by Julian Spivey
One of the biggest issues in Major League Baseball right now is pitchers head hunting against batters for celebrating home runs. The biggest example of this this season has been the ongoing battle between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, two teams fighting over last place in the National League Central Division.
In the early part of the season Reds infielder/outfielder Derek Dietrich was hitting the Pirates like he was a descendant of Babe Ruth and occasionally pimped the blast that drew the ire of the Pittsburgh team.
In April Pirates pitcher Chris Archer threw a ball behind Dietrich’s back, which led to a bruhaha in which Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig attempted to take on the entire Pirates ballclub in one of the best images of the entire MLB season.
Almost four months later it seems the Pirates are still upset with Dietrich as reliever Keone Kela opted to throw a pitch directly over Dietrich’s head in the seventh inning of Tuesday (July 30) game while up 8-2. The incident led to an argument between Kela and Reds all star first baseman Joey Votto between innings.
In the ninth inning with the Pirates leading 11-3 Reds reliever Amir Garrett was on the mound with the Pirates dugout apparently jawing at him (at least that’s what seemed to be happening) and Garrett took off from the mound in a sprint toward the Pirates dugout to take on the entire team, just as Puig had done months earlier leading to yet another one of the best images of the season.
This, of course, led to a multi-minute incident that saw both teams going at it in front of the Pirates dugout and Reds manager David Bell, who had been ejected from the game the inning before for arguing balls and strikes, sprinting on the field from inside the locker room to take on the Pirates, with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle seemingly being his target. The most interesting aspect of the entire melee was the major involvement of Puig, who had actually been traded to the Cleveland Indians less than an hour prior to the brawl but was (unusually) never removed from the ballgame. He’ll certainly be serving a suspension as one of his first acts as a member of the Indians.
Puig, Garrett and Bell are all going to receive suspensions and it wouldn’t be surprising for all three to be rather lengthy. But, make no mistake this brawl doesn’t happen at all if the Pirates organization could have just let Dietrich’s homer celebration from more than a quarter of a year ago go. The brawl doesn’t happen if Kela doesn’t throw the ball toward Dietrich’s head – and make no mistake it was intentional. Kela admitted such after the game to the press: “I’m going to tell you the truth. The reason I went up and in was strictly, one, to show my intent and to pretty much let Dietrich know that I didn’t necessarily agree with the way things went down.”
It’s time that Major League Baseball step in and say head hunting is done. There’s no more place for it within the game. Players policing themselves on the field has always been part of baseball and I’ve always been completely fine with that. I don’t think the bean ball is something that should be completely taken out of the game – although I’m kind of done with it being used against celebrations. But, going at someone’s head whether you’re actually attempting to hit the batter or just buzz him has to be dealt with harshly. Pitchers are throwing harder than they ever have in the history of the game and we’re playing around with people’s lives here. Any time a pitcher intentionally throws the ball near a batter head it should be a minimum of a double digit game suspension and baseball should start right now with Kela. I also believe MLB should hand down a lengthy suspension to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, as many times these bean ball pitches are directed by the manager himself. Baseball can and should take a stand right now and let the Pirates know their bad blood with Dietrich and the Reds is over and show any team in the future that if you want to go near someone’s head with a pitch there’s going to be consequences.
by Preston Tolliver
The Oklahoma City Thunder of seven years ago was nearly perfect. Its young core featured a blossoming Kevin Durant leading the team to the NBA Finals, flanked by his righthand man and athletic juggernaut Russell Westbrook, All-Defensive First Team and number-one block party host Serge Ibaka and a baby James Harden, who was voted that year as Sixth Man of the Year, his beard just then starting to become as famous as any player in the league.
But years past, and players got traded or left. Harden was traded right after that to Houston, where he became the leader Daryl Morey built around. Serge became a good role player for Orlando, and then Toronto, and Durant packed his bags for West Beach. Even coach Scotty Brooks was bounced from Tornado Alley.
And last week, the last piece of that championship-caliber team (a team, which, should have won that championship, had fouls been a thing that were called in the last minute of the series), Westbrook, was traded to Houston to reunite with Harden.
A lot’s changed in the last seven years. Harden went from sixth man (though third-best on that Thunder team) to the alpha dog. Westbrook’s transition to the Thunder’s star player wasn’t as seamless – it’s likely what pushed Durant out the door – and the chances of friction between him and Harden are likely to reach Shaq and Kobe levels.
The NBA transitioned this summer from a league of a couple of superteams to a team with a lot of tandems. It’s almost a callback to the ‘90s – the days of Jordan and Pippen; Kemp and Payton; Malone and Stockton (if ever there was a time to bring back NBA Jam, now would be it).
Oftentimes, and not just in the NBA, the best things come in pairs: peanut butter and jelly; Tom and Jerry; buddy cop movies. And it’s that last one that I like to use to predict the future of an NBA pair – specifically, “Bad Boys.”
“Bad Boys,” for the uncultured, features peak Will Smith and peak Martin Lawrence as Miami P.D. detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, respectively, and in the series’ (current) two movies, they take on mobsters, the cartel and racism. The first movie, though, is a lesson in the dynamic an NBA should strive for: Smith’s Lowrey is the obvious alpha, with Lawrence’s Burnett the beta, who plays perfectly – though at times irritatingly – off his partner. “Bad Boys II,” though, sees Lawrence’s character seek a bigger role in the team, and he challenges Smith for the alpha spot. It’s a recipe for chaos, peaking in a famous freeway chase scene in which cadavers and body parts fling out of vans and under the Miami detectives’ car. “Bad Boys II” is the dynamic that – while entirely possible to succeed – NBA teams should not strive for (there is a rare exception in which two players are equally alpha and take co-leadership roles, such as Kemp and Payton, or DeRozan and Lowry – we’ll call this the “Tango & Cash” rule).
Jordan and Pippen, for example? That’s “Bad Boys.” Pippen knew he was the number-two option. Kobe and Shaq? That was “Bad Boys II.” Kobe, although an all-time great, tried taking the throne too early. Lebron and AD? “Bad Boys.” Irving and Durant? “Bad Boys II,” probably.
Three years ago, before Durant left for Golden State, he and Westbrook were drowning in “Bad Boys II” territory. Westbrook wanted to be the guy, and he got his wish with Durant’s departure. If history is any indication, it’ll be similar in Houston – it’s Harden’s team, but Westbrook was the better of the two when they last played together. He won’t forget that, and he won’t forget when he edged out Harden for MVP (or when Harden edged him out the next year).
That’s not to say the Houston Rockets won’t be more or less successful with Westbrook eying Harden’s throne the same way he did Durant’s MVP trophy during that ceremony so many years ago. What it means is that’ll be chaotic, it’ll be unpredictable and just like that freeway scene in “Bad Boys II,” heads are gonna roll.
by Julian Spivey
The United States Women’s National Team won their second consecutive World Cup title when it defeated the Netherlands squad 2-0 on Sunday, July 7 in France in the 2019 games. It’s the country’s fourth overall World Cup win. The United States have now won exactly half of the Women’s World Cups since the event was formed in 1991.
Much of the talk during the Women’s World Cup this past month has revolved around the fact that the members of the United States Men’s National Team make more money than their counterparts on the Women’s National Team. It’s a controversy that has been around for some time but has truly come to a head with the women winning their second consecutive World Cup title.
When the U.S. women were being awarded the World Cup trophy on Sunday the crowd in Lyon, France broke out with an “Equal Pay!” chant. U.S. Women’s co-captain and star player Megan Rapinoe, who was awarded both the Golden Ball (best overall player of the World Cup) and Golden Boot (top goalscorer of the World Cup) responded with, “a little public shame never hurt anybody.”
In reality the talk around equal pay for the USWNT compared to their male counterparts is ridiculous. The women should not receive equal pay to the men. They should receive more … perhaps a lot more.
The reasoning is quite simple. The women’s team is the best women’s soccer team in the world. Their play, their statistics and their trophies prove this. The men of the game in this country simply are not the best. This was proven by the fact that they didn’t even qualify for the Men’s World Cup in Russia last year.
The women make $3,600 per match, which is $1,500 less a match than the men receive when it comes to base salary. Even more ridiculous is the World Cup bonuses paid out to these teams. The women receive $15,000 in World Cup bonuses, whereas the men make a whopping $55,000 in bonuses if they can actually make the World Cup.
Even if you don’t really follow the sport of soccer or are a novice sports fan in general you’ve probably heard the names of the biggest stars on the women’s team: Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd. These three members have played in three consecutive World Cups and have combined for 28 total World Cup goals over those three events. Rapinoe was the star this time around, whereas Lloyd was the top goalscorer four years ago. Lloyd, as well as her teammate and co-captain Morgan, are both in the top-10 all-time when it comes to international play goals scored, both have more than 100 goals. At the moment there’s likely no one more accomplished when it comes to World Cup play in either gender in the sport than Rapinoe, Morgan and Lloyd.
If you’re not a full-time soccer fan in this country you might not even know the names of the biggest stars on the Men’s National Team like Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore. Only three of the players on the men’s team where even on the squad the last time they made a World Cup appearance in 2014. Nobody on the current Men’s National Team has ever scored a World Cup goal.
Yet, the men make a ridiculous amount more – especially when it comes to the sport’s biggest event – than the women, who are much better at the game. That’s simply not right. It’s not even so much an equality issue, as it is the women are the best team in this nation when it comes to soccer and should be paid as such.
Not only are the women better soccer players in this country, but they also make more of a profit than the men’s team. According to Yahoo Sports, the U.S. Soccer Federation budgeted for a loss of $430,000 for the two teams in 2016 but wound up making a profit of $17.7 million due to the Women’s 2015 World Cup win and the team’s popularity in general. They should’ve spread that money around the women’s team and told the men’s team “better luck next time.”
The United States Soccer Federation better start paying up these superstars, otherwise they might eventually put their foot down and both United States National Teams might end up on their sofas when the next World Cups come around.