David Ortiz has become Major League Baseball’s all-time designated hitter.In a game against the Seattle Mariners Wednesday night, Big Papi smashed a double to left-center field, which earned the 37-year-old Boston Red Sox slugger’s 1,689th hit as a designated hitter. The hit helped Ortiz surpass Harold Baines as the all-time leader among DHs.“It’s good to be mentioned with some of the greatest hitters that ever played the game,” Ortiz said. “I used to love to watch Edgar. He was a wonderful hitter. Wonderful hitters and when I first came up watching those guys. Now for your name to get mentioned next to theirs, it’s a wonderful thing.”
Antonio Smith’s appeal of the three-week suspension handed down by the NFL was denied Friday. According to a source, the Houston Texans defensive end will miss Week 1 of the regular season and lose roughly $400,000 of his salary.Smith was suspended last week after ripping Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito’s helmet off and swinging it at his head during Houston’s second preseason game.“In general, I feel disappointed, disappointed in myself that I was able to let him get to me in the way that he did that frustrated me, when knowing that that’s his whole game, that’s what he bases his skill level off of, and I let him take me down a road that led me into that path,” Smith told KRIV-TV in Houston.“Initially, I was full of frustration,” Smith said. “I swung the helmet, but I didn’t swing the helmet to hit Richie Incognito. If I was going to swing the helmet to hit Richie Incognito, it wouldn’t have been hard. He’s right there close. You can see how low the helmet was and how tight I brought it to my body.”Smith will continue to practice with the team while on suspension—which officially ends Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Dec. 20, 2016), we debate whether we’ve reached peak bowl season in college football — and discuss ways to reform the system. Next, following the benching of Houston Texans QB Brock Osweiler this weekend, we take a look at his stats and ponder whether he would have been better off with the Denver Broncos. Finally, ’tis the season: with an assist from Neil Paine and IMDb, we try to apply Elo ratings to Christmas movies. Plus, a significant digit on how a celebration ruined the Celebration Bowl for North Carolina Central.Links to what we discussed:Heading into the start of bowl season, Neil Paine attempted to grade the many, many, many college football matchups.Back in April, Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee argued that there is no such thing as too many bowl games.ESPN’s Stats & Information took a look at the numbers that led to the sidelining of Brock Osweiler this weekend.Before Osweiler and Trevor Siemian faced off against each other this October, ESPN took stock of the pros and cons of each quarterback.If you’d like some more Christmas movie suggestions, this IMDB keyword search will give you some ideas.Significant Digit: 15, the number of yards lost on an excessive celebration penalty that was enforced at the Celebration Bowl — and that decided the game. With a couple minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, NC Central scored a 39-yard touchdown against Grambling State. The receiver who scored removed his helmet in celebration, resulting in a penalty that moved the extra point attempt back. NC Central missed the extra point and wound up losing, 10-9. Embed Code FiveThirtyEight More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed
When the pingpong balls came to a rest after Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery, it was the end of an era for the league. Starting next season, the lottery’s distribution of odds based on team records will change — the first tweak to the system in 25 years. The jackpot-winning Phoenix Suns came out on top in this season’s historic tankfest, but from this moment on, the already-long odds of burning a franchise to the ground and building it back up will only get longer.At least, that’s the effect the league is hoping the new lottery rules will have. How much of a difference will the changes to the lottery system really make, though? And will it be enough to discourage teams from tanking?To work out some of the new math facing NBA teams, let’s turn to our draft-value chart, which measures the expected value over replacement player (VORP) that teams can expect out of a given draft pick in his first five pro seasons. (We’ll convert our chart from last summer to wins over replacement1Multiplying VORP by 2.7. to better position the differences in a real-world context.) The new lottery will definitely change teams’ incentives in the right direction. It makes having a bottom-five record less valuable and improves the fortunes of teams in the rest of the lottery (particularly the Nos. 8 and 9 picks, which gain the most value under the new system). But it’s worth wondering if a change of about two-thirds of a win per season will really be enough to make a big dent in teams’ willingness to tank.In fairness, the effect appears larger when you consider the outsize potential of top picks to become stars. Using WORP as a guide, there was about a 34 percent chance of landing an All Star-level player2Defined as a player who produced at least 30 WORP in his first five NBA seasons. if a team had the worst record going into the 2018 lottery; those odds will fall to 27 percent under next year’s system. Seven percentage points doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but the NBA is so star-driven that any reduction in the probability of getting a franchise-altering player hurts. With the ability to get those kinds of players also increasing for teams who finish with, say, the league’s eighth-worst record, it should eventually help the anti-tanking effort by funneling more big stars to teams who don’t completely throw their seasons away.So congratulations, Phoenix: You’re the last team who’ll take advantage of the old odds to help grab a potential star. The league’s changes might not be extreme enough to fully discourage teams from engaging in Sixers-style tear downs, but they’re a start. And after the race to the bottom that played out down the stretch of the 2017-18 season, such changes are more than welcome.Check out our latest NBA predictions. As I wrote last year:Early in the draft, the curve is steep. The average No. 2 pick is worth only about 80 percent as many VORP in his first five seasons as the average No. 1, and players only get less valuable from there.This is part of why teams spend so much time and energy gunning for the worst record — and (until next year) the highest odds of picking No. 1. The chances of getting an impact player from the top pick are much better than at any other slot in the draft. But they’re not perfect; there’s a lot of luck involved in picking the player who’ll have the best career. Add in the extra randomness of getting the lottery balls to bounce your way, and the difference between the expected value of having the NBA’s worst record under the old system and next year’s new one is just 3.4 total wins over the first five years of a player’s career.
Expectations run high at Ohio State. Just ask Jim Tressel. The Ohio State football coach, under unprecedented scrutiny after another big-game letdown, is feeling the heat for the first time during his nine-year tenure in Columbus.“You felt like it’s been a nine-year honeymoon?” Tressel asked a reporter. “You must not have liked your honeymoon.”The Buckeyes have lost their past six games against opponents ranked among the nation’s top five. If the Buckeyes are to match the lofty expectations set forth by years of tradition, then the days of being the big boys’ punching bag must end.A key to anything in life is adjusting to external forces, or, in football, one’s opponent. Coaches make changes in personnel and scheme at halftime. These modifications may or may not work. When they don’t pan out for a period of three years — Ohio State last knocked off a top-five adversary in 2006 — more grand-scale fine-tuning must take place.The unrest in Buckeye nation comes from the lack of adjustments from Tressel and his staff. Football is undergoing a temporary face lift, especially on the college level. All sports endure periods of varied gameplay, from the recent home run era in baseball to the early days of basketball when centers dominated the ball.Now, the name of the game in college football is speed and athleticism. Spread offenses, popping up around the nation like unwelcome groundhogs, are forcing defenses to get smaller and quicker. Athletic, versatile quarterbacks are the latest fad.OSU has its multi-faceted signal caller in Terrelle Pryor, the No. 1 high school recruit in 2008. But instead of making adjustments to accommodate the 6-foot-6, 235-pound quarterback, Tressel has squeezed the rare breed into his vanilla, run-based offense. The results haven’t pleased many; Pryor has seldom demonstrated the ability to excel in the Bucks’ offensive system, one Tressel refuses to alter. Rich Rodriguez instituted the spread offense last year at Michigan with players unsuited for the new scheme. A 3-9 record ensued. Now, with athletes at his disposal recruited specifically for the spread approach, the Wolverines are off to a 3-0 start.Recently, Tressel has targeted more players blessed with unparalleled speed to match the likes of Florida, USC or Texas. However, it’s the Buckeyes same old plan of attack that has prevented the program from reaching new heights.The Gators stymied the heavily-favored Buckeyes in ’07 with their athletic defense, limiting Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith to four completions for 35 yards. OSU couldn’t contain LSU’s plethora of speedy receivers the following year. The Trojan defense held OSU to fewer than 275 yards in each USC victory. And the Longhorns’ spread passing attack broke the hearts of Buckeye backers everywhere, as Colt McCoy threw for 414 yards.To catch up to the rest of the college football world, Tressel and Co. must implement changes on both sides of the ball. They must design an approach that suits the strengths of the athletes they have collected. Pryor is probably best equipped for a spread attack, which would give him space to operate with both his developing throwing arm and his nimble feet. He needs the instruction to focus on scoring touchdowns, not controlling field position.If Ohio State is to be recognized among the nation’s college football titans, the Buckeyes must prove they can beat bona fide competition. That signature victory has eluded the program for several years now. Tresselball needs a change to keep up with the rest of the best.
Senior Andrea Walker has seen it all in her four years playing basketball at Ohio State, but this season has been her most productive yet.Walker has already matched or surpassed her highest career output in rebounds, points and assists with six games still remaining, but her stat line won’t be compared with the best players in the nation.Walker has played backup to two of the best centers in OSU history while on the team: Jessica Davenport and junior Jantel Lavender.“I don’t really care about minutes. As long as our team is winning, I’m happy here,” Walker said. “I think that I’ve gotten better playing against the best centers.”Walker’s 6-foot-5-inch frame allows her to dominate smaller players while on the floor, but it also helps her to push Lavender to the brink in practice to help her get better. Sometimes, it can become a little more than just a practice.“I think there have been days where me and [Walker] get really physical. We get mad at each other sometimes,” Lavender said. “I think we make each other better everyday … because we always play each other hard.”Walker also has to play the role of senior, one of only four on the team, to help get OSU through the tough times of the season, like the past couple weeks.She does so not only with her words, but also her play, as she recorded 28 minutes and 15 points, her highest totals of the season, in OSU’s 67-62 loss to Indiana on Jan. 31.Walker has really been part of the rise of OSU women’s basketball. Since her freshman year, OSU has had 100 wins and 19 losses and has made the NCAA Tournament each year. Her freshman and sophomore years, OSU was ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but in her junior year they advanced to the Sweet 16.Although she doesn’t make headlines, her team feels that people don’t understand how good she really is.“I think people don’t give her enough praise and attention. I think she’s long and can block shots,” Lavender said. “People don’t give her enough attention as far as recognizing her abilities to defend the post and alter people’s shots. She can score in the post just as well as anybody.”Walker has had better averages in almost every statistical category since starting Big Ten play, one of only a few players on the team to do so.The Buckeyes will need her production to continue as they enter a tough stretch in their schedule over the next five games when they face Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State. OSU lost to Purdue once already and didn’t put away Wisconsin or Michigan State until late in the game when they last played.
This is the last part of the three-part series on concussions. Today’s story is about Second Impact Syndrome. Football is a sport of brain-rattling collisions, and concussions have become common at every level of competition. But an uncommon condition associated with the aftermath of such injuries is often fatal for the youngest players. Second Impact Syndrome occurs while the brain is recovering from an injury and suffers another blow. Because the brain is vulnerable after an initial injury, a relatively weak force can cause irreparable damage. If the brain’s ability to regulate blood flow is obstructed, a patient can die in as little as three minutes, according to sportsmd.com. In 2008, Jaquan Waller, 16, was killed after playing in a high school football game in Greenville, N.C. A medical examiner attributed his death to Second Impact Syndrome. The condition is more common among teenagers and children because their brains have not fully developed. “It doesn’t happen to everyone that’s still symptomatic, but it does happen,” said Richard Rodenberg, a physician at Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Sports Medicine. “And when it does happen, 50 percent of those kids statistically are at risk for death, and 100 percent of them will have a disability or suffer from permanent brain damage.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.6 million to 3.2 million concussions occur every year in sports and other recreational activities. Second Impact Syndrome results when athletes sustain head injuries and one of three things happen: They don’t know they’ve been injured, they refuse to leave the game or they return to competition too soon. The syndrome occurs when “a second head injury is sustained, either that day or in the few days shortly thereafter,” said Kelsey Logan, medical director of the OSU Sports Concussion Program. “Some athletes have died.” Concussions can have serious consequences, especially for football players. The New York Times reported that since 1997, at least 50 youth football players, high-school aged or younger, from 20 states have died or sustained serious head injuries on the field. Although it’s hard to determine which athletes are in greatest danger of Second Impact Syndrome, dodging the disorder is not difficult. “It’s really unknown who’s at risk for this and what the factors are that lead to death in those cases,” Logan said. “Fortunately, it’s also something that’s totally preventable if we can recognize the symptoms of concussions.” Logan said concussion symptoms include chronic headaches, attention problems, short-term memory difficulties, sleeping problems and fatigue. Although Second Impact Syndrome can be avoided, there are instances when the concussed athletes’ symptoms go unnoticed, or athletes aren’t correctly treated. OSU athletics director Gene Smith said players are not always honest about their injuries. The tough part is “getting the players to admit it,” Smith said. They say, “‘I’m a player. No disrespect, I didn’t come here to get a philosophy degree. I came here to go pro.’ That’s the mentality we get when they get to us.” OSU club football team quarterback Bryan Thompson, who estimates he has suffered seven or eight concussions since he started playing football in the fourth grade, said he has played through a concussion. “Once in high school during a game, I had an obvious concussion. I even walked toward the wrong sideline. As the trainer evaluated me, I sort of snapped out of my dementia. It was a close game, so I said, ‘I’m fine,’ and went back in,” Thompson said. “After the game, I went to the doctor and it ended up being one of the two major concussions I’ve had.” Thompson, who had never heard of Second Impact Syndrome, said peer pressure can factor into playing though head injuries. Playing with a concussion “was a heat-of-the-moment thing, and of course I wanted to stay in the game,” Thompson said. “But at the same time, a lot of people don’t look at concussions as serious injuries. They give it a negative spin and say, ‘Well, I know a ton of people that have played with concussions before, so why aren’t you playing?’ Then you feel more obligated to play.” Doctors say that mentality is dangerous. “That’s the scary aspect,” Rodenberg said, “when (athletes) hide their symptoms.”
For football-starved Ohio State fans, Saturday finally came. Wrapped in an intoxicating frenzy, Urban Meyer’s debut as the Buckeyes’ football coach finally came. And it didn’t disappoint. After routing Miami (Ohio) 56-10, the program’s first triumph since a shaky 34-20 win against Indiana on Nov. 5 finally came. On an oppressively sultry afternoon in Ohio Stadium, eight months of anticipation – eight months of wondering what the “Urban Era” had in store – finally came. Who would have thought, then, that there could have been an entire quarter’s worth of anxiety-ridden restlessness as the first quarter of Saturday’s game seemed like a continuation of OSU’s historically bad 6-7 season last year. Down 3-0 after being outgained 172-48 by the RedHawks in the first quarter, a wave of uneasiness left a once-euphoric crowd of 105,039 subdued as Miami’s senior quarterback Zac Dysert and junior wide receiver Nick Harwell gashed the Buckeyes’ defense with big play and after big play. Suffice to say, Meyer wasn’t particularly pleased. “Well, not fortunately or unfortunately – whatever it is – that darned first quarter, I was embarrassed with the way we were playing,” he said. “We worked so hard and we didn’t play very well, in all phases. Defense let a couple of passes go that we shouldn’t have.” Meyer’s vaunted spread offense, which was was supposed to allow sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller room to thrive, amassed five yards on 1-of-7 passing. Through it all, though, Meyer said Miller kept his poise. It was one of the things he wanted to see out of the sophomore on Saturday, he said. “I think one of the things about Braxton Miller that I really had to see, and I did see today, is that the objective with Braxton is to make him from an athlete playing quarterback to a quarterback that manages,” Meyer said. “And a quarterback position is a unique position in all sports, where he’s got to manage so much. He’s got to manage basically the entire offense,” he said. “He’s got to stay positive – his leadership. He has to be a leader.” Football is “not a game of anger,” Miller said. “Go out there, have fun, enjoy the time with your teammates and make sure you’re doing all the right things positive ways; if you’re doing anything in the negative way there’s nothing that’s going to get done at that point,” he said. And at the outset of the second quarter, that leadership seemed to finally manifest itself on the field. Finally, the Buckeyes sunk into a rhythm with their up-tempo style of play and burst out for a four play, 83-yard drive that ended in an acrobatic, one-handed touchdown snag from sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith. “I don’t know if Devin has been saving that, but I’ve not seen him do that. Now that I know he can, I expect – he’s actually been playing pretty good for us,” Meyer said. “But that was a wild moment. And that was a moment that ignited the stadium. The stadium got quiet,” Meyer said. “Our sideline got quiet and we were waiting for a play to happen and he went out and made a play. That’s football.” Redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said the catch was “fantastic.” “If you go back to the replay, I actually ran on the field,” he said. “So I’m not sure if that’s a penalty or anything, but I actually run on the field and gave him a high-five.” With momentum and the lead in their hands, OSU’s offense exploded for 35 unanswered points while its defense found ways to entirely suffocate the RedHawk’s run game and slow their aerial assault down. Near the end of the third quarter, Meyer said he was finally able to find a time for mental snapshots and soak in the magnitude of his first game calling the shots in Columbus. “The day overall, it was a great day. ‘Hang on Sloopy’ kicked it off in the fourth quarter. And I stared at that for a while, watched it. Told a couple of people that I’ve never seen that before. Checked that out,” Meyer said. “Just for years and years I’ve always remembered the change in the third and fourth quarter, what happens in that stadium,” Meyer said. But such a moment for reflection, Meyer said, was limited. Until the game clock struck zero, at least. In the footsteps of the tradition that former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel started in 2001, Meyer locked arms with his players in the south end zone and sang “Carmen Ohio” with the rest of the team and the tens of thousands of fans still remaining in the stadium. “You look like you were really enjoying the alma mater. And I’m just wondering if that was the one point when you finally got to a point where you could enjoy being the Ohio State coach and just being in the stadium and the whole thing,” one reporter asked at Meyer’s postgame press conference. The 48-year-old sidestepped the essence of the question. “I’ve been enjoying being Ohio State coach for about seven months now,” Meyer responded. Meyer, though, said he didn’t want to deflate that moment. “I’m with a bunch of guys I care about. Love our players. Two guys next to me – and (Garrett) Goebel’s to my left, and I love that guy,” he said regarding the Buckeyes’ senior captain and nose tackle. “There’s a lot of guys on this team I have a lot of respect. And saying the alma mater, I’m a graduate, and the fight song, that was a special moment. And we got to sing the fight song in the locker room as well.” Despite being anxious for the game, Meyer said he got about six hours of sleep the night before. “I like this team. I like these guys,” he said. “When you like that, you sleep pretty good.”
Junior forward LaQuinton Ross (10) attempts a layup during a game against Nebraska March 14 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. OSU won, 71-67.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorINDIANAPOLIS — Sometimes the littlest spark can start the biggest fires.For the Ohio State men’s basketball team in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals against Nebraska, that spark came in the form of a technical foul called on junior forward LaQuinton Ross.With the Buckeyes trailing by 12 — after the Cornhuskers went on an 11-2 run out of halftime — Ross was called for an offensive foul. In frustration, OSU’s leading scorer shoved an opposing player and was charged with a technical.“It was a lot of extra stuff going on after the play was over, so I think that got to me a little bit,” Ross said after the game. “So that was the reason for the technical foul, a little frustration. But after that I was just trying to win the game.”Despite Nebraska scoring six straight points after the foul, taking an 18-point lead in the process, the Buckeyes would storm back on the shoulders of Ross and sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle.OSU outscored Nebraska 41-25 after Ross was hit with the technical, and held on for a 71-67 victory.Junior forward Sam Thompson — who tallied seven points in the win — said the technical brought an end to Nebraska’s tough play, and turned the game around.“We thought they were playing a little bit too physically,” Thompson said after the game. “They got some shots at us after the whistle was blown, we didn’t like how they were dancing on the bench, just the whole vibe we didn’t like that. (LaQuinton’s) technical brought it to an end, we were able to rally around that.”This wasn’t the first time this season Ross’ been given a technical foul for shoving a player, having gotten one against Northwestern that led to his ejection and then another against Indiana.“Unfortunately that’s a little familiar,” Craft said after the game against Nebraska. “He’s done that a couple times this year. I just think after the whistle, they catch the second guy. He threw an elbow and hit him in the face after the play … and they’re going to catch LaQuinton.”But Craft said, unlike in previous incidents, this foul served as a motivator for OSU.“It was kind of like an NBA game. (A) player or coach gets fired up and you get ejected and you start rallying around him,” Craft said. “I don’t condone that because that got us down 16 at one point. They made the free throws and got a bucket. We don’t want that to happen, but if it works out, it works out.”After picking up a technical caused by emotion — much like the one Ross picked up — coaches often elect to bench the player to give them some time to calm down.But OSU coach Thad Matta elected for the opposite, leaving Ross on the floor and giving his leading scorer a chance to bring his team back from the brink of elimination.Ross went on to score 16 of his career-high 26 points after the technical foul, including the 3-pointer that started the run.“That play was over,” Ross said of the technical foul. “I wasn’t thinking about that play again. I looked up at the score and how bad we were down and we just had to get some motivation and get back in the game.”Ross added that the comeback was partially because of OSU refusing to lose control.“We stayed together through the whole thing,” Ross said. “There was never any panic during the whole situation. If you watch some of our games earlier in the year, we (were) down less points than that, I think we were down 18 here. A couple games, like Minnesota, we (were) probably down five and we panicked. But that game right there we (were) able to not panic and got through it.”Next up Ross and the Buckeyes will look to push themselves past top-seeded Michigan Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Tipoff is set for 1:40 p.m.
The Buckeyes line up prior to taking the field for warmups before the Ohio State-Nebraska game on Oct. 14. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor