Mistakes can catch up with you

Jake Elmslie –Sports Editor

April is not the time to panic in Major League Baseball and yet the Boston Red Sox after a less than auspicious start to their season have opted to put emotion over reason.

On Tuesday, the Red Sox designated long time enigma Blake Swihart for assignment to the minor leagues, a decision that opens the door to and almost ensures that a different team will claim Swihart for their own roster at the cost of absolutely nothing. The team has made this move in order to bring Sandy Leon a former mainstay of the major league back onto the big league team after opting to have him open the season with the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox.

The notion of choosing to carry Leon over Swihart is in itself a walk back from a decision the team made barely a month ago at the conclusion of spring training. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dumbroski made it clear from the onset of spring training that the team was only planning on carrying two catchers as opposed to the three they had carried during the 2018-2019 world series season. The team of course wound up airing on the side of the versatility and upside at the plate offered by Swihart over the defensive acumen of Leon.

Graphics courtesy of New York Post

The issue with the move to walk away from Swihart has very little to do with either him or Leon as players but rather the optics of the decision. Firstly it is very easy to look at a Red Sox team that has clearly not had the start to the season they envisioned and characterize any early mulligans on preseason roster moves as a byproduct of panic. Secondly one has to wonder if this move is almost exclusively being made in an attempt to placate the pitching staff.

It is no secret to anyone who understands numbers that the Red Sox starting rotation has fallen biblically short of expectations. The team that intended to build itself around its starting pitching currently boasts four starters with an earned run average over six and two exceeding even that mark with ERA’s well over eight. It is also no secret that the pitchers on this teams staff love having Leon behind the plate, with many of them having sung his praise in the past. One can easily extrapolate from this information that Dumbrowski made the decision to bring up Leon in an attempt to make the pitching staff more comfortable. In the process of this pursuit though he has lost the team an asset in the 27 year old Swihart. It is not absurd to suggest that a team that has invested over 100 million dollars in their starting pitching for this season alone should not need to hemorrhage assets to effectively add five grown men’s blankey to the roster or if this reality is unavoidable it is not unfair to question if that money could have been spent better in the first place.

Blake Swihart was not destined to be some essential member of the Red Sox core however his career in the Boston system stands as a clinic in mismanaging an asset. From development to designation the Red Sox failed with this player and now can only hope to learn from their mistakes.

Sometimes lightning doesn’t even strike once

Joseph A. Griswold –Assistant Sports Editor

This year the Tampa Bay Lightning had as many post-season wins as the Atlanta Thrashers. The only problem is, the Atlanta Thrashers have not been in the NHL since 2011.

Graphics courtesy of 1st Ohio Battery

After a historic regular season, which saw the Lightning tie the 1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings for all time wins in the regular season (62); The Lightning fell flat on their face getting swept out of the playoffs by the eighth-seed Columbus Blue Jackets. So, what happened and what is next.

Simply put, the Lightning got outplayed, outcoached and outworked across the board. Game one serves as the perfect exemplar as the Lightning held a 3-0 lead in the first period, but failed to close the game out and ended up losing game one 4-3.

Throughout the series there seemed to be a complete lack of urgency, especially from the top players of the Lightning. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson, who accounted for 156 goals in the regular season, only accounted for a combined two goals in the four game sweep.

Another major issue for the Lightning was their special teams play. Despite leading the league in power play goals in the regular season the Lightning were just 1-for-6 while the Blue Jackets went 5-for-10 with the man advantage.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the series was the lack-luster play of Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, and the dominant play of Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Coming into the series, Vasilevskiy was clearly seen as the goaltender with the edge as Bobrovsky has been known to struggle during the post-season. However, when the series ended it was Bobrovsky who led his team to a series with an impressive .932 save percentage and a 2.01 goals-against-average. Vasilevskiy, on the other hand struggled mightily with a .856 save percentage and a 3.82 goals-against-average.

The last major advantage came in coaching. Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella, with his fiery, energetic coaching style pushed his team and made on-the-fly adjustments that smothered Tampa Bay’s top ranked offense. Tortorella, and the Blue Jackets clearly learned form the previous year where they took a 2-0 series lead against the Washington Capitals only to lose four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. On the other side, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper never seemed to realize his team was down in the series and made almost no adjustments throughout the series. Cooper is often known for his cool-demeanor, but this time it seems to have led to lackadaisical play for his team.

For the Lightning this season will forever be looked back upon as what could have been; however, for the Blue Jackets the road may just be beginning.

Kareem Hunt deepens the NFL’s continued struggles with domestic violence

Joseph A. Griswold –Assistant Sports Editor

What is the worth of a woman according to the National Football League? Eight games. Just eight games. That was the suspension handed to Cleveland Brown’s running back Kareem Hunt last week, after a video of him punching and kicking a woman emerged in November last year.

Following the release of the video, Hunt was quickly released by his formed team the Kansas City Chiefs; however, the running back did not stay unemployed long signing a one year contract with the Cleveland Browns in February.

Hunt’s suspension serves as another example of the NFL’s failure to appropriately punish domestic abusers in the league.

Photo courtesy of CBS Sports

Hunt is now a part of a growing notorious list of NFL domestic abusers including Reuben Foster, Greg Hardy, Joe Mixon, Ray Rice and many others.

This is not a one-time event, and continuing incidents make it clear that the NFL has a domestic violence problem and is doing nothing to solve it.

This is furthered by last year’s resignation of Deborah Epstein, co-director of the Georgetown University Law Center’s Domestic Violence Clinic from The National Football League’s Players Association commission on domestic violence.

Epstein’s resignation came after repeated attempts to take concrete steps to reduce domestic violence in the league. However, after continuous talk and no policy change Epstein decided that she “could no longer continue to be part of a commission that is essentially a fig leaf.”

Following her resignation, the NFL thanked her in a short one-sentence email while not responding to any of the issues she raised.

To Epstein the message was clear, “The NFL Players Association is no longer interested in even making a public show of concern about violence against women,” she wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

The NFL’s failure to provide a zero tolerance policy towards domestic violence makes one point abundantly clear. The NFL cares more about money than it does the safety and well being of women.

Southern fried violence: showtime in music city, USA

Tim Caplan –News Editor

With the odds stacked against him, Anthony Pettis shocked the MMA world in typical “Showtime” fashion on Saturday when he Superman-punched his way to the top of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Welterweight (170 lbs) rankings with a prolific knockout of number three ranked Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in the main event of the night. UFC Fight Night 148 took place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on March 23.

When Pettis lost his lightweight (155 lbs) world title in March 2015 to Raphael Dos Anjos at UFC 185, he looked like a defeated man. It has been a long road back to contendership for Pettis, trading wins and losses throughout the past four years at three different weight classes, compiling a 3-6 record including three bad technical knockout (TKO) losses to Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier and most recently Tony Ferguson in a fight of the year candidate in which he broke his hand. Pettis was a +305 underdog going into fight night, and many in the MMA community believed there was no chance Pettis would be in the UFC after this fight, much less win by stoppage.

“Wonderboy” is a two-time title challenger at welterweight, and has adapted his traditional karate style to develop an MMA record of 14-3, with wins over Rory Macdonald, former champion Johny Hendricks, and Jorge Masvidal.

Pettis entered his first fight at welterweight the much smaller competitor. Throughout the first round the two exchanged flashy strikes, with Pettis landing his patented boy kicks and Thompson his signature spinning heel kick, as well as several straight crosses, which bloodied up Pettis’ face toward the end of the first five minutes.

Pettis plotted on Thompson, landing rear leg kicks, slowing his movement, and with just five seconds to go in the second round landed a superman punch that sent “Wonderboy” to the floor, and was knocked unconscious with two follow-up punches on the ground before referee Herb Dean separated the two.

In his post fight scrum Pettis explained his strategy, “If he was going southpaw we wanted him to turn so he couldn’t take the hook… once he did that, it was my que to go for the hooks… once he took that stance, boom, overhand right.”

The rest of the night was largely uneventful, with four of the six fights on the main card going to decision. Number one flyweight (125 lbs) contender Jussier Formiga won unanimously over Deivison Figueiredo and will most likely face champion Henry Cejudo in a rematch for the world title next. Fourth ranked heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes also gained a division victory over Justin Willis.

The next UFC main event will feature a lightweight matchup between elite strikers Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethe. It will take place next Saturday, March 30, at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The MLB again fails to generate offseason buzz

Jake Elmslie –Sports Editor

Opening day for Major League Baseball is slated for Thursday and as it’s been the case over the last decade, it will come with a whimper.

Unlike two of its biggest competitors, the NFL and the NBA, the MLB routinely fails to generate intrigue once the season ends each October with the conclusion of the World Series. This is in stark contrast to the NFL, which has crafted a year long calendar to keep professional football in the news cycle and in the minds of fans long after the season wraps up in February. March 11th, the opening of the legal tampering period in which NFL free agents can begin to negotiate contracts was followed by an immediate flurry of personal moves, with a variety of high profile players changing teams within a few days. Similarly, the NBA also features a very fast paced free agency period that regularly sees multiple star players change locale in a short period of time.

These high tempo free agency periods when paired alongside other offseason activities such as the NFL combine, the NBA draft lottery, the opening of training camps and the draft, which has become a major television event in both the NFL and the NBA, keep both leagues at the forefront of sports news regardless of whether any games are being played.

Meanwhile the MLB offseason can be generously characterized as a slow burn. For the second offseason in a row, marquee free agents such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado lingered without contracts for months, both signing at seemingly random times less than a month before opening day. Meanwhile, across the rest of the league, players sign with next to no regularity leaving MLB free agency a disjointed meandering beast of a thing to keep up with. The lack of any specific free agency period to look forward to robs hardcore baseball fans of an exciting way to experience personal moves while also giving the more casual sports fan little reason to even think about the MLB during its five month long offseason. While the NFL and NBA have mastered their offseasons and turned them into critical parts of the fan experience the MLB offseason resembles little more than a wasteland before spring training rolls in.

While there is not a single clear solution for the MLB’s issues, in a time where professional baseball is seeing little to no growth in its audience, it can not afford to continue the practices that render it barely an afterthought for nearly half of the year.

Africa gets its first ever UFC Champ, Jones defends title

Tim Caplan –News Editor  

Kamaru Usman became the first ever African born fighter to win a UFC world championship on Saturday when he won the welterweight title in a dominant 5 round decision against longtime reigning champion Tyron Woodley in the co-main event of the evening.

UFC 235 took place at a sold out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 2.

“The Nigerian Nightmare” pressured Woodley in every aspect of the fight. He cut off the cage and took Woodley down repeatedly, who looked tired and unlike his usual explosive self throughout the fight.

In the post-fight Octagon interview, holding his young daughter in his arms, Usman paid respect to Woodley, who had defended his title four times before this, saying, “ When you talk about the best welterweights of all time, that man needs to be in the conversation.”

The Nigerian born Usman improved to 15-1 and became just the fourth fighter in UFC history to start his career 10-0. Woodley, who has been undefeated since 2014 with six wins and three finishes falls to 19-4.

The main card started off with a match up between former UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody “No Love” Garbrandt and number nine ranked 135 pound Brazilian Pedro Munhoz. This was Garbrandt’s first fight since being knocked out twice by the current champion TJ Dillashaw. The two began throwing heavy leather after a short feeling-out process and pandemonium ensued in the Octagon during one of the most exciting bouts of the night. Munhoz threw heavy low kicks to the calf of Garbrandt which impaired his movement toward the end of the round. Munhoz threw an overhand left that buckled Garbrandt’s knees and after a brief scramble “No Love” got back up to his feet and threw a flying knee to the head of Munhoz. Garbrandt began swinging with reckless abandon and was caught and sent to the floor with a stellar right hook from Munhoz with just 9 seconds to go in the first round.     

“Funky” Ben Askren made his much anticipated Octagon debut on Saturday as well in a fight against former 170 pound champ and number six ranked “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. After being dropped on his head and punched repeatedly, Askren managed to secure a bulldog choke and was declared winner after a controversial stoppage by referee Herb Dean at 3:20 of the first round. Lawler’s arm seemed to go limp but contested that he hadn’t gone out immediately following the stoppage. Askren’s record is now 19-0-1 and will warrant a top five opponent in the division if not a title shot.

The main event was a match for the 205 pound UFC Light HeavyWeight Title between champion Jon “Bones” Jones and Anthony “Lionheart” Smith.

Jones came out cautious as he tested the range and made reads on Smith throughout the first round, landing a few spinning back kicks and hooks to the body.

Down the stretch, Jones’ cage pressure, along with his elliptical and outside leg kicks built a heavy lead in his favor.

Smith was unable to deal with the eight inch reach advantage of Jones and although he landed intermittent strikes throughout the first three rounds, was visibly unable to match Jones’ skill and experience. Aside from an illegal strike in the fourth round that cause a two point deduction, it was a flawless performance for the Jackson-Wink MMA fighter Jones.

This was Jones’ first title defense since winning it back after a series of suspensions spanning over three years.

It is unclear at this point who Jones will fight next, because he fought and beaten every top contender at 205 pounds since 2010, Brock Lesnar is a name that Jon has mentioned before, but as of right now UFC President Dana White says that Brock is still under contract with WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and will be in contact when he is ready to fight.

Anchorwomen relish underdog label as season draws close

Joseph A. Griswold -Assistant Sports Editor

Entering the 2019-2020 season, the Rhode Island College softball team is ranked last in the preseason Little East Coaches poll. The team looks to capitalize on their underdog label and learn from last year’s 10-20 record.

The team will be led by second year head coach Brian Claypool. From the outside, Claypool understands why the team is placed where it is, “We lost three kids that hit over .300 last year and with only 12 players on the team, do the math.”  

Coach Claypool, however, is not on the outside, “Fortunately, for me I get to live the reality with these girls and see how they have grown and developed over that last year.”

In his first year, Coach Claypool focused on laying the foundations of a championship team and instilling his philosophy that “sport is a metaphor for life,” and being time-oriented, disciplined and forward will benefit you far beyond the softball diamond.

At the end of the season Coach Claypool understood improvements needed to be made, especially in the number of the players on the team. Now in his second season, Coach Claypool was able to fill a full roster, “Competition generates improvement, these girls now understand that they do not own their position themselves,” Claypool said. “If we all push each other this team will get better.”

Despite a small roster last season, RIC has nine returning players which they plan to lean heavily on. Two of the important players are senior pitchers Briana Gough and Erica Fleming, who will be crucial in determining how the season goes for the Anchorwomen. Both Gough and Fleming will handle a majority of the team’s pitching and have, “grown a lot from last year both as far as physical strength, pitching ability and a lot between the ears,” Coach Claypool said. Senior catcher Emma Simmons serves as the energy and spark to the team while senior Cristin Chiaverini, “has made the most growth of any player in 12 months,” Claypool said.

The returning core will look to mold the incoming talent and grow this team into a contender in the Little East. This process begins with the Anchorwomen’s trip to Virginia Beach for spring training to play some top-talent. This trip is aimed to help the Anchorwomen to meld together, form chemistry and learn to handle the big moments.

The future of the Anchorwomen looks bright, but only time will tell if all the pieces can come together and dispel the preseason poll.

The Anchorwomen open their home schedule in a March 18 double-header against the Coast Guard Bears.

Firefly; a retelling of NFL protest

Jordan Moment –Anchor Contributor

A friend of mine once wrote a poem in a literary journal that started off with the stanza “Black women are not your gods, and I invite you to keep that in mind for the duration of this article. To talk about injustice and institutions in the United States is more than likely a fruitless task considering that was the reason this great odyssey started when a reporter asked the then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers why he wasn’t standing for the national anthem—a task in which no one has ever been obligated to do.     

What happened next was, well, history. In the beginning, God sent three ships across the Atlantic via proxy of a king and queen, to a land that existed centuries before the bible. In Haiti, a prophet took seven minutes to carefully crafting the genesis for the conquest of the “New World.” The fall of Nineveh might have been rivaled by the fall of Tenochtitlan, Cortez channeling Abraham bound entire nations as a sacrifice, but there was no messenger other than horse’s hooves, black powder, Spanish steel, and smallpox. Notice that in this reimagining of the Americas that there is no Messiah, which is fitting, because I doubt that Colin Kaepernick ever wanted to be one.

Photo courtesy of Sporting News

Nor do I expect that he wanted to be a martyr for black activism or a scapegoat for white America’s fascination of blaming black and brown bodies for every interpreted challenge to their perceived or unperceived power and privilege. The problem is that to even compare the two is a fallacy and validates the belief that there is equal weight to both of these vantages, that the way people “feel” justifies the continued discourse which undoubtedly makes this article worthless. If the mere act of a black man taking the simplest and inoffensive stand against half a millennium of systematic oppression translates to two years of outcry where even the President mocks him, then article means nothing. If during Black History month 55 years after the singing of the Civil Rights Act, we reflect on a legacy currently being disregarded and dismantled, then this article means nothing. If every essentially every institution built on these two continents was by built at the detriment of black, brown, and indigenous bodies and their dissent towards them is written off as “sensitive” or “uppity,” then this article means nothing.

So, we then have the two sides of apathy in the United States, this article which there is not enough ink in the world to describe the ways that this article is one of many written about a subject that remains fundamentally unchanged throughout the centuries, and the Nike bonfire side which has spent centuries looking for things to burn.

Kaepernick challenged the system in the most passive way and he was able to present a case strong enough that the NFL decided that the payout was less costly than a trial, and that does signify at the least that he was well prepared or at the most that the world is maybe changing after all—and I’ll let you decide on which. But remember that in a time that exists in your memory or your parents he would have been killed for this, or crossing the street, or selling CDs, or going to a corner store. Or a lie that stretched from Chicago to Mississippi, a small town to a river in the woods never to be forgotten under the soft glow of fireflies.   

Bruins fail to make worthwhile move at trade deadline

Joseph A. Griswold -Assistant Sports Editor

The goal was clear: The Boston Bruins needed a top-six forward to boost their secondary scoring at the trade deadline. They failed–at least for now.

The Bruins acquired Minnesota Wild forward, Charlie Coyle for winger Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick. Coyle, 26 is an East Weymouth, Mass., native and will look to add more secondary scoring. However, this season Coyle only has 10 goals and 18 assists and has never scored more than 21 goals in a season. For a team looking for more scoring, Coyle does not seem like the answer.

With all the available scorers on the market such as Artemi Panarin, Mark Stone or even Wayne Simmonds, a third-line winger in Coyle simply does not make sense.

The Bruins also gave up a young prospect in Ryan Donato, who could have been packaged with a higher pick in order to bring in a proven top-six scorer. Despite Donato’s lack of production in the NHL thus far, his ceiling is much higher.

Donato is just the latest prospect under 25 given up by the Bruins adding to a list that includes, Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin, Blake Wheeler, Frank Vatrano, and Dougie Hamilton.

Focusing on the positive aspects, Coyle will add some size to the struggling third-line and will probably center David Backes and Joakim Nordstrom.

However, the third-line has seen the least ice-time this season and the addition of Coyle may not be enough to change that.

The addition of Coyle does not eliminate them from the potential top scorers on the market, but it does eliminate a young prospect to offer.

Don Sweeney spent too much last season on the addition of Rick Nash and it seems that has left him hesitant to pull the trigger on a big move this year.

If the Bruins plan to land a top-six forward before the deadline they have to be willing to move a first-round pick and a quality prospect, likely Jakob Forsbacka-Karlson or Danton Heinen. With the core players of the Bruins getting older, Don Sweeney needs to decide whether or not to go all-in on a cup run. The addition of Coyle does not hurt the Bruins but it certainly does not supply the needed scoring to challenge for a cup.  If the Bruins believe they are a true contender they must be willing to move from a top-prospect and go after one of the top-scorers left on the market.

Zion Williamson and why the NCAA has no sole

Jake Elmslie –Sports Editor

Duke forward and near lock to be the number one overall pick in this years NBA draft, Zion Williamson’s near brush with a disastrous injury Wednesday evening served as yet another among the countless reminders of the hypocrisy and injustice at play in college sports.

Williamson’s shoe fell apart mid game, causing him to leave the contest with what was later diagnosed as a grade one knee sprain, and like each and every college athletes, received zero payment for play. The incident in question came in a highly anticipated game between Duke and the University of North Carolina where ticket prices averaged around $2500 on the resale market. The shoes Williamson was wearing were only on his feet because of a lucrative contract between Nike and Duke coach Michael Krzyzewski that pays the loafer wearer an undisclosed amount to have his players sport Nike apparel during games.

The players, of course, see none of this money. Whether through hiding behind the fallacy of amateurism, or through pumping up the value of a full ride scholarship college sports, the NCAA continue to skate by operating a billion dollar industry with an entirely free labor force. This all happening while players are denied the right to profit off of their own likeness, removing any avenues for the individuals actually playing the game to generate revenue through their own efforts.

Photo Courtesy of The Big Lead

Realistically, Williamson will not suffer from this incident. He will be drafted as the top rookie in the NBA even if he never plays another minute for Duke, and he will be a multi-millionaire within the year and most likely has only seen the value of any potential shoe deal with one of Nike’s competitors increase as a result of this snafu. However, every college athlete is not Zion Williamson, and scores of student-athletes will never know the spoils of the zenith of their chosen sport by being fairly compensated for the revenue they bring into their institutions. This could go a long way in rectifying what is one of the most unjust industries in the United States. Even if every college athlete was destined for stardom and fortune, that would not justify the mass exploitation that the NCAA has carried out for over a century. Labor deserves pay and Williamson and all those like him deserve better.