The new look Padres have fared well in Spring Training, what will be in store Opening Day?

Stacked teams on paper do not always translate well to the field. We’ve seen numerous examples of this over the years from various teams, Boston, Toronto, Detroit, NYY, etc.

The San Diego Padres enter 2015 with almost a completely different lineup than they had last season, and their new additions have looked impressive in pre-season play. Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and James Shields have played very well for the Padres in Cactus League. Kemp and Upton are batting .378 and .349 respectively whilst Shields has a 3.31 ERA in 5 games. Wil Myers rounds out the shiny new San Diego outfield and has 11 hits currently. 1B Tommy Medica is having a phenomenal spring for the Friars, batting .44 with 16 hits, 12 RBI, and 4 HRs in 36 plate appearances. At this point Medica looks primed for a breakout season, which can only benefit his team. Will Middlebrooks is batting .333 in 45 at-bats. To sum it all up, the team is looking good right now.

As we’ve also seen in the past, the pre-season can be deceptive. Teams in the past have lit up Spring Training and then fizzled come Opening Day, but it’s unlikely the Padres will do the same with the talented roster they’ve built. Bud Black’s squad finished 77-85 last season, though only third behind Los Angeles and San Francisco. The team hasn’t qualified for the post-season since 2006 (despite winning 90 games in 2010). It’s about time the team makes a run at it again. Opening Day for San Diego is April 6 at Los Angeles. Can the team live up to its high expectations?

Tweet your thoughts to @FromThe300Level

Wrote by: @Flat_Manigen74

I often wonder if Danica Patrick’s hurting or helping her legacy as a female driver in NASCAR. Above all else you need to appreciate her talent, she is more than qualified to handle a race car and has a ton of guts. She brings a whole new demographic into the sport from a fan perspective and the amount of revenue it generates rivals the biggest names in the sport.

Patrick has been a welcome addition to the garage area. She engages the media, greets her fans and jokes with her peers. She fits in well. Is she good enough to win? She has all of the tools at her disposal. Patrick drives for Stewart-Haas Racing which is an extension of Hendrick Motorsports who supplies the engines and with whom they exchange data. Hmmm, Hendrick engines and info from Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson.

At the end of the day, we are led to believe winning matters most to sponsors. Is Patrick however just as valuable to her sponsors finishing in the middle of the pack each weekend as opposed to finishing at the front? It’s a question worth debating.dp

What do the results show? In 86 races, she has 1 pole (2013 Daytona 500) and 4 top-10’s. An average starting position of 27.1 and an average finish of 25.2 but she’s accumulated over $9 million in winnings. Through 86 races, Patrick has finished just thirty-four of them on the lead lap. That means she’s finished at least a lap down in almost half of the races she’s entered including 11 DNF’s, nine in the past 2 seasons.

Compare that to her Xfinity series statistics where in 61 races her average finish is 21.1, average start is 17.7 and has finished on the lead lap just 24 times. Winnings? $1.77 million for finishing mid-pack in the minor league series. You can also add 13 DNF’s.

patrickNow, I’m not here bashing her at all, the point of the article is simple. Does NASCAR and her sponsors reap the benefits at the expense of her ability? Does anybody care? She’s sexy, determined and does not back down from other drivers BUT can she truly compete at this level? Has her 3+ years in the series improved enough to call it anything but a side show? Patrick has been involved in numerous wrecks and dust-up’s with competitors and has taken her share of good cars out of races AND to be fair has been on the receiving end of bad luck at times as well.

Personally, I’d love to see her or any female driver in the winner’s circle, standing on the car splashing beer all around in celebration. Will Danica be the first woman to win in NASCAR? I don’t believe she will be but I’m excited at the possibility now more than ever. NASCAR is a sport that has evolved over the years for better or worse depending on who you ask.

We have drivers from all corners of the globe looking to make an impact in stock car racing. Thanks to Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and now Danica Patrick newcomers have a path laid out for them, if they can find a sponsor.patrick car

Patrick is off to a typical start in 2015, 2 finishes on the lead lap, 22.5 average finish and in 23rd position after 4 races. You can read the sponsor loud and clear, Patrick can finish wherever she may please, as everyone is getting fat in this deal. As far as running up front, that’s up to Danica at this point.

@wolf3328

 

Statistics courtesy of racing-reference.info

sabresBuffalo, NY- The Sabres put up a solid effort Monday night against the visiting Washington Capitals but ultimately fell 4-3 in a shoot-out. Anders Lindback turned back thirty-five shots in the loss for Buffalo but really stood up in OT ovi weberstopping all 7 shots he faced.

The Sabres were outshot 38-33 and surrendered two power play goals. Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson and Johan Larsson all scored for Buffalo. Ennis had the game’s first goal, while Hodgson broke a 1-1 tie in the first. It was a goal you would have expected from the 2014-15 Hodgson, a tricky backhand that gave Braden Holtby a workout. After making a nice blocker save the puck jumped up and out of the goaltenders site and came back down and into the net.

Buffalo was shutout in the 2nd period and saw their 2-1 lead disappear compliments of a Mike Green blast from close range. Evgeny Kuznetsov added a power play goal at 5:55 of the 3rd, after Nikita Zadorov was handed a delay of game penalty.

The Sabres continued to work hard. They did a decent job of protecting the puck, especially in the Capitals zone. It appeared Washington was showing some signs of fatigue. This was the second game in as many nights (Beat Boston 2-0 Sunday). Buffalo caught a break at 13:50 when John Larsson redirected a shot from recent call-up Chad Ruhwedel. That goal tied the score at three and ignited a sell-out crowd on the eve of St. Patty’s day.irisah jersey

Alex Ovechkin seemed to wake up in the overtime session, he had three great chances to end the game but Lindback turned two pint blank chances away and a third was a slap shot that went wide and almost through the boards. It wasn’t meant to be though, the Sabres were outshot 7-1 in the OT and would fail to score in the shootout. Kuznetsov’s scored on his attempt and that was all Washington needed to extend their winning streak to two games. The Caps are clinging to a wild card spot for now, four points up on the Bruins who host the Sabres tonight in Boston. The Sabres are winless in the season series versus the B’s (0-3) and have been outscored 11-5. This will be the 4th and final meeting until next season.

Larsson received first star honors, in 23:10 of TOI he recorded a goal, had four shots on net and won 15 of 24 faceoff’s. His play over the past few weeks has been consistent and has caught the attention of his teammates. Mike Weber for one was very complimentary of his play in a post-game interview.

@wolf3328

 

 

All day Saturday at Buffalo State College, there were games filled with tons of intensity, a plentiful amount of drama and fantastic basketball. 10 teams came into Buffalo, N.Y. vying to punch their ticket into the Final Four in their respective classes. Sadly, only 5 teams were able to do that today, but some weren’t as easy as others. Here’s a recap of each game played:

Class B – Livonia vs. East Aurora

Livonia came into the Far West Regional game owning a 20-game winning streak and hoping to continue that streak with a win on Saturday night. On the other hand, East Aurora had a different idea. The Bulldogs opened the first quarter with a 17-11 lead, but then East Aurora got hot in the 2nd quarter and never looked back. The East Aurora Blue Devils found their niche with good ball movement and they capitalized on that in their 63-46 win.

“Not a better feeling,” Blue Devils coach Gary Schutrum said after his team’s win. “It feels pretty darn good.”

Schutrum had four players that got in double-figures including sophomore Julianna Misenheimer, who had 20, and senior Erin Nason netted 16.

“There’s so much diversity on this team and that’s what makes us become a great team and play well,” Misenheimer said. “We try and not to think about what other people expect us to do. We go out there and have our own expectations.”

The expectations that the Blue Devils had in this game were beneficial to their now upcoming trip to Troy, NY to face Susquehanna Valley on March 20 at 10:00am at Hudson Valley Community College.

“It feels pretty awesome. I can’t believe we are going to States,” Nason said. “That’s been a goal we say all year, but we were hoping we would get here, but it was one of those far off goals that we didn’t want to jinx anything.”

East Aurora Blue Devils - 2015 Far West Regional Champions - Class B

East Aurora Blue Devils – 2015 Far West Regional Champions – Class B


Class A – Bishop Kearney vs. Williamsville South

Coming into the match-up between Bishop Kearney and Williamsville South, the Billies clearly had the upper-hand in almost every statistical category. They proved to be the better team in front of a decent crowd at Buffalo State College, defeating the Section V Class A champion, and giving the Billies their first ever Final Four appearance ever, 58-44.

“It’s unbelievable,” Williamsville South coach Kristen Dolan said. “It’s been their goal ever since coming back from the Finger Lakes and they just knew and they committed and they worked at it. It’s been their dream and goal to get to next weekend.”

Williamsville South was incredibly efficient from the get-go and never wanted to quit. Junior Brianna Neeley stole the show as she had a team and game-high 23 points, including two shots from downtown.

“I practice my three but I don’t get out there that much, but whenever I take it, it usually never goes in,” Neeley chuckled. When asked about two three’s being her season-high, she laughed and said, “Yeah, probably.”

Dating back to last Saturday, the Williamsville South boys coach Gabe Michael mentioned that he was receiving text messages from former players and alumni wishing him luck in their Sectional semifinal game. When asked about how close the program truly is, Grace Licata said, “I’ve been getting texts from the seniors when I was a freshman and how proud they are. They’re very proud of us. We did it for them.”

The Billies will now travel to Troy, N.Y. in the Class A State Semifinal to face the Section XII champion North Shore at 1:30pm on March 20.

 

2015 Far West Regional Champion - Class A - Williamsville South Billies

Williamsville South Billies – 2015 Far West Regional Champions – Class A


Class AA – Rush-Henrietta vs. Jamestown

Rush-Henrietta was noticeably bigger coming out of the locker room than Jamestown. But the Red Raiders did give the Royal Comets a run for their money, but did not come up on top as the Section V Champion earned their way to the Final Four in Class AA with a 53-45 win.

“It feels awesome and I couldn’t be more prouder of these girls. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but as long as we’re up in at the end, we’re happy,” Rush-Henrietta senior forward Emily Nestler said, who finished the day off with a team-high 16 points.

The Royal Comets got up and down the floor with intensity much more effectively than Jamestown and was a partial reason why Rush-Henrietta has not lost a game this season and are now 22-0.

“I think we were able to get the ball in more in the 2nd half,” Royal Comets coach Stephen Shepanski said. “Our size causes a lot of problems for teams. If your team doesn’t have the size matchup, they have to pick and choose one of those two (Dana Watts and Emily Nestler).”

Watts had the second highest scoring total for Rush-Henrietta as she had 13 points and Sarah Sweazy was another Royal Comet to eclipse double-figures with her 11 point performance.

Jamestown’s Chrisanna Green impressed everyone with yet another double-double. She had a game-high 24 points for her Red Raiders team and finished off her career with Jamestown to be a memorable one.

The Royal Comets will now travel to Hudson Valley Community College for a battle with Section XI champion Commack at 6:15 on March 20.

Rush-Henrietta Royal Comets - Far West Regional Champions - Class AA

Rush-Henrietta Royal Comets – Far West Regional Champions – Class AA


Class D – Prattsburgh vs. Panama

Prattsburgh opened the 1st half looking like they would be advancing to the State Semifinal, but Panama came out of the locker room from halftime with a mission to change that and they sure did, taking a 50-45 win back to the Southern Tier and advancing to the Final Four in Class D.

“We had a lot of good looks inside and second chances and offensive boards and they didn’t fall today,” Prattsburgh coach Jeff Gilbert said after the loss. “I thought they were a scrappy bunch of girls and they definitely held their own,” Gilbert said about Panama.

Panama’s scoring attack was led by Brittany Lenart who had a team-high 17 points, including four three pointers. While Emilee Sperry was right behind Lenart with 14, and Taylor Bowen was the other Panther scorer in double-figures, netting 12.

“I knew our defensive pressure, we’ve lived like that all year,” Panthers coach Jeff Angeletti said. “I was concerned about their size, but I figured we could get up on them. We’ve been working hard trying to help on post side and don’t let them get to the post.”

The crowd was electric throughout the game, as both communities from Prattsburgh and Panama came out in full force to support their schools on their quest to advance to the Final Four.

“Absolutely speechless,” Angeletti said about the communities support. “That’s our community. We stick together and basically everybody knows everybody. A lot of my former coaches and teachers came out and they’ve been retired for 20 some odd years and that’s our community.”

Panama will face the champion from Section X, Heuvelton, next Saturday at 9:00am at Hudson Valley Community College.

Panama Panthers - Far West Regional Champions - Class D

Panama Panthers – Far West Regional Champions – Class D


Class C – Mynderse vs. Chautauqua Lake

After defeating Randolph, Chautauqua Lake was trying to prove where they belong in the NYSPHSAA Class C Bracket. The Thunderbirds were a very aggressive and skilled team who really gave Mynderse Academy a tough time as Chautauqua Lake punched their ticket into the Class C Final Four and try to win their 2nd consecutive State Title with a 56-44 win.

Thunderbirds senior forward Jenna Einink led her team and the game with 20 points and was a dominant force against Mynderse’s defense. Coach Eric Schuster moved Einink from forward to point guard halfway through the game, which was almost a shock to the Blue Devils and they weren’t able to contain the fifth year Varsity player.

“Once Courtney (Hewes) got in foul trouble that’s what usually happens,” Einink said about the move of positions. “Point guard is a little tougher for me, but if coach asks me to do something, I’ll do it.”

Coach Schuster praised his 23-1 team on how well they played, “These kids have been around for a long time and they’re used to the big game. They fight.”

Mynderse Academy was fighting to back into the game towards the end of the 3rd quarter and in the middle of the 4th, but they couldn’t muster any offense against the very solid defense Chautauqua Lake had to offer. The Blue Devils highest quarterly scoring total was 13, which happened in the 1st quarter.

The crowd from Chautauqua Lake was absolutely amazing and they were behind their team from start to finish. They were almost deafening and did affect how the game was played. The game was very chippy in places, which may have been due to the crowd.

“Last year, our Far West Regional was about the same,” Einink said about the crowd factor. “We handle that pretty well for not seeing that much. We appreciate our community coming out to support us, but we kind of expect it.”

The student section, called the “Mayville Maniacs” were in full force at Buffalo State College and did happen to heckle the opponent in a unique way:

"Mayville Maniacs" sign for Mynderse Academy

“Mayville Maniacs” sign for Mynderse Academy

The Thundebirds will travel to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y. to face Section III champion Cooperstown on March 21 at 12:30pm.

Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds - Far West Regional Champions - Class C

Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds – Far West Regional Champions – Class C


For the updates from these games, took a look at my timeline on Twitter: @mhaim1934

 

Saturday will be a day filled with fantastic Girls High School Basketball at Buffalo State College as the best of Section V (Rochester area) will battle with the best from Section VI (Buffalo area). For those attending, here’s the schedule and preview of each game being played tomorrow:


Class B

Game #1 – Livonia (21-1) vs. East Aurora (21-2) – 11:00am

Livonia currently rides a 20-game winning streak, in which their last loss came on December 6, 2014. The Bulldogs have a trio of very talented players, while there are others with very good talent as well. Senior guard Taylor VanThof leads her team in scoring, 408 points, and also leads in the categories of rebounding (188), assists (81), and steals (116). Junior guard Molly Stewart averages 11.5 points a game, and 5.6 rebounds. Junior forward Niki Templeton averages a solid 8.9 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. Livonia has five girls that have over 145 points and have three girls bringing down over 120 rebounds currently on the season.

East Aurora has their own trio that happens to score the ball a lot. The Blue Devils leading scorer, freshman (!) Emma Brinker averages 17.0 points, 13.7 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 4.8 blocks a game. The 2nd year Varsity player is constantly getting double-doubles with ease. Sophomore guard Julianna Meisenheimer has the second highest points per game average, 10.5. She adds 3.6 assists and 2.6 steals per contest. Senior guard Erin Nelson averages the team’s third highest amount of points, 10.3, and averages 4.1 steals a game.


Class A

Game #2 – Bishop Kearney (19-4) vs. Williamsville South (22-1) – 1:00pm

Bishop Kearney comes into the Far West Regional matchup with a very stout team of Williamsville South with a 7-game winning streak and having won 13 of their previous 15. The Kings has a trio that can do some damage. The trio consists of: Senior guard Kharysma Bryant, who through 19 games averaged 21.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. Senior center Princella McCullough averaged 8.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game in the 19 games that were available. Junior guard Bri.Asia Mason is the second leading scorer on the Kings with 8.7 points per game and averaged 3.9 assists per game, in 19 games.

Williamsville South has been a perennial powerhouse in Section VI. This year they are hungry for the state title. The Billies dropped their opening game to Pittsford-Mendon, but has won every game since. The Billies have four girls who average over 10.5 points a game: Senior guard Grace Licata – 12.5, Senior guard Emily Smith – 12.0, Sophomore guard Zaria McCullough 10.9, and Senior center Erin Egan – 10.6. Licata leads the team in scoring with 288 points in 23 games, while Smith is right behind her with 275. This team is fundamentally sound in every aspect on the court and will be very tough to beat.


Class AA

Game #3 – Rush-Henrietta (21-0) vs. Jamestown (17-5) – 3:00pm

The Royal Comets of Rush-Henrietta come into their Far West Regional game without losing a contest so far on the season and their last loss dates back to February 28, 2014 when they lost a playoff game to Gates-Chili. Rush-Henrietta has two girls who get the majority of their points, Senior forward Dana Watts (372 points in 19 games) and Emily Nestler (231 points in 19 games). The Royal Comets lowest margin of victory this season is 7, when they defeated Penfield, 54-47, back on January 16th.

Jamestown’s record may not indicate that they are a strong team, but they could give Rush-Henrietta a run for their money. The Red Raiders rely heavily on the talents of Chrisanna Green, who averages 27.0 points a game, 13.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.8 steals per contest. Another player that the Royal Comets may need to keep an eye on is Senior guard Peyton Butts. She has 190 points in 22 games (8.6 PPG), but she also manages to get rebounds (90), assists (66), and steals (51). The Red Raiders have won 12 out of their last 13 games and have won 9 consecutive. The Red Raiders aren’t on as hot of a streak like Rush-Henrietta, but this will be quite an entertaining game.


Class D

Game #4 – Prattsburgh (22-1) vs. Panama (18-4) – 5:00pm

Prattsburgh will have a long drive ahead of them, but they will come in as one of the more successful teams playing at Buffalo State on Saturday. The Vikings hold a very solid 22-1 record, which includes their current 20-game winning streak. All of their wins have been “blowouts” except for two, in which they won by 4 and 5. Prattsburgh does not have all statistical information available, but they do have three players that average more than double-digits a game. The Vikings leading scorer is Junior forward Megan McAllister, who has scored 286 points in 22 games (13.0 PPG). Morgan Stratton, a Senior forward, is right behind McAllister with 261 points in 22 games. The Vikings don’t have that great of size, but they do have the ability to score.

Panama comes into the game with a 12-game winning streak. The Panthers have three girls who average 12.0 points or better in the season: Senior Brittany Lenart averages 13.1 points per contest (289 points in 22 games), while Junior guard Taylor Bowen has 276 points in 22 games (12.5 PPG) and also has averaged 4.8 assists per game (105 in 22 games). The Panthers leading rebounder is Madalyn Bowen who has brought down 165 rebounds in the maximum amount of games (7.5 RPG) and also has 176 points (8.0 PPG). These stats may not seem amazing to some, but for an 8th-grader it should be. Panama’s stats may not resemble their record, but this team has very well rounded talent and will be quite entertaining to watch.


Class C

Game #5 – Mynderse (19-6) vs. Chautauqua Lake (22-1) – 7:00pm

Mynderse’s record compared to other team’s in these Far West Regional matchups shows they may be the “Cinderella Team” as they do have the most losses on the season. But don’t be fooled with their record. They are a very experienced team as the Blue Devils have five players with 3+ years of Varsity experience. The team of 12 has only three seniors and six players are either freshman or sophomores. The leading scorer is Senior guard Cassidy Rattray who has 260 points in 20 games, she also adds 126 rebounds (6.3 RPG) to her stat line. Their second leading scorer is freshman Heidi Miller, who has two years of Varsity experience. She has 246 points in 20 games (12.3 PPG) and averages 9.7 rebounds per contest (193). The Blue Devils currently hold a 7-game winning streak.

Chautauqua Lake is a lethal team from Section VI. The Thunderbirds have five girls with 100+ points, including three of them with over 235. The leading scorer for Chautauqua Lake, senior Jenna Einink, who has five years of Varsity experience, has 408 points in 23 games and also leads the team in blocks per game, 3.0. Senior Ashton Albanesius has the second highest amount of points, 344 in 23 games, but leads the team in rebounds with 231. Senior guard Courtney Hewes averages 10.3 points per contest and leads Chautauqua Lake in assists (119) and steals (94) in the maximum amount of games for the Thunderbirds.

These two teams have tons of experience at the Varsity level and are very young. This game may end up being the most entertaining of the five that are on tap at Buffalo State on Saturday.


My Predictions:

Class AA: Rush-Henrietta defeats Jamestown

Class A: Williamsville South beats Bishop Kearney

Class B: Livonia wins over East Aurora

Class C: Chautauqua Lake defeats Mynderse

Class D: Prattsburgh beats Panama


I will be at all games on Saturday at Buffalo State College and will be live tweeting each game. Follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the day: @mhaim1934

 

 

arodThe New York Yankees have opened up Spring training in Tampa, Florida. The Alex Rodriguez circus has begun. Everything ARod does is being scrutinized and documented. This is exactly what Alex wants and lives for, constant attention. The Captain, Derek Jeter never looked for the spotlight but always got it, ARod craves it like water. I will bet my house, my car and my future winter home in Malibu that after his playing days are over, Alex Rodriguez has his own reality television show.

Over the next three years the Yankees owe ARod $21M, $20M and $20M (61 million dollars.) This contract is absolutely insane. New York paid him for what he was, not what he is now. The Lakers did this recently with Kobe Bryant, paying him $48M over 2 years. Bryant played 35 games this season and is out for the year with another injury.

If I was a general manager of any pro sports team I would never give anyone over 30 (besides quarterbacks) a max contract. Successful organizations like the San Antonio Spurs, St. Louis Cardinals and New England Patriots never do this. We are now seeing the Yankees struggle because they continue to give aging players, on the decline of their careers, long term contracts.

In 2012 Rodriguez played in 122 games. He hit 18 home runs, had 57 RBI and had a batting average of .272. Are those stats worth $20M per year? Rodriguez will turn 40 on July 27th. Does anyone, realistically expect him to reach these numbers? In 2010 Rodriguez hit 30 homeruns and had 125 RBI while taking HGH. In 2011, 12, &13 he combined for 41 homeruns and 121 RBI.

He is obviously a player on the decline. He is not a wine, so he won’t get better after the age of 40. Below is a list of legendary MLB Players who played at least 100 games in their final season.

  • Derek Jeter- 145 games, .256 Batting Average, 4 Home Runs and 56 RBI.
  • Ken Griffey Jr.-117 games, .214 Batting Average, 17 Home Runs and 57 RBI.
  • Cal Ripken – 128 games, .239 Batting Average, 14 Home Runs and 68 RBI.

The Yankees are paying $61M for a player who will put up average numbers at best. Last year, only the Dodgers, Royals, Tigers and Rockies had a team batting average of over .260. MLB has banned over 50 supplements over the past 5 years and the direct correlation is, offense is down.

If Rodriguez plays in over 100 games, bats over .250, hit 15 homeruns and drives in 60 RBI it will be considered a success at his age. But for a $21M contract, it is a colossal failure.

Follow the Sports Whisperer on Facebook and Twitter @Montetjwitter11

 

 

This past year saw a huge influx of talent come over to the National League via free agency. Marquee signings by playoff hopefuls bolstered lineups and rotations across the league. In this article, I’ll outline three of the most significant new NL players, and what role they play for their new teams.

Jon Lester: LHP- Oakland Athletics to Chicago Cubs

2014 was a stepping-stone year for the Chicago Cubs in terms of young player development. Anthony Rizzo transformed his potential into MVP-level production, Javier Baez got his first taste of big league action, and Jake Arrieta turned into a solid, top-of-the-rotation talent. As well, top prospects like Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant spent another important developmental year in the minors. The team even improved by seven wins from the past year. 2015 might even be more exciting, however. New acquisition Miguel Montero is an excellent catcher in terms of commanding a rotation. Manager Joe Madden is one of the best in the game, and he gets to takes his expertise to the South Side. But arguably the most important Cub newbie is Jon Lester. He serves as a stabilizing force in an inexperienced rotation, and a true ace in an environment where those are extremely hard to come by. Coming off the best year of his career, I expect Lester’s ERA to improve a little because of the lack of a designated hitter in the National League, and stay around 2.40, with over 200 strikeouts and innings pitched. I worry a little about the tail end of the contract, seeing as he’s already 31. But because he’s shown no signs of decline, I expect him to produce at an elite level for at least the first few years of his Cubs career.

Max Scherzer: RHP- Detroit Tigers to Washington Nationals

If the Nationals in 2014 won 98 games without leading the division for half the season, imagine if they get off to a hot start. Now imagine that, but with Max Scherzer leading their rotation. This team is guaranteed to flirt with 100 wins, and maybe more. The regular season isn’t of any concern to the Nationals, though, as they are essentially a lock to win the NL East. What Scherzer most importantly provides is the role of veteran ace on an imposing postseason rotation. No team wants to face Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez in a playoff series. The intimidation factor alone might be enough to steal a few games. Individually, I expect Scherzer’s ERA to be around the 2.80 mark, with upwards of 240 strikeouts and 20 wins. He’s probably not going to produce at a high level for all seven years of his contract, especially because he’s so reliant on strikeouts and power, but like Lester, he’ll be an ace for at least the first three years. The biggest auxiliary effect Scherzer has on the Nats is that his presence a) pushes Strasburg into a number 2 spot and Zimmerman into a number 3 spot, two guys who would head almost any other rotation, and b) forces Tanner Roark into the bullpen during the regular season and puts Doug Fister in the bullpen during the playoffs. That is an insane amount of starting rotation depth. Even when one or two of them inevitably gets injured, they can still roll out a formidable group of pitchers.

Nick Markakis: RF- Baltimore Orioles to Atlanta Braves

This is an interesting pick, as the Braves don’t look to be a contender next season. But I believe this was one of the most important signings of the offseason. Atlanta lost two integral outfielders, trading away Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, and kept one of the worst producers in the league last year in Melvin Upton Jr. They also traded away possible left field candidate Evan Gattis. So, in essence, the Braves outfield is not in good shape for the upcoming season. Enter, Nick Markakis. He has proven to be more consistent hitter that Heyward has, and while he doesn’t offer the same upside or defense prowess, Markakis’s glove is certainly above average. He’s still relatively young at 31, and with only four years at $44 million, he’s a much cheaper option to what Heyward will make next offseason. What’s key to the four year aspect of the deal is that the Braves expect to contend when their new stadium is opened in 2017. By that time, Markakis will be huge as a veteran presence, helping to usher young Atlanta outfield prospects like Mallex Smith. Markakis will most likely hit around .280 with 15 home runs and 70 RBIs. More importantly, he will be a stabilizing lead-off hitter with minimal strikeouts in a lineup prone to taking the third strike.

Dan Leopold – @leopold_dan

 

Pat Veltri is now the Head Football Coach of the Kenmore East Bulldogs becoming the school’s 7th coach in 56 years.

Veltri is thrilled about the new job, but there is no time for celebration. He has gotten to work quickly running practices for passing league, the new coach was having a meeting for over half an hour with his quarterbacks and receivers after school ended. He is already working on hiring a coaching staff, and hopes to have gone though the equipment and put together the Bulldogs’ playbook for 2015 by the spring. “Were getting a late start on things, as a Head Coach I wanted come in at November….and have the whole winter to pull things together, but we are where we are”. The Dogs will be in the passing league at the Fieldhouse in Orchard Park starting on Sunday. Veltri also plans on having summer conditioning and weight lifting which will include teaching the playbook too.

Veltri was previously the Head Coach at Franklin Middle, the main feeder school for Kenmore East. But he’s been all around New York State coaching at different levels. His first gig was at his Alma mater Oceanside High School on Long Island. Veltri coached NFL quarterback Jay Fielder during his time at Oceanside. He was an assistant at Hofstra University on Long Island until the program ended in 2009, where he saw future pros such as Wayne Chrebet, Dave Fiore and Marques Colston. He has also coached tight ends for the University at Buffalo and was the defensive coordinator at Erie Community College for the program’s first two seasons.

The traveled coach is a system guy when building his playbook, but he is flexible to his players. “I am a systems coach, but you have to design a system flexible enough to take advantage of what ever athletes you have that year”.

Pat Veltri is from Oceanside, NY on Long Island. Veltri grew up and played sports along side Florida Basketball coach Billy Donovan. Oceanside is home for basketball player Art Heyman who was the 1st overall pick in the 1963 NBA Draft. Alum Ernie Vandeweghe was a guard for the Knicks in the 50’s. Veltri’s former wife was from Buffalo. After finding it difficult to get teaching positions on Long Island, they decided to move to WNY. “I’m glad I did, I really like it” he said.

The new coach is very familiar with many of the players on his team. The eight graders he coached his first year at Franklin are now seniors for the Bulldogs. Veltri thinks that the experience will help him. “…One of the biggest things about coaching is not only your players but the personality of your players,…good coaches know they’re players and personality…and once you know your player’s personality you know what motivates them”. He also knows the strengths and weaknesses of the players which he says will should help him.

The new coach knows a lot about the Bulldogs’ biggest game of the year against Kenmore West but doesn’t plan on doing anything special for it. “I approach every game the same way…my preparation when I coached modified at Franklin was no different then when I worked in college”. He prepares for every opponent the same way no matter what school.

Pat Veltri sees this as his last gig before he retires. He wants the Bulldogs to be competitive in every year and make sure their opponents respect them. He hopes that “we won’t be the easy spot in the schedule…we won’t be everyone’s homecoming game”.

The Bulldogs went 3-6 last year upsetting Kenmore West, putting them on a 3 game winning streak to end the season.

The 2014-15 MLB off-season had as many high-profile moves as any we’ve seen in recent years. Many marquee players were locked down by hopeful teams, even if that meant bringing some players from across the League. Of the signings, here are the top 3 players that came to the A.L. from the N.L. that will surely have huge impacts on their new team.

Pablo Sandoval: 3B- San Francisco Giants to Boston Red Sox

Pablo Sandoval left the Bay Area after winning his third World Championship with the Giants. Funny enough, the team he joined is the only other that has won 3 World Series in the new millennium, the Boston Red Sox. The third baseman coming to Boston allowed the Red Sox to let go of talented but inconsistent and injury-prone Willsandoval Middlebrooks.  The Sox are confident that the big man can lock down the team’s shakiest position since Kevin Youkilis moved on in 2012. Sandoval’s 2014 in San Francisco saw him bat .278 with 16 HRs and 73 RBI. His fielding ability is very impressive considering his large size. In 771 career games at third base, Sandoval’s fielding % is .960 with only 76 total E5s. That is significantly above average and will be a welcome change for the Red Sox. In addition to this, Sandoval proved in his 3 World Series runs in ‘Frisco that he is a clutch post-season performer. If the Red Sox can get back there again this year, he will more than likely shine again.

Russell Martin: C- Pittsburgh Pirates to Toronto Blue Jays

The former 3x All-Star returns to the American League East this season after two years in the Steel City. Only this time he’s a member of the Blue Jays, not the Yankees. Martin is a former Gold Glove winner and a very solid defensive catcher, noted for his ability to work well with his pitchers. He is the man the Jays want behind this plate if russell martinyoung-blood Marcus Stroman wants to continue to develop. Mark Buerhle had a resurgent 2014 and could be even better this year with a solid battery mate.  This is music to the ears of the Jays, who have been in desperate need of a stable backstop for years. Although he batted .290 with 11 HRs and 67 RBI 2014, Martin’s ability to get on base is his biggest drawing power, his lifetime OBP % is currently .354. Adding him to a line-up that already includes Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Reyes has the Jays looking very capable of a breakout 2015 season. The team’s hopes don’t necessarily hinge on him, but he is definitely a huge piece of the Blue Jays’ post-season puzzle.

Ervin Santana: RHP- Atlanta Braves to Minnesota Twins

Adding Ervin Santana was a very smart move for the Twins. After a solid 2014 in the N.L. with Atlanta that saw him go 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA and 179 Ks, Santana returns to the American League, where he spent time with both the Angels and Royals. He may not be as flashy as other pitchers, but Santana is battle-tested veteran who has proven he can pitch in the batting-dominated A.L. as well as go deep into games (He has 1882.2 career IP after 2014).  Addingervin him to the Twins’ rotation takes pressure off of Phil Hughes, who had a terrific comeback season in 2014. Adding another solid pitcher improves Minnesota’s hopes of climbing from the A.L. Centrals’ basement, where they have spent 3 of the past four seasons after winning the division in 2010. Whether they do that or not depends on multiple other factors, but adding Santana can’t hurt their chances.

Matt Morris @Flat_Manigen74

 

SABWith the 6-1 loss Saturday down in D.C. at the hands of the Washington Capitals the Buffalo Sabres are winless in their last four with one game left on the current road trip. They haven’t recorded a single point and have been outscored 17-6. Great news if you are in the “tank crowd”.

Curtis Glencross is making the most of his opportunity since being acquired by the Caps at the trade deadline. He took home first star honors after recording a goal and 2 assists. Matt Hackett started in goal for Buffalo but was chased after allowing his 4th goal of the game. Anders Lindback allowed another 2 goals, appearing in back-to-back games.

The Sabres Johan Larsson scored the game’s first goal after Marcus Foligno found him all alone in front of the Washington net. It was Larrson’s 2nd goal of the season. Unfortunately it was all down hill from there. Glencross tied the game just a few minutes later and the Caps never looked back.

Washington added 3 goals in the 2nd and another 2 in the final period.

The Sabres Zach Bogosian (lower-body) and Andrej Meszaros (Hand) left the game with injuries and are being reevaluated. Both are expected to miss a game or more. Expect the Sabres to call up some reserves from Rochester.

Buffalo returned home late Saturday and will practice Monday and Tuesday at the First Niagara Center. They round out the road trip Wednesday up in Toronto, where the Maple Leafs just might be a bigger disappointment then Buffalo.

@wolf3328