A Look at 2014 MLB Salaries

For the first time since the 1998 season, a team other than the New York Yankees has the highest payroll in major league baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who began their spending spree prior to the 2013 season once new ownership took control of the front office, has surpassed the traditionally cash-flush, free-spending Yankees by nearly 33 million dollars, according to figures compiled by the MLB Player’s Association, team officials and representative agents. At an estimated 241 million, the Dodgers are far ahead of every other team, including the Yankees (208 million) and the Philadelphia Phillies (a distant third at 187 million). Not surprisingly, the team also boasts the single highest-paid individual player, starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who’s slated to take home a whopping 28 million in 2014. Greinke’s more celebrated teammate, two-time and defending NL Cy Young winning hurler Clayton Kershaw, will receive ‘only’ 19 million.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Houston Astros own the lowest MLB payroll at a mere 44 million. Coincidentally or not, the team has suffered three consecutive seasons of 100+ losses, lending some validity to the idea that spending less equates to winning less. However, of the six lowest payrolls in the majors, four of them (Cleveland, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay) reached the postseason in 2013. Conversely, only three of the top six highest payrolls (Boston, Detroit, the Dodgers) earned a playoff berth, making the above argument open for debate.

For all MLB teams, starting pitchers and first basemen, on the average, are the highest-paid positions, with 19 out of 30 teams having either of those two positions as their biggest salaried players. The third-highest paid players toil in the outfield, followed by third basemen, second basemen and shortstops. Surprisingly, since the position is generally considered to be the most important overall, there are no catchers who are their teams’ highest-paid player.

Just five seasons ago, only four major leaguers earned salaries exceeding 20 million dollars per season. In 2014, a whopping twenty major leaguers will be paid in excess of 20 million for their services, led by Grienke’s 28 million. Not far behind are Philadelphia teammates Cliff Lee (P) and Ryan Howard (1B) at 25 million each. Both the Dodgers and Yankees will shell out 20 million-plus to four players each (Grienke, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford of the Dodgers and Mark Teixiera, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Yankees). Although he’s never made an appearance in the U.S. major leagues, Pitcher Tanaka is a unique case, having signed a contract with the Yankees after a bidding war primarily due to going 24-0 in the Japanese major leagues in 2013. Of the twenty players slated to receive 20+ million, eight (Grienke, Sabathia, Tanaka, Lee, SF’s Matt Cain, Philly’s Cole Hamels, Detroit’s Jason Verlander and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez) are starting pitchers, while seven of them (Gonzalez, Teixiera, Howard, Texas’ Prince Fielder, Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols of the Angels and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera) are first basemen. Four of the remainder (Kemp, Crawford, Ellsbury, Washington’s Jayson Werth) are outfielders, while Seattle’s Robinson Cano plays second base.

As expected, the 2013 class of free agents cashed in admirably over the off-season. In recent seasons, the Yankees have pulled back from pursuing high dollar free agents, but in the winter of 2013, they reverted to their free-spending ways, convincing not only Tanaka and Ellsbury to join them, but also securing C Brian McCann and OF Carlos Beltran to don the pinstripes in 2014. McCann, the longtime backstop and team leader in Atlanta, will earn 17 million in 2014, making him the highest-paid catcher in the majors. Other free agents who signed significant contracts during the off-season include Cano, Philadelphia’s A.J. Burnett, Tim Hudson, San Francisco, Texas’ Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson of the Mets, Jhonny Peralta to St. Louis and Omar Infante with Kansas City.

Despite being outspent by the Dodgers, the Yankees will have the highest average per player salary at 8 million, followed by the Dodgers at 7.7. Not surprisingly, the frugal Astros have the lowest average salary per player at $506,500, which isn’t much above the league’s minimum salary of $500,000.

HIGHEST-PAID PLAYERS BY POSITION (salaries in millions)
Starting Pitcher- Grienke, Dodgers (28)
Relief Pitcher- Rafael Soriano, Nationals (12)
Catcher- McCann, Yankees (17)
1B- Howard, Phillies (25)
2B- Cano, Mariners (24)
3B- David Wright, Mets (19)
SS- Tulowitzki, Rockies- Reyes, Blue Jays- H. Ramirez, Dodgers (16)
OF- Kemp, Dodgers (21.2)
OF- Crawford, Dodgers (21.1)
OF- Werth, Nationals (20.5)
DH- A. Soriano, Yankees (19)

When all the financial data is gathered and analyzed, several facts can be determined. First, neither a willingness to pay players exorbitant salaries or go the opposite direction and tighten purse strings guarantees success or failure on the field. Secondly, the old baseball saying that the quickest route to the major leagues is to don the “tools of ignorance” (i.e. catcher’s gear) doesn’t necessarily guarantee a hefty paycheck, and thirdly, for parents aspiring for their kids to become big leaguers, lead them to either the pitcher’s mound or have them become familiar with a first baseman’s mitt.

2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Preview and Prediction

UConn Will Show Everyone They Are “Net Worthy”

The championship matchup between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies is being billed as one of the most unlikely pairings in the history of the NCAA tournament. The Huskies were the seventh seed in the East while the Wildcats were the number eight seed in the Midwest. 

How Kentucky Got to the Title GameKentucky finished the regular season 29-10 and earned an at-large bid into the tournament. They earned a berth in the championship game by:-Defeating Kansas State in the Round of 64-Defeating Wichita State in the Round of 32-Defeating Louisville in the Sweet 16-Defeating Michigan State in the Elite 8

-Defeating Wisconsin in the Final Four

How Connecticut Go to the Title Game

Connecticut finished the season 31-8 and earned an at-large bid into the tournament. They earned a spot in the championship game by:

-Defeating St. Joseph’s in the Round of 64

-Defeating Villanova in the Round of 32

-Defeating Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen

-Defeating Michigan State in the Elite Eight

-Defeating Florida in the Final Four

Why Kentucky Will Win

The Wildcats were rated as the best team in the nation and the overwhelming favorite to win the title when the season started. All five of the Kentucky starters were Mr. Basketball in their home states or led their high school teams to national championships.

Although they fell short of their 40-0 goal at the beginning of the season, they are still one of the most talented teams in the country. There is a good chance that all five of their starters this year could be playing in the NBA as soon as next year.

When you are talking about a team that has that kind of sheer talent and athleticism, it makes it hard for any team to beat them. On top of that, Kentucky has already won two games at the buzzer. While they are a young team, the Wildcats may have finally learned how to believe in their coach and each other enough to overcome any adversity that they will face against Connecticut.

Why UConn Will Win

Connecticut has to feel good about themselves going into the championship game. They just knocked off the top overall seed in the tournament and they have a true leader in Shabazz Napier. He can score at will when his teammates need him to lift them past the opposition.

However, the real reason why Connecticut has been so effective is because of their defense. Regardless of how much talent the other team has, it is easy to win games when a defense can turn them into non-factors. That is exactly what the Huskies have done to just about all of the best players in the NCAA in the past few weeks.

Which Team Wins the National Title?

This is going to be one the best and closest title games in a long time. As the Seattle Seahawks proved just a few short months ago, a dominant defense tends to be able to neutralize a powerful offense. Therefore, it makes sense to predict a Connecticut Huskies victory in this game.

Helpful Links:

  1. NCAA.com
  2. Odds for Winning
  3. Championship Gear from FansEdge (UConn/Kentucky)

2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four Preview

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A capacity crowd is expected at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on April 5 and 7th when the annual NCAA Men’s Division 1 Final Four is held. Florida and Connecticut tip off in Saturday’s first semifinal, followed by Kentucky and Wisconsin in the nightcap, with the winners meeting on Monday night for the title.

Billy Donovan’s Gators (South Region) are the only surviving No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four, with Wisconsin advancing out of the West Region as a No. 2. The other two participants weren’t expected to advance this far, with Connecticut coming out of the East as a No. 7 seed while Kentucky, the consensus pre-season No. 1 pick, makes the finals as a No. 8 seed out of the Midwest. All four schools have both appeared in the Final Four and won national titles (Florida- five appearances, titles in 2006 and 2007, Connecticut- five appearances, titles in 1999, 2004, 2011, Kentucky- sixteen appearances, titles in 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1975, 1996, 1998, 2012, and Wisconsin- two appearances, title in 1941).

Florida (36-2) vs. Connecticut (30-8)
Florida, the overall No. 1 seed, comes in with a 30-game winning streak, with their last loss, ironically, 65-64 at Connecticut on December 2nd. In yet another ironic twist, Florida’s only other loss occurred on November 12th to another Final Four participant, Wisconsin, 59-53.

The Gators are extremely experienced, starting four battle-tested seniors and a sophomore, and their regular rotation goes only 8-9 deep at the most. Senior PG Scottie Wilbekin is the floor general for Donovan’s team, adept at distributing the ball, suffocating opposing ballhandlers on defense, and reliable with outside shooting. He’ll have his hands full with UConn’s two-headed tandem of Napier and Boatwright however. Wilbekin’s primary backcourt mate is Michael Frazier II, one of the nation’s most deadly deep marksmen. Operating from the wing is the team’s leading scorer (13.8) Casey Prather, who can sink the perimeter jumper but is more dangerous when he puts the ball on the floor. Up front, what Florida lacks in length it makes up in bulk and intelligent positioning in seniors Patrick Young and Will Yeguette. Both are much better offensively than their misleading stats, and both crash the boards relentlessly. Off the bench, Dorian Finney-Smith provides muscle and energy, while Kasey Hill gives the offense a different approach when spelling Wilbekin. Overall, the Gators won’t overwhelm opponents with explosiveness or physicality, but their experience and intelligence serves them well, while defensively, they lack the shot-blockers, but they blend together impressively all around, and are effective when trapping is required.

In 2011, Connecticut came out of nowhere behind star PG Kemba Walker to hand long-time former coach Jim Calhoun his third championship in a dozen years. In 2013-14, Walker’s successor as floor leader, Shabazz Napier, appears to be following his predecessor’s blueprint. The All-American has carried the Huskies quite a bit in his senior season, including the last-second game-winner against Florida. His backcourt mate, Ryan Boatwright, has similar skills and the duo work well together, combining for 30 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals per game. Up front, UConn employs both offense and defense “by committee,” with DeAndre Daniels capable of putting up regular double figures, while Niels Giffey is a dangerous and streaky three-point threat. Off the bench, the Huskies have a capable shot-blocker in Amida Brimah, although any offense from him is generally a surprise. Philip Nolan has stepped up his frontcourt presence in the postseason, but make no mistake about Kevin Ollie’s Huskies; they are heavily dependent on their backcourt.

Wisconsin (30-7) vs. Kentucky (28-10)
During almost all of Bo Ryan’s dozen-plus seasons as coach of the Badgers, they’ve been a walk-it-up, methodical squad that specializes in smothering defense and crisp passing. This 2013-14 team is still patient and continues to harass opposing ball-handlers, they’ve also become much more adept on offense, led by big man Frank Kaminsky, who has a “Euro-style” inside-out game, but he can also effectively work in the paint. Wisconsin is loaded with sharpshooters, from Ben Brust to Josh Gasser, while Sam Dekker provides a nice mix of perimeter and driving skills. PG Traevon Jackson has a game reminiscent of former Badger star Devin Harris, while Nigel Hayes gives athleticism and hustle off the bench. Bo Ryan has long been considered one of the most unsung head coaches in the nation, and now his low-key style gets a prime shot of exposure on a bigger stage.

Throughout January and most of February, bashing John Calipari’s latest batch of “one-and-done” McDonald’s All-Americans was rampant, but Cal’s “Diaper Dandies” are maturing at the perfect time, knocking off three of last season’s Final Four participants to advance to Arlington. The ‘Cats are loaded, even without the injured Willie Cauley-Stein. Marcus Lee came out of nowhere to become a force in the regional final, while the backcourt of the Harrison twins are playing like NBA veterans. Along with that potent threesome, Calipari can call on freshman All-American Julius Randle, athletic Alex Poythress, scorer James Young and a handful of other future NBAers to insert. If Kentucky gets past Wisconsin (which won’t be easy), they may find themselves matched up with fellow SEC team Florida for the fourth time this season. For the record, the Gators have won all three matchups, giving Calipari plenty of motivational ammo for a title re-re-re-rematch.

Resources:

  1. Championship Gear (Right after the game)
  2. Travel to the Game
  3. TV Schedule

The Five Best Conferences In College Basketball Right Now

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Although it is still early, the college basketball landscape is slowly starting to take shape. A few teams have started to make their case to be considered a favorite to cut down the nets in April. Through two months of play, which conferences are the best in the country?

1) Big Ten

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State are all ranked in the top 10. Michigan State has a signature win against Kentucky while Ohio State and Wisconsin are blowing teams away early. There is a good chance that the conference sends seven or more teams to the tournament this year. Northwestern at 6-5 has the lowest winning percentage in the Big 10.

2) American Athletic

The conference comprised of Big East castaways are having a nice debut season. Louisville and Connecticut are ranked sixth and tenth in the latest polls. Memphis looks to have another strong season for the AAC. SMU, South Florida and Houston are having strong starts that could be a sign of big things to come for all three programs.

3) Big East

The Catholic 7 schools of the original Big East combined with Xavier, Butler and Creighton to create a strong league. Although Villanova is the only ranked team in the league, there are several teams that will contend for NCAA and NIT bids this postseason. Expect Butler, Creighton and Xavier to crack the Top 25 at some point while perennial conference whipping boy DePaul has started 6-4.

4) Pacific 12

Seven teams in the Pac-12 have eight or more wins on the season. Arizona is the top ranked team in the nation thanks to an impressive start. Oregon and Colorado are also ranked. Colorado has been a surprising team this year. The Buffaloes defeated Kansas earlier in December on a last second field goal.

5) Atlantic Coast

Syracuse and Pittsburgh both started the year 9-0. The Orange are ranked second in the nation while the Panthers look to propel themselves into the rankings shortly. North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse are likely to be locks to go dancing in March while Notre Dame is another team likely to get an invite to the NCAA tournament. Virginia Tech leads the league by virtue of their victory over Miami in the first conference game this season.

The top conferences in college basketball are starting to assert themselves as the calendar creeps toward 2014 and the start of league play. Over the next 10 weeks, a lot of teams are going to state their case to keep playing in March. However, only a handful of teams from a handful of conferences have a legitimate shot of being crowned champion in the end.

The Evolution of the NFL Place-Kicker

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Usually regarded as non-athletes, NFL placekickers nonetheless are absolutely critical to their team’s success. Since the sport is called “FOOTball,” the players who make their living booting an odd-shaped, inflated pigskin are frequently overlooked at best and taken for granted at worst. But their contributions to the most popular sport in the nation can’t be written off nor can they be compartmentalized as mere “specialists,” even though technically, that’s exactly what they are.

In the NFL’s early years, kickers were more often than not the team’s best athlete, and it wasn’t until the late 1940s that teams began to comprehend the importance of having an effective kicker, whether it was a punter or placekicker. The first recognized placekicking “specialist” was Ben Agajanian. Agajanian kicked in high school and then in college for New Mexico. While in college, Agajanian tragically lost four toes on his kicking foot in an accident but he persisted in kicking, doing it well enough to kick for ten different professional teams before retiring in 1964.

Agajanian’s success as a “kicker-only” didn’t convince the league as a whole to adopt the position, and kickers continued to play other positions. Notable players such as Lou Groza (OT), Lou Michaels (DE), Paul Hornung (RB), Frank Gifford (WR), Pat Summerall (WR) George Blanda (QB), Gino Cappelletti (WR) and Keith Lincoln (RB) were standouts at their “normal” positions in addition to handling kicking chores. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that teams began to employ full-time kicking specialists, with Blanda being the last kicker to also play at another position.

For decades, placekickers utilized the “straight-on” approach, kicking the ball with the toes. This technique elevated the ball quicker and higher, but that method was about to become archaic with the introduction of the soccer-style approach. In 1964, the Buffalo Bills of the AFL signed Pete Gogolak, a Hungarian-born Cornell graduate who booted with the instep of his foot after approaching the ball at an angle. This technique caused the football to come off the foot at a lower trajectory but produced dramatically longer kicks. To offset the lower elevation, teams began placing the holder’s position a few feet further back to avoid blocks. Gogolak’s impact was almost immediate, and other teams soon began scouring soccer clubs and foreign countries for potential candidates. Gogolak’s younger brother Charlie, who played collegiately at Princeton, became the first placekicker to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft when the Washington Redskins chose him in 1966, and by the end of the 1960s, soccer-style kickers were the norm rather than the exception. However, the straight-on placekickers had one final “moment” in 1970 when Tom Dempsey, a traditional kicker with the New Orleans Saints who was born without toes on his right (kicking) foot, booted an NFL-record 63-yard FG (since equalled by three other kickers). The last straight-on placekicker (to date) was Mark Moseley who retired after the 1986 season. Moseley is notable for being the only placekicker to be named the NFL’s MVP (1982), while with the Washington Redskins.

Another non-traditional kicking method emerged when Tony Franklin, who kicked barefooted, joined Philadelphia in 1979, going on to become one of the league’s most accurate kickers. Another successful barefooted kicker was Rich Karlis, who somehow managed to kick without a shoe for several seasons in the frequently frigid climate of Denver.

The NFL’s all-time record for the longest field goal (63 yards) is shared by four players: The already-mentioned Dempsey (1970), Jason Elam (1998), Sebastian Janikowski (2011) and David Akers (2012). Dempsey’s was the only FG that was a game-winner, while the other three all occurred at the end of the first half.

Despite the obvious importance of the placekicker, Jan Stenerud of the Kansas City Chiefs is the only full-time kicking specialist to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Blanda and Groza are also enshrined, but they were regulars at other positions. This is a bit puzzling since the NFL’s Top 25 career scorers are all placekickers. Perhaps this oversight is due to the misguided belief that these talented specialists are still considered to be “non-athletes.” This widely-held assumption is reflected in the NFL’s annual player draft, with only four kickers in the history of the draft to be selected in the first round (Gogolak, Washington 1966, Steve Little, St. Louis 1978, Russell Erxleben, New Orleans 1979 and Janikowski, Oakland 2000).

TOP FIVE SCORERS IN NFL HISTORY
1. Morten Andersen 2,544 points (1982-2007)
2. Gary Anderson 2,434 points (1982-2004)
3. Jason Hanson 2,150 points (1992-2012)
4. John Carney 2,062 points (1988-2010)
5. Matt Stover 2.004 points (1991-2009)

TOP FIVE ACTIVE SCORERS (Placekickers) IN THE NFL
1. Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis 1,966 points
2. David Akers, Detroit 1,706 points
3. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland 1,464 points
4. Jay Feely, Arizona 1,397 points
5. Phil Dawson, San Francisco 1,356 points