Tag Archive | "Chris Davis"

Pondering changes to Orioles’ 25-man roster for ALCS

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Pondering changes to Orioles’ 25-man roster for ALCS

Posted on 07 October 2014 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles advancing to the American League Championship Series to take on the Kansas City Royals, manager Buck Showalter will have the opportunity to reset his 25-man roster before Game 1 on Friday.

For weeks, many have pondered what the Orioles will do when suspended slugger Chris Davis is eligible to return, but the three-game sweep in the AL Division Series made it all but guaranteed he’ll remain on the sideline until a potential trip to the World Series. There had been some thought at the start of the postseason that the Orioles could play a man down to begin the ALCS, but the quick elimination of the Tigers left Davis with five games remaining on his 25-game suspension and he wouldn’t be eligible to play until a potential Game 6.

Davis has continued to work out at third base in Sarasota to stay sharp, but it will be interesting to see if the Orioles automatically welcome him back to the 25-man roster if they advance to the Fall Classic. Working out and playing in instructional league games in Florida are fine, but a layoff of more than a month will inevitably leave some rust and the Orioles might not want to mess with their karma should they find themselves playing for a world championship.

With the Royals regularly using four left-handed hitters in their lineup, Showalter may elect to turn to left-handed relievers Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland after they were left off the ALDS roster against Detroit, who feasted off southpaw pitching in the regular season. Kansas City hit .266 against left-handers and .261 against right-handed arms, but the presence of lefty hitters Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alex Gordon — right fielder Nori Aoki hit .363 against left-handers this season — would make you think Showalter would prefer having the situational Matusz as an option to pitch to a left-handed hitter or two in certain spots.

Left-handers hit only .223 against Matusz in the regular season while righties hit .277 with an .876 on-base plus slugging percentage.

McFarland’s addition for the ALCS would appear to be less certain as lefties hit .266 against him compared to right-handers posting a .324 average. There wouldn’t appear to be room for both Ubaldo Jimenez and McFarland in the bullpen, so you wonder if Showalter will once again go with the veteran as his emergency long man to keep Kevin Gausman available to pitch in high-leverage situations.

The Orioles kept 11 pitchers for the best-of-five ALDS, but the next round having a best-of-seven format might entice Showalter to add an extra pitcher, leaving him with a shorter bench. Considering Ryan Flaherty played such strong defense at third base, the Orioles manager might not find it necessary to have both Jimmy Paredes and Kelly Johnson on the bench for this series.

The switch-hitting Paredes did not appear in any of the three ALDS games while the lefty-hitting Johnson appeared once as a pinch hitter and replaced Flaherty at third base for the ninth inning of Game 2.

As for the starting rotation, Showalter is expected to send Chris Tillman to the hill for Game 1, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll slot Miguel Gonzalez into Game 2 after he didn’t pitch in the ALDS or the right-hander will once again fit behind Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris in the pecking order.

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Orioles hoping hot corner doesn’t burn chances in October

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Orioles hoping hot corner doesn’t burn chances in October

Posted on 27 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles may not be sounding an alarm, but all you need to know about their concern at third base was signaled with the insertion of veteran Alexi Casilla at the hot corner in Saturday’s lineup against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yes, Casilla brings major league experience and manager Buck Showalter wanted to take a look at him after he was rehabbing a hamstring injury in Sarasota earlier this month, but how many games did the 30-year-old play at third base for Triple-A Norfolk this season you might ask?

None.

In fact, Casilla had made just two career starts at third and appeared at the hot corner just 10 times in his eight major league seasons before Saturday’s game at Rogers Centre. But it reflects the level of uncertainty the Orioles face at the position as Casilla became the fourth different player to start there since the announcement of Chris Davis’ 25-game suspension on Sept. 12.

The concerns at third base have been very real since 2013 Gold Glove winner Manny Machado went down with a season-ending knee injury on Aug. 11, but the Orioles appeared to find an acceptable solution in Chris Davis before the slugger’s 25-game suspension was announced on Sept. 12. Since then, Showalter has shuffled candidates with the results being mixed at best.

Though the Orioles have been playing out the relatively-meaningless regular-season string since clinching the division title on Sept. 16, they’ve committed five errors in their last eight games at third base entering Saturday.

The switch-hitting Jimmy Paredes has shown offensive promise with a .308 average in 54 plate appearances, but the 25-year-old has also displayed poor hands and an erratic arm, committing three errors in 13 games and looking shaky on a number of other plays at third base. Showalter has given Paredes the most extensive playing time at third, but his defense has often led to him being pulled in the late innings.

Veteran Kelly Johnson has shown decent hands, but his throwing arm hasn’t inspired confidence to throw out speedier runners at first base. The left-handed hitter also sports a .215 average in time split among the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Orioles this season.

Considered the strongest defensive option on the current roster, Ryan Flaherty has even shown recent struggles at the hot corner with two errors in his last four starts at third base this past week. And though he’s hitting over .300 in the month of September, Flaherty’s appearance at third creates another hole at the bottom of the order — he’s a career .222 hitter with a .654 career on-base plus slugging percentage — to go with rookie second baseman Jonathan Schoop and one of Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley behind the plate.

It’s unlikely that Casilla makes the postseason roster, but the simple fact that he’s getting a look at third base speaks volumes about Showalter’s lack of confidence in any of the candidates at the position.

The Orioles knew they wouldn’t be able to find an option with the all-around ability of Machado when he was lost for the season, but they appeared to be able to live with Davis’ solid defensive play while knowing the offensive upside he brings despite his .196 average in the 2014 regular season. But his suspension lasting until the ninth game of the postseason leaves the Orioles flapping in the wind at third for at least the American League Division Series and some of the AL Championship Series before Davis is an option.

None of their current options provide enough upside with the bat to endure such shaky defense and only Flaherty — if you’re willing to overlook the recent shakiness — appears to provide steady-enough defense to Showalter’s liking. That’s what makes the 2012 Rule 5 selection the most palatable option over Paredes, Johnson, or the recently-summoned Casilla until Davis can potentially return.

Looking for an answer since Machado crumpled to the ground on Aug. 11 and then again when Davis was banned on Sept. 12, the Orioles have yet to find a solution with the Division Series beginning in less than a week.

While many look at the Orioles’ league-leading home run total and improved pitching numbers, defense remains the heart of their success over the last three seasons. Baltimore ranks third in the AL in team ERA but only 10th in strikeouts, a simple reflection of how hurlers pitch to contact and how important the defense has been. Entering Saturday, the Orioles were tied for first in fielding percentage and had committed the second-fewest number of errors in the AL.

In October when such a premium is placed on pitching and defense in typically low-scoring games, the Orioles defense will need to be at its best as they begin a journey to try to win their first World Series since 1983.

You just hope the uncertainty at the hot corner doesn’t burn their chances.

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Nothing typical about these AL East champion Orioles

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Nothing typical about these AL East champion Orioles

Posted on 17 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For years, the discrepancy was clear as the Orioles wallowed at the bottom of the American League East.

Lagging behind in payroll and player development, they looked up at the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays while being stuck in neutral with no apparent direction or plan of how to get better. The Orioles didn’t spend like New York or Boston and couldn’t cultivate their own talent like Tampa Bay while suffering through a seemingly endless run of fourth- and fifth-place finishes in the toughest division in baseball year in and year out.

When the Orioles finally broke through Tuesday night with an 8-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays to win their first AL East title since 1997, it was an atypical sum of the parts that put them on top. Yes, their payroll is higher now than it was for years, but it still remains in the middle of the pack and far below those of the Yankees and Red Sox. Their farm system has produced a number of key players, but it isn’t the well-oiled machine like those of other top organizations in baseball.

It started with Andy MacPhail using some savvy trades and top draft picks to put together a core group of All-Star talent and continued with the arrival of manager Buck Showalter and current executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who began filling in the gaps with below-the-radar additions and, finally, a couple high-profile free agents this past winter. What’s resulted is a club that’s won more than 90 games for the second time in three years and appears poised to make a deep run in October.

The journey certainly hasn’t been easy as the season-ending injuries to catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado and the recent 25-game suspension of first baseman Chris Davis have provided easy excuses for the Orioles to wilt down the stretch. Not all has gone to plan as the $50 million free-agent addition of starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has been an utter failure in the first season of a four-year commitment.

But Tuesday’s win provided the perfect microcosm of what’s made the Orioles continue to thrive in 2014.

You can expect the unexpected.

Making his first start in a month after being dumped from the starting rotation, Jimenez overcame a shaky beginning to pitch five solid innings to earn just his fifth win of the season. Ironically, it was the kind of important game in which the Orioles envisioned Jimenez pitching when they signed him in February.

A three-run home run in the first inning came off the bat of Steve Pearce, the journeyman who was designated for assignment in April before being re-signed a few days later when Davis went on the disabled list. The 31-year-old has gone on to hit a career-high 18 homers, which is more than he’d hit in his first seven major league seasons combined. More than any other player, Pearce might be the ultimate symbol of the 2014 Orioles when the final chapter is written sometime next month.

A solo shot came an inning later from third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who was claimed off waivers by the Orioles during spring training and then lost to the Kansas City Royals a couple days later. Duquette eventually reacquired the 25-year-old in time for him to provide a handful of big hits in his few weeks with the club.

T.J. McFarland pitched a scoreless sixth inning. He was the Rule 5 selection the Orioles stubbornly retained on the 25-man roster all last season.

Darren O’Day provided 1 1/3 innings of excellent relief as he has for the last three seasons. The sidearm pitcher was claimed off waivers from Texas before Duquette was even hired three years ago.

Left field Alejandro De Aza hit the three-run triple in the seventh to bust the game open after he was acquired for two nondescript minor-league pitchers at the waiver trade deadline late last month.

Dominant lefty Andrew Miller struck out the only two hitters he faced and has been exactly what the Orioles envisioned when they acquired the best relief pitcher on the market while the rest of baseball lauded Oakland and Detroit for acquiring Jon Lester and David Price, respectively. The Orioles now own a better record than the Athletics and the Tigers.

When Pearce fielded the final out for the club’s 91st win of the season, it was just the latest example of the sum being much greater than the parts appear on paper.

There hasn’t been a set formula apparent to the rest of the baseball world that explains the Orioles’ ascent over the last few years, but they play great defense, hit home runs, and have pitched as well as anyone since early June. Those strengths have allowed them to overcome the loss of All-Star position players and failed free-agent acquisitions.

For Duquette and Showalter, the question isn’t who is the best player as much as it’s who is the best fit. It hasn’t been about spending money as much as it’s been about making the smartest decision.

And it’s been perfectly imperfect as Baltimore wrapped up the division title with 11 games to spare.

Whether they have 11 wins in them next month remains to be seen, but the journey to this point has been both difficult and overwhelmingly rewarding.

And it paid off with a celebration at Camden Yards Tuesday night while the rest of the American League East was looking up at the Orioles for a change.

 

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Orioles’ ability to overcome adversity begins with starters

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Orioles’ ability to overcome adversity begins with starters

Posted on 14 September 2014 by Luke Jones

With Friday’s surprising news of Chris Davis being suspended 25 games for amphetamine use, the same question that’s been tossed the Orioles’ way all season was uttered once again.

How can they overcome this?

Despite an 88-60 record entering Sunday that had them days away from the American League East championship, the Orioles have faced anything but a problem-free campaign in 2014.

All-Star players Matt Wieters and Manny Machado have suffered season-ending injuries. Top free-agent acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez has not only failed to meet expectations, but has been banished to the last spot in the bullpen and is very likely to be left off the postseason roster. And even before Davis’ suspension that now bans him until at least the AL Championship Series — if the Orioles advance that far — the slugger was hitting only .196 a year after hitting a franchise-record and league-leading 53 home runs.

“The game usually gives you back kind of what you put into it,” said manager Buck Showalter after the Orioles’ doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees on Friday. “Everybody’s putting something into it.”

The narratives of resiliency and a different hero every night have frequently rung true, but they don’t paint the entire picture of how the Orioles have managed to all but run away with their first division title since 1997. We knew the Orioles would hit home runs and play exceptional defense entering the season, and those skills have certainly been there all year.

But the biggest question would be the pitching, particularly in the rotation. Even with the struggles of their $50 million addition in Jimenez, the starting pitching has not only silenced the doubts, but has been a strength since the first two months of the season. Through the end of May, the starting rotation had posted an underwhelming 4.49 ERA as the Orioles were 27-27. Since June 1, starters have pitched to an impeccable 3.20 mark, which would be tops in the AL if extrapolated over the entire season. The Orioles have gone 61-33 over that period of time, a .649 winning percentage.

Even with the unevenness of April and May included, Baltimore ranks sixth in the AL in starter ERA, which nearly any fan would have gladly taken at the start of the season. The current team ERA of 3.50 would be the Orioles’ lowest in a full season since 1979 when the AL champions posted a 3.26 ERA.

When being compared to the other top clubs around baseball, the Orioles are often sold short for lacking a true ace, but that hasn’t stopped the starting rotation from becoming the strong heartbeat of a club nearly 30 games above .500 in mid-September. All five members of the current rotation sport an ERA of 3.74 or better, making Showalter’s job a difficult one when deciding which four will make the postseason rotation.

Not only has the quintet of Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Kevin Gausman pitched effectively, but the group has been durable with only Gonzalez and Norris spending brief time on the disabled list this season. After using a total of 12 or more starters in each of the previous three seasons under Showalter, the Orioles have sent just seven starters to the hill in 2014 with long reliever T.J. McFarland only receiving one spot start.

Four Oriole starters — Tillman, Chen, Norris, and Gonzalez — have made 24 or more starts. For perspective, only three made 24 or more starts in 2013 and just one did it in 2012 when the Orioles earned their first postseason trip in 15 years.

Upon learning of Davis’ suspension on Friday, the Orioles responded by promptly sweeping a twin bill over the Yankees in which they allowed one run in 20 total innings. The nightcap was particularly indicative of what the Orioles have become as they fielded what looked like a spring training lineup that included only four players from the Opening Day order and three who weren’t even on the 40-man roster at the start of the year. It was no problem for Bud Norris, who pitched seven shutout innings against the fading Yankees in a 5-0 victory.

“Good pitching solves a lot of problems, issues, whatever you might want to call it,” said Showalter as he reflected on the work his club did following the Davis announcement on Friday. “That’s usually where it starts.”

And it’s why the Orioles shouldn’t be counted out, even after this latest blow to the lineup.

 

 

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Davis receives 25-game ban for amphetamine use

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Davis receives 25-game ban for amphetamine use

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Closing in on their first American League East title in 17 years, the Orioles learned Friday that slugger Chris Davis has been suspended 25 games for testing positive for amphetamine use.

Manager Buck Showalter confirmed the news Friday morning prior to Baltimore’s day-night doubleheader against the New York Yankees. Davis phoned his manager Thursday night to break the news as his 25-game ban will extend into the postseason, meaning he would not be eligible to play in the first eight games of the playoffs should the Orioles advance that far.

In a statement released Monday morning, Davis said he tested positive for Adderall, a drug he had an exemption to use in the past, but not this season.

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans,” Davis said. “I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic use exemption this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately.”

Davis hit a franchise-record 53 home runs a year ago before falling off significantly this season, hitting just .196 with 26 home runs and 72 runs batted in.

The 28-year-old was outspoken against performance-enhancing drug use in the midst of his record-breaking season and while Adderall doesn’t carry the same stigma of a steroid, doubts about his feats in 2013 will undoubtedly come under even more scrutiny with Friday’s news.

“At this point it’s not up to me to gauge what’s fair or not fair,” said Showalter about public perception. “I know what the positive test was for and believe me, I’m not condoning any positive test. Everybody knows what the rules are, so it is what it is. We’ve all made mistakes and none of us would like to have our whole life judged by our worst decision.”

For the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, Steve Pearce started at first base while the recently-acquired Kelly Johnson played third. The Orioles will have an open spot on the 40-man roster with Davis suspended, which means they could consider adding someone from their “taxi squad” in Sarasota. First baseman and the organization’s minor league Player of the Year Christian Walker is among the players continuing to work out in Florida.

With Davis ineligible for the first eight games of the postseason if the Orioles advance to the American League Championship Series, they would have to potentially decide whether to name him to the ALCS roster and play a man down to begin the series or push back his potential return until the World Series. Of course, there isn’t much precedent for a situation such as this as teams are only allowed to change their roster in the midst of a postseason series because of an injury.

Should the Orioles’ season end without playing eight postseason games, the remainder of Davis’ suspension would carry over into the start of the 2015 campaign.

Davis is scheduled to become a free agent after next season and has undoubtedly cost himself millions with a poor 2014 followed by the news of Friday’s suspension.

Resilient all year long despite season-ending injuries to catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado, the Orioles will now face another substantial challenge, even if Davis failed to approach the success he enjoyed in 2013.

“I’m disappointed, but I know Chris is, too. It is what it is,” Showalter said. “We’re going to try to deal with it and move on. The timing’s never good, but it’s one of those challenges. That’s why we have this in place and [are] fully supportive of it. These are the things that everybody knew beforehand.

“You learn to deal with the problems and the challenges along the way. If they’re self-inflicted, there’s no ‘woe is me.’ And this is self-inflicted.”

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Orioles exhale even as Machado goes to 15-day disabled list

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Orioles exhale even as Machado goes to 15-day disabled list

Posted on 13 August 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Even as Manny Machado officially went to the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, the Orioles could breathe a sigh of relief as it relates to the 22-year-old’s future and their World Series chances in 2014.

A season-ending injury to the slick-fielding third baseman wouldn’t have ended the Orioles’ hopes for the postseason — especially with a 6 1/2 game lead entering Wednesday night — or a deep run in October, but it would have been an enormous obstacle to overcome given Machado’s elite defensive ability and improved offense over the last two months. Baltimore apparently won’t have to worry about that possibility after Machado underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam and was diagnosed with a minor right knee ligament sprain despite a scary scene on Monday night that conjured memories of last September’s left knee injury at Tropicana Field that eventually required offseason surgery.

Manager Buck Showalter expressed optimism that Machado could be ready to return when eligible on Aug. 27, but even if that goal sounds ambitious, the Orioles expect to have the talented infielder back in time for the final push for their second postseason appearance in the last three years.

“Talking to all of the doctors including Dr. [Neal] ElAttrache who did the [left knee surgery], we’ve got a pretty good feel we have our arms around where we are with it,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, it will manage itself during that [15-day] period, and he’ll be back there or close to it. It’s not if now, it’s when, we think.”

Since returning from his infamous five-game suspension on July 5, Machado is hitting .351 with five homers and 15 RBIs while posting a .929 on-base plus slugging percentage in 122 plate appearances. And, of course, the 2013 Gold Glove winner has produced a slew of highlight defensive plays to help one of the best defensive clubs in baseball.

The Orioles initially went with Chris Davis at third base in the series finale against the New York Yankees on Wednesday, but the anticipated weekend return of shortstop J.J. Hardy from a sprained left thumb will likely lead to Ryan Flaherty shifting to third base. Norfolk infielder Cord Phelps was promoted to Baltimore to take Machado’s place and will be another option at third base in the meantime.

Asked about his manager’s hope that he might be able to return in two weeks, Machado initially reacted with surprise before taking a more conservative stance of wanting to be 100 percent when he returns to help the Orioles try to win their first American League East title since 1997.

“Whenever I feel good. Whenever I’m able to go out there and be Manny Machado,” the 2013 All-Star selection said. “I don’t know when that’s going to be. It could be tomorrow, it could be in a month, it could be three weeks. It’s something that is a feel thing. Like [the doctor] said yesterday, it’s more of how you feel once you get out there and once I do what I need to do.”

Long-term concerns will persist about Machado’s health as he’s now experienced substantial injuries to both knees despite being only 22, but the Orioles and Machado began feeling optimistic quickly Monday night when he was able to walk in the clubhouse without the aid of crutches and the initial shock and pain subsided.

Only time will tell whether Machado returns as quickly as the Orioles anticipate and produces at the same high level with October rapidly approaching, but Wednesday’s outcome was worlds better than the sickening feeling all involved parties experienced when he collapsed in the batter’s box in the third inning on Monday night.

“Obviously, it’s a great relief,” Machado said. “It’s one of those things that when it happens, things cross your mind and you assume, already, the worst. You really can’t assume anything until you actually see the results and it’s front of your face and you have a doctor next to you and helping you make the decision.

“I’m just glad it’s not as bad as we thought and not as bad as it is. So, get it stronger, get back, and keep running forward.”

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Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish: What if the Red Sox had wanted Davis?

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Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish: What if the Red Sox had wanted Davis?

Posted on 01 August 2014 by Glenn Clark

Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish is brought to you by Koons Baltimore Ford. It took me five days to feel comfortable saying that. I’ll just go ahead and retire it now.

I’ll keep this one short today (or I hope I will anyway). I’m sure plenty of Friday’s D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction will include conversation about Ray Rice’s press conference Thursday-but I’ve written plenty about him this week.

Thursday’s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline passed and the Baltimore Orioles were active. While the addition of reliever Andrew Miller seems minimal in comparison to the names that had been thrown around in connection to the O’s and the names that ultimately ended up being dealt elsewhere-Miller is a very solid part to add to the team’s bullpen.

Of course, the Detroit Tigers picked up David Price. And the St. Louis Cardinals nabbed John Lackey. Those teams probably did a bit more than the Birds to set themselves up for a run to a World Series. If the Orioles can continue to throw 12 shutout innings per game (like they did to start Thursday night’s game), they’ll probably be in good shape to win the American League themselves. They’ll also have to re-name every record book after the Orioles’ staff, which I imagine would be an arduous process.

The biggest story of Thursday’s trade deadline was the one that came down in the waning moments of Thursday morning’s show. Of course you already know the Boston Red Sox sent the one pitcher I had said I’d be willing to be overly bold in my pursuit of (Jon Lester) to the A’s along with Jonny Gomes in exchange for slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

It was a real “holy crap” moment in my life of following baseball. It was in that Ruben Sierra for Jose Canseco territory of truly stunning deals. It was bold, it is most certainly questionable and it solidifies what we already knew-that the Athletics are absolutely the team to beat when we get to October.

I had only a couple of seconds at the end of Thursday’s show to ponder what could have happened for Lester to have ended up in orange and black instead of green and yellow.

I posed a question on Twitter-if the Sox had told the O’s that instead of a package centered around Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy or Hunter Harvey (we’ll always wonder how the deadline could have been different without the injury) they wanted a package built around first baseman Chris Davis-would you have been willing to do it?

Much like Cespedes-Davis is a free agent at the end of next season and has provided quite the mixed bag at the plate this season. While he appeared to be establishing himself as one of the dominant power hitters in baseball in 2013, he’s struggled in just about every aspect of his game in 2014. He’s battled injuries, his batting average is atrocious and he hasn’t even gotten to the 20 home run mark for the season yet.

That said, where Cespedes has been better as an average hitter in 2014-Davis has actually maintained a better on-base percentage. Cespedes certainly provides a plus outfield arm, but Davis has been a solid defensive player.

I said on Thursday’s show I believed the O’s had established themselves as the second best team in the AL behind the A’s. For me, that changed when the Tigers added Price. The Orioles are a very good baseball team that has an opportunity to win a division and get to the postseason-but I can’t fathom how they could beat those other teams in a playoff series.

I would have felt differently had they added Jon Lester, even if it had cost them Chris Davis. I don’t know what the equivalent would have been for Jonny Gomes to add on to the deal, but I’d imagine they’d have to find a way to use Steve Pearce and Delmon Young regularly to try to make up for Davis’ production.

So would you have done it? Would you have parted ways with Chris Davis in order to add Jon Lester for two months? I would have and would have felt good about my chances of pursuing a World Series title.

We’ll talk about it Friday morning.

-G

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Orioles can prove to be beasts of East by surviving West Coast

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Orioles can prove to be beasts of East by surviving West Coast

Posted on 18 July 2014 by Luke Jones

Sitting in first place at the All-Star break for the first time since 1997 didn’t exactly earn the Orioles any favors as they started the second half of the season in Oakland on Friday night.

A 10-game West Coast trip against the two teams with the best records in the majors and the second wild card leader in the American League probably gave manager Buck Showalter a restless night or two over this week’s respite. Knowing the Orioles play their next 23 games against clubs with winning records — not to mention the six following that against teams with .500 marks at the break — likely made him lose even more sleep.

Of course, Showalter and the Orioles have every right to feel good about themselves after winning 25 of their last 40 to move to 10 games above .500 and turn a 4 1/2-game deficit into a four-game lead over that stretch. They’ve built themselves a small cushion in a division in which no one is without sizable warts and imperfections with Toronto and New York seemingly moving in the wrong direction and Boston and Tampa Bay being mostly bad all season.

No, the trip to the West Coast will neither break nor make the Orioles’ chances of winning their first American League East title since 1997, but those 10 games allow them an opportunity to flex their muscles as a man amongst boys in an underwhelming division. Holding their own in Oakland, Anaheim, and Seattle — even going 5-5 — would not only keep the Orioles in first place but allow them to return home in late July in prime position to continue their quest to a second postseason appearance in the last three years.

A strong showing against the imposing AL West over the next couple weeks could be the difference between a relatively comfortable journey to October and needing to scratch and claw over the final two months of the regular season. In the same way that the Orioles took advantage of the recent struggles of the Blue Jays, the rest of the AL East will be rooting for Baltimore to wilt before finally returning to Camden Yards on July 29.

A starting rotation that’s pitched to a 3.18 ERA over its last 33 games will now face the two highest-scoring offenses in baseball over the next six contests. It was a 1-6 run against the Athletics and the Angels earlier this month that saw the Blue Jays’ one-game lead in the division turn into a 2 1/2-game deficit by the time they left the West Coast.

Even with the daunting stretch staring them in the face, the Orioles couldn’t ask for better timing as they’ll feel more rested now than they will at any point over the rest of the season. Aside from the current ankle injury to starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez — which many critics would deem a blessing anyway — the Orioles are as healthy as they’ve been at any point during the first half of the season.

Showalter has set up his rotation to include the 23-year-old Kevin Gausman — who could finally be with the Orioles for good — and will be looking for his starting pitchers to pick up where they left off to close the first half. And he’ll hope the inconsistent offense — currently ranked seventh in the AL in runs scored — will finally hit its stride and struggling first baseman Chris Davis starts looking more like the force he was a year ago and less like the .199 hitter who was lost at the plate for the first 3 1/2 months of the season.

By no means was it a perfect first half for the first-place Orioles as they lost catcher Matt Wieters for the season and saw their $50 million investment in Jimenez lead the majors in walks, but Baltimore was the least flawed of anyone in the division and still appears that way beginning the most difficult road trip of the season.

The Orioles can use these next 10 games to flex their muscles as the clear favorite in the division and solidify their first-place standing or could see themselves fall back with the rest of the imperfect pack in the AL East.

They’ve grown accustomed to being the hunter over the last three seasons; it will be interesting to see how they start the second half as the hunted after four days off to think about it.

By no means is it do or die, but the West Coast trip will be an opportunity for the Orioles to stake their claim as the overwhelming favorite in the division while sampling what they could see again in October.

 

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Aiming high only way to go if Orioles want to add starting pitching

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Aiming high only way to go if Orioles want to add starting pitching

Posted on 16 July 2014 by Luke Jones

You can never have too much starting pitching, and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has repeated that sentiment despite the Orioles enjoying a four-game lead in the American League East at the All-Star break.

The Orioles rank fifth in the American League in pitching and 11th in starting pitching, but unlike the last couple seasons in which they were often desperately looking for just a warm body or two to add to the mix, the starting rotation appears to be moving in the right direction. Even with the season-long struggles of the injured Ubaldo Jimenez, the starting pitching has posted a 3.18 ERA over the last 33 games spanning 198 innings, lowering the starting pitching ERA from 4.61 to 4.09 since June 9.

No one will mistake this rotation for the 1971 Orioles, but Duquette should be picky in any quest to add starting pitching between now and the trade deadline at the end of the month. Wondering whether the club has the quality to compete with the front end of other playoff rotations in October is fair, but the upside of Kevin Gausman and even the second-half track record of Jimenez — who has been dominant for stretches of his career when his mechanics are in order — will be worth monitoring down the stretch with an eye toward the postseason.

Even if the Orioles still lack top-half quality, they have more stability in their rotation than they’ve enjoyed in a long time.

Manager Buck Showalter has used just seven starting pitchers all year with one of them — lefty reliever T.J. McFarland — receiving only one start. In 2013, 14 different pitchers made starts and 10 made at least four starts. The year before that, 12 different hurlers made starts with 10 making at least four starts.

Stability — with relatively decent health — has afforded Duquette the luxury of not needing to look for the likes of Scott Feldman, Joe Saunders, Jair Jurrjens, and Freddy Garcia on this year’s market. That’s what made the recent news of the Orioles scouting Colorado lefty Jorge De La Rosa that much more perplexing as he doesn’t represent an apparent upgrade over anyone — including Jimenez — in the current rotation with his 4.56 ERA in 2014 and 4.69 career mark.

The Orioles have also been linked to San Diego’s Ian Kennedy, who has posted a 3.47 ERA in 20 starts, but he’s a career 3.94 ERA pitcher who’s spent most of his career in the National League. The Padres will likely be asking for a lot for the right-hander, and Duquette shouldn’t part ways with the precious few top prospects he has unless he’s positive he’s gaining a substantial upgrade. Kennedy may provide that, but his talent level should only be the baseline at which the Orioles are looking at this point.

More so than even in 2013 or 2012, the Orioles have plenty of quality when it comes to filling out the back of the rotation. They have an abundance of No. 4 and No. 5 starters.

An injury or two could obviously change that tune quickly, but Duquette must aim high if the Orioles are to add starting pitching between now and the end of the July. Jeff Samardzija has already been dealt to Oakland and David Price may not be traded at all — and they probably don’t have the freight to acquire the AL East pitcher, anyway — but those are the types of arms to be examining.

Anything less is just a waste of time and resources.

Standing pat at catcher

Many have asked about the possibility of the Orioles adding another catcher to the mix as Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley have handled the workload since Matt Wieters underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery, but Duquette has said on several occasions that they’re unlikely to make another move in that department.

Boston officially released A.J. Pierzynski on Wednesday, but the Orioles don’t view him as a significant upgrade offensively — the 37-year-old posted just a .633 on-base plus slugging percentage with the Red Sox — to compromise the rapport Joseph and Hundley have built with the pitching staff and the defensive work they’ve displayed over the better part of two months. And that’s not even mentioning Pierzynski’s outspoken personality that could potentially compromise a strong clubhouse.

Hundley has come on lately with the bat, raising his average to a respectable .250, while Joseph has posted a .690 OPS since the beginning of June and had a solid offensive track record in the minor leagues despite his current .187 average. Neither will fool you as quality offensive catchers, but trying to add an impact backstop while bringing him up to speed with the pitching staff will be extremely difficult.

If the Orioles are looking for an offensive boost, they could take another extended look at Steve Clevenger, but Showalter is going to value defensive work behind the plate and the current duo — particularly Joseph — has done an admirable job in that department.

Left-handed bat still needed

The emergence of Steve Pearce has been one of the great stories of the 2014 season, but the Orioles shouldn’t assume the 31-year-old will continue to perform at a rate that warrants everyday playing time with no questions asked.

His .316 average, 11 home runs, and 31 runs batted in are a major reason why Baltimore currently sits in first place, but it’s still a stretch to expect his current .300 average and .846 OPS against right-handed pitching to continue. For his career, Pearce is hitting just .237 with a .667 OPS against right-handers and that’s including his amazing numbers this season.

In other words, a left-handed hitting outfielder that feasts against right-handed pitching should be a priority to add for the stretch as the only left-handed bats to make real contributions this season are Nick Markakis and the struggling Chris Davis. The speedy Lough has been a major disappointment at the plate, and the Orioles must anticipate the possibility of needing to platoon Pearce if he reverts to his career form.

Even if Pearce continues to thrive as an everyday player, the Orioles would benefit from a left-handed version of Delmon Young to come off the bench in the late innings as Lough and utility player Ryan Flaherty just don’t provide formidable options at the plate. The Orioles had looked into the services of Padres outfielder Seth Smith, who feasts against right-handed pitching, before he signed a two-year extension with San Diego earlier this month.

A player of that ilk would make perfect sense for the roster.

Pondering futures of Cruz and Davis

It’s incredible to think how much can change in a year as Orioles fans were clamoring for the organization to sign Davis to a long-term contract as he entered the All-Star break with 37 home runs last year and would go on to hit a franchise record 53 in 2013. Meanwhile, Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz was a couple weeks away from beginning a 50-game suspension stemming from his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.

A year later, Davis sits with a lowly .199 average at the break while Cruz has parlayed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Orioles into what looks like a pending lucrative payday as he’s second in the majors with 28 home runs and has often carried the Baltimore offense this year while Davis and others have struggled.

It’s interesting to see so many fans crushing Davis for his poor first half — that’s not to say criticism hasn’t been warranted — while screaming for the Orioles to sign the 34-year-old Cruz to a long-term contract when many of those same fans wanted to give Davis the keys to the city last offseason.

The Orioles will certainly make Cruz a qualifying offer after the season to at least recover a draft pick and should see if he’s willing to sign a short-term extension at a higher annual cost per year, but giving him more than two or three years at the most would be a mistake for an aging player coming off what looks to be his career year.

Davis’ future will be more interesting to figure out as he tries to rebound from a miserable first half and remains under team control through next season.

 

 

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Orioles 1B Davis nominated for ESPY Award

Posted on 25 June 2014 by WNST Staff

Peyton Manning, Floyd Mayweather, David Ortiz, Kevin Durant, LA Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Rafael Nadal, Miguel Cabrera, Serena Williams, Maya Moore are all nominees for The 2014 ESPYS, hosted by Grammy Award-winner, platinum selling recording artist and multi-faceted performer Drake

WHAT:

Initial list of nominees for The 2014 ESPYS presented by Capital One, hosted by Drake, are revealed and voting has begun.

Pardon the Interruption’s Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon will host The ESPY Nomination Special on Thursday, July 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

WHEN:

Voting is underway and all categories will close when the live show starts Wednesday, July 16, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

HOW:

Fans will determine the winners in most ESPYS categories by voting online at ESPN.com/ESPYS up to the start of The 2014 ESPYS.

2014 ESPYS FACTS & FIGURES:

  • “Best Male Athlete” has stiff competition this year, with NBA MVP Kevin Durant, MLB AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, NFL MVP Peyton Manning, and undefeated boxing champ, Floyd Mayweather, all vying to take home the honor for the first time.
  • LeBron James is after his third-straight and fifth-total win in “Best NBA Player.”  Five-time nominee Kevin Durant is angling to take his first.
  • The “Best Female Athlete” category showcases a collection of fresh faces this year.  WNBA star Maya Moore is the only returning nominee.  She is joined by the first female UFC champion, Ronda Rousey, the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist, Mikaela Shiffrin, and the college basketball Player of the Year, Breanna Stewart.
  • The Connecticut women’s basketball team is in the hunt for their second “Best Team” award on the heels of a record ninth NCAA title.  The Huskies have been nominated seven times, but have not taken home the honor since 1996.
  • Novak Djokovic is chasing his third-straight “Best Male Tennis Player” award.  He is up against two fellow 2013 nominees, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.
  • Floyd Mayweather is going for his fifth “Best Fighter” ESPY in seven years, and his third straight.
  • Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is nominated for the second-straight year in both the “Best Male Athlete” and “Best MLB Player” categories.  He won the “Best MLB Player” award in 2013.
  • Ronda Rousey is the first UFC athlete, male or female, to be nominated for a “Best Athlete” award.   She is the first and current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion.
  • Serena Williams is after her 7th “Best Female Tennis Player” award, and her second straight.

The ESPYS gather top celebrities from sports and entertainment to commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances. The 2014 ESPYS marks the show’s 22nd telecast and will recognize both sport-specific achievements, such as “Best MLB Player” and “Best WNBA Player,” and best-in-sport winners, such as “Best Team” or “Best Female Athlete” that pit nominees from different sports against each other.  The ESPYS honor ESPN’s commitment to The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a partnership launched with the late Jim Valvano at the inaugural ESPYS in 1993.

The 2014 ESPYS Categories and Nominees

BEST MALE ATHLETE

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

  • First player in 19 years to win 2 straight AL MVP awards
  • Won 3rd consecutive batting title with career high .348 BA
  • 2nd in MLB with 44 HR and 137 RBI in leading Tigers to AL Central title

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

  • NBA MVP
  • Averaged 32 points per game, highest scoring average since ’05-’06 season
  • Led the Thunder to a 59-23 record, second-best in the league, despite Russell Westbrook missing much of the season with injuries

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

  • Set records for most TD passes (55) and most passing yards (5,477) in a season
  • Threw for 400 yards and 2 TDs in AFC Championship win over Patriots
  • Won unprecedented fifth MVP award

Floyd Mayweather, Boxing

  • Cruised to a majority decision over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez
  • Won in a decision over Marcos Maidana, improving record to 46-0

 

BEST FEMALE ATHLETE

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

  • WNBA Finals MVP after averaging 20 points; 6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in leading Lynx to 3-game sweep over Atlanta
  • Led Lynx to league’s best record and finished third in scoring with 18.5 ppg

Ronda Rousey, UFC

  • UFC women’s bantamweight champ
  • Defeated Sara McMann in a TKO and Miesha Tate by submission

Mikaela Shiffrin, Olympic Skiing

  • At 18, became the youngest winner, male or female, of Olympic slalom gold medal
  • First American woman to earn a slalom medal of any color since Barbara Cochran won gold at the 1972 Sapporo Olympics

Breanna Stewart, Connecticut Women’s Basketball

  • Naismith Trophy winner and AP’s National Player of the Year
  • Final 4 Most Outstanding Player for 2nd time
  • Averaged 19.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists in leading Huskies to 40-0 record and NCAA title

 

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP PERFORMANCE

Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion

  • 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion
  • Won 7 races in 2013, including 2 during the Chase for the Sprint Cup

Kawhi Leonard, NBA Finals MVP

  • Led San Antonio to a 5-game victory over Miami, averaging 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds on 61% shooting
  • Exploded in the last 3 games, scoring 71 points on 24-for-35 shooting

Shabazz Napier, Men’s NCAA Tournament MOP

  • Had 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists in leading 7th seeded UConn over Kentucky in NCAA Tournament final
  • Named Final 4 Most Outstanding Player

David Ortiz, World Series MVP

  • Had .668 BA, .760 OBP with 2 HRs and 6 RBIs during the World Series
  • Led Red Sox to victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in 6 games

 

BEST BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE

Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

  • Threw 27 TDs to only 2 INTs, leading the NFL with 119.2 QB rating
  • Tied an NFL record with 7 TD passes in a game in Week 9 matchup with Raiders

Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers

  • Averaged 20.7 ppg and 5.6 apg in making his first NBA All-Star team
  • Closed out the Rockets with a dramatic, buzzer beating three pointer in Game 6 Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

  • Led NFL with 8 INTs
  • Tipped pass in the end zone in NFC Championship led Seattle to Super Bowl

Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees

  • Began the season with a 6-0 start, compiling a 2.17 ERA during that stretch
  • 2nd pitcher in the league to reach 10 wins this season

 

BEST UPSET

Connecticut wins National Championship, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

  • First No. 7 seed to win tournament (only No. 8 Villanova in 1985 was lower)
  • Trailed St. Joseph’s by 3 with 40 seconds left in opening game
  • Defeated top-seeded Florida (ending Gators’ 30-game winning streak) in Final 4

Mercer over Duke, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

  • 14th-seeded Mercer beat 3rd-seeded Duke 78-71 in the 1st round
  • Jabari Parker’s team knocked out in one of the biggest upsets of the tournament

Chris Weidman over Anderson Silva, UFC 162

  • Weidman handed Silva his first UFC loss with a knockout in the 2nd round
  • Silva had previously defended his title a record 10 times

 

BEST GAME

Alabama vs. Auburn, Iron Bowl

  • Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a missed 57-yard FG 109 yards on the final play to upset undefeated Alabama 34-28, sending Auburn to the SEC Championship
  • Auburn tied the game on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates with 32 seconds left after Auburn blocked a field-goal attempt

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts, AFC Wild Card Playoff

  • Indianapolis trailed 38-10 in the third quarter before rallying to win, 45-44
  • Andrew Luck threw for 3 TDs and ran for a TD on a fumble recovery in the 2nd half

New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings, Stanley Cup Finals Game 5

  • Kings secured the Stanley Cup in a tense 3-2 win in double OT
  • Alec Martinez scored the winning goal after more than 94 minutes of action

 

BEST TEAM

Boston Red Sox, MLB

  • Defeated St. Louis in 6 games to win their third World Series since 2004
  • Tied for the best record (97-65) in MLB with the Cardinals during the regular season

Connecticut Women’s Basketball

  • Finished 40-0 for its 5th undefeated season
  • Won its record 9th NCAA championship by routing previously unbeaten Notre Dame

Florida State Football

  • Won national title with 14-0 record, defeating Auburn 34-31 in BCS title game
  • Average margin of victory was 39.5 points per game (second in scoring at 51.6 ppg and first in points allowed at 12.1)

Los Angeles Kings, NHL

  • • Won 3 consecutive 7-game series to make the Stanley Cup Finals
  • • Defeated the Rangers in 5 to claim their 2nd Stanley Cup championship in 3 years
  • • Their 26 playoff games were the most ever for a Stanley Cup champion

San Antonio Spurs, NBA

  • • Defeated the Miami Heat in 5 games to win their 5th NBA championship
  • • Finished the regular season with a league-best 62-20 record

Seattle Seahawks, NFL

  • Won Super Bowl with a 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos
  • Had the best record in the NFC at 13-3, tied with Denver for best in the NFL
  • No. 1-ranked defensive team, allowing only 14.4 points and 273.6 yards per game

 

BEST COACH/MANAGER

Geno Auriemma, Connecticut Women’s Basketball

  • Huskies finished 40-0 for his 5th undefeated season, routing Notre Dame, also unbeaten, in the final
  • Broke a tie with Pat Summitt with his record 9th NCAA championship

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

  • Led Seahawks to first Super Bowl title, dominating Denver 43-8
  • Had No. 1-ranked defense, allowing only 14.4 points and 273.6 yards per game

John Farrell, Boston Red Sox

  • In his first season as Boston’s manager, led the Red Sox to a World Series title
  • Managed Boston to an AL best 97-65 record a year after team finished last in AL East at 69-93

Kevin Ollie, Connecticut Men’s Basketball

  • 2nd year head coach led UConn to NCAA championship, defeating top-ranked Florida in Final 4 and Kentucky in title game
  • First No. 7 seed to win the tournament (Only Villanova, at No. 8 in 1985, was a lower seed to win)

Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

  • Led Spurs to a league-best 62-20 record and their 5th NBA championship
  • Won his 3rd Coach of the Year award

 

BEST COMEBACK ATHLETE

Josh Beckett, LA Dodgers

  • After missing most of the 2013 season with a nerve condition, Beckett returned to throw a no-hitter in May 2014, the first of the season and his career
  • The oldest pitcher (34) to throw a no-hitter since Randy Johnson in 2004

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Playing 80 games for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, Crosby led the NHL with 104 points and is a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP)
  • Led Team Canada to gold at the Sochi Olympics

Dominic Moore, NY Rangers

  • Moore made an inspiring return to the ice this season after taking 18 months off to care for his ailing wife and mourn her passing
  • Scored the game-winning goal in game 6 of the Rangers East Conference Final against the Canadiens, sending New York to the Stanley Cup

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Missed two months after re-injuring his knee in December, but returned to help the Thunder finish with a 59-23 record and the #2 seed in the West
  • First person to average at least 26 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds in the playoffs since Oscar Robertson in 1964

 

BEST INTERNATIONAL ATHLETE

Rafael Nadal, Tennis

  • Won his 13th and 14th Grand Slam singles titles at the 2013 U.S. Open and 2014 French Open
  • Won 10 ATP tournaments in 2013, with match record of 75-7

Inbee Park, Women’s Golf

  • Became the fourth woman in LPGA history to win three majors in a year, winning all three consecutively
  • Finished 2013 ranked No. 1 after 6 LPGA tournaments

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal/Real Madrid

  • Won FIFA’s Ballon d’Or Award as World Player of the Year
  • Star forward for Portugal and Real Madrid scored 66 goals in 56 games in 2013

Sebastian Vettel, Formula One

  • The German won fourth straight Formula One championship
  • Won his final 9 races in 2013 to equal the 9 consecutive wins of Alberto Ascari
  • Won 13 races in 2013, matching Michael Schumacher’s record

 

BEST NFL PLAYER

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

  • •Had 1,980 yards from scrimmage
  • •Scored 19 total TD’s (12 rushing, 7 receiving)

Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers MLB

  • Broke the NFL record for most tackles in a single game with a 26-tackle performance against the New Orleans Saints
  • Won the 2013 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

  • Set records for most TD passes (55) and most passing yards (5,477) in a season
  • Led Denver to 13-3 record, best in AFC and tied with Seattle for best in NFL
  • Won fifth MVP award

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

  • •Won the NFL rushing title with 1,607 yards, despite playing only 15 games
  • •Also the all-purpose yards leader with 2,146
  • •Set Eagles records for most rushing yards and most yards from scrimmage

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks QB

  • Led the Seahawks to a decisive 43-8 Super Bowl win over the Broncos
  • Guided Seattle to a 13-3 record, tied with Denver for best in the NFL
  • 1st player in Super Bowl era to post a 100+ passer rating in 1st 2 seasons

 

BEST MLB PLAYER

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

  • First player to win 2 straight AL MVP awards in 19 years
  • Won 3rd consecutive batting title with career high .348 BA
  • Tied his high in homers with 44 and knocked in 137 runs, both second in MLB

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

  • Led the majors with career-highs in homers (53) and RBIs (138)
  • Third player in history (after Babe Ruth and Albert Belle) with 50 HRs and 40 doubles in a season
  • Second in majors with .634 slugging percentage

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Won his second NL Cy Young Award in 3 years
  • His 1.83 ERA was the lowest in the majors in 13 years
  • Had 16-9 record

Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

  • AL Cy Young Award winner with 21-3 record and 2.90 ERA
  • Only 20-game winner in majors in 2013
  • Second in MLB with 240 strikeouts !

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

  • Led the AL in runs (109) for second straight year
  • Led AL in walks (110), second in OBP (.432) and third in batting (.323)
  • Second in AL MVP voting for second straight year

 

BEST NHL PLAYER

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Led NHL with 104 points, 17 more than his closest contender
  • Led NHL in assists with 68

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

  • Finished 2nd in the league in points with 87
  • Led Ducks to their first finish atop the Western Conference in franchise history, as well as franchise records for wins (54) and points (116)

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

  • •Led the Kings with 70 points in the regular season
  • •Scored a league-high 26 points in the playoffs, helping the Kings secure their 2nd championship in 3 years

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

  • Propelled the Rangers through the postseason with a .928 save percentage
  • Recorded 33 wins and a .920 save percentage on the season

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

  • •A dominant presence in the playoffs, scoring 4 game-winning goals and leading the Blackhawks to the Western Conference Finals
  • •Had 68 points in the regular season, 28 goals and 40 assists

 

BEST DRIVER

Scott Dixon, IndyCar

  • 2013 IndyCar Series champion (his third title)
  • Won 4 races in 2013

Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR

  • Won the 2014 Daytona 500
  • Won 2014 Pocono; his first time since 2004 to win two or more races in a season

John Force, NHRA

  • Won his 16th NHRA Funny Car Championship at age 64
  • Amassed 4 wins, 5 runner-up finishes, and 6 No. 1 qualifying positions in his championship run

Ryan Hunter-Reay, IndyCar

  • Won 2014 Indianapolis 500
  • First American to win the Indy 500 since 2006

Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR

  • 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup; champion
  • At 38, he’s the youngest driver to win 6 titles, beating Richard Petty by 83 days
  • Won 7 races in 2013, including 2 during the Chase for the Sprint Cup;, the Daytona 500 and NASCAR Sprint All-Star race

 

BEST NBA PLAYER

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

  • NBA MVP led the league in scoring with 32 ppg while shooting 50% from the field
  • Durant surpassed Michael Jordan’s record for most consecutive games scoring at least 25 points with 41

Blake Griffin, LA Clippers

  • From January 20 to March 26, Griffin recorded 20+ points for a franchise-record 31 straight games
  • Led the Clippers with 24 points per game

LeBron James, Miami Heat

  • Averaged 27 points per game while shooting 57% from the field
  • Became the youngest player in NBA history to score 4000 playoff points

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2nd straight All-Star selection

 

BEST WNBA PLAYER

Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky

  • Unanimous winner of 2013 Rookie of the Year
  • Fourth in the league in scoring (18.1 ppg), fifth in blocked shots (1.8 bpg) as she helped Chicago make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history

Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream

  • Led WNBA in scoring for second straight season (21.5 ppg)
  • Led The Dream to the WNBA Finals

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

  • Finals MVP after averaging 20 points, 6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in leading Lynx to 3-game sweep
  • Third in the league in scoring at 18.5 ppg

Candace Parker, LA Sparks

  • 2013 MVP (her second)
  • Ranked fourth in blocks (1.84 bpg), sixth in scoring (17.9 ppg), seventh in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and 12th in assists (career-high 3.8 apg)

 

BEST FIGHTER

Jon “Bones” Jones, MMA

  • Defended his Light Heavyweight title with wins at UFC 165 & 172
  • Won the toughest fight of his career vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165

Floyd Mayweather, Boxing

  • Cruised to a majority decision over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez
  • Improved record to 46-0 with a decisive win over Marcos Maidana

Manny Pacquiao, Boxing

  • Retook WBO welterweight title with a decisive win over Timothy Bradley in the rematch of their highly disputed 2012 fight
  • Beat Brandon Rios to take vacant WBO International welterweight title

Ronda Rousey, MMA

  • Defended title as UFC women’s bantamweight champ
  • Defeated Sara McMann in a TKO and Miesha Tate by submission

Andre Ward, Boxing

  • Defeated Edwin Rodriguez to bring his record to 27-0
  • Ward dominated Rodriguez, winning by unanimous decision

 

BEST MALE GOLFER

Martin Kaymer

  • •Won the 2014 US Open
  • Set a US Open record for lowest 36-hole score at 130

Adam Scott

  • Won the 2013 PGA Grand Slam of Golf
  • Won the 2013 Australian Masters

Henrik Stenson

  • Won twice in his final three 2013 PGA Tour events to win the FedEx Cup
  • Finished No. 2 on the 2013 PGA Tour money list ($6,388,230)

Bubba Watson

  • Won the 2014 Masters, his 2nd Masters title
  • Earned his 5th career PGA Tour victory at the 2014 Northern Trust Open

 

BEST FEMALE GOLFER

Stacy Lewis

  • Won her second career LPGA major at the 2013 Women’s British Open
  • Won 3 LPGA tournaments in 2013

Inbee Park

  • 4th woman in LPGA history to win 3 majors in a year
  • Finished 2013 ranked No. 1 after winning 6 LPGA tournaments
  • 2013 LPGA money leader with $2,456,619

Suzann Pettersen

  • Won her 2nd career LPGA major with a 2-stroke victory at the Evian Championship
  • Won 4 LPGA tournaments in 2013

Michelle Wie

  • Won her 1st career LPGA major at the 2014 US Women’s Open at Pinehurst
  • Won the 2014 LPGA Lotte Championship

 

BEST MALE TENNIS PLAYER

Novak Djokovic

  • Won 7 ATP tournaments in 2013, with a match record of 74-9
  • Finished 2013 ranked No. 2

Andy Murray

  • Captured his second Grand Slam singles championship by defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets at Wimbledon
  • Won 4 ATP tournaments in 2013

Rafael Nadal

  • Won his 14th Grand Slam singles title at the 2014 French Open, his 5th-straight French Open win and 9th overall
  • Won the 2013 US Open
  • Won 10 ATP tournaments in 2013, with match record of 75-7

 

BEST FEMALE TENNIS PLAYER

Li Na

  • Won the 2014 Australian Open
  • Defeated Dominka Cibulkova in straight sets in the final

Agnieszka Radwanska

  • Made her first BNP Paribas Open final
  • Made the Semifinals at the 2014 Australian Open

Maria Sharapova

  • •Won the 2014 French Open in a highly regarded final match against Simona Halep
  • •Her 3rd consecutive French Open Final and her 2nd French Open Victory

Serena Williams

  • 2013 U.S. Open win was her 17th Grand Slam singles title
  • Finished 2013 ranked No. 1 after winning 11 WTA tournaments, having a 78-4 record, and earning $12,385,572

 

BEST MALE COLLEGE ATHLETE

Johnny Gaudreau, Boston College Hockey

  • Won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player
  • Highest point total in the last 11 seasons with 80 points (36 goals, 44 assists)
  • Tied a Hockey East conference by scoring in 31 straight games

Doug McDermott, Creighton Basketball

  • Won Wooden, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and AP player of the year
  • Led country in scoring, averaging 26.7 points
  • Shot 52.6% from the field, including 44.9% on 3-pointers

David Taylor, Penn State Wrestling

  • Helped Penn State win its 4th consecutive NCAA team title by shutting out Oklahoma State’s Tyler Caldwell 6-0 in the 165-pound final
  • Named the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Wrestler and won the NCAA’s Most Dominant Wrestler Award
  • Went 34-0 in winning his second national championship

Lyle Thompson, Albany Lacrosse

  • Shared the 2014 Tewaaraton Award with his brother, Miles, first to ever share the award and the first Native Americans to win it (its name honors the Native American roots of the sport)
  • Scored 128 points on the season (51 goals, 77 assists), shattering the previous record of 114

Jameis Winston, Florida State Football

  • Second freshman to win Heisman Trophy; at 19, first teenager to win it
  • Led FSU to BCS title with 14-0 record
  • Threw for 4,057 yards (10.6 yards per attempt) and 40 TD passes, completing 66.9% of his passes (257-of-384). Intercepted 10 times

 

BEST FEMALE COLLEGE ATHLETE

Morgan Brian, Virginia Soccer

  • Won the 2013 Hermann Trophy as the best female collegiate soccer player
  • Led the ACC in scoring (46 points) with 16 goals and 14 assists
  • Helped Virginia to No. 1 ranking most of the season before it lost to eventual champ UCLA on penalty kicks in the semifinals

Taylor Cummings, Maryland Lacrosse

  • •Guided her team to the NCAA championship title, scoring 3 goals in the final and winning MVP of the tournament
  • •Won the 2014 Tewaaraton Award, the first sophomore to ever do it
  • •Led her team with 63 goals

Breanna Stewart, Connecticut Basketball

  • Naismith Trophy winner and AP’s National Player of the Year
  • Final 4 Most Outstanding Player for 2nd time
  • Averaged 19.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists in leading Huskies to 40-0 record and NCAA title

Micha Hancock, Penn State Volleyball

  • •Led PSU to the NCAA championship title with her excellent service game
  • •Named MOP of the NCAA tournament

Hannah Rogers, Florida Softball

  • •Pitched her team to victory in the NCAA women’s softball world series, going 7-0 in the tournament
  • Named MOP of the tournament

 

BEST MALE ACTION SPORTS ATHLETE

Grant Baker, Surfing

  • •Overall title on the 2013/2014 Big Wave World Tour; he won two of three events
  • •Won the Surfline Best Overall Performance Award

Tucker Hibbert, Snowmobile

  • •Won 7th straight X Games SnoCross gold medal
  • •Won ISOC Pro Open championship, including 15 of 17 finals in 2013/2014
  • •Broke career record for national Pro-class snocross victories (84); now has 95
  • •Won ISOC Pro Open championship, his 8th such title

Nyjah Huston, Skateboarding

  • X Games Los Angeles 2013 & X Games Austin 2014 Skateboard Street Gold
  • •1st, Street League 2013 series points
  • •1st, Street League Los Angeles in May 2014; 1st, Tampa Pro in March 2014

Ryan Villopoto, Motocross/Supercross

  • •Won the 2013 AMA Motocross title
  • •Captured the his 4th straight AMA Supercross crown, winning 7 of 17 rounds

David Wise, Halfpipe Skiing

  • •X Games Aspen 2014 Ski SuperPipe gold
  • •Olympic gold medal in ski halfpipe

 

BEST FEMALE ACTION SPORTS ATHLETE

Jamie Anderson, Snowboard Slopestyle

  • •Olympic gold medal in snowboard slopestyle
  • •X Games Aspen 2014 SBD Slopestyle silver
  • •1st overall for slopestyle, World Snowboard Tour

Maddie Bowman, Freestyle Skiing

  • •X Games Aspen 2014 Ski SuperPipe gold
  • •Olympic gold medal in ski halfpipe
  • •2014 Association of Freesking Professionals halfpipe champ
  • •1st, 2013 Dew Tour superpipe comp

Kelly Clark, Snowboard Superpipe & Halfpipe

  • •X Games Aspen 2014 SBD SuperPipe gold—her 12th X Games medal, women’s career record
  • •Halfpipe bronze at Sochi Games, her third Olympic halfpipe medal
  • •1st overall for halfpipe, World Snowboard Tour

Vicki Golden, Moto Racing

  • •X Games Los Angeles 2013 Women’s Racing gold, her third straight
  • •XG LA 2013 Best Whip bronze; The first woman to compete against men in X Games Moto X

Carissa Moore, Surfing

  • • Overall title, 2013 ASP Women’s World Championship Tour (surfing)

 

BEST JOCKEY

Javier Castellano

  • Voted Eclipse Award as top jockey in 2013
  • Led all jockeys with 362 wins (in 1,617 starts) and earnings of $26,213,507 in 2013
  • Finished in the top 3 54% of the time

Victor Espinoza

  • The jockey for California Chrome
  • Won the 2014 Kentucky Derby and the 2014 Preakness Stakes

Joel Rosario

  • Won the 2014 Belmont Stakes

Mike Smith

  • Currently in 4th place for total winnings ($6,379,380), despite starting in far fewer races than his competitors

 

BEST MALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY

Mark Bathum, Alpine Skiing

  • Won two silver medals at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in the men’s visually impaired super-G and super combined with his guide Cade Yamamoto
  • Excelled in the speed disciplines all season long, winning all three downhill and all four super-G races he entered

Declan Farmer, Sled Hockey

  • The 16-year-old helped USA win gold at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics
  • Voted Best Male Athlete of the 2014 Winter Paralympics
  • Scored two goals and had an assist in Team USA’s 3-0 win against Canada to secure a spot in the gold medal game versus Russia

Raymond Martin, Wheelchair Racing

  • The first man to win five gold medals at an IPC Athletics Championships as he won the men’s T52 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meter races
  • Swept the same five events at the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships
  • Named the USOC’s 2013 Male Paralympic athlete of the year

Mike Shea, Snowboarding

  • Won the silver medal in the first-ever men’s Paralympic snowboard cross event at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games
  • Won the first ever overall World Cup title

Evan Strong, Snowboarding

  • Won the first-ever gold medal in the men’s Paralympic snowboard cross event at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games
  • Picked up victories at the 2014 National Championships, the World Cup La Molina and the World Cup Copper Mountain

 

BEST FEMALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY

Minda Dentler, Handcyclist

  • Became the first woman in history to officially complete the World Championship

Kona Ironman

  • Won the 2013 NYC Marathon in the women’s hand cycle division

Oksana Masters, Sitting Skier

  • Won the first U.S. women’s Paralympic cross-country medal in 20 years with her silver medal win in the 12km sitting event at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games
  • Also won bronze in the women’s 5km cross-country sitting event

Tatyana McFadden, Sitting Skier/Track & Field

  • Won a silver medal in the women’s 1km cross-country sprint event in Sochi
  • In 2013, she became the first athlete to win four major world marathons in a single year and six world titles at the IPC Athletics World Championships
  • Won the 2014 London and Boston Marathons

Laurie Stephens, Alpine Monoskier

  • Won two bronze medals in women’s alpine skiing at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games
  • Took 1st in the slalom and giant slalom at the 2014 US Paralympics National Championships
  • Won women’s sitting Overall World Cup Speed Globe

Jamie Whitmore, Para-cycling

  • Won gold medals and set world records in the time trial and pursuit events at the 2014 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships
  • Took first place in the road race at the 2014 UCI World Cup in Italy
  • Undefeated in competition at the 2013 Road World Cup series and the 2013 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships

 

BEST BOWLER

Jason Belmonte

  • 2012-13 Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year
  • Won 2 titles, including the USBC Masters, his first major
  • Led 2013 PBA Tour in points

Wes Malott

  • Won 2013 U.S. Open
  • Second highest scoring average (228.09) on 2013 PBA Tour
  • Second on tour in points

Sean Rash

  • Led 2013 PBA Tour in earnings ($248,317)
  • Cashed in tour-high 22 times (in 30 events)
  • Third on tour in points

Pete Weber

  • Won the 2013 USBC Senior Masters
  • Runner up for 2013 Player of the Year

 

BEST MLS PLAYER

Tim Cahill, New York Red Bulls

  • Red Bulls MVP, led team with 11 goals, 5 of them game-winners
  • Named an MLS Best XI selection and All-Star
  • Set record for fastest goal in MLS history, scoring in 7 seconds against Houston

Marco Di Vaio, Montreal Impact

  • With 20 goals in 2013, the striker led team to first playoff appearance
  • Third in MLS MVP voting

Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy

  • Striker led Galaxy with 16 goals and 11 assists in just 23 regular-season games in 2013 to help team to fifth straight postseason appearance
  • Only player in league with double figures in goals and assists
  • Second in MLS MVP voting

Mike Magee, Chicago Fire

  • 2013 MLS MVP
  • After being traded from Galaxy to the Fire he posted 15 goals to finish with 21, second in league

 

BEST MALE U.S. OLYMPIC ATHLETE

Joss Christensen, Slopestyle Skiing

  • Won gold in slopestyle skiing and led U.S. to only its third podium sweep in Winter Olympics history
  • Last slopestyle skier named to U.S. Team, first run in the finals produced a 95.80

Sage Kotsenburg, Snowboard Slopestyle

  • Won gold in snowboard slopestyle
  • His first run in finals ended with a 93.50 score that held up

Ted Ligety, Alpine Skier

  • Won the giant slalom at the Sochi Games with a dominating performance
  • Finished his 2 runs in 2:45.29, 0.48 seconds faster than the runner-up
  • Became the first American man to win 2 Olympic gold medals in Alpine skiing

Charlie White, Ice Dancing

  • Won Gold at Sochi in Ice Dancing with partner Meryl Davis
  • First Americans ever to win the Olympic Gold in Ice Dancing

David Wise, Halfpipe Skiing

  • Won the first Olympic ski halfpipe contest
  • Scored a 92 on his first run

 

BEST FEMALE U.S. OLYMPIC ATHLETE

Jamie Anderson, Snowboard Slopestyle

  • Won gold in the first Olympic slopestyle snowboarding competition
  • Down to her last trip in the final, she soared to victory with a near flawless run to score 95.25, winning by 2.75

Maddie Bowman, Halfpipe Skiing

  • Had the two best scores in the finals in winning gold
  • Scored 85.50 on her first run and 89.00 on her second

Meryl Davis, Ice Dancing

  • Won Gold at Sochi in Ice Dancing with partner Charlie White
  • First Americans ever to win the Olympic Gold in Ice Dancing

Kaitlyn Farrington, Snowboard Halfpipe

  • After qualifying 7th for finals, she scored upset to take the gold medal
  • A surprise champion; she was the last snowboarder named to the USA team

Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skier

  • 18-year-old is the youngest ever Olympic slalom gold medal winner – male or female
  • First American woman to earn a slalom medal of any color since Barbara Cochran won gold at the 1972 Sapporo Olympics

 

BEST PLAY

Best Play will be voted on bracket-style

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