Interview: Dominic Foos

A normal day for Dominic Foos is waking up and heading to the golf course. After that, he will play some more golf and later, more golf. Rough life, I know. Dominic is not your average high schooler, traveling around the globe to play in some of the best tournaments for teenage golfers. The feats he has accomplished at such a young age is surreal. I was able to ask Dominic a couple of questions about his career thus far.

dominicfoos.com

dominicfoos.com

You are 15 years old and have won numerous tournaments throughout the world. There are videos of you up at 5 a.m. or earlier on the range or playing. What is your motivation?
I am just always to get better and better. If I want to play professionally, I will have to earn it.

With your early success, you have drawn comparisons to other child prodigies, such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. How do you cope with the pressure of such great comparisons?
I feel no pressure on that. Some people like to compare me to other players, and I have no problem with that. To me, I think of it as an honor to be mentioned with some of the greatest golfers today.

What does it mean to you to have such comparisons?
It shows me that I am heading in the right direction.

I saw you had a chance to play alongside Rory McIlroy in the Pro-Am in Turkey. What was it like playing with arguably the best golfer in the world? Today, what golfer do you look up to most?
Yes, I had a blast with Rory. Turkey was an awesome time. Tiger Woods is the player to whom I look up most. He has proved himself to be one of the best golfers ever and I hope to be in his position someday.

Foos alongside Rory McIlroy

Foos alongside Rory McIlroy

What was your experience like playing on the Junior Ryder Cup?
Playing in Chicago alongside Europe’s best junior golfers was a great experience for me. Afterward, I got to watch an incredible Ryder Cup at Medinah and most importantly, a European victory!

You were able to meet some of the European players at Medinah. What kind of advice did they give you?
They really just told me to keep up the hard work and to have fun with the game.

Since you were three years old, you have been golfing. Is there anyone specific you have looked up to? Who has influenced your game the most?
My Dad. He has had a major influence on my game and the progress I have made thus far.

Your website says you have been recruited by colleges throughout the United States. Some of the more notable golfers to leave Europe and attend schools in the U.S. are Graeme MacDowell and Luke Donald. Do you any desire to follow in their footsteps?
To play college golf is for sure an incredible achievement. Personally, I prefer to focus on my game in Europe and to play in more tournaments here. After that, I hope to make it to the next level and play professional golf.

What is your favorite golf course that you have played on and why?
Leopard Creek in South Africa, no doubt. Not only is it an impressive, challenging course, but the surrounding area is beautiful.

You were the first golfer to win the Audi Generation Award, you have been on the Junior Ryder Cup team, and the list continues. So far, what has been, in your mind, the greatest feat?
I am always giving my best on everything and I cherish the opportunities I have had. Every award is great, of course, but I am really looking forward to what the future holds.

Because you are such a great golfer, many forget you are just a 15 year old. When you are rarely not practicing or playing, what are some of your hobbies? Do you play any other sports?
Unfortunately, the time is limited, but I enjoy playing table tennis and basketball. Plus, I love going to see new movies.

Where is the coolest place you have ever been to? What made that destination so fun?
I have been able to go to so many places, but Miami, Florida, is a very cool place. I can play golf at incredible courses there and while being surrounded by nothing but entertainment.

What is the biggest goal you are looking to accomplish?
I will do anything and everything to get to the top of the world one day.

I would like to thank Dominic for his time. As he said earlier, he hopes to play professionally someday, and I would put my money on him accomplishing that dream. I wish him good luck and will be cheering for him in the future.

Drew Agnello

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NFL Fraternity

The NFL fraternity is one the most prestigious organizations in America. It could be argued as more exclusive than Harvard, even more exclusive than Yale’s secret society. Something about the name, better known by three letters to its biggest advocates. Its something about the tradition. Something about the names of former pledges such as Walter, Montana, Rice, Sanders, Taylor. Even now as the torch has been handed to the likes of Brady, Manning, Peterson, Revis. Though the fraternity ages, every year new pledges are allowed in, given the opportunity to put their stamp on the already tremendous legacy established by the previously mentioned and others. Unlike the fraternities scene on a nearby campus, the chances of a pledge being accepted into the NFL is not based on how little or how much money one has. Neither is it based off of a family legacy.

NFL DRAFT

This exclusive organization rarely allows in those who are not capable of taking on the enormous responsibility that comes along with wearing infamous stitching on ones jersey. Now there are those who make their way into the fraternity who were able to hide their flaws well during the interview process. They were able convince many the hype surrounding them was real. Names that come to mind such as Russell, Leaf, Bosworth, all the quarterbacks drafted before Tom Brady. Their true value to the organization was quickly seen, which resulted in the termination of the relationship. Others were questioned about whether they belonged in the exclusive group, but have proven themselves and have become intricate members to the society. Thursday on primetime television, nearly 250 of the applicants will be welcomed in. While the other 3500 draft eligible players either hang up their cleats or wait for a free agent contract. The NFL’s acceptance rate is about 7%. To gain a comparison, Columbia University has an acceptance rate of 7.4%, yeah pretty exclusive. Names such as Geno Smith, Teo, Millner, Lacy will be revealed along with others. Some will have high over bearing expectations, while others will simply be over looked. Many people look at the game of football as just that, a game. However, the NFL has given the chance of a lifetime for young men to play the game they love and also take care of those who have supported them throughout their long, hard fought journey. New faces will line the aged, old halls of the glorious frat house in Canton, Ohio but the game remains live and well.

Michael Rose

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The Real Heroes of 2012

The holidays. They can really be a blessing. On the other hand, they can be a painful reminder another year come to pass, a year of shortcomings, a year of tragedy.  As a 21 year old college student, I’ve found myself asking, “Were things really this bad 10 years ago, or was I just not old enough to notice?”

To be honest, I really could not tell you, but I do know that this year was one of the more tragic in recent memory. From the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy, to the bloody civil unrest occurring in Syrira, to the families suffering from the tragedies that occurred in the communities of Aurora and Newtown, this has been a year where hope seemed absent in the midst of great sorrow.

On this website you see us writing about our idols in sports, athletes who inspire and awe us as sports fans.  We call them heroes and give them all the adoration in the world. I decided this week to go in a different direction. There are heroes that inspire off the field. There are people with unimaginable courage and strength that we cannot begin to fathom.  There are everyday people who inspire and amaze us, and in a year with so much tragedy, they are the heroes this country and this world need most. Here are the Real Heroes of 2012.

Malala Yousafzi

Mala

In Pakistan, Malala Yousafzi has been fighting for the past 4 years for girl’s rights to education in her own country, and in doing so has brought education and women’s rights into the global spotlight. She began speaking out through anonymous blog posts published by the BBC and eventually grew into an open education activist worldwide. She has done all of this at the risk of her own life. On October 9th Malala was shot in the head in a Taliban assassination attempt on her life. Malala survived, and as a result of her bravery, former British Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a United Nations petition in her name, using the slogan “I am Malala” and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. Malala’s hard work and courage made her this year’s runner-up for the Time “Person of the Year”. Perhaps more significant, her work brought women’s rights and education to the forefront on a global scale and become a powerful symbol of resistance at the Taliban’s attempt to limit women’s rights. That is a lot to do in a lifetime, let alone do before your 16th birthday.

Peter Vadola

 Peter

Peter Vadola, a 28 year-old local truck driver and Staten Island resident, rescued nearly 200 of his fellow residents from flooding as a result of Hurricane Sandy. It all began when Vedola ventured out the morning following the storm to see that damage that had been done to his new home, the home he purchased to begin his new life with his pregnant wife. While checking out the damage he received a frantic call from his friend, Danny, who was trapped in his attic with his wife and three kids. He had called 911 and still no one had come for help. Vadola said he would do what he could to help them. As if by way of a miracle, a motorboat, which had been ripped loose from the storm, floated his way and Vadola sprung into action. After rescuing Danny and his family, Vadola continued to race through the streets of Staten Island picking up as many people as he could and taking them up to Lincoln Avenue where the fire department was providing warm blankets and care to the displaced families. Days after Vadola’s brilliant heroics on November 8th, his wife gave birth to his first child and son, Justin Peter Vadola.

“I’ll always remember Sandy as a time when the people of New York came together,” Vadola says. “I have never been thanked more times before in my life. One guy even wanted to give me money. I told him to put away his money before I tossed him overboard. Now I have a beautiful son to be thankful for. This is going to be the best Thanksgiving of my life.”

Dawn Hochsprung

Dawn-Hochsprung-300

One of the victims of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was their principal Dawn Hochsprung.  Hochsprung first heard the sound of gunfire then ran to protect her students by attempting to take down shooter Adam Lanza. As a result, Hochsprung lost her life, a life she devoted to students as an educator. Fellow family members, teachers, and friends hailed Hochsprung as a selfless educator, an educator that has now inspired many around the country and the world with her act of bravery. It’s clear the world needs more mothers, educators, friends and heroes like Dawn Hochsprung.

Jake Wood

jake wood

Jake Wood, a former US Marine and Iraq War veteran, first began reaching out to those in need after the massive earthquake that left Haiti devastated in 2010.  In just 3 weeks Wood was able to assemble over 60 volunteers, many of them veterans themselves, to aid in relief efforts in Haiti.  They called themselves Team Rubicon, in reference to the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” meaning passing the point of no return. The name proved appropriate, as Wood has not looked back since his time spent helping in Haiti and has continued to help around the world through his non-profit organization. In the past two years the organization has grown to almost 1,400 members, about 80% of them being military veterans. They have aided in relief efforts all over the world ranging from Chile to Joplin, Missouri. Wood believes that giving veterans a chance to give back is crucial, as it allows them to continue to serve after their duty term is up.

“There’s no limit to what veterans can do. … They’ve already proven that they want to serve … and when they come home, a lot of them still want to do it,” said Wood. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Pushpa Basnet

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Pushpa Basnet, a native of Nepal and CNN’s 2012 Hero of the year, is no ordinary 28 year old, at least not by Nepal’s standards.  Nepal is currently one of the world’s poorest countries with over 55% of the population living below the international poverty line. Basnet, however, was born under more fortunate circumstances, coming from a family with a successful business and steady flow of income while she was growing up. At 21 years old she discovered her calling while she was studying social work in college. She visited a women’s prison and was taken back by the poor living conditions and the fact there were children living in the prisons as well.

Because of Nepal’s high poverty rate, it lacks the type of social safety nets we enjoy here in the US and in other Western Nations. As a result, space is severely limited in the government run children’s homes. So when an individual is incarcerated and no other legal guardian is available, the parent has the choice to either bring their child to prison or let them fend for themselves on the streets of Nepal.  Basnet simply could not stand for this, and in 2005 she began to provide care for the children of incarcerated parents. She got friends to donate money and began renting out a building to house the children. Her care center has grown from housing 5 students to now housing over 40 and she has assisted over 100 children since she began 7 years ago. She also runs a daycare for children under 6 along with her residential program.  She ensures that the children maintain relationships with their imprisoned parents as well by planning trips to visit the prisons over holidays. Still, Basnet strives to do more as she is eager to find more ways to give these children a better future.

“This is what I want to do with my life,” Basnet said. “It makes me feel (good) when I see that they are happy, but it makes me want to work harder. … I want to fulfill all their dreams.”

————-

This is obviously just a short list of the amazing people doing inspiring things in the world today. The fact is people do wonderful and amazing things for one another everyday. Perhaps not on such a grand scale as the outstanding individuals, but still small acts today go a long way towards creating a better tomorrow.  A wise man once said, “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.”

So amidst this despair and sorrow, we can find solace in believing that there is so much overwhelming goodness in the hearts of so many people in the world today. Let’s remember those who were lost to tragedy in 2012 and let’s make 2013 deserving of their memory. Happy New Year everyone.

Tommy Randolph 

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Let the Battle for Beltran Begin

Free-agent slugger Carlos Beltran is in Kansas City meeting with the Royals front office. The club is hoping for a big-bang reunion with Beltran, who began his career in Kansas City in 1998. He was traded to the Astros during the 2004 season. He batted .287 and compiled a .835 OPS for the Royals. Most impressively he produced four seasons of 100 runs and 100 RBI in a five-year span from 1999-2003. Beltran arrived in Kansas City on Monday and is staying through Tuesday to meet with club officials and listen to the Royals’ pitch to have a homecoming with the right fielder. The Royals most likely will need to be willing to go to three years to sign Beltran. The Mariners also have a big interest in adding a bat like Beltran’s and are expected to make a serious offer to Beltran to get him to be their designated hitter. ESPN reported Beltran has a three-year offer on the table for $48 million, though it did not specify which team made such an offer.

Bringing Back Beltran

Bringing Back Beltran

The leader in the Beltran sweepstakes is the Yankees because of their payroll and chances to make the playoffs. The main reason Beltran is still a major free agent at the ago of 36 is because he brings a clutch bat that can push these teams into the playoffs. The Royals have seen in first hand how important Beltran can be in a lineup. One thing they haven’t been able to see is what he can do with hitters around him such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Signing Beltran will help Butler and Gordon’s RBI numbers because Beltran gives protection to the middle of the lineup. At some point fans and front office executives will have to worry about carrying two designated hitters on the same team in aging Beltran and Butler. The Royals may be able to play Beltran in right field for this season but in 2015 he will be most effective as a DH. I personally wanted the Royals to pull the trigger for Dexter Fowler for one of the relievers. This trade made sense because the Royals needed another outfielder and had a surplus of relievers. The Astros were able to jump on the low asking price the Rockies put out there on Fowler. The best-case scenario would be the Royals sign Beltran and in 2015 they decide to move Butler for a needed piece at that time. The only way this signing makes the Royals better is if both Butler and Beltran are in the lineup together for the first two years. In addition, if the Royals can’t make that work, the return for Butler should be high because of his consistency at the plate. While the Royals will lose their draft pick to the Cardinals for signing Beltran, they will gain a draft pick from who ever signs Ervin Santana. Lastly, The Royals lineup next year will look like this… LF Gordon, RF Beltran, 1B Hosmer, DH Butler, C Perez, CF Cain, 3B Moustakas, SS Escobar, 2B TBD. This lineup now puts fear in opposing pitching staffs.  If the Royals are able to sign Carlos Beltran it will most likely be their biggest free agent signing since David Cone. The cheers at opening day when Beltran takes the field will be the loudest I will hear at the K in my short life so far.

Spencer Montgomery

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The NBA Lottery 2013

After going back and watching last night’s draft in its entirety, I could only come up with one word to describe it: Awkward. From Anthony Bennett going number one overall to the Cavaliers, to the awkward exchange between Doc Rivers and Bill Simmons , it was a draft night that I want to forget. For starters, let’s never have Rece Davis and Jay Bilas work a draft night with Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons again. The commentary was all over the place and the two pairs clearly have a different style on covering the draft. The whole night was one big awkward mess.  It certainly did not get any better after the news of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce’s trade to Brooklyn either.  Next year’s broadcast just has to be better.  Based on the talent in this draft it is certainly a weak one, but by no means is it the worst in history. That award goes to the 2000 NBA Draft whose top three picks were Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift (who reportedly hated basketball), and Darius Miles (who is probably best remembered for his cameo in Van Wilder). Nevertheless, here is my breakdown and grades of the lottery picks in 2013.

Cleveland Cavaliers, Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

anthony Bennett

No one saw Anthony Bennett going number one.  And I mean no one. With the speculation and predictions about the 2013 Draft seemingly changing every minute since March, not one mock draft I saw had Bennett going number one, as tweeners (between the 3 and the 4 positions) rarely do. However, I’ve long believed that Bennett was one of the top 5 players in this draft and was one of the best bets in this draft as long as he could stay healthy. I think that Bennett’s size and versatility can really help Cleveland on the offensive end, especially if he can improve on his jump shot and keep the extra pounds off. Imagine Bennett and Kyrie Irving in a high screen pick and pop scenario. Bennett could 20 and 10 guy. Cleveland fans have reason to be excited.                   Draft grade: A-

Orlando Magic, Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Oladipo is a guy with a motor that’s always running and that is exactly what the Magic will need down the road. He appears to be one of the most NBA ready prospects and will make a difference on the defensive end from day 1. If the Magic want to truly get the most out of this pick they do have to be patient with the way his offensive game develops. Oladipo is one of the few players I could see becoming a legitimate superstar in this draft. I love Bill Simmons’ worst case scenario of Oladipo as a Tony Allen type player with a better offensive game.                    Draft grade: A

Washington Wizards, Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

This seemed to be the only predictable pick of the entire night. Porter has immense upside and with his 6’9” frame, he can be plugged in right away at the 3 and help John Wall and Co. make a push for the playoffs. He’s a perfect fit for the Wizards from a basketball standpoint and from a personality standpoint. Look for Porter to have a long career in the capital.                   Draft grade: A+

Charlotte Bobcats, Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana

After the Bennett pick, this was my next biggest WTF moment of night. The Bobcats need help all over the floor and with potential All-Stars like McClemore, Noel and even Len still available, this move just left most scratching their head. Zeller will have to make the transition from the 5 to the 4 and will have to improve his toughness and motor if he wants be effective. Here are some other “notable” first round picks by the Bobcats: Sean May, Adam Morrison, DJ Augustin, and Bismack Biyombo. I think Zeller will soon join this list of misfits. The Bobcats miss the mark for yet another year. The Bobcats will continue to have the worst roster in basketball. All Charlotte fans can do now is cross their fingers for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. P.S. Adam, wherever you are, I’m sorry.                   Draft grade: D

Phoenix Suns, Alex Len, C, Maryland

This is an OK pick for the Suns considering what was left on the board. Beyond the top 6-8 picks there were really no clear cut choices remaining, so Phoenix went with one of the few options they had and chose Len. However, once again, McClemore and Noel were still on the board. I can see Len becoming a future version of Brook Lopez, so long as he works on his positioning and moves with his back to the basket. He also needs to improve on his consistency. There were times last year for Maryland in which Len would disappear for game long stretches and be a non-factor. Phoenix can’t afford another poor draft pick if they intend on rebuilding in the near future.                   Draft grade: C+

nerlens-noel

New Orleans Pelicans (traded to Philadelphia) Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky

You always feel bad for the guys who slide. In this case, I felt like much of Nerlens Noel’s slide could have been avoided.  In a lot of pre-draft reports, it was said that Nerlens Noel and his camp had been difficult to get ahold of for pre-draft interviews and no one really knew who was representing Noel. That’s never a good sign. Those issues, combined with his injured knee, caused concern to grow and thus his slide to number 6. I think it was a stretch for Philadelphia to trade their young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for a young, potentially damaged 7 footer, who apparently weighed in at 206 lbs at a pre-draft camp. Noel will have to add muscle to his wiry frame and an offensive game if he wants to validate his potential as a prospect.                                    Draft grade for PHI: B                   Trade grade for NO: A+

Sacramento Kings, Ben McClemore, SG, Kansas

By far the best value pick in the 1st round of the draft. McClemore, who had been projected as going as high as 1, fell right into the Kings lap at pick 7. While there are some concerns about McClemore’s desire and killer instinct, there is no denying his fantastic shooting stroke and superb athleticism. I think he has one of the highest ceilings of any player in the draft given those attributes. Hopefully McClemore can help the Kings franchise steer the ship in the right direction.                  Draft grade: A

Detroit Pistons, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, SG, Georgia

Not many people saw Caldwell Pope in action last year at Georgia. While I thought that the Pistons might stretch and take McCollum with the 8th pick, this one makes sense too. The Pistons have been back and forth on where to slot Brandon Knight in the future and this pick all but solidifies his spot and the PG position. Caldwell Pope will provide a great shooter for the Pistons and will combine with Knight for one of the better young back courts in the league in the future.                  Draft grade: B

Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to Utah), Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

I think that this pick/trade worked out great for both sides. Minnesota got the guy they wanted in Shabazz Muhammed and Trey Burke found his ideal situation with Utah. The Jazz gives Burke the opportunity to start right away with a young and talented team. There will certainly be some growing pains along the way, but Burke, the best point guard in the draft will have no problems with the learning curve. He was arguably the fiercest competitor in the country last year and will continue to put that competitiveness into his game at the pro level. As a guy playing with a chip on his shoulder, Burke should be feared.                   Draft grade for MIN: B+                                    Draft grade for UTA: A+

Portland Trailblazers, CJ McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh

This pick left me scratching my head a bit. The Blazers currently have a very talented combo guard in Damian Lillard, who is very proficient on the offensive end. My feelings tell me that they just drafted the same guy in McCollum. Starting those two together gives the Blazers a pretty undersized backcourt and has virtually two PGs on the floor at the same time, given that McCollum starts right away. With issues at the center position, Steven Adams made more sense here. From a talent standpoint it’s a good pick, but from a needs standpoint, not so much.  Draft grade: B

Philadelphia 76ers, Michael Carter Williams, PG, Syracuse

After the trade sending Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans, this pick made the most sense for the 76ers. They are now clearly committed to a rebuilding effort around the young core of Noel, Turner and Carter Williams. Carter Williams will get big minutes right away, but will need to work on his scoring if he wants to join the ranks of the upper echelon of point guards in the NBA. I still think it was a stupid trade to give up a talent like Holiday especially for someone as unproven as Noel. We’ll just have to wait and see.                   Draft grade: B-

 Oklahoma City Thunder, Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

Given what this pick was supposed to be, I’m not happy. The Thunder gave up Harden for this?! A raw 7 foot big man who is still clearly learning the game of basketball (see Bismack Biyombo)?! This must be what it’s like to be a Charlotte fan (again, sorry Adam). I’m not buying that trade nor will I ever. Now, time to be logical. At this point in the draft, with the talent remaining, I’m OK with this pick. I desperately wanted to see Sam Presti and the Thunder front office go out on a limb and take Jamaal Franklin, who will end up being the steal of this draft, but that was wishful thinking. Giving Adams some time in the D-League to get a better feel for the game will be beneficial and hopefully he develops enough to find a spot in the Thunder’s starting 5 (I’m still hoping the same about Jeremy Lamb).                   Draft grade: B-

James Harden trade: F—- (bitter much?)

Dallas Mavericks (traded to Boston), Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Gonzaga

There’s not a whole lot to say about Olynyk. He’s a decent big man who can run the floor, face up in the high post and get to the basket. His game lacks in almost every other area. While it is the “sensible pick” at 14 and might have been the best available for the Celtics, I don’t see Olynyk making much of a splash in Boston or anywhere.  Picture Raef Lafrentz, but not as tough (if you can imagine that).

shabbazz muhhamad

Utah Jazz (traded to Minnesota), Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA

I think this is a decent fit for both parties. The combination of Rubio, Love and Pekovic will hopefully allow for Muhammad to feel less pressure on the offensive end and just do what comes naturally, something he was seldom allowed to do at UCLA, being the primary scoring option. He’s offensive rebounding prowess will also continue to bolster the Minnesota front court and add more size to their rotation. I think if Muhammad can grow up a little bit more, he may turn some heads in Minnesota.  Draft grade: B+

So that wraps my take on the lottery picks of the 1st round. Before I wrap up I figured I should give some credit where credit is due. Today, I applaud David Stern. Stern turned the NBA into the marketing monster it is today. While many were critical of his methods and approach to handling players, he grew the NBA more than arguably any other professional sport during his 30 year tenure. The NBA and its players owe him gratitude. Even more so, we, the fans, owe him thanks. Thank you, David Stern. How’s about you bring back that killer stash for retirement?

Tommy Randolph

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Cardinals Recap

Over the past three weeks or so, the Cardinals have kept up their great style of play.  They have gone 13-7 in their last twenty games, with a big three game sweep of the Washington Nationals.  In addition to picking up key wins against the Nationals, the Cards have played solid, fundamental baseball against their division rivals.  In the last twelve NL Central games, the Cardinals are 8-4.  As I begin this recap, they have just completed their four game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  They put up a ridiculous twenty-nine runs in those four games, while only giving up thirteen.  As play concluded on Sunday, the Cards held a two and a half game lead over the Reds for the lead in the NL Central.  St. Louis is on a six game winning streak, with good timing, too, because the Reds are on a three game streak of their own.

yadier-molina-cleats-shot

As the season is progressing, player statistics are becoming more realistic.  Unsurprisingly, Yadier Molina is the offensive MVP of the team so far.  Through thirty games played, Yadi is hitting an impressive .328, with two bombs and seventeen runs batted in.  Allen Craig is also proving himself as an everyday, middle of the lineup hitter.  Through twenty-nine games played, Craig is batting .291, with one home run and twenty-five RBI’s.  Once Craig gets the long ball going, watch out.

On the defensive side, the starting rotation has been nothing short of phenomenal.  Jake Westbrook is the only starter that doesn’t have at least four wins.  Wainwright, Miller, and Garcia each have four, while Lance Lynn of all people leads the team with five.  Lynn, also, has yet to lose a start.  The story of the rotation (again) is Mr. Adam Wainwright.  Since I last wrote about him, almost nothing has changed.  Through almost fifty innings of work, Wainwright has only three walks.  THREE! That’s unheard of!  Things tend to go well when you avoid walks and record an average of at least one strikeout per inning pitched.  That’s exactly what Wainwright does.

The Cards should have at least two more wins coming up in the next few days.  They have a two game series coming up against the Cubs, which unfortunately for me being from Chicago, should mean two easy wins against the Cubbies.  Other key upcoming series include the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, and the surprisingly good Kansas City Royals.

Christian Biondi 

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AFC South Draft Grades

Tennessee Titans 
Tennessee Titans have been disappointed for awhile with the team a performance of late. Even the rushing stats took a hit under the first year head coach Mike Munchak. I think they addressed the odfensive line with big Chance Warmack from Alabama. Kid is massive and if anyone saw Manti Teo’s lowlights on ESPN, Warmack was the guy continuously climbing up on him every play. He moves well for his size and is accustomed to the zone rushing attack Tennessee will use with Chris Johnson. He has opened the way for guys like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Lacy. Warmack has the ability to be a consistent staple on the Titans line for years to come. They added former Volunteer wideout, Justin Hunter to a decent receiving core headed by Justin Britt. Hunter has the ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point and beat corners deep. They addressed needs at corner and linebacker with Blidi Breh-Wilson and Zavier Gooden, respectively. Brian Schwenke will help out the center position, while Lavar Edwards will be looked upon to add depth to the defensive line.
Overall Grade: B

Indianapolis Colts 
The Colts became firm that the Peyton Manning era was over, after they selected Luck with the second pick in last years draft. After a surprising playoff birth, the Colts looked to build upon last years success with a couple of intricate picks. Colts added German born Seminole, Bjoern Wergner. I was impressed with his athletic ability at Florida State and has real high motor. I believe he will add a decent pass rush to team that had a hard time getting to the quarterback in 2012. One of the biggest problems the colts had was not the ability to get to the quarterback, but to protect their own. They added depth with selections of Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton who both can play multiple positions on the line. Montorri Hughes can be a huge asset if he proves he has matured after being dismissed from Tennessee, which forced him into the FCS. If developed, can be a nice piece at a 4-3 nose tackle spot.

Overall Grade: C

luke-joeckel

Jacksonville Jaguars 
The Jaguars had one of my favorite drafts this year. They added a franchise building player with Joeckel, who I thought would go number one, and they added plenty of speed to one of the slowest rosters in the league. Hopefully with a stable left tackle, the Jags can develop Gabbert the way they want too. I’m still not sold on Gabbert and many looked for them to take a quarterback, which they kind of did when they drafted Dennard Robinson. He was announced as a runningback/returner but don’t be surprised if  he ales a couple of snaps at quarterback in the Pre-season. Remember, the Jags went through the same process with matt Jones who was a quarterback at Arkansas, before becoming a capable wideout for them. They also added dynamic returner Ace Sanders, who is guy I liked watching at South Carolina. Denfensively, they added plenty of secondary ep and tremendous ball hawker in FIU standout, Johnathan Cyprien. He can cover like a corner on slots, and play a the eighth man in the box. They drafted two corners, another safety to add depth. They are probably nowhere near contending for the AFC South crown, but this draft seems (for the moment) to be a promising start.
Overall Grade: B

Houston Texans 
The Texans finally broke last year and headed into this off season in a unfamiliar role, adding assets not rebuilding. They add DeAndre Hopkins to an already explosive offense. He will line up opposite of perennial All-Pro, Andre Johnson at receiver. Safety DJ Swearinger from South Carolina, is a hard hitter who will eventually replace Ed Reed but look for him to make an impact on all special teams. Texans also add a potential pass rusher with Sam Montgomery from LSU. great player, great athleticism but (along with Mingo) was listed by Les Miles as someone who does not always work hard. Trevardo Williams at linebackers gives them great value for the 124th pick as a linebacker. I also like Quessenberry from San Jose St. At the guard/tackle spot.
Overall Grade: B

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AFC North Draft Grades

Pittsburgh Steelers 
The Steelers went about their business this draft as usual, but with more holes than we are used to seeing. They lose Mike Wallace, Jamie Harrison, and they have been lacking a quality running back. They added toughness and playmaking at Harrison’s spot, by drafting Georgia Bulldog standout Jarvis Jones. Many were pushed away after his pro day, but he was coming off an injury but he is a guy that fits the Steelers tough, hard-nosed culture. Markus Wheaton form Oregon St., will provide a possible slot threat and a guy who can take a five yard under route, for a big gain. I really like the pick up of  Le’Veon Bell because he has never been seriously injured in college, which has plagued the Steelers recently, and he is a workhorse. He is a big guy, again like Jones, and very tough and  a hard nosed runner. Shamarko Thomas is an enforcer at safety but lacks ideal height for a defensive back (5’9″). However, kid has a tremendous grit after losing both parents in college and now has his six siblings to look after, he will  definitely be someone to root for. Landry Jones could be the possible predecessor of Big Ben but he maybe counted on early due to Roethelisberger  consistently being injured throughout the season. Hawthorne adds value for them as a corner and look for them through rookie free agency to help out the aging secondary.
Overall Grade: B

Matt Elam

Baltimore Ravens
Many were left confused when the Super Bowl champion Ravens decided to let the perceived successor of Ray Lewis’ spot in the middle, Dan Ellerbe and playoff standout, Paul Kruger leave for other teams during free agency. Bernard Pollard was also released in the off-season. To make matters worst, they traded Anquan Boldin to the 49ers and lost future Hall of Famer Ed Reed to the Texans. They did however, resign quarterback Joe Flacco to what was the top contract for any quarterback in the league, until Aaron Rogers contract extension this weekend ($40 million /year). To fill the void of Reed, they drafted Matt Elam, an undersized but heavy hitter at safety who displayed play making abilities that they will miss without Reed. They followed that pick with a great choice in grabbing Arthur Brown from K-State. A sideline to sideline guy, who can make plays in the backfield and in the passing game. They add nose tackle Brandon Williams and fullback Kyle Juszczyk who will likely replace Vonta Leach. They do pick up a Boldin type of player in FCS WR Aaron Mallette. A big bodied wide out with great quickness and strong hands, but he will not beat most NFL corners deep.
Overall Grade: B+

Cleveland Browns
The Browns were without many choices this draft, as they only had 5 picks in this year draft. They did pick up Barkevious Mingo from LSU who has the potential to be a premier pass rusher. However, former head coach Les Miles listed him, and numerous other LSU players, as troublesome and reluctant to work hard everyday. He will have to be consistent to be productive in the NFL. They pick up a cornerback in Leon McFadden who will start outside, but is better suited as the nickel. Fighting Irish safety Jamoris Slaughter, provides depth depth, and value as a sixth round pick. He is more comfortable playing in the box, then covering bigger TE’s and quicker receivers.
Overall Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers went about their business this draft as usual, but with more holes than we are used to seeing. They lose Mike Wallace, Jamie Harrison, and they have been lacking a quality running back. They added toughness and playmaking at Harrison’s spot, by drafting Georgia Bulldog standout Jarvis Jones. Many were pushed away after his pro day, but he was coming off an injury but he is a guy that fits the Steelers tough, hard-nosed culture. Markus Wheaton form Oregon St., will provide a possible slot threat and a guy who can take a five yard under route, for a big gain. I really like the pick up of  Le’Veon Bell because he has never been seriously injured in college, which has plagued the Steelers recently, and he is a workhorse. He is a big guy, again like Jones, and very tough and  a hard nosed runner. Shamarko Thomas is an enforcer at safety but lacks ideal height for a defensive back (5’9″). However, kid has a tremendous grit after losing both parents in college and now has his six siblings to look after, he will  definitely be someone to root for. Landry Jones could be the possible predecessor of Big Ben but he maybe counted on early due to Roethelisberger  consistently being injured throughout the season. Hawthorne adds value for them as a corner and look for them through rookie free agency to help out the aging secondary.
Overall Grade: B

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AFC East Draft Grades

New England Patriots 
The Patriots are my favorite team to watch draft because even when it seems like the guy they wanted is gone, they still get the guy they want. They always have a well, devised plan and they execute it like no other. More praise goes to Belichick than the front office, after witnessing the failed “Patriot Project” by Scott Pioli with the Chiefs. I digress, the Patriots added two quality receivers in Marshall’s Aaron Dobson (Look up his one handed catch, SICK!) and TCU’s Josh Boyce. Dobson provides a big leaper with deep threat ability, kind of like another former Patriot and Marshall player…. I won’t do it. Boyce will provide a speedy, quick threat in the slot and we know Brady loves his slot receivers. Rutger teammates Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan will provide depth to an often inconsistent Patriots secondary. Scouts believe Harmon has an above average amount of potential. Many experts believe one of the best valued picks for the Patriots was Fighting Illini, Michael Buchanan. Buchanan will play the hybrid linebacker/rush end and hopefully provide a pass rush to a middle of the pack sack team last season.

Overall grade: B

Geno Smith draft

New York Jets
The circus in the New Yorks Jet’s quarterback meeting room added another act, when Geno Smith was selected in the second round. Talk about a rough drop by Smith. New York is a mess. Rex Ryan is searching for tattoo removal services, Mark Sanchez ran into another one of his linemen’s bumber in the parking lot, he fumbled his phone and Tim Tebow is still running through the sprinklers shirtless. Where is the clown? By the way they just traded Darrelle Revis, its not looking good. They add Alabama cornerback Dee Millner, who’s injuries seemed to stack up as his career ended in Tuscaloosa. Sheldon Richardson , who was the only glimmer of light in Mizzou’s SEC debut year, will provide quality depth at the defensive line. Brian Winters has the ability to be quality asset as a starter, or provide much needed depth. A lot of talk will be about what to do with Sanchez and Tebow and Geno and veteran David Garrad joins the Jets organization.
Overall Grade: D+

Miami Dolphins
The Dolphin will be remembered initially in the draft for not what they did get, but what they did not. It was publicly announced that the Chiefs were trying to send Brandon Alberts to Miami, in exchange for their second round pick and other picks possibly. The dolphins refused and opted for the services of Former Volunteer Dallas Thomas. Scouts praised him for his versatility and the ability to play more than one spot on the offensive line . However, many questioned his ability to fill the void left by All-Pro tackle Jake Long (STL). He will definitely need development and time. I do like what they did defensively in adding a potential game changer in Dion Jordan, who will become the sack-mate of current Dolphin, Chris Wake. They add two corners and Florida linebacker, Jelani Jenkins who provide depth.
Overall Grade: C-

Buffalo Bills
The Bills pulled one of the first controversial moves in the draft by taking a quarterback at the sixteen spot. That’s not the surprising thing, most heads jerked when not Smith, not Nassib, nor Jones, Bray, but Manuel. The former signal caller joins the Bills, to become what they believe to be the future of the dismantled franchise. With Kevin Kolb there already, look for Manuel to sit and learn early. Robert Woods and former Texas track/football standout Marquise Goodwin as potential weapons for Kolb/Manuel. Also, they get a quality pass threat in Arkansas Tight End Chris Gragg. Defensively, they address the need for linebacker with the pick up of Kiko Alonso, who showed flashes of play making ability at Oregon. Also, they add two safeties in Duke Williams and Johnathan Meeks in back to back rounds. Manuel and Woods can be big pick ups if developed properly, however the bills have had a tough time of late doing so. Big risk with both.
Overall Grade: C+

Michael Rose

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