On Monday afternoon, Major League Baseball dropped the hammer on Alex Rodriguez, handing down a 211-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic. Biogenesis, which billed itself, while it was operating, as an 'anti-aging' clinic located in south Florida, is the center of a long investigation by MLB involving performance-enhancing drugs. 12 other players were also suspended—and all 12 accepted their suspensions with deals that limited the terms to a mere 50 games. This willingness to accept the suspensions—and the mea culpas that accompanied the punishments—open the possibility of All-Star Nelson Cruz rejoining his team, the Texas Rangers, when the playoffs begin. Cruz joins two other All-Stars, Everth Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta, as well as nine others, as the latest players punished by MLB. However, there is no doubt that Rodriguez is the biggest fish.
Rodriguez has always invited a certain kind of scorn. He was never Derek Jeter, diving into the stands for a fly ball. He was a machine, programmed to hit baseballs, longer and father than had been done before, seemingly destined to break records. One reporter at least, wonders: Why did Rodriguez feel this need? What he stands accused of now is willfully flaunting that fate, spitting in the face of a league that he could have ruled. All 12 other players accused in the Biogenesis case accepted deals for shorter suspensions and gave up their right to appeal the sentence.
Rodriguez, however, as seems to be par for his personality, is intent on fighting. Unique amongst his peer group in this case, A-Rod suited up for the Yankees and played on Monday night. For those who delight in schadenfreude,New York was squashed by the Chicago White Sox, 8-1. Rodriguez himself went 1 for 4, striking out once, flying out twice—once to center and once left—with his one hit going left.
For some baseball fans, these latest revelations prove to be a bridge too far. They seem to indicate that Rodriguez was never clean. And the greatest shame of yet another dark day in baseball's fight to clean up the sport is that Rodriguez was supposed to be one of the greats to lead the way out of the PED-era. MLB, it seems, is still waiting for that player to come along.
October's chill is lingering everywhere in America, which means that it's time for baseball's biggest stage—the World Series starts on Wednesday night. It'll be the Detroit Tigers against the San Francisco Giants, after a stunning seven-game series sent the Giants to their second finals in three years. The Detroit Tigers, on the other hand, swept the heavily-favored New York Yankees in a dominating fashion. Their ample rest time and the momentum of previous upsets allow for a perceived advantage.
The Tigers made the normally superstar Yankees look terribly mortal in their League Championship series. During their first two games in New York, the Yankees' vaunted captain Derek Jeter fractured his ankle and once-invincible Alex Rodriguez was benched after subpar hitting. The post-season disappointment was enough for General Manager Brian Cashman to declare that A-Rod was no longer untouchablein an angry rant that surprised no one.
The Tigers didn't look as impressive during the five games it took them to dispatch the Oakland A's, but their consistency means that, despite New York's always-expected headlines, Detroit is the team that's still making waves for good reasons.
The Cardinals won it all last year, the Giants the year before. It should have been expected that this match-up would mean a spectacular series, but when opening games were split in San Francisco, some people doubted the resolve. Of course, we should have seen this coming considering not only both prgrams' last two seasons, but also this year's regular season. Neither team knows how to quit.
Sadly for St. Louis fans, game 7 in San Francisco brought a dramatic end end to this epic fight. The Cardinals were rolled 9-0. Not-so-sadly for Giants fans, their team can carry this victory with them as the latest sign that they can never be counted out.
The Tigers may have the larger momentum, but San Francisco has a deep-seated belief that they will never lose. They were down in the NLCS 1-3 and beat the odds to win games 5, 6 and 7, with the margin in this last closeout game being the largest of the series.
The World Series is the best time for the casual baseball fan to get excited and embrace a team. Despite the Yankees’ continued headline dominance and decorated history, baseball begins to feel like a sport that has achieved true equivalence. In the last ten years, eight different teams have risen as champions, with the repeaters being the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Giants now have a chance to join that repeaters club (if they can get over the Detroit Tigers of course). It is going to be a fantastic battle.
Late June to early August has always been a tough time. There are years when we have the Summer Olympics to get us by. There's a brief respite for the Tour de France, although it's lost some of its luster recently. And yes, I am excited about both the upcoming Women's World Cup as well as the 15th WNBA Season. But there's no denying these are dark times.
The NBA, NFL and NHL are all done with their seasons. MLB, for those who care, hasn't really picked up any steam yet by this point in the season. But most importantly, for now, the two behemoths of American sports, basketball and football, seem to be on a collision course with no righting in sight.
The NFL is already locked out and the NBA appears to be heading in that direction. As though sports fans weren't already mired in what is traditionally the worst time of the year, that slog is now compounded by the fact that it might stretch on even longer.
There's already been extensive coverage of why this is happening in both of these leagues, so for now, let's focus on the positive: There are reports that the NFL sides might be close to reconciliation. The NBA can learn from this NFL experience and perhaps avoid actually locking out.
But even more importantly, we can shift our focus from those leagues to the alternatives. The aforementioned Women's World Cup features not just a strong U.S. team, but a hungry one. The Tour de France, free from those Americans that some claim the French love to hate, might have a chance to stand on its own, as opposed to being hounded by the WADA for violations; focusing on the actual sport and its real winner could prove to be a successful formula. And the WNBA is becoming a refined product on its own, not merely the little-sister-league of the NBA.
The WNBA is trying to make summer–the ironic winter of sports–its time to shine: By celebrating 15 years of existence, the league gets to simultaneously advertise its product as well as remind viewers that this league is no longer an experiment. Love it or hate it, the WNBA appears to be here to stay. The human aspect of sports is really what captivates people, and the inclusion of fan voting on the top 30 WNBA players of all time seems a great place to start.
Bicycling Magazine says that of the 200-plus riders who will take place in this year's Tour de France, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer, two Americans, are some of the most worthy riders to watch. Perhaps America will once again have riders come from seemingly out of nowhere to challenge for the yellow jersey, enabling us to focus on the sport and the will of those who participate.
The Women's World Cup, taking place in Germany, presents a similar opportunity for the American women to take on the shadow that's been hanging over their program–in this case, for the last twelve years. In 1999, Brandi Chastain sealed a victory for America with her iconic penalty kick and celebration, but Team USA has been mired in mediocrity since then. The U.S. is ranked first in the world currently but needs to perform in order to maintain the enthusiasm that is beginning to dwindle.
So while the millionaires of the NBA and NFL fight with their billionaire owners, take some time in this traditionally dark period to try to get back to the great storylines that make us truly care about sports.
Man, I never would have thought I would be here. I was certain they were going to roll. I was afraid for my friend's long-term well-being and then, magically, a week ago it all came together. The Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in a best of 5 series—without winning a single game at home. (This, oddly, made them still without a home playoff win in their entire existence until their current series.)
Now, they've embarked on the journey that all Davids must undergo if they want to take down baseball's ultimate crown: that perpetual Goliath, the New York Yankees.
As a baseball hater, when October inevitably arrives each year, I usually turn my rooting interests the way of the Yankees. They're usually pretty good, they win a good percentage of the time, and they're at least somewhat entertaining, especially given their links to Jay-Z.
Now, however, I'll have to root against my pseudo-team. And I'll be happy to do so. Despite any troll comments online, the Texas Rangers' story only gets better and better to me. Turns out, when they clinched the American League Division Series in game five, the team celebrated with ginger ale before breaking out the champagne. Why? Slugger Josh Hamilton is a recovering alcoholic. Plenty of smart-mouthed sports fans made negative cracks about that in the last week, but imagine being him and seeing your teammates holding back on their celebration out of respect for you. My fandom of the Rangers begins at that noble point.
Count Cliff Lee, their pitcher extraordinaire, as reason No. 2. With an ERA of 3.18, through the regular season, he ranked sixth in the American League this year. He's been in the league a mere eight years, and made it to the World Series in 2009 with the Philadelphia Phillies, only to fall to the New York Yankees. Added intrigue to an already interesting storyline? Count me in. Through the fourth game of the American League Championship Series, Lee's pitching at an insane 1.26 ERA and hasn't lost a single game he's started.
Last but not least, I default to the somewhat bizarre case of the Rangers' sad luck. Having made it to the playoffs only three times before this year, they've always been eliminated by, you guessed it, the New York Yankees. Now, with a chance to get back at the bully in the ALCS, there's a lot to root for. Game 4 was played in New York yesterday, with the Rangers walking all over the Yankees, for the second night in a row. The Rangers lost their first home game last Friday, but proceeded to win (their first postseason home victory in the history of their franchise!) on Saturday. Things stayed cheerful for the Texas boys in New York, and with the win last night they're only one away from their first ever trip to the World Series.
Tune in today at 2:07 p.m. on TBS as the Rangers try to wrap things up in New York.
UFC 113 had everyting it needed—controversy and knockouts—on Saturday night. Over 17,000 Montreal fans witnessed "Shogun Rua capture the title with a first-round KO over Lyoto Machida. But Rua has little time to enjoy the victory as he waits for the winner of the Rampage Jackson/Rashad Evans fight later this month.
Josh Koscheck's trash talk about George St. Pierre should have been what fans remembered after his victory over Paul Daley. Instead Daley's suckerpunch stole the headlines, prompting Dana White to hand Daley his walking papers. Koscheck also accused Daley of “oiling up” before the fight. Maybe he should focus on coaching on the next season of reality show “The Ultimate Fighter”—and his title shot.
As usual White had plenty on his mind including the fate of Kimbo Slice.
Tiger Woods' comeback isn't exactly going as planned. He pulled out of The Players Championship. Finishing only one tournament since his break, Woods suffered a neck injury during the seventh hole of the final round. Reports surfaced that he’s been having neck problems for quite a while, which begs the question: Did Tiger Woods return too early?
Much talk has centered on the phantom elbow injury of LeBron James and the fall of Kobe Bryant. But many fans have forgotten about the Phoenix Suns, who completed the sweep of the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs dominated the Suns in playoff action, so Phoenix was motivated to prevent a miracle comeback.
Before Sunday, Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden was infamous for calling out New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez. Now Braden will forever be remembered for throwing a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.