Author Archives: mvroger7

Number of Cuban Defectors in MLB Continues to Grow

By Matt Rogers

Throughout the history of Major League Baseball, Latino players have played a large role in the success and popularity of the league. The number of Latino players has risen greatly in recent years because of the level of talent of the players. Usually, scouts for MLB teams can go into Latino countries, like the  Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. The one Latino country that American scouts have not had much luck with is the island of Cuba.

Players that come from Cuba to play in Major League Baseball have to illegally defect from their country in order to do so. Ways that some of these players have reportedly defected are to stray away from the team during international team play in foreign countries and by boat to the port of Miami, Florida. If these people are caught by the Cuban Coast Guard, they are usually jailed for large numbers of years. This makes it difficult for these players to come to the United States to play because they are forbidden by the Cuban government to play in the United States, unless they are traveling with the Cuban national team.

Defection has become more prevalent for Cuban players in recent years because of the money that they can make in the Major Leagues as opposed to the amount they are paid to play in Cuba. The players often leave behind their families to come to the United States because they live and play in such poor conditions in Cuba. This was portrayed in a recent ESPN 30 for 30 film, Brothers in Exile, which told the story about brothers Livan and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Both of the brothers played pivotal roles on two championship MLB teams in the late 1990’s.

Some of the more prominent players that have defected from the island of Cuba to play in the Major Leagues are Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez (who topped Puig in the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year voting), Jose Abreu, and most recently, Yasmany Tomas. All of these players, with the exception of Fernandez, signed contracts north of $40 million, before ever playing in a Major League or Minor League game.

In the future, given the popularity of baseball on the island of Cuba, the number of Cuban defectors coming to the MLB should continue to rise. The talent of Cuban defectors that sign contracts with Major League team is spectacular. So, too, are the stories of triumph that each of them offers.

Athletes Give Their Two Cents On Ferguson

By Matt Rogers

As we all know by now, there was a tragic event that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9 of this year. The event was the shooting death of an unarmed man named Michael Brown by a Ferguson Police officer, Darren Wilson. Since this happened, there have been countless riots and protests against not only the police officer that shot Brown, but the police force as a whole.

On November 25, it was determined that the officer that shot, and killed, Michael Brown will not be indicted on criminal charges for the incident. This has received tons of media coverage because of the implications of what may come as a result of the decision to not indict the officer. Riots have proceeded in Ferguson. Burning of police cars, arson and vandalism of public building, and police standoffs have raged on.

Not only has this tragic event received extensive media coverage, it has caught the eye of many other public figures, including many athletes. Twitter has been blowing up with tweets from athletes about the decision. LeBron James, maybe the most recognizable athlete on the entire planet, tweeted that “it hit home”, but he also noted that “violence is not the answer”. Matt Barnes, a forward for the Los Angeles Clippers, tweeted that it is “okay to kill people…. as long as the person being killed is of color & the person behind the trigger has a badge”.

These opinions expressed by these two NBA athlete definitely imply that they are not happy with the decision handed down not to indict officer Darren Wilson, a white man, that killed Brown, a black man.

In my opinion, although I do agree with some of what the athletes are tweeting and saying, I do not agree with the way that they expressed their thoughts on the subject. I believe that the subject is worthy of much more than a 160 character tweet. I also believe that athletes too often take to social media to express their impulses, but given the way things are in today’s society, social media seems to have become the most popular way for people to express their inner thoughts and beliefs.

The expansion of social media, mainly Facebook and Twitter, has resulted in too many “foot in mouth” moments because people (athletes) often post off impulse rather than thinking through what they are actually saying or posting. I am also a firm believer that athletes should be more aware of what they say on social media because one of their obligations as role models for children is to exhibit composure in adverse situations. What James said did not come off as offensive, but what Barnes posted could have been something that a large number of people could have taken offense to.

I was nowhere near Ferguson, Missouri the day that this shooting occurred. I do not know what lead up to the shooting or why Wilson felt threatened by Brown. I do know that sensationalism is something that is abundant in media coverage, especially today, so certain parts of stories are made from nothing. I suggest that athletes offer little to no public thoughts on situations like this one on social media. If they want justice, like the rest of us, they should let the public hear the word come out of their mouths. It should not be that hard for LeBron James to find a camera to voice his thoughts to, the press is constantly looking for anything new from King James.

Melvin Gordon’s Record Falls Without Much Notice

By Matt Rogers

Well, that was fast. Melvin Gordon’s FBS single-game rushing yardage record has fallen, after only one week. This time the record was broken by Oklahoma’s true freshman running back, Samaje Perine. Perine’s record-breaking performance is not receiving quite the fanfare and media coverage that Gordon’s did last week, but nonetheless 427 yards in a single game is more than impressive.

As previously mentioned, Samaje Perine is only a true freshman at OU, making his record-breaking performance that much more impressive than Melvin Gordon’s. Gordon already was touted as a top running back in the upcoming NFL draft and a Heisman Trophy frontrunner. Perine’s pedigree is not too shabby in itself. He was regarded as top running back prospect in the 2014 recruiting class by Rivals and recruiting services, receiving a 4-star rating out of a possible 5-stars. Perine has also had a great first college season totaling 1,428 yards on 214 carries, while finding the endzone 19 times as well.

Another interesting aspect about Perine’s performance is that he is listed at 243 pounds. You do not usually see a running back that large running away from defenders the way that Perine did against Kansas. The fact that this is not receiving more coverage is confusing. We all know that Melvin Gordon is a household name among college football fans as a result of his outstanding play throughout his college career at Wisconsin. Shouldn’t the media and fans expect a guy with the reputation that Melvin Gordon has to break records?

What Samaje Perine did was done against a porous Kansas Jayhawk defense. Gordon’s damage was done against a Nebraska defense that was regarded as one of the best in the Big Ten coming into the game against Wisconsin, but that does not change the fact that Perine broke a record that was only broken a week prior.  I believe that alone should be worthy of more media coverage. A record that stood for 13 years that was broken, then broken again the very next week by an 18-year-old freshman. That is incredible.

One other thing that is not receiving anywhere near the attention that it should be from the media is that the Oklahoma Sooners offense only totaled 39 yards passing against the Kansas Jayhawks, 19 of which Perine was responsible for. Perine was responsible for all but 20 yards of the entire Oklahoma offense this past weekend because their starting quarterback, Trevor Knight, was out with injury. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime performance that should have been worthy of more than just a quick mention from the media.

Melvin Gordon Breaks Record

By Matt Rogers

If by the off-chance you were a fan of college football and did not know of Melvin Gordon, before this past Saturday, you do now. Gordon, the all-everything running back of Wisconsin, broke the FBS record for rushing yards in a single game. Heading into the game the record stood at 406 yards, held by former TCU and NFL great, LaDainian Tomlinson. Gordon ended Saturday’s game against Nebraska with 408 yards. What was most impressive about Gordon’s accomplishment was that all of his yards came in the first three quarters. That’s right, he did not even play in the fourth quarter because the Wisconsin Badgers were blowing the Nebraska Cornhuskers out.

It should come as no surprise that it was Melvin Gordon who broke the record though, after the success that he has been enjoying this season. He was already the leading FBS in rushing yards heading into the game, averaging over eight yards per carry. With this game, Gordon now has a total of 1,909 yards on the season. Being that Wisconsin is in the driver’s seat to represent the West division in the Big Ten title game, the team has at least four more games this season. If Gordon were to play as well as he has through the first ten games, he has an outside shot at breaking the single season record for rushing yards, 2,628 held by NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.

Not that he needed this performance to justify his status as a Heisman Memorial Trophy front-runner, but Gordon has all but punched his ticket to New York City in December as one of the finalists for the award.

Gordon has been receiving massive amounts of praise from various media outlets from the beginning of the season because he returned to Wisconsin for another season, after most draft experts considered him one of the very best running backs in last year’s draft class. The buzz about him as grown immensely as the season has progressed because of his unbelievable play on the field for the Badgers. Matt Miller, head NFL draft scout for Bleacher Report, has been evaluating Gordon’s play throughout the season, assessing him a second round grade (2nd overall among running backs) for the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft.

What Gordon has done to this point in the 2014 season has been nothing short of spectacular. It is very hard to believe that he is not done. It should be fun to see what sort of tricks Gordon has left up the sleeve of his #25 Wisconsin Badgers’ jersey for the last part of the season. Stay tuned.

Ohio State Making a Case to Crash Playoff Party

By Matt Rogers

Over the weekend there were was certainly was no shortage of important games in college football. None of the outcomes to these games may prove to be more important than #14 Ohio State’s 49-37 victory over #8 Michigan State. The victory for the Buckeyes put them in the driver’s seat in the race for the Big Ten’s East Division crown, and in a promising position in terms of this week’s upcoming College Football Playoff Rankings.

Though the College Football Playoff Rankings have not yet been released, Ohio State has gained a substantial amount of respect from numerous members of the media and from the voters in the Associated Press Poll, jumping into the #8 ranking in the latest AP poll.

The one thing that may be the straw that breaks the Buckeyes’ back is their 14-point loss to Virginia Tech in the second game of the season. This loss is considered by most in the media to be a “bad” loss because the Hokies of Virginia Tech have gone on to lose five of their last seven games since that game. The Hokies have also posted a 1-4 record in the ACC, which most in the media consider the weakest of the Power Five conferences (Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-12, and Big 12).

As far as that loss to Va Tech goes, some members of the media claim that Ohio State should be given a mulligan because the team was only a few weeks removed from their star player and Quarterback, Braxton Miller, suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. The team had to turn to a redshirt freshman Quarterback, JT Barrett, who hadn’t played in a game since the fourth game of his senior season of high school football. Not to mention that the team was also breaking in four new starters on the offensive line. The Va Tech game was only Barrett’s second college start, the first being against what most consider to be an inferior opponent in Navy.

Since that loss, OSU has rattled off seven straight wins and accumulating a 5-0 record against Big Ten opponents. The media outlets, namely ESPN, that are covering the release tonight’s upcoming College Football Playoff Rankings have speculated that the Buckeyes will not only enter the top ten in the new rankings, but will be squarely in the conversation to be part of the four teams that will ultimately be a part of the brand new College Football Playoff that the NCAA has implemented this season.

There are still a few weeks that remain in the college football season. There is bound to be some chaos, as there always is. Only one thing is certain; nothing that the members of the media and the so-called experts say has any bearing on what the 12-man committee will vote. The CFP rankings for this week will be released at 7:30 ET.

49ers’ Aldon Smith to Pay to Play in 2014

By Matt Rogers

It was reported on ESPN today that Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers’ All-Pro Outside Linebacker, will be paying the 49ers to play in the team’s last seven games of the season rather than returning early, as he reportedly had hoped. Smith is currently serving a 9-game suspension for separate violations of the league’s substance abuse policy and personal conduct policy. For this reason, Smith will be ordered to pay the 49ers for forfeiture of a signing bonus that was agreed to when Smith was drafted by the team in the 2011 NFL Draft.

The amount that Smith will be ordered to pay is determined from his salary, which was $525,000 for the final seven games of the season, and the signing bonus valued at $661,000 . This is substantial because nothing like this has ever happened before in any of the major sports leagues, at least in the United States. This occurrence sets a precedent that athletes, at least in the NFL, will be held more accountable for continuously ignoring not only the policies agreed up by the players’ union and the league owners, but also ignoring the laws.

Smith has had at least two DUI charges that have been reported, which lead to his substance abuse suspension. What lead to his suspension for going against the personal conduct policy was what essentially lead to  such a harsh punishment to be handed down on Smith. It was reported in April 2014 that Smith was detained for allegedly becoming belligerent with airport officials, eventually that he had a bomb in his possession. This is a crime that is taken extremely seriously, especially after the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Ultimately, Smith was not charged, but he was still subject to a lengthy suspension under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The suspension that was handed down was the aforementioned 9 games, which was a result of the multiple DUI charges and the incident that occurred at the airport in April.

Though Smith was suspended, he was not suspended for a whole season, making him eligible to return in the 49ers’ Week 11 matchup against the New York Giants. This would mean that Aldon Smith be paying to play in the final seven games rather than sitting out the entire season and still paying the team back the signing bonus.

A precedent like this is something that professional league’s should definitely adopt in the future because when a contract is signed, and a signing bonus is agreed to, there are certain parameters that are also agreed to by both sides. It was also interesting that this was reported on national TV, especially during a year where the league has seen two of its highest profile players, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, facing criminal charges for domestic violence and child abuse.

Cleveland Rocks Again

By Matt Rogers

It’s a Sunday in November, and the Cleveland Browns are relevant in the NFL playoff picture. At 5-3, this marks the best first half of the season the Browns have had since 2007, when the team finished with their last winning record: 10-6. Thus, making it almost impossible for the national media to ignore the feat. The Browns have earned plenty of mentions on the national networks, lately, What makes this appealing to Browns’ fans is that it’s not because of their futility or for purpose of being the butt of every joke.

Also worthy of mention regarding sports teams in Cleveland is the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers had what most will agree to be the best offseason of any NBA team this past summer, when LeBron James released an essay in Sports Illustrated telling Cleveland he was “Coming Home”, after spurning the city and team just four years earlier in gut-wrenching fashion with “The Decision”. It also did not hurt that Kevin Love, who some believe is the NBA’s best Power forward, was added via a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for rookie number one pick, Andrew Wiggins, and former number one pick, Anthony Bennett.

After losing their first game, in what was a highly covered game because it was the first game of LeBron James’ homecoming season, the Cavaliers won their second game. Both of these games were televised on national networks, after only having a handful of nationally televised games over the last four years without LeBron.

It is sure to be a year to remember in Cleveland because of the buzz that these two teams are creating. The buzz will only get louder, and louder, and louder as the season goes on because of the excitement that being relevant within the NFL and NBA brings. Cleveland fans are usually regarded as some of the most passionate fans in the NFL, NBA, and MLB. There may be times that the Cleveland fans are not the most loyal, but every city has fans that are guilty of the same. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a city more deserving of a winner, after waiting 50 years, and counting, between championships. This includes losing two World Series in 1995 and 1997, and suffering through what was LeBron’s first ‘Decision’. It is about time that Cleveland teams give their fans something to consistently cheer about rather than showing glimpses of a breakthrough only to have any hope ripped away with another losing season.