Category Archives: Off-Campus

The world of college athletics outside of Foggy Bottom.

Slick Twist: Has A Change in the Ball Changed This Fall Classic?

By: Arthur Pescan

As a self-professed fanatic in the religion that is baseball, there were two things I was praying for as this World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros, the two best teams in baseball, rolled around: one, the prospect of my hometown Dodgers winning their first World Series since 1988 (not to mention in their first appearance since that storied season), and two, the potential for amazing pitching duels in what promised to be a thrilling Fall Classic.

Now, Dodger-nation is certainly not down and out just yet as the series heads back to Los Angeles for game six, despite the Dodgers bearing the stings of that iconic and ever-so-grueling, 10-inning, five-hour, 13-12 loss to the Astros in game five. As long as Dave Roberts and Co. continue to sling and slug within the walls of Chavez Ravine, I shall retain hope to the end.

And certainly, this World Series has lived up to the predicted hype and then some, with each game becoming an exercise in baseball magic. Exemplified in the home-run heroics of Jose Altuve and George Springer, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig, every night has seen the teams falling, tying, pulling ahead, fighting for every run, every base, every hit, every inning. The number of times in five games I’ve heard the phrase, “They will not go quietly into that dark night!” on a broadcast is shocking just in itself (I’m looking at you Rick Monday and Charlie Steiner).

But for all the thrilling highs and heartbreaking lows, this World Series has disappointed in one key aspect: the lackluster performance of some of the greatest arms in the game today on the biggest stage of their lives. Save for Clayton Kershaw’s immaculate game one performance, a seven-inning, eleven-strikeout outing which instilled short-lived hope in LA fans everywhere that Kershaw’s post-season woes had finally come to a close, game after game of this series has seen the early exit of ace after ace.

Astros’ ace Dallas Keuchel was rocked on his very first pitch of game one for a Chris Taylor bomb to the left bleachers, setting the tone for a 3-1 victory for the Dodgers, while teammate Justin Verlander gave up back to back home runs to the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson and Corey Seager in game two. Yu Darvish was chased off the mound by his former Astros in game three after giving up four runs in less than two innings. Ken Giles, Houston’s version of Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jimenez, gave up five runs in the ninth to allow the Dodgers a 6-2 victory in game four. LA’s Kenley Jansen, the best closer in the majors, has given up runs in three consecutive save attempts, the first time in his big-league career.

And perhaps looming largest of all in a World Series of shortcomings on the mound, game five saw Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher of our time, falter in five innings, giving up six runs and turning a 4-0 Dodgers lead into a 7-4 deficit. Up until that moment Sunday evening, Kershaw had a career record of 100 wins to one loss in games where he had a four-run lead for support.

Even in a game where superstitions and famous curses hold a special place in explaining the unexplainable, the faltering of pitcher after pitcher on the mound over the last five games has prompted speculation on what exactly is causing this World Series to be so taxing for the rotation and bullpen, much of it focusing on the baseball itself.

While reports of a more “juiced” ball have popped up in discussions of the high home run rate over the last two seasons, this Series has brought talk of a “slick” baseball, one where the leather on the specialty balls used for the World Series both feel and look slicker than those used in the regular-season.

Complaints over the last few days of a slicker baseball have come from pitching coaches, managers, and even the pitchers themselves.

Verlander had this to say, “The World Series ball is slicker. No doubt. I’m telling you, we’re in here signing [World Series] balls before the game, and it’s hard to get the ink on the ball sometimes. It’s different. I noticed it especially throwing a slider. It didn’t feel the same. The home run I gave up to [Joc] Pederson was a slider.”

Verlander’s comments, as well as similar ones from Yu Darvish and Ken Giles, have potentially alluded to a slicker ball, with less friction against a pitcher’s hand and therefore less control of pitches, being responsible for the slump in pitching prowess this World Series. Indeed, this Series has seen feared pitches in an ace’s arsenal like the slider, fastball, and curveball, stay above the plate longer, leading to an onslaught of home runs over the last five games. Twenty-two home runs have been hit in this Fall Classic through five games, already the most homers in World Series history, edging the previous record of 21 set by the 2002 Angels-Giants series, a series which went to a full seven games.

The historic rate of home runs in this Fall Classic certainly makes for entertaining and iconic moments for baseball fans across the country watching in the ballparks, behind TV’s, at sports bars, or if you’re like me, listening next to an ancient radio. But when the dust has settled on home plate in this legendary Series, the world of baseball will have to address the concern that a slick ball could have skewed not only the prowess of its greatest pitchers, but the result of what is shaping up to be one of the most iconic World Series ever.

But until that time, let’s enjoy some historic fall ball while we still can. And remember…It’s time for Dodgers baseball!

With Watson Out, Anxiety sets in for Phoenix

By: Tristan Graney

With the firing of head coach Earl Watson, the Phoenix Suns are in desperate need of leadership to prevent having the worst regular season record in the league. The young team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2009 and it does not look like they’ll be back anytime soon.

Eric Bledsoe, the team’s franchise player, expressed his desire to be traded before the season began and sent out a tweet reiterating these feelings on Sunday. With promising talent in young players like Devin Booker and Josh Jackson, the Suns need to trade Bledsoe and begin a rebuild.

The next step? Lock up Booker in the offseason and offer him a sizeable extension with the intent of making him the core of the team and its growth. They should model their rebuild in the same fashion the Kings have. Start by getting rid of toxicity by trading Bledsoe, draft well in 2018, and pursue veteran players that will be willing to mentor the younger players and fill a bigger role on the floor.

Maybe Steve Nash will come out of retirement to find Derrick Jones Jr. above the rim.

Wild Card Game Preview (AL+NL)

By: Cam Ventola

Tonight at 8 the Minnesota Twins (85-77) will try to down the New York Yankees (91-71) in the Bronx to advance to the ALDS. On the mound for Minnesota is Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA), and Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA) will toe the rubber for New York. The Twins have improved significantly since last year–where they finished with over 100 losses. The team boasts some above average offense (7th in the ML in runs scored and OBP), but suffers from lackluster pitching (19th in the ML in ERA, 24th in quality starts). The Yankees, meanwhile, got productive seasons out of their young talent–Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino most notably. New York was spectacular offensively and defensively, ranking in the top 5 in the ML in runs scored, OBP, slugging percentage, ERA, WHIP and BAA. The matchup will be difficult for Ervin Santana, who played in only one game against the Yankees this year, which he lost after giving up 2 runs over 5.2 IP. Not to mention the Twins will also be missing slugger Miguel Sano. That being said, Severino got rocked for 3 runs over 3 innings when he squared off against the Twins earlier this season. This game seems clear-cut to me, though–the Yankees are going to win it.

Tomorrow at 8, the Colorado Rockies (87-75) will take on the Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69) to advance to the NLDS. Colorado’s Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67 ERA) will face off against Arizona’s Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20 ERA). The NL-West proved to be surprisingly competitive this year, with 3 of its teams making the playoffs. Colorado rolled into the playoffs with a high-powered offense that saw 3B Nolan Arenado drive in 130 runs while hitting .309. The team had roughly league-average pitching to back up the offense. Arizona boasted a strong pitching staff, led by Greinke, and an offense that saw 1B Paul Goldschmidt lead the team in HR, RBI and BA–36, 120 and .297 respectively. The pitching match up will be worth watching, with both Gray and Greinke putting up near-identical numbers against the opposing team. Gray went 2-1 through 3 starts against Arizona with a 3.50 ERA, while Greinke went 2-1 through 5 starts against Colorado with a 3.41 ERA. Arizona won 11 games against Colorado this year, with Colorado winning 8. While the statistics slightly favor the Diamondbacks, I’m going to go with the Rockies on this one–Jon Gray put up stellar numbers in the last month (4-1, 2.57 ERA) while Greinke slipped (1-1, 3.90 ERA).

Playing Dominoes – NBA Edition

By: Joey Mamlin

The 2016-17 NBA season is one that will be remembered for being somewhat predictable. After Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors in July of 2016 it was a forgone conclusion that no one was going to beat the 4 headed monster assembled by Bob Myers and his front office. The Cavaliers and a few formidable Western conference squads gave hope to the NBA fan who wanted to see a competitive season, however the Warriors ended up going 16-1 in the playoffs and winning their second title in three years. With the core of the team being as young as it is, it is difficult to see an end to the Warriors dominance over the rest of the league.

So what are the remaining 29 teams supposed to do?

Based on the 2017 offseason, the conclusion that many teams and players came to was that the best way to upset the status quo is to shake things up as much as possible. While the 2016-17 season was predictable, the following offseason was anything but.

The first domino to fall was Chris Paul. It was clear that there was no future for a man who many consider to be the best Point Guard in the league. After yet another disappointing early playoff exit, Paul was dealt to the Houston Rockets to pair up with James Harden.

A pair of elite wing players were dealt shortly after Paul, as Jimmy Butler was traded from Chicago, signaling the beginning of a total rebuild in Chicago, and Paul George was dealt from Indiana to Oklahoma City. This was days after George had informed the Pacers that he planned to leave in the following offseason.

These franchise players heading to new teams was only the beginning of the madness.

In the largest free agency deal to happen during the offseason, Gordon Hayward decided to sign with the Celtics in order to reunite with his college head coach and play with all-star Isaiah Thomas.

Shortly after this news the NBA world was flipped upside down with some shocking news out of Cleveland. While the future was beginning to get cloudy surrounding LeBron James’ future with the team, Kyrie Irving dropped a bombshell and requested that the team trade him, citing the desire to be the focal point of an offense. After much speculation, a blockbuster deal was made to bring Kyrie to Boston in exchange for Isaiah Thomas. With all of this excitement in Boston it is easy to forget that the team held the number one overall pick in the draft, before trading it to Philadelphia, who would draft Markelle Fultz (Boston picked Jason Taytum 3dr overall). The Boston Celtics also lost several players, including Kelly Olynyk.

The most recent major move was the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Melo rounds out OKC’s new big three with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. This ends the dysfunctional relationship between Carmelo and the Knicks, which was really tainted by the actions and words of former President of basketball operations Phil Jackson.

There are still moves to be made, and still pieces that have not been settled. Notably, Dwyane Wade, who recently became a free agent after being bought out by the Chicago Bulls.

This has been one of the most intriguing off seasons in recent memory, certainly more intriguing than the NBA regular season. So many big names moved around to different teams that the whole landscape of the NBA is completely different than what it was 5 short months ago.

The craziest part is, next offseason could be even more wild…