Baseball Tweaks HR Derby Format; New Wrinkles Added

We’re just three days out from the 2015 Home Run Derby, and this year’s edition brings with it some very exciting changes. At the end of June, Major League Baseball officially declared that the 2015 Home Run Derby will be an eight-batter, single-elimination contest. The eight contestants were bracketed and seeded 1 through 8 based on the number of home runs they hit through the games played on Wednesday, July 7.

The pairings for the quarterfinal round are as follows:

(1) Albert Pujols vs. (8) Chris Bryant

(2) Todd Frazier vs. (7) Prince Fielder

(3) Josh Donaldson vs. (6) Anthony Rizzo

(4) Joc Pederson vs. (5) Manny Machado

This year, MLB also decided to completely do away with the rule concerning the number of outs (any swing not resulting in home runs) that a batter has in each round. Now, for the first time in its history, the Home Run Derby is on the clock.

Batters will have five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible, with each batter.having the opportunity to call one 45-second timeout during their turn each round. The clock begins once the first pitch of a batter’s turn leaves his pitcher’s hand. There will also be bonus time put on the clock if they hit home runs of various distances. Here’s how those time bonuses break down:

0 or 1 HR measuring under 474 feet: No extra seconds

1 HR measuring at least 475 feet: 30 extra seconds

2 or more HR measuring 420 to 474 feet: One extra minute

2 or more HR with one measuring 420 to 474 feet and one measuring 475 feet and over or both measuring 475 feet and over: 90 extra seconds

Also, inside the last minute of a batter’s turn, the clock will freeze when the batter hits a home run, and the countdown won’t resume until the batter makes a swing which fails to produce a home run.

In the event of a tie between the two batters in their head-to-head match-up. there will be a swing-off lasting 90 seconds. Unlike a batter’s regular turn, the clock won’t stop at all and the bonus time rules aren’t in effect. If there’s still a tie after the 90-second swing-off ends, then best-of-3 swing-offs will be contested until a winner is found.

The instant that the second batter’s home run total exceeds that of his opponent, the clock stops, ending the match-up.

In addition to the new format and timing rules, this year’s Home Run Derby will be the first where home run distances will be measured through Major League Baseball’s new Statcast, a data stream which collects information pertaining to players’ tendencies.

All in all, these new features should make for a most exciting Home Run Derby in a few nights from now. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “bracket” and the phrase “single-elimination tournament” pertaining to an annual sporting event, I get excited. This is why other tournaments, such as March Madness, are popular year in and year out.

The bracket makes the Derby, which is already one of my favorite sporting events every single year, even more better.

The 2015 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby airs live Monday night at 8:00 Eastern Time on ESPN and can also be heard live on ESPN Radio. (Hardball Talk article by Bill Baer outlining the new format for the Derby) (Sports Illustrated article outlining the changes to the Derby)

Nationwide Marriage Equality a Victory for Society

This is a most historic day in our society. Earlier today, the United States Supreme Court voted to legalize same-sex marriage by a 5-4 tally, a ruling which guarantees same-sex couples the right to wed, regardless of their state of residence.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy handed down the ruling, saying, in part:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

At the core, today’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide is a major victory for the United States of America and society. It shows how far our country has come in terms of progress and openness.

In closing, this is a day that will forever be celebrated for its historic impact.

CNN has posted the entire ruling online, which you can read at

#NBAFinals Schedule

The 2015 NBA Finals are now all set after the Golden State Warriors disposed of the Houston Rockets in five games in the Western Conference Finals. Here is the schedule.

2015 NBA Finals Schedule: (all games on ABC, WatchESPN, ESPN Radio, Cleveland Cavaliers Radio Network, and Golden State Warriors Radio Network)

Game 1: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (Thursday, June 4, 9:00 p.m. EDT, NBA Countdown on ABC at 8:30 p.m. EDT)

Game 2: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (Sunday, June 7, 8:00 p.m. EDT. NBA Countdown on ABC at 7:30 p.m. EDT)

Game 3: Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers (Tuesday, June 9, 9:00 p.m. EDT, NBA Countdown on ABC at 8:30 p.m. EDT)

Game 4: Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers (Thursday, June 11 at 9:00 p.m. EDT, NBA Countdown on ABC at 8:30 p.m. EDT)

Game 5: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (Sunday, June 14 at 8:00 p.m. EDT, NBA Countdown on ABC at 7:30 p.m. EDT)

Game 6: Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers (Tuesday, June 16 at 9:00 p.m. EDT, NBA Countdown on ABC at 8:30 p.m. EDT)

Game 7: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (Friday, June 19 at 9:00 p.m. EDT, NBA Countdown on ABC at 8:30 p.m. EDT)

Notes: Games 5-7 if necessary. With last year’s change in format from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1, the NBA will give the teams an extra day off between Game 6 and a potential Game 7 to recharge.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is, for many people, an unofficial kickoff to the summer season, but we will always remember the true meaning for this holiday. It’s a day to honor all of those men and women in our military who are currently or were serving the United States of America, and especially those members of the military who died to protect our freedoms.

Without those freedoms, we couldn’t do what we do every day.

We cannot thank you enough for your service to this nation. You are American heroes in the truest form. May God bless each and every one of you.

Happy Memorial Day.

SaberCats Continue Hot Start to Season

We’re halfway through the 2015 Arena Football League season, and the San Jose SaberCats are starting to pull away with the Pacific Division in the National Conference.

Through nine weeks of play, the defending Pacific Division champions are perfect with a 9-0 record, 2-0 against divisional opposition, outscoring teams 551-337. Last week, San Jose disposed of the Cleveland Gladiators, 70-58 at home.

Their statistics are indicative of their great success. Just look at them.

Quarterback Erik Meyer has gotten off to a fine start this season, throwing 136-for-215 (63.2 completion percentage) for 1,812 yards, 42 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. 19 of Meyer’s touchdowns have come down in the hands of wide receiver Reggie Gray, who has more than certainly lived up to his nickname “Big Play.”

Thus far, Gray has caught 67 passes for 767 yards, leading San Jose in the receptions category. He’s also stepped up tremendously in regards to kickoff returns, where he’s lead the SaberCats with 664 yards over 30 returns. In addition, Gray has made plays on the defensive side of the football with three interception returns.

Helping the cause in receptions has been an easy job for San Jose this season. Wideouts Adron Tennell and D.J. Stephens have combined for 57 catches for 856 yards and 23 touchdowns. Darius Reynolds has also been a contributor in terms of catching the ball. He’s caught 24 passes (eight for touchdowns) on 344 yards.

Fullback Odie Armstrong has been quite the workhorse carrying the football. On 31 carries, Armstrong has gained 78 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Erik Meyer has called his own number 13 times this season for 29 yards and one touchdown rush. Reynolds has gotten in on the act, as well, running the rock a dozen times for 18 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Defensively speaking, quarterback sacks have seemingly become cakewalk for the SaberCats, as six-year veteran noseguard Jason Stewart and four-year middle linebacker Francis Maka have teamed up for 11.5 sacks resulting in 40 yards lost. Defensive end Donte Paige-Moss, one-year veteran out of The University of North Carolina, has accounted for 4.5 sacks and 13 yards lost.

However, the two impact players on this year’s SaberCats defense arguably have to be defensive backs David Hyland and Ken Fontenette, who have combined for 127 tackles and 10 picks.

This team wouldn’t be successful without the help of the players on the offensive line, such as George Bussey, center Matt Armstrong before he was lost for the season due to injury, Colin Madison, who is a former All-Arena selection. Having a great offensive line is vital to a football team’s performance, and the SaberCats’ O-line deserves all the credit.

Furthermore, San Jose is tops in every major statistical category, save for time of possession. Points scored, check. Points against, check. Offensive efficiency, check. Whatever the stat is, chances are they’ve got the lead.

Their upcoming schedule contains some very winnable games. This week, San Jose will be on the road against 3-5 Portland, followed up by a home contest versus Spokane and then an away game versus winless LA. The ‘Cats could very easily be 12-0 in three weeks’ time and just might be the team to finally unseat the Arizona Rattlers as AFL champion in late August.

#Als sign Ex-#Rams, #Cowboys Linebacker Michael Sam

In the run-up to the 2014 NFL Draft, former Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Michael Sam made a courageous revelation to the media and to the country as a whole.

Before the NFL Scouting Combine last year, Sam announced that he was gay. The defensive back was ultimately selected with the St. Louis Rams’ seventh-round draft pick (249th overall) last May.

Despite a preseason wherein Sam recorded 11 tackles and three quarterback sacks, he failed to make the regular season 53-man roster. Just days before the NFL regular season began last September, the Dallas Cowboys acquired Sam, signing him to their practice squad.

Last October, Sam was waived by the Cowboys organization after a month and a half.

For months, Sam has been waiting to get back in the game in any form. Today, he’s back in football.

The Montreal Alouettes have signed Michael Sam to a one-year contract with the team, a deal which includes a vesting option for an additional season in 2016.

Sam comes to Montreal after having a great college career at Missouri, where he recorded 123 tackles (36 for loss), 21 sacks, and two interceptions.

His best season of his collegiate career came in 2013, his senior year. That season, Sam split the SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award with Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley, currently with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

In the 2013 season, Sam had 11.5 sacks (the conference leader in said category), 21 tackles, and one forced fumble (which he took back for a touchdown in the 2014 Cotton Bowl Classic, a 41-31 Tigers win, only the second Missouri Cotton Bowl victory in team history.)

Alouettes General Manager Jim Popp welcomed Sam to the team warmly on Friday, saying “With the signing of Michael Sam, we have become a better organization today. Not only have we added an outstanding football player, we have added even a better person that brings dignity, character, and heart to our team.”

Sam welcomes the opportunity. When reached for comment on Friday morning, he thanked Popp, Robert Wettenhall, Alouettes owner, and head coach Tom Higgins for taking a flyer on him. He’s eager to get to work.

“I cannot wait to put on the pads, get back on the field and work hard each and every day with my teammates to bring a Grey Cup to the great fans here in Montreal,” Sam said in a statement Friday morning.

New CFL Commissioner Jeffery Orridge weighed in on the signing earlier Friday, as well, congratulating the Alouettes organization on bringing Sam to the team, and calling the signing  “another indication of how open and progressive the CFL is.”

Personally, I’m very happy for Sam and the Alouettes organization. Michael Sam is a great football player, one who deserves a chance to show everyone what he can do at the professional level. He struck a blow for gay athletes and gay people everywhere. This is a man who deserves our respect and admiration.

Best of luck to Michael Sam.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 963 other followers