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Sports Fan Playground 2014-15 NBA Preview – Cleveland Cavs

Wow, how things have changed in one city in the span of a year. This time last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers were thought to possibly be a playoff team if all of the right pieces fell in place. Well, with the team hampered by injuries to star point guard Kyrie Irving & big man Anderson Varejao & not having any real big time scorers in their lineup with the exception of Dion Waiters, who isn’t a consistent 30 points per game guy, the Cavs suffered – to the point where they gained the #1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

LeBron James Cleveland Cavs

LeBron James returned back to the Cleveland Cavs on July 11 after leading the Miami Heat to their 4th straight NBA Finals. When LeBron signed, Kevin Love also resigned along with other top role players Mike Miller, Ray Allen & others.

Well, fast forward to July 2014. LeBron James has decided to take meetings in Las Vegas with the Miami Heat organization as well as the Cleveland Cavs (the latter we didn’t know about), & the people feel as though there is big support that LeBron is going to return home to his home state & to the area where he truly became a star initially.

Over the next several days, people are starting to speculate over what is really going on, then the reports start to come out that LeBron is moving his stuff from Florida up to his home in Akron & the moving trucks are being followed by all kinds of media, all the way to his home.

Then, its time for the decision & Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated had the scoop the whole time that LeBron was going to come home, even pinning the actual story as said by LeBron in LeBron’s own words.

Then it happened. James was shown back in a Cleveland uniform & all of a sudden, Kevin Love comes over from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Love, who was very disgruntled in Minnesota because of being a big time talent that the organization wasn’t putting enough great players around to get him into the playoffs, immediately stated that he wanted to play with LeBron as soon as possible. So the Cavs traded their #1 pick, Andrew Wiggins & last year’s top pick in Anthony Bennett back to Minnesota for Love.

Along with role players such as Mike Miller & Shawn Marion, the roster was basically set. The Cavs were & are ready to win an NBA Championship this year, which I truly believe that they will. Let’s break down the Cavs by position.

Small Forward

Obviously, LeBron is going to be the #1 option for the small forward position, & probably any other position he chooses! But when LeBron goes for the rest, Love has the quickness & ability to get into the small forward position & can be a mismatch offensively for most players who aren’t used to having to go out to the perimeter to match up with a guy who is 6″10″ who can drive to the basket as well as shoot the jumper consistently.

The combination of Miller & Marion will be great complements to keep LeBron fresh during those second quarter & third quarter breaks & are also able to knock down the 3s on a consistent basis. In the case of Marion, he also brings a veteran defensive presence who has the ability to play long & annoy small forwards & some shooting guards.

For the playoff run, James Jones, formerly of the Miami Heat, will be available to be that consistent threat off of the bench. Don’t expect Jones to see much PT during the season, he honestly isn’t going to be needed at all. His value is not going to be noticed during regular season games. The Cavs will be able to coast to a high seed in the NBA Eastern Conference without him. But in those matchups in the conference semifinals & further, having that veteran leadership & more championship experience is going to be vital to helping some of the younger Cavs who haven’t had the chance to taste winning will be important to have on the court & in the locker room.

 Power Forward

Love & Tristan Thompson will make for a great combination at the power forward position. Love will be the starter, but with all that will be on his shoulders to deliver after LeBron most likely sets him up, Thompson can come in & has developed into a strong rebounder & solid defensive presence down in the post, an area where Love isn’t the best right now.

Brendan Haywood could be used at the power forward position at times, but don’t expect it too much. Love & Thompson should absolutely flourish in this area & with being able to play off of Anderson Varejao’s defensive ability & Love’s ability to stretch the bigs around the league to the perimeter, an area where most power forwards don’t like to guard because of their general slow play, the Cavs will provide formidable opposition down in the post.

Center

Anderson Varejao will continue to be the dominant player in the middle for the Cavs & is there solely for defense. With his great defensive ability & his ability to get in the middle of a scuffle & be the muscle & attitude for the team, he will be the protector for the Big 3 & will be able to enjoy the fruits of rebounds & offensive chances that will be set up from the double-teams & intense attention to Love, LeBron & Irving.

Haywood is going to be the back up & if he can bring in around 12 points and 6 rebounds per game backing up Varejao, he will be a success. With Haywood being a big body in the low post, it will allow for him to draw fouls & pick up on the lack of offensive firepower that Varejao brings to the table.

Point Guard

Kyrie Irving is clearly the future of the NBA & of the Cavs franchise. He will be the man who will be charged with keeping the team together on the court & the addition of LeBron probably doesn’t mean more to anyone else outside of Irving.

Irving has been a great player in the league, but has had some inconsistencies at times & if healthy, he can be one of the best, if not the best, point guard in the entire NBA. Irving is part of the new wave of great point guards who are making a statement in the NBA, along with Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors & Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers. Derrick Rose would be included in that conversation but he has to stay healthy.

James will teach Irving how to be a great leader on & off the court & while many haven’t questioned Irving much, his ability to replace LeBron was questioned for the first 3 years of his career. That is no longer a question now that the Cleveland fans have both together on the same team.

Irving’s backup, A.J. Price from Connecticut, can be a wildcard in the rotation. Price has decent quickness & can score nicely. Price & Irving will be spoiled with so much talent around them that they should have no problem distributing the ball all across the court. Price is clearly not the defensive threat with his hands that Irving is, but he will learn quickly & while he may not see a ton of time this year, he could be a crucial piece come playoff time when bench play is going to be essential. If you are playing in fantasy basketball, take a strong look at A.J. Price.

Shooting Guard

The Cavaliers are very long at the 2-guard position, with all of the shooting guards listed on their roster at 6-4 or taller. Dion Waiters will be the starter at the 2 & has to show off early in the season & show that he can be consistent throughout the entire year.

Many people thought that Waiters was going to be one of the players dealt to Minnesota for Kevin Love because he hasn’t fully fit into the Cavs system as many had hoped, even though he is a great driver to the basket & knock down the 3. Having the new Cavs setup should make Waiters one of the most dangerous shooters in the league with the wide open shots he will see on a nightly basis.

Joe Harris from Virginia showed off great skills in the NCAA Tournament against Michigan State last year & proved that he can be a strong backup scorer with little pressure on him. He will not be asked to contribute much this year as I expect Harris to be “redshirted” & learn from the veterans for most of the season. Towards the end of the year, we could see more of Harris spelling some veterans, but I won’t hold my breath.

 

Overall, the Cavs are a loaded lineup & even though everyone is a fan of the Chicago Bulls right now, the Cavs should be able to lock down many teams around the league, similar to the Bulls style & if they can show that they can get past the Bulls in the playoffs, the West doesn’t have a team, in my opinion, that can match up against the Cavs for a 7-game series, hence why I will again predict that the curse of no championships in Cleveland will end this season.

 

 

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2014 Black Friday Deals at Sports Fan Playground – Part 1

This is the 2014 Sports Fan Playground Black Friday guide. This is the second consecutive year of doing the Black Friday guide, which will include items from the sports apparel world in the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA & the NBA.

While the Sports Fan Playground was & is primarily built on those categories, recently, we have added many items that help to make those products better, including shoes, nutrition supplements, sports equipment, sports accessories & much more – all available at low prices.

One of the biggest phenomenons in all of exercise & sports for that matter, are workout videos including the P90X & the entire Beachbody collection, the new Tapout XT system that focuses on MMA training, which is a very popular style of training right now with the popularity of the UFC & the overall culture of mixed martial arts.

Another big component of any great workout is nutrition & the Sports Fan Playground has taken care of that area by having some of the strongest collections of nutritional supplements available for testosterone boosting, multivitamins, muscle boosting, weight gaining, pre & post-workout recovery items, endurance & energy items as well as items for fat burning & weight loss.

If that wasn’t enough, for the first time, the store has brought back top quality electronics products including TVs, video games for the Xbox One, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 & other popular gaming consoles, unlocked cell phones including the iPhone 6 & home appliances including refrigerators, air conditioners, heating units & power tools.

With all of that said, here is part 1 the 2014 Sports Fan Playground Black Friday Guide.

Alabama Crimson Tide Hooded Sweatshirt

Alabama Crimson Tide sweatshirt

Alabama Crimson Tide hooded sweatshirt available at the Sports Fan Playground for $26.98. Alabama is ranked in the top 5 of the college football polls right now as they fight for a spot in the new college football playoff, which debuts this season.

NoXplode Pre-Workout Fruit Punch

BSN NoXplode Fruit Punch

The BSN NoXplode Fruit Punch allows for users to gain lean muscle mass to prepare for the their workout by taking the supplement prior to working out at the gym or at home.

Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein Gold Standard – 5 Pound

Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein

The Optimum Nutrition whey protein powder is available at the Sports Fan Playground for $49.99, on sale from $82.45. Whey protein is crucial for gaining & obtaining lean muscle mass during a workout period.

UFC Train Fight Repeat Hooded Sweatshirt

UFC Sweatshirt

UFC train, fight, repeat sweatshirts are available for as low as $25.99 .

San Francisco 49ers Queen Bedding Set

San Francisco 49ers bedding

The San Francisco 49ers queen bedding set is available for $125.29 at the Sports Fan Playground store. The set comes with two pillowcases, two pairs of sheets, and a comforter.

Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford Game Jersey

Matthew Stafford Jersey

Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford game authentic jersey is available for $104.99 at the Sports Fan Playground. Stafford has led the Lions to a 6-2 record at the halfway point of the season . Even with injuries around him, Stafford has become one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL this season, lowering his interception totals & becoming a stronger leader on the field for the Lions.

Detroit Lions Authentic Football Helmet

Detroit Lions Helmet

This Detroit Lions authentic helmet is on sale for $205.00, down from $366.00 at the Sports Fan Playground store.

Chicago Bears NFL Knit Beanie Hat

Chicago Bears Hat

Chicago Bears knit one-size beanie hat is available at the Sports Fan Playground for $6.99, down from $15.00.

New York Rangers Hockey Fleece Crewneck Sweatshirt

New York Rangers Sweatshirt

The New York Rangers crewneck sweatshirt is available for $39.95, on sale from $60.00 at the Sports Fan Playground store during the current Black Friday sale.

New York Rangers Parking Sign

New York Rangers Parking Sign

The New York Rangers NHL parking sign is available for $5.50 during the Black Friday sale at the Sports Fan Playground.

Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk Jersey

Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk Jersey

Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk Premier Jersey is on sale for as low as $69.99 at the Sports Fan Playground Detroit Red Wings store.

Denver Broncos Peyton Manning Jersey

Denver Broncos Peyton Manning Jersey

Denver Broncos Peyton Manning Jersey available for $59.99 during the Black Friday sale at Sports Fan Playground. Peyton Manning recently broke the all-time career touchdown mark earlier this season against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football.

Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo Premier Jersey

Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo Jersey

Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo premier jersey is available for $49.98, down from $119.00. The Cowboys quarterback has been playing some of the best football of his career, leading the Cowboys to a 6-1 record.

Cleveland Browns Johnny Manziel NFL Jersey

Cleveland Browns Johnny Manziel Jersey

The Cleveland Browns Johnny Manziel NFL jersey is available as low as $58.00 at the Sports Fan Playground. Johnny Manziel is one of the first-round draft picks for the Browns in 2014. Along with Brian Hoyer, the Browns have been able to get their team back on the path to the playoffs.

Detroit Red Wings 50 x 60 Fleece Blanket

Detroit Red Wings Blanket

The Detroit Red Wings fleece blanket measures 50 x 60 & is on sale at the Sports Fan Playground for $12.73, down from $42.94.

Los Angeles Dodgers Yasiel Puig Women’s Jersey

Yasiel Puig Dodgers Jersey

Los Angeles Dodgers Yasiel Puig women’s home jersey is available for $89.90, 10% off of the retail price, at the Sports Fan Playground. Puig has become one of the most exciting players in Major League Baseball with his brash, aggressive style & his unlimited potential to be one of the best players in the history of the Dodgers franchise.

Madden NFL 15 – Xbox One

Madden NFL 15 Xbox One

Madden NFL 15 on the Xbox One system is on sale for $34.92, down from $59.99, at the Sports Fan Playground store.

NHL 15 – Xbox One

NHL 15 Xbox One

NHL 15 for the Xbox One is available for 25% off – $45.19, down from $59.99, at the Sports Fan Playground store.

LeBron James Youth Road Cleveland Cavs NBA Jersey

LeBron James Youth Jersey

LeBron james Youth Cleveland Cavs Jersey available for $49.99 at the Sports Fan Playground during the Black Friday sale.

Kobe Bryant NBA Los Angeles Lakers Replica Jersey

Kobe Bryant Jersey

Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers replica jersey is available as low as $39.99 at the Sports Fan Playground Black Friday sale. Bryant is coming back from an ACL injury to lead the Lakers this coming season.

Alabama Crimson Tide Fan Cave Wood Sign

Alabama Crimson Tide Sign

Support the Alabama Crimson Tide with the fan cave wood sign for the home, on sale for Black Friday at $10.28 at the Sports Fan Playground store.

USC Trojans T-Shirt

USC Trojans t-shirt

USC Trojans t-shirt available for $21.99 at the Sports Fan Playground store.

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Detroit Tigers NEED To Sign Joe Maddon

News is just coming down that former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon has opted out of his contract with the Rays for next season & is now a complete free agent to sign wherever he may choose.

Quite possibly, the best situation could be with the Detroit Tigers.

Maddon has been beloved in Tampa Ray for the years he was down there. He took a franchise that was basically seen as useless & couldn’t draw any interest whatsoever into a team who was a playoff contender on a consistent basis & got to the World Series in 2008 before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. Maddon keeps a fun clubhouse & players absolutely love playing for him because he understands the players & understands that baseball is not more important than having fun & enjoying life.

Joe Maddon

Former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the team today. Could he possibly be headed to the Detroit Tigers?

At the same time, however, he knows how to manage with the best in the game & his situational managing is some of the best in all of baseball. Maddon is clearly the biggest free agent manager on the market & let’s be honest, most Tigers fans are just not sold on the idea that Brad Ausmus could be the long-term solution as the leader of the Tigers organization.

Ausmus was learning on the fly throughout the entire season, & while he did have to deal with star players recovering from major injuries in Justin Verlander & Miguel Cabrera, many Tigers fans were hard on Ausmus for how he didn’t always make the right decisions with the bullpen, particularly when Detroit Tigers closer Joe Nathan was struggling throughout the season until the end when he got his game back together.

Maddon could have those same issues, but with Verlander & Cabrera expected to be back to their usual forms & the fact that Maddon has the overall experience in winning & getting to the big series, the Detroit Tigers – particularly GM Dave Dombrowski – would be absolutely insane to not call up Maddon & gauge interest in a possible signing here.

Maddon has been rumored to not be heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where the new GM in Los Angeles came from the Rays organization. If Maddon isn’t making the trip to Los Angeles, which could be a tough situation with the big egos & some of the unrest that reportedly was taking place there, along with the craziness of managing in one of the biggest sports markets in the country, Detroit could be a great destination for Maddon, especially since he will have the chance to manage David Price this coming season.

Price, who played under Maddon in Tampa Bay before he was dealt to the Tigers during midseason, could possibly be persuaded into signing long-term with the Tigers organization after he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season if Maddon is here & is leading the team in a strong direction.

This is only going to get hotter as time goes on & as a devoted Tigers fan, I am very well aware that the window for this group of Tigers players is closing & closing fast. If this team doesn’t win a World Series in the next 2-3 years, the window could be closed & the idea of rebuilding could come into play with an older Verlander, Cabrera & Victor Martinez.

Keep your eye out.

 

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Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State SEC apparel on sale at the Sports Fan Playground

This season, the SEC West division has been absolutely dominant in the pantheon of college football & the Sports Fan Playground has new stores up for the top teams in the SEC West, including the Alabama Crimson Tide, Ole Miss Runnin Rebels & the current #1 team in the country, the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

This past weekend, Alabama absolutely destroyed Texas A&M, 59-0, on the back of future NFL #1 pick Amari Cooper & T.J. Yeldon running through the A&M defense. This was Alabama’s bounce back game after barely winning against Arkansas & losing to Ole Miss two weeks ago.

Ole Miss & Mississippi State are on a major collision course to slug it out in the Egg Bowl in November, a game that could decide the winner of the SEC & to possibly get into the new college football playoff, which debuts this year.

Alabama Crimson Tide Store

The new Alabama Crimson Tide store has now launched at the SEC store at store.sportsfan1984.com.

For more information, check out the Sports Fan Playground special items & other areas on the internet where you can learn more about the website as well as other opinions in sports -

Hottest WAGS in Sports 2013

Hottest WAGS in Sports 2014

Hottest WWE, TNA Divas in History

Learn about the Sports Fan Playground at Dell, Amazon & Forbes

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NFL Review – Week 7 – Peyton Manning Is The Greatest

When the next few pieces I write about regarding the NFL in week 7 are published, you will understand a couple of things – Peyton Manning is the best of all-time, the Detroit Lions are for real; so are the Dallas Cowboys & the Oakland Raiders along with the San Francisco 49ers are done. With that said, here is the Sports Fan Playground review of the NFL for week 7.

Peyton Manning Breaks Brett Favre Touchdown Record. In Style.

On Sunday Night Football, the biggest story of the week – and NFL history – unfolded as Peyton Manning broke the legendary Brett Favre’s NFL touchdown record for a career with his 4 touchdown passes, beating the San Francisco 49ers, who are having major problems of their own, 42-17, in a game that was clearly decided in about the first 10 minutes of the game.

Peyton Manning Touchdown Record

Peyton Manning broke Brett Favre’s all-time touchdown record on Sunday night in a big win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Many people will always say that Manning can’t be the greatest of all time because of his inability to win in the NFL playoffs, which is funny because he does have a SuperBowl ring that he won in SuperBowl XLI when the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears. Manning has led the Colts & the Broncos to the conference title games before & yes, he only has one SuperBowl ring on his record in 3 appearances, but at least he has been 3 times. Ask Dan Marino, Jim Kelly & Dan Fouts if they would like to have even the chance to have one SuperBowl ring. Marino went to the big game early on in his career & never got back. Kelly went 4 times & didn’t get the job done & Fouts was a great passer but didn’t get to a SuperBowl.

For Manning, this accomplishment is extra special, especially when you consider that the man almost didn’t come back to the NFL because of a severe neck injury that took out his 2011 season & ended his career in the Colts organization. He believed in Denver Broncos President John Elway when Elway recruited Manning to be the new face of the Broncos franchise, almost eclipsing the great career that Elway had in the Mile High city.

People can put Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers & Andrew Luck into the conversation into who is the best in the game today, but no player has ever had the impact on whether a team was successful or not has Manning has had on the Colts & on the Broncos. Manning calls his own plays, you rarely hear about the offensive coordinator in Denver. Any team trusts Manning to run their organization.

100% of the time – that’s a great business decision for any coach or executive.

 

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NFL Review – Week 6 – Detroit Lions Defense is Dominant

The Detroit Lions have been an enigma in the NFL for many years. It is true that the team doesn’t have a playoff win since 1991 & 1 since 1957, & the team can let people down from time to time, but this Lions team is far different than the great offensive teams of the past.

They are winning games based on defensive efforts. Let me repeat this……….THE DETROIT LIONS ARE WINNING GAMES WITH DEFENSE.

As a Lions fan, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have guessed that this defense would be ranked #1 in the NFL by the end of week 6, but this is a real defensive effort that the team is putting together & its not a fluke either. The Lions are able to get great pressure from their front four, led by star defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh. Suh, who many in Detroit have been annoyed with in the past for his antics & some of the ways he treats the local media, has been every bit of the defensive force that the team felt he would be when he was drafted #2 overall by Detroit in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Ndamukong Suh

Ndamukong Suh has been an absolute monster on the defensive line for the Detroit Lions, leading the way in stopping the running game & helping get great pressure on quarterbacks through pass rushes.

Suh is able to get an amazing amount of pressure up the middle & is a rare breed in that he can play extremely well against both the run & the pass, getting great pass rushes right against the guards & getting great leverage to get to the quarterback. This great effort could be because Suh is in a contract year & there have been reports that Suh may want to leave Detroit after the season for one of the New York teams, but he also has to understand that he has the opportunity to be on one of the truly elite defensive units in all of the NFL.

But, Suh hasn’t been the only star on that Lions defense. His defensive tackle partner, Nick Fairley, has been a playmaker, especially since he has gotten his weight issues together & is in full playing shape. The Lions organization refused to extend Fairley’s contract deal this past offseason, which has been seen by many has a sign that it was time for Fairley to prove to the organization that he was worth a first-round pick in 2011, & he has shown that clearly.

The heart & core of this Lions team has been their front seven, which many people had expected would be the case going into the season, but even the secondary has stepped up quite a bit. The Lions have been getting turnovers at key points in games, which typically does not happen with this franchise. Yes, I know that the teams they have played and defeated didn’t have an offense that was ranked in the top 10, but you have to beat who is on your schedule, no matter how hard or easy the schedule is because in reality, in the NFL, there are no easy victories against any team.

Where do I see the Lions going? I can see where they are a true playoff team. They have shown that they can beat the Packers & even though the Packers aren’t the same offense as they have been  in the past, their offensive line is not strong enough to handle the Lions front seven. The Vikings have absolutely no offensive firepower on their team & the Lions just handled their offensive line to the tune of 8 sacks & 3 interceptions.

The Bears will be the best offensive unit the team will go against in the division all year & the offensive line is still suspect in Chicago. The Bears have more weapons on offense in the tune of Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall & quarterback Jay Cutler, but the Bears offensive line is still suspect & the true test of who wins this game will be decided with that defensive line play.

Keep your eye out for the Lions on defense. If this unit can keep up their play, this is easily a SuperBowl contender.

While you are reading the stories here at the Sports Fan Playground, check out the hottest women in sports category for some of the hottest WAGS in sports right now.

 

 

 

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Detroit Tigers Need Complete Reset – Starting With Brad Ausmus

Yup, we are back to regular posts now, thank you for all of the love & support as we have been going through some major updates over the last few weeks regarding the site & the Sports Fan Playground store.

Now, back to business, & the biggest disappointment of the 2014 baseball season, the Detroit Tigers. As I say this, I am a major Tigers fan, but even I had a hard time finding the full positives in the 2014 season from many different perspectives & view points. The team lost to the Baltimore Orioles in 3 games in the American League Division Series. It is the earliest that the Tigers have been eliminated in the playoffs in 3 years & is a complete wake-up call to the organization to make some changes – at least it should be.

The Tigers Went As Far As They Could Under Jim Leyland.

The Tigers are an organization that doesn’t make changes to their culture very easily, but one thing that the organization has tended to be strong at is listening to their fans & understanding their frustration of possibly being the next Atlanta Braves – full of talent, but no world championships. The Tigers have not won a World Series since 1984, & with owner Mike Ilitch getting older, the team would desperately want to win it for Mr. Ilitch, who has done so much to make the Tigers a legitimate organization for the last 8 years since their surprise World Series run in 2006. That run happened to take place under tenured manager Jim Leyland.

Leyland had quite a bit of traction & experience, leading the Pirates & Marlins to the World Series in his career, so many people didn’t question his actions early in his time with the Tigers, but in 2013, the team did not get past the eventual World Series Champion Boston Red Sox & consequently, Leyland stepped down & the team brought in a new face to the helm. A face that was seen as someone who could be a fresh voice to the organization & possibly a way to get to get a new infusion of energy into the team. Many people wanted & speculated on a variety of names of who could be the new manager of the Tigers. All kinds of names were thrown around – Mike Hargrove, Bruce Bochy, Kirk Gibson, & many other people who have experience in the field.

The Brad Ausmus Era Begins.

Instead, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski went with the person that absolutely no one knew anything about as a manager in Brad Ausmus. Ausmus is a long time MLB catcher for various teams, including the Tigers for a stint. Ausmus clearly has the baseball knowledge & smarts to be a Major League Baseball manager, but he was missing the experience.

Detroit Tigers Brad Ausmus

Brad Ausmus introduced as the Detroit Tigers manager.

But, because of Dombrowski’s history & his ability to find great talent & put together a team that was a consistent contender for the World Series, the fans of the Detroit Tigers but their trust in Dombrowski & in Ausmus that maybe is the type of manager who can gain the respect of a veteran squad, only a season after being an active MLB player.

In theory, the team had a good year, they won the American League Central Division, a division that did not have to be as difficult as it ended up being, especially after taking out the Kansas City Royals 13 out of 19 times during the regular season. But there were many times during that year that people had some interesting things to say about the managerial decisions that Ausmus would make & the unwavering loyalty he would make to his players, which is great – accept when they are costing games that the team would end up needing down the stretch of the regular season.

The Detroit Tigers Bullpen Has To Change – No Ifs, Ands or Buts.

Ausmus showed strong loyalty to the Detroit Tigers bullpen all throughout the season, the same bullpen that cost the Tigers a trip to the World Series last season after having great starting pitching all year long & a Cy Young campaign from Max Scherzer.

During the season, many times closer Joe Nathan should have easily have been replaced for other options in the bullpen, whether it was Al Albuerqerque, Joakim Soria when he became a Tiger, or someone else. Nathan was not automatic when he came into the game & even with blowing a few saves during the season, Ausmus stuck with him & refused to make change until the team’s season was at its breaking point.

Not everything was all on Brad Ausmus, however. I won’t use this as strictly an Ausmus-bashing session (but trust me, we will get back to him soon enough). Ace pitcher Justin Verlander did not have a great season, won 15 games, but that’s par for the course for Verlander, considered one of the best pitchers in the industry & a possible Hall-of-Famer down the line. It was revealed during the season that Verlander & Miguel Cabrera, quite possibly the best hitter in the game, both had core muscle surgery last offseason & neither were never quite right throughout the year.

Many fans have said that Verlander was not only fighting the injury, but was also distracted by his relationship with actress/model Kate Upton. It may be a folk tale, but it seems as though when the relationship is strong, Verlander has had down years & when they weren’t actively dating, Verlander was back to being his dominant self. Verlander had a strong showing in the playoffs, but many can argue that Verlander did not deserve to start in game 2 because he had not earned the right to pitch due to his record, that Ausmus was making a decision based on his career achievements, as opposed to his current record.

Back to Brad Ausmus. Ausmus led a team that was already geared towards winning in the playoffs back into the tournament, which is great and fine, but during the season, a major component was not addressed & it was the severe lack of a bullpen presence. Soria was brought in to help sure up that area, but more times than not, Soria wasn’t himself & when the bullpen continued to implode at points throughout the season, Ausmus did not make the proper moves to keep his team in position to win those 5-10 games that could have been a big help in having home field advantage & maybe give the Tigers a more advantageous matchup in the playoffs.

Let’s be honest, Ausmus is a young manager who still has so much to learn about the business, but this Detroit Tigers team may not be the team that has the time to help a new manager along if it means that the window could close on winning a championship. This team can not waste Verlander, Scherzer, David Price, Cabrera, Victor Martinez & other top players who are either in their prime or possibly ready to be out of their prime. In that case, Ausmus does not need to be the manager of this team. I think it is important to keep him in the organization, but a true veteran needs to be the leader of a veteran lineup.

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New SEC, Florida State, Notre Dame Stores at Sports Fan Playground

The Sports Fan Playground store has been undergoing major changes over the last couple of months & we thank you for being patient with us while we are taking care of those changes. We are able to announce now that some of our teams are now available for shopping in their respective stores – the stores for the Florida State Seminoles, Notre Dame Fighting Irish & the entire SEC.

The items available include t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats & much more, all at some of the lowest prices available online. For the SEC, the Sports Fan Playground has apparel available for the entire league, including Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida & others.

Notre Dame flag

Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish flag is available for $9.00 at the Sports Fan Playground Notre Dame store.

At Florida State, the school has many items available commemorating their 2014 National Championship season in which they defeated an SEC school in Auburn to win their first championship since 2000.

Alabama Crimson Tide parking sign

Alabama Crimson Tide parking sign on sale for $5.92, down from $25 at the Sports Fan Playground store.

With Notre Dame, they are a brand in itself. The team has been strong all season & with the rebirth basically of Everett Goldston, the Fighting Irish look like a team that could surprise people in college football.

For more information, check out the Sports Fan Playground store at store.sportsfan1984.com.

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Devin Hester Shows Why He is a Hall Of Famer

On Thursday Night, the Atlanta Falcons basically took the Tampa Bay Bucs behind the woodshed & beat the daylights out of them, 56-14. It wasn’t that close……….

However, Devin Hester of the Falcons broke Deion Sanders’ record for most punt returns for touchdown in the history of the NFL with 20. It could have been more but penalties called back some of the action.

Hester was the best offensive option for the Chicago Bears during the Lovie Smith years when they went to the SuperBowl. Everyone who was & is an NFL fan knows that Hester was & is something special & showed that he is truly an NFL Hall of Famer. The emotion & the special moment that he shared with Sanders on the set of NFL Network after the game showed that Hester is a Hall-of-Fame person in many ways.

In a week where we hear nothing but negatives about how guys are committing so many heinous acts of violence against women & children, its finally nice to see a story & a moment that shows what is really good about sports. Congrats, Mr. Hester. See you in Canton.

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The NFL Is Full of Boys, Not Men Unfortunately

The National Football League, also known as the NFL, has always been known for having the best athletes in the world in its organization, from the top all the way down. It was considered to be one of the most manly activities that you could do in terms of being an athlete & or in society as a whole.

The last two weeks, as we have all heard, have been some of the worst times in the history of the league. We all know about the incidents with Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, Ray McDonald & Greg Hardy.

5 men. Allegedly. But for this piece, we will say 5 men who supposedly have been allowed to be in the NFL & who are supposed to act like men, but real men are supposed to be role models for the rest of society & for those who look up to them. These 5 men have been right in the face of an issue that we tend to overlook in the United States until this week – abuse.

In Adrian Peterson’s case, he is accused of child abuse against his 4-year-old son. In Goodell’s case, its abuse of power. In Rice, Hardy & McDonald’s case, its abuse against women. Why is it that we are having these issues about simply being immature in that these men want to throw their power around when they are in a status in our country that wields an immense amount of power in society?

I will not go into the situations individually, but I would pose one question to the NFL & the men that were mentioned – What do you do when you have young men, women & parents look up to you & want to be like you guys as they get older? If you are all going to act like complete bitches, what is there for the future of the league?