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No Better Place

MLB

Five ballparks to visit

This past weekend the Sports Heaven team of Joel, Sam, and myself traveled to Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland to see Nationals Park and Orioles Park at Camden Yards. This makes for a total of seven MLB ballparks that I have visited; AT&T Park, PNC Park, Progressive Field, Citizens Bank Park, Fenway Park, Orioles Park at Camden Yards, and Nationals Parks. Each MLB park is unique in its own way and is a new adventure. Here is a list of the next five MLB ballparks that I would like to visit.

Wrigley Field

The home of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, is the only other historic ballpark, built in 1914, left for me to visit. The atmosphere and history at Fenway is second to none, and I imagine that Wrigley's atmosphere is similar to Fenway. There is nothing like going to a game at one of these historic parks.

Marlins Park

On the other end of the spectrum, Marlins Park is one of the newest MLB parks, built in 2012. Its features are one of a kind. One thing that is a must see is their bobble head collection. Being an amateur bobble head colector, seeing the hundreds of bobble heads from all around baseball would be a must. They also have an a piece of art in center field that spins and moves around after a home run, a must see.

Chase Field

A dome in Arizona, Chase Field is best known for its pool and hot tub in center field. Maybe the only reason to come would be to watch a live ball game from a pool, an extremely unique experience. Chase Field also has a diverse and one of a kind food selection that includes buffalo chicken fries, a pIt viper sandwich, and varieties of grilled cheese.

Dodgers Stadium

An open air stadium in southern California, Dodgers Stadium was built when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn, NY to Los Angeles, CA. This makes the stadium over 50 years old, the oldest a west coast ballpark can be since MLB only came to the west coast in the late 1950’s. Its historic nature combined with southern California’s atmosphere seemingly would make it the most relaxing ballpark to watch a game.

Busch Stadium

Home of the St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium sits right outside of St. Louis, MO, in direct view of the Gateway Arch. Cardinals fans are some of the best and most passionate fans in MLB, so the atmosphere would be incredible. That combined with the view of St. Louis in the background would make it a great park to visit. The food at Busch Stadium is also really good. It includes Kohn’s Kosher Knackwurst and St. Louis dog. You will not go hunger in Busch Stadium

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

By: Ryan Decker for Now On Deck.

At this time last year, baseball analysts and fans were scratching their heads and asking themselves, Who do we vote for to be the National League Cy Young Award winner?

Those same people are asking themselves this year, Who do we vote for to be the American League Cy Young Award winner?

Basically the same question, but for way different reasons.

Last year’s race in the NL to determine the best pitcher in the league was between two pitchers; clear front-runners – Zack Greinke and, eventual winner, Jake Arrieta.

This year’s race in the AL to determine the league’s best pitcher is between a number of pitchers, with no clear front-runner.

Over the last few years baseball fans have gotten used to strong, dominant pitching in the National League – Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Noah Syndergaard, Greinke, and Arrieta. The list can be expanded, but you get the picture.

Lately the Cy Young race in the NL has seemed to have a 1A and 1B in choices.

The same doesn’t hold true in the AL in 2016.

At this point there isn’t a clear front-runner for the award.

White Sox ace Chris Sale (14-3) was likely the favorite after the start of the season, but his résumé has lost some of its polish, thanks in part, to his off-the-field antics.

Baltimore‘s Chris Tillman (14-3) had the chance to separate himself from the pack Tuesday night, but after allowing six runs on nine hits in a losing effort at home against Colorado, the trophy has left the Charm City for the time being.

Another candidate for the award may be Toronto‘s Aaron Sanchez, who has an 11-1 record and with a 2.72 ERA.

Other leading candidates are Texas Cole Hamels (11-2), Danny Salazar (11-3) of Cleveland, and surprisingly the Red Sox Rick Porcello (13-2).

That’s just how wide open this is. Rick Porcello of all people is actually in the conversation.

Statistically, Sanchez is the best of the aforementioned group of starters in terms of ERA (2.72) and has the highest percentage of quality starts (80%).

Sale’s 1.01 WHIP is the best of the group, he is tied for the most wins, and is also in the top two in strikeouts (129), K’s per 9 IP (8.73), strikeout to walk ratio (4.45) and has the second-lowest opponent batting average at .216.

Salazar is tops in K’s, and K/9, has allowed the fewest runs and at .211 has the lowest opponent batting average. Hamels, meanwhile, is towards the middle of the group in major statistical categories, but there’s a lot to like – his earned-run average is low, WHIP is low, he has a good amount of strikeouts, and his 84.62 win percentage is the second best of the group.

As well as he has pitched this year, Tillman’s numbers are actually towards the bottom when talking about this group of starters. They’re not bad, just not the best. When looking at his numbers, though, it is important to remember that he has made at least two more starts than any of the five other starters.

In fact, Tillman has given up the second-most runs, but in terms of runs per start, he’s in the top three.

Tillman is also 8-2 against teams with winning records, and has the lowest run support of the leading candidates for the award.

According to ESPN’s Cy Young Award Predictor, a method by Bill James and ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer that uses past results to predict who the award winner will be, Tillman is the leader in the American League amongst starting pitchers.

In actuality, the true leader, according to James and Neyer, is Baltimore closer Zach Britton. A closer hasn’t won the award in either league since Eric Gagne in 2003. A reliever hasn’t won it in the AL since Dennis Eckersley in 1992.

If Tillman or Britton would manage to win the award, they would be the first Orioles pitcher to win it since Mike Flanagan in 1979.

It’s easy to see why there isn’t a clear-cut favorite to earn the title of best pitcher in the American League in 2016 just yet. Sure there’s been a number of good pitchers, but there hasn’t been one great pitcher in the AL this year.

Not yet, at least.

August is just around the corner. It’s time for one of these pitchers to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.


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By: Jay Blackwell

On July 4th, 2016, Kevin Durant shocked the sports world by spurning the Oklahoma City Thunder, after years of suggesting he wouldn’t, and choosing to form a super team with the Golden State Warriors.

To many it just proves the notion that the rich just get richer as a team that won a record setting 73 games last season would get another top five player on their team. The tandem of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson was already viewed by many as the best backcourt in NBA history just added Durant to go along with the walking triple double, Draymond Green, to form arguably the best front court in NBA history too.

This team isn’t going to go undefeated. They’re not going to win 73 games. Still, everyone is pretty convinced this will be a championship team this year and with four of the top fifteen players in the world on one team it’s easy to think that but after all this is sports. No one figured last years Warriors squad was going to lose to the struggling Cavs who they had on the brink of elimination.

If there’s one team that could challenge the Warriors it is the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving proved he can go toe to toe with the two time MVP, Steph Curry, just fine. Curry’s on the ball defense is by far the biggest weakness in his game and Irving exposed him with his effortless shooting, and quick moves off the dribble. He consistently had Curry in foul trouble and effectively took him out the game. While the addition of Kevin Durant will always keep the Warriors in any game (as if they weren’t always before) it will do nothing to stop LeBron James defensively. Durant while a decent defensive player, defense isn’t his strong suit, and James will still be able to dominate the game with his athleticism, basketball IQ, and overall all-around performance.

The problem for the Cavs is James and Irving can’t do it alone. They’ll need the Tristan Thompson we saw in games six and seven to show up again. They’ll also need free agent JR Smith to resign, and put his shirt on too. More importantly they need their 118 million dollar man to play like it. Kevin Love needs to be a legit force as the big three in Cleveland. If one of the big four for Golden State is having an off game chances are at least two of them aren’t. Cleveland can’t afford a missing Kevin Love.

Another intriguing team to potentially upset the Warriors are the young up and coming Portland Trailblazers. To many this may seem as a surprise as conventional wisdom says only the Spurs and Cavs are the biggest threats to the Warriors.

Wrong.

I expect Portland to make a big jump in the standings this year after finishing a promising fourth in the West last season. Talk to anyone who knows anything about the Western Conference and they’ll tell you Damian Liiliard is just as much Steph Curry then anybody in the league. Lilliard just has the disadvantage of playing in Portland and not being seen on a national stage as often. Still, he’s a stud. He’s got the range believe or not of Curry albeit with less efficiency but he can still launch it from deep comfortably. He’s more explosive than Curry and can attack the basket. As mentioned above, Curry has trouble with quick explosive point guards who can shoot. Damian Liiliard is the type of player who can take over the game and I expect him to be a serious MVP candidate this season.

His partner in crime is just as much Klay Thompson as anyone in the league. Starting to see where I’m going with this?

CJ McCollum can flat out hit the three with both comfort and ease shooting a solid 42% from the field last season. The backcourt of the Blazers is indeed a poor man’s Splash Brothers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.

The Blazers also went out and added former Warrior Festus Ezeli and with the leadership and guidance of Head Coach Terry Stotts this Blazers teams looks like a young building Warriors team in the making. I’m picking a Portland vs. Golden State Western conference finals, and after challenging the Warriors last season in the playoffs I expect Portland to be up for the challenge.

It’s going to be an interesting year in Oakland this year with expectations obviously championship or bust. The Warriors can expect to get every teams best every single night and that will prevent this team from setting any regular season records. Get ready NBA fans this season is going to be more exciting than we think.


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