Breaking Down The 2013 HR Derby

The All-Star break is right around the corner and will be hosted at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. This week the captains were named for the 2013 HR Derby. They were David Wright for the NL and Robinson Cano for the AL. I believe it’s kind of funny that Cano is the captain considering he hit a big goose egg in last year’s competition. I suppose they wanted to do the whole New York vs. New York with picking these two.

This may be one of the least successful HR Derby’s to date. Citi Field is known as a pitchers ballpark and the stats really back it up since it open in 2009.

2009 – 158 HRs – 8th in MLB
2010 – 135 HRs – 6th in MLB
2011 – 147 HRs – 13th in MLB
2012 – 161 HRs – 13th in MLB
2013 – 59 HRs – 5th in the MLB(through 06/19)

So as you can see, it will be interesting how some of the players fare in this year’s derby. We might be in line for an uneventful derby if the stats hold true.

Now to get to whom I think Cano/Wright & the fans should pick for their teams.

Here are the choices the fans have to choose from. (There is a write-in option as well)

AL – Bautista, Beltre, Cabrera, Cano, Dunn, Fielder, Hamilton, Jones, Longoria & Trout
NL – Beltran, Braun, Harper, Heyward, Kemp, McCutchen, Posey, Stanton, Votto & Wright

First off, whoever nominated these players should be fired. You’ve got guys on this list injured as well as guys who are playing just terrible this season. AND WHERE IS DOMONIC BROWN????? Well fans, look no further than my list of players below. You may have to write some of them in, but these are the guys that DESERVE to be playing in the HR Derby this year.

AL – Obvious choice for the team is Miguel Cabrera, who appeared for the Marlins in 2006 (finished 3rd) and in 2010 for the Tigers (finished 4th). I do not see him appearing for the AL this season though.

Then there is 2-time winner and reigning champ Prince Fielder, who I think is more likely to be on the team. This would be his 4th appearance and he currently has 12 HR’s & 54 RBI’s this season. Of course the champ has to defend his title!

The easiest choice of them all? Chris Davis, who is on an unbelievable tear that no one saw coming. Davis currently leads the majors with 25 HR’s, and is 2nd in RBI’s as well as 5th in BA. So Chris should be a sure fire pick to be on the team.

So far we have Cano, Fielder & Davis. My last pick would come between Blue Jay teammates Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista. Baustista has appeared in the last 2 HR Derby’s, so I would think that he might get the edge. I want to see some fresh faces in the Derby though this year and who better than Encarnacion to have in it. He currently has 19 HR’s and has 21 more RBI’s than Bautista does.

So my AL roster would be Cano, Davis, Fielder & Encarnacion.

Now for my NL picks.

NL – The #1 pick of this team should be Domonic Brown. I am biased towards the guy because he plays for my Phillies, but there’s no one more deserving to be on this team than he. Domonic currently is 2nd in the NL with 19 HR’s and much like Davis, has been a very nice 1st half surprise.

My next pick would be Carlos Gonzalez, leads the NL with 20 HRs. He appeared in last years Derby, struggling with only 4 HR’s, and was knocked out in the 1st round. I would expect him to want to come out and show that last year was a fluke. (If he doesn’t participate, his teammate Troy Tulowitzki would be ideal as well.)

My 3rd pick would have to be Justin Upton. Even though he has struggled a lot in the month of June, he is still 4th in the NL in HR’s with 15. I think he would be a perfect choice to have in the Derby.

My 4th and final choice is Paul Goldschimidt, who is 3rd in voting right this second. This choice would have gone to Harper had he been healthy, but since he isn’t, Paul “My names is from Austin Powers” Goldschmidt, is the perfect choice for this team. He has 17 HRs which is more than Upton, leads the NL in RBI’s, and is currently hitting .304.

So my NL Picks are Brown, Wright, Gonzalez & Goldschimidt.

That’s all for now folks. Stay tuned for my 2013 AL/NL All-Star article coming soon.

Tell me whom you think should be in the Derby and who you don’t want in it.

Twitter: @RickyGangster


How One Coaching Hire is Changing the Culture of a SEC Football Schoool

The Kentucky Wildcats finished the 2012 football season with a record of 2-10 and went 0-8 in the SEC, which led to the firing of head coach Joker Phillips. Kentucky hasn’t traditionally been a football school, but the buzz is high for the 2013 season and beyond. The casual fan is probably laughing and thinking, “How can they be optimistic about next year.” It’s simple, one coaching hire has changed the face of Kentucky football for the future and a game hasn’t even been played. Mark Stoops was hired November 27th, 2012 to lead the Wildcats football program and basically change the culture surrounding it.

Mark StoopsMark Stoops comes to Kentucky after 17 seasons as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator at the collegiate level. He spent the last 3 years rebuilding a Florida State defense that had fallen off its once highly touted level. Stoops drew national media attention when he was hired by saying that he believes the Kentucky football program can win an SEC Title. The Wildcats have embraced Stoops as a leader on and off the field, as an estimated 50,000 fans packed into the Commonwealth Stadium to watch the Kentucky Spring game. Kentucky was lucky to get that many fans to its biggest games at home in previous years. The question many people outside of Kentucky wonder is what’s all the hype about? What is Stoops doing to get fans excited?

The type of recruits Stoops is landing for Kentucky surrounds the hype. Even though the team has yet to take the field for a real game, Stoops is saying all the right things. Stoops brought in the 36th ranked football-recruiting class in America according to ESPN. Many fans in Kentucky are not used to seeing guys like this commit to Kentucky Football. The start came when highly recruited defensive end Jason Hatcher from Louisville, KY de-committed from USC, and decided to come to Kentucky. The Wildcats were able to take a player right out of their own rival’s backyard, the Louisville Cardinals, and take away a recruit from the Trojans; something that many people would have never thought possible. The recruiting hoopla created by Stoops has not stopped with his 2013 class, as the hype is already building for what will probably be Kentucky’s best ever recruiting class in 2014.

Stoops has currently recruited the #2 class in America for 2014, which is insane to think they are only behind Texas A&M in recruiting. It’s early and Kentucky will likely move down, but this is uncharted territory for recruiting at Kentucky. Kentucky coaches have built excitement with the fan base now as they are getting commitments by taking to their twitter accounts and shouting “Yahtzee.” This might seem hokey to fans of schools with recent success, but for Kentucky it’s about building excitement for a program that has been in the gutter of the SEC for quite some time.

Stoops has only been at Kentucky for about 6 months, and already the program has changed for what many expect to be the better. Can Kentucky win an SEC Title? Who knows, we’ve yet to see the Stoops-led Wildcats take the field. The record probably won’t reflect greatness over the course of next season. It’s going to take time to turn around the football program.  The bottom line is what Stoops has done at UK so far is flat-out amazing for a fan base that many thought had given up on football.

Twitter: @MattBell211

Man of Steel Review

Superman: Man of Steel

Well this was the big weekend for DC Comics for sure. Could they make Superman relevant again to the world? The Man of Steel came out on Friday and brought mixed reviews with it. Today, I bring the Good, the Bad & the Ugly on the movie.

The Good –

Henry Cavill as Kent/Kal-El/Superman –

Cavill did a really good job in his portrayal of Kent/Superman. He is a solid actor, very charismatic and, most importantly, made you believe in the character. I could buy his struggle with who he was and the battle he dealt with on figuring out this “power” he held. He will be to this franchise what Christian Bale was to Batman. This was great casting by Snyder.

Zack Snyder –

Visually this was a masterpiece. You could really enjoy the background and just the color of the film that he brought to the table. He did a great job of making you care about Clark Kent. He took a huge risk in bringing in no name Cavill and it paid off. Superman is a very hard character to believe in. You have Batman who people can easily relate to; the same can be said for Spiderman, but Superman isn’t the easiest character for people to believe in. I thought Snyder did an amazing job at making you buy into the character and caring about the outcome of the film. That alone deserves a ton of credit on his part.

The fight scenes were over the top and filled with tons of action. He also did an amazing job, building up to the final fight scene, which we all anticipated.

Christopher Nolan –

He helped co-write and oversaw a bunch of relative items regarding the film. You could really tell that Nolan had a hand in the opening scene with Jor-El and the evolution of sending little Kal-El to earth. It was smart, powerful, and very meaningful. You could tell he didn’t have complete control the movie. DC was wise to have brought him on board for this film.

Michael Shannon as Zod –

I have gone back and forth since my original draft on whether I really liked this portrayal. After much pondering, I came to the conclusion that I really did like it. Shannon might not have had the best personality with the character but he played a meaningful Zod. When he was on the screen you knew it because you could feel his presence.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El –

As I wrote in Nolan’s section the opening scene was a masterpiece. Crowe is a great actor and it showed when he was on screen.

Diane Lane/Kevin Costner as Martha & Jonathan Kent –

Just great casting here. Costner was so good but I think his role will be overshadowed by the other performances in the film.

The Action –

When the fight scenes happened, they happened! They were big spectacles with buildings collapsing, fighter jets coming down, and just kick-ass fighting. I enjoyed how they went all out to make the fight scenes mean something.

Hans Zimmer & the Score – He has brought great scores to so many great films (Batman Trilogy, Inception). He did not disappoint here either; just a brilliant put together score that made the movie work scene to scene.

The Bad –

Amy Adams as Lois Lane –

When I saw the trailer I thought she would be perfect for this role. After seeing the movie, I quickly changed my opinion. She is a good actress but I don’t think this role fits her at all. In the Batman series they replaced Katie Holmes after Batman Begins, so I think a switch can be made here. I am not sure they will do it but I think they should.

The Bounce Back –

I don’t think they were sure there would be sequels of this film and you could tell. They really couldn’t do an origins story from start to finish like they did in Batman. It was kind of sad because we got the flashback scenes throughout the film and I wasn’t a fan at all of them. This film would’ve really benefited from being able to start the franchise over from scratch.

The Ugly –

The length of the film –

What is it with movies these days trying to be 3 hours long? I know this was only 2 & ½ hours long but still they could’ve easily shaved a good 20-25 minutes of the movie.

The Verdict –

3 out of 5 stars

*As I left the theater this was more of a 3 ½ out of 5-starred movie. The more it played over in my head when I started writing the review over the weekend, it came back down to 3 stars.

The team of Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill has made Superman relevant again. There was good acting, a great score and some awesome fight scenes. This was a good, fun-filled movie, but it’s just not a great one. This will not have the replay ability as the latest Batman movies or The Avengers. When it comes to being a good comic book movie, it holds its own.

Twitter: @RickyGangster

A Review After 5

What a crazy and spectacular NBA Finals we’re having so far. The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat have put on a series that would have even the causal fan sitting on the edge of their seats. After the first 5 games have been said and done, the Spurs lead this series 3-2. Each team has had an impressive blowout-type win in this series. Now that the Heat completed their 3 games they’ve had to play in San Antonio, they get a much-needed trip home to defend their title on their home floor. One more loss though and it’ll be all over for the 2012 Champions.

Tony Parker hitting the shot that gives the Spurs the win in Game 1
Tony Parker hitting the shot that gives the Spurs the win in Game 1

San Antonio has had typical production from the All-Star Point Guard, Tony Parker. Parker’s Game 1 winning shot will be something that NBA fans will remember for years to come. During game 3, Parker sustained a hamstring injury but it hasn’t seemed to hamper him too much other than the second half of Game 4 when he went scoreless. The convenient 2 days off San Antonio had between Games 4 and 5 helped Parker rest up some and return to his regular form in Game 5, as Tony put up 26 points with 5 assists. If Tony will be able to keep playing this way on a sore hamstring should be interesting; but far more interesting of this whole series has been Danny Green. Green broke Ray Allen’s NBA Finals record of most 3-pointers converting 25-38 so far throughout the series. If San Antonio wins the Championship, he’s the fans’ leading candidate to receive the MVP trophy. Tim Duncan has had his moments in the series where he’s been vintage Duncan, and where he’s shown his age. In all of the Spurs wins, Duncan has put up a Double-Double in points and rebounds. On the flip side, in each loss he hasn’t had those types of numbers, either scoring single digits in points or rebounds. Another player that has shown his age has been Manu Ginobili. Before Sunday’s game, the most points Manu had put up in a game was 13 and it was the only time he reached double digits. In Game 5 though, Manu was being Manu, and was the key to the 114-104 victory with 24 points and 10 assists. If San Antonio plans on winning either Game 6 or 7 on the road, they’ll need a big performance from each member of their big 3.

The Miami Heat couldn’t get home fast enough. LeBron James had a rough Game 1 and 2, as well as a horrible Game 3 in San Antonio, but has stepped it up since. James had 33 points in Game 4 with 11 rebounds, 4 assists. He then followed that performance by having 25 points in Game 5 with 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. Dwyane Wade - Game 4The surprise for the Heat the last two games has been the return of “Flash” as Dwyane Wade is making his presence known. He energized the team in their Game 4 victory with 32 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals, and dropped 25 points with 10 assists in the Game 5 loss. If he and James continue to put up 25 a game with the steals and assists they’ve been having of late, it’s going to be really hard for them to lose at home. The third member of Miami’s big 3, Chris Bosh, has been playing a little better recently as well. The first 3 games, Bosh looked to be having a lot of trouble playing against Duncan but has showed more intensity and aggression in Game 4 and 5. If Miami is going to win a repeat title, they’re going to need Bosh to win on the boards as well as put up at least 15 a game. Udonis Haslem has been playing good defense in the series but a lot of fans are wondering why Chris “Birdman” Anderson has been a no show on the court of late. Anderson, who has been seen so far throughout the playoffs as the man who gives the Heat life off the bench, hasn’t gotten 1 minute at all the last 2 games. Erik Spoelstra’s best asset is that he makes proper adjustments when it’s needed. I’m thinking after the Heat won Game 4 the way they did, that Anderson was just a part of whatever adjustment Spoelstra made and that’s why we didn’t see him at all in Game 5 either. The Heat will need their role players to play their roles, and their stars to be just that if they want to hoist that trophy again.

Neither team has won back-to-back games in the series so far. That’s what Miami is going to need though in order to pull this series off. There are a few pluses for the Heat. The fact that they’re at home is one, and the fact that they were still in the game after San Antonio played an impeccable 48 minutes of Basketball in the Game 5. If it wasn’t for a few whistles, the Heat had a chance to cut the deficit to 5 points or fewer with less than 3 minutes left in the game. San Antonio was throwing haymakers left and right, but Miami still being in the game was very impressive to me. It shows me that they aren’t thinking negatively or getting down on one each other, even though they’re close to elimination. If Miami does lose Game 6 or 7, it’s going to have two types of outcomes. One will be solidifying the San Antonio Spurs as one of the best Dynasty’s in NBA history. The other will be tons of rejoice from everyone who dislikes LeBron James, followed by an offseason full of scrutiny.

Twitter: @CwickB

WWE Payback: Review

On June 16th, 2013, the WWE hosted their newest pay-per-view event, Payback, and took place in Chicago, Illinois. With a lot of hype placed on it, it definitely did not disappoint. Matches like Dean Ambrose vs. Kane, The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, and even CM Punk vs Chris Jericho, had promise to be a very good night of wrestling. Even a surprise return was announced for Money In The Bank, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Let’s kick this review off of WWE’s inaugural Payback!

As we got ready for Sandow-Sheamus, we got a threesome of talents with nothing else to do, along with announcer Josh Matthews. It consisted of R-Truth, who shouldn’t be talking because he doesn’t make very much sense when he does, Cody Rhodes who was accompanied with his love stache, and the returning Big Show! I always enjoy seeing Big Show in roles like this; the other two were alright. Nothing too special happened in the kickoff match. Sandow was very entertaining as usual and looked great playing the aggressor. Sheamus was pretty good as well as he hit his normal array of comeback moves. I particularly liked the shots to the chest, or as I like them to be called, the Irish Hand Grenades. Sheamus ends things with his patented Brouge Kick and gets the 1-2-3 in a pretty entertaining pre-show match.

Up next we have the triple threat match for the Intercontinental Championship between The Miz, Curtis Axel, and defending Champion Wade Barrett. Just a week ago, this match was supposed to have Fandango instead of Curtis Axel, but a concussion ended that unfortunately. I would’ve liked to see Fandango as Intercontinental Champion personally, as I think he would’ve won. This was a very good start to the actual pay-per-view. It had some great back and forth action, as we saw all three competitors trade opportunities with each other. Skull Crushing Finales, Winds of Change, and even the Figure Four Leg Lock were all executed at one point in this match. It was the rookie Axel who snuck in on an ensnared Wade Barrett to pin him, while Miz had him locked in the Figure Four. This was a pretty amazing moment; Axel looked pretty emotional as he grabbed the title that his father, the legendary “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, made so prestigious. He also celebrated his win with the great Paul Heyman at his side. Happy Father’s Day Mr. Perfect, that’s got to be a pretty nice gift.

As we take a break in the action, we see Axel and Heyman celebrating their win in the back. Then the two end up running into the COO himself, Triple H. Axel tries to get by, but Triple H won’t let him. Triple H finally lets them through as Mr. McMahon comes power walking into the picture to congratulate Axel on his excellent win. McMahon even congratulates Heyman of all people, shaking his hand, before he ushers them off. McMahon asks Triple H about one more match with Axel on RAW. Triple H responds by saying he’s not interested as the camera fades out. A Mark Henry return promo also aired, stating that the World’s Strongest Man was coming back, and looking to create a wake of destruction once more. Because that’s what he does!

Up next, the Diva’s Championship match between Kaitlyn and AJ Lee! I’ve been quite excited for this match; they’ve really put a lot of timing and planning into this feud. They’re showing that yes, the WWE does care about women’s wrestling, at least a little bit. Kaitlyn gets some good cheers as she comes out, but looks very uneasy about things and has a very distracted look on her face. AJ gets an excellent ovation, which is to be expected with this Chicago crowd, as she made her way down to the ring with Big E Langston. The match starts off with the larger Kaitlyn totally rag dolling poor little AJ, and even tosses her over the top of the Spanish announcer table for good measure. AJ got the upper hand again when she hit a dropkick off the apron onto the floor. Back and forth they went, with AJ locking in a few submissions, but Kaitlyn powering out of each one. Kaitlyn eventually went for a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but ended up getting caught in AJ’s Black Widow, only for Kaitlyn to reverse this into a huge gutbuster. Kaitlyn eventually hit her spear. She folded AJ up in two, but instead of capitalizing, she grabbed AJ’s lifeless head, and blew a kiss at her. She only managed a near fall, but AJ somehow kicked out. AJ eventually locked in the Black Widow once more and made Kaitlyn tap out to become the new Diva’s Champion! As AJ celebrated, Kaitlyn broke down and had to be helped out by Layla. In the back Layla, Alicia Fox, and Natalya all tried to comfort Kaitlyn, but she shrugged them all off.

Afterward, we saw a promo for the upcoming Money in the Bank pay-per-view set up in a month. The more interesting thing to me was definitely what came after. The Wyatt Family had another promo and it was even spookier than the ones that preceded it. These guys are going to be fantastic and really stretch the lines of what is right and wrong. Look out guys; the Wyatt Family is coming to WWE!

Next, the United States Championship match between the Shield’s Dean Ambrose and the Big Red Monster, Kane! Dean Ambrose got a great pop when the Shield’s music hit as he made his way to the ring by himself. Kane even got a good reaction, showing some respect for the legend. This was a solid match, but disappointed me a bit as I thought it would be better, considering how great Dean Ambrose has been since he got to the WWE. Ambrose showed off his very unique offense and style to great effect. Kane got in all his signature moves from the flying clothesline to the sidewalk slam. After they went out to ringside, Ambrose did the unthinkable and slapped Kane. This resulted in a furious uppercut from the Devil’s Favorite Demon, who then proceeded to tear the Spanish announcer table apart. However when he turned around, Ambrose nailed him with a DDT on the floor, and rolled back in the ring for the countout victory.

He’s back… The next video promo had to be one of the high points of the night. The Whole F’n Show, Mr. Monday/ Tuesday/ Thursday/ Friday Night, The Whole Dam Show himself, ROB. VAN. DAM! This was the moment I was second most excited about; the video stated that RVD would be making his WWE return next month at Money in the Bank. I cannot wait.

The World Heavyweight Championship match between the Show-Off Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio was next. Thanks to a bad concussion suffered a month ago, this is the first title defense that Ziggler made. Ziggler got an excellent reaction from the crowd. Del Rio got a good one as well as fans love saying his name with Ricardo Rodriguez; I know I do! The match started off with Ziggler doing some showing off, but soon turned into a slugfest with Del Rio throwing most of the shots. Del Rio looked oddly aggressive, as he took shot after shot to Ziggler’s head. Langston stepped in to prevent Del Rio from landing another headshot, but he was kicked out leaving only AJ at ringside for Ziggler. The rest of the match became quite uncomfortable to watch as Ziggler took kick after kick to his head. At one point the doctors tried to stop the match, along with AJ, but Dolph refused help and re-entered the ring. As the match dragged on, Del Rio got more and more vicious. After a sudden Zig Zag, Del Rio regained control and hit a super-kick to Ziggler’s head knocking him right out. This gave Del Rio his second World Heavyweight Championship, much to the disdain of the Chicago crowd who booed Alberto. As Alberto celebrated, Ziggler was helped out with a distraught AJ trailing. Afterwards, Del Rio came back out to gloat about his win, stating how he deserved this; only to get a heavy chorus of boos in return. Is this the return of the old Alberto Del Rio? Are we seeing a Dolph Ziggler that we’ve never witnessed before?

Finally, we have the return of CM Punk vs Chris Jericho. Jericho who normally gets amazing reactions everywhere he goes, got a pretty hefty amount of boos. All those disappeared when Cult of Personality hit for the first time in a long time. The Best in the World himself slowly sauntered out, with a hoodie draped over his head, to a massive ovation from his hometown faithful. Paul Heyman gave him the time and Punk responded with a resounding, “IT’S CLOBBERIN TIME!” He’s back folks! This match was easily the highlight of the night with a constant back and forth. Jericho missed a number of bullets getting out of the GTS and Anaconda Vice. Punk did the same as he struggled out of the Walls of Jericho a few times. We got to see a wrestling clinic put on by two of the best in the business ever. Despite Punk’s long absence, he showed only a little ring rust; this match easily went over the 20-minute mark. After a great diving Codebreaker by Jericho, Punk finally gained the upper hand by hitting Jericho with his second GTS of the match. After bouncing him off the turnbuckles and hitting him with a third GTS, Punk got the 1-2-3, much to the crowd’s delight. He basked in the adulation of his friends and family with Heyman beside him. Punk looked very good, very healthy, very rested and all around recharged. Time off did wonders for him. Something to take note of was Punk’s attire. He came out in Chicago Blackhawk-themed ring gear and also looked like Wolverine with his muttonchops. Punk finally left but not after he gave the belt motion around his waist.

The Shields’ Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins defending their WWE Tag Team Championships against the unlikely pairing of Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan were next on the program. The Shield members and Orton got great reactions, which is to be expected, but none of them compared to how loud the crowd was for Bryan. It was only topped by the ovation given to CM Punk. This was another great match mostly because Daniel Bryan was in it. That’s nothing against Reigns, Rollins, or Orton, but Daniel Bryan is far above everyone else right now in the ring. The way he whips around the ring, killing people with dropkicks and locking in devastating submissions, he’s truly become one of the best in the business. After getting a hot tag, Bryan did his normal thing, dropkicking everything within a 50-yard radius, and ended up hitting a suicide dive on his partner. Things broke down at the end after Orton and Bryan avoided running into each other; Orton threw Bryan into an oncoming Reigns spear. Reigns then got RKO’d for his troubles and was then pushed out of the ring by Rollins. Rollins then hit the stomp to the back of the head, or the Blackout, on Bryan for the win.

Finally, we have the WWE Championship match between John Cena and Ryback. I wasn’t too excited for this match, but was willing to give it a chance because we only get to see Three Stages of Hell matches rarely; in fact only three times before this. The First Stage of Hell was a Lumberjack match, with thirty WWE superstars on the floor surrounding the ring. The match started slowly until Cena got thrown out of the ring right into the waiting hands of the heels, who proceeded to put a pounding on Cena before sending him back in. After this happened two more times the faces on the other sides of the ring decided to get involved. A massive brawl broke out when Cena climbed the top rope and launched himself majestically through the air and landed on the giant pile of bodies on the floor. However he got Shellshocked, as Ryback got the first pinfall. Up next was the tables match in the Second Stage of Hell. Ryback continued his dominance as he chucked Cena around the ring. After a number of busted tables as a result of the ring steps being tossed like they were a shot put ball by Ryback, Cena finally regained the advantage and AA’d Ryback through a table. That tied the match and sent us to the third and final Stage of Hell, an Ambulance match. Ryback started out with the advantage as they worked their way toward the ambulance. Cena got some crutches and hit Ryback with them. Ryback hit the car door with his fist. Ryback was whipped right through an open door on the ambulance and that seriously looked like it hurt; not as much as being beaten into the ground with said door at the hands of Ryback. Cena then proceeded to climb the ambulance itself and dislodged the lights and chucked them at Ryback. That only slowed down the Human Wrecking Ball for a moment. After a short sequence on top of the ambulance, Cena finished things off with a huge AA through the ambulance and retained his championship in the process. Overall, it was a solid match. The first two-parts were rather bland but the Ambulance match was entertaining as every part of the ambulance was used.

Overall, this was a very good pay-per-view. Plenty of titles changed hands with a number of very good matches, including the Diva’s match. Highlights of the night were the Punk-Jericho match and the entrance of CM Punk. It was absolutely deafening in that arena. Another highlight was the video proclaiming Rob Van Dam’s return at Money in the Bank. I’ve been looking forward to one last RVD run in the WWE, and this looks like it will be it. While the WWE Championship match was rather bland, the other matches really made up for it. As usual, guys like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan were your MVPs of the night, and even Curtis Axel and AJ Lee made great impressions, not only winning their matches, but also looking great in the process. I give WWE Payback a solid 8/10, and excellent show.

MLB Power Rankings & Notes from Week 11

I am here with a new MLB Power Ranking and News article that will bringing you weekly. It’ll consist of who I think are the Top 10 teams in baseball, as well as news and notes from the week that it was.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (44-25) – They currently have the best record in baseball right now and they’re doing it powered behind their hitting and great pitching. They are ranked 2nd in BA, 3rd in Runs, 1st in ERA, and 4th in WHIP. The Cardinals are clicking on all cylinders right before the All-Star break.

2. Boston Red Sox (42-29) – Much to my surprise, they’re sitting atop the AL East and also have the best record in the AL. Boston isn’t sitting comfortably though with the O’s, Yankees, and Rays all within 5 games of them. For a team I thought would finish in the basement, the Red Sox are playing good baseball.

3. Cincinnati Reds (42-28) – The Reds are sitting only 2.5 games back from the Cardinals, but they aren’t playing “great” baseball right now either. They need to get it going as they have the Pirates right on their tails.

4. Oakland A’s (42-29) – Avoided a sweep by the Mariners yesterday, but they sit in 1st place of the AL West right now. Though the lead is only 2.5 games, this is a team that normally struggles early in the season.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates (41-28) – It’s unbelievable they have the record they do. Pittsburgh is 13 games above .500 even though they are only +18 in the run column. They’re ranked in the bottom half in a majority of all hitting categories. If the Pirates plan on contending, they must start hitting better.

6. Baltimore O’s (40-30) – This team is being carried by Chris Davis and the rest of the offense. They’re ranked 29th in ERA and 21st in BAA, which if they have any postseason hopes, they must change in a hurry.

7. Atlanta Braves (40-28) – This team has struggled all month-long. The Braves are 4-6 in their last 10 games and very lucky the Nationals have caught the injury bug.

8. Detroit Tigers (38-29) – They have won 7 out of the past 10 and are slowly starting to pull away with the Central.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks (37-32) – Diamondbacks are sitting on top of the NL West but are struggling in the month of June. With 3 other teams within 2 games of them, they need to play some better baseball.

10. San Diego Padres (35-34) – The Padres currently have the longest win streak in all of baseball at 6 games. They have closed in within 2 games of the 1st place D’backs.

Hitter of the Week – Adam Dunn – (.389, 4 HRs & 8 RBIs) – On June 10th he went 4-4 with 2 HRs and 5 RBIs.

Pitcher of the Week – Yovani Gallardo (2-0, 0.00 ERA & 9 SO) – He had 2 dominating performances this week and didn’t give up one run in either start.

News & Notes

Will Myers is scheduled to get the call up for the Rays this week. Myers has 14 HRs this season in Durham and will be called up from Triple-A in time for the Double Header against the Red Sox Tuesday.

Rookie Gerrit Cole gets his 2nd win in as many starts. The Rookie has looked impressive in his first 2 starts in the big leagues. Just another solid addition to an already loaded rotation in Pittsburgh.

Zack Wheeler was called up by the New York Mets. Wheeler finally gets to show his stuff in the majors this week. It’ll be interesting to see what he can bring to the table for a team with little hope of anything this year.

Stephen Strasburg returned to the Nationals and couldn’t have come back at a better time. The Nationals really need him as they are struggling to stay afloat in the NL East & Wild Card picture.

Torii Hunter hit his 300th career HR on Sunday. His 1st career came against the Twins just as his 300th. Hunter has been a great addition to the Tigers this season. He has provided some good offense as well as a leader in the clubhouse.

Best of The Best

We’ve finally reached that point readers. I know it’s bitter sweet for you as it is for me, due to my personal interest in quarterbacks, but we’ve finally come to the end of the Great Quarterback List of 2012. In this article we’ll be touching on the best of the best. The quarterbacks who make their team better with just their presence. These players not being on the field are detrimental to their teams as they would probably not even be contenders without them.

5. Robert Griffin III – RGIII is the best young prospect at quarterback the NFL has seen in a while. He was part of the 2012 quarterback class that a lot like to compare to the 2004 class, when numerous talented players at the position were selected. Robert has an arm that needs little development. He can throw off his back foot, side arm, or traditionally and get the ball out quick with power and accuracy. With an impressive rookie season only throwing 5 interceptions, he visibly turned his team, the Washington Redskins, around in a blink of an eye. He had 27 total touchdowns with 20 through the air and 7 on the ground. Numerous people believe that he was injured running the zone read scheme that Washington likes to use. However, if you actually saw the games, he got hurt in traditional drop back passing formations, when his line broke down and he was forced to extend the play. Griffin needs to work on a few things. He did a better job the last 8 games going through all his options before bringing the football down and taking off, which is something he has to keep up in the future. A lot of people mention Robert’s need to slide, but as it’s not a normal thing for him, I believe it’s a good way to get a cleat caught in the ground and tear a knee. He doesn’t like to throw the ball away or give in to defenders trying to force him out of bounds due to his competitiveness, which is something his coaches have been working on with him. RGIII also fumbled 12 times, and though he only lost 2, he’ll have to do better not putting the ball on the ground. The sky is the limit for this young talent, and it’s scary to think what he’ll be like with more NFL experience under his belt.

Washington Redskins vs. New Orleans Saints at ...
Washington Redskins vs. New Orleans Saints at Fed Ex Field…Final Score: Redskins 29 / Saints 24 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. Drew Brees – I was a fan of this quarterback when he came out of Purdue and was drafted by the San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately, they decided to go in a different direction; right about the time Brees’s career took off. Many thought he was too small to play the position professionally, but Brees plays bigger than many imagined. Drew has started every game but one for the Saints. The missed game was due to resting him week 17 of their 2009 Super Bowl run. Efficiency is the name of the game with this quarterback, as he is extremely accurate to all parts of the field. Since he’s been with New Orleans in 2006, Brees has accounted for 33,571 yards and 249 touchdowns. Brees has a very strong arm which he needs due to the fact that he drops back about 10-yards from the line of scrimmage to look down field. His mobility is better than you’d expect and he’s a little slippery inside the pocket. Brees gets a lot of 7 to 9 man drop looks from the defense, as they try to disguise what they’re doing and give him looks he’s not used to seeing. The best way to play Brees is to put pressure on him so he can’t just sit back and tear you apart. Drew will be looking to bounce back from a difficult 2012 performance where he threw 19 interceptions and had his lowest completion percentage since 2003, at 63%. He turned 34 this year and so some wonder how much longer he can keep playing at the top of his game. One thing is for sure, until Drew does fall off a notch, he will instantly make the Saints a contender to win the division each and every season.

3. Tom Brady – This 3x Super Bowl Champion, 2x Super Bowl MVP, has been the heart and soul of his team since he took over in 2001. As the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, Tom Brady might be the biggest draft steal in NFL history. He’s led his team to 5 Super Bowl appearances, but has come up short in their last 2 visits. Over his career in New England, he’s accumulated 334 touchdowns and has thrown for 44,806 yards. This future Hall of Fame quarterback knows how to break you down, before and after the snap, as well as get the ball out very quickly. He might be slower than molasses, but those traits make up for this shortcoming. Taking out the 2008 season because he was injured, Tom has only missed the playoffs 1 time in his 12 years being the starter. One thing Brady needs to work on is not waiting for the big play to open up and checking the ball down a lot quicker. He seemed to have forced the ball deep a lot in 2012, which got him in a little more trouble that normal. Brady will be 36 when the NFL season kicks off this year, leaving many to wonder how much more he has left in the tank. I personally wonder if he’ll end his career in New England, or if it will turn into a Brett Favre type of situation where he doesn’t think he’s done, but the team thinks differently. If that did become the case, I know more than half the teams in the NFL would love to have him, no matter what age he is.

2. Peyton Manning – In my opinion only, Peyton Manning might be the greatest quarterback in NFL history. His work and preparation is unlike anything I’ve ever seen out of a quarterback in my lifetime. He seems to know what you’re doing as a defense a majority of a game, and will call his own plays to adjust. Like Brady, he’s slower than a tortoise, but his mental game makes up for it as he gets the ball out extremely quick. One thing that impresses me about him that you might never hear about, is how he always keeps his feet moving at all times so that he doesn’t throw the football flat footed. After his neck surgery in 2011, he showed diminished arm strength early in the 2012 campaign, but as the weeks went by, started to look more and more “Peyton” like. For many years, you never saw even 1 pass of his wobble. He makes life very easy on his receivers. Over his career he’s racked up 59, 487 passing yards, and should move past Dan Marino for 2nd All-Time this up coming year, if he stays healthy. Manning’s 436 touchdowns are 2 All-Time and only 72 away from tying the leader, Brett Favre. This coming season should be business as usual for Peyton; his Denver Broncos are a Super Bowl favorite. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer, is 37 this season, and might not have too many more chances to get another ring. I think Peyton Manning has a good 2 or 3 years left in him. So enjoy every opportunity you get to see him snap on the helmet, because you might never see a talent such as this again.

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers (Photo credit: Mike Morbeck)

1. Aaron Rodgers – Aaron Rodgers could be at the top of this list for many years to come. Rodgers is extremely efficient with the football, as he’s only thrown double-digit interceptions twice in his 5 seasons (13 – 2008, 11 – 2010). Rodgers might just have the best arm in the NFL as he throws to all parts of the field with pinpoint accuracy and exceptional arm strength. Though he’s been in the NFL for 8 years now, we all remember why he wasn’t able to get on the field much sooner, and has only been starting for the last 5 years. Aaron has put stellar numbers since becoming the man under center, as he’s gotten 21,332 yards passing with 170 touchdown passes. What makes him even more dangerous is the fact that he can pull the ball down and run with it. He has amassed 1,442 rushing yards in his career with 18 rushing touchdowns. Rodgers sets the bar for the other quarterbacks in the NFL. He rarely has a bad day and hasn’t thrown more than 1 interception over the past 2 seasons. The Super Bowl XLV MVP doesn’t really have much he needs to improve on at all. I envision Rodgers winning at least 1 or 2 more Super Bowls before his time in the game is up. One thing is certain though, if he keeps up numbers like he’s had steadily over the last 5 years, he’s for sure going to be in the NFL Hall of Fame when his time is done.

Well, there it is folks. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this list as much as I did writing it. I do have an explanation for those who might wonder why Mike Vick wasn’t on the list. The reason I didn’t incorporate him on here is because I didn’t want to have 2 starters from the same team. If you would like to know where I would have him, take out Foles, move 24-21 down a spot, and insert Vick right before Cam Newton. It’ll be interesting to see how these quarterbacks will perform in 2013, and which move up or down the list.

Twitter: @CwickB

2013 Fantasy Football WR Rankings

Two weeks ago I unveiled my Top QB’s for the 2013 Fantasy season (2013 Fantasy Football QB Rankings) and last week my top RB’s (2013 Fantasy Football RB Rankings). Today I unleash my Top WR’s for the 2013 Fantasy Football Season.

UPDATED 07/16/2013

2013 Preseason Fantasy Football WR Rankings

Rank Player Team BYE
1 Calvin Johnson DET 9
2 AJ Green CIN 12
3 Dez Bryant DAL 11
4 Demaryius Thomas DEN 9
5 Brandon Marshall CHI 8
6 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 9
7 Julio Jones ATL 6
8 Andre Johnson HOU 8
9 Vincent Jackson TB 5
10 Victor Cruz NYG 9
11 Jordy Nelson GB 4
12 Roddy White ATL 6
13 Marques Colston NO 7
14 Percy Harvin SEA 12
15 Dwayne Bowe KC 10
16 Randall Cobb GB 4
17 Hakeem Nicks NYG 9
18 Steve Smith CAR 4
19 Mike Wallace MIA 6
20 Danny Amendola NE 10
21 Antonio Brown PIT 5
22 Wes Welker DEN 9
23 Reggie Wayne IND 8
24 Eric Decker DEN 9
25 Pierre Garcon WAS 5
26 T.Y. Hilton IND 8
27 Torrey Smith BAL 8
28 Desean Jackson PHI 12
29 Greg Jennings MIN 5
30 James Jones GB 4

Twitter Handle: @RickyGangster

Performance Enhancing Drugs in the NFL

Last season the NFL had its largest group of players test positive for PED use ever. Allen Barbre, Brandon Browner, Winston Guy, John Moffit and Richard Sherman were all caught using banned substances. Their compatriot, Bruce Irvin, is the latest of the fan-dubbed “Seadderall” Seahawks to test positive.

While the agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA prohibits releasing details about a positive drug test, the player involved may opt to speak openly about the test and results. Those of us who have ever seen a sports report, though, know that there are plenty of “sources close to the team,” or “individuals with direct knowledge of the situation” who will spill the beans for his favorite reporter.

Pardon the phrase, but according to league and team sources, the list of banned substances is clearly posted throughout team facilities for all players to see. The League and players’ union seem to have similar regulations to the Labor Department when it comes to posting relevant information for employees – think OSHA or EEO information posted in your office.

It isn’t – or shouldn’t be – a surprise to any player that there are certain substances they cannot use. Players should also be well aware that any player can be tested up to 6 times in the offseason. Just ask Kirk Cousins, who was tested at his Grandmother’s home back in March 2013. During the regular season and the playoffs, up to 10 players per team can be drug tested on game day. Any prior offender can be tested more frequently.

No player should be either shocked to be drug tested, or horrified to learn that a substance he knowingly used was discovered during such a test. They shouldn’t be, yet they are. We’ve all seen our fair share of reactions, from the “…What had happened was…” defense, to finger-pointing at the drug-tester or facility involved, and then my personal favorite, the feigned “How in the WORLD did THAT get in my system??!?!” response.

There are many who believe that players are copping to Adderall use because it is, in the long run, better PR for them to have taken an ADHD drug than a steroid. I happen to disagree. One is a long-term physical enhancement that will work for anyone, and the other is a short-term mental and physical enhancement for those who use it outside of its intended purpose.

Adderall is allowed for some players who have produced the documentation and gone through the arduous process of getting the okay to take the medication, based upon a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD. Some may claim that, since this is the case, Adderall can’t be both an approved and a banned substance. But they’re wrong. Here’s why…

Adderall is a combination of 4 amphetamine salts that stimulate the brain. Once it hits a patient’s bloodstream, it stimulates the production of hormones associated with attention and behavior, and slows the absorption of those hormones back into the body. The result for those who have ADD or ADHD is that it slows them down, corrects their lack of focus, and corrects their hyper-alertness. No advantage there.

For those who do not have ADD or ADHD, Adderall speeds them up, increases their alertness, concentration, and motivation, and can also result in a reduction of fatigue. What’s more, drinking sugary beverages or energy drinks while taking Adderall can temporarily boost these effects for someone who is taking the drug who does not need to. With or without the beverages, that’s a clear, unfair advantage. A performance enhancement.

Players are made well aware of the do’s and the don’ts regarding substances. Their bodies are their money, so they are keenly aware of what they put into them, whether it’s food, drink, supplements, or prescription medications. So while some players would like us to believe that they are victims of bad drug testers, that they were slipped a drug unknowingly, or that they didn’t know they were taking something that contained a banned substance, thinking fans know that their explanations are sometimes not exactly on the up and up.

If I had certain players’ ears, I would tell them that whether it’s a steroid or Adderall, stop using it. I’d remind them that they made it to the NFL because they had the talent to make it, and they should rely on that and that alone.

Twitter: @dvnmsm