Jul 15, 2012
Mike Silver

ON THE FRINGE by Stephen Hobbs

 

Are Sports Worth The Cost?

Olympic Games

July 12—The debate over balancing budgets has extended to countries all across the world. That discussion has, and will continue, to move to the area of sports. Student-athletes from colleges across the United States have had to deal with this reality, and even the Olympic Games are not immune.

Security in London

The Summer and Winter Olympic Games are an important opportunity for athletes from across the globe to make a statement to the world. Sadly, it is also a chance for people to make a lasting impression in a whole different way: through violence. London is gearing up for the games, which will begin on July 27, by ramping up the security for the athletes and the attendees. For example, the cost for security will be more than $2.5 billion, which the USA Today reports is more than 50 percent than what was spent for security at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Later in the article, Martin Polley, “a sports historian at the University of Southampton,” has an interesting comment on the entire process: “The sports lover in me, the law-abiding citizen in me, feels comfortable,” Polley says. “The critical historian in me thinks, at what point do the games become not worthwhile, if we’ve got to do all this?”

Ben Arnoldy brings a similar point in an article for the Christian Science Monitor. He writes, “Britain as a whole, meanwhile, is ambivalent about the games, in contrast to the joyful eruptions in 2005, when London learned it would make history by hosting its third Olympics. Now, only 44 percent say the country should have offered to host them; and in an age of austerity, the potential price tag to the public of $17 billion – nearly triple the bid estimate – does not sit well. The muchness of it all leaves some asking if the Olympics have gotten too big, and too tied to the ambitions of big business and big government.” The fiscal evaluation of the Olympic Games, and other major sports events will continue in the near future. With Brazil hosting the World Cup, in 2014, and the Summer Olympics in 2016, the price tag for both events will be huge. It will be intriguing to see if the Brazilian public and political leaders will grow weary of hosting two major sporting events so close to each other.

Cal Athletics

Continuing with the theme of budget cuts, Katie Dowd, who is a former Ride With Silver contributor, had an article in last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle detailing the situation related to the “non-revenue” sports at Cal. Although donors were able to help save baseball, women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s gymnastics from the chopping block, the reinstatement of the teams was based on conditions. Dowd notes “Upon reinstatement, each team agreed to find a path to financial independence in the next seven to 10 years, a rare – and possibly unattainable – demand in the football-first world of collegiate fundraising. Although Cal’s football program routinely brings in millions each year, that’s certainly not the case for sports like men’s gymnastics.” Dowd’s article signals that the discussion over budget cuts at the University will continue to be a major issue going forward.

Jul 9, 2012
Mike Silver

ON THE FRINGE by Stephen Hobbs

Oscar Pistorius

The South African’s week was an emotional roller coast. After failing to qualify in the individual 400m final of the African Athletics Championships, he thought his chances of competing in the Olympics were lost. However, on July 4, his dream came true. He was selected for South Africa’s 4x400m relay team in London. This will make Pistorius the first double amputee runner ever at the Olympic games. However, the controversy surrounding Pistoriuswill continue to follow him up to the games in London. He was ruled ineligible to compete against “able-bodied athletes” in 2008, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport eventually overturned that decision. The “blades” that he uses during competition make him an easy target for scrutiny. The futuristic design of the prosthetics is mentally jarring and looks as if he must have some sort of “competitive advantage” against other athletes. Sally Jenkins takes an interesting stand on the issue in an opinion column for the Washington Post. She asks, “Why are we always trying to police the methods of athletes? What is at the root of the concern that they might do something unnatural or artificial? Maybe it’s that elite athletes are a reproach to our averageness, and, more importantly, our average habits. They are creatures of extreme practices, stresses and obsessions; they seek marginal improvements in hundredths through all sorts of artificialities, hypoxic chambers, wind tunnels, high tech fabrics, and extreme diets.” Whether or not you agree with Jenkins’ take, or the fact that Pistorius will be allowed to compete in the Olympics, the discussion is an important one to have. Sports have the uncanny ability of bringing issues of class, race, gender, politics, etc. to a broader global discussion. The debate over Oscar Pistorius has once again done just that.

Mario Balotelli

Over the weekend, NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday had a report on how Mario Balotelli’s success at the Euro 2012 is challenging what a “typical” Italian looks like. In the piece, the reporter Sylvia Poggioli speculates, “Could some of those fans now celebrating Balotelli have been the same who had long taunted him with racist slurs?” The three-minute and forty-five second report is definitely worth your time.

USA Women’s Water Polo

The U.S. women’s water polo team swept a four-game series against Hungary on Sunday. The Americans defeated the Hungarian National Team 9-4 in a game that was shown on NBC. This was the final game that the women will play before their July 30 opener against the same Hungarian squad at the Olympics. London will be another opportunity for the American women to finally achieve a gold medal. Since the introduction of women’s water polo at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, the U.S. team has finished with the silver medal twice, and the bronze medal once. However, in London they once again have what it takes to win it all and their recent performances against the Hungarians signal that they may finally have what it takes to finish on top.

USA Men’s Water Polo

Check out a recent article from the Associated Press about the men’s water polo team going into London. Four-time Olympians Ryan Bailey and Tony Azevedo are going for what could be their last chance at a gold medal. The Americans won the silver medal in the 2008 games in Beijing, but this time the U.S. won’t have the luxury of being a surprise team at the games.

Jul 7, 2012
Mike Silver

MLB First-Half Disappointments by Ian Massey

Vernon Wells is more valuable on the disabled list than in left field, Carlos Pena has more K’s than the Kardashians…

By Ian Massey

Disappointment stems from unfulfilled expectations. For a Major League Baseball player, several factors can result in a slump. Some players struggle through nagging injuries, refusing to hit the disabled list, but paying the price for it in the form of production. For Albert Pujols, it was a different case. Attempting to validate his worth after signing a lucrative ten year contract, Pujols hovered around a .200 batting average without hitting a home run in his first month as an Angel. When reporters asked Pujols if he was frustrated on May 2, he fired back.

“Frustrated — I don’t use that word,” Pujols said to reporters. “This is the big leagues. Every time I come to the clubhouse, I’m proud to wear this uniform. I’m blessed.”

Eventually Pujols broke out of his funk. 83 games in, Pujols has hit 13 home runs and upped his season average to .270. Far from an MVP candidate, Pujols has gone from an April disappointment to a constant contributor for the American League Wild Card leading Angels. Others haven’t been so fortunate, though. The following is a compilation of the most disappointing players in MLB at the All-Star break.

All-Disappointment Team:

DH – Luke Scott (Rays), AVG: .194, OBP: .252, 9 HR, 36 RBI

Scott is in need of a Susan Sarandon sized slump buster. Since June 1, the Rays’ designated hitter has collected one hit in 44 at-bats, ending a streak on July 6 of 41 straight at-bats without a hit. Not since Skywalker has a Luke been so patronized; opposing pitchers have been showing Luke who’s his daddy. Snap out of it, Luke!

1B – Carlos Pena (Rays), AVG: .200, 13 HR, 36 RBI, 106 K

Sensing a trend? Another Tampa Bay Ray has holes in his bat. After April, Albert Pujols seemed to be a lock at first base, but Pena has been consistently bad in 2012. It’s a huge feat to upstage Adam Dunn, but Pena has done so. He and Dunn have more K’s than the Kardashians.

2B – Rickie Weeks (Brewers), AVG: .194, OBP: .311, 6 HR, 26 RBI

For Weeks, it’s been a struggle. The Brewers’ second baseman had a career year in 2010, belting 29 home runs and driving in 83 runs, while hitting .269. Last season, Weeks hit .269 again, but his run production dropped dramatically – driving in just 49 runs in 118 games. The declining trend has continued in 2012 as Weeks has collected just 55 hits in 78 games. With Prince Fielder now in Detroit, the Brew crew ranks fourth in the National League Central in 2012. Without Fielder’s protection, Weeks continues to disappoint Milwaukee.

 

 

 

SS – Dee Gordon (Dodgers), AVG:  .229 avg, 30 SB, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 17 errors

Gordon is on pace to steal 60 stolen bases, but his plate production is weak and he’s a liability in the infield. Los Angeles has missed Rafael Furcal this year. Without Matt Kemp in centerfield for several weeks, Gordon and the rest of the Dodgers lineup has struggled mightily and might not recover in 2012.

3B – Hanley Ramirez (Marlins), AVG:  .252, OBP: .327, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 10 SB

Three years removed from hitting .342 with a .410 on-base percentage, 24 home runs, 106 RBI, and 27 stolen bases, Ramirez had decent power production in the first half, but is a shadow of what he used to be. Ramirez deserves some credit for shifting from shortstop to the hot corner this season, but the 28-year-old who was once traded for Josh Beckett in his prime, is one of the main reasons why the Miami Marlins currently rank 25th in the MLB in runs.

C – Mike Napoli (Rangers), AVG:  .230, OBP: .335, 12 HR, 30 RBI

Napoli hit a home run every 12.3 at-bats in 2011, with an RBI every five at-bats. In 2012, Napoli is hitting a home run every 19 at-bats, and is driving in a run every 8 at-bats. His average has dipped from .320 in 2011 to .233 in his first 71 games of 2012. After being traded along with Juan Rivera from the Angels for Vernon Wells prior to the 2011 season, Napoli was then shipped to Arlington. Napoli ignited last year, leading the Rangers to a second straight American League Championship, but has been Luke Scott warm ever since former Ranger and current Angels southpaw C.J. Wilson tweeted out Napoli’s phone number, and started a war of words in March.

LF – Delmon Young (Tigers), AVG: .268, OBP: .296, SLG: .389, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 58 K, 0 SB

Delmon Young has fallen out of relevancy since knocking in 112 runs, smacking 21 home runs, and batting .298 in 2010. Arrested for a hate crime in New York City on April 27, Young’s wayward career hit an all-time low this season. Young was suspended seven days without pay for yelling anti-Semitic slurs while intoxicated in the Big Apple.

CF – Cameron Maybin (Padres), AVG: .211, OBP: .288, SLG: .307, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 16 SB

In all fairness, Cameron Maybin plays his home games in Petco Park. Despite hitting the longest home run of any major leaguer in 2012 – blasting a shot 485 feet to dead center at Chase Field in Arizona on July 2 – Maybin’s production has been atrocious on an equally atrocious Padres ballclub.

RF – Justin Upton (Diamondbacks), AVG: .267, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 73 K, 10 SB

On the bright side: Upton led all MLB outfielders with 13 errors in 2011, but has improved considerably in 2012 – committing just three errors in 76 games. An All-Star in 2011, Upton was primed for a breakout season at the plate this season. The former No. 1 overall selection in the 2005 draft, Upton was touted as a five-tool player, and has been hyped up since debuting with the big club at age 19. Upton hit .289 with 31 home runs and 88 RBI in 2011. The 24-year-old should bounce back with a strong second half. With the Diamondbacks six games back in the National League West, Upton’s improved production could be the key to the team’s playoff hopes.

 

 

SP – Tim Lincecum (Giants), 3-9, 6.08 ERA, 1.55 WHIP

Who would have predicted that Barry Zito would have three more wins than Tiny Tim at the halfway point of the season? Lincecum has given up 2.22 more runs per nine innings than Zito – once the laughingstock of San Francisco’s rotation. In his first five seasons in the league, Lincecum maintained an impressive 69-41 record. Once dominant, Lincecum has been wild and hittable in 2012. If Lincecum’s velocity and control return in the second half, look for the Giants to pull away with the National League West.

RP – Heath Bell (Marlins), 2-4, 6.09 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 19 SAVES, 5 BS

Dominant in San Diego the past few seasons, a new contract and a new team haven’t boded well for Heath Bell. Having blown five saves with the Marlins in 2012, Bell has been shelled by opposing hitters. Bell recorded 42, 47 and 43 saves in the past three seasons with the Padres, boasting a 2.36 ERA over that span. The right-hander hasn’t been his jovial self in 2012. Look for Bell to shake off the slow start in an attempt to prove that he’s worthy of a new three year, $27 million contract.

Wally Pipp Award – Vernon Wells (Angels), AVG: .244, OBP: .282, 6 HR, 12 RBI

Congratulations, Vernon Wells, you’ve just won the backhanded compliment of the year! On June 2, 1925, Lou Gehrig replaced Wally Pipp as the first baseman for the New York Yankees. Some legends have it that Pipp sat out with a headache, while others say that manager Miller Huggins was shaking up the lineup by giving the youngster a chance. Whatever the case, Gehrig went on to start 2,130 consecutive games, hitting .340, winning six World Series rings, and making seven All-Star teams throughout his career.

Vernon Wells is this year’s Wally Pipp, paving the way for the hottest player in baseball, Mike Trout, to start regularly for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Earning – well, receiving – $21 million in 2012, Wells went down with a torn ligament in his right thumb on May 20. Prior to the injury, Wells had hit six home runs and plated 12 runs in 38 games. Wells’ biggest contribution to the Angels this season has been his long stint on the disabled list. With Wells on the roster, the Angels are 18-24, without him, they’re 28-13. If there’s ever been a guy worth paying $21 million to collect ass splinters, it’s Wells. With Mark Trumbo tearing the cover off the ball and playing left field, Trout securing Rookie of the Year honors in center, and Torii Hunter as the heart and soul of the Halos in right, there’s no need for Wells to rush back. Wells’ .218 batting average and .244 on-base percentage made him a liability in 2011, and he’ll be a liability once again, whenever he returns. Hopefully, for the Angels, Wells returns later rather than sooner.

 

 

Jul 6, 2012
Mike Silver

ON THE FRINGE by Stephen Hobbs

IFAB Approves Goal-Line Technology

July 5 – The International Football Association Board (IFAB) unanimously approved two separate goal-line technologies for future use. This decision may finally open the door for change in the sport. The two systems, Hawk-Eye and GoalRef, will be implemented at the FIFA Club World Cup in December. If the evaluations of the systems are positive goal-line technology could eventually be used at the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup. According to the BBC the door is also now open for the Premier League to use the technology “midway through the 2012-13 season.” The decision today sends a message to UEFA’s President Michel Platini. Hopefully Platini will be more open to the use of goal-line technology at UEFA-sponsored events, instead of relying solely on the addition of a referee at the goal line. Viewers of the match between England and Ukraine realize that this still is an imperfect system. However, UEFA’s handling of the racist behavior of fans at the Euro 2012 is telling. The European soccer federation does not have a problem with lagging excruciatingly behind the times.

Women in Soccer

Another item that was approved by the IFAB with much less fanfare was the lifting of the ban on women wearing headscarves during games. Before Thursday’s vote, “players were prevented from wearing a headscarf, or hijab, at the sport’s highest level for safety reasons and on religious grounds.” This will hopefully be a positive change going forward for soccer. The international leaders in charge of governing sporting associations are hardly the most progressive on social and technological issues. However, both decisions today signify that the leaders are willing to make a change.

Intercollegiate Athletics and the Olympics

Per the previous “On the Fringe” — titled The Current Reality of College Athleticscutting “non-revenue” sports also has a much larger consequence. As Liz Clarke of the Washington Post reported, the “retreat from higher education’s traditional model of offering a broad array of sports stands to undercut the nation’s Olympic prospects in the future.” The reality is that sports — such as swimming, gymnastics, water polo, and track and field — that are more widely viewed and enjoyed during the Olympics, rarely receive the same attention outside of an Olympic year. Part of the onus falls on the smaller sports, who need to find ways to be self-sufficient – with endowments, fundraisers and better money management. However, schools also must also take a more balanced approach of managing their budgets than just simply cutting the “lesser-know” sports. Our future in the Olympics depends on it.

 

 

Jul 3, 2012
Mike Silver

ON THE FRINGE by Stephen Hobbs

The Current Reality of College Athletics

July 3—Austerity is a word that is used commonly in our current political and economic situation. The United States and other countries around the world are looking for ways to balance their budgets and prevent another global economic recession. The cost-cutting measures have extended to the local level. State and local government are slashing funds for popular departments and programs to address their fiscal challenges. These cuts have had a ripple effect on many different levels of society. One of these areas is intercollegiate athletics.

Take for example the University of California. In September of 2010, Cal’s athletic director Sandy Barbour and UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau announced that it would cut baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics, and women’s lacrosse from “intercollegiate competition” and the school’s rugby program would become a varsity club sport. The Cal fans responded in force by donating to help keep the teams. By February of 2011, three teams had been reinstated – men’s rugby, women’s lacrosse, and women’s gymnastics. By May, the status of the men’s gymnastics team had been restored and by June, during an inspired run to the College World Series, the Cal baseball team was “officially reinstated” by the University. The response by donors and fans of the sports helped salvage their futures. However, a New York Times article also identified issues with Title IX, which may have helped force the University to reinstate the teams. Either way, a major blow to the University’s athletic department was averted. However, the reinstatement of teams destined for elimination at Cal may prove to be an anomaly.

Flash forward to yesterday.

The University of Maryland officially announced that it would go through with the cutting of seven teams. In November, the University had stated that it would cut eight varsity athletic teams based on the recommendations of the “athletic commission” of Maryland’s President Wallace Loh. Men’s and women’s swimming, men’s tennis, women’s water polo, men’s cross-country, men’s indoor track and field, and the acrobatics and tumbling team – formerly known as competitive cheer – were cut. Men’s outdoor track was the only team that survived for the time being. The program was able to raise almost $900,000, however according to the Washington Post, the team must “still collect $1.88 million by Dec. 31 to ensure the program’s survival for 2013-14.”

The argument for cutting athletic programs to trim budgets is understandable. Universities across the country are not able to sustainably support so many athletic programs. Also, small sports like gymnastics, water polo, swimming, track and field, cross country, etc. are easy targets. Basketball and football bring more prominence – in TV contracts, ticket sales, and national exposure – than the other “low profile” sports.

However, there should be no “sacred cows” in intercollegiate athletics. Football programs on average do not generate enough money to sustain themselves or even other teams. For example, according to an analysis by the NCAA, released in Aug. of 2010, “between 50 and 60 percent of FBS (Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision) football and men’s basketball programs have reported surpluses for each of the last six years, a percentage that has been relatively stable. Still, that means almost half of the subdivision’s so-called “revenue sports” don’t cover their own expenses, let alone pay for the non-revenue programs.” The release from the NCAA does acknowledge the fact that the numbers may be based on the economic recession or a greater overall problem and only the future time will reveal the answer. That being said, the information reveals that football and basketball programs may not be as successful financially as previously thought. Hopefully, the next University that wishes to trim money from its athletic budgets will consider putting all of the sports on the table.

Jul 2, 2012
Mike Silver

Is Mike Trout the next Mickey? Rickey? by Ian Massey

Some call him the next Mickey Mantle or Rickey Henderson, but rookie outfielder Mike Trout’s statistics are most comparable to a man who debuted in 1970 at 19 years old, while drawing Willie Mays comparisons.

By Ian Massey

Everyone and their Shih Tzu has seen the highlight reel catch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgZZpj8gPcw&sns=tw) of 20-year-old Angels centerfielder Mike Trout nearly hurdling the outfield wall at Camden Yards in Baltimore this past week.

Many expected 19-year-old Bryce Harper to blossom into the LeBron James of baseball in 2012, but Mike Trout has outshined boy wonder. Harper has eight home runs, with a .274 average, 22 RBI and eight stolen bases in his first 57 games in the majors. Trout is hitting .339 with nine home runs, 33 RBI and 22 stolen bases in as many games, leading the American League in batting average. The Washington Nationals’ rookie, Harper, certainly hasn’t disappointed, but not even he could top what Mike Trout is doing in Anaheim this season. On July 1, Trout became just the 20th player in history to be selected as an All-Star before age 21.

After hitting .220 with five home runs in 40 games in 2011, Trout started the season in AAA Salt Lake. As Albert Pujols was off to the roughest start of his professional career and the Halos dipped from World Series favorites to left-for-dead within one month of the 2012 season’s commencement, Trout was waiting for his chance to shine.

The Angels were 6-14 on April 28, when they called the phenom up to be their leadoff man. Since then, the Angels are 38-21.Back in the hunt in the AL West and leading the wild card race, the Angels can attribute the turnaround to a spark plug who has been compared to Mickey Mantle and Rickey Henderson, just two months after riding the bus as a member of the Salt Lake Bees.

Trout simply has the “it factor.” He runs the bases like Jose Reyes in his prime. He hits for average like a Tony Gwynn on Weight Watchers, and he tracks flyballs like Torii Hunter on speed.

On June 22 against the Dodgers, Trout was on first with catcher Bobby Wilson on second in the bottom of the sixth inning. Up stepped Torii Hunter to face Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley. With a 6-5 Angels lead, Trout and Wilson took off on a double steal. Halfway to second base, Trout was on his horse as Hunter lined a shot into right field. Trout hit the inside corner of the bag, taking third, but didn’t stop there. As Hunter strolled in for a routine single, Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier came up firing to the plate, but it was too late. Trout scored from first on a routine base hit that was fielded cleanly.

After the game, Hunter said that he was fortunate that Trout was on first base and not sluggish designated hitter Kendrys Morales.

“Trout is like my little brother,” Hunter told reporters after the game. “He’s my best friend, so I’m really excited that he did that for me – giving me that extra RBI – and I’m going to take him to McDonald’s.”

Whether it has been Jim Edmonds, Darin Erstad or Hunter, the Angels are no strangers to fleet-footed outfielders robbing home runs, and treating the outfield lawn as their personal slip-and-slides, but Trout brings more excitement and tools to the table than Angels of the past.

19 years ago, Trout was learning to talk while Tim Salmon was becoming the Angels’ first Rookie of the Year recipient in franchise history. The one they call Mr. Angel, Salmon – a notorious slow starter – never made an All-Star game appearance. Trout has already topped his fishy predecessor with his first All-Star appearance scheduled for July 10.

The Angels hooked Salmon, reeled him in, and were fortunate enough to have the King Fish retire as an Angel in 2006 with a franchise record 299 career home runs. When Trout’s career is said and done, if he’s played 15 seasons averaging 22 home runs, he’d retire with 330 home runs. And that’s modest! The kid can’t even buy his teammates a round of beers yet, but he’s on pace for approximately 22 home runs, 81 RBI, 54 stolen bases, and 196 hits in a month shortened rookie season.

Currently hitting .339, a healthy estimate would be a .315 average at season’s end. If Trout played until 38 years old, averaging 25 home runs, he could end up with 450 big flies. On pace for 54 stolen bases in 2012, Trout could average 40 swiped bags for 18 seasons to become just the 11th player in history to steal 700 bases. Again, this is all based on the rookie’s first 57 games in 2012, but guess how many players in history have ever stolen 700 bases and hit 400 home runs? Zero!

While Trout’s ticket to Cooperstown is far from being punched, if there’s anyone who could compile 400 home runs and 700 stolen bases – it’s him. When a 20-year-old has virtually locked up AL Rookie of the Year award before the All-Star break, and is in contention for a Most Valuable Player award, there’s something special there. Forget nerves or adjusting to the game, he’s giving pitchers headaches and making them adjust to him.

As for the Mickey Mantle and Rickey Henderson comparisons – well, Mantle hit 535 home runs with a .298 average and just 153 stolen bases. Trout is much faster, swiping 22 of 25 bases this season, but lacks Mantle’s power. If he remains a leadoff man for years, expect Trout to lead the league in hits, rather than competing for home run titles. 535 home runs is just a bit much for Trout – unless he plays until age 45. Mickey Mantle? That’s a long shot.

Rickey Henderson hit .279 with 297 career home runs, both of which Trout should surpass if he lives up to the hype. But no baseball player will likely ever surpass Henderson’s 1406 career stolen bases. Rickey used to steal second base up by 10 runs in the ninth inning, and then third base for good measure. Trout isn’t bush league and will likely never even come close to Henderson’s 130 stolen bases in 1982. Trouty is the next Rickey? Not so fast.

You could call him the next Torii Hunter, a nine-time gold glove award recipient with approximately 20 home runs a season in 14 years in the big leagues, but Trout trumps Hunter on the basepath and in terms of efficiency at the dish. Hunter has just 181 stolen bases in his career; Trout should reach that number by 2015, if not sooner. The 20-year-old already has 26 stolen bases in 96 career games. Hunter is a .274 career hitter with a .333 on-base-percentage. While the sample size is small, Trout is hitting .339 with a .395 on-base-percentage in his rookie campaign. Imagine what he’ll do in his prime at 27 years old: 40 home runs? 80 stolen bases? .380 batting average? Maybe not all at once, but any of those feats are doable for the Angels’ rookie leadoff man.

So if it’s not Mickey or Minnie, or Rickey or Lucy, who can we compare young Mike Trout to? In terms of career statistic predictions … nobody. It all depends on the kid’s ability to stay healthy and humble. 162 games can wear down the fittest of players. A $200 million contract can lead to complacency or pressure. A torn ACL could rob him of prime years. You never know in the big leagues. But if Trout is a long ways away from peaking, there’s no telling what he could do. No baseball player has ever hit 400 home runs, hit .300, and stolen 700 bases – Trout just might.

If you’re looking for someone to relate Trout to in the short-term, you’ll have to go back 40 years to 1972 for the best comparison. In 1972, Houston Astros outfielder Cesar Cedeno was in his third season. Like Trout, he started his MLB career at 19. Cedeno was referred to as “The Next Willie Mays.” If Trout doesn’t miss another game for the rest of the season, he’ll play 140 games. He’s on pace for 22 home runs, 81 RBI, and 54 stolen bases. In 1972, Cedeno played 139 games, hitting .320 with 22 home runs, 82 RBI, and 55 stolen bases. Spooky, huh?

Whatever happened to Cedeno? He hit .285, but he was batting 1.000 when it came to hitting mistresses. Ending his career with 199 career home runs, Cedeno stole 550 bases in a career that was haunted by arrests, domestic disputes, and entitlement. He played the game aggressively, like Trout, but it often led to nagging injuries. Off the field, he was charged with assault multiple times, breaking a glass over a man’s head in a bar fight. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter after wrestling his girlfriend for a gun, which fired and killed the woman in 1973 – Cedeno was married at the time. He later attacked another girlfriend in 1988, and was charged with assault and resisting arrest (Note: the Trout and Cedeno comparisons are based on statistics, not citizenship).

Whether it’s running in from centerfield after robbing a home run, dusting his uniform off after swiping a base, or answering questions in a postgame interview, Trout always has a bouncy body language, and a prominent smile. The New Jersey native likely won’t be a liability off the field – a la Cedeno.

If Trout stays healthy, stays consistent, and stays faithful, he just might become the ultimate measuring stick for future generations of phenoms. With Vernon Wells’ contract coming off the books for the Angels at the end of 2014, owner Arte Moreno and company must re-sign Trout before he hits the free agent market. The catch and release policy shouldn’t apply to a Trout. The Halos desperately need to hang on to the future of their franchise. After all, Seattle Mariners left fielder Mike Carp, San Diego Padres pitcher Anthony Bass, and Atlanta Braves reliever Robert Fish couldn’t replace Mike Trout – he’s a keeper

Jul 2, 2012
Mike Silver

ON THE FRINGE by Stephen Hobbs

Euro 2012

July 2– Spain dominated Italy 4-0 in the final of the Euro 2012 tournament and won an unprecedented second-straight Euro tournament and also a third-straight major tournament. The Spanish won the 2008 European Championship, the 2010 World Cup and now the 2012 European Championship. Finally the attention can turn to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Will Spain be able to repeat as the World Cup champion? Will FIFA learn from UEFA’s handling of the racist actions of fans at the Euro 2012 tournament?

More News From the Pitch

UEFA has done it again. The body that oversees European soccer has asked for a delay on a decision to approve goal-line technology. FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter said that the technology was “no longer an alternative but a necessity” at the World Cup in Brazil. However, UEFA’s president and secretary general are not convinced. UEFA’s president Michel Platini said in response to a reporter’s question on the technology, “Are you sure that it works? … No one today has seen the trials. I’m against technology itself because then it’s just going to invade every single area of football.” Platini’s argument is valid but once again is an example of the organization’s urge to stay rooted in the past. Besides, UEFA has many more pressing issues on its plate: reports coming out of the Euro 2012 tournament suggest that UEFA “manipulated” live coverage of the semi-final match between Germany and Italy. Also, UEFA’s handling of the racism at the tournament was questionable. As Kris Voakes concludes in his article for goal.com titled Disproportionate punishments undermine UEFA’s new hard-line disciplinary stance, “UEFA clearly still has a lot to learn.”

U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials

Natalie Coughlin

For Natalie Coughlin, the road to the 2012 London Olympics was anything but easy. After failing to qualify for the team after the 100-meter backstroke and butterfly, Coughlin had one final race make the roster. She needed to finish in the top-six of the 100-meter freestyle race to make the 4×100 relay team. Coughlin finished in sixth and punched her ticket to London. The 29-year-old, who will be competing in her third Olympics, has 11 career Olympic medals.

Anthony Ervin

What a comeback for Anthony Ervin. The co-Olympic Gold medalist in the 50-meter freestyle in the 2000 Sydney Olympics will be in the pool for an Olympic Games once again. Ervin capped off an incredible comeback to the sport after he stopped swimming at the age of 22. The U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials will wrap up tonight from Omaha.

Jun 30, 2012
Mike Silver

ON THE FRINGE by Stephen Hobbs

On the Fringe by Stephen Hobbs

 

More fines handed out for fan misconduct

June 29—On Thursday, UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Body announced fines of €20,000 ($25,000) for the Spanish soccer association and €30,000 ($37,000) for the Russian soccer federation for “improper conduct of its fans (racist behavior, racist chanting). This completed the process of “disciplinary proceedings” that began on Tuesday. The biggest concern that I have is how the sport will move forward. With the spotlight of the European Championships leaving Ukraine and Poland, the culture seems unlikely to change. Also, the behavior of the fans from all different countries is truly unfortunate. Coming into the tournament, the focus was on the problems of racism in the two host countries, however, fans from countries like Croatia, Russia and Spain have also participated in racist activity. The Euro 2012 tournament has shown that the tradition of racism in the sport is an issue that stretches beyond national borders.

Women and sports

Saudi Arabia

For the first time in history, Saudi Arabia will allow women to compete in the Olympics. Before the decision, there had been talk that the Saudi team would be disqualified for the games on the basis of gender discrimination. Unfortunately, the countries only likely participant, show jumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas, won’t be able to compete because her horse is injured. The “subtle reform” is a step in the right direction for the country, which is hardened by strong conservative religious values. Fortunately, the Olympics are an opportunity to bring these issues to an international stage, as the games are never disconnected from global politics. Hopefully these reforms will last.

Title IX

The 40th anniversary of Title IX was celebrated last Saturday, June 23, and it initiated many different discussions about the law. Most importantly it signified how much has changed in 40 years and what more still needs to be done. Here are just a few of the opinions of the overall evaluation of Title IX. In no way is it a complete picture, but it is an opportunity to bring about a more holistic discussion of the complex law.

Kenneth L. Shropshire sheds an interesting light on Title IX in an article for the Huffington Post. In one of his paragraphs he describes the wording of the law: “Title IX is just 37 words long. The impact of those words has been more than could have been imagined, even though there remains so much more to do. ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.’ Ironically there is not a specific mention of sport. The law is, appropriately, limited to the United States. But the spirit of the law is needed globally.”

Another of the major talking points surrounding the law is its influence on men’s sports. Gloria Goodale wrote an article, for the Christian Science Monitor, on this issue.

William Rhoden of the New York Times commented on the inequality between white and black women under Title IX.

Finally, the athletic director for the University of California, Sandy Barbour, who is one of the few female Division 1 athletic directors in the country, was interviewed about Title IX on Cal’s athletics website.

Jun 27, 2012
Mike Silver

ON THE FRINGE By Stephen Hobbs

Why do we doubt Michael Phelps?

June 28– Unfortunately for Ryan Lochte, no matter how good he is, he will always be compared to Michael Phelps. Although Phelps has said that he will retire after the 2012 Olympics, he is continuing to make huge statements in the pool.

On Wednesday, Phelps defeated Lochte in the final of the 200 freestyle, which was billed as the second showdown between the two swimmers, at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha. Phelps’ signature trait is his ability to find a way to win. Although Phelps did lose to Lochte in the 200 individual medley, in the first match-up between the pair at the Trials, he still qualified for the event. When the time comes for the two to face of in the 200 I.M. in London, don’t bet against Phelps. During his historic run to eight gold medals in 2008, he somehow found a way to beat Milorad Cavic by the slimmest of margins in the 100-meter butterfly. The race went down as one of the most unforgettable moments of the Beijing Olympics.

That being said, the competition between these two swimmers is outstanding for the sport. It has brought an expanded level of exposure to swimming and their rivalry will only fuel the fire of young athletes looking up to these two outstanding competitors.

So please, don’t let Phelps overshadow what Lochte has accomplished so far in his swimming career. The man is an outstanding swimmer. He already has six Olympic medals; three gold, one silver and two bronze. He just has had the unfortunate task of continuously trying to beat one of the greatest Olympians ever.

Pac-12 Network

The Pac-12 Network is going to do something exciting for fans of lesser-known college sports. Last week, the new network, which begins in August, released a schedule of field hockey, men’s water polo and cross country events that will be broadcast this fall. Although this may not excite fans across the country, this is perfect for a conference that prides itself on succeeding in every single collegiate sport. For example, take the recent release of the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup final standings for the 2011-2012 fall, winter and spring collegiate seasons. The Stanford Cardinal won the honor for the 18th consecutive season and the Pac-12 had three teams in the top-10 and six teams in the top-25. Stanford University finished first overall with 1448.25 total points. More than 100 points ahead of Florida, which finished in second with 1314 total points. UCLA finished in third place, Southern California in seventh, California in 11th, Arizona in 19th and Oregon finished in 24th.

Jun 27, 2012
Mike Silver

ON THE FRINGE by Stephen Hobbs

The Ugly Side of Sports: Racism at the Euro 2012 (Part Two):

June 27–Racism is once again a talking point at the 2012 European Championships on the eve of a semi-final match between Spain and Portugal.

On Tuesday, UEFA handed out fines for racist activity by spectators. German fans were seen displaying a neo-Nazi banner in the stands during a match against Denmark on Sunday, June 17 — UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Body announced the fine on Monday – and the German soccer association will now have to pay the $31,200 fine.

According to the Associated Press, “Germany has now been disciplined for fans’ behavior at all three Euro 2012 group-stage matches, and paid fines totaling $50,000.”

On Tuesday, UEFA handed out more fines for the “improper conduct” of fans during the tournament. The Croatian soccer league, which was already fined for an earlier incident, was cited for “incidents during their match with Spain – including the display of racist banners.” The match against Spain occurred on June 18. As Aleksandar Holiga of the Guardian argues, “The problem with Croatia’s nationalistic fans starts at the top.”

UEFA’s disciplinary body also announced that it would take action on two more incidents on Thursday, June 28.

The first case involves Spain’s soccer association “for the improper conduct of its supporters (racist behaviour, racist chanting) at the UEFA EURO 2012 Group C match against Italy in Gdansk on Sunday 10 June.”

The second case concerns Russia’s soccer federation “for the improper conduct of its fans (racist behaviour, racist chanting) at the UEFA EURO 2012 Group A game against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw on Friday 8 June.”

Racism is an issue that UEFA has tried to address but it is apparent that the problem is ingrained in the culture of the sport. In 2001, UEFA partnered with the Football Against Racism in Europe Network (FARE) to help control and eliminate the issue. However, it is obvious that a lot of work still has to be done and the discrimination of minority players, by spectators, will continue. A report by the BBC on the bouts of racism in the Euro 2012 host countries, Poland and Ukraine, shows why. UEFA must make progress on dealing with racism before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

U.S. Olympic Trials (Swimming)

Lochte vs. Phelps (Part Two)

Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps had another showdown in the pool on Tuesday. However, this time it was only a semi-final. Lochte defeated Phelps in the semi-finals of the 200 freestyle by .02 seconds. The pair finished first and second overall heading into tomorrow’s final.

Dana Vollmer

Cal product Dana Vollmer won the 100-meter butterfly and returns to the Olympics once again. Although she is only 24 years old, she is already competing in her fourth Olympic Trials. In 2000 she competed at the age of 12. In 2004 she qualified for the Athens Olympics, on a relay team, and she won a gold medal, “despite dealing with two heart conditions and recovering from a torn knee ligament.” In 2008 she was hampered by injuries and did not qualify. Her journey back to the Olympics is an incredible story.

Brendan Hansen

On Tuesday Brendan Hansen qualified for his third Olympics, capping off a long journey back to the sport. After the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Hansen retired. However, four years later he is back again. Hansen won the 100-meter breaststroke with the fourth-fastest time in the world this year.

Water Polo is the greatest sport in the World

Congratulations once again to Tony Azevedo and Ryan Bailey for making their fourth Olympic team yesterday. Both men are the first male water polo players in the history of USA Water Polo to compete in four different Olympics.

 

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