterday and when manager Terry Francona came out of the dugout to yank Bauer from the mound, the pitcher turned around and heaved the ball into the center field stands. Francona and everyone watching were taken back a bit by the stunt which led the manager to say to his pitcher:
“What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Naturally, Bauer issued a public apology:
“First and foremost, I owe a sincere apology to all of my teammates, my coaching staff, the organization and all of our fans for how I conducted myself today. It's unbecoming. It was childish, unprofessional. There's no place for it in the game. I'm happy it didn't result in any physical injury for anybody else. I realize I put people in danger. I want to be clear that my frustrations were with myself and my inability to stop the situation and keep my team in the game.”
To the Extreme
Steelers Nation has some of the best fans in the National Football League let alone other professional sports leagues. But some are crazier than others. One such fan showed up at training camp practice last Friday sporting a tattoo of the Steelers logo but on his HEAD. He asked JuJu Smith-Schuster to autograph his noggin and the star receiver gladly obliged. By getting the ink, this fan had a bet with JuJu that if he got the tat, Smith-Schuster would reward him with some game tickets. No surprise that JuJu held up his end of the bargain.
Around the NFL, as if the Cincinnati Bengals were already considered to finish last in the AFC North this season, now they have lost wide receiver A.J. Green to an injury for anywhere from the next six to eight weeks. In training camp, Green tore ligaments in his left ankle.
The New York Giants number one receiver this season is supposed to be Golden Tate. However, Tate is looking at a four game suspension after testing positive for a substance that is reportedly on the NFL’s banned substance list. It turns out that it is a fertility drug Tate had taken to help he and his wife in planning for a baby. It sounds a little sketchy to me but Tate tried to explain it way and will appeal.
Dana White Dislike
Anyone that follows the UFC knows full well what kind of character UFC President Dana White is. I like to call him “scumbag.” That’s because he is. He runs the sport as he sees fit, plays favorites, talks negatively about his own fighters consistently throwing them under the bus, AND all he cares about is making money for his organization.
He could give a rat’s ass about the welfare of his fighters made obvious by his desire to never see a fighter’s union put in place in the UFC much like what the other four major sports has for its athletes. There is a player’s union in each of the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL.
In MMA fighters have no health insurance and it is dependent on each of them to carefully plan their earnings. Fighters are GROSSLY underpaid and only those who White endears himself to make the most money. There is no fair pay scale and rightfully champions should make more than the others but with the billions of dollars the sport is making, White has not given it one moment’s thought to paying his fighters fairly.
That fact has caused many fighters to jump to Bellator and only because some of the bigger names haven’t done it is the fact that it has not damaged the UFC that much. With that said, UFC 240 went down this past weekend headlined by Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar and Cris Cyborg vs. Felicia Spencer.
Following Cyborg’s decision victory, she refused to hold back her sentiments about Dana White first with comments before Saturday’s fight and then in the post-fight press conference.
“I’m just laughing at everything Dana is saying. It’s all a lie. Everything is a lie. I just wait for Saturday and after this fight for sure we’re going to see. My team will talk to the UFC and will figure it out. And for sure it’s going to be the best opportunity for myself and do my best for me.
I always just speak the truth. I never lie about anything. And just he’s always lying. I just keep to myself doing what I’m doing and doing what is right and then just keep it right and know the truth is going to come out. He’s doing this all my career. I just laugh when I see it. Just laughing. Everybody knows that I don't have the best and the greatest relationship with UFC. I don't have the best relationship with Dana White. He's bully me around, bully me on the internet.
Saying I'm scared to fight Amanda Nunes. Saying I don't want to fight her, this is liar because I text him after the fight saying I want the rematch. This is don't help me growing my brand. This is damage my brand. And for keeping me working for promotion, I don't want somebody damage my brand. I want to grow together. We're going to have to take a little time and see what is going to be better for me. It's not just about money, it's about respect. You don't have to love the boss, you just have to have respect between both. This is to make everything work together.”
It’s just a shame more fighters don’t come forward and be honest like Cyborg did. You know there a many more fighters that feel this way but as she said, White is a bully and for that reason, many are afraid to speak out against him in fear they will not get good matchups in their fights or worse be booted from the UFC.
As I’ve said many times before, Dana White is ABSOLUTELY the worst professional sports organization president. The stuff he pulls you would NEVER see in any other organization no matter the sport. It’s unfortunate that no one other the UFC owners have the power to remove Dana White. That would be the best thing that could happen to the UFC. The current owners who just purchased the organization a few years back are completely hands off owners and you never even hear about them.
I had mentioned how Dana White plays favorites so here is a prime example. 40 year old B.J. Penn who began his MMA career in 2001, is WAY past his prime but continues to get bouts. White who apparently is good friends with the veteran fighter must be playing favorites because with losses in each of his last seven fights, White is giving him yet another fight this with Nik Lentz.
Penn has not just lost his last seven straight, he has lost 10 of his last 15 that includes a draw with Jon Fitch. Penn’s record of 16-14-2 is absolutely horrible and pathetic. He’s been knocked out four times and submitted once. He’s a shadow of himself and does anyone think he is going to defeat Lentz?
Lentz is 30-10 and is coming off a knockout loss to Charles Oliveira but he is a very good fighter and should dispose of Penn handing him yet another defeat. Still, White is granting him the bout but says this is ABSOLUTELY B.J. Penn’s finale. Said White:
“We have a deal now: Win, lose, or draw, this is BJ Penn's last fight. We're doing this, he's promised me that win, lose, or draw, he will retire after this fight. We'll see if he keeps his promise. He won't fight here though. That I guarantee you.”
For the record, B.J. Penn has not won a fight since he knocked out Matt Hughes on November 20, 2010. That’s nearly NINE years ago. Yikes.
As for UFC 240, I had predicted Cris Cyborg would put away the Invicta champion Felicia Spencer in less than a minute. That’s because I thought we would see the old Cyborg. In combat sports, sometimes a bad loss can break a fighter mentally. I believe Amanda Nunes did that to Cyborg. Buster Douglass did it to Mike Tyson in boxing.
Fighters sometimes are just not the same following a devastating loss. While Cyborg won by unanimous decision, absent was her usual style of being a Tasmanian Devil coming in like a tornado and overwhelming an opponent. Not on Saturday night. Instead, Spencer leaned into Cyborg and tried to make it a grappling affair.
Spencer did land a damaging elbow in the first round that opened a nasty cut on Cyborg’s forehead but credit to Spencer for taking some big punches and still moved forward. Still, Cyborg did not appear to be strong and if she thinks she is going to beat Amanda Nunes in a rematch she can forget about that if she performs as she did on Saturday.
In the main event, this may have been Frankie Edgar’s last shot at a title and while he fought gamely, he simply was no match for the champion of the featherweights, Max Holloway. The champ retained his belt winning 50-45, 49-46, and 48-47. But both men exemplified the utmost sportsmanship and respect for each other following the fight and hearing those comments was refreshing and just a sad fact that there aren’t enough fighters in the UFC that conduct themselves that way.
July 25, 2019
This week we get the first glimpse of what the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers will look like as training camp ’19 opened today.
This will mark the 54th annual summer ritual at St. Vincent’s College and the first on the scene were Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster. For those who dislike Mike Tomlin as head coach, you will have to deal with Coach T for at least two more seasons as today it was announced he has been awarded a one-year extension so he is under contract for this and next season. The deal reportedly provides an option for the 2022 season as well. Said team President Art Rooney II:
“Mike is one of the most successful head coaches in the National Football League, and we are confident in his leadership to continue to lead our team as we pursue our goal of winning another championship.”
Tomlin followed that up with this commentary:
“I am very appreciative of this contract extension and opportunity and want to thank Art Rooney II and everyone in the organization for the support in my first 12 seasons. We have a goal of winning the organization's seventh Super Bowl championship, and I couldn't be more excited about this upcoming season.”
So how competitive will the AFC North be this season? Certainly not the best division in football as per one writer which you will read below. The Browns are supposed to be the team to beat, Baltimore is coming in as defending division champs, and the Steelers have to prove that missing the playoffs in 2018 was just a fluke. Cincinnati? They are horrible.
Ranking NFL divisions by degree of difficulty
Michael McClymont, theScore.com
The landscape of the NFL has shifted in recent years. The Green Bay Packers have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are well into their 40s, and the Cleveland Browns are expected to be good. With all this said, it's time to re-evaluate each division and determine which is the best in football, from easiest to win to hardest.
#6. AFC North
The AFC North has undergone perhaps the biggest makeover. Once ruled by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, the perennial doormat Cleveland Browns are now the favorite to win the division.
The Steelers lost perhaps their two most talented players in Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, and the Ravens lost key contributors on the defensive side via free agency. The division is up for the taking.
The Browns recognized this new reality and, after years of building, identified this as the time to strike, trading for superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and pass-rusher Olivier Vernon a year after adding Jarvis Landry and draft picks Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb.
The Cincinnati Bengals, who haven't won a playoff game since 1990, are moving forward with a first-year head coach and are expected to finish in the basement for the second straight year.
While the Steelers and Ravens should still challenge for division supremacy, the Browns are now considered the team to beat.
For the record they have the AFC West as the best division.
UFC 240 is on Saturday and here are my quick predictions on the major fights of the card (which I only consider two MAJOR):
Co-Main event, Cris Cyborg vs. Felicia Spencer
In watching the buildup for this fight, the UFC countdowns and Embedded features, Spencer is seen not in training but just cavorting around Canada and she has no appearance of a UFC fighter. The little I did see of her, she seemed slow and without the skills of a Cris Cyborg. Still she thinks she is going to win…right.
I think this matchup is a complete and utterly bad joke. Spencer I don’t believe knows who she is climbing into the Octagon with. This is going to be ugly and Spencer is going to regret taking this fight. If she somehow wins, then in my opinion that will be the biggest upset in MMA history. But I give her NO chance to win. Cyborg by vicious KO in less than one minute.
Main event, Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar
Great, great matchup. Could go either way. This could be Edgar’s last shot at a title. Holloway is coming off a disappointing loss to Dustin Poirier but I think he is the better all around fighter here and wins a close decision.
Oh yes…the Pittsburgh Pirates. It just keeps getting worse for the Bucs. Losers this afternoon makes it five in a row for the Buccos, now with a record of 46-56 and in last place…again. They are 8 ½ behind the Cubs and ½ behind the Reds who are in fourth now.
July 23, 2019
The 2019 NFL season can’t begin soon enough. Steelers fans everywhere are laying in wait to see if our team can prove all the critics wrong and head back to the post season let alone finish ahead of these highly rated Cleveland Browns.
The Browns hype machine has grown in such proportions that everyone that is believing in it is jumping on the gravy train coming out of Cleveland. I’m not a believer. Not even close. I don’t care what new talent they have added, this team is not ready to make a big jump where they will be a serious threat to make the Super Bowl or the playoffs.
When the season ends in January, I might look back and feel pretty stupid if they prove me wrong and win the AFC North Division and get to the playoffs but until they accomplish that I’m not climbing aboard the bandwagon. With that said, here are few of the professional “believers.”
Jason La Canfora, May 17, 2019
Cleveland. I'm buying the Browns. Big time. All this talk about juggling personalities and keeping all the receivers fed and happy is a debate for another day. Right now Freddie Kitchens is in a honeymoon phase and I expect this team to be young and hungry and out to make some noise. Love some of the additions to the staff – head-coach-to-be Todd Monken in particular – and the Browns are finally ascending at the right time, with the rest of this division in turmoil or rebuilding or just hiring a baby-faced head coach themselves. Who knows if they will be able to sustain things there, and that ownership group will always give you pause, but I will ride this team in 2019.
Pat McManamon, ESPN, April 17
Predicted record: 11-5. The NFL gave the Browns a December made for a playoff run. They close versus Cincinnati, at Arizona, versus Baltimore and at Cincinnati. Read the analysis from.
Jeremy Fowler, ESPN, April 17
Predicted record: 9-7. The NFL gave the Steelers quite the midseason break with a Week 7 bye, followed by three consecutive home games, against the Dolphins, Colts and Rams. The Steelers will go 32 days between road games with that setup. Read the analysis from.
Dan Parzych, NFL Spin Zone, two months ago
Cleveland Browns: 11-5
Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-7
Oddsshark.com, July 14, 2019
Cleveland is the +125 front-runner at Bovada to capture the division for the first time since the team returned to Ohio in 1999. The Pittsburgh Steelers (+195), Baltimore Ravens (+275) and Cincinnati Bengals (+1600) round things out at the shop.
So while the Steelers aren’t expected to win back the division by many, when it comes to fantasy football, the expectations for performance from the men in Black and Gold is not that great either. From theScore.com I give you some of their player rankings by position and the ranking in parentheses.
2019 Players Rankings Updated
Justin Boone, theScore.com
Get ready for your season with theScore's 2019 Fantasy Football Draft Kit and subscribe to push notifications in the NFL Fantasy News section.
(1) Patrick Mahomes
(2) Deshaun Watson
(3) Aaron Rodgers
(4) Andrew Luck
(5) Baker Mayfield
(6) Carson Wentz
(7) Cam Newton
(8) Matt Ryan
(9) Jameis Winston
(10) Kyler Murray
(11) Russell Wilson
(12) Jared Goff
(13) Drew Brees
(14) Dak Prescott
(15) Mitch Trubisky
(16) Ben Roethlisberger
(1) Saquon Barkley
(2) Christian McCaffrey
(3) Ezekiel Elliott
(4) Alvin Kamara
(5) David Johnson
(6) Nick Chubb
(7) Joe Mixon
(8) Melvin Gordon
(9) Dalvin Cook
(10) Damien Williams
(11) Le'Veon Bell
(12) James Conner
(1) Chicago Bears
(2) Los Angeles Chargers
(3) Los Angeles Rams
(4) Minnesota Vikings
(5) Jacksonville Jaguars
(6) Baltimore Ravens
(7) Cleveland Browns
(8) New Orleans Saints
(9) Denver Broncos
(10) Dallas Cowboys
(11) Buffalo Bills
(12) Houston Texans
(13) New England Patriots
(14) Philadelphia Eagles
(15) Indianapolis Colts
(16) Tennessee Titans
(17) Kansas City Chiefs
(18) Seattle Seahawks
(19) Green Bay Packers
(20) Pittsburgh Steelers
(19) Chris Boswell
(20) Brandon McManus
Ok…with Big Ben’s ranking, I mean REALLY? 16th? After the year he had in 2018? Get real. Carson Wentz, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston, Kyler Murray (he hasn’t even played a down in the NFL yet!), Jared Goff, Matt Trubisky, Dak Prescott, all ranked above Roethlisberger? Stats or not, I would not take any of them over our QB on ANY day. And take a look at where they have Drew Brees!
As for the running backs, it is interesting that Bell and Conner are back-to-back but Conner comes after Bell. It will be fun to watch the stats on these two as each game goes by this season. Then we have the defenses. Do you really think Pittsburgh’s ‘D deserves a number 20 ranking? There’s Cleveland again…#7 defense, #5 quarterback, #6 running back…you get the idea. As for the kicker ranking, Boswell deserves that spot and he is on the borderline of losing his job this summer.
The UFC has another big card this Saturday with UFC 240 and the card looks like this:
Challenging Cyborg in the co-main event is a relatively unknown named Felicia Spencer. The former Invicta FC champion thinks she has a chance to win, but my prediction is she will be finished, knocked out in a violent way in the first round. I’ve been watching film on her and listening to her as well as checking out her training and she appears slow and with the Cris Cyborg coming off the devastating loss to Amanda Nunes, she is going to want to win and win big. That spells disaster for Spencer. She is facing a beast in Cyborg and everyone knows that the former champion can beat you silly with strikes. This could be ugly.
Spencer however is confident:
“I’m guessing that the UFC's assuming I won’t win. So I’m going to just spoil the party and ruin whatever plans they are making with Cyborg. I can absolutely see a finish happening. Honestly, I don’t pigeonhole my head into thinking I’m going to finish in one specific way. I’m going to let the fight happen and take it where I need to take it. Chances are almost every fight I'm in always ends up on the ground. It’s a place I’m very comfortable and most people have seen my success there. But what people haven’t seen of my stand-up game hopefully will shine bright on Saturday as well.”
Finish? Yikes. Stand up? She would be making a fatal mistake to take that path. My predictions on the major fights come later this week.
So as I reported yesterday, Jon Jones is in the news again in a negative way. Another UFC fighter, Corey Anderson Tweeted his opinion of Jones
“So last week it was his past like he was a changed man. This morning we see he's still the same ol 'Can't get right'...from pregnant woman to strippers. @JonnyBones deserves a Grammy for his acting skills, cuz he selling the media that changed man roll like Denzel.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates are becoming more of a mess on a daily basis. Another game last night and another loss and this one a blown loss as well. Tied 2-2 heading into extra innings, the Bucs gave up a grand slam in the 10th and then tried valiantly to come back in the bottom of the inning with three runs of their own but fell short and lost again 6-5 this time around.
Paul Goldschmidt’s grand slammer put the pressure on Pittsburgh when they came up for a final shot and as the tying run was heading for home plate, the Pirates runner was thrown out handing Pittsburgh another loss. Part of the problem this second half of the season is that Josh Bell has cooled way off.
Bell’s average is now down to .289 and he’s stuck at 27 home runs, now way behind the league leader, Christian Yelich who has hit 35. Bell still does lead in RBI’s with 86 but Eduardo Escobar is closing in with 79, Freddie Freeman has 78, and Cody Bellinger 77. Bell’s .611 slugging percentage ranks third behind Bellinger’s .691 and Yelich’s .718.
As a team, the Pirates are 11th in fielding, 10th in batting, and the most damaging stat, the Pirates are next-to-last in the National League in Pittsburgh sitting in the 14th spot. The team ERA is 5.52 whereas the Dodgers lead the N.L. with a mark of 3.34. While the Pirates struggle, ex-Bucco and now Houston Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole is thriving.
With his 200th strikeout of the season last night against the Oakland A’s, Cole became the second fastest in Major League Baseball history to reach that mark for a season. Cole did it in just 133 ½ innings. Randy Johnson holds the top record when he reached 200 in 2001 in just 130- 2/3 innings. Additionally, not since the 1996 and 1997 season has a pitcher had back-to-back 200 strikeout seasons but has now done that as well.
If you are wondering where the Pirates rank among all other teams in Major League Baseball, I give you the Power Rankings from theScore.com.
MLB Power Rankings: Red-hot A's and Giants making things interesting
22. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates' recent rough patch has likely made it easier for the front office to sell, and there could be significant movement from the team. Starling Marte, Corey Dickerson, Felipe Vazquez, Melky Cabrera, Jordan Lyles, and Francisco Liriano could all be traded, but also expect the unexpected. This is the same front office that pulled off the blockbuster Chris Archer trade last deadline.
Yesterday I wrote about the 40th anniversary of the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series in 1979 and some thoughts about the players that made up that championship team. Today, I’ll do the same but for my favorite Pirates team ever, the 1971 Pirates who like the ’79 version, won the World Series and did it as well also while playing the Baltimore Orioles.
An interesting fact about that ’71 squad is that it appeared that on September 1 of that year, when the Bucs took the field, all nine players on defense were black and as far as everyone knew, it was the first time in the history of Major League Baseball that a team had fielded nine men none of whom were white.
The nine men were Rennie Stennett; Gene Clines, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillén, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Jackie Hernández, and Dock Ellis. Now for what I remember most about the key players of that team beginning with the starting lineup.
So from that 1971 team of the players mentioned above, gone and having passed away are:
Stargell, Clemente, Pagan, Sands, Ellis, Moose, Briles, Kison, Hernandez, and Miller.
The remaining men are alive and well aged between 65 and 82.
This weekend featured some interesting boxing and MMA action. Headlining the results was Manny Pacquiao’s victory over the defending super welterweight champion, Keith Thurman who had not lost a fight until Saturday.
Thurman entered the fight with Pacquiao as the WBA super welterweight title holder but the 40 year old Pacquiao not only knocked down the champ in the first round, he went on to win a split decision and add more hardware to his trophy case. The new champion was already the WBA welterweight champion and this was his 62nd win in 71 fights. For Thurman, this is an embarrassment of sorts. The only saving face is that he lost to one of the greatest fighters ever.
Leading up to the fight Thurman had declared that he would knock out Pacquiao before the sixth round was over and that would make the “PacMan” disappear. As in any sport, if you talk the talk you must walk the walk. There is nothing more annoying than a fighter who boasts about what he is going to do then goes out and lays an egg.
At least the former champion was humbled following the fight:
“I have an 0, I’m not afraid to let it go. If you can beat me, beat me. Manny Pacquiao beat me tonight.”
Thurman had been 29-0 with 22 knockouts and Pacquiao had given away 10 years in age in this bout. The seven losses Manny Pacquiao has suffered came at the hands of Jeff Horn, Floyd Mayweather, Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley, Erik Morales, Medgoen Singsurat, and Rustico Torrecampo. All were by decision with the exception of a KO by Torrecampo, TKO at the hands of Singsurat, and a shocking knockout delivered by Marquez.
In the loss to Mayweather, Pacquiao had allegedly been dealing with a shoulder injury issue but went forward with the fight anyway. He lost the unanimous decision but there has never been a rematch. Mayweather continues to toy with ideas about fighting Conor McGregor again or another MMA fighter but what he should do is give the PacMan a rematch. The fans would crave for it and it would make both men much richer. That and I think Mayweather loses this time and suffers his first-ever pro defeat.
For the record, the scorecards from last Saturday night came in as: Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham: 115-112, Glenn Feldman: 114-113. ESPN scored the fight Pacquiao 117-110 so not quite sure what fight these guys were watching or this is a case of ESPN being way off in the scoring. Pacquiao summed up his most recent triumph with these words:
“It was fun. My opponent is a good fighter and boxer. He was strong. Even though Thurman lost, he did his best. He's not an easy opponent. He's a good boxer, and he's strong. I was just blessed tonight.”
Spoken like a true champion.
Also on Saturday was the UFC on ESPN, Edwards vs. dos Anjos. The lineup looked good on paper but did not deliver in the Octagon at least in my opinion. The main event went to Edwards by a unanimous decision and he immediately called out Jorge Masvidal but the man who disposed of Ben Askren in five seconds and then opened a cut on Edwards backstage, shooed off the idea of that fight.
Walt Harris pulled a Masvidal like move and disposed of Aleksei Oleinik in just 12 seconds. The third fight down was yet another easy win for Greg Hardy who is acting like he believes he is talented. He is NOT.
Juan Adams was throwing some really good jabs that landed at Hardy then for some stupid reason, he decided to try for a takedown and had Hardy by the ankle as the former NFL player rained down on Adams with strikes some to the back of the head as Adams continued to just hold Hardy’s ankle without making any other effort.
Obviously but not defending and not moving, the fight was stopped just 45 seconds in. Adams protested the stoppage but he has no basis for this because when you just lay there and take strikes you are going to lose. But Hardy’s performance was FAR from impressive and as I’ve been saying, put him in there with a seasoned and well rounded fighter and he is going to get SMOKED. That day is coming believe you me.
Dan Hooker and James Vick appeared to be on paper the best fight on the card but instead, Hooker KOs Vick in the first round with a great strike. In one of the worst decisions I’ve seen a in a long time and maybe ever, Alexander Hernandez who just so happened to be from San Antonio where these fights took place, appears to have received a hometown decision when he defeated Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision in a bout that certainly had the look of a Trinaldo victory. Following the reading of the cards, Trinaldo was obviously upset and his team had to escort him from the Octagon.
In the old man veteran’s fight, Andrei Arlovski easily disposed of Ben Rothwell over three rounds in a decision and the former champion looked reborn in winning. There were seven fights on the preliminary card all ending in either unanimous or split decisions. The seven winners were: Alex Caceres, Raquel Pennington, Klidson Abreu, Jennifer Maia, Ray Borg, Mario Bautista and Felipe Colares. The losers were and are listed in the same order as the winners just mentioned as to who they lost to: Steven Peterson, Irene Aldana, “Smiling” Sam Alvey (and he was very upset thinking he got the win), Roxanne Modafferi, Gabriel Silva, Jin Soo Son, and Domingo Pilarte.
Jon Jones has been in trouble several times before legally. There was the infamous hit and run episode where he injured a young lady, then the PED suspensions. Now comes a story that reportedly took place this past April. Jones is being accused of choking a waitress in a New Mexico strip club and the allegation carries a misdemeanor battery charge if true.
Natrually the light heavyweight champ is vehemently denying the accusation, but according to the alleged victim, the MMA fighter put her in a chokehold and picked her up off the ground. The report continues to say that when told to stop, Jones instead continued. He is also being accused of slapping the waitress. The incident reportedly ended when Jones left on his own free will.
Believe it? Given his history it’s believable. Jon Jones is a scumbag and then tries to put on a nice guy front when standing before a camera but his spokesperson put this spin on the story today:
“Today, the media told Mr. Jones about a false accusation launched against him and that paperwork had been sent to an incorrect address. However, after receiving the documents from the press, Mr. Jones immediately went to pay the small fee, and he, and multiple witnesses, stand ready to factually refute the malicious lies being told about him to the public.”
As for Jones, his Twitter account had this posted today:
“I’m definitely not in any trouble my friend, don’t be so quick to believe everything you read on the Internet.”
Speaking of illicit activity, in the National Football League, wide receiver Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs was being investigated for domestic violence specifically against his own son who is just three years old. The poor little boy’s arm was broken discovered in one of two trips Kansas City police had made to Hill’s home where he lives with is fiancé Crystal Espinal.
So the NFL has decided evidence does not support a suspension but the Kansas Department for Children and Families is reportedly still investigated. The child had been removed from the home but Espinal turned over to authorities a recording of a conversation she had with Hill while they were at an airport this after the child had suffered the injury. Hill’s remarks to her are disturbing and just based on this conversation, he ABSOLUTELY needs to be suspended:
Crystal Espinal: "He is terrified of you. And you say that he respects you, but it's not respect."
Tyreek Hill: "He respects me."
Crystal Espinal: "He is terrified of you."
Tyreek Hill: "You need to be terrified of me, too, bitch. That's why you can't keep a f*cking man."
Crystal Espinal: "He started crying & you were like, 'Shut up, shut up, stop crying, stop crying.'"
Tyreek Hill: "Right."
Crystal Espinal: "And then he kept crying because he was scared. He's terrified. You grabbed onto him somehow or he fell? 1 of the 2."
Tyreek Hill: "I didn't do nothing."
Crystal Espinal: "Then why does he say, 'Daddy did it.'? Why?"
Tyreek Hill: "He says Daddy does a lot of things."
Crystal Espinal: "A 3-year-old is not going to lie about what happened to his arm."
The tone of his speech to her is appalling. He should be ashamed of himself. Of course, today when he has been cleared his all apologetic but it’s not genuine.
"The last few months have been very difficult for me, especially as a father. The false allegations originally reported in March were highly publicized and involved the care of my son. I am grateful for so many thing and grateful for so many people who have supported me during this challenging time. I fully respect and accept the NFL's decision. To my children, my beautiful children: I love you all dearly and I promise you all that I will continue to strive to be the best father, the best friend, the best role model, and the best mentor that I can be.”
BULLSHIT. Incredibly, some NFL experts are attempting to accept the NFL’s decision. One of the biggest names in NFL reports is ESPN’s Adam Schefter and he had this so say:
“Keep in mind, that audio came on an 11-minute tape. There was context if you listen to the full 11 minutes. Anybody who listened to the full 11 minutes of that tape might have a different opinion. I’m not defending this; I’m just explaining to you why the league decided to do what it did.”
Whatever…the NFL’s official statement read as such:
“Local law enforcement authorities have publicly advised that the available evidence does not permit them to determine who caused the child's injuries. Similarly, based on the evidence presently available, the NFL cannot conclude that Mr. Hill violated the Personal Conduct Policy.”
Mike Tomlin may be a bit confused. Everyone that is a fan of the NFL especially Steelers fans know that the absence of Le’Veon Bell last season for the entire season was his decision and it had to have had an affect in the locker room. More damage was done however from the mouth of Antonio Brown and then on the sidelines Joey Porter was making some ugly noise away from the field.
So now all three are gone and perhaps the chemistry will be much better in 2019, but we won’t know that until the season is well underway. But in an interview recently, Tomlin appeared to deny there was any issues with an unsettled locker room. Say what?
“I don’t know that our locker room wasn’t calm a year ago. The circus that was associated with being us — from time to time — attention that comes with it, there is a perception that there is a lack of calm. But I don’t know that there was a lack of calm within our group. The circus that surrounds our group can be described as that. But the group itself, these guys are professional. We have no control over the storylines. We just prepare and play. And play to win.”
Ahhh…excuse me, there would not be any story lines if there were not stories to tell. I like Mike Tomlin as a coach and having his teams prepared to win but when comments like this come out I have to wonder if he truly is not an idiot. Tomlin is so far less a hard nosed coach when compared to the likes of a Bill Cowher and many of Steelers Nation’s fans want to see that type of coach again, someone who will kick ass with his team when discipline is necessary.
With that out of the way, and A.B. gone, much will be expected of JuJu Smith-Schuster but I think a newcomer heading in from the Jacksonville Jaguars is going to do very well in 2019. Donte Moncrief is no joke but he is facing a challenge from sophomore James Washington. Read on.
Predicting winners of 7 intriguing training-camp battles
Jack Browne, theScore.com
NFL training camps are all about competition. It's the first time players are truly allowed to go full tilt in the offseason, and with livelihoods on the line, no one wants to ease up. Let's examine the seven most interesting camp battles and predict who will emerge as the winners.
Donte Moncrief vs. James Washington
Antonio Brown's messy departure leaves an enormous hole in the Pittsburgh Steelers' passing attack. How enormous? Well, Brown's averaged 171 targets, 114 catches, 1,524 yards, and 11 touchdowns per season since his breakout 2014 campaign, according to Pro Football Reference. That's a career year for some Hall of Fame wideouts, which highlights just how difficult it will be to replace Brown.
Emerging star JuJu Smith-Schuster will, of course, step into the No. 1 role after a 111-catch, 1,426-yard sophomore season. Even if he can take a third of Brown's average intended passes, Ben Roethlisberger needs another receiver capable of taking on 100-plus targets. The leading contenders to start alongside Smith-Schuster are Moncrief and Washington, though it's not out of the realm of possibility that third-round pick Diontae Johnson will force his way into the conversation in training camp. Moncrief looked set to emerge as the Indianapolis Colts' No. 2 weapon after racking up 733 yards in 2015, but he has failed to exceed that mark since. In fairness, Andrew Luck was banged up for most of the remainder of Moncrief's time in Indy and the Jacksonville Jaguars' passing game was barely functional last season (and he still put up 668 yards).
Washington, meanwhile, was a relative disappointment as a rookie. We've come to expect great things from any highly drafted Steelers wideout, and Washington's 42.1 percent catch rate last season is worrisome. Still, not everyone can be Smith-Schuster right out of the gate. Despite spending less time in Pittsburgh's system, Moncrief was the "slam-dunk No. 2" over Washington in offseason workouts, according to The Athletic's Mark Kaboly. The Steelers need both Washington and Moncrief to step up if the team is going to make it back to the playoffs, but it will be the former Colt who emerges in camp thanks to his greater experience and potential as a red-zone weapon.
Predicted winner: Donte Moncrief
Around the Diamond
The trend of the Pittsburgh Pirates collapsing in the second halves of a baseball season continues. This past weekend the Bucs dropped two out of three to the Philadelphia Phillies and have now lost seven of the last 10 and are a full six games under .500, 7 ½ games behind the Chicago Cubs. With Major League Baseball trading deadline next week, it remains to be seen who will stay with the team and who will be playing elsewhere the rest of the season.
The one shining moment of the weekend at PNC Park was the honoring and 40th anniversary of Pittsburgh’s last World Series team which took place on Saturday in front of an officially announced 38,380 fans. It was the 1979 “We Are Family” team that won the World Series in dramatic fashion coming from behind a three games to one deficit to defeat the Baltimore Orioles. I was fortunate enough to attend all three games played at home in Three Rivers Stadium the one and only time I had attended a World Series.
Led by the late and beloved Willie “Pops” Stargell, a handful of the players from that roster were in the park tipping their hats. The roster had these men on it:
Ed Ott, Willie Stargell, Rennie Stennett, Tim Foli, Bill Madlock, Bill Robinson, Omar Moreno, Dave Parker, Phil Garner, John Milner, Steve Nicosia, Lee Lacy, Dale Berra, Manny Sanguillen, Mike Easler, Frank Taveras, Matt Alexander, Doe Boyland, Alberto Lois, Gary Hargis, Bert Blyleven, John Candelaria, Bruce Kison, Don Robinson, Jim Bibby, Jim Rooker, Ed Whitson, Kent Tekulve, Enrique Romo, Grant Jackson, Dave Roberts, Joe Coleman, Rick Rhoden, Dock Ellis.
Photos from the celebration below:
The starting lineup in the batting order was the following that includes my short summary of my opinion of each player.
Then there were the starting and relief pitchers.
Players that came off the bench that were notable:
The Baseball Hall of Fame placed its newest members into the hallowed halls this weekend and they are: Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, and Harold Baines. IMO, only Rivera is HOF worthy and possibly Smith. But that is how it goes these days, you don’t need elite numbers to be enshrined.
Tiger Woods won this year’s Master’s and everyone was thinking…he’s back. Well that was temporary. Unable to win the U.S. Open, Woods didn’t even make the cut last Friday for the British Open now known as simply “The Open Championship.” Instead, Shane Lowry won the first place price of over $1.9 million. Tommy Fleetwood finished second and still won $1.120 million.
Last year, Le’Veon Bell made the decision to sit out the entire 2018 football season over a contract and salary dispute. This year, the L.A. Chargers’ Melvin Gordon appears ready to pull the same stunt.
Gordon is currently holding out from reporting to training camp because he is not happy with his projected 2019 salary of $5.6 million that represents his fifth year of the contract he signed as a rookie just four years ago. Instead, the embattled running back says he wants to be paid along the lines of Bell and Todd Gurley, the top two earners in the National Football League among running backs.
It remains to be seen if the Chargers’ front office will hold the line as the Steelers did last year even though Pittsburgh tried to offer Le’Veon Bell a very rich and healthy contract that he rejected because it simply “did not meet his standards.” I’ve said this before but really, how much money does one man need? I’ll accept that most NFL careers are not very long and that they need to make as much money as possible to secure their futures, but for players that are making these millions of dollars, what happened to investing your money wisely and saving for the future?
If Gordon stays on his current contract and gets out on the field and produces, he will in fact make more money in the seasons ahead. But given that he only played in 12 games last season, rushed for just 885 yards and scored only 10 times, that does not put him in a top five category of best backs in the league. In his four seasons, he has run for over 1,000 yards in a season just once that coming in 2017 when he finished with 1,105 and only eight touchdowns and that was in a full 16 games.
Additionally, in his sophomore season, he came up short in 13 games with 997 yards rushing but his per-carry average was over a full yard short of his mark last year which was 5.1. In 2017 he repeated his average-per-carry mark of the year prior. My belief is you produce and you get paid. If Gordon wants to be a top five running back among salaries, he will have to have the kind of season that calls for such a contract and he has yet to do that.
Gordon says his teammates have his back and that sounds familiar because most of the Steelers locker room in 2018 said they were ready to have Le’Veon Bell return and there would be no repercussions. However, Le-Bell never made it back. For the record, Bell’s 2019 salary will be $13.13 million and Gurley’s $14.38.
Another familiarity with Le’Veon Bell’s 2018 issues from Melvin Gordon is what he said about playing in Los Angeles:
“Just because we're going through contract issues right now doesn't mean I want to get traded. I love being a Charger. I don't want them to feel like I don't want to be there.”
Yea right. It’s only about the money and the many millions more that you want that you really don’t need. This like any other contract dispute is about ego.
Yesterday I mentioned tomorrow night’s UFC card “UFC on ESPN dos Anjos vs. Edwards” and that my predictions would come today. So without further ado, I give you my picks on the biggest fights of the card.
Main event: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Leon Edwards (welterweight)
When dos Anjos defeated Anthony Pettis by unanimous decision on March 14, 2015 and followed it up with a TKO of Donald Cerrone he appeared to be at the top of the UFC among its champions. At that time he had a 25-7 record and looked like a difficult fighter to beat. But since that time he lost his title to Eddie Alvarez in 2016 and then lost a second fight in a row to Tony Ferguson. Dos Anjos would reel off three straight victories over Tarec Saffiedine, Neil Magny, and Robbie Lawlor and seemed to be back on tract. But two straight losses to Colby Covington for the interim welterweight title and then to the now champion Kamaru Usman seemed to put the former champ back in a tailspin.
Dos Anjos got back in the win column this past May with an impressive submission win over Kevin Lee and now comes this battle with Leon Edwards who has lost just three times in 20 bouts. Edwards is on a seven fight win streak five of which were decision victories. But Edwards has taken down some big name fighters namely Donald Cerrone and Gunner Nelson in his last two.
Edwards is also the guy who in the back hallways of the O2 Arena in England after his last fight, he took a shot from Jorge Masvidal that resulted in a cut on Edwards face as the two exchanged barbs. Given how good Edwards has look during his current streak and that dos Anjos is aging and vulnerable, my pick here is Edwards by decision.
Greg Hardy vs. Juan Adams (heavyweight)
A few weeks ago, Jorge Masvidal did many MMA fans a favor of easily and rapidly disposing of Ben Askren. I say favor because Askren has been obnoxious and annoying since coming into the UFC and additionally, despite his “gift” victory over Robbie Lawlor, he truly isn’t a talented MMA fighter. Wrestler? I’ll give him that. UFC qualified? NOT. So as he is one of many “big mouths” in MMA, along comes former NFL player Greg Hardy.
Another big mouth, another fighter who is completely unlikeable, another fighter who is being handed tomato cans to fight and along the way he is knocking out these cupcakes and building his record. With just three amateur fights, UFC President Dana White handed the former Carolina Panther and Dallas Cowboys linebacker an MMA contract. Thus far after five fights, he has lost just one and that was a disqualification to Allen Crowder when Hardy landed an illegal knee. But he has yet to fight a really well schooled MMA fighter and tomorrow night he gets Juan Adams who also has had just a handful of bouts (six).
With a 5-1 record, Adams lost his last fight out on the night Al Iaquinta fought Donald Cerrone. It was a decision loss that Adams disputes. But in his five victories, they call came by TKO on punches and all in the first round except his third round TKO of Chris de la Rocha. For Adams, he has no bragging rights either because when he defeated Chris Rose, that fighter came win without an MMA victory and had lost his first two fights and is still without a win at 0-4. Adams’ TKO of de la Rocha handed that combatant his third loss in eight fights.
Juan Adams also defeated Shawn Teed last July and Teed is just 5-2 for his career. Worse is that Adams defeated Dwight Gipson who has lost his last two and has an ugly record of 7-9. More insult to injury? Adams owns a win over Brice Ritani-Coe who has lost five of nine. So neither Juan Adams or Greg Hardy can claim much heading into Saturday. What Adams does have going for him is size. He is 6’5” and will weigh in around 265. Those measurements equal Greg Hardy so there is no advantage for either man.
My gut says that Hardy will probably score another KO or TKO as he will bum rush Adams and start winging. But part of me says Adams may pull a “Masvidal gem” and do us all a favor and dump this loser. To give you a sampling of how cocky and arrogant Hardy has become, just read this quote from the former football player when asked if he’d like to fight Jon Jones:
“For sure. Like I said, he’s a great dude, a great competitor, but I’m here to clean out the whole division and anyone who wants to join it. I’m here to be the greatest combat sports heavyweight of all-time, and if that includes taking out Jon Jones to do that, then that’s what I’ve got to do. And I’ll do it with all due respect like I would Stipe, like I would Daniel. I think a lot of times my comments get misconstrued as disrespectful and it’s not. If I’m sitting here saying I can’t beat somebody, then do I even belong here?”
Get real man. Daniel Cormier would beat Greg Hardy EASY. So would Stipe. Francis Ngannou? That’s a scary thought of he and Hardy sharing the Octagon. Ngannou would probably decapitate Greg Hardy given the style of Hardy. Junior dos Santos would annihilate Greg Hardy. Derrick Lewis on his best night would easily dispatch of this idiot.
This guy thinks he can challenge for the championship? There are other top 10 heavyweights that would also beat him. That’s because they are well rounded MMA fighters. I’d put these guys as a winner over Greg Hardy: Curtis Blaydes, Alexander Volkov, and the former champion Cain Velasquez if he is in good fighting form. Others that would give him all he can handle would be the 10-1 Tai Tuivasa, Blagoy Ivanov who has 12 knockouts or submissions in his 17-2 record, and are you going to try to convince me the inexperienced Hardy would defeat Aleksei Oleinik?
Oleinik has fought 70 times in the MMA and has won 57 fights 45 by submission and eight by KO or TKO. Hardy needs to get real and fight someone who has proven themselves with a solid record in MMA. Until that happens he can yap all he wants but is not believable.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Ben Rothwell (heavyweights)
The “old man” fight of the night puts the 40 year old Arlovski in the Octagon with the 37 year old Rothwell. Between the two of them they have fought 94 times, each having 47 professional bouts. Arlovski has won 27 of his, Rothwell 36. Rothwell has 20 KOs and 13 submissions whereas Arlovski has scored 17 knockouts and 3 submissions. Looking at their current track record, Arlovski has lost eight of his last 11 with one no contest but what should have been nine losses because facing Walt Harris, Harris tested positive for a PED and his split decision win over Arlovski was changed to a NC.
At one point, Arlovski lost five straight to Stipe Miocic, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, Francis Ngannou, and Francis Ngannou before getting of the snide with two straight wins against Junior Albini and Stefan Struve. But then came the losses to Tai Tuivasa, Shamil Abdurakhimov, Walt Harris, and Augusto Sakai last April.
As for Rothwell, he has faired a tad better than his opponent over the last several years. In Rothwell’s last 11 he has lost five of the 11 to drop his record to the current 36-11. The first loss in his last 11 was to Cain Velasquez 10 years ago and at that time Ben Rothwell has won 30 fights and lost just six before Cain dropped him in the second round.
This fight is actually a rematch that has waited 11 years to make happen. Rothwell fought Arlovski on July 19, 2008 but it was not in the UFC but in the promotion “Afflication.” In that fight, Arlovski was the winner by KO in the third round. Prior to that loss, Rothwell had won 13 in a row.
Both fighters are former champions, Rothwell having won the USMMA Heavyweight title in 2002, and Arlovski a former WAMMA title holder as well as having won the UFC top division title from Tim Sylvia on February 5, 2005. He would lose his belt in a rematch and then again to Sylvia just three months later in July 2006. I believe in this one given how they have performed as of late, I like a Rothwell victory by decision.
Some other notable fights on the preliminary card are:
Alex Caceres vs. Steven Peterson (featherweight)
“Bruce Leroy” Caceres was once thought to be a promising talent but has been a disappointment instead. He gets a relatively unknown opponent in Peterson and so here it can go either way, but my gut says Caceres as he has been in the spotlight more often.
Raquel Pennington vs. Irene Aldana (bantamweight)
Pennington has a known name in UFC circles but her record is awful at 9-7. After four straight wins including a decision victory over former champion Miesha Tate, she has lost her last two to a couple of champions in Amanda Nunes and Germaine de Randamie. Aldana is 10-4 and last disposed of Bethe by submission. She’s on a three fight win streak and I like her to win this one by submission.
Sam Alvey vs. Klidson Abreu (light heavyweight)
“Smiling” Sam Alvey is a fan favorite who has been fighting like forever (debuted in 2008). Alvey is a tough customer but has never fought for a UFC title and probably will never get there. Still, you have to like the guy for his fortitude. He is coming off two straight losses and faces Klidson Abreu in only the fighter’s second bout in the UFC. Abreu brings with him a 14-3 record with his last fight on the Blachowicz/Santos card that saw him lose to Magomed Ankalaev by decision. I’ll go with Alvey by decision.
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Jennifer Maia (flyweight)
Modafferi and Maia will be staging another rematch on this card as the two women fought on September 23, 2016 in Invicata as that card’s main event. Maia won that first meeting by a close split decision so there they are again but now in the UFC. Modafferi has plenty of experience with 38 fights having won 23. As for Maia, she is coming off a big decision victory of Alexis Davis and has won 16 of her 22 fights. I’ll go with my gut and pick Maia for the decision win as any Brazilian born fighter is as tough as they come.
Ray Borg vs. Gabriel Silva (flyweight)
Ray Borg is a tough little fighter with seven stoppages in 11 victories (6 submissions, 1 KO). He lost to one of the greatest fighters in UFC history, the former champion Demetrious Johnson due to an armbar in 2017 then in his next fight this past March, he lost again to Casey Kenney by a decision. As for Silva, this will be his UFC debut and he brings to the Octagon a perfect 8-0 record. Silva is not a knockout fighter having won his bouts with four decisions, one submission, and three by knockout or TKO all of which came in the first round. He’s in with a very crafty and worthy fighter and I like Borg to win by submission and ruin Silva’s debut.
There is another major combat sport event taking place tomorrow and this is of the ageless Manny Pacquiao. Will this man ever quit boxing? Geez...he's had 70 fights! He began his ring career professionally 24 years ago at the age of 17 with a decision victory over Edmund Enting Ignacio. Ignacio had his last fight 18 years ago!
Truly one of the greatest boxers ever, Pacquiao has been one of the most accomplished fighters in and outside of the squared circle. He's won 87% of his fights, has won a title in eight different divisions and at the age of 40 defeated an outstanding fighter in Adrien Broner this past January to retain his welterweight title he took from Lucas Matthysse last July.
Tomorrow he moves up a division and attempts to wrest the WBA super welterweight championship belt from the waist of Keith Thurman who has just 30 fights but has won all but one of those. The one fight he didn't win was a no contest ruled as such because he and Francisco Garcia butted heads and both were unable to continue. He brings to the ring 22 knockouts in those 30 fights but forget a KO he will NOT get that against the champ. I fully expect Manny Pacquiao to add more hardware to his trophy case in this one.
Finally for today, a little history lesson one that I just learned today. It comes in the sport of Major League Baseball. As a sports historian, I know full well who Adrian “Cap” Anson was and is. Born Adrian Constantine Anson in Marshalltown, Iowa on April 17, 1852, Anson would make the Baseball Hall of Fame in it’s inaugural induction on June 12, 1939. He earned his nickname of Cap because he had become the captain of the team when he played for the Chicago White Sox. Anson would garner 3,435 hits in his 27 year career with a lifetime batting average of .394. What I did not know about Cap Anson was the was a downright racist.
His dislike of blacks became obvious on July 14, 1887. As the White Sox were scheduled to play the Newark Little Giants, the opposing team had on its roster a pitcher by the name of George Stovey who was black. Anson refused to play in the game because of his racial beliefs and a day later team owners in the league had verbally agreed to keep any black players from being on the roster of a Major League Baseball team. Incredibly this unwritten rule was practiced until Jackie Robinson finally became the first official black player to play in the Major Leagues again.
Given this true story, it has many questioning what criteria should actually be considered when electing players into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, New York. This year Barry Bonds, the all-time home run king missed the cut again, now seven years running since he was first eligible. His dismissal from being elected is obviously related to his alleged steroid usage. Roger Clemens if facing the same issue.
Pete Rose received a lifetime ban from baseball for betting on games and he has been denied a return as well as not being permitted to be voted into the Hall of Fame. So I ask you, is the hall for players with stats or character? Cap Anson had the stats but certainly his racist opinions make him an unworthy character person to be represented with baseball’s highest honor.
If players are to be voted in based on what they did on the field and not the person they are or were, then men like Pete Rose, Bonds, and Clemens are getting the royal shaft. Those are three of the greatest players in history but they are being shunned for a bust in Cooperstown. If men are being considered based on character as well, then for sure Rose doesn’t belong. He’s an ass and a jerk and has proven so.
Barry Bonds is another jackass with a piss poor attitude but on the field, whether he took steroids or not, his numbers are worthy. Roger Clemens is accused of juicing and is getting shut out of an induction but he was one of the most dominating and powerful pitchers in history. My opinion is that a hall of fame regardless of the sport should be based SOLELY on numbers. If people want a “character” hall of fame, by all means let’s create one.
But any of the sports hall of fames should be about production. What players did on their field of play. So with that said, Pete Rose in my book is a hall of famer. As much as I dislike those who use steroids and the fact that it breaks rules, I think Bonds without any use of the substance as well as Clemens would still have put up some of the greatest numbers in history. So Bonds and Clemens belong. So does Alex Rodriguez who will probably also get shut out for years to come.
There are those in the hall who were of good character but based on numbers I don’t believe they should have been voted in. There are players who may not have produced eye opening offensive stats but were placed in the hall for defensive reasons. Ozzie Smith is the first to come to mind. When you peruse through the inducted men who are baseball’s Hall of Fame and then think about some of the greatest players ever, some names just don’t seem to fit.
We all know who Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente are just to name a few but should these inducted hall of famers be mentioned in the same breath with those mentioned above? Harold Baines? A .289 lifetime hitter with less than 3,000 hits and just 384 home runs? Some of the more questionable inductees have been placed in the last 10-20 years.
Edgar Martinez voted in this year…18 years in the bigs all with Seattle. All fine and good. But while he has a nice lifetime batting average of .312, he too fell short of reaching what most players want to accomplish, 3,000 hits. Martinez had just 2,247 and hit only 309 home runs for his career. Mike Piazza is another question mark. I question the induction of Andre Dawson. A lifetime .279 hitter with 438 home runs and under 3,000 hits does he deserve having a bust and his name mentioned next to Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, or any of the other historic greats? Maybe the hall needs to continue inducting on whatever criteria the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWWA) uses then have an “Elite” wing in the hall as well preserved for the truly GREAT players like a Ruth, Aaron, Gehrig, Williams, or guys like Stan Musial.
With so much attention these days being paid to character of a person and the fact that favoritism plays a role, players will continue to get denied a hall of fame entrance based more on who they are and not what they accomplished. If Cap Anson was still alive and practiced his social beliefs do you think these writers would have put him in the Hall of Fame? I think not. Until a determination is made of what criteria is the actual foundation of being voted into a hall of fame, guys like Bonds and Clemens will continue to be bypassed year after year of being officially known as one of their sports’ all-time greats.
July 18, 2019
The weekend is approaching and so are the NFL training camps. My team the Pittsburgh Steelers will open up with much optimism about the coming season after ridding themselves of two locker room cancers, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.
These days in sports sections of newspapers and on the internet across NFL sites everywhere are writing about the 2019 season and the preparations that go with it. Below you will find some articles that mention the Black and Gold.
Every AFC team's biggest question entering training camp
theScore Staff, theScore.com
NFL training camps are right around the corner and it won't be long before football season is upon us again. Every team reports for summer workouts between July 17 and 26, and then rejuvenated scrutiny of the issues plaguing all 32 franchises returns, too. Let's examine the biggest question for every AFC team entering training camp:
Who will lock down the No. 2 wide receiver role?
The Antonio Brown era is over, so the Steelers need a receiver to step up next to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Veteran Donte Moncrief appears to hold the early lead, but head coach Mike Tomlin surely hopes sophomore James Washington emerges after a quiet rookie campaign. Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer are solid slot options, and don't be surprised if rookie Diontae Johnson - a talented route-runner - earns meaningful snaps out wide in 2019. For Pittsburgh to remain a contender in the AFC North, the Steelers must give Ben Roethlisberger a dynamic secondary option.
In that same article, here’s what they said about the two cancers mentioned above playing for their new teams:
New York Jets
Will Le'Veon Bell be rusty or ready?
Not only did Bell sit out all last season, but he also skipped most of the Jets' voluntary offseason program after signing a four-year, $52.5-million contract during free agency. For the Jets to make a legitimate playoff push, their prized tailback needs to be in top form when the season starts, rather than spending a few weeks shaking off rust. The 27-year-old will have to build chemistry with his offensive line and young quarterback Sam Darnold at a faster-than-expected pace. Bell's patient running style makes cohesion up front that much more important.
How will all the big personalities mesh?
What happens when you put Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock, Antonio Brown, Richie Incognito, and Vontaze Burfict under one roof? How will they gel with each other and their new co-workers? Find out on this year's "Hard Knocks," premiering Aug. 6. Usually, there isn't much to glean from the annual HBO show. However, the Raiders are betting big on players who have a history of dividing locker rooms, and if the cracks are already there, we'll get front-row seats. Just make sure your popcorn is ready.
Believe you me…the combination of A.B., Incognito, and Burfict is a disaster waiting to happen. As Mike Tomlin prepares for yet another season on the bridge as the captain of the Pittsburgh Steelers ship, there can be no argument to the level of success he has attained in his very first job as an NFL head coach. But while he has been heavily criticized over the years he does own one Super Bowl triumph and made it to another only to lose. So where would you rank Tomlin among active coaches?
2019 NFL head coach power rankings: Bill Belichick still No. 1
By Elliot Harrison, NFL.com Analyst
Just about everyone agrees Bill Belichick is the premier head coach in pro football today. But who comes after him in the pecking order? Overall record is usually the primary metric when judging these coaches. That's not always the case in the actual job interview, though (and it's not the only measuring stick in this exercise). We saw hires this offseason where, in some cases, the new front man's win-loss record was either poor or nonexistent (six of the eight teams that made a change this offseason hired men who had never been an NFL HC). All of which makes ranking the non-Belichick's a strenuous exercise. Check out the parsing below for the 26 guys who have experience in the role, with my thoughts on the first-time NFL HCs below them (that group is listed in alphabetical order).
#1. Bill Belichick, Patriots
#2. Pete Carroll, Seahawks
#3. Sean Payton, Saints
#4. Andy Reid, Chiefs
#5. Doug Pederson, Eagles
#6. Sean McVay, Rams
#7. John Harbaugh, Ravens
#8. Anthony Lynn, Chargers
#9. Mike Tomlin, Steelers
Tomlin is one of the more difficult coaches to rate. He won a title, lost a Super Bowl in a close game, and has led his team to the playoffs far more often than not. Last year was a "not" for Tomlin's group, as it seemed internal feuding distracted the Steelers just enough to have them in the unusual position of sitting at home in January. It's not hard to understand how the late-season implosion took place, given the considerable ego of Antonio Brown, as well as the personality of the team's QB1. Then again, each are great players, and in previous years, Tomlin handled both en route to a Super Bowl appearance and multiple postseason entries. Maybe some fans would like to see Tomlin be more of a strict disciplinarian or an X's-and-O's wonk. Although, no one associated the latter with either Chuck Noll or Bill Cowher. Tomlin has reached two Super Bowls, like his predecessor, and while he hasn't approached Noll's success, it's not like the legendary coach didn't endure his down seasons.
Belichick is a given. Carroll is an excellent coach. Sean Payton is also very good. Andy Reid? He can’t get his Chiefs anywhere near a Super Bowl. Doug Pederson? Come on. Sean McVay? Is this based on last year’s Super Bowl appearance which he lost? John Harbaugh I believe while a solid coach is more a product of the talent he has had. Then Harrison puts Anthony Lynn above Tomlin? That’s a joke. So that leaves us with Tomlin. Tomlin is a far better coach than the #s 4,5,6,7, and 8 above in my opinion anyway.
Tim Benz, sportswriter for the Tribune Review in Pittsburgh posted the article below which I thought was a really cool subject matter.
If you could bring back any Steeler from any era, who would it be?
Tim Benz, TribLive.com
One of my colleagues at SteelersWire.com is Neal Coolong. He posed a great question on Twitter recently:
“Bring back one former #Steelers player (played at least one season with the team) to play just for the 2019 season. You're paying him up to the cap ceiling. Who is it?”
My answer is Chuck Noll. Unfortunately, the question specifically said “player.” So, I’ll adjust. Here’s my top-5 list.
5. Gary Anderson: Who would you rather have kicking on this team? Chris Boswell? Or Anderson and his 538 field goals? Anderson was 60-62 on place kicks in 1993.
4. Antonio Brown: Not the temperamental jerk of the past few years. Give me the Antonio Brown of 2015. That A.B. had 136 catches for a career-high 1,834 yards.
3. Troy Polamalu: Polamalu was the best safety in Steelers history. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert think they have two young players with potential at the position this year in Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds. But they aren’t sure. I am sure, however, that Polamalu is a Hall of Famer. He was an impact player who created nine turnovers in 2010. Last year’s Steelers team totaled just 15.
2. “Mean” Joe Greene: If “Mean Joe” played today, he’d be a taller Aaron Donald. Would you play him as an end in a 3-4 or would you play him inside as part of the 4-3? The answer to that question is … yes. Who cares? Either way works. Play with 10 men on the field. And give the opposing offense 12. Play a 3-3-4 if you want. If one of the three upfront is Greene, you are better than the other team. God bless Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt. They are all good players. But someone sits for Mean Joe, or the scheme changes on his behalf.
1. Mel Blount: Or Rod Woodson, as a 1-A option. Despite Greene’s greatness, I’m going to go with Blount or Woodson here because the question is who are you bringing back “for 2019?” The position where the Steelers need the most help is the non-Joe Haden cornerback. And few played that position better than those two. That’s my list.
As a 1977 graduate of North Hills High School in Pittsburgh, football fans at the school used to live for Friday nights at Martorelli Stadium. That’s when our Indians’ football team took the field. We had some solid teams that competed in the W.P.I.A.L. which is the division they played in at the time and Steve Fedell may have been the biggest star of my era. Fedell would go on to star at the University of Pittsburgh as a linebacker and then had a tryout with his hometown Steelers only to have his career cut short because of an injury.
Former Buffalo Bills cornerback Mark Kelso came along as a freshman the year I graduated. Then there is linebacker LaVar Arrington who came along much later and was one of the NFL’s best while he was playing for the Washington Redskins. But as an alumnus of North Hills, I still follow how they do each fall and 10 years after I graduated from the school, the football team had their ultimate season.
In 1987, USA Today named the Indians as the nation’s best team. A number one ranking that Ross Township has made it known they are proud of that squad. That 1987 team dominated their opponents to the tune of a record of 13-0 obviously winning the WPIAL Class AAAA division. The Indians put up 435 points on the board in those 13 games while the defense allowed an incredible low total of 20. That’s an average score of 33-1 ½. If you can believe it, they shut out 11 of their 13 foes. 11!
To emphasize that defensive effort, the defensive starters for the Indians had a full season shutout. Those 20 points yielded came against the second string or the other backups. Legendary North Hills Head Coach Jack McCurry led that team on the sidelines and he is quoted as saying about the ’87 squad: “I don't think anyone even got inside the 20-yard line on our first team.
On offense the Indians rushed for 280 yards per game while the defense allowed just 73 by opponents. Four North Hills running backs finished the season with 500 yards rushing more and they were Duane Hitchcock, Greg Morris, Pat Carey, T.J. Schmitt. The running game was the bread and butter given that only 48 passes were thrown in 13 games. Reflecting back to that team here was their offensive and defensive starters:
As for the victims?
WPIAL AAAA playoffs
In 1993, McMurray’s team would lose just one game and then cruise through playoffs and win the Pennsylvania state championship (PIAA). Here’s the breakdown of that season:
The year North Hills was rated the best high school team in the country (1987), the top five teams were:
The state of Pennsylvania has a rich history of producing future NFL stars (Joe Namath, Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, Jim Kelly, Joe Montana just to name a few) but do they produce the best talent of any state in America? Not according to the following.
Florida Leads The Way With 13 Teams In High School Football America Preseason 100 High School Football Rankings
The Sunshine State leads the way in the High School Football America preseason rankings with 32 teams in the Top 250. Florida had the most teams, thirteen, in the Top 100, three teams On the Bubble (No. 102 through No. 126) and sixteen teams on our Honorable Mention list.
As for teams from PA that were in those rankings, they were:
#4 St. Joseph’s Prep (Pennsylvania)
#83 Coatesville (Pennsylvania)
#96 Harrisburg (Pennsylvania)
The top five?
#1 Mater Dei (California)
#2 St. John Bosco (California)
#3 St. John’s College HS (Washington, DC)
#4 St. Joseph’s Prep (Pennsylvania)
#5 Duncanville (Texas)
As for just the east region, Pennsylvania ranked a little better.
East Region Preseason Top 25 High School Football Rankings
Now that are High School Football America Preseason 100 national rankings are out, it’s time to start breaking things down into our seven regions — East, Mid-Atlantic, South, Midwest, Southwest, Mountain and West. Heading the East Regional, which consists of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, is St. Joseph’s Prep from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Hawks are the defending Class 6A champs and are ranked No. 4 in our Top 100 national rankings.
Falling in behind the Hawks is New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 state champ St. Joseph Regional (Montvale) at No. 2, followed by St. Edward (Ohio) at No. 3, Bergen Catholic (New Jersey) at No. 4 and Pickerington Central (Ohio) rounds-out the Top 5.
Ohio leads the way with twelve teams in the Top 25, followed by Pennsylvania with seven teams and New Jersey with six.
East Region Preseason Top 25
No. 1 St. Joseph’s Prep (Pennsylvania)
No. 11 Coatesville (Pennsylvania)
No. 12 Harrisburg (Pennsylvania)
No. 19 Cathedral Prep (Pennsylvania)
No. 21 Pine-Richland (Pennsylvania)
No. 22 Penn Hills (Pennsylvania)
No. 24 Manheim Central (Pennsylvania)
Let’s talk a little baseball. In the NFL only four teams in the league have yet to reach the Super Bowl. They would be the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Detroit Lions. All the other teams have either been there and won or reached the pinnacle and lost.
I bring up the fact above because in Major League Baseball, somewhat related is how many teams have had a pitcher or combination of pitchers toss a no-hitter in their club’s history? The answer is EVERY ONE except ONE.
Last night the San Diego Padres came close to registering their first no-no in team history. In 1969 San Diego entered the leagues as an expansion team with the Montreal Expos. Montreal got their no-no in their very first season while playing the Phillies. But for the Padres, they are still waiting on their first 50 years later. Last night it was a rookie who almost pulled the feat as Chris Paddack took his opportunity into the bottom of the eighth only to lose is on a home run by Starlin Castro of the Miami Marlins. The 50 year stretch covers 8,071 games.
The UFC is on display again this Saturday with fights on ESPN and the main bout being a matchup between Rafael dos Anjos and Leon Edwards. I’ll have my predictions on the major fights tomorrow. In the meantime, while we await the return of Conor McGregor, UFC President Dana White says it’s coming but the opponent won’t be Jorge Masvidal who would like nothing more than to break the face of the former Irish Champion. Said White:
“I think he will be back this year or early next year. Jorge Masvidal's too big for Conor. McGregor shouldn't have fought at 170. I hated that he did it. Not only did I hate that he did it once, I hated that he did it twice. There's plenty of fights for Masvidal in his weight division without Conor. He's too big for Conor. Conor doesn't belong at 170. He's got the balls to fight at 170, but he doesn't belong there. Hell no.”
That’s nice Dana make excuses for this loser. He got whipped by Khabib Nurmagomedov plain and simple. It had nothing to do with size. I contend as I have for a while now that McGregor will not be returning. I think he’s done and he knows it and is avoiding a return to the Octagon. He hasn’t fought since losing to Khabib back in October 2018. His only fight before that was in 2016. I’d be very surprised if he does come back.
With that said, another excellent fight is on the horizon signed this week. It pits Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone against Justin Gaethje for the main event of a card on September 14 in Vancouver. As for Saturday, here’s what you are getting:
Yesterday was the opening round of what used to be called the “British Open” but now is referred to as the “Open Championship.” All eyes of course are on Tiger Woods but as of this writing, he’s off to a horrendous start shooting +6 after 13 holes. Let’s see if he even makes the cut.
July 17, 2019
Sometimes news travels slow for some. Not until today did I find out that former professional boxing champion and boxing hall of famer Pernell Whitaker was tragically killed when he was hit by a vehicle while walking last Sunday night in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Whitaker was a champion, and one of the finest pure boxers of any era. He was just 55 when he passed last weekend and his death comes 10 years to the month when three other professional fighters also passed away.
In July of 2009, Arturo Gatti, Vernon Forrest and the great Alexis Arguello all died either by their own hand or were murdered. This month also saw the passing of Jim Bouton, famous baseball player and author of the book “Ball Four” as he died on July 10 at the age of 80. Earlier this month on the 3rd, former NFL quarterback Jared Lorenzen suddenly passed away at just 38 years of old after suffering from an infection.
10 years ago in 2009, in just one month, July, three great fighters all died. As mentioned above, they were Arturo Gatti, Vernon Forrest and Alexis Arguello. The Nicaraguan born Arguello was one of the greatest boxers ever despite losing two very memorable fights to Aaron Pryor by knockout in which he suffered a lot of damage. For 27 years Arguello was a pro and he got into politics following his retirement from boxing. But on July 1, 2009, Arguello committed suicide with a gun.
As for another champion, Vernon Forrest, he was murdered at a gas station after being accosted by several thugs who tried to rob him at gunpoint. Tragically, Forrest tried to run after the suspects and when he lost track of one, he confronted another who shot him eight times in the back and all three men involved were sentenced to life in prison. Forrest was an outstanding fighter with just three losses in his 44 pro fights losing to Sergio Mora and Ricardo Mayorga twice.
As a side note, also in July of 2009, on Independence Day to be exact, that was the death of Steve McNair who was murdered by his mistress and McNair was just 36 years of age. But back to boxers and the month of July 2009. Not just Gatti, Forrest, and Arguello who died, but five other boxers or someone related to boxing also passed.
It was July 22 and one Marco Antonio Nazareth was in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in a fight with Omar Chavez on July 18. Nazareth succumbed to those injuries and was just 23. Chavez is the son of Julio Cesar Chavez. Two days later, Francisco “Pancho” Moncivais, 21 years old, was KO’d in the fourth round and died from brain injuries a day later.
Also on July 22, Mark Leduc who had retired from boxing but was a gold medalist in the Olympics for Canada as well as being a professional died at the age of 47 as he was in a sauna and collapsed. Former champion Jermain Taylor once fought Nicola Servera who in 2009 was 37 but he took his own life while residing in Colombia. On July 27, William Morelo also from Colombia and was an average but professional fighter was murdered in a shooting.
Finally, there was Octavius James, a boxing promoter who died in his sleep on July 24, 2009. He was only 36. Strangely enough about these 2009 boxing deaths is that the day that Arturo Gatti died, his sister was getting married in Florida.
As for “Sweet Pea” Pernell Whitaker, his resume is impressive. Whitaker fought 44 times professionally and lost just four times. His only loss came in his 16th fight, a split decision loss to Jose Luis Ramirez and it was a championship bout for the WBC lightweight title. Some say he should have won the fight but Whitaker would then go on to win his next 17 fights in a row and along the way he would become the lightweight champion of the world including a victory over Floyd Mayweather’s uncle Roger.
Pernell Whitaker defeated some of boxing’s greatest fighters in his era such as Azuhmah Nelson, Freddi Pendleton, Jorge Paez, Rafael Pineda, James McGirt, Juan Nazario, and Julio Cesar Vasquez. In his final four fights, sporting a 40-1-1 record (Sweet Pea had suffered another controversial decision draw against another great fighter in Julio Cesar Chavez), he lost three of those four fights with a no contest (NC) placed on his record in a fight with Andrey Pestryayev. In that bout, the decision win was changed to the NC after Whitaker tested positive for drugs.
The three losses were to Oscar De la Hoya, Felix Trinidad, and his career ending bout with Carlos Bojorquez on April 27, 2001 two years after losing to Trinidad in an effort to win the IBF welterweight title, a bout many thought Whitaker had won but in the end it was a unanimous decision for the champion Trinidad. Whitaker was 35 at the time of that fight and 37 when he retired.
As for his nickname, Pernell Whitaker was called “Pete” by family members and friends as a youth growing up in Norfolk, Virginia but when fighting as an amateur boxer, fans would yell out “Sweet Pete.” A Virginia sportswriter got the chant wrong reporting it as Sweet Pea. The new nickname stuck. Despite some personal issues Whitaker went through with drug abuse the boxing world is mourning the loss of this great fighter this week.
Many football fans especially those who follow the Pittsburgh Steelers are well aware of the cancer scare that running back James Conner once went through. This week, Conner was very upfront in regards to what that experience was like as he was interviewed by music personality Mike Stud on his podcast titled “Ya Never Know: ya know what I mean?” Some of what Conner said follows.
“So I get some tests done. I got a tumor surrounding my heart, bro. My heart, I got tumors growing all around it. Hodgkin's lymphoma. Doctor told me I had about a week left. He said, You got about a week. if you didn't get this treated, you had about a week, at the rate it was growing. The hardest part about the whole thing was telling my bros. I remember that like it was yesterday. How would they feel if their youngest brother was not here no more? How would they feel if their youngest brother died? I said I can't do it. I can't go.”
What a story. Now he’s one of the best backs in the league.
The Pittsburgh Pirates got off the snide last night with a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Now at 45-49 on the season, the Bucs are still 5 ½ games behind Chicago, 2 ½ behind the Cards, and three behind Milwaukee.
In another sports story, there have been many instances of professional athletes who get themselves in trouble for domestic violence then face a suspension and/or fines from their respective league. Today a story such as this has broken and normally you expect the culprit to be of the male gender. But this case involved females.
Riquna Williams who plays guard for the WNBA’s L.A. Sparks has been suspended for 10 games because last December 6, she was at her ex-girlfriend’s house trying to force her way inside. When the other woman confronted Williams, the basketball player hit her ex-girlfried in the head and then retrieved a gun from her car pointing it at another person who was on the scene yelling threats and then driving off.
July 16, 2019
This being of July, Major League Baseball has a trading deadline that expires on the last day of this month. Will we see any players moved from the current Pittsburgh Pirates roster?
The bigger question is, does a fire sale begin with the Bucs? Now having lost their last four games to teams in their division that are also ahead of them in the standings, despite being just 5 ½ games behind the Chicago Cubs still, is the front office considering a preparation for team improvements for 2020?
After a 7-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday, there is a buzz on the internet about possible trades before the deadline. Several Buccos are named.
Top 20 MLB position player trade candidates
theScore Staff, theScore.com
With Major League Baseball's trade deadline approaching, theScore's MLB editors break down 20 position players who could be moved ahead of July 31.
4. Starling Marte, OF, Pirates
Marte has put last year's 80-game PED suspension behind him and remains a solid outfielder with power and speed. It's no guarantee that the Pirates will want to part with the 30-year-old, but a pair of upcoming team options - $11.5 million in 2020, $12.5 million in 2021 - would make him the highest-paid player on a club that's not known for big spending. Those additional years of control make him an attractive trade candidate and could generate a nice return for Pittsburgh.
Probability of trade: 6/10
Potential suitors: Twins, White Sox, Indians, Athletics, Nationals, Phillies
11. Corey Dickerson, OF, Pirates
Dickerson has been one of the more underappreciated outfielders in the game over the last three years. He was an All-Star in 2017 and won a Gold Glove the following season. However, injuries have limited Dickerson to just 32 games this year, which could affect the return Pittsburgh receives. The Pirates shopped the 30-year-old this winter, and even despite being in the playoff hunt, expect them to try and get something for the impending free agent.
Probability of trade: 7/10
Potential suitors: Twins, Indians, Athletics, Nationals, Phillies, Rockies
18. Melky Cabrera, OF, Pirates
Cabrera continues to be productive even into his 15th season. The veteran corner outfielder isn't a game-changer, but he is a solid on-base threat with some pop and owns the best strikeout percentage (9.5 percent) of his career. Cabrera will hit free agency at the end of this campaign, making it likely that the Pirates opt to move him.
Probability of trade: 9/10
Potential suitors: Red Sox, Twins, Indians, Athletics, Nationals, Rockies, Phillies, Cubs, Cardinals
Top 20 MLB pitcher trade candidates
8. Felipe Vazquez, RP, Pirates
If available, there's no question that Vazquez would be the top reliever on the market. Over the past three seasons, the left-hander is the only closer with at least 10 saves and a sub-2.20 ERA, and he's converted 78 saves during that span. The Pittsburgh Pirates, currently hovering around .500, would reportedly want two of the Los Angeles Dodgers' top four prospects, so he won't come cheap. It's understandable since he's on an extremely team-friendly deal and is due a maximum of $33.5 million through 2023.
Probability of trade: 2/10
Potential suitors: Dodgers, Red Sox, Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Twins, Athletics, Rays
As the NFL’s teams prepare to open their respective training camps, wide receiver Golden Tate now playing with the Detroit Lions was formerly with the Seattle Seahawks the only two teams he has played for in his pro career. So today, he had this to say about this current starting quarterback:
“Matthew Stafford's been the best quarterback I've played with. The guy can flat-out play, he's tough, and his attitude is amazing and he just wants to play ball. For me, I have nothing but praises for him.”
Uhmm…he’s only played with Russell Wilson and Stafford. While they are both very good, there are a handful of other QBs out there better (Brady, Brees, Rivers, Roethlisberger to name a few). I wonder had he played on the Jaguars last year would he have said Blake Bortles is the best signal caller he ever played with?
Martavis Bryant is done with football just yet. The embattled ex-Steelers receiver who was suspended last December for breaking the rules of his previous reinstatement has applied again to be reinstated. Bryant has undergone treatment for mental health issues most recently and what was once believed to be an outstanding talent has turned into another Josh Gordon.
How good will the Pittsburgh Steelers be this forthcoming season? Former Black and Gold running back and ESPN personality Merrill Hoge weighs in:
“I think the key word here is team. Teams win championships. Quarterbacks don’t win championships, defenses don’t and offenses don’t. They have a lot of weapons there and they feel more like a team now. I like their odds better this year than I did last year.”
July 15, 2019
Erie 13s and 45s
Last Friday night the Los Angeles Angels were playing at home hosting the Seattle Mariners and the night was dedicated to the memory of the late Tyler Skaggs, a member of the Angels who tragically passed away on July 1.
Just 27 years of age, the cause of his death is yet to be revealed but he was discovered unresponsive in his hotel room in Texas. On Friday, his mother Debbie Hetman threw out the first pitch and then history took place. The final score on July 12 was 13-0. But more importantly it was a combined no-hitter by the Angels as Taylor Cole and Felix Pena became the pitchers of record to score the no-no.
Tyler Skaggs was born on July 13, just a day after Friday’s game. He would be been 28. His jersey number was 45 and everyone on the Angels wore the number with his name on Friday, the first home game for Los Angeles since his passing. Now the eerie part. Not only did the Angels score 13 runs, they also had EXACTLY 13 hits. This a day before the 13th just hours removed from the end of the game. Mike Trout of the Angels had a home run during the game that traveled exactly “450” feet. 45 again. The time of the game was 2 hours and 54 minutes and if the minutes were reversed, what do you get?
In the first inning when Los Angeles scored seven times, 13 batters stepped to the plate before the third out was made. For the losing Mariners, two of the pitchers that threw in the game, Matt Wisler and Cory Gearrin both posted an ERA in their two innings of work combined of 4.50. Crazy. Trout’s dinger also came in his very first at-bat. Trout also was a good friend of Skaggs.
Making this even more of a question whether this was fate or coincidence is that this was the 13th combined no-hitter in the history of Major League Baseball. One last head scratcher…the last time a combined no-no was tossed in the state of California came on July 13, 1991 when the Baltimore Orioles no-hit the Oakland A’s 2-0. The pitchers of record for Baltimore were Bob Milacki , Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson, and Gregg Olson.
These kind of things just don’t happen often so you have to believe it happened for a reason. That reason was perhaps the spirit of Tyler Skaggs cheering on his teammates and making his presence felt. For curiosity sake, others who wore the #45 not just for the Angels but other teams in history is a bit interesting…
Coming off the All-Star break the Pittsburgh Pirates found themselves just 2 ½ games behind the division lead in the National League Central. Today, they are on a three game losing skid and now 5 ½ games back of the Chicago Cubs who spent the weekend sweeping the Bucs in their three game series and clobbering them along the way winning yesterday 8-3. On Saturday it was a 10-4 drubbing of the Buccos. The series opened with a close game, Pittsburgh getting edged 4-3.
Now Pittsburgh is in St. Louis for a series that begins tonight and the Cardinals are three back from Chicago trailing the Brewers by ½ game. It appears that the Pirates’ only chance to be in the playoffs would be to win their division despite being just 3 ½ back in the wild card race but they need to find their groove again that they had just before the All-Star break.
Just One Punch
If you missed any of UFC Fight Night 155: Sacramento on Saturday, the main event was a women’s bout between a former champion in Germaine de Randamie and the unbeaten Aspen Ladd. Ladd has some extreme difficulties making weight and the weigh-in on Friday she barely made it to the scale appearing sickly. Not a good start to keep her record clean.
When the main event finally went down, it took the Randamie just 16 seconds and one big punch to end the affair, scoring a TKO over Ladd and handing the younger and smaller fighter the first loss of her career. The initial reaction to Herb Dean stopping the fight on one punch was it was an early stoppage. But after further review, he probably did Ladd a favor because she was down and vulnerable to what would have been an onslaught of punches from Randamie who used to be an outstanding kick boxer.
The night was more highlighted by the return from retirement of Sacramento native Urijah Faber. At 40 years old, not many were expecting a solid performance from the former WEC champion including yours truly. His opponent was a fresher and younger Ricky Simon. But Faber landed a perfect solid punch in the first round and then swarmed Simon for the stoppage at 0:46. Faber then called out Henry Cejudo which would be a very intriguing fight and I would like nothing more than to see Faber shut his big mouth.
Finally there was Josh Emmett in the featherweight division who continues to pound out opponents as this tme Mirsad Bektic becamse the victim also in the first round.
How many of you remember the quarterback controversy of 1998’s NFL draft? Going numbers one and two were Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. The problem was that Indianapolis who had the first pick was trying to decide which the better option was. In learning that Leaf had a disfavor for the city of Indianapolis and its team, the Colts chose Manning. The Chargers were next and they scooped up Leaf who had a pretty solid college career at Washington State University.
The rest is history. Manning is a Hall of Famer to-be. Leaf was a bust and out of pro football within five years. Then he went to experience substance abuse problems and spent time in jail. But Leaf has resurfaced onto the national scene and this time it will be behind the mike. Leaf has joined ESPN as a college football analyst and will join Clay Matvick for games telecast on ESPN2 and ESPNU. Leaf has already been employed by the Pac-12 Network in 2018 and co-hosts a show on SiriusXM's Pac-12 channel.
Congratulations to Novak Djokovic who defeated Roger Federer again yesterday to take the men’s Wimbledon final defending the championship he won in 2018. The final scores were 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, and 13-12 (3). In the women’s final Serena Williams was no match for Simona Halep losing in straight sets 6-2 and 6-2. It was the first Wimbledon title for the Romanian Halep and only her second Grand Slam title ever previously having won the French Open last year.
That Time Again
The Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is just a few short weeks away as the team convenes for the Summer ritual at St. Vincent’s College on July 26 and will close shop and be read for the season on August 15. If you are interested in attending, the public is welcome to watch practices daily from noon until 6:00 p.m.