Monthly Archives: December 2017

A LOOK BACK AT 2017-PART II

Last week we re-lived an epic Super Bowl comeback, the tale of two basketball heavyweights, an unlikely hockey conference championship run, and a repeat Stanley Cup Champion.  The events of the first half of 2017 simply set the stage for an epic second half of the year.

Miami Marlins pitcher Edinson Volquez threw Major League Baseball’s only no-hitter of the year on June 3rd.  Volquez survived an injury scare early on in the contest when he appeared to hurt his ankle on a play at first base.  The Marlins hurler would shut down the Arizona Diamondbacks, allowing only two walks and striking out ten in a 3-0 victory.  Volquez’s no–hitter was just the beginning of an epic baseball season.

It was supposed to be an uneventful rebuilding-in-process season in the Bronx in 2017, but the New York Yankees came back to life sooner than expected.  American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge took the Big Apple, and Major League Baseball by storm in 2017.  The term “All Rise!” became a catch phrase at Yankee Stadium as Judge lit up the Majors for 52 home runs while driving in 114 runs.

 

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New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge helped revitalize the Yankees in 2017.

 

While Aaron Judge was lighting up the east coast, there was another rookie writing a similar story on the west coast.  A month into the season Los Angeles Dodgers were in a three-way battle for first place in the National League Western Division with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.  The Dodgers made a move in late April that changed the entire complexion of their season.

 

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Cody Bellinger would lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to the National League Championship after being called up in late April.

Outfielder Cody Bellinger was summoned from the minors and made his debut on April 25th.  Bellinger began his Major League career by going on a tear, homering five times in his first eleven games.  Bellinger finished the season with 39 homers and 97 RBI to capture the National League Rookie of the Year and help the Dodgers to a National League Championship.  Los Angeles would dominate the National League from the time Bellinger was called up until the All-Star Break with a 26-4 record.  As a result they distanced themselves from Arizona and Colorado and ran away with the National League West.

A third storyline ran through the Major League season, this one would be in the middle of the country.  The Houston Astros got off to the hottest start in baseball.  Houston finished the month of May with a MLB best 38-16 mark.  They led the 2nd place Los Angeles Angels by 11 games, and coasted to a division title.

Mother nature threw a fly in the Astros ointment in late August.  On August 29th Hurricane Harvey slammed into Southeast Texas.  The city of Houston and its surrounding areas were left paralyzed and flooded for weeks.  When the storm was approaching the area the Astros were in Anaheim but were scheduled to return home to start a three game series with the Texas Rangers.

 

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Hurricane Harvey ravaged Southeast Texas in late August.  The Astros had to play a three game home series in St. Petersburg, Florida as a result.  That was the least of the community’s problems.

 

Texas Rangers’ ownership gets the Bad Sportsmanship Award for 2017.  In the midst of a state-wide crisis, the Astros reached out to the Rangers and offered to swap locations for the upcoming series and a series scheduled for Arlington in late September.  Texas’ ownership balked at the idea, citing the fact that they were still in the hunt for an American League Wild Card and would rather be home for the late season series.  Now keep in mind the Rangers reside in Texas too!   The 2017 Humanitarian and Good Guy Award goes to the ownership of the  Tampa Bay Rays.  The Rays opened the doors of their Tropicana Field home to the Astros, where they played the series with the  Rangers.

Harvey wasn’t the only tropical story to wreak havoc on the 2017 sports scene.  On September 10th Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys and made its way north along the entire Florida Peninsula.  I personally lived through this one, there was no escaping Irma’s wrath anywhere in the state.  September 10th was Opening Day in the National Football League and the Miami Dolphins were scheduled to host their cross state rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.  Since moving the game to Tampa was not an option (Tampa was also bracing for the storm), the opener was moved to November 19th which was a bye week for both teams.

 

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Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton finishes 2017 with 59 home runs.

Back to baseball and back to South Florida.  Many still regard Roger Maris’ 61 home run performance as the Major League single season record.  Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins took a run at Maris in 2017.  Stanton lit up Major League pitching for 59 round trippers.  Stanton would make headlines after the season as well.  As part of a rebuild by new Marlins ownership, Stanton was dealt to the New York Yankees where he joins Aaron Judge.  There will be fun times in the Bronx in 2018.

We have already revisited big stories in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Miami.  Now it’s off to Cleveland where the Indians defeated the Boston Red Sox on August 24th.  The Tribe wouldn’t lose another game until September 15th.  The Indians won 22 games in a row, an American League record.  The streak was the 2nd longest in Major League history, behind the 1916 New York Giants.  The Giants won 26 games in a row.

With so much happening in the regular season, what does Major League Baseball to for an encore?  It puts on an epic post-season, that’s what!  The Yankees, Indians, Astros, and Dodgers all made headlines in a very memorable October.

The Los Angeles Dodgers had a relatively uneventful road to the World Series.  The Boys from Hollywood swept Arizona in the NLDS and ended the storybook run of the Chicago Cubs in a five game NLCS.

The American League playoffs were simply amazing!

The Astros defeated the Boston Red Sox with relative ease in the Divisional round in a  four-game series.  The Yankees, who got into the playoffs on the final weekend of the season as the final seed emerged as the story of the Divisional Round.  The Boys from the Bronx  erased a 2 game deficit to defeat the Cleveland Indians in a five game thriller!

The American League Championship Series was historic!  In a series that went seven games, nobody won on the road as the Astros defeated the Yankees.  Houston’s victory in Game 7 not only ended a memorable year in the Bronx, but as a result, the Astros became the first team to win league championships in both leagues.  The Astros were National League Champs in 2005, and switched leagues in 2013.

The World Series was epic!  The Dodgers and Astros battled for seven games, including a 10 inning 13-12 thriller (won by Houston) in Game 5.  The Astros won their first ever World Series title with a 4-1 victory in Game 7!

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The World Series Champion Houston Astros hoist the Commissioners Trophy.

 

What a baseball season!

As the NFL enters the late stages of its 2017 season, there are many storylines evolving.  Can the Cleveland Browns win a game?  Will the Vince Lombardi Trophy make its way to Pennsylvania (either in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia)?  Where will Eli Manning play next year?  Stay tuned, to be continued next year.

So we have reached the end of the Karpelblog year.  I will be on hiatus until January 8th to enjoy the holidays.    I want to take this time to wish everyone a Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!  I thank each and every one of my readers for following me throughout 2017, and look forward to a great year in 2018!

Two more pieces of business before I go.  First, it’s time for the annual Karpelblog Annual Awards:

My Athlete of the Year Award goes to Giancarlo Stanton.

My Story of the Year Award goes to the Houston Astros, who after Hurricane Harvey delivered so much misery in their community, brought them their first ever World Series title.

The second piece of business is a very special dedication.  I dedicate this entire year to two very special people.  On February 14th, my wife and I woke up to a horrific site.  We found our son Justin, lifeless in our South Florida home.  I struggle with his passing every day and miss him so much.  I dedicate this entire year to you Justin!

Our lives changed in another way on April 19th when our daughter Megan and son-in-law Matt welcomed their first child.  Madeline Grace Beauchamp, grandpa dedicates this entire year to you!

 

 

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A LOOK BACK AT 2017- PART I

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?  Another year over and a new one just begun!”-John Lennon

Yes, here we are in the heart of the holiday season once again.  Amid the gift shopping and partying that is December, it is also time to wrap up the year that was.  So it is now time for the Karpelblog annual year in review.  This will be a two-part edition of the blog, today we look back at the first half of 2017.  Next week we wrap up the year with the second half of 2017 and our year-end awards.

We begin our trip back in time on January 9th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.  The College Football National Championship Game pitted number 1 ranked Alabama against number 2 ranked Clemson.  Alabama came into the game as the favorite to claim yet another title.

Clemson trailed 31-28 in the waning moments of the game, and the campus in Tuscaloosa was bracing to celebrate Alabama’s latest National Championship.  What followed was a 9 play 68 yard drive for the ages led by Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.  On the game’s final play Watson hit Hunter Renfrow in the end zone from two yards out.  The Clemson Tigers finished a come-from-behind victory for the ages, claiming the National Championship and set off a celebration on their South Carolina campus!

 

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Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow reels in the National Championship winning touchdown.

 

While we are on the subject of epic comebacks, we now move on to Houston’s NRG Stadium, site of Super Bowl 51.  Much like the National Championship Game in January, it pitted a perennial champion looking to add-on to its resume.  This time it was the New England Patriots chance to add another feather in its championship cap.  Regular season MVP Matt Ryan led the upstart Atlanta Falcons into Houston, seeking the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Falcons began to dominate the game.  Three Atlanta touchdowns (one by a run, one by a pass, and an 82 yard pick six) had a party ready to happen on Peachtree Street.  The Falcons went into the locker room holding a 21-3 lead.  Atlanta came out of the locker room and added a third quarter touchdown, advancing the lead to 28-3.  This touchdown stunned all of New England, you can hear a pin drop from Maine to Connecticut.

 

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The New England Patriots cap the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.  They won the title in the first overtime period in the event’s history.

 

Then it started to unfold. With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Tom Brady hit James White in the end zone with a five yard pass.  New England failed on a two-point conversion, making the score 28-9.  With the Falcons driving, later in the stanza, the Patriots defense caused a fumble that changed the entire complexion of the contest. The turnover led to a New England field goal and proved to be the turning point of the contest.

New England took over the game in the fourth quarter.  While holding the Falcons scoreless, the Patriots would put up a 33 yard field goal, and a Danny Amendola touchdown reception (that was followed by a two-point conversion).  With 57 seconds left on the clock, James White’s 1 yard run, combined with Amendola’s reception for the two-point conversion completed the comeback.  Super Bowl 51 was tied at 28!  This set up the first ever overtime period in Super Bowl history.

With 11:02 remaining in overtime White would be the hero again.  That pin could now be heard along Peachtree Street after the Patriots running back punched the ball into the end zone from two yards out.  The celebration was on throughout New England!

Our next stop on the review caravan involves the end of old business from 2016.  After 108 long years, a very special championship flag was raised in a historic ballpark.  Following an epic World Series win in 2016, the Chicago Cubs opened their home season by raising the championship flag.  How do you raise a World Series pennant 108 years in the making?  The Cubs themselves took turns raising the flag that will forever fly over historic Wrigley Field.

Next, it’s off to that hockey capital known as… Nashville Tennessee?  Yes, Nashville’s Predators are the subject of our next segment.

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The Nashville Predators enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the bottom seed in the Western Conference.  They finish the playoffs two games short of a Stanley Cup title.

 

The Nashville Predators began the Stanley Cup playoffs at the bottom of the Western Conference bracket.  They won the second of two Wild Cards, which gave them the #1 seeded Chicago Blackhawks as a first round draw.  The first round matchup turned out to be one of the biggest upsets of the postseason, as Nashville swept the 2015 Stanley Cup champs in four games.

Next up for the hockey team from the Music City, the St. Louis Blues.  The Blues franchise has always been a playoff contender, unfortunately they have built a reputation as the greatest team to never win a Stanley Cup.  The magical story continued in Nashville, the drought in St. Louis also continued as the Predators advanced to the Western Conference Finals in six games.

The Anaheim Ducks were heavily favored to end the Country Music Onslaught in the Western Conference Finals.  The Preds would continue their unlikely assault on the Stanley Cup, dispatching Anaheim in six games.

The boys from Tennessee, however, would run out of gas in the Stanley Cup Finals.  This leads to our next story, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The defending champions began their trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with a relatively easy five game victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.  What followed in the second round was an epic seven game win over the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals. Like the Blues, the Capitals continue to thrive in the regular season, and fail to win the prize.

The surprising Ottawa Senators would take the Pens to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.  In another epic seven game thriller, Pittsburgh earned their second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

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Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby hoists the Stanley Cup for the second straight year.

 

Nashville would play another six game series in the Stanley Cup Finals, however a goaltending performance for the ages by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray may have been the difference.  The Penguins became the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings.

Next stop, the tale of two basketball teams, one from the Bay Area of California, one from Cleveland, Ohio.  Two epic squads led by future Hall of Famers spent the spring of 2017 on a crash course to a Championship Series meeting.

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The Golden State Warriors celebrate after winning the 2017 NBA Championship.

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by Lebron James would lose a total of one game on their way to the NBA Finals.  Cleveland would dispatch the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors in four game sweeps to get to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Their opponents in the Conference Finals were the Boston Celtics.  Boston’s 111-108 win in Game 3 would be the Cavs only setback in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

While Lebron and Company were prancing through the East, their was an ever so slightly bigger story happening out west.  Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors one-upped the Cavaliers by completely sweeping their way to the Finals.

The Warriors dispatched the Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz, and San Antonio Spurs on their way to taking on Lebron and the Cavs.

In what was supposed to be an NBA Finals for the ages, frankly fell flat.  The Warriors headed to Cleveland after defeating the Cavaliers by the scores of 113-91 in game one and 132-113 in game two.  The return home for the Cavaliers didn’t change things, Golden State put Cleveland in a 3-0 hole with a 118-113 win.

Cleveland would extend the series by winning Game 5, handing the Warriors their only loss of the postseason.  Back home for Game 6 the Warriors claimed their title with a 129-120 victory.

What a loaded first half of this year!  Next week we look at the second half of the sports year of 2017, as well as the Karpelblog Sports Story of the Year and Athlete of the Year!  See you next week.

TIS THE SEASON FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL ARGUMENTS

Yesterday was Conference Championship Saturday in College Football.  At noon today, the 39 game Bowl barrage will be unveiled.  This will include the four top teams that will play off to the National Championship.

What is  intriguing about this year’s annual hand picking, is the fate of the University of Alabama.  Despite their loss to Auburn in last week’s Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide was placed in the number five spot in the polls.  Of course the number five placing gives them a chance to enter the top four, and of course, a spot in the National Semi-Finals.

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The University of Georgia celebrates winning the SEC Championship.

 

Coming into yesterday’s championship fest, Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin occupied the top four spots in the polls.  All four teams played for conference championships, with Alabama’s loss last week the Tide was idle yesterday.  Auburn lost the SEC Championship Game to Georgia (who sat at 6 in the polls) 28-7.

Now I have a question for the pollsters. How is it that Alabama is sitting on the outside looking in without winning a conference division?  (6) Georgia, (7) Miami, and (8) Ohio State all began the day behind Alabama.  All three of these schools were division winners and were in action yesterday.  So how does Alabama get the “on deck spot,” if you will, to the National Semi-Finals when there are three other schools that actually played for conference titles?

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Ohio State University celebrates after defeating Wisconsin for the Big 10 Championship.

 

Auburn, Wisconsin, and Miami all lost yesterday.  Miami is no longer a factor and Clemson will hold on to the number one seed in the CFB Championship, following the Tigers 38-3 win over the Canes in the ACC Championship Game.  Wisconsin should also drop out of the playoff picture after losing to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship Game.

Here’s where things get dicey, Auburn’s loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game should drop them out of the field.  Common logic tells me that Georgia, by virtue of winning the SEC championship should replace Auburn in the top four.  The same logic would hold true with Wisconsin and Ohio State.

 

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Top ranked Clemson celebrates after defeating the University of Miami in the ACC Championship Game.

 

The University of Oklahoma began the day ranked third in the polls and took care of business in their conference championship game.  The Sooners 41-17 drubbing of TCU in the Big XII Championship game should cement their spot as the second seed.

Now back to common logic.  Clemson and Oklahoma are slam dunks at 1 and 2.  Given the fact that sixth ranked Georgia beat second ranked Auburn, wouldn’t the Bulldogs have a spot in the top four?  Given the fact that the eighth ranked Buckeyes defeated fourth ranked Wisconsin, wouldn’t the same fate hold true for them? There is a fly in this ointment, however,  Alabama, who didn’t fit anywhere in this conference championship scenario, began the day at number five.  Does the Crimson Tide creep into the hand-picked field?  Is this what the pollsters put into motion last week?  How does a team that finished second in their conference division trump one of two conference champions?

 

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University of Oklahoma celebrates after winning the Big XII Championship Game.

In this writer’s opinion, Nick Saban and Company seems to be the ambassadors for the pollsters and the NCAA’s sponsors.  The Tide has a national following and is apparently a good draw in the ratings.  Why should something like Ohio State and Georgia actually winning major conference championships stand in their way?

A pretty big local story unfolded in Boca Raton, Florida yesterday.  The up and coming Owls of Florida Atlantic University hosted the Conference USA Championship Game.  Not only did they host it, the Owls defeated the Mean Green of North Texas 41-17.  FAU’s victory was the program’s biggest to date. The Owls victory in the Conference USA Championship Game was extra special for me and my family.  As many of you know, my son Justin passed away this past February.  What many might not know is that he was a senior at Florida Atlantic and was closing in on his Bachelor’s Degree.  Robin and I received his degree posthumously this past May.

Justin was a big fan of FAU’s football program.  I’ll never forget the phone call I received from him when the news broke about Lane Kiffin being hired as the programs head coach. Kiffin was Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama.   Something was missing when Kiffin was doused with Gatorade in the game’s final moments.  Somebody was missing, Justin was missing.  I know he was celebrating somewhere when his beloved Owls were giving a celebratory dousing to the coach that he was thrilled that they hired.

 

I am dedicating today’s blog to Justin.  The Conference USA champion Owls will be hosting someone from the American Athletic Conference (most likely the University of Central Florida who won the conference championship yesterday) in the Boca Raton Bowl on December 19th.  I know Justin was celebrating somewhere last night.