Monday, November 20, 2017

Where the Top MLB Free Agents Will Land


While it may have been based purely on uniform design, we’re pretty proud of our predictive skills when it came to choosing this year’s World Series champion. Now that the season has wrapped up and we move into a cold, baseball-less winter, it’s time to speculate where some of the game’s top free agents will play next season. Don’t worry; these predictions are based on actual baseball info.

1. Yu Darvish – Once the crown jewel of an international bidding war when he came to the U.S. from Japan, Darvish has seen his stock drop a bit over the years with claims that his pitching motion is allowing batters to guess his pitches. We can’t speak to split second decisions and minor tweaks in arm angle, but despite his struggles in high profile games, Darvish is set to rake in a hefty ransom as a free agent. We’re going out on a limb and guessing that the Minnesota Twins will be his landing spot. They’re young, have money to spend, and are likely to see the playoffs for several years to come.

Photo credit: trbimg.com
2. Jake Arrieta – This guy reinvented himself after being considered an afterthought of a trade piece to the Chicago Cubs from the Baltimore Orioles several seasons ago. His pitching prowess took a bit of a dip this past season after a few stellar years leading up to the Cubs’ championship, but Arrieta is still a reliable, disciplined pitcher who can stay healthy and keep the bullpen rested. A Texas boy at heart, we see Jake heading back to the Lone Star state where he pitched in college. It’s a tossup between the Rangers and Astros, but Houston looks like they’re poised to keep building off their title and Arrieta won’t command the money he’s hoping for after a few so-so seasons. He’ll sign with the Houston Astros this year.

3. J.D. Martinez – A few years ago, J.D. was a quiet contributor trying to find his swing on a crowded, talented Tigers team. He’s now emerged as a bonafide slugger who’s bound to command serious cash. He’s got some injury concerns from a few seasons ago, but has enough upside for teams to ignore that and sign him to a long-term deal. An American League team makes sense to provide him some off days from defense, so we’d guess the Boston Red Sox will welcome Martinez to town.

Photo credit: mlb.com
4. Eric Hosmer – Of the two homegrown free agents in Kansas City (Hosmer and Mike Moustakas), Hosmer seems the more likely of the two to leave town. His offense has never been a question, and the power-hitting first baseman hit for a .318 average this season with a slugging percentage just shy of .500. His defense is a bit more suspect, but most American League teams won’t care if they can slot him in as a designated hitter once his defense falls off the wagon. Most analysts say he’ll resign with the Royals, but we could see the Angels making a trade or two to make room for him at first base while Albert Pujols finishes out his career as an expensive designated hitter. They were nearly a playoff team last year, and they need to make big moves while Mike Trout is still young.

5. Wade Davis – Consistent, unflappable closing pitchers are incredibly valuable to any team, and the market is thin this year. After coming over to the Cubs via trade last offseason, Wade Davis continued his recent dominance and converted close to every save opportunity he was given. Overuse during the postseason revealed that he’s better suited in a traditional, 3-out closer role, but his reliability can’t be understated. The Cubs have no good in-house options to replace him and won’t fork over huge money for another closer. Expect Davis to resign with the Chicago Cubs this offseason if the market looks to be bullish.

The baseball offseason is always an exciting time for fans and teams looking to see a rebuilt roster. Where do you think the top free agents will end up next season? Let us know in the comments below!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Rise of Camouflage Uniforms in Sports

Photo credit: mlblogsopeningday.com

These days, it’s incredibly common to see sports teams wearing special uniforms to commemorate causes, holidays and events, and we recently wrote about NFL teams utilizing special colors to raise awareness for causes. One of the more popular uniform tweaks across multiple sports leagues is camouflage-patterned uniforms to pay tribute to the armed forces. So where did this trend start?

Photo credit: wikipedia
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the light switch turned on and teams began wearing special camo uniforms to honor the military, but most would credit the San Diego Padres with beginning the trend. Home to a large port for the U.S. Navy, San Diego has long been proud of its naval tradition. It only made sense for the Padres to tip their cap to the U.S. Navy, and they’ve done so with regularity ever since introducing a camo uniform in 2000. The uniforms have undergone several variations, including desert storm tan, navy blue, and classic green. The camouflage pattern has also changed with the military’s shift to digital camouflage, which utilizes small squares instead of the more organic shapes found on camo in decades past. Several other baseball teams have begun including camouflage alternate uniforms, such as the Pittsburgh Pirates.

For having the most liberal use of camouflage on their team’s uniforms, MLB uses it the most infrequently of any major sports league. College and high school sports are where the real camo game lies. With Veteran's Day this weekend, we’ve compiled a few our of favorite ones from over the years.

Kansas State University – Not one to sideline their bright purple color scheme, the wildcats used a purple digital camo pattern on their existing helmet design to pay tribute to the military.

Photo credit: pbs.wimg

University of Southern Mississippi – You won’t find yellow and black camo on the battlefield, but you will find it on the football field. Here’s another case of a team keeping their color scheme while adding a camo element.

Photo credit: yimg

University of Oregon & Georgetown University – How about a 2-for-1 usage of camouflage? The Fighting Ducks sidelined their usual yellow in favor of gray and white camo while the Hoyas implemented a navy blue camo that mostly matches their existing color scheme.

Photo credit: cstv

University of Oregon – Back in 2013, the Oregon Ducks football team wore a uniform that was predominantly olive drab, complete with the backwards-facing U.S. flags on their right sleeves. It may not be camo, but it’ll do for our purposes.

Photo credit: yimg

While not every team has worn full-fledge camouflage uniforms, there’s plenty of uniform tweaks and accents throughout the last decade. Which one has been your favorite? Do you like the camouflage look or wish teams would stick to more traditional designs? Let us know in the comments below!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Five Tasty Thanksgiving Tailgate Foods


As the calendar shifts to November, Halloween is squarely in the rear view mirror. Candy gets stashed away (or eaten) to make room for turkey and fixings, and the football season is in full tilt with plenty of fans ready for that mid-season push to make the playoffs. It also means a slew of Thanksgiving Day football games and plenty of savory tailgating recipes to satiate those Turkey Day cravings. Instead of the standard wings and snacks, why not add a little holiday flavor to your routine? Here are five delicious recipes to add to your tailgating menu this holiday season.

1. Turkey Chili – You could haul a propane tank and oil to try your hand at frying a turkey in the parking lot, but a big pot of turkey chili is a great way to add some holiday flavors to this classic, warming dish. Try it with a mixture of ground and sliced turkey for a different texture, and throw in a bit more pepper for some added flavor. Toss some cornmeal directly in the chili to thicken it up, and try lemon juice to give the flavor some zest.

2. Stuffing & Sausage Balls – As if stuffing wasn’t delicious enough on its own, plenty of Thanksgiving recipes add a bit of sausage to the mix for a spicy kick. To keep things bite-sized and easy at your tailgate, try combining stuffing into a sausage ball recipe for a poppable snack. Add a side for cranberry dipping sauce and you’re good to go.

3. Cranberry Punch – Every tailgate needs a drink to take the edge off and get fans in the mood. Try making a citrusy punch with a cranberry base for a light, refreshing dose of liquid courage.

4. Fried Mashed Potato Balls – Stuff them with cheese or eat them plain and dip them in gravy. However you like your mashed potatoes, the fried ball version of this wonder starch is a no-mess option your tailgate guests will inhale on sight.

5. Sweet Potato Muffins – It may sound weird, but it tastes delicious. Use any style of sweet potato you prefer and finish them off with a marshmallow cream to replicate a candied sweet potato casserole. Want something a little sweeter? Swap out the sweet potato for pumpkin pie filling.

Any successful tailgate party ends with plenty of full stomachs and empty plates…and maybe a nap. What Thanksgiving-themed recipes do you plan to have at your tailgate this Thanksgiving holiday? Share your favorite foods with us in the comment section below!


Monday, October 23, 2017

Who Wins the World Series Uniform Matchup?

Photo credit: Elsa Garrison, Getty Images

The 2017 season’s final two teams are set, with the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers representing the American and National Leagues, respectively, in the World Series. Ever since the league champions were decided, analysts have been hard at work analyzing pitching matchups, defense, offense and practically every detail of these two teams. Let’s skip ahead to what’s really important: the uniforms. Basing our judgment on nothing but aesthetics, here is who we think will win the championship based on uniforms and colors.

Design
Photo credit: wikipedia.org
Aside from a few outliers, baseball uniforms are synonymous with conservative design and tradition. Several teams feature simplistic logos, old-fashioned script and colored piping along the edges of the uniforms. Measuring based on design, it doesn’t get much better than the Dodgers’ look. The team’s look has gone largely unchanged dating back to their days in Brooklyn, and with good reason. They were the first team to utilize an alternating color for the numbers on the front of their uniforms, and have an instantly recognized interlocking team logo. The Astros are no slouch on their current design, but it’s a bit too safe considering the team’s colorful past. The Dodgers take the first round of this matchup.

Colors
Photo credit: wikipedia.org
The Astros broke the collective hearts of baseball fans when they abandoned their navy blue and orange color scheme for a whirlwind of bad 90s design and overdone red and black in the early 00s. With the sale of the team to a new ownership group, the ‘stros reverted back to their classic color combination with some modern day updates. Orange is a criminally underused color in baseball, and the Astros do it right by putting orange piping on their uniforms and wearing orange-brimmed caps on the road. “Dodger Blue” might be a classic color, but the Astros take this round.

Flexibility
Just like when it comes to design, the Dodgers are a great example of clean, classic uniform use. They only have one alternate uniform (a road-gray getup with the city name in script) which they haven’t worn once this postseason, and they’ve never fallen victim to the dreaded alternate color shirt. The Astros, on the other hand, occasionally wear a bright orange jersey with their home or road pants as well as a blue top with torso striping that resembles their 1970s sunrise uniforms. This one comes down to personal preference, as orange is a great color but colored baseball shirts are hit-or-miss. Since the category is uniform flexibility, however, we have to give the edge to the Astros.

So there you have it. In a best-of-3 matchup, the Astros pull ahead of the Dodgers in the uniform aesthetics division. In real life, this series is bound to go to the end of the wire, giving fans plenty of chances to see these two well-dressed teams go head to head. Which uniform combo do you like best? Share with us in the comments below and enjoy the games!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hockey’s Back: Our Way-Too-Early Season Predictions

Photo credit: sportingnews.com
While baseball fans are gearing up to pull their hair out with every gut-wrenching pitch of the postseason, hockey fans are just settling in for a new season of hard hits and impossible saves. The 2017-2018 season brings with it some changes, as Las Vegas begins play as an expansion team and several role players from last year’s playoff teams have found new homes. Parity is more evident in the NHL than in most other American sports leagues, as roster depth plays a more prominent role in the flow of each and every game. With that being said, the season is bound to have some twists and turns. In no particular order, here are our predictions for the eight teams emerging from each conference, as well as a shot-in-the-dark guess for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Western

  1. Nashville Predators – They took the league by storm when they dismantled opponent after opponent in the playoffs before running into Pittsburgh. It won’t be a one-year fluke.
  2. Edmonton Oilers – Including the Oilers in the postseason conversation just feels right and as it should be. The emergence of Connor McDavid has Edmonton on the precipice of Western royalty.
  3. Dallas Stars – They have a great first line of players on their squad, making this the year they’ll return to the top flight of the Western conference.
  4. Anaheim Ducks – They’ve become a sure-thing winner in the Pacific for some time now. That won’t change in 2017.
  5. Winnipeg Jets – They just missed out on the playoffs last season but have what’s needed to grab a wild card spot.
  6. Calgary Flames – Considering the stacked competition, it won’t be a deep run for Calgary, but they’ll make it back into the postseason discussion.
  7. San Jose Sharks – Seemingly always the bridesmaid but never the bride, the Sharks can’t figure things out in the postseason. They’ll make it back this year but will fizzle out quickly.
  8. Chicago Blackhawks – They’ll eke their way in, but Chicago will be in the playoffs come May. A Jekyll-and-Hyde team as of late, how they make use of their scoring chances will dictate how deep they get in the tournament.

Eastern

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins – Losing a few key role players, Pittsburgh is still Pittsburgh. Take it to the bank.
  2. Washington Capitals – The Penguins are Alex Ovechkin’s (and Washington’s) white whale. Can they exorcise their playoff demons this season?
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning – You could argue that last season would’ve turned out better if it weren’t for nagging injuries. Even with that, the Lightning just missed the playoffs. If the injury bug doesn’t hit twice, Tampa Bay could be the belle of the ball in the Eastern.
  4. Ottawa Senators – They were so close to the Finals last year that it’s hard to argue they won’t be in the picture again this season.
  5. Carolina Hurricanes – They’ve quietly added great pieces for better depth and should turn some heads even against the most difficult teams in their division.
  6. Columbus Blue Jackets – That potent offense isn’t going anywhere, although they will have to fend off a surging Rangers team to avoid wild card seeding.
  7. Montreal Canadiens – The Senators will battle them for top seeding, but this playoff stalwart isn’t slipping far down the ranks.
  8. Florida Panthers – Move over, Toronto, the Panthers were just a handful of good wins away from the playoffs last season. They’re coming for your spot.

The Finals
Nashville’s run at the Finals came out of nowhere last season, but it wasn’t the first time an eighth seed team took down the big boys, as the Kings did a few seasons ago. With that in mind, it’s hard to make an educated guess on how the playoffs will turn out. We’re guessing Nashville will hold off a pesky Edmonton squad and meet Tampa Bay for the title. The Predators will avenge their loss from last season and hoist their first Stanley Cup.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

NFL Cancer Awareness Month

Photo credit: nfl.com
If you’ve been watching pro football games for the past several years, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the use of pink-colored accessories throughout the month of October. Back in 2009, the league began using the month of October (referred to as “Pinktober”) as an opportunity to raise awareness, support and funds for breast cancer screening and research. Logos on the field were trimmed in pink. Cleats, gloves, mouth guards and towels were pink. The league sold pink-themed items, with proceeds going to screenings and research. It was a unique promotion for a good cause that has been mimicked in college and high-school ranks.

Starting this season, the month of October will shift away from exclusive support of breast cancer to cancers in general. Teams will be allowed to choose any detectable cancer they wish and change their stance from season to season, meaning more cancers that are detectable will get the exposure and awareness needed to raise funds. Several detectable cancers have an associated color, just like breast cancer. Prostate cancer, for example, has the associated color of light blue. Ovarian cancer is associated with the color purple.

How teams will acknowledge their support for screenings and research remains to be seen and probably won’t affect uniform accessories for the 2017 season. While the promotional angles are worked out, chances are that portions of a team’s sale of tickets, concessions or souvenirs during home games will be donated directly.

Expanding the league’s promotional schedule to include more than just breast cancer awareness isn’t an entirely new concept. Over the last few seasons, the league has designated certain weekends for players to wear cleats supporting causes specific to them, ranging from mental health to social issues. In fact, several players involved in the players’ association are pushing for more months of the season to be dedicated to using their celebrity and media exposure for an even wider array of causes.

What charitable causes would you like to see pro sports leagues - especially the NFL - promote during their games? Share with us in the comments below.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stay Connected With Nike’s “Smart Jerseys”

Photo credit: nike.com

Our world is becoming more connected by the day. Cars can turn into Wi-Fi hotspots, fridges can scan your shelves to see which products are expiring and, finally, you can buy basketball jerseys that connect to your smartphone. Nike recently announced their launch of smart jerseys: purchasable fan apparel that includes a chip you can scan to get all sorts of information on your favorite player. So how does it work?

Using a smartphone, you scan the chip in the lower left corner of the jersey. Immediately, your smartphone will receive up-to-the-minute statistics, highlights from big games, that player’s personal Spotify playlists, exclusive discounts on shoes and a boost to that player’s stats in the NBA 2K18 video game. To sweeten the pot a bit, fans with smart jerseys will get first crack at game tickets and the latest fan apparel for their favorite player’s team. That player can even send messages to his fans through smartphones. We could see some of the information, such as stats, being helpful for serious fantasy sports players. Outside of that, most of it feels like window dressing.

The technology is definitely cool and it will appeal to diehard fans who crave the latest tech and the coolest perks, but it can be easily seen as going overboard. The NBA has quickly become the most popular American sports league for young fans in the states and abroad, so it makes sense they’d pioneer new fan apparel like this. If (and when) it takes off and spills into other leagues, we wonder how it will adjust for each sport. What if you scan J.J. Watt’s jersey and find out his favorite tailgate snack? Can’t get enough of Alex Morgan? Scan her Orlando Pride jersey and learn her favorite routines to get hyped for a big game. Love CC Sabathia? Scan his Yankee pinstripes to find out how much he doesn’t work out before games (kidding). The applications really are endless.

We’re on the fence about smart jerseys, but we could get on the bandwagon if it becomes widespread throughout international sports leagues. Who knows, we might even start making smart bibs so you can get the latest info on the number of hot wings consumed and games won in tailgate toss. What do you think of smart jerseys? Let us know in the comments!