Column: Shohei Ohtani - Japan's Babe RuthApril 13, 2017

The Major League Baseball season got underway last week and stars such as Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw will spend the next six months burnishing their reputations as the best in the game. But perhaps the best player on the planet will not be wearing an MLB uniform this year. Twenty-two year old Shohei Ohtani plays in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), acknowledged as the worlds’ top league outside MLB. After one more season in Japan, Ohtani is expected to cross the Pacific, bringing his dual talents with him. That’s right. Ohtani, 6’4” and 215 pounds, pitches and hits well enough to be considered the Japanese equivalent of Babe Ruth. Whether his accomplishments in Japan will translate to this country remains to be seen. However, scouts, who are known to be fickle and critical by nature, gush over his talent.

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Column: Women's Hockey Team Wins On and Off IceApril 6, 2017

“Very united. Very strong. Persevering.” Those words were used by defender Gigi Marvin to describe the Women’s National Hockey team’s 2-0 win over the Canadians in the opening game of the Women’s World Championship. And who would disagree with her? The players were coming off a two-week standoff with USA Hockey, the governing body that oversees international hockey competition. Instead of practicing for the tournament, Marvin and her teammates announced on March 15 they would boycott the tournament unless they received a new contract. Negotiations on a new compensation package began some 15 months earlier but little progress had been made until the women took a firm stand: Pay us or we won’t play. In the end, the hockey federation blinked first.

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Column: The World's Greatest Leader...Theo EpsteinMarch 30, 2017

When we think of a great leader, our search may instinctively turn to business or government. Fortune magazine, which publishes an annual list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, includes individuals from two additional categories: philanthropy and “beyond.” This year, Fortune turned to the beyond category and selected Theo Epstein as the World’s Greatest Leader. For those of you who need an introduction, Epstein is the president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs, who ended their 108-year World Series drought last fall. If that doesn’t sound like an accomplishment worthy enough to head the greatest leaders list, Epstein’s resume also includes ending the Boston Red Sox’ 86-year World Series drought in 2004. The Red Sox proceeded to win another title in 2007 and Epstein’s fingerprints were all over the team’s 2013 World Series title even though he left Boston for Chicago after the 2011 season.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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