Column: Cuban Smuggling Case A Stain On MLBMarch 23, 2017

While most baseball fans have been focusing on the excitement of spring training in Florida and Arizona, or the emotion of the World Baseball Classic being played around the globe, a seamy side of the sport was being detailed in a Miami courtroom. For six weeks, Cuban players and other government witnesses testified about a smuggling network that starts in Cuba, goes through Haiti, Mexico and other countries, and ultimately delivers MLB some of its top talent. Last week a federal jury convicted agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada of human trafficking. Hernandez is facing 3-15 years in prison while Estrada faces between 5-35 years at their sentencing on July 11.

Read more

Column: NIKE Shoe Much Ado About NothingMarch 16, 2017

Sports are about human participation but there’s no denying that technology has an impact on performance. Is there a point where technology gives some performers an unfair advantage and creates artificial outcomes? That’s an endless debate, one that is currently underway in running circles. In the past nine months, runners using the latest shoe designs from Nike have produced impressive results in international races. Nike shoes were worn by all three medalists in the men’s marathon at last summer’s Olympics. In the fall, Nikes were worn by the winners of major marathons around the globe, including Berlin, Chicago and New York. Recently, Nike unveiled a customized version of those shoes as part of the company’s goal to see a sub two-hour marathon, a campaign dubbed the “Breaking2” project.

Read more

Column: An MLB Pace-of-Play Idea With Universal AppealMarch 9, 2017

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has finally proposed an idea that every baseball fan can embrace: reducing commercial time during games. Since he became commissioner in 2014 Manfred has been on a crusade he has dubbed “pace-of-play,” which has been interpreted as a reduction in game times. To that end, in the past two years MLB has enacted a number of rules, including forcing players to remain in the batting box during their at bats - subject to exceptions - requiring pitchers to finish their warmup throws so they are ready to pitch immediately at the end of commercial breaks and encouraging umpires to enforce the strike zone. This year, intentional walks will no longer require the pitcher to throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. On a signal from the manager, the batter will automatically be awarded first base.

Read more

Column: NASCAR's Big ChangesMarch 2, 2017

NASCAR began its 2017 season on Sunday in the traditional way, with the Daytona 500. But if you ask the sport’s most loyal fans, that’s about all the tradition that remains. One of the most visible changes to the Cup series - stock car racing’s highest level - is a new sponsor, Monster Energy, which is famous for edgy marketing. After an exhibition race the week before the 500, the Monster Girls were seen parading in victory lane wearing skimpy leather outfits, leaving little to the imagination. Offended fans took to social media to accuse them of looking like hookers – or worse. Appropriate or not, sex has long been one of the pillars of NASCAR’s marketing efforts along with booze and patriotism.

Read more

Column: Knicks Most Valuable & Most Dysfunctional NBA TeamFebruary 23, 2017

The New York Knicks are the most valuable team in the NBA, worth $3.3 billion according to Forbes’ latest estimate. They’re also the most dysfunctional team in the league, if not all of professional sports. Most dysfunctional is a difficult low bar to reach, considering that the competition includes MLB’s Miami Marlins and the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. While other teams have given the Knicks a run for their dubious title over the years, New York has earned its reputation as the team at the bottom of the heap. The Knicks are a bumbling, incompetent franchise. They have gone nowhere for the better part of two decades – only one playoff series victory in 17 years – and are heading nowhere but down in the foreseeable future. The team lost 50 games last year and has a good chance of duplicating that inglorious record this year having lost 24 of their last 33 games prior to the All-Star Game.

Read more

Column: MLB Serves Up... SoftballFebruary 16, 2017

As owner of the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics from 1960-80, Charles O. Finley had more creative ideas than all his fellow owners combined. He outfitted his teams in colorful uniforms and tried to convince his fellow owners to adopt orange baseballs and bases. Finley was roundly criticized by fans, media and players for confusing baseball with softball. Decades later, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is impersonating Finley. In an effort to speed up the game and save pitchers’ arms, MLB plans to test a rule change this season in the Minors that would place a runner on second base at the start of each extra inning. Different rules for extra innings are not without precedent. A similar rule has been used in international baseball for nearly a decade and will be implemented in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Putting a runner on second for extra innings has also been used in softball.

Read more

Column: Cyber-attacks Exist In Sports TooFebruary 9, 2017

Cyber-attacks have become all too common in the United States. Millions of Americans have been victims of identity theft after their personal information was accessed. The most frequent targets of criminals are databases of financial institutions, hospitals and retail outlets, although Ashley Madison also comes to mind. Unfortunately, the sports world is not immune from such illegal activity. Last week MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a decision in a hacking case involving the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros. St. Louis was ordered to forfeit two second round draft picks in this year’s draft, numbers 56 and 75 overall and pay $2 million to the Astros.

Read more

Column: NFL Parity Is A MythFebruary 2, 2017

The NFL loves to portray itself as the league with the most parity. On any given Sunday – which in reality is now Monday, Thursday and, depending on the time of the year, Saturday – any team can win. Of course, that’s true. Upsets in sports have existed as long sports itself which dates back to at least ancient Greece. But cream always rises to the top. In the NFL, that means the teams that end up in the playoffs year after year have familiar names: New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Green Bay Packers. Are there commonalities among the three teams that other teams should emulate? You bet there are.

Read more

Column: Hall of Fame Voting Falls ShortJanuary 26, 2017

The highly anticipated and always controversial voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame is in the books for another year. Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) elected three players – Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Pudge Rodriguez – for enshrinement in the Hall’s plaque room. But it’s who wasn’t elected that drew the most attention. Barry Bonds, the greatest hitter of his generation and arguably the third greatest hitter of all time behind only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, remains on the outside looking in. Ditto for Roger Clemens, winner of seven Cy Young awards and perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time. While both men increased their vote total substantially in their fifth year on the ballot, they still fell 20 points shy of the 75% required for election to the Hall. With five years remaining on the ballot, unless the Hall’s Board of Directors or MLB change the rules of eligibility to exclude them, it is expected that both players will take their rightful place among the all-time greats in Cooperstown.

Read more

Column: Chargers Flee San Diego For LaLa LandJanuary 19, 2017

The lessons I learned from my grandfather have stuck with me. One in particular came to mind when I read the announcement by San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos that the team would dessert a loyal fan base in San Diego for Los Angeles. Maine was once home to a number of smelly, toxic-spewing paper mills. One day as my grandfather and I were traveling through a mill town I made an unflattering comment about the putrid stench. My grandfather opined that the workers in the mill were able to support their families with their hard-earned paychecks and to them, the money didn’t smell. He counseled me that money is money, regardless of where it comes from, a fact that also applies to the Chargers’ move.

Read more
Next Page