avoiding elimination game drama

Avoiding elimination game drama in Game 5

The Houston Astros came from behind in Boston on Monday, becoming the first team to make their way in to a league championship series. They produced some late inning heroics and walked out of Fenway Park 5-4 winners. Avoiding elimination game drama in the division series is one of the most important tasks of any World Series hopeful.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also join the Houston in moving on to the next round of games, sweeping Zack Greinke and Arizona right out of the playoffs. They now await the winner of Chicago versus Washington in the NLCS.

Why it Matters

Elimination games are the proverbial pressure cooker in MLB. There is perhaps nothing that can reduce hardened veterans to looking like a rookie quite like an elimination game. Getting the wins early on in the series is the name of the game.

In all division series that have ever been played, you might think having that deciding game at home would be a big feather in your team’s hat. Surprisingly that’s not the case.

avoiding elimination game drama

Luis Severino celebrates a huge out against the Cleveland Indians in Game 4. (Photo courtesy of: Adam Hunger, USA TODAY Sports)

In the American league, there have been 17 divisional series elimination games since New York defeated Milwaukee in 1981 at Yankee Stadium. Since that inaugural Game 5, the home team has won nine, whilst the visitors have won eight. It’s a true pick ‘em type of proposition. Nothing could be more disastrous to a 102-win Indians team like losing a pivotal Game Five at home.

This is exactly the position Cleveland now find themselves in after last night’s 7-3 Game Four loss. The season, for both clubs, now rides on a fateful Game 5 showdown on Wednesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

In the National League, the odds are far worse for the home club. There have been 13 Game 5’s in the history of the NL and, get this, the home team has a paltry four wins to the road crew’s nine collective Game 5 triumphs.

When you roll them all together, that’s a cumulative record of 13-17 for the home team in division series elimination games. The games have been played a litter tighter in the AL than in the NL, but those are odds that I’m not at all interested in tempting if it’s my team gunning for the league title.

The Astros

It would be fair to say this year’s incarnation of the Houston Astros has been brilliant. They pitch, they hit, they hit and they hit. They do a lot of hitting, that would be the main take away here.

Houston has the best team offense in MLB  powered by three-time American League batting champion Jose Altuve. The little spark plug had another momentous year taking home the batting title during the regular season. Altuve however, has saved perhaps his best for last in 2017.

avoiding elimination game drama

Jose Altuve goes deep in ALDS action. (Photo courtesy of: Shanna Lockwood, USA TODAY Sports)

The slight statured Altuve stands 5-foot-6, but he might have the sweetest stroke in the game this side of Tony Gwynn. The work he’s doing this postseason is shaping up to be legendary. If Altuve continues to hit at the torrid pace he’s thus far established, his could be one of the best performances of all-time in postseason play.

Like, Lloyd McClendon in 1992 good. For the Pirates that year, McClendon set the record for postseason batting average. He hit .727 in 16 plate appearances over five games. Of course, with the difference in the amount of games the playoffs entail post-1994, McClendon’s record is probably safe for all times.

Red Sox pitching finally solved Altuve in Game Four at Fenway Park. As a result, his average plummeted to a “meager” .533.  However, the sweet-swinging righty did manage to push across the game’s first run. Albeit he did so by grounding into a double play. Altuve won’t get credit in the box score for an RBI, but that run is no less important in the bigger picture.

Houston has come from off the deck not once, but twice. They’ve showed real resolve for a team with World Series aspirations. The Astros are for real.

The Dodgers

What can be said about the Dodgers that hasn’t already been said?

Los Angeles is certainly looking like the team that finished 2017 with the game’s best record. The Dodgers won 104 games during the regular season and has just kept on winning. And they are fresh off the only sweep in division series play this postseason, taking down Arizona 3-1 last night.

avoiding elimination game drama

Cody Bellinger had a huge Game 3, hitting a his first postseason homer and making this spectacular catch. (Photo courtesy of: fanragsports.com)

The best part of L.A. getting the sweep last night, is they get the extra rest for the pitching staff leading in to the NLCS. This could be the biggest advantage the Dodgers have. With the way Yu Darvish was throwing last night, the Dodgers are going to be a tough out this year. He looked strong.

Also, Count on perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw being ready to rock and roll come Game 1 of the NLCS. Take that to the bank. He’s easily been the most dominant pitcher of the last decade. Kershaw just needs some postseason glory to fully cement his status as living legend. Apparently his evil sorcery on the mound isn’t already enough.

Right now it appears the pitching for L.A. is getting stronger. Sure-fire Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger is finding his playoff power stroke. And the rest of the lineup just continues to hit. There really is no question that the Dodgers are starting to play excellent baseball at the right time.

Dodgers fans are hoping for better tidings this year in the NLCS. This will mark the fifth appearance in the league championship series for Los Angeles since 2008. Is this the year L.A. takes it home?

The Rest of the Field

The Cubs lead their division series with Washington, two games to one after taking another closely pitched game 2-1. With 2016 playoffs hero Jake Arrieta taking the hill, Chicago has a chance to slam the door on this series at home. Washington and Chicago square off later today (5:30 EST) at Wrigley Field.

avoiding elimination game drama

Anthony Rizzo is the difference maker as he bloops a vital RBI single for Chicago in the eighth inning of an epic Game 4 showdown. (Photo courtesy of: AP/David Banks)

The division series between Washington and Chicago stands out because of the pitching. While the rest of the league should be considering protective netting around the outfield bleachers, pitchers in this series have been throwing well. The craziest game in the series has been the 6-3 Nationals win in Game 2. Whoa guys, slow down!

Don’t count Washington out yet though! This team has more than enough life in that pitching staff to put the clamps on any offense. The Cubs will be looking to seal the series tonight and stave off a dreaded Game 5. Washington on the other hand, will be looking to force a Game 5 meet-up in Washington D.C. for Thursday.

The Indians meanwhile, are now in a situation where the series comes back to Cleveland for Game 5. The silver lining for Indians fans is that staff ace Corey Kluber is bringing it back on the mound. Kluber will be looking for the win, but it remains to be seen whether that alone will be enough. It’s why they play the games.

There is no discernible trend of good outcomes for hosting an elimination game in the divisional round. In these types of sudden death meetings, home field advantage counts for very little.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Stan Grossfeld/Boston Globe)

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World Series baseball fans need

The World Series baseball fans need

The Houston Astros are off to a blistering start taking the opening two-game leg of their Division Series with Boston, winning both games in lopsided fashion 8-2. The Washington Nationals however, find themselves on the ropes early against the Cubs. Of the teams left in this year’s postseason, only Washington and Houston have never brought home a World Series title. This is the World Series baseball fans need.

Why not the Indians

The Indians are a popular pick this year to take home the hardware. After last night’s 13th inning emotional 9-8 win in which the Indians surged back from six runs down, it’s hard to argue they won’t win it all. At least for the moment, they look unbreakable.

world series

Tris Speaker hit 792 career two-baggers, still the most in MLB history. (Photo courtesy of: Charles Conlon / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

While it is true the Indians have a longer drought of championship seasons than both Houston and Washington,the fans in Cleveland still have Bob Feller and the 1948 series. They still have the glory of 1920 when player/manager Tris Speaker, all-time doubles champ, guided the Indians to the title. Behind Speaker’s steady hand, the Indians beat Brooklyn five games to two in a best of nine series.

Cleveland experienced the bitter taste of Game 7 defeat in last year’s World Series against Chicago. What’s more is that it happened on home soil. Ouch. The Indians came oh so close coming off the deck from three runs down and pushing the game into extra’s. It turned out only a tease however, as the Cleveland faithful watched Chicago exorcise that billy-goat voodoo that had kept them down for so long.

The novelty of an Indians World Series resonates with many, but this year we have real chance at seeing something none of us has ever seen. A World Series title in a city that’s never had one. Cleveland has had three shots at the title since 1995, let’s see someone else give it a go.

Why not the Yankees

No.

Futility in Washington… or is it Montreal?

Not wanting to put the horse before the carriage, there is still a long road to travel for both Washington and Houston. Reaching that promised land of World Series glory takes a focus and commitment that few realize. On top of that, it can take an incredibly long time to get there.

And some, like Washington, are still waiting to make their first appearance.

The Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, have more combined city swaps and name changes than they do World Series appearances. They’ve never been there a single time in 48 years of existence, though they were close once.

world series baseball fans need

Gary Carter and some his 1981 Expos teammates pose for a photo prior to first pitch. (Photo courtesy of: ESPN)

In 1981 the Expos lost a best-of-five NLCS. Due to the lockout occurring during the middle of the season, the playoff format was restructured. What sprang out of it were the first League Division Series’ in MLB history. All credit to Montreal, they dispatched the Phillies in five games.

This led to their first ever appearance in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It might seem unusual to us now, but until 1985 the League Championship Series were only best-of-five. Montreal lost in that 1981 NLCS series deciding Game 5 by a score of 2-1. Their hopes dashed by a ninth inning blast off the bat of Rick Monday.

The Nationals’ fortunes have been changing lately however. It’s amazing what a stable full of pitchers who are capable of winning a Cy Young Award will do for your hopes of taking home a championship. Washington’s nasty mixture of starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer make up a doomsday rotation that uses opposing bats to build a funeral pyre.

The Nationals can hit the lights out too. They are led by the exceptional Bryce Harper and a resurgent Ryan Zimmerman. Sprinkle in a few good breaks on the diamond and Washington might be cooking up some championship stew in 2017.

Houston Strong

Houston has been through a lot this year and that’s putting it lightly. A World Series win would be a welcome distraction from all that has happened, if only for a brief period. It would right the wrong of 2005, when the White Sox were hoisting the trophy before Houston even realized the series was on. The south-siders bounced them in four.

Houston has a spotty playoff history that seems to happen in waves, but this is undoubtedly the best grouping of players since the times of the Killer B’s.

world series baseball fans need

Sweet-swinging Jose Altuve won his third AL batting title this season hitting at a .346 clip. (Photo courtesy of: Baselinetimes.com)

Out is Jeff Bagwell, in is Jose Altuve. The 2017 edition of the Houston Astros is about as complete a team as you will see. If they do have an Achilles’ heel, it will be in the field. This season they rank number 24 of 30 teams in defensive efficiency. If defensive woes are going to be their undoing though, they certainly aren’t showing up right now. This team is playing like a team on a mission.

And it has been a long, hard, cruel road.

Consider this, Houston has had a franchise since their inception as the Colt .45’s in 1962. In the years since, they’ve been renamed as many times as they’ve appeared on baseball’s biggest stage; once. For those scoring at home, that’s 55 years without a title. That’s 55 years yielding only one World Series appearance. It’s time Houston, it’s time.

Should Houston and Cleveland match-up in the ALCS this year, the Indians will make the Astros earn it every step of the way. Unless you count the one-game wild card in 2013 as a sweep, you must go all the way back to 1954 to find the last, and only, time that Cleveland has ever been swept in any playoff series. That year, it was Willie Mays and the Giants who did the damage.

It would also be the first time since the Yankees battled the Royals for the AL pennant in 1977 that two 100+ win teams square off in the ALCS.

The World Series baseball fans need 

Washington versus Houston. Why is this the World Series we need? Because it’s something new. It’s something unique, and it’s something that’s never happened before. Heck, Washington hasn’t even been there before.

We need this World Series because of the match-ups it poses.

world series baseball fans need

Stephen Strasburg is planning a vacation to his favorite locale; Blew Bayou. (Photo courtesy of: AP / Mark J. Terrill)

Washington’s pitching versus Houston’s potent lineup is a story line just waiting to unfold. Who will win the day? Stephen Strasburg and his overpowering stuff? Or will it be the wily three-time American League batting champion, Jose Altuve finding the gap with the game on the line?

These two teams have unfinished business to attend to as well. In the regular season, Houston and Washington played a three-game set at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Washington took two of the three games, but both losses for Houston were one-run games that could have easily swung the other way. One was an 11 inning affair that slipped through Houston’s fingers in that final frame. Let’s have some more of that please.

An Astros versus Nationals World Series wouldn’t just be another sports novelty. It will be an epic World Series if it does indeed happen. So, if you’re on the fence, let this be your call to action to jump on either the Washington or Houston bandwagon. I’m sure both team’s fan-bases will be happy to have the extra hands on deck.

In a season that has offered us a lot of remarkable firsts, like rookies named Aaron Judge that hit 52 homers in a year. It would only be right to see another first for MLB. A new champion and “Leading City of Baseball” that has never before been crowned.

Let’s crown a champion that none of us has ever seen before in 2017. Let’s go you Astros! Let’s go you Nationals!

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: doin-work.com)

 

 

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Welcome to Boston, Kyrie Irving

Just when you thought the Boston Celtics were done with their off-season journey, they strike again. Boston has acquired All-Star guard, Kyrie Irving, from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Boston has agreed to trade All-Star guard, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder and 2018 Nets First Round Pick.

Its been over a month since Kyrie Irving openly talked about his urge to get out of Cleveland. Well, welcome to Boston: home of 17 NBA Championships.

Boston has made the biggest decisions this NBA off-season. They have acquired Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz. They have traded Avery Bradley to the Pistons. They drafted Jayson Tatum. What more can they do? Oh yeah, pick up the one of the best guards Kyrie Irving, if not the best, in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving averaged 25.2 points-per-game last season, while helping lead the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for the third straight year.

Photo Courtesy of (NBA.com)

Isaiah Thomas will be truly missed in Boston. His determination to make this team succeed was impeccable. Thomas averaged 23.3 points-per-game last season, bringing the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Ante Zizic is a 7-foot rookie-center, who is on his way to Cleveland now. Zizic made the Boston roster just weeks ago.

Jae Crowder is entering his fifth season in the NBA, after averaging nearly 14 points-per-game for Boston last season. Crowder was originally drafted by Cleveland in 2012.

After this trade, Boston is a definite favorite for the Eastern Conference champions. They fell to Cleveland last year 4-1. Kyrie is ready to play for Coach Brad Stevens, making him a great fit in Boston.

Mark the calendars for October 17th, as Boston travels to Cleveland for the first game of the season. Kyrie will be in the Celtic green.

 

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MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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Sports Cities Power Rankings: January 2017

Everywhere you look, there’s power rankings available for every in-season sport. However, it can be hard to find rankings on the top sports cities in the nation. That being said, it’s time to break out a new top ten ranking, and that ranking is the top ten sports cities in the nation.

How are these rankings done? Well, because this will be a monthly installment, the cities will change based on each of its teams’ performances. Take a look at this handy dandy list on what goes into rankings, from most important to least important. Some changes have been made from last month after listening to our valued readers’ opinions. Only the four major sports in the United States are accounted for in the rankings.

  • In-season professional team performance, with the team with a higher percentage of its season played getting higher priority
  • Out-of-season performance of a team
  • Potential to be better or worse as season goes on
  • Amount of teams a city or region owns

For a city to be considered, it must have two or more of the major professional sports in its area. Sorry San Jose and Portland, but you guys don’t count.

Teams that are technically located outside of their city name will be claimed by their closest city. Boston claims the Patriots, New York City claims the Jets and Giants, and so on.

Scores are an average of all totals from each sport. The scale is from one to five, with five being the best.

Now, let’s begin. Go ahead and light me up in the comments and on social media. As a writer, I’m always begging for the approval and validation of my readers.

  1. Boston- 4

For the second straight month, Boston sits atop the rankings. The Patriots have won six games in a row, including a 41-3 thrashing of the Jets on Christmas Eve. Fans of the Pats have plenty to root for, and a Super Bowl is within reach. The Celtics have won seven of their last nine, and they’ve shot up to third in the Eastern Conference standings. In hockey, the Bruins are still sitting in a playoff spot, but they’ve cooled off as of late. Even so, the Bruins beat the Sabres twice to end the month, sending the team into the new year on a high note.

  1. Pittsburgh- 4

The city of Pittsburgh rises three spots from last month, and their score is just as high as Boston’s. Pittsburgh sits below Boston (barely), and the margin between the two is almost zero. When it comes to the NFL, the Patriots get the edge. Although the Steelers have also won six games in a row, the Patriots did beat the Steelers earlier in the season, 27-16. Pittsburgh also has no NBA team, which hurts the city’s score. When it comes to the NHL, Pittsburgh has the second most points in the league, one less than the Blue Jackets, who have won 15 straight. Each of the top two cities have one team that is better than the other in a sport (Pittsburgh owns NHL, Boston owns NFL). Since Boston had a better season in the MLB than Pittsburgh, Boston keeps the top spot for another month, but barely.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

Kirk Cousins has helped lead the Redskins to a successful season. (Photo: Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

  1. Washington D.C.- 3.75

The capital of the United States is very close to being the capital of the sports world, too. The Washington Redskins are 8-6-1, and have had a very good year in a stacked division. In the NBA, John Wall is on fire, and has helped the Wizards to a 16-16 record, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals have the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and many believe the team is better than they’ve shown they are to start the season. D.C. sports are doing good for sure, but it doesn’t look like a deep playoff run will be made by any teams this season. A plethora of good but not great teams makes D.C. the most consistent city in the nation.

  1. Cleveland 3.67

When the Browns beat the Chargers on Christmas Eve, I became extremely hyped to write this article. The holiday season was awesome to Cleveland. On Christmas day, the Cavs defeated Golden State in their first meeting since winning the NBA Finals against them. The Browns still get the first pick in the draft. The Cavs look like they could still be better than the Warriors, even with Golden State’s acquisition of Kevin Durant.

  1. Oakland 3.67

Oakland is thriving, but the city has fallen on tough times to close the month. The Raiders lost MVP candidate Derek Carr for the season after he broke his leg on Christmas Eve. To make matters worse, the Warriors continued to fumble away leads to the Cavs. This time they blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. Losing Carr is a huge hit to the Raiders’ playoff aspirations, and the Warriors losing to the Cavs really put a damper on the holiday season for the city.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

An All-NBA talent, James Harden has helped Houston become a darkhorse in the Western Conference. (Photo: Sporting News)

 

  1. Houston 3.67

For the second straight season, the Texans are going to the playoffs. For the second straight season, I don’t know how. This has helped propel the city into the rankings for the first time since the inaugural rankings were released. In the NBA, the Rockets are playing great basketball and have James Harden, who helps shape the face of the NBA. The Astros also had a pretty good season and have plenty of promise in the future.

  1. Chicago 3.5

The city of Chicago is enjoying its greatest success in the NHL. The Blackhawks are the best team in the Western Conference, and they won five games in a row during this month. The Bulls are barely in the playoffs, but they’ve got a chance to get hot to end January. Five of their final eight games are against teams under .500. The Bears are pitiful, but just like the Browns, at least they get a high draft pick. Of course, the Cubs will continue to get the city a boost after ending the city’s multiple baseball curses.

  1. Seattle 3.5

The final three spots in the rankings are the exact same as last month. Poised to make another Super Bowl quest, the city of Seattle is in the midst of a minor dynasty. The Seahawks are in the playoffs, but they’ve yet to get hot and string together multiple wins. With just one active team right now, Seattle’s overall score is hurt. The city’s only other team is the Mariners, who won a respectable 86 games.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

Eric Berry has been a shutdown defensive back, one year after defeating cancer. (Photo: Sporting News)

  1. Kansas City 3.5

The Chiefs are one of the best teams in the AFC, and have a real shot to advance in the playoffs. Alex Smith is the third-best quarterback out of AFC playoff teams and could realistically lead the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game. Just like Seattle, Kansas City has one active team in the NFL and one out-of-season team in the MLB. Seattle’s MLB won more games than Kansas City’s Royals, which is why KC is one stop below.

  1. Baltimore 3.5

For the second month in a row, Baltimore sneaks into the rankings at number 10. Since last month, not much has changed in the city. The Ravens have been eliminated from playoff contention since last month, but they still had a much improved season from last year. The Ravens certainly have something to build off of for next season. The Orioles are the city’s only other team and they had another good season, even though the playoffs didn’t end beneficially for them. All in all, Baltimore fans are enjoying a lot more success than a lot of other cities.

 

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Sports Cities Power Rankings: December 2016

Everywhere you look, there’s power rankings available for every in-season sport. However, it can be hard to find rankings on the top sports cities in the nation. That being said, it’s time to break out a new top ten ranking, and that ranking is the top ten sports cities in the nation.

How are these rankings done? Well, because this will be a monthly installment, the cities will change based on each of its teams’ performances. Take a look at this handy dandy list on what goes into rankings, from most important to least important. Some changes have been made from last month after listening to our valued readers’ opinions. Only the four major sports in the United States are accounted for in the rankings.

  • In-season professional team performance, with the team with a higher percentage of its season played getting higher priority
  • Out-of-season performance of a team
  • Potential to be better or worse as season goes on
  • Amount of teams a city or region owns

For a city to be considered, it must have two or more of the major professional sports in its area. Sorry San Jose and Portland, but you guys don’t count.

Teams that are technically located outside of their city name will be claimed by their closest city. Boston claims the Patriots, New York City claims the Jets and Giants, and so on.

Scores are an average of all totals from each sport. The scale is from one to five, with five being the best.

Now, let’s begin. Go ahead and light me up in the comments and on social media. As a writer, I’m always begging for the approval and validation of my readers.

  1. Boston- 3.75
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Tom Brady is leading yet another high performing offense for the Patriots. (Photo: Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

After being ranked fifth last week, the city of Boston as rocketed to first place. With the Patriots in position to grab a first-round bye in the playoffs, its city is enjoying yet another fine football season. The Celtics currently sit at 10-7, and have won four of their last five. The Bruins are fighting for a playoff spot very early in the NHL season, and are 5-5 in their last ten. It’s safe to say the Bruins have a nice chance to work their way up in the Eastern Conference standing, which would keep Boston on top of the rankings for another month.

  1. Cleveland- 3.67

The Indians are now the punching bag of sports. After fans made fun of the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead, the Indians promptly blew a 3-1 lead of their own. Regardless, the Indians made a Word Series, which is huge for the city. The Cavs just won the Finals, and they’re on pace to contend for a second-straight championship. Just like last month, the Browns are terrible. Actually, they might be even more terrible than last month. Again, they’re still in line for the number one pick in the draft, but we’ve all seen how well first-round picks work out for them, right, Johnny Manziel?

  1. Oakland- 3.67

The city of Oakland is enjoying some great sports right now. For those who are true Oakland fans and have not bandwagoned to the city in recent years, fans finally have encouraging teams to root for. The Raiders are currently on top of the AFC West, and are a prime contender to grab a first-round bye. Of course, the Warriors are the Warriors, but we won’t know exactly how great that team is for a while. The only thing weighing down the city is the A’s, but they’re not in season right now. All in all, the city of Oakland could be enjoying the makings of  two future dynasties.

  1. Washington D.C. Thanks to a huge uptick in play from the Redskins and Capitals, the capital of the United States has surged D.C. into the number four spot. The Redskins are 6-4-1 and have just one team on their remaining schedule that are over .500. The Caps are yet to catch fire in the NHL, but they’ve got plenty of time to get hot. Washington D.C. is in prime position to enjoy sports for the next couple of months, with the Wizards being the only exception.
  1. Pittsburgh- 3.67
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Le’Veon Bell has helped the Steelers’ offense to another successful year. (Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Steel City is enjoying a good bit of success right now, but Pittsburgh falls a spot due to some inconsistent play from both the Steelers and Penguins. Currently tied for first place in the AFC North and sitting at 6-5, I expected the Steelers to be much better this season. Their schedule to end the season isn’t easy, as they still have to deal with the Giants, Bills, and a bad but always tough Bengals team. The Penguins look to be in better shape, and time will tell how good that team is. All in all, Pittsburgh is still enjoying two very good teams play.

  1. Chicago- 3.5

After winning the World Series in epic fashion, the city of Chicago is trying to experience a sports high. The only problem with that is the Bears. Awful as they are, they seem to have talent every year yet still unachieved. Like the city of Cleveland, Chicago has just one team holding them back. The Bulls are 10-7 and third in the Eastern Conference, and the Blackhawks are dominating the Western Conference, four points in front of the second-best team in the Blues. With a World Series, quality NBA team, and Stanley Cup contender, Chicago is enjoying lots of success right now.

  1. Dallas- 3.5

The Cowboys haven’t lost a game since Week 1, and rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are not only in Rookie of the Year conversations, but also in MVP talks. Outside the Cowboys, Dallas doesn’t really have a contender in any other sports. The Stars are doing fine, but fine isn’t great. The Mavs are terrible, and with Dirk Nowitzki being hurt, the Mavs don’t even have their face of the franchise. The out of season Rangers give the city a boost as well, but the Cowboys are the only contenders for a championship it seems right now.

  1. Seattle- 3.5

The Seahawks have caught fire as of late. Prior to an ugly loss to the Bucs last week, the Seahawks had won (or tied) in seven of their last eight games. With just two professional teams in the city, Seattle only has one active team. With as hot as the Seahawks are, it’s hard to keep the city outside the top ten compared to others.

  1. Kansas City- 3.5

The Chiefs just picked up a huge overtime win over the Broncos this week, and they’re as hot as any NFL team right now. In their last 21 regular season games, they’re 18-3. Just like Seattle, Kansas City only has one active team right now. I like the Seahawks better than the Chiefs in the long run, so that’s why Seattle is a spot ahead.

  1. Baltimore- 3.5

With a surprise boost from last season’s performance, the Ravens are in contention to win the AFC North. They’ll have to get hot to end the season to grab a wild card spot, so the Ravens’ only real shot at the playoffs is through an AFC North title. It’s plausible, but I like the Steelers more. The Orioles just had a good season of baseball, and Baltimore has a good bit to look forward to down the stretch of the NFL season.

Sports cities power rankings: November 2016

Everywhere you look, there’s power rankings available for every in-season sport. However, it can be hard to find rankings on the top sports cities in the nation. There’s always rankings on the top teams in the NFL during the winter, but what if we looked at the overall sports cities power rankings?

That being said, it’s time to break out a new top ten ranking, and that ranking is the top ten sports cities in the nation.

So, how are these rankings done? Well, because this will be a monthly installment, the cities will change based on each of its teams performance. Take a look at this handy dandy list on what goes into rankings, from most important to least important.

  • In-season professional team performance, with the team with a higher percentage of its season played getting higher priority
  • In-season college performance in football and basketball
  • Out-of-season performance of a team
  • Potential to be better or worse as season goes on
  • Amount of teams a city or region owns
  • Slight weightage for college teams in the area

For a city to be considered, it must have two or more of the major professional sports in its area. Sorry San Jose and Portland, but you guys don’t count.

Teams that are technically located outside of their city name will be claimed by their closest city. So, Boston claims the Patriots, New York City claims the Jets and Giants, and so on.

Scores are an average of all totals from each sport. The scale is from one to five, with five being the best.

Now, let’s begin. Go ahead and light me up in the comments and on social media. As a writer, I’m always begging for the approval and validation of my readers.

  1. Cleveland- 3.8- Fans in Cleveland are no longer deprived of rooting for a successful sports franchise. Bar the Browns, and Clevelanders get the privilege of rooting for the 2016 NBA champions, the 2016 AL Pennant winner, and, in some cases, the Ohio State Buckeyes. It’s easy to complain about the Browns, but they are in line to get the number one pick of the NFL Draft. However, the Browns organization is about as successful with drafting as an umbrella is at peeling a banana. Overall, life isn’t too bad outside of Sundays in Cleveland, OH, and the Indians are on the verge of winning the World Series.
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Dak Prescott (4) and Ezekiel Elliott (21) could become one of the most dynamic duos in sports. (Photo: The Dallas Morning News)

  2. Dallas- 3.8- It’s surprising to see Dallas so high on the list, but the city has plenty to root for. The Cowboys are 6-1 and look poised to fight for a first-round bye all season. They also have an incredibly bright future. Although the playoff outcome wasn’t what the Rangers wanted, they still won 95 games and took the AL West crown. The Mavericks will need a new face of its franchise, but they still made the playoffs and won 42 games. In the NHL, it’s quite early, but the Stars are 3-4-1 and in position to fight in the Central Division. The state of Texas has multiple colleges to root for, and none of which are located in Dallas, so they don’t get much credit in collegiate athletics.
  1. Boston- 3.4 Boston was the city I expected to see at the top of the list prior to my evaluations. With the Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins, Boston has enjoyed a lot of success recently. However, the city’s closest university, Boston College, had a combined 0-25 conference record in football and basketball in 2015. The football team is 4-4 this season, but that’s still nothing to get excited about. The Celtics are also popular picks to win a lot of games this season, but they haven’t done it yet. If it wasn’t for the minor scoring weightage for college sports, the city of Boston would have the highest score.
  1. Pittsburgh- 3.75
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Evgeni Malkin helps lead the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo: Pittsburgh Sporting News)

Another team I didn’t expect to be this high is Pittsburgh. However, when delving into the city’s sports, they root for a perennial Super Bowl contender in the Steelers, and the defending Stanley Cup champion in the Penguins. The Pirates weren’t terrible, but they did finish five games under .500 at 78-83. The Pirates could be going downhill with the demise of Andrew McCutchen, but hockey and football seems to always be a constant in the Steel City.

  1. Seattle- 3.7

Sitting atop the NFC West with a comfy 1.5 game lead over the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks look primed to make the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. On top of that, the Mariners won 86 games this season, just missing the final AL wild card spot. Fans of the Washington Huskies have plenty to root for as well. It’s not so bad in Seattle. On top of all that, Seattle seems to be the most popular city for relocation or expansion in the NBA – rightfully so.

  1. Detroit- 3.4

The city of Detroit is anchored by having no terrible teams right now, and by college sports. With Detroit being just 50 minutes away from Ann Arbor, Detroit fans get to root for one of the fastest-rising college football programs in the University of Michigan. Not only that, but the Tigers missed the playoffs by just three games, the Pistons made the playoffs last season, and the Red Wings are one of the best hockey franchises in the NHL.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

Derek Carr is giving Oakland fans plenty of reasons to be happy. (Photo: AP)

  1. Oakland- 3.25

Luckily for Oakland, the city is carried by the Dubs. Blowing the first ever NBA Finals 3-1 lead is nothing short of embarrassing, but they’ve still got the most star power in the NBA. The Raiders are finally rising with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack commanding the offense and defense. Baseball is the only thing bringing the city down, as the A’s won just 69 games last season. By November, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Oakland rise on the list.

  1. Houston/San Antonio-  3.25

These two cities had to be paired together, as San Antonio’s NBA organization cannot be left out, and Houston is the closest city to them. With the Spurs and Rockets carrying the city, there’s not much to be giddy about. The Texans are simply terrible, and overpaid a below-average in Brock Osweiler. With nearly no body of work, yet money that would make even Donald Trump squirm, Houston will regret their decision to pay him so much. The Astros are up-and-coming, but underperformed with 84 wins last season. If the two NBA franchises can produce playoff runs, look for this pair of cities to rise on the monthly.

  1. Chicago- 3.25

Other than the Cubs being in the World Series, the city of Chicago is somewhat average. Yes, they do get the Blackhawks, who sit at third in the Western Conference, but the Bears are bad, and the White Sox and Bulls leave much to be desired. In college sports, Chicago doesn’t have much going for them, however they have a very broad college spectrum. Overall, the Bears hold this city back from being ranked higher.

  1. Toronto- 3.2

Last, and technically least on the list is a city outside the United States. Toronto houses just two professional teams, but both of them are pretty solid. The Blue Jays took a wild card spot and snuck into the playoffs, only to be beaten by an eventual World Series team in the Indians. Their basketball team isn’t too shabby, with the best backcourt in the NBA, besides Golden State. In the NHL, the Maple Leafs sit towards the bottom of the basement in the Atlantic Divsion, but it’s too early to write off any team in the NHL yet.

 

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“From Our House to Yours”

Why The NBA Needs A Franchise Tag

 

(http://www.huntingtonbuzz.tv/view_article.php?article_id=998)

(http://www.huntingtonbuzz.tv/view_article.php?article_id=998)

 

 

 

The NBA needs a franchise tag similar to the one in the NFL. It is as simple as that. Imagine Kevin Durant being stuck in Oklahoma City for at least one more season. The landscape within the NBA could be entirely different, had the Thunder been given the option to tag Durant.

If you have watched Sportscenter at all last month, you have seen them talking about the players who have been designated for a franchise tag trying to get a long term deal done in the NFL. The deal must have been done by July 15th at 4 P.M. EST.

In the NFL, a franchise is allowed to tag a player with the franchise tag. A franchise tag is a designation a team may apply to a player that is  scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The franchise tag binds the player to the team for at least another year. The tag is a valuable asset to the franchise, but the franchise tag can be tricky business. It really helps a team make sure they don’t lose a valuable player. At least for another year.

In most cases this is good but can be a bad thing too. A player may not be happy with getting tagged. If a player gets hurt during the year they are given the franchise tag it hurts their chances at signing a long term deal. This may cause a holdout or make a player decide to not play hard. There are pros and cons to a franchise tag, but I am positive that NBA owners and general managers wish they had the chance to use a franchise tag.

A franchise tag in the NBA would be a way to stop the formation of super teams. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was quoted saying, “I’ve read several stories suggesting that that’s something that the league wants, this notion of two super teams, that it’s a huge television attraction,” Silver said. “I don’t think it’s good for the league, just to be really clear.” The commissioner knows that a league full of bottom feeders is bad for business. The reason the NFL is loved is because of the parity within the league. The NBA has lost that since the formation of super teams.

(http://www.sportal.co.nz/nba/kevin-durant-warriors-adam-silver-super-teams/1ez5j8zodkgza1l6pgsyvxkj7t)

(http://www.sportal.co.nz/nba/kevin-durant-warriors-adam-silver-super-teams/1ez5j8zodkgza1l6pgsyvxkj7t)

If there had been a franchise tag in the summer of 2010 LeBron would have been stuck in Cleveland at least one more season. Cleveland could have worked out some kind of trade that year if LeBron was dead set on leaving. The Cavs also could have convinced LeBron to stay. Trades and signings could have been made after tagging Lebron to give him faith in the franchise.

The same could have happened with Kevin Durant this offseason. The Thunder could have tried and traded Durant after tagging him. They could have gotten something in return rather than watching him just walk away.  A long term deal could have been reached with the extra time that a franchise tag would provide.

The players have too much power to form super teams. Ever since LeBron and Bosh joined Miami other players have mimicked the move to try and compete. Adam Silver is correct in saying super teams are bad for the NBA.

I believe a simple addition of a franchise tag in the next collective bargaining agreement would really help the NBA franchises. It may cause a lockout, but it would be for the betterment of the product put on the court.

It hurts the players a bit, but even if it does, it only sets their plans to leave back by a year. I think it will also help the NBA regulate the formation of super teams. The NBA needs a franchise tag for the parity of the game. Franchise tags could be a simple solution to the death of competition.

 

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The Drought Is Over

(photo credit:By: Ryan Phillips)

(photo credit:By: Ryan Phillips)

Cleveland, it is time to Celebrate. The wait is over. 52 years of pain and suffering in the world of sports has come to an end. Cleveland is more than Believeland tonight. It is home to champions.

It all started six years ago LeBron left the Cavaliers organization and the city of Cleveland for the Miami Heat. The city and fans were devastated, heartbroken. His jersey was burned, and he was hated by his hometown. What made matters worse is that he won two championships for the Heat. The city of Cleveland was hurt, and believed those championships should have been theirs. In 2014 LeBron came back and promised he would bring his hometown a championship.

Last year he led the Cavs to the finals but lost to the Warriors in six games. Kevin Love got hurt in the first round and Kyrie Irving got hurt in game one of the finals so many people said the Warriors win was a fluke. Many said they would not have beat the Cavs if they were healthy. The Cavs also fired David Blatt in favor of Tyrone Lue. The pressure was mounting for Cleveland. This year they got a rematch with both teams healthy and this time LeBron delivered on his promise.

This game seven was one of the best games I can remember. The game went back and forth. There were countless ties and lead changes. There were breath taking moments. It was captivating. Epic. Entertaining. Riveting. Legendary. It had everything you could want in the final game of a championship.

The series had games that were blowouts but the series was still as close as it could ever get. After 27 quarters of the finals the total score was Warriors 686 points and Cavaliers 685 points. With two minutes and 50 seconds left in the game the score was 89-89. The game was tight.

At halftime the Warriors led 49-42 and were led by Draymond Green who had a first half to remember. He had 22 points and went 5-5 from the three point line. Steph Curry had a sub par showing for his standard and so did Klay Thompson. In the end Draymond Green’s performance wasn’t enough as the Cavaliers became the first team to come back down 3-1 in NBA Finals history.

LeBron finished with his usual stat line of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and got his seventh finals triple double. He was consistent with his play but Kyrie was the game changer.

It all started when Kyrie Irving took over in the third quarter scoring 12 points and bring the Cavs back into the game. After that the game was a nail biter the rest of the way. He also hit the game changing three pointer with 53 seconds left in the game that ultimately sealed the deal and helped deliver the city of Cleveland a championship.

Cleveland your time to celebrate is now. The drought is over.

Hogan’s Mock: Part 1 of 6

Today I release part one of my six part series analyzing the 2016 NFL Draft. Teams drafting 1-5 will be analyzed today, while the other 22 teams will be analyzed over the next few weeks. Each team will receive two levels of analysis; what I would do if I were their General Manager, and what I think that they will do on draft day.

  1. Tennessee Titians –

If I was the General Manager: Tennessee needs secondary help as well as offensive line help, but I wouldn’t want to draft either of those first overall. If you take a look at recent offensive linemen drafted first or second overall, you will see that the investment simply wasn’t worth it (Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, Jake Long). And if you look back at history no defensive back has ever been taken with the first overall draft choice. I believe that trend continues this year. I would first look to try and trade this pick. No single player in this draft matches the needs of this team in a way that screams first overall pick. I doubt any team in the NFL would want to make this trade with me; therefore, I would draft Laremy Tunsil with the first pick of the 2016 NFL draft. Last year the Titans drafted Marcus Mariota, and he showed signs of promise (until he got injured). In order to protect Mariota from getting hurt again, and open up lanes for their brand new running back, Demarco Murray, Laremy Tunsil is the obvious choice for me.

Who I think they will pick: Laremy Tunsil. I think they will pick him for the same reason I stated above, to protect Mariota and open up holes for Murray.

 

  1. Cleveland Browns –

If I was the General Manager: The list of failed quarterbacks in Cleveland is an anomaly. Cleveland finds a way to ruin every quarterback they draft. The Browns just signed Robert Griffin III, and seem to be set on moving forward with him. I don’t feel extremely confident that any of the top-tier quarterbacks would mesh well with Cleveland. I would then draft Laquon Treadwell with the second overall pick. In doing this Cleveland would get an extremely talented wide receiver who would fill the gap of Josh Gordon, who’s suspension has no end in sight. It would provide a much needed verticle threat for RGIII.

Who I think they will pick: DeForest Buckner. Cleveland is notorious for taking midlevel quarterbacks in the early first round, the most recent of which being Johnny Manziel. The quarterback position is now filled by Robert Griffin III, so I think this might be the year Cleveland passes on a Quaterback. They will instead look to aquire an effective pass rusher to go after Big Ben, Flacco, and Dalton. Buckner is extremely athletic and has very quick feet. His ability to get of the line so quick is why the Browns will take him her instead of the bull rushing Joey Bosa.

  1. San Diego Chargers –

If I was the General Manager: The offensive line for the Chargers is an absolute mess. The Chargers have had recent runs of success cut short because of trouble along the offensive line. Two years ago the Chargers had a legitimate chance at the AFC West division title, but when their offensive line experienced a little bit of injury turmoil, they fell apart. Assuming Laremy Tunsil doesn’t miraculously fall this far down, I would look to draft Ronnie Stanley. He would provide much needed help and stability along the offensive line, and he is as NFL ready as any prospect available in the draft at any position.

Who I think they will pick: Ronnie Stanley. There is no way around the fact their offensive line is absolutely trash. For the reasons I stated above, Ronnie Stanley should be the pick here.

  1. Dallas Cowboys –

If I was the General Manager: The Cowboys are in a unique position. They are drafting in the top five, but aren’t a bottom five team. Their two best players (Tony Romo, and Dez Bryant) were out for the majority of the season. Two years ago the Dallas Cowboys were a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They were able to be a contender because they could run the football extremely well, and they weren’t injured. They will be 100% healthy going into this season, but they lack a serious running back. I know they just signed Alfred Morris, but I think he is a better change of pace back than he is a starting running back. I would draft Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas needs to return to the power run game that made them so unbelievably good in 2014. Demarco Murray was incredible in 2014. He was the reason the Dallas Cowboys were one of the NFL’s most feared running games the NFL has seen in the recent years. Ezekiel Elliott is the best power runner available in this draft.

Who I think they will pick: Joey Bosa. Dallas will probably feel okay moving forward with the running backs that they have. I am not sure how Alfred Morris will do, but I do not feel he is the power runner that Dallas needs to return to 2014 form. Dallas will probably look to improve their defensive line and pass rush, and Joey Bosa is the best pass rusher in the draft and maybe even the best overall talent in the draft.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars –

If I was the General Manager: Here is a sentence I never thought I would say, “Jacksonville is set at skill positions on offense”. For the first time in a long time, Jacksonville can move into the NFL draft and not focus on offensive skill players. The Jaguars need help in the secondary and they desperately need a pass rusher. They have Dante Fowler coming back off injury, but it would be unfair to put all the pressure on Fowler to deliver quarterback pressure. I would draft Myles Jack. I think drafting Jack gives Jacksonville a golden opportunity to grab another pass rusher to go along side Fowler, and develop a defensive front to be reckoned with for years to come.

Who I think they will pick: Jalen Ramsey. I think a pass rusher is a great option here, but secondary is also a desperate need for the Jaguars. Jalen Ramsey is an extremely versatile athlete who can play safety or cornerback. This will go a long way in helping the Jaguars became a contender. Cannot go wrong with Ramsey or a pass rusher here.

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