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Monday Morning Manager: Soriano streaking in pinstripes

New life in pinstripes? That’s certainly the definitive case for Alfonso Soriano.

He entered Sunday’s game with 15 hits in his last 22 at-bats, and had 18 RBI in five games, which tied an MLB record.

The 37-year-old outfielder who was traded from the Cubs for a low-level minor-league pitcher has nine home runs since the All-Star break and eight homers in 21 games with the Yankees, giving New York some right-handed pop that was much needed.

And Brian Cashman is going to the well again. The Yankees GM picked up Mark Reynolds off the waiver wire from Cleveland last week, and he hit a home run in his first at-bat Friday after being in a dreadful slump with the Indians. And then he came through with an pinch-hit single off the bench that drove in a run at Boston on Sunday night.

Sure, the Yankees have lots of money at their disposal, but they seem to know how to bargain hunt with the best of them as well.

On to this week’s Monday Morning Manager:

WHO’S HOT

Alfonso Soriano, Yankees: See above. He entered Sunday’s game with 15 hits in his.

Joe Mauer, Twins: He’s overlooked in a league with Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, but Mauer is quietly having another fantastic season. He’s hitting .323 with 11 homers on a poor team and  is hitting .419 in August.

Yu Darvish, Rangers: He’s been dominant since the All-Star break, allowing just eight earned runs in six starts. He’s at 12-5 with a 2.64 ERA and has put himself squarely in the AL Cy Young race — which seems to be Max Scherzer’s to lose at this point. Darvish leads the majors in strikeouts with 214 in 161 innings.

WHO’S NOT

Carlos Ruiz, Phillies: Epitomizing what has happened to the Phillies this year. Went 4 for 4 in a win on Sunday, but still has just two homers and 14 RBI in 62 games this season after a career year in 2012.

Austin Jackson, Tigers: Detroit needs him to get on base, and he’s not doing it as well as he should. Their leadoff hitter’s OBP is just .333 and he broke a 1 for 24 skid with two hits Sunday.

Jake Westbrook, Cardinals: He was 7-4 with a 2.95 ERA on July 24, but has been hit hard in his last four starts, all losses. His ERA has swelled to 4.35.

TOP 10

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (72-51, last week No. 3)

2. Atlanta Braves (76-48, last week No. 1)

3. Detroit Tigers (73-51, last week No. 2)

4. Boston Red Sox (73-53, last week No. 4)

5. Texas Rangers (71-53, last week No. 6)

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (72-51, last week No. 5)

7. St. Louis Cardinals (71-52, last week No. 7)

8. Cincinnati Reds (70-54, last week No. 9)

9. Tampa Bay Rays (70-52, last week No. 8)

10. Oakland A’s (70-53, last week No. 10)

BOTTOM 5

26. Milwaukee Brewers (54-70, last week No. 27)

27. Philadelphia Phillies (54-69, last week unranked)

28. Miami Marlins (47-75, last week No. 28)

29. Chicago White Sox (49-74, last week No. 29)

30. Houston Astros (41-82, last week No. 30)

Source: About.com

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Hall of Famer gets a rare shot to be a manager

It’s interesting that immensely successful big-league baseball players don’t become managers more often. People have surmised it’s because they were so naturally gifted, they didn’t have to “grind” as much as some other players.

Before last w…

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Umpire-manager arguments are about to get a makeover

Arguing with umpires isn’t going away — it’s as much a part of the game as peanuts and hot dogs. But, just as some ballparks offer sushi and craft beer, the umpire argument is about to get a radical transformation.

The introduction of a challenge system for instant replay reviews for the 2014 baseball season — assuming it’s ratified by the owners, the players’ union and the umpires –  is perhaps the most radical innovation in baseball since the designated hitter was introduced 40 years ago.

How will it work? Managers will be allowed one challenge over the first six innings and two from the seventh inning until the completion of the game. Calls that are challenged will be reviewed by video at MLB headquarters in New York, which will make a final ruling. That’s in an effort to avoid being influenced by local forces.

So there should be fewer arguments between umps and managers, but there might be more. Only reviewable plays — fair/foul, home runs, force outs, catch or trap — can be challenged. If a play isn’t reviewable — balls and strikes, for example — we’ll still get managers turning back the clock to Earl Weaver and Lou Piniella, trying to get their points across to the men in blue.

The New York Times’ Benjamin Hoffman wrote a primer on how the system will work, and some circumstances that could arise (such as where runners would be placed if a call is reversed from foul to fair on a double down the line, for example).

“When you call me back a year after this process has been in place, there will be precise and clear answers to all these issues,” said Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz. “We will have experienced it in real time and know what functions and what hasn’t. We think we’ve covered most of that now, and we’re still working on creating the guidelines for some of those situations. But we believe that this is a significant first big step toward using this great new technology of instant replay.”

Source: About.com

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Adrian Peterson

NFC North: Packers To Rule Again

The four teams of the NFC North, the oldest division in the NFL, have been beating on each other for a long time, ever since the Vikings joined the league in 1961.

This is the famed “black-and-blue” division with some of the oldest and most…

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San Antonio Spurs

Can the San Antonio Spurs Return to the NBA Finals in 2014?

The San Antonio Spurs are no strangers to defying critics. For the past several NBA seasons people have said they are too old and too far past their prime to compete against the best teams in the league. Yet that didn’t stop them from almost d…

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Can Cabrera repeat Triple Crown? No player has ever come close

The fact that Miguel Cabrera has made it a conversation point is quite an accomplishment in itself.

No player has ever repeated a Triple Crown in the history of the game. Cabrera is leading in two of the categories in the AL in 2013 — RBI (1…

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Colin Kaepernick

NFC West: Stacked With Talent, Loaded For Bear

The NFC West has had its ups and downs, for sure. This is a storied division that has produced eight Super Bowl trophies, between San Francisco and the St. Louis Rams.

Yet it was also the first division in NFL history to produce a champion …

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PEDs still lost in Dominican translation

Aside from Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, the list of players suspended in the Biogenesis scandal showed that another glaring trend continues. Players from the Dominican Republic are continuing to use performance-enhancing drugs — or at least getting caught — at a much higher average than the typical MLB player. Of the 13 players suspended last week, eight are Dominican. On Opening Day rosters in 2013, Dominican players represented 10.4 percent of the players in the majors. So far in 2013, according to Fox News Latino, 15 of the 44 players suspended for steroids in the minors are Dominican.

It’s not a new story, by any stretch. Just a few years it seemed to be more of a cultural issue, as many of the Dominican minor-leaguers who were hit with suspensions seemed to not know what they were taking, according to a 2009 ESPN.com report. And it’s attributable to a culture where prospects — almost always poor — are desperate to get off the island with a pro contract. They’ll do practically anything to get there with help from their advisers (“buscones”), and steroids are more easily available there than in the United States.

“If I’m going to make millions by putting something in my body, then I’m going to do it. So what if I get suspended 50 games, I just made millions,” said Eduardo Ferreira of the Academia de Beisbol, to the Toronto Star, about the thought process players go through. “The alternative is I stay dirt poor.”

Said author David Fidler to Fox News Latino: “We’ve been making these arguments for years – we need to go after this buscones system hard. … We can’t regulate in the Dominican Republic. But Major League Baseball has the power to tell the teams what to do. They haven’t done it. They’ve dragged their feet.”

The buscones aren’t the only problem, however. The fact that players are still trying to get away with it is perhaps the most troubling aspect of the scandal. Dominican players such as Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz weren’t on the Biogenesis list just trying to get into pro ball. They’re established major leaguers who were looking for their next big contract.

It angers Dominican stars such as David Ortiz — himself fingered for PED use earlier in his career, a charge he denies.

“Dominican players, we are hundreds and hundreds, not just 12. Because they caught some players using PEDs, that means everybody is using it? No. That’s wrong. Everybody makes a choice,” Ortiz said to the Toronto Globe and Mail.

It’s clouded the legacy of Dominican players in baseball as well. The country of 10 million people has the greatest concentration of big-league talent of anyplace in the world. But ranking the top 10 players from the country is difficult these days because of the tarnished legacies of players such as Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez and Bartolo Colon.

Cleaning up the process of signing players from the Dominican — perhaps including them in the draft — would seem to help. But this scandal is showing that keeping teenagers away from PEDs certainly isn’t the only uphill battle MLB faces.

Related: Top 10 players all-time from Dominican Republic; Players accused of PED use

Source: About.com

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Cowboys Celebrate

NFC East: Who Wants It Most?

Cowboys Celebrate

The NFC East is what former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle must have had in his head back in the old days when he and the team owners were working to achieve what was a new word: Parity.

The four teams in the division are so close, you could barely thread a Tony Romo spiral between them and yes, that even includes Philadelphia. A break here, a break there and even the Eagles could contend for the division title this year, not that I think they will.

There are some writers out there even predicting that all four teams in the division win at least eight games.

But, then there is the downside of parity, its synonym: Mediocrity.

These are all potentially good teams and there are some outstanding individual players, but none of these teams in my opinion are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. I don’t see any of them winning more than 10 games.

Oh, you disagree Mr. NFL Expert? You’re probably a homer.

In any case, here is the division preview and my unerring predictions.

Getty Images

 

Source: About.com

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LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

Miami Heat Preview for 2013-14 NBA Season

Now that the NBA has released the 2013-14 NBA schedule, it’s that time of year when I’ll start putting together detailed previews of each NBA team.

Although I could have started with any team, I felt like the defending two-time champions earn…

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