Unrest in Brazil Leading Up to the World Cup

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

Brazil lives and breathes soccer. They perfected it. No other country can claim to have the amount of iconic names on the backs of their jerseys that Brazil can, both presently and in the past. Argentina has Lionel Messi; England has David Beckham; Spain has Andres Iniesta. But Brazil boasts Ronaldinho, Romario, Socrates, Ronaldo, Zico, and of course Pele, who was named athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other country. The sport is like a religion there. So wouldn’t it make sense for Brazilians to be psyched to host a month-long party with the world’s best players? In the weeks leading up to kickoff, there have been strikes, cops shooting protesters with rubber bullets, and graffiti splattered outside stadiums with messages like “FIFA GO HOME.”

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Anti-World Cup graffiti in Brazil

By now, most people know that FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is a corrupt, greedy, and money-sucking entity that isn’t too concerned about the country in which they’re hosting their monstrous event, because they will still pocket billions of dollars while leaving the host country more in debt and inconvenienced than it was before FIFA descended upon them.

For example, seven new multi-million dollar stadiums, and five renovated ones, were constructed for the World Cup, and only the World Cup, meaning they’re in use only a handful of times. One new stadium is still not finished three days before England and Italy are set to kick off inside of it on Saturday. Of course, Brazil is getting the blame placed on them for not getting it completed on time, but the decision to build the stadium in the city of Manaus probably has quite a bit to do with the difficulties they’re having. Manaus is far away from Brazil’s other populated cities, and is in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. It’s mostly inaccessible by car or train. The parts to build the stadium were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and then down the Amazon River. Plus the hot and humid climate makes it a questionable place to play a rigorous sport in the first place.

However, the lack of finished dressing rooms should be the least of everyone’s worries. Transportation workers are on strike until they get the pay raise they are demanding. Instead they are just getting tear gassed, and rich foreigners are pissed that the line at the train station is too long.

Another big issue is that Brazil’s budget for the World Cup was $13.3 billion. That’s a lot of money to spend so that millionaires can come kick a ball around in some of the most impoverished areas of the country. A lot of people assume that the host country makes money off the World Cup, but that’s unfortunately not always the case. According to America’s Quartly, the World Cup generates about $3.5 billion in revenue, with most of that money going to FIFA, not Brazil. South Africa, which hosted the 2010 World Cup, spent about $3.9 billion on the event, with $1.3 billion going towards construction costs alone.

Regardless, Brazil will be in the international spotlight for the next month. Have fun hosting the Olympics in two years, Rio.


Louisville Baseball By The Numbers

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BY CHRIS HAAS

Louisville beat Kennesaw State Saturday night for the second time in as many days to advance to a second straight College World Series. The Cards will face off against a familiar foe in Vanderbilt in the first round. Louisville and Vanderbilt have developed a heated rivalry over the years, as they seem to face off in the postseason on a nearly annual basis. This year marks the 4th postseason matchup in the last six years. The Cards swept the Commodores in a thee-game Super Regional last year so Vanderbilt will be hungry for revenge. Here are some numbers to digest as Louisville and Vanderbilt prepare to collide (yet again) in the College World Series.

2.78: Louisville’s team Earned Run Average. Good enough to land them in the top 20 in NCAA Baseball.

2.67: Vanderbilt’s team Earned Run Average. First to 3 runs wins the game?

1995: The year Louisville’s three-hole hitter Nick Solak was born. The freshman phenom is hitting .367 with a .464 on-base percentage. He hit a homerun and drove in 3 on Saturday night to help the Cards defeat Kennesaw State and advance to the College World Series for the second year in a row.

127: The number of stolen bases Louisville swiped this season. The Cards pilfered more bags than every team in Division 1 except for Wofford. Expect the Cards to continue their aggressive base running to help force the issue against Vandy’s stingy pitching staff.

6,007: The attendance for Saturday’s game at Jim Patterson Stadium. It was the highest attended game in the stadium’s history. The record-breaking attendance is a testament to Louisville Baseball’s growing popularity in the region.

14: The pick in which Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede was taken in the first round of the MLB draft. Beede’s first-round selection was based more on upside than results. Sure, he can throw a 98mph heater but he rarely throws it over the plate. He struggled in his last start against Stanford, giving up 6 runs and walking 4 in 4.2 innings. He currently has an ERA of 3.58.

1.73: Louisville ace, Kyle Funkhouser’s current ERA. Beede may lay claim to a first-round pick but Funkhouser can lay claim to the better season. Funkhouser gives Louisville a chance to win every time he takes the mound.

2-0: Louisville’s record against Vanderbilt in the three-game Super Regional a year ago.

4: The number of postseason matchups between Louisville and Vanderbilt in the past six seasons. The rivalry is alive and well.

2014: The year in which scouts believe Louisville closer Nick Burdi could effectively close games in Major League Baseball. Burdi was taken 41st overall in the MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins. Burdi is likely to receive an early call-up for two reasons: 1.) The Twins have no intentions of taking Burdi out of the bullpen and 2.) there’s not much to refine in Burdi’s game. His 98 mph heater and knee-buckling slider should play up just fine. Burdi closed out both Kennesaw State wins in impressive fashion.

42-0: Louisville’s record when leading after 6 innings. This gaudy record can be attributed to Louisville’s rock solid bullpen.


Nope

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

As Tonalist crossed the finish line first in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, over 100,000 people fell silent in disappointment. Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome failed to make history by finishing fourth.450219520

After the race, Chrome was bleeding from his right front foot, which may be a contributing factor to his loss. The injury occurred when Matterhorn clipped Chrome’s hoof coming out of the gate, and appeared to take a pretty hefty chunk out of his leg. Trainer Art Sherman said the wound is not serious and will take about two to three weeks to heal.

Chrome’s loss was a disappointment to a lot of people, but none took it as hard as co-owner Steve Coburn, who ranted about how people who run their horses in the Belmont, but not the Preakness or the Derby, are taking the “coward’s way out.” He said he believes that the only horses that should be eligible to run in the other two legs of the Triple Crown must be a part of the 20-horse Derby field, so that fresh and rested horses don’t have a clear advantage over their competition that has been participating in the grueling five-week string of races. Tonalist’s last race was the Peter Pan Stakes on May 10, but had not previously run since February.

While Coburn has a point, if only horses that ran in the Derby and Preakness had raced on Saturday, just three would have been racing in the Belmont: California Chrome, Ride on Curlin, and General a Rod. Looking back to the 1970s, when there were three Triple Crown champions in one decade, most of the horses entered in the Belmont had not participated in the other two legs. In 1973, Secretariat had a rivalry with Sham, whom he narrowly defeated in the Derby and Preakness. In the five-horse Belmont, Secretariat won by a legendary 31 lengths. Sham was dead last. The other three horses were fresh.  In Seattle Slew’s 1977 campaign, only two of the eight horses running in the Belmont had also run in the Derby and Preakness. The following year, and the last year to see a Triple Crown winner, Affirmed and Alydar were the only two horses to run all three races.

While finally being able to see a horse gain immortality by winning the Triple Crown would be awesome, it’s more important to be thankful that Chrome’s injury is minor. He’ll get a nice break back home in California, and then his owners will look toward the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.


Maybe This Time

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

Fans of horse racing get their hopes up every year that the winner of the Kentucky Derby will go on to also capture the Preakness and the Belmont, thus joining the elite group of Triple Crown horses. Only eleven have achieved this feat, but it’s been since 1978 that a horse has been able to win the grueling string of races that spans over a short five-week period.Chrome

There have been some close calls over the years; there have been 12 horses since the last Triple Crown winner who have won both the Derby and the Preakness, but choked in the Belmont, and usually it’s in the most frustrating way possible.  Silver Charm lost by three-quarters of length in 1997, and the following year, Real Quiet lost by four inches, the smallest margin of defeat ever. Funny Cide got stuck in the mud, War Emblem stumbled at the gate, and Smarty Jones’ near miss caused jockey Edgar Prado to apologize for guiding Birdstone past Smarty in the final strides. The last two horses to have a shot at the Triple Crown saw their chances go up in smoke due to injuries. In 2008, Big Brown never finished the race and was pulled up by Kent Desormeaux. In 2012, I’ll Have Another was scratched the night before the race with a leg injury.

California Chrome has a chance to make history tomorrow, and goes into the race as a 3-5 favorite. His people seem to be confident that he can pull off the ultimate prize in horse racing, as we has six wins in six starts with Victor Espinoza on his back. The Belmont is nicknamed “the test of champions,” and California Chrome will be looking to pass that test tomorrow.

Maybe this time there will be no stumbles, sore legs, or last-second photo finishes, and horse racing will finally have a modern Triple Crown winner.


The Reds are Missing Edwin Encarnacion

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BY CHRIS HAAS

On August 1st 2009, The Reds were 45-57 and well on their way to their 9th straight losing season. Late summer is typically the time of year when teams destined for failure ship off veterans to teams in contention for prospects. Which is why many were dumbfounded when Reds General Manager, Walt Jocketty, sent 26-year old Edwin Encarnacion along with two minor league prospects to the Toronto Blue Jays for a 34-year old Scott Rolen. Scott Rolen was having a big year offensively (.320 with 8 homeruns) to go along with the exceptional defense he’s famous for, but the Reds season was unsalvageable at this point. Strangely, it appeared the Reds brass made the trade with an eye on the future.

Sure enough, the future was right around the corner for the Reds. In Scott Rolen’s first full season in 2010 he provided veteran leadership, rock-solid defense, and a .285/.358/.497 line. He helped lead the Reds to their first winning season in nearly a decade and a playoff berth. Walt Jocketty was named Executive of the Year and the Reds appeared to have made a wise move in trading Encarnacion for Rolen. At least in the short-term.

Edwin Encarnacion was deemed expendable by the Reds for a few reasons. In 2008, Edwin Encarnacion had 23 errors from the third base position, easily leading the Reds in errors for the season. This performance earned him one of the best, most self-deprecating, nicknames in baseball: E5. An error by the third baseman is officially recorded as “E5” in a scorebook. Given his defensive struggles, the Reds rightly suggested that he would have more success in the American League where he can avoid grounders all together as a DH. Also, while E5 was certainly full to the brim of offensive potential, he wasn’t hitting the cover off the ball at the time of the trade. In fact, he was barely hitting at all- .209 with 5 dingers on the day of the trade. The Blue Jays were gambling on E5’s potential though, and as it turns out they hit the jackpot.

In 2010, the year after the trade, E5, found some modest success with the Blue Jays. He hit .244 with 21 homeruns as a part time player. He only had 332 at bats that year, which would put him on pace for 35 homeruns as a starter. That power display was enough for the Blue Jays to extend E5 on a relatively affordable 4 year/37 million dollar deal.  E5 would quickly prove that his power stroke from 2010 was no fluke. In 2011 he hit .272 with 17 homeruns. In 2012, he exploded for 42 homeruns and 110 RBIs. Last year he hit 36 homeruns with 104 RBIs, cementing himself as one of the premier power hitters in all of baseball.

The scary thing is, E5’s rise may not have hit its crescendo yet. Currently, E5 is sitting at 16 homeruns…in the month of May. May isn’t even over yet. The only other Major Leaguer to hit more homeruns in May? Barry Bonds (17).

The Reds meanwhile are ranked 24th or worse in every relevant offensive statistic and there’s no question E5 would look awfully good protecting Joey Votto in the lineup.

If they Reds don’t regret the trade by now, they are getting closer with every ball E5 mashes over the fence.


The World Cup Won’t Be the Same…

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

This is somewhat old news by now, but I’m just coming out of shock. Last week, Jurgen Klinsmann announced the final 23 men that will be traveling to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Landon Donovon, the all-time leading scorer, was not one of them. Some people are calling for Klinsmann’s head on a stick. Others think it was an intelligent move because Donovan has been showing his age lately. And a lot of people still wouldn’t know who Landon Donovan is if he roundhouse kicked them in the mouth.donovan_usmnt_sad

Obviously Donovan was disappointed when Klinsmann delivered him the news, but being the stand-up professional that he is, he reacted about as well as anybody could in that situation. He took to social media to deliver the following message to his supporters:

“It has been an honor and privilege to have represented the U.S. National Team in three World Cups. I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed with today’s decision. Regardless, I will be cheering on my friends and teammates this summer, and I remain committed to helping grow soccer in the U.S. in the years to come.”

In his first game after the World Cup snub, Donovan scored a record-setting 135th MLS goal in a match against the Philadelphia Union. In that same game, he recorded an assist in the 2nd minute, and scored another goal after his 135th one.

Klinsmann made a very gutsy move by choosing to go with a younger roster instead of one that includes one of the most seasoned and trustworthy veteran in the sport. Depending on how things go in Brazil, he will either look like a complete idiot or a genius.


Know Your Yanks: Clint Dempsey

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

It was a typical early spring day in London. It was about 50 degrees and pouring down rain, with gusts of wind from the river Thames making it feel about 20 degrees colder. But there I was, sitting in the front row at Craven Cottage, completely drenched, but still captivated by the action that was happening on the soccer field in front of me. I had splurged and bought really good tickets to watch Fulham FC play Wolverhampton, solely so that I could see American soccer star, Clint Dempsey, in the flesh. Despite the horrible weather and the debilitating cold that I caught following that afternoon, it was one of my most memorable experiences during my time living in London. I was at one point no more than six feet away from Clint, and we made eye contact. That means something, right?

While he may not have as many accolades as fellow U.S. Men’s National Team member Landon Donovan, he still is widely regarded as one of the best American soccer players ever. His rise to fame is the ultimate rags-to-riches story. He grew up in a trailer park in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he learned to play soccer by playing in pick up games with his brother and local children. He eventually got recruited to play for the Dallas Texans, an elite youth soccer club, but had to quit due to his family’s financial struggles. However, parents of other kids on the team offered to help pay for some of the expenses, thus allowing Clint to rejoin the team. In 1995, he lost his 16-year-old sister Sarah to a brain aneurysm, and vowed to play for her following her death.

After playing for Furman University, the New England Revolution selected Clint eighth overall in 2004 MLS draft, where he would go on to earn Rookie of the Year. In 2006, Fulham offered MLS $4 million for Clint, which at that time was the largest amount of money ever offered for an MLS player. He joined fellow Americans Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra at Fulham, and left the club in 2012 as a favorite.

After a one-year stint with Tottenham Hotspur, he joined the legions of other American stars in MLS by signing with the Seattle Sounders. At age 31, Clint will probably be playing in his last World Cup this summer. Let’s just hope he doesn’t release another rap video this time. 

Here’s a picture that I took during my visit to Craven Cottage that is included in my Facebook album titled “Creepy Clint Dempsey photos–stalking Clint Dempsey.”

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Did The Reds Make The Check Out To The Wrong Guy?

Johnny-Cueto

BY CHRIS HAAS

Johnny Cueto has been lights out through the first quarter of the MLB season. The Reds pitcher is leading the MLB in nearly every relevant statistic: ERA (1.25), WHIP (.71), Strikeouts (76), and Innings Pitched (72). Wins Above Replacement is an all-encompassing statistic that culminates all aspects of a player’s performance into one single value. Cueto has been worth 3.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) so far in 2014. For some context, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs has the second highest WAR for a pitcher at 2.3. Samardzija has an ERA of 1.45, so it’s not as if he’s been a slouch on the mound either. Last year, Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw took home the NL MVP and NL Cy Young for his dominant pitching performance. He threw 236 innings with an ERA of 1.83. It was one of the best seasons by a starting pitcher in the modern era. Kershaw ended the year with a WAR of 7.9. Cueto is on pace to pitch 288 innings for a WAR around 14, which would give him the best season by a starting pitcher in the modern era of baseball. And like Secretariat’s famous finish, second wouldn’t be close. Of course, Cueto’s current pace would be nearly impossible to sustain for the duration of a season, but its fun to think about nonetheless.

Homer Bailey hasn’t been lights out in the early going. He has a 4.72 ERA and is currently allowing a 1.5 walks/hits per inning (WHIP). In his defense, Bailey’s high .337 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) suggests he may be the victim of some bad luck. Conversely, Cueto’s extremely low BABIP .157 isn’t sustainable. But sabermetrics aside, Cueto has produced and Bailey hasn’t so far in 2014. Period.

Bailey and Cueto’s early-season numbers are magnified by the fact that Bailey received a very generous contract extension over the offseason and Johnny Cueto did not. Bailey’s six-year 105 million dollar contract is a substantial investment for the mid-market Reds. They are not the Yankees after all. They can’t extend every starting pitcher they have groomed over the last few years. Johnny Cueto is set to be a free agent after the 2015 season. Needless to say, the guy is going to get paid by someone, but with Bailey’s new contract I don’t envision that someone being the Reds. Which begs the question, did the Reds make the right decision extending Bailey over Cueto? It may be a more difficult decision than the early season results have suggested.

Factors to consider in a long term contract:

Age/Arm Mileage: Draw

Johnny Cueto: 28 Years old/ 1036 Innings Pitched

Homer Bailey: 28 Years old/ 900 Innings Pitched

Upside: Cueto

Johnny Cueto: He is in the midst of the best start to a MLB season in over a century. Enough said.

Homer Bailey: Read above. It’s worth noting that Bailey does have two no-hitters to his name, which isn’t a bad indicator of upside in its own right. But…“in over a century,” this one goes to Cueto.

Frame/Durability: Bailey

Johnny Cueto: Cueto’s small frame (5’11) may have contributed to his inability to pass the 200 innings pitched threshold. Cueto has only surpassed 200 IP once while only pitching 60 innings in 2013.

Homer Bailey: Bailey is 6’4 and built like a workhorse. He gets easy velocity and hasn’t missed time in 3 seasons running, pitching 200+ innings in 2012 and 2013. With the Tommy John epidemic taking ahold of baseball, durability is a valuable skill, and Bailey appears to possess it.

Pitching Profile in Great American Ballpark: Draw

Johnny Cueto: Cueto has a slightly better groundball to flyball ratio than Bailey. This is important in the homerun haven known as GABP.

Homer Bailey: Bailey has increased his strikeout ratio over the past few years and posted an exceptional 8.57 strikeouts per 9 innings last year. Cueto is typically around 7 strikeouts per 9 innings. Strikeouts are important in hitting friendly environments.

 

Baseball is a marathon not a sprint. Let’s not call the Bailey extension a bad decision only a few weeks into May. However, if Cueto throws 288 innings with an ERA of 1.25, Walt Jocketty can go ahead and pre-order Johnny’s new pinstripe attire.


Know Your Yanks: Landon Donovan

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

Not that I’m counting, but the World Cup is 28 days away. That means you have 28 days to acquaint yourselves with some of the players who will be representing the USA on sports’ biggest stage, so that you can impress all your friends with your cool soccer knowledge.

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Let’s start with an easy, but very significant one: Landon Donovan. This 32-year-old dreamy forward is the face of American soccer. His heroics in the 2010 Word Cup sent the United States through to the Round of 16 when he notched the only goal in a win over Algeria. The two other goals he scored in that World Cup made him the highest scoring American in World Cup history with a total of five. He also holds the record as the all-time leader in both goals and assists on the men’s national team, and is the only player to reach 50 goals and 50 assists. To put it bluntly, he’s the best soccer player America has ever produced.

At age 17, he signed with German Bundesliga team Bayer Leverkusen, but spent a large chuck of that time on loan with the San Jose Earthquakes. In 2005, he made his stay in MLS permanent when he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy, which is where he’s been ever since, except for two brief stints on loan to Premier League team Everton. He played in his first World Cup in 2002, where he scored two goals and was given the Best Young Player Award.

Other crucial things to know about Landon Donovan:

- He once ripped off his jersey to reveal a black sports bra as a tribute to U.S. women’s soccer star Brandi Chastain. He also had ghastly blonde hair:

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- He can speak Spanish and German, and shows off his Spanish skills in a Mexican lottery commercial he starred in.

-He has won the Honda Award, which is American soccer’s most prestigious honor, seven times, which is more than anybody.

- He was called up to his first U.S. Men’s National Team training camp when he was 17, making him the third-youngest player to be given a national team nod.

- His right eye has its own Twitter account. Apparently he had a gnarly infection during the World Cup qualifiers that made his eye appear completely black. It’s both disgusting and intimidating, but that didn’t stop him from chugging a beer on live television following the win that clinched a World Cup berth.

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Landon has had some shining World Cup moments over the past decade. This one will more than likely be his last, so let’s hope he goes out with a bang. Beat Ghana this time.


Preliminary World Cup Roster Announced

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named his 30-man preliminary roster on Monday for next month’s World Cup. He will have to cut that list down to 23 players by FIFA’s final deadline on June 2. Until then, the lucky 30 will face certain hell twice daily at the pre-World Cup camp at Stanford University, as they will not only be training for Brazil, but fighting to prove to Klinsmann that they do not deserve to be one of the seven players he dismisses come June.hi-res-169820634_crop_north

The roster includes the familiar names of seasoned veterans such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Michael Bradley. Julian Green, the 18-year-old phenom, managed to make his way onto the team, as well as some players who were on the bubble, including DeAndre Yedlin, Maurice Edu, Mix Diskerud, and Chris Wondolowski.

Some notable names left off the list include three fairly surprising World Cup veterans: José Torres, Eddie Johnson, and Benny Feilhaber. I’m most disappointed about Feilhaber’s absence because it will mean a lack of lip-syncing videos that surface during the Cup.

The squad will play three pre-World Cup exhibitions games against Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Nigeria. Two of those three games will be before the final 23-man roster is announced.

Here’s the full roster via mlssoccer.com:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/England), Tim Howard (Everton/England), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (11): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/Mexico), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg/Germany), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/Germany),Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/France), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/Mexico), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/Norway), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich/Germany), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas/Turkey), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/England), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna/Austria), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).