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25 questions I’ve asked myself #3

First thing’s first. Welcome back to So Much Sports. It was very unfortunate when I decided to take a year off. I had a good thing going and had some great, loyal readers but things just weren’t going the way I needed them to, to continue running on a daily basis. So I look a year off to sit back and evaluate how I could make the website better, how I could make things more interesting and how I could run more successfully.

Now I feel like I have something special going and it’s a very nice direction we are headed. So Much Sports and So Much Sports Baltimore are both back up and running, providing great commentary on sports while the local site is the leader in college sports coverage in the state. It’s only a matter of time before some more local sites pop up, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves either. We’re going to build to it and build it slowly and properly.

But even though I took a year off from this website it doesn’t mean I stopped paying attention to sports, not at all. I love sports way too much to take time away from them and naturally I thought and analyzed everything. Which brings me back to my column that I throw up every now and again, “25 questions I’ve asked myself” and answered. I mean why not give an answer to something you’ve asked yourself.

So here we go, here are the things I’ve been thinking about and we’re going to start with baseball…

Jon Lester1. How can the Oakland Athletics fall this hard from grace?

Honestly, I’m still not even sure. I kind of want to just blame everything on Jon Lester for no other reason then I have never heard anything good about the guy’s locker room presence and I can just blame everything on him because I want to. I’ll never deny his talent but when a player goes to a new team and essentially just says he doesn’t care because he’ll be back in Boston next season I cannot get behind him. Great guy to bring into a winning atmosphere where everybody liked each other.

The A’s are still in position to make the playoffs as a Wild Card but nobody can honestly say they are a World Series favorite anymore. Even though they are still a very talented bunch with a great pitching staff and certainly built for a playoff run, the confidence hit they took has to be killing them.

2. Since the A’s completely dropped from being the favorite to be the World Series Champion what team is the top pick to win?

The Baltimorean in me says the Orioles and it is kind of hard to argue. All season long the Orioles have been one of the very best teams in the league and even though they just lost slugger Chris Davis with a 25-game suspension they have proven their resilience. They started the year without Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy and it didn’t matter. Then they lost Matt Wieters and it didn’t matter. Then Machado went down again and the team still managed to win. So why should anybody believe the Orioles will crumble with the loss of Davis? Until they lose Adam Jones, Nick Markakis or Nelson Cruz it doesn’t seem likely they’ll stop being a good team.

But I also realize the Orioles probably just don’t have the starting pitching to win the World Series. Maybe I’m wrong and they do complete their turnaround from behind one of the very worst teams in the league for such a long time but don’t be shocked if the World Series is up for grabs in Los Angeles. (Though who knows, maybe it’s a beltway battle between the Orioles and Nationals, that would be awesome.)

The Angels have the best hitter in the league in Mike Trout and the Dodgers have the best pitcher in Clayton Kershaw. And both have some great talent around them.

But since the topic of the Orioles and Chris Davis came up…

3. How dumb was Chris Davis for failing his drug test?

I wrote all about this topic on So Much Sports Baltimore but I still can’t get over it. Last season Chris Davis was very vocally against use of performance enhancing drugs and this year he gets busted for Adderall without a exemption to use it. The dumb part is he had to have failed at least one time earlier in the season because it is the second offense that warrants the suspension. He knows he did wrong because he isn’t even appealing it.

So Davis knew he wasn’t supposed to use Adderall because his exemption was denied. He used it anyway and got caught once, then he still used it, knowing that he would absolutely be tested again after failing once and knew that another positive test would result in a suspension. There is just no excuse in today’s world to fail a test for Adderall, twice.

4. Who are the favorite to win the MVPs and Cy Young awards?

Clayton Kershaw

There is absolutely zero doubt Clayton Kershaw wins the NL Cy Young award but if Giancarlo Stanton has to miss the rest of the season after he was beamed in the face with a pitch he’ll probably win the NL MVP as well. I think he should anyway. Stanton’s numbers are great but realistically, we’ve seen .288, 37 HRs and 105 RBIs plenty of times but haven’t seen what Kershaw is doing, winning pretty much every single time he’s on the mound with a 1.70 ERA.

As for the American League, it’s a bit more muddled. Chris Sale is the favorite with his 2.20 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 12-4 record and 198 strikeouts but I could see the argument for the always dominant Felix Hernandez (14-5, 2.09 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 233 Ks), the reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (16-5, 3.26 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 237 Ks) or the leader of the team with the best record in baseball, Jered Weaver (17-8, 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 157 Ks).

The favorite for MVP is definitely Mike Trout (.289, 34 HRs, 107 RBIs, 39 doubles, 14 SBs). He’s always so good, so impressive and just a joy to watch. But how can you not consider Nelson Cruz (not the Baltimore fan talking). His .268 batting average will probably prevent him from getting it but his bat has led the Orioles to where they are. He’s hit 39 home runs, 103 RBIs, 30 doubles and has scored 84 runs. If you want a sleeper pick, how about Detroit DH Victor Martinez. His .403 OBP leads the majors, his .333 BA is second and his 31 HRs is tied for ninth in the league. 97 RBIs, good for 7th in the majors.

Well, let’s move on to the NFL…

Andrew Luck5. Will a team that is 0-2 end up making the playoffs?

Historically, teams that lose their first two games have a very difficult time making the postseason but this year there might be one. The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints are just far too good of teams for one of them to not make it to the postseason. If I had my money on one of them it would be the Colts. Andrew Luck is definitely a top 10 quarterback in the league and he plays in a weak division. They lost two close games against playoff teams from last year that are probably going back to the playoffs this year. The Saints are a bit more worrisome since they lost to the Browns but it’s hard to pick against Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Rob Ryan’s defense has been horrible but once they fix the defense they could make a nice run.

6. Why did anybody give up on Darren Sproles?

After Darren Sproles was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason it was just assumed he would seem a very diminished role behind a much younger and more talented LeSean McCoy, who shares a very similar skill set. But after two weeks of the season clearly that doesn’t matter. Sproles has been a huge part of the Eagles two wins, maybe even more than McCoy. He’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry and leads the team with 11 receptions for 166 yards. He’s punched the ball in on the ground twice. Chip Kelly loves speed and Sproles, even at 31-years-old, still has a lot of that and a lot of quickness an agility. Being able to rest McCoy with another very talented running back takes nothing away from their offense, actually it makes it better.

7. After two weeks who are the likely award winners?

It’s so early but why not take a pick of who’s going to win some awards. Luke Kuechly definitely has the potential to win the Defensive Player of the Year award again. He has been fantastic and a huge reason why the Panthers are 2-0 right now. As for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, the front runner is probably Peyton Manning with his six touchdowns. It’s kind of boring but we’re only two weeks in so it’ll probably change.

Fred Jackson8. Biggest surprise team and surprise player through two weeks?

The Bills and the Saints are the two biggest surprise teams for opposite reasons. In the preseason I was about ready to just give up on E.J. Manuel. He did not look comfortable in the pocket, he was making horrible decisions and just wasn’t good. But once the regular season started he started to look like he is really progressing. Now I still don’t think the Bills are going to win the AFC East and make it to the playoff but it’s two more wins than I thought they would have at this point. The Saints are shocking because I didn’t see them at 0-2. I picked the Falcons to beat them in the season opener but to lose a close game like that to the Browns was really unbelievable.

As for the most surprising player…probably Arian Foster. I never doubted his ability but I really wasn’t sure about his injury. Foster had a bad back problem and didn’t particularly look amazing in the preseason but if he’s going and that defense is going the Texas could sneak into the postseason. But then again they are led by Ryan Fitzpatrick so probably not.

9. Should teams hide behind due-process and let their players play while being in trouble with the law?

It’s a very tricky situation. Part of me just feels that the Vikings did a great thing by deactivating Adrian Peterson for their week 2 game but even though they saw the pictures of his son they went on to re-activate him and said they want to let the legal system run it’s course before any action. Well, until more allegations of child abuse came up and he got put on the exempt list. I’m all for letting the law say whether a person did something wrong before they are penalized but in Peterson’s case he admitted to it and like a reporter asked Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, how can the organization look at the pictures and not say it was child abuse? The Panthers were letting Greg Hardy play until they probably faced too much pressure as he was appealing his case. But he was already convicted. If you get convicted of a crime you still have to serve the penalty while you’re appealing, you don’t appeal and have nothing happen to you during the process until it’s finished.

Besides, Ray Rice was given pretrial intervention as a penalty for his domestic violence case and the league gave him an indefinite suspension anyway, though granted it was probably warranted. Due process gave him virtually no penalty but the NFL just did what they want.

But on the topic of all of these legal issues that players are facing…

10. What is with all of these owners and team presidents sending their coaches up to talk to the media instead?

John Harbaugh

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass did not step up in front of the media to talk about Ray Rice. Instead they had head coach John Harbaugh answering questions. Other than a statement against domestic violence, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has never addressed Greg Hardy, he had head coach Ron Rivera answering questions. And instead of Zygi Wilf stepping up to answer questions about Adrian Peterson he left it up to Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

These are legal matters that head coaches and GMs, like Spielman, should not be answering questions for. Those are not the guys deciding to terminate contracts or deactive the players, those commands are coming from the owners who are not facing the media. Even if the owners don’t want to answer questions, at least have one of the team attorneys answering questions. Zimmer and Spielman looked completely lost any time they were asked something about Peterson and kept giving the same responses that actually didn’t answer any questions. It seems like cowardice.

I’m tired of talking about all of the legal stuff going on with players in the NFL, let’s move on to the NHL…

Gary Bettman11. Should the NHL expand?

Even though the league doesn’t really have enough talent to keep spreading it thinner and thinner or the money necessary to support a bigger league I’m actually going to say yes, as long as they expand the right way. For some reason the NHL wants to build a fan base in southern USA, where it’s really hot and ice doesn’t exactly stick around outside. Hockey just isn’t very popular in places like Charlotte, Dallas and Phoenix. But it is popular up north and in Canada. So stick to places like Quebec, Toronto, Seattle and Portland. Even though Toronto has one team already it’s a huge city and if New York/New Jersey can support three franchises (well, barely support three franchises) why can’t the hockey-loving city of Toronto carry two teams?

12. What about Las Vegas?

I just said I don’t understand why the NHL would want to expand to a place where it’s really hot and Hockey is an after though. The desert that is Las Vegas would definitely fall into that category. But while I initially think the team could do very well since the city doesn’t have any team to call their own, once one league moves there the other leagues will follow. Leagues don’t want the association with gambling but seriously, gambling is everywhere now. The Baltimore Ravens share a parking lot with a Casino now, so the connection to gambling institutions just doesn’t matter and they’ll eventually start moving in. Once another franchise, whether it be football or basketball, I doubt baseball goes there any time soon, the locals will start supporting that team and put their hockey team on the back burner, especially if it’s the NBA running a season at the same exact time.

13. It looks like the hockey will be having a World Cup, are you excited?

I’ve never hidden my stance toward hockey and the NHL. I am absolutely fascinated by the sports but I grew up in Baltimore where I just don’t have a team and the sport it’s very big so it’s hard for me to really follow the league. I don’t feel that connection to any team or the sport really. I love basketball even though I never had a pro team because at least I grew up during a great era of Terps basketball that got me hooked in the sport.

But when you throw and international team competition I have a team, I cheer for USA. I love watching hockey during the Olympics but a world cup dedicated to the sport on it’s own would just be awesome and really help grow it’s popularity.

And speaking of World Cup’s, let’s move on to Basketball…

14. Does anybody care about FIBA?

The USA just steamrolled through the FIBA World Cup but people just don’t particularly care. I just said that NHL and the sport of hockey would really benefit from having a World Cup because it gives fans a national team to root for and American fans while cheer for anything America, it can be the national hackey-sack team and we’ll chant “USA! USA! USA!” However, the problem is there just isn’t very much drama in FIBA and to make things worse there aren’t stars there to draw in the crowd. The USA rolled through the entire tournament without their best players, we’re just that dominant in the sport. At least a hockey World Cup would be a fairly close competition with a lot of different countries all in the mix.

Until other countries start getting to America’s level in basketball and the stars start playing in the competition it’s going to be a hard sell to viewers.

15. Would anybody else love to see the Miami Heat succeed this year?

Dwayne Wade

When the Miami Heat had the big three they were easy to root against but now that LeBron has returned to Cleveland it just seems assumed that his pair of sidekicks, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, will lead a middle of the road team. That is what makes them easy to cheer for now; it’s because they aren’t supposed to win. Everybody loves and underdog. But even without James I don’t think the Heat will fall all that far. Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger were fantastic additions this offseason that will give the Heat a lot of offense. Shabazz Napier is an incredibly tough and athletic point guard who will see a lot of time. Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers are three experiences starters who have experienced a ton of success.

16. Should Bruce Levenson have sold his share of the Atlanta Hawks?

Before an investigation was conducted Bruce Levenson decided to sell his share of the Atlanta Hawks and I suspect it was because of pressure from the other owners. Even the wake of the Donald Sterling scandal where commissioner Adam Silver determined he had to sell the Clippers I don’t think the same ruling would have been dealt to Levenson. His comments were not necessarily malicious, just ignorant. He’s a businessman and everything he said was with regards to business. The comments just didn’t happen to be politically correct or appropriate. But he got out early. If he was facing pressure from the other owners to sell his share so they did not have to deal with any sort of backlash then it was the best thing for him to do. I suspect he’ll still be a fan of the team, though.

All of these scandals keep preventing me from talking about the actual games and players, on to college football…

17. Was Penn State having their postseason ban lifted a conspiracy?

Penn State

Dang it, I said enough with the scandals! But at least this one has to do with the college football postseason so I’ll roll with it.

I do find it very convenient that Penn State got their ban lifted after they improved to 2-0 the same week Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State all lost their games. Now, Penn State (and maybe Nebraska) are the hope for the Big Ten to make the first ever college football postseason tournament. Of course the NCAA wants their pride and joy conference involved.

But I don’t think it had anything to do with that. I think it had to do with the NCAA finally getting some sense and for the first time they did something to actually benefit the student athletes! Letting the young men, who had absolutely nothing to do with anything that happened, see the possibility of their hard work paying off and then giving them their scholarships back is the right move for the NCAA.

18. Can Jameis Winston repeat as Heisman Trophy winner?

Can he, absolutely but I highly doubt he does. Now with it coming out that he’ll have to miss a half of his game against Clemson for another incident off-field behavior I just don’t think the people who vote for the award will continue to reward him. He has a very bright future but he has to stop getting in trouble, even if they are small stupid things like filling up ketchup holders with soda at a fast food restaurant or yelling obscenities in a college cafeteria (Now he was not officially charged but the connection to sexual assault is a pretty big deal). They are mostly small things but just show a lack of better judgement on his part. Maybe if he really blows everybody away with his performance he’ll be in consideration but if it’s anything close they’ll probably give it to the other guy.

Kenny Hill19. Where does Kenny Hill think he can get off with giving himself a nickname when he’s only a sophomore?

Being called “Kenny Football” after succeeding Johnny Manziel as Texas A&M’s quarterback would probably be annoying but he’s trying trademark the nickname “Kenny Trill.” That is probably the dumbest nickname I’ve ever heard. The word “Trill” is a combination of “true” and “real” but try explaining that to people who don’t know who Houston Hip-Hop artist Bun B is. Maybe something good like, I don’t know, “Kenny Thrill” would be better. At least people will remember that. Instead “Kenny Trill” is something everybody will forget once he graduates in 2016, which happens the same year he would find out if he got the trademark.

Let’s get some love for soccer in here…

20. What team is winning the MLS Cup?

Obviously the star-studded squads Seattle Sounders FC and LA Galaxy are the big front runners but there always seems to be a team ranked somewhere in the middle of their conference that ends up winning. Sporting Kansas City are the reigning champion currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference behind D.C. United. Or maybe we’ll finally see Thierry Henry lead the New York Red Bulls to the championship match, getting the league’s biggest stars on the biggest stage.

21. How long before the MLS becomes one of the elite soccer leagues in the world?

Major League Soccer has done an absolutely remarkable job building to the level they are. Right now they’re the No. 6 league in the world but it’s going to take a lot to move bast one of the big five (EPL, La Liga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Bundesliga). It’s not going to happen over night but the MLS is making great strides to get over there. When Orlando City SC and New York City FC join the MLS they’ll be adding the likes of Frank Lampard, David Villa and Kaka into the talent pool. Sure they’re all past their primes but we can all see a day when Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo run to America for the money and then all it will take is one big star in the prime of their career to come over and the chips will start falling. There is simply too much money invested in sports in America to not have the MLS become one of the very best leagues in the world.

Landon Donovan22. How would things have played out differently in the World Cup is Landon Donovan was selected to the team?

You cannot underestimate the value of experienced goal scorers, especially on a huge stage like the World Cup. At this point in his career Donovan was the best player on the team any more but he was definitely one of the best players Team USA had to choose from. If Jozy Altidore did not go down in the first game we probably wouldn’t even be talking about it but when he got injured and Team USA struggled to score and a guy like Aaron Johannsson just looked completely in-over-his head it made you wonder what could have been. Even if Donovan is a shell of what he used to be he was still a good player with veteran know-how and enough talent to make the squad. Sorry Jurgen Klinsmann, I have to disagree with you on that one.

Let’s finish up with some combat sports…

23. Who should get the next shot at Floyd Mayweather?

With only two fights remaining on his contract before he’s retiring Floyd Mayweather has a lot of options for who his next opponent should be. Obviously, even still, we all want Manny Pacquiao, but part of me still wants the legitimate, worthy No. 1 contender to fight him for the belt. Maybe that man still is Pacquiao, coming off victories over Brandon Rios and Timothy Bradley, especially if he beats Chris Algieri in November. But a fight against Amir Khan would be so good to watch. Coming off three straight wins, Khan is very worthy of a shot. Only three fights since December 15, 2012 will probably kill his chances of that so maybe Adrian Broner swoops in. Screw it, just go with Pacquiao, make the fight happen.

24. Will the Spider make a comeback?

Anderson Silva

After gruesomely shattering his leg against Chris Weidman last January, Anderson Silva’s career was assumed to be over but the 39-year-old isn’t done yet. He’s has been working very hard to return and on July 29 he announced he would fight Nick Diaz in the main event of UFC 183. The good part for Silva is that he did not hurt a ligament, bone recovers a lot easier and can be stronger after it heals. The bad part is that he is 39-years-old and coming off a major injury that had kept him out of action for a year. Diaz isn’t one of the very top fighters in the world so the Spider very well may win but it’s hard to imagine him returning to the dominant level he once was. Then again, all of the greatest of greats have comeback stories. Maybe he is about to write his.

25. How has Wladimir Klitchko’s heavyweight title fight against Kubrat Pulev not been picked up by American television?

I find it very sad that the most prestigious championship in all of sports, boxing’s heavyweight championship, will be up for grabs in November and no American television provider or pay-per-view provider have picked it up. I really hope it gets picked up very soon. It may not be the greatest fight and Klitchko should dominate it but it’s still a heavyweight title fight, that division is on the rise big time.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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