Willie Mays (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball has named its World Series Most Valuable Player award after Willie Mays.The decision was announced Friday, the 63rd anniversary of Mays’ back-to-the-plate catch in deep center field at the Polo Grounds for the New York Giants against Cleveland’s Vic Wertz in the World Series opener. The Giants went on to sweep the Indians.The Series MVP award began the following year when it was won by Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres.San Francisco Giants’ Willie Mays is all set for a workout at the baseball club’s training camp at Casa Grande, (AP Photo/RDS)Now 86, Mays played in 24 All-Star Games during a 22-year-career with the New York and San Francisco Giants, and the New York Mets.
In Week 4’s Monday Night Football matchup, Washington takes on Kansas City. The contest is an interesting clash of quarterback styles: Washington’s Kirk Cousins is one of the league’s best deep-ball passers, while Kansas City’s Alex Smith is a master of the screen pass. Which style will prevail? To find out more, watch the video above.
RFBowling-0.1Armas+0.3Barfield+0.7Hays+0.0 Baltimore’s place among the worst opening day lineupsAmong American League teams since 1973, the four worst opening day lineups according to the sum of players’ established wins above replacement (WAR) levels Only three teams in our sample — the 1977 and 1982 Toronto Blue Jays and the 1980 Oakland Athletics — had lower established WAR levels for their starting lineups on Opening Day than the Orioles will have this season. 1BAult+0.0Newman+0.7Upshaw-0.4Davis-1.0 PosPlayerWARPlayerWARPlayerWARPlayerWAR 1977 Blue Jays1980 Athletics1982 Blue Jays2019 Orioles CCerone-0.2Heath-0.3Whitt+0.4Sisco+0.1 2BGarcia-0.6Picciolo-0.8Garcia-0.2Villar+1.8 Established level is calculated as a weighted average of WAR from the previous three seasons.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs DHVelez+0.7Essian+1.6Mayberry+1.8Santander-0.2 SSTorres+0.3Guerrero-0.3Griffin-1.1Martin+0.0 One of those teams, the ’77 Jays, was an expansion club that won just 54 games. But the two others finished around .500, meaning there are limitations to predicting off a lineup’s previous MLB track records. Of course pitchers can come to the rescue, as they did for Toronto in 1982 (led by the underappreciated Dave Stieb). Also, young players can emerge in dramatic breakout fashion: Rickey Henderson had done little as a rookie for the 1979 A’s before erupting for 8.3 WAR in 1980, for instance.But it’s tough to find the next Stieb or Henderson waiting in the wings to save Baltimore this year. De facto staff ace Dylan Bundy had a 5.45 earned run average last season, while the top prospect in the Orioles system, outfielder Yusniel Diaz, is starting the year in the minors and probably won’t be a full-time contributor until 2020. Among those actually in this lineup on opening day, outfielders Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays and catcher Chance Cisco probably have the best breakout potential. In fact, FanGraphs currently projects Mullins for a team-best 1.8 WAR, thanks to a combination of power and speed that could make him one of the few Orioles worth watching this season.New Orioles general manager Mike Elias told BaltimoreBaseball.com earlier this month that he wants the rebuild to go quickly: “This team finished last last year with a bad record,” he said. “I want to get out of that phase as quickly as possible, and so every decision that we’re going to make is going to be towards accelerating our advancement to be a playoff-caliber team again. I see no reason to stretch that out, drag it out beyond what we have to.”For now, though, this Baltimore lineup looks like it will battle the Miami Marlins for the saddest collection of mediocre veterans and anonymous prospects in the game. In each case, you’ve probably never heard of half of these guys, and the ones you do know are way past their prime. (Or never had a prime.) We’ll just have to see if this ragtag group can rally together and win the pennant anyway — or more realistically, rally to avoid 115 losses this time around. Total-0.5+1.4+1.8+2.1 The 2018 Baltimore Orioles were so bad that we questioned whether they belonged in the major leagues at all. They were our runaway pick for worst pro team of the year, going far beyond the many wannabe Astros and Cubs who’ve jumped on the tanking fad in recent seasons.Amazingly, things might get even worse this year. Since the middle of last season, Baltimore has traded away established veterans Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach, and watched as others such as Tim Beckham, Caleb Joseph and Adam Jones departed in free agency as well. Now there are only three remaining members of the Orioles’ lineup with even two years of MLB service time heading into 2019: Jonathan Villar, Trey Mancini — both average players at best — and Chris Davis, who had arguably the worst individual season in MLB history in 2018 when he hit .168 (in 470 at-bats!) with a .539 on-base plus slugging and -2.9 wins above replacement (WAR).1According to our usual 50-50 blend between the WAR versions found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. Davis’ untradeable contract means the Orioles are stuck with him, so they’ll pencil his name in on opening day no matter how bad he was last season.And those are the guys in the starting lineup who can be remotely labeled as household names. The rest is filled out with either youngish players who are past “prospect” status or journeymen plucked off the scrap heap. Taken as a whole, the 2019 Orioles’ roster basically recalls this scene from “Major League”:(No word on whether Baltimore owner Peter Angelos secretly built this team of cast-offs so he can move the team to Miami.)There have been a few teams who went into a season with less apparent talent than Baltimore — but not many. Using Baseball-Reference.com, we gathered data for each American League team’s opening day lineup since 1973 (to include every team who used the designated hitter full-time) and calculated those players’ established WAR track records going into the season.2To find a player’s established level of performance, we multiplied his WAR from the previous season by three, doubled his WAR from two seasons before and added it on, then added his WAR from three seasons before, and divided by six. This is an old Bill James invention for roughly projecting how much you can expect out of a player (in any given stat) based on the previous three years of performance. The track records for these Orioles — to the extent they have track records at all — place the team at or near the low-water mark at each position relative to all other AL opening day starting lineups since 1973: 3BMcKay-0.5Klutts-0.1Mulliniks-0.3Nunez+0.9 LFScott+0.0Henderson-0.4Woods+0.6Mancini+0.6 CFWoods-0.1Murphy+0.7Moseby+0.5Mullins-0.1
Not every player has taken quite the same path as Dwight Howard, who ranks No. 18 in the 2010s and is now on his seventh team of the decade after being traded away from the Wizards this summer. But James, for instance, has played for three teams this decade — the Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers — while only one No. 1 player of the previous three decades — Kevin Garnett, who starred for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics during the 2000s — played for more than one team. The reality of today’s league is stars hop teams far more often than their counterparts did in earlier eras, controlling their own destinies rather than letting team executives slide them around like pawns on a chessboard.It’s a trend NBA commissioner Adam Silver seems keenly aware of — if powerless to change, particularly with regard to the many deals that appeared to be made before the league’s mandated free-agency period was set to begin.“My sense in the room today was, especially when it comes to free agency and the rules around it, that we’ve got work to do,” Silver told reporters last week, after the league’s board of governors meetings. “And as I said, it’s still the same principles of fair balance of power and a sense that it’s a level playing field. I think that’s what teams want to know. I think they’re put in difficult situations because when they’re sitting across from a player and whether it’s conversations that are happening earlier than they should or frankly things are being discussed that don’t fall squarely within the collective bargaining agreement, it puts teams in a very difficult position because they are reading or hearing that other teams are doing other things to compete.”Even incentives put into place to theoretically curb player movement, such as larger maximum contracts (both in guaranteed length and total money) for players re-signing with their most recent teams, have failed to stop them from packing up and leaving town. Durant, for instance, left $57 million on the table to sign with Brooklyn rather than return to Golden State. Leonard gave up at least $80 million (!!) — if not even more — relative to what he could have gotten from a supermax deal with the Spurs, and about $30 million compared with what the Raptors could have given him by signing with the Clippers.Today’s stars, as ESPN’s Rachel Nichols perfectly put it, can’t be bought. They’ve proven that they’re willing to give up mind-boggling sums of cash in order to make their own decisions.Is all of this good for the league? Judging from the reaction on social media or in search traffic — where the NBA got playoff-level attention during the first week of July — the game’s popularity has seldom been higher, and the craziness of this offseason has only helped. I’ve said before that, if you view the modern NBA through a player-focused lens, it makes the most sense as a gigantic real-life soap opera. The concept of franchises is just incidental to all that, merely providing structure for the individual drama.Of course, if you are a fan of a team, it hurts to see your favorite players leave. The Raptors did everything they possibly could to retain Leonard’s services, but they reportedly had practically no chance of re-signing him even as they were winning the title. Although the players should owe no loyalty to team owners (err, “governors”) beyond the contracts they sign, from a fan’s perspective it seems to make little sense to root for any specific NBA team. Even if a team is lucky enough to acquire a superstar, it’s far from guaranteed he would stay more than a season or two in today’s climate.But the other side of that coin is that it’s more possible than ever for downtrodden teams to land a superstar in the first place. The Nets and Clippers have spent more of their histories as laughingstocks than contenders, particularly since both were seen as the “little brothers” in their markets (behind the Knicks — LOL — and Lakers). The franchises were not traditional free-agent destinations. But as stars become more focused on setting up the right situation for themselves and the players they want to play with, even teams without a history of snagging big-name players can make themselves an attractive option. It’s a different way of doing business — but in today’s era of superstar team-hopping, it might just be the new normal.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Dear NBA Diary,Remember when NBA players wearing different jerseys was new and novel? When you’d experiment with weird trades in NBA Live’s franchise mode, knowing that nothing so crazy as, I don’t know, Russell Westbrook in a Houston Rockets uniform or Kevin Durant as a Brooklyn Net would actually happen? And when the first wave of truly wild moves — such as LeBron James joining the Miami Heat in 2010 — did actually happen, do you remember the way our minds were blown as we imagined superstar combinations we’d never seen before?All of that is old news in 2019, now that we’ve seen countless Big Threes and even Hamptons Fives. If James signing to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was groundbreaking and Durant joining the Golden State Warriors still managed to shock, we’re pretty desensitized to huge names heading for new places by now. Yes, Kawhi Leonard becoming an L.A. Clipper was a big story, but mostly because of what it means for next season’s championship chase — not because the idea of him in a different jersey was all that tough to comprehend. (We’d just finished watching the longtime Spur win a title in a Toronto Raptors jersey anyway.)This is the era of player empowerment, as it’s recently been designated, and NBA players are placing a major premium on freedom of movement and choice of teammates. You can see this in the sheer number of different franchises for which top players suit up, relative to in the past. From the 1980s through the 2000s, a top 25 NBA player of a given decade (according to consensus Wins Created)1Which combines Box Plus/Minus, Win Shares and Player Efficiency Rating into a single consensus measure of player performance, scaled to absolute wins added. played for 1.99 teams during a 10-year span, on average. During the 2010s, however, the average top 25 player has played for 2.76 teams. And that bump in franchises played for holds across most of the ranking slots from No. 1 to No. 25, if we plot them out in a chart: Keep track of the chaotic NBA offseason with our Free Agency Diary.
Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On Monday’s show (May 21, 2018), Neil and Kyle discuss where each conference finals series stands. Did Golden State’s resounding Game 3 win really change the tenor of that series? And what changed to allow LeBron James and the Cavaliers to run the Celtics out of the building in that series’s Game 3?The Lab will be back with another episode later this week. In the meantime, keep an eye on FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions, which are updated after every game. By Neil Paine and Kyle Wagner More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code
OSU Sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate (1) dribbles the basketball during a game against the Michigan Wolverines on Feb. 16 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won 76-66. Photo Credit: William Kosileski | Lantern Photographer Just about any coach appreciates the service of a star player, one who can strike fear in the opponent and take over a game at any given moment. It’s something that can be a huge asset in winning basketball games, especially against a conference rival.However, as the Ohio State men’s basketball team proved Tuesday night at the Schottenstein Center against Michigan, the one-man wrecking machine is not the only means to that end.Despite its leading scorers only putting up 13 points, OSU (17-10, 9-5) used double-digit scoring performances from five players to take care of Michigan (19-8, 9-5) 76-66 in the Big Ten matchup.“This was a great team win,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “Guys made big plays when we needed them down the stretch. Some of the best teams I’ve had had like five guys averaging close to double figures.”Junior forward Marc Loving had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds while sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate added 13 points of his own, as OSU shot 54 percent to Michigan’s 39 to grab just its second win this season against a team ranked in the top 50 of the RPI.“I thought Marc was really dialed in,” Matta said. “The biggest thing I liked tonight was the way he got rebounds. He was out of his area, getting boards.”In the first 12 minutes of the game, seven different OSU players scored, with only freshman point guard A.J. Harris and redshirt sophomore shooting guard Kam Williams connecting more than once. While the team knew it would need someone to pick up more of the scoring load at some point, it could not argue with the results, as it took a 21-16 lead into the under-eight-minute timeout.“We wanted to come out and prove to ourselves that we could play well from the beginning,” Loving said. “We got out to a great start, and it’s always a sense of pride beating the team up north.”The miniature takeover finally arrived for the Buckeyes in the waning minutes of the first half, in the form of Tate.The sophomore scored three inside shots in the final two minutes of the half, including an and-1 bucket with 14 seconds left to help OSU grab a 36-28 lead at the half.In addition to Tate’s nine points, OSU received a significant contribution from its bench, where it led Michigan in points 14-5 in the first half. That was led by Harris’ and Williams’ six points each.OSU shot 50 percent in the opening 20 minutes, including buckets from eight of the 10 players to see the court, while Michigan was held to 33 percent. The Wolverines were led by junior guard Zak Irvin’s six points and four rebounds. He shot just 1-of-6 in the opening 20 minutes, though.Sometimes when one team shoots very hot in one half and the other can’t buy a bucket, the extended rest from halftime and the change in hoops to defend, turns that trend around completely.That was not the case as the teams geared up for the second half on Tuesday.The first-half percentages held the same in the early minutes, with OSU making three of its first six shots and Michigan making two of six. That enabled the Buckeyes to take a 10-point lead and forced the Wolverines into a quick timeout.A 7-0 run by the Wolverines to cut OSU’s lead to seven points briefly quieted the Schottenstein Center crowd of 17,088, but a 3-pointer on the other end by Loving followed by a Michigan travel quickly reset the tone of the game in the home team’s favor.“My teammates and coaches encouraged me to keep shooting,” Loving said. “They have a lot of confidence in me, so I feel like I should have a lot of confidence in myself.”And that is how the second half continued to go, with Michigan simply unable to sustain the offense needed to stick around, while OSU received solid contributions across the board.“Our mindset was totally different, our togetherness, and it showed,” Tate said. “We stayed with it, we actually grew up today, we showed we can keep a lead.”Redshirt sophomore center Trevor Thompson was the star of the second half for the Buckeyes, scoring 10 second-half points, including a pair of alley-oop finishes. Much like the first half, he was one of seven Buckeyes to score. “I think it’s difficult to guard us because we have that team that can — any given night, a guy can give you 20,” Tate said. “So I think it’s hard for another team to guard us. Nights like this, I think everybody’s happy.”Junior forward Mark Donnal ended up being Michigan’s top scorer, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting.A major deficiency that the Scarlet and Gray cleaned up on Tuesday was free-throw shooting. Coming into the game shooting just 65.7 percent from the line as a team, OSU was 16-of-23 (73.9 percent) against the Wolverines.Senior guard Caris LeVert, one of the top players for the Wolverines, was unable to play on Tuesday with a leg injury. He indicated he would be good to go the day before the game after returning from the injury in the game prior, but the game-time decision by Michigan coach John Beilein was to hold him out.At halftime, former OSU guard Evan Turner had a video package played on the jumbotron before his No. 21 was unveiled in the Schottenstein Center rafters. Turner, with tears gathering in his eyes, addressed the crowd with a speech. He gave credit to several of his OSU teammates and coaches, as well as his family, for getting him where he did.“I really do appreciate every nice thing my teammates did for me and the Ohio State University did for me, it really doesn’t go unnoticed,” Turner said.The 2009-10 national player of the year sat courtside with current Boston Celtics teammate and fellow OSU alumnus Jared Sullinger. Other players who played with Turner at OSU, including Greg Oden, Dallas Lauderdale and Mark Titus attended the game, while William Buford, Jon Diebler and Matta prepared video statements.The Buckeyes’ next contest is set to come on the road in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Saturday to duel with the Cornhuskers. Tipoff against Nebraska is scheduled for 7 p.m.
OSU junior safety Malik Hooker (24) carries the ball after an interception during the buckeye spring game on April 16 at Ohio Stadium. The grey team beat scarlet 28-17. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorOn a sunny Saturday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio State’s three quarterbacks combined to go just 31-of-56, including four interceptions.On a normal day, it would be fair to see that as a negative for the team. But fortunately for OSU coach Urban Meyer, the defense that was stifling his quarterbacks happened to also be his own.While the final score of OSU’s annual intrasquad spring game is largely irrelevant, there are still various measures of value that the coaches and players take away from the scrimmage.A lot of those gains came from the defense of both the Scarlet and Gray teams. And since that side of the ball lost eight starters from last year’s Fiesta-Bowl-winning team, Meyer and his staff have to be pleased. “I will probably watch the film and get sick to my stomach, but, no, what I saw today was the future is bright at Ohio State,” Meyer said. Defensive lineWith Scarlet starting quarterback J.T. Barrett wearing a black no-contact jersey, the Gray defensive line was reverting to its elementary school recess days, playing two-hand touch. Still, it was an impressive performance, as the defense picked up five sacks.Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Davon Hamilton had three sacks, while fellow redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones added another. The fifth did not come from a lineman, but from sophomore cornerback Denzel Ward.Not to be outdone, the Scarlet team picked up four sacks of its own, led by two from redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jashon Cornell. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Dylan Thompson tacked on another, while the fourth was credited to the team.“I liked our defensive line,” Meyer said. “(Redshirt sophomore) Mike Hill, Dre’Mont Jones were all over the field today. Jashon Cornell played well.”On a throwing-heavy day, the line also did its part preventing big gains on the ground. Combined, the sides rushed for 129 yards.“I think they’re talented, very eager, we have an excellent D-line coach, and the good thing, they’re allowed to spend time with our players now in the summer,” Meyer said.A highlight in the game came from Scarlet linebacker Jerome Baker, who made an acrobatic, one-handed interception. But despite the gravity-defying athleticism, the sophomore was quick to give the credit to the line in front of him.“Our D-line did their job, and I came up with the pick,” he said.Linebackers Sixty-six percent of the Buckeyes’ starting linebackers from a season ago have bid farewell to the program, opening gaping holes on the depth chart for young players to fill. It just so happened that one of those players looking to fill that spot, Baker, made one of the game’s most electrifying plays, as far as spring games go. Baker’s one-handed snag might have caught OSU fans unfamiliar with the Cleveland native off-guard, but it didn’t shock some of his teammates. “I wasn’t too surprised,” said junior Dante Booker, a fellow linebacker. “I’ve seen him do it before in practice. He’s just an athlete.”Redshirt junior linebacker Chris Worley is another player who will see his workload increase drastically this fall. The 6-foot-2 Worley nearly started two seasons ago, but Meyer opted to start then-redshirt freshman Darron Lee. The rest, of course, is history. Yet Worley was quiet on Saturday, tallying just one tackle. Booker, on the other hand, had an impressive day. He was active throughout the scrimmage, registering seven tackles, four of which were solo. Right now, the linebackers on the roster have the necessary tools, but they’re inexperienced. Barring injury, McMillan will be a mainstay. Other than that, there are players that need to prove themselves. “We’ve got a lot of young guys in the mix,” Booker said. “We have them in the rotation so I feel like they got experience playing in the stadium. We’ll continue working in the summer.” SecondaryBesides the aforementioned Baker interception, the defenses combined to come up with three more: two by redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker and another by redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore.With OSU’s two starters at cornerback from last season away from the field on Saturday — redshirt junior Gareon Conley is recovering from an injury and Eli Apple entered the NFL draft — Lattimore said he saw the scrimmage as a chance for the young corners to make a name for themselves.“We’re replacing some pretty good players,” Lattimore said. “But we still can play. We still can be right there with them, I feel like. But we still have a long way to go, you know, they had experience. But I feel like we’re just as good as players they were.” In addition to his two interceptions, Hooker led all players with 10 tackles. With over 100,000 fans in attendance, a national spring game record, Lattimore said coming up big in a game like that means a lot regardless of if the stats are soon washed from the record books.“It’s great, no matter if it’s practice,” he said. “You’ve got to go at it the same way, whether it’s practice or a game. It’s just exciting to have teammates go crazy when you make a play. I love that.” The completion of the spring game also marks the end of spring practice. With a summer of work ahead of them, the Buckeyes are excited about the progress they have made with their lineup of 16 new starters, but they acknowledged that a lot of work still has to be done.“We’re young. We’ve just constantly got to get better. Every position has to get better,” Baker said. “We’re young, inexperienced, but we’re very talented.”The regular season for OSU is set to begin on Sept. 3 with a matchup against Bowling Green at Ohio Stadium.
Patience is a virtue. And many professional sports franchises seek out virtuous athletes who don’t stray on the edge of the law. In the NFL, character plays a major role. Just ask Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick or Adam “Pacman” Jones. More and more, teams avoid high-risk athletes who pose off-the-field threats. The NCAA suspended Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant, widely projected as the NFL Draft’s top receiver last April, for the final 10 games of the season after he met with former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders. The interaction was determined to be a violation of NCAA rules. Once pinpointed as a Top 5 pick, Bryant tumbled to the Dallas Cowboys, who selected him 24th overall. Coincidence? Hardly. Bryant’s situation is just one example of the transgressions running rampant across college athletics. Georgia’s A.J. Green, tabbed by many as the best receiver prospect in college football, is serving a four-game suspension for selling his own jersey on eBay. Reports indicate he made about $1,000 on the game-worn uniform. So only the university can profit from Green’s gear? He can’t see a penny of it? That’s the straight-edged policy the NCAA institutes to prevent widespread financial madness. Aside from the athlete’s relatives, how many people would pay for a game-worn field hockey jersey? If all student-athletes are to be treated as equals, then star football players can’t be earning a profit that’s unattainable for a rower or volleyball player. Green likely chose eBay as his selling medium because of the high demand for his product. But since the revenue that football brings schools dwarfs the money that other sports make, shouldn’t the athletes see a cut? What if the family of a star athlete can’t provide sufficient monetary support? I sat down with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and discussed this very issue. Many people identify athletic directors and NCAA bigwigs as the villains, poaching every nickel and dime spent to see the kids play. But the same kids that are the reason 100,000 people fill stadiums across the nation are the same ones that will earn millions on the next level. Smith was actually in favor of allowing the athletes to earn a portion of the sales of their merchandise. His caveat, however, was that the athlete had to graduate to ever get his or her hands on the account. “Should we be able to allow kids to sell jerseys or their likenesses and make money? I believe that,” Smith said. “But I believe that money should be saved in an account for them for when they graduate. If you open that door and you allow every kid to monetize their persona, holy smokes.” “So I’m good with it if we said, whatever a kid’s jersey value is you sell it, but you take a portion of that money because you have expenditures, you take the profit from it, and put it in an account. I wouldn’t give it to them unless they graduate.” The concept makes sense. The star athletes who don’t need all four years of college game experience — and who don’t want to risk injury — jump to the next level and the money in their account is returned to the school. It sounds like a feasible plan, though one would be naïve to expect agents and boosters to keep from finding ways to trump the system. And that’s why the NCAA enforces such strict policies. Every other scenario includes far too many loopholes, exceptions and gray areas. Smith’s idea would work, but only in a perfect world. And what we currently have is an imperfect setup in an imperfect system. So, the best college athletes can do for now is just have patience and wait for that first, legal paycheck, whether from the NFL or a job post-graduation.
Maybe I’m a pessimist, but the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl doesn’t matter for the Ohio State football team. The Jan. 2 game against the University of Florida is just the season finale of a sub-par drama. You see, bowl games normally have some combination of three purposes at OSU: 1. They’re a celebration for a successful regular season and a chance to send the seniors out on a happy note. 2. They can give momentum to the players returning for the next season and build excitement for what’s to come the following year. 3. They bring notoriety to the program. For the Buckeyes, the Gator Bowl matchup doesn’t have any purpose. By normal OSU standards, the season was a failure. The team has already lost as many games (six) in the 2011-12 season than they have in the previous three years combined. For the first time since 2003, OSU lost to arch-rival Michigan. And, the season was riddled with scandals and suspensions. This season isn’t one to celebrate. It’s one to forget. Even if the Buckeyes win, any momentum the team builds will be about as useful as a refrigerator in the arctic as OSU prepares to enter the 2012-13 season with a postseason ban. And no offense to the Gator Bowl, but let’s call this game what it is. It’s a matchup between two normally elite programs going through a transition stage put together because of OSU’s recent hire of Florida’s former coach, Urban Meyer. Whichever school wins this game will shove the trophy in the back of its trophy case behind its BCS hardware. Fans are feeling the same way. Ticket sales have been sluggish for both teams, but multiple reports have claimed that travel packages for the bowl game are selling slower than at any time in recent memory. The fact is, fans don’t want to celebrate the season either. Most of them wish OSU had self-imposed a bowl ban this year so the program could have avoided a ban next year when the Meyer era began. I’m sure people will tune into the game, I’m sure the players will play hard and I’m sure many of the coaches going into their final game on staff will do their best to make the best out of a bad situation. But at the end of the day, the outcome and the game itself is meaningless.
Ohio State women’s gymnastics coach Carey Fagan was named the National Coach of the Year Monday after her squad finished in the top 10 nationally. OSU ended its season with a fourth-place finish in the second session of the NCAA Championship Semifinals Friday at Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Ga. The Buckeyes posted a score of 196.525, leaving their first trip to the NCAA Championship Semifinals since 1990. “I’m really happy with the way the team handled the pressure of competing at the NCAA Championship,” Fagan said in a press release. “They did what we have done all season and it feels great to be ranked in the top 10. I am so happy for our seniors and the leadership they have shown all year. It has been a history-making year for the program, and I am so proud of what we accomplished.” Fagan wasn’t the only one reaping the awards. Assistant coaches Bill Lorenz and Meredith Yonushonis were named Co-Assistant Coach of the Year and sophomore Sarah Miller earned second-team All-America honors. The Buckeyes finished .625 points short from qualifying for the Super Six Team Finals. Alabama (197.675), Florida (197.650) and Arkansas (197.150) advanced to the team finals Sunday. OSU started on bars in the first rotation, recording a 48.975. Two seniors led the way for the Buckeyes; posting a pair of 9.825s were senior co-captain Taylor Jones and senior Alyssa Marohn, each tying for 20th place. Senior Casey Williamson scored a 9.80. Junior Colleen Dean and sophomore Victoria Aepli finished out the score with a 9.775 and 9.750, respectively. In the second rotation, the team moved to beam, recording a 49.225. Miller led the Buckeyes with a 9.900 to tie for sixth place. Senior co-captain Nicole Krauter, sophomore Melanie Shaffer and Marohn all finished with a 9.850, tying for 17th. Shaffer’s score was a season high on the event while Freshman Sarah Grady scored a 9.775. On floor, the Buckeyes drew a pair of 9.850s from Dean and Miller, who tied for eighth place and led the team to a 49.150 on the event. OSU’s scores on floor were spread out by .50 points, with Jones and Shaffer scoring a 9.825. Sophomore Alex DeLuca and Williamson each posted a 9.80. OSU finished on vault, recording a 49.175, which was .10 shy from the season high in the event. A trio of 9.850s from Krauter, Marohn and Miller led to a tie for 17th. Dean recorded a 9.825 and Jones rounded out the team score with a 9.80. The only all-around competitor for OSU, Dean scored a 38.575.