Bryce Harper Talks Cowboys with Joe Buck During 2017 MLB All-Star Game

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper is ready for the start of football season.

Speaking to the Fox broadcast booth in the middle of Tuesday night's MLB All-Star Game in Miami, Harper couldn't contain his excitement when talking about the Dallas Cowboys duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

"How you think Dak's gonna be this year?" Harper asked Joe Buck, according to the Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota. "...He's fun to watch. Him and Zeke are unbelievable."

Prescott later replied with a compliment of his own for the 2015 National League MVP: 

Harper's comments may not sit well with Nationals fans who also rep the Washington Redskins, but his Cowboys fandom is nothing new.

The 24-year-old was spotted donning a Cowboys hat at a WWE Monday Night Raw event in February, and that was just the latest instance of his allegiance to America's Team being made public.

When it comes to the Cowboys, expectations are through the roof after Prescott and Elliott helped lead them to a 13-3 record and NFC East championship during their rookie season.

With just about two months remaining until the start of the regular season, the Cowboys own the second-best odds (+1200; bet $100 to win $1,200) to win Super Bowl 52 behind the reigning champion New England Patriots (+350).

     

Odds courtesy of OddsShark.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Bryce Harper Talks Cowboys with Joe Buck During 2017 MLB All-Star Game

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper is ready for the start of football season.

Speaking to the Fox broadcast booth in the middle of Tuesday night's MLB All-Star Game in Miami, Harper couldn't contain his excitement when talking about the Dallas Cowboys duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

"How you think Dak's gonna be this year?" Harper asked Joe Buck, according to the Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota. "...He's fun to watch. Him and Zeke are unbelievable."

Prescott later replied with a compliment of his own for the 2015 National League MVP: 

Harper's comments may not sit well with Nationals fans who also rep the Washington Redskins, but his Cowboys fandom is nothing new.

The 24-year-old was spotted donning a Cowboys hat at a WWE Monday Night Raw event in February, and that was just the latest instance of his allegiance to America's Team being made public.

When it comes to the Cowboys, expectations are through the roof after Prescott and Elliott helped lead them to a 13-3 record and NFC East championship during their rookie season.

With just about two months remaining until the start of the regular season, the Cowboys own the second-best odds (+1200; bet $100 to win $1,200) to win Super Bowl 52 behind the reigning champion New England Patriots (+350).

     

Odds courtesy of OddsShark.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

5 Baseball Jerseys So Swaggy You—and Chance the Rapper—Might Actually Wear ‘Em

The Cavs have those infamous T-shirt jerseys. The NFL and NHL are constantly modernizing—or throwing back—their team logos. Even college football, that bastion of traditionalism, has introduced some fire new designs this century.

Baseball? For all of its Iverson-style arm sleeves, its knee-high socks and even the sunglasses, baseball seemingly hasn’t wanted to be that cool with on-field fashion. But a new generation is trying to change that, says Tzvi Twersky, the baseball category director at Stance, which recently started its first full season as the official sock of Major League Baseball—on-field knee-highs included.

“The younger guys are getting into it,” Twersky says. “There might be resistance from some of the older guys or the traditional teams, but as teams have played each other and guys in the minors experienced the socks, it's grown on them. It's a testament to the teams having an open mind and be willing to try something new.”

MLB uniforms have barely changed since the Cincinnati Reds became the first professional baseball team in 1869. The button-down jerseys, the pants, the caps, the belts (belts!)—all have changed incrementally, but little has come close to the evolutions in football and basketball gear. As the official switch to Under Armour as MLB’s uniform supplier approaches for the 2019 season, baseball franchises are in position to capitalize on new design trends while also invoking nostalgia.

Oftentimes, baseball teams swing and miss badly with new uniforms or reverse course before a look is in style: The huge logos of the '90s have, with the exception of Detroit’s new big “D” throwbacks, largely been replaced; the neon yellow of Kansas City’s yesteryear is out in favor of the more subdued alternates from Oakland and Pittsburgh; and let’s not even talk about those shorts the White Sox wore during the first game of a doubleheader in ’76.

More so than many other sports, America’s pastime does have a large group of untouchable classics—the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox and Cardinals, just to name a few.

But with the good come the bad and unmemorable, and baseball certainly has a few of those.

B/R Mag’s effort to Make Baseball Cool Again has already heat-checked 14 bold ideas to change the game with MLB players, surveyed influencers from Ken Griffey Jr. to Bryce Harper and introduced a swaggy 17-year-old who might redesign what a superstar looks like, single-handedly.

Still, we couldn’t help taking a crack at fashioning a few new unis of our own. Not to pick on these five clubs, but our intention was to stay true to history—and add a little oomph.

            

Miami Marlins, with a Fish on Top

Yes, we know the Marlins just updated their logo this season after a complete overhaul in 2011 and that the Giancarlo Stanton jerseys are selling just fine—though they aren't exactly an in-the-club fashion statement. But a stylish city like Miami, with 25 years of franchise history in the books, deserves a more timeless look for the kings of Little Havana.

Without getting into the whole teal-and-pinstripes vest debacle of the late '90s and early 2000s, we focused on more Marlins blue while relegating that burnt orange to an accent rather than a garish dominant color. The new wordmark stems from art deco, like the hotels on South Beach, and the M is a bit more upright. We even brought back the old fish mascot because, hey, the Edgar Renteria glory days weren’t that long ago.

                 

Texas Rangers: Kickin’ It Bush Style

More than a dozen MLB teams use red, white and blue, and the Rangers are among the most boring of the bunch. While keeping the same color scheme, we changed their uniforms just enough to make them different—and added a little Lone Star flair.

Our wordmark ditches the block serif for classic cursive similar to the script style of the Dodgers, Royals and Yankees, which the Rangers actually used in the '80s and early '90s—until George W. Bush gave up ownership. The team name would now be red, which hasn’t been seen on a Rangers jersey before, across a powder blue jersey (hey, it’s working as an alternate in KC) with sleeve stripes. And we’ve added numbers to the front because, as another blue-jersey’d star of the region would say, why not?

                      

San Diego Padres: Brown and Yellow, Brown and Yellow

For years, many Padres fans have clamored for a return to the brown and gold of the ’60s, ’70s and '80s, and we’ve done here what only the occasional alternate does to hike sales.

“You have the Padres, who may not be hesitant to do things a little bit crazy, a little bit different,” Stance’s Twersky says. “With them, we came out of the gate with tie-dyes and different designs that we work closely with them on, but they can only pull off because they are willing to try things and be receiving.”

Today’s piping remains, but we’ve ditched the interlocking S and D for the Tony Gwynn-heyday wordmark, which has the best of the Cardinals and Braves unis in it. Leave the boring, old navy behind and keep it distinctive, San Diego.

                      

Chicago White Sox: Just Add Red—and C.R.E.A.M.

The White Sox are not the problem: With a statement logo and a black-and-white simplicity, they’ve still got the coolest jersey in Chi-town, rocked since an early ’90s rebrand by MCs, OGs and MJ himself. But the team’s design principles have been erratic, and it’s time for something consistent for Chance the Rapper to make truly legendary.

Here, we’ve emphasized an orangey-red from the ’70s and ’80s that the team has begun to reintroduce in some alternate looks. (Their old navy accent was a little too Red Sox.) We’ve also added a little cream for added vintage-meets-C.R.E.A.M. effect.

                      

Arizona Diamondbacks: Unleash the Snake!

When the D-backs first unveiled their purple-and-teal look as an expansion team in 1995, it looked out of place in the conservative color palette of baseball. Flash-forward a couple decades, and we kind of like the all-caps wordmark they unveiled last year. Certainly beats years of an illegible letter “A” and trying to make a rattlesnake look like the letter “D.”

Still: Something felt...missing. Gone are the gradients, the shoulders, the dark gray pants. We’ve brought back copper to pair with sedona red. For a nod to baseball’s nostalgia, we’ve taken inspiration from the Cardinals, who incorporate the bat and birds, and decided to go big on the snake. The Diamondbacks may be a sartorial travesty right now, but that doesn’t mean they’re too far gone to save.


Joon Lee is a staff writer for B/R Mag. Follow him on Twitter: @iamjoonlee

Click here to get B/R Mag on the go in the new B/R app for more sports storytelling worth your time, wherever you are. This week: Make Baseball Cool Again—a manifesto in five parts

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

How to Make Baseball Cool Again

In America, baseball is the first: the first love, the first to capture our imagination, the first to radio and TV, the first to integrate, the first to innovate. It’s America’s pastime, because it was born in America and it is America.

But along the way, we’ve grown jaded. While society sped up, with its smartphones, social media, rapid-fire dribs and drabs of information and rapidly shifting news cycles, baseball has remained constant. The game is supposed to last nine innings, but it lasts as long as it must, to decide a winner. The season stretches for months and months, while the leaves change color and fans ditch their cargo shorts for peacoats.

A sport that seems stuck in time actually has encouraged the iconoclast and rewarded the edgiest among us. It’s just that the rebel ethos has been lost underneath a seemingly impenetrable layer of tradition that overlooks baseball’s role in moving America forward.

Look no further than the Pittsburgh Pirates of the late ’70s and early ’80s, featuring the legendary Dock Ellis—a pitcher who threw a no-hitter while tripping on acid in 1970—and the smooth-swinging, mustachioed first baseman Willie Stargell cutting an effortlessly cool figure on the basepaths. It was a team so hip it adopted “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, the hit of 1979, as its theme song.

Today, you’ll rarely hear a baseball player name-checked in a hip-hop track, and Drake is not exactly roaming the stands at Blue Jays games, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Ken Griffey Jr. turning his hat backward, Jackie Robinson breaking barriers, Joe DiMaggio hitting the town with Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Damon and the idiots of the Red Sox, the improbable Cubs laughing all the way to a World Series, and the undeniable charisma of Bryce Harper—that’s baseball. Innovations over the years like the designated hitter, the wild card and interleague play were designed to make the sport more entertaining to fans, and that’s great.

READ MORE FROM B/R MAG’S “MAKE BASEBALL COOL AGAIN” SPECIAL:
Ken Griffey Jr., Bryce Harper & More on B/R Mag’s Commission of Cool >
Inside the Fabulous Life of MLB Prodigy Hunter Greene >
• We Re-Designed 5 MLB Jerseys for the 21st Century. Want One? >
• PODCAST: Listen to the B/R Mag Show for More Ways to Save Baseball…

But as you’ll see in B/R Mag’s Make Baseball Cool Again special, there remain plenty of things we can do to help baseball reclaim its rightful place in our culture: more scoring, more bat flips, better nicknames—hell, maybe even a dunk tank.

As St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler told B/R Mag’s Make Baseball Cool Again Commission: “If the fans don’t think it’s cool, then I guess it’s not cool. But there’s ways to make it cooler.” Here, with the help of more than a dozen other players, managers and baseball-watchers who spoke to us over the first half of the MLB season, are B/R Mag’s not-so-modest proposals for looking forward, in four fan-first categories. —Dave Schilling

3 EASY THINGS BASEBALL CAN DO RIGHT NOW…

...before the NBA eats it alive.

Embrace the Handshake, LeBron-Style

If MLB one-ups the NBA’s culture in one area, it’s the handshake. True story: In athletics, the high five was invented on the baseball field, when Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Glenn Burke cocked his arm back and raised it outside the dugout upon greeting Dusty Baker, after Baker’s 30th home run in 1977. Baker reacted by slapping Burke’s hand, and so a trend was born.

Now, 40 years later, the simple high five has been overtaken by the dap and intricate handshakes rooted in black culture. So let’s own it, expand it and celebrate celebrating.

“I’ve always been a fist bump guy,” Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle says, “because I’ve had trouble remembering some of the steps of the handshake. But now it seems like almost every guy has a choreographed deal with another guy on the team—at least one, but there’s some guys who have one for just about everybody.”

After Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Doolittle said he saw LeBron James execute a different handshake for every player on the Cavaliers, and that gave him an idea: “That might be something we can work on in spring training.” —Scott Miller

Embrace the Fearless, Fireballin’ Closer, WWE-Style

The default rock star of every baseball team is the closer. He comes in. He throws gas. He goes home.

Closers even get entrance music, which is maybe less rock-’n’-roll and more WWE. Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers’ high-priced fireman, strides to the mound to the sounds of 2Pac and Dre’s “California Love.”

Part of the closer’s job is to win games. The other part is to get fans on their feet after eight innings of hot dogs and flat beer. “People think an out is an out, but not all outs are created equally,” former Rangers, Mets and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine told B/R Mag recently while promoting a baseball prediction app called WinView.

Slowly but surely, baseball analytics fiends have de-emphasized the role of the fireballing closer. Cleveland employed a hodgepodge of relievers in various roles during its run to the World Series last year. Mathematically, it seems more beneficial to send out pitchers based on situational superiority.

But some of the most colorful characters in the sport were fearless closers. Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Rod Beck, Eric Gagne. It’s no coincidence that the most dramatic moment in the the classic baseball film Major League revolves around combustible pitcher Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn striding to the mound to get an out in the late innings of a crucial postseason game.

The closer role is inherently dramatic, a one-on-one battle of wills between the pitcher and the batter that requires what Valentine called “a mental presence as well as a physical presence” by the closer.

It’s pure drama and sets baseball apart from every other sport. —D.S.

Embrace Latin Culture Already!

On Opening Day, of the 868 players on MLB 25-man rosters and inactive lists, 218 were natives of Latin American countries. That’s a full 25 percent, and the numbers—and influence—are growing.

But let’s forget the numbers and look at just how much fun players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico are having. Along with world-class pitching, hitting and fielding skills, these players bring real emotion to the sport. My goodness, they even do so during the games!

Of those antics, the old school says: Act like you’ve been there, son, and do not dare do anything to besmirch the Grand Old Game. New school says: Let’s throw away some unwritten rules, embrace the game’s melting pot of cultures and celebrate personalities like it’s the World Baseball Classic.

“This is how we play,” Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who’s from Florida but played for the Dominican in the WBC, tells B/R Mag. “We like to have fun. Why are you walking around with a [serious] face? We play the game the right way. We play the game hard. We play it with emotion.”

Chanting fans, elaborate hand and arm signals from the players and—hey, why not stage the Wild Card Games in Puerto Rico or Mexico? “That would be really cool, man,” Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar says. “Just one game, you lose, you go home. That would be awesome.” —Scott Miller


 GET MORE FROM B/R MAG’S “MAKE BASEBALL COOL AGAIN” SPECIAL:

Ken Griffey Jr., Bryce Harper & More on B/R Mag’s Panel of Cool >


 

4 RULE CHANGES THAT FANS WOULD ACTUALLY ENJOY…

Purists freaked out when even the possibility of testing new rules surfaced earlier this year. But as Commissioner Rob Manfred told B/R, “You watch what happens and maybe you get an idea.” We’ll see your little changes, Commish, and raise you.

Extra Innings with a Man on Second → Home Run Derby Tiebreaker!

What do fans dig? The long ball. What does MLB despise? Pitcher injuries and lonn(zzzzz)nng games. So, if we’re still tied after nine innings, let’s pit one slugger from each team against each other to settle things, mano a mano.

“Nobody likes playing the long, extra-inning games,” Diamondbacks first baseman Paul
Goldschmidt tells B/R Mag. “Fans don’t like it either.”

While he doesn’t necessarily support a Home Run Derby-style showdown to decide the outcome, Goldschmidt says he thinks the idea is “100 percent” interesting enough to explore, “like hockey has a shootout, soccer as well.”

It’s not a simple proposition, he says: “There’s a lot of things that go into it. However many swings you have, the number of outs. Is it like the Home Run Derby for the All-Star Game? Is there a time limit? What if you have a really good guy as a home run hitter, but he’s on the bench and not in the lineup? Do you put him in there?”

One thing is for certain, Goldschmidt says. “A lot would be riding on one guy.” —S.M.

30-Second Replay Reviews → 20-Second Pitch Clock!

Not to name names, but when Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez takes 40 freakin’ seconds to deliver a pitch, the dead time begins to stack up. Look: One of baseball’s charms is that it operates without a clock, but too many people are taking advantage. Throw the damn pitch within 20 seconds, or the umpire calls a ball.

“I don’t know about 20 seconds,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer tells B/R Mag. “I would definitely say you keep somewhat of a steady pace. But I don’t know if you can put a time limit on these things.”

Hosmer says a lot is going on inside the mind of the pitcher and hitter in those seconds between pitches: “The hitter is thinking about his plan. The pitcher is thinking about his plan. So 20 seconds might be a little tight. But it definitely shouldn’t be a minute-and-a-half or something like that.”

Seven-inning games might be a little extreme, but MLB’s equivalent of the shot clock has been a long time coming. Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer says the league could go one step further: “You’ve gotta crack down on the pitchers, and the way you do it is incentivize guys to work quick and not leave the mound,” he tells B/R Mag. “Fine them if they do.” —S.M.

No-Pitch Intentional Walk → Three Pickoffs Allowed

Consider the possibilities: If, with a runner on first base, a pitcher was limited to three throws over until that runner advances, think of the strategy involved, the daring. It would speed up the game and encourage more stolen bases, an art form that is fast disappearing—along with the memory of characters like Rickey Henderson and Deion Sanders who infused endless cool on the basepaths.

Aside from the triple—and, arguably, the home run—the stolen base is as exciting a moment as there is in a game that is begging for more action between all the strikeouts and walks.

“I would love that,” Nationals shortstop Trea Turner says. “You use all three, you’re done.”

Turner is skeptical that the rule would ever be adopted. “But as a base stealer, it would make a huge difference. I’m sure pitchers would try to figure out a way to exploit it, maybe make it benefit them, but I would love it.”

After that third and final throw over, exactly how large a lead would Turner take? “You could do whatever you want, really. I guess there would be a penalty if you threw over again.”

Regardless, pitchers would have to adjust, Turner says, “and it would make it more exciting because more people would try to steal bases.” —S.M.

DH in the National League → Get-Off-the-Mound-Free Card!

Let’s face it: Too many National Leaguers and their fans are clinging to the quirk that is pitchers hitting. Which...fine, but how about this: Each manager can use a pinch hitter one time, any time, during a pitcher’s start, and that starting pitcher can re-enter the game.

Hate starting pitchers hitting in a key spot? Bring a big bopper off the bench to bat for your ace with the bases loaded in, say, the third inning, then send your starting pitcher right back to the mound.

Love geeking out on in-game strategy? What could be more strategic than a manager deciding whether to use and then lose that particular pinch hitter in a third-inning opportunity or opt to save that hitter for later in the game?

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has what he thinks is a better idea: “Let’s just go National League rules in both leagues. The National League game is a much more interesting game. It’s a much more thoughtful game.”

Not that Maddon discounts the value of a DH. He knows the Cubs would not have won the World Series last year without it. “Sometimes it’s very beneficial,” he says. “But with the AL, it’s the occasional pinch hitter, the occasional pinch runner and when am I going to take my pitcher out? That’s about it.”

Maddon much prefers the NL game: “I mean, the double-switches, moving lineups around, pinch-hitting for the pitcher, batting a pitcher eighth for a variety of reasons. All those things, to me—I’m telling you, they make it a lot more interesting.” —S.M.


GET MORE FROM B/R MAG’S “MAKE BASEBALL COOL AGAIN” SPECIAL:

Inside the Fabulous Life of MLB Prodigy Hunter Greene >


3 WAYS TO TAKE THE BEST OF BASEBALL CULTURE...AND PUT IT ON STEROIDS

Including, but not limited to, actually juicing the baseball.

Make the Bat Flip the New End-Zone Dance

An unassailable rule of thumb in today’s Snapchat society is that bat flips always go viral. To vilify them takes one of the most exciting moments in sports—the home run—and makes it more subdued (and, possibly, ahem, boring).

NBA stars like Steph Curry practically trademark their own three-point celebrations, so why not endorse signature bat flips? Everyone loved the ol’ Sammy Sosa Hop, so why not co-opt and modernize it?

Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig, he of the two-finger salute, is all for it. “It would be super cool,” he tells B/R Mag, “because sometimes you strike out two or three times in a game—and then in the ninth inning, you hit a home run, your team wins and the first thing you do is throw your bat.”

Puig acknowledges the other team may not like it: “It’s not disrespect. It’s just the first thing you think of. You’re not doing a bat flip every at-bat because you’re not hitting a home run every time. But it’s part of the game.”

At least Puig thinks it should be. Others, however, disagree.

“I think it’s gotten a little carried away at the big league level,” says Hosmer, the Royals first baseman. “The bat-flip stuff is all fun, but I think there are a lot better things to focus on in baseball.”

Yeah, like who should be the judge of the bat-flip contest. —S.M.

Ban the Wave and Give an Entire Section $5,000 for the Best Cheer/Signs

Why the hell are we still doing The Wave? Who on Earth thinks it’s cool? And if you can identify that fan, please send them our way so we can administer a good, old-fashion noogie. What is a noogie? Something that was popular when your parents were in school, just like The Wave.

Many baseball fans have not taken the hints to cease and desist—even from Thor himself, Noah Syndergaard, and that guy is definitely cool.

So we say it’s time for MLB to encourage creativity. How about throwing a small cash prize in the direction of the most entertaining (and, yes, respectable) section of fans?

Doolittle, the A’s reliever, says: “I’m not a fan of The Wave, especially while I’m pitching. It’s just a little annoying, that’s all.”

The A’s might not be the Raiders, but the cool thing about playing in Oakland, he says, is the fans’ bleacher-creature behavior: “In left field, they have musical instruments. They’ve got drums. They’re doing beats. They’ve got those vuvuzela horns like in the World Cup. They’re rockin’.”

Not to be outdone, the right field fans at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Doolittle says, “have creative signs and choreographed stuff for each player when they come into the game or when when they go up to the plate.”

All that, he says, “helps the atmosphere … creates a cool link between the players and the fans.”

Much more effectively, we might say, than The Wave. —S.M.

Put Nicknames on the Backs of Jerseys

Babe. Mr. October. Charlie Hustle. Yogi. Baseball has had some of the best nicknames in all of sports. But in the past decade, MLB has ceded valuable nickname real estate to the NFL and NBA.

Of course you know who “Beast Mode” and “Uncle Drew” are. But were you aware Ben Zobrist’s nickname is “Zorilla”? You know, like a gorilla crossed with Ben Zobrist?

Thankfully, MLB has recognized its branding problem and designated the weekend of August 25 as “Players Weekend.” During those three days, players can customize their cleats, wear patches on their jerseys and, more importantly, put their nicknames on their jerseys—an innovation made famous by “He Hate Me” and the dearly departed XFL.

On a recent road trip to Citi Field, Zobrist told B/R Mag: “Everybody will want to look around and see what each player has. And kids, they’ll love it. It’s very smart. Great marketing.”

Isn’t that who matters most to Major League Baseball today?

While we’re at it, let’s give some of these young players better nicknames.

Cubs slugger Kris Bryant will just wear his initials on his jersey during Players Weekend—because we’re all too lazy to think of something memorable. “But some of the other guys in here have some pretty good nicknames,” Bryant tells B/R Mag. “Zorilla’s pretty cool.”

If you insist, Blue Krush. —S.M. and Danny Knobler


GET MORE FROM B/R MAG’S “MAKE BASEBALL COOL AGAIN” SPECIAL:

• We Re-Designed 5 MLB Jerseys for the 21st Century. Want One? >


...AND 3 THINGS THAT ARE PRETTY OUT THERE

Hear us out!

Trap. Door. On. The. Mound.

Another beleaguered reliever is getting knocked around like a birthday-party pinata, and instead of sitting through another interminable visit to the mound by your favorite manager, that manager...never even leaves the dugout. Instead, he reaches for a button right next to the bullpen phone. One press and...the earth of the mound opens up to swallow the pitcher whole.

Come on: Who doesn’t love dunk tanks?

As the pitcher plummets, the manager remains unmoved in the dugout, seated, legs crossed, spitting out the shell of another sunflower seed, nodding like the badass he’s just become.

Doolittle, the A’s reliever, takes it one step further: “And there’s like a slide that dumps you right into your locker,” he says, citing technology at places like Google headquarters where the playground becomes the playing field.

Athletics manager Bob Melvin facetiously endorses the idea as well: “I’m all for that,” he tells B/R Mag. “I think the fans would enjoy it. It would almost look like something out of The Gong Show.” And, hey, if they can bring back that old game show for 21st-century TV, why not try a stunt in the middle of the field? —S.M.

Or at Least Bring Back Bullpen Carts?

OK, OK, OK. Maybe the dunk-tank thing is a little overkill—not to mention potentially injury-inducing. But as long as we’re making relief pitching cool again, let’s at least redesign bullpen carts and maybe install a souped-up sound system to play personalized entrance songs throughout the stadium. 

It would turn even a left-handed specialist into his own personal DJ with a custom ride. Like so:

“I’ve been saying this for a couple of years: If you want to speed the game up, that would save more time than the intentional walk thing,” Doolittle says. He continues: “You could bring them in on a car, or an elephant, although that might take too long. But you could come in on a horse or something.”

Royals closer Kevin Herrera has a less complete embrace of the concept. He thinks “it would be more for the All-Star Game, like a show. Something like that. For the regular season, I think the jog to the mound is good. You get people yelling ‘Ahhh!’ and ‘Yeah, let’s go!’ as you run in. I don’t think the golf cart would be the same.” —S.M.

Just Juice the Damn Ball Already

Whenever MLB scoring goes up, theorists and sabermetricians and pundits and ex-players all pop up like groundhogs in search of a shadow to offer their hot takes about the alleged return of the long ball. It’s almost as though we’re not quite comfortable with the idea of baseball being fun to watch, so we have to quantify it and rationalize it. It’s like trying to demystify a Steph Curry half-court heave rather than just reveling in it. Steroids! Expansion! Tiny stadiums! Juiced baseballs!

In truth, all these reasons likely contribute to the home run explosion that’s allowing thrilling young players like Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger to flirt with record-breaking numbers. But Major League Baseball continues to deny that its balls have been altered. Let’s assume, for the moment, they haven’t been. If so, then the question remains: Why not?

If we have the technology to make the game more engaging in the social media era, why wouldn’t we? Ask a prolific hitter like the Cubs’ Bryant, and he’ll start gushing about juiced baseballs: “I would love it,” Bryant tells B/R Mag. “I think it should be every game. If it’s the ball that makes the ball go 500 feet instead of 420, it looks cooler.”

Even though the most home runs he’s hit in a single regular season is a whopping 19, Mets infielder Jose Reyes is dubious. “That’s not going to be a lot of fun for pitchers,” he tells B/R Mag. “That’d be playing softball.” —S.M. & D.K.

...and the Real Hunt for October

Think March Madness with a World Series at the end. Eight teams, single-elimination, with every contest having a Game 7 atmosphere. Want to make things even more riveting? Stick another trade deadline at the end of September and watch rumors fly across social as general managers sweat and every team races toward the finish line.

“That’s harsh,” Maddon, the Cubs manager, tells B/R Mag when approached with our audacious playoff solution. “Our game is pretty much designed for the best team to eventually survive. Depth matters in our game. Anything can happen in one game of baseball. The worst team could absolutely beat the best team if you get a hot pitcher on a night or a team makes a mistake.”

Maddon says October Madness would fly in the face of the “survival-of-the-fittest,” long-term ethos of baseball. “If you’re built for five-game and seven-game series, you have a much better chance than if you just get lucky for one night,” he says.

He acknowledges such a format would be interesting for the fans. “But to really find out who the best team is, I don’t think it’s appropriate,” he says. “I’ve been in two Wild Card Games, which is the seventh game of the World Series in the very first game. It’s definitely exciting if you’re watching it, but as for the inner workings of the whole thing … I’ve even rallied for best-of-three in the wild-card situation.”

So Joe, just curious: In this format, last year, would the Cubs still have won it all?

“Of course we would have.” —S.M.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottMillerBBL

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @Danny Knobler

Dave Schilling is a writer-at-large for Bleacher Report and B/R Mag. Follow him on Twitter: (@Dave_Schilling) and click here to subscribe to his new podcast, The B/R Mag Show, on iTunes. (Or here for iHeartRADIO or here for TuneIn.)

 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Andy Samberg, Ken Griffey Jr. and Kanye vs. Swaggy P: The B/R Mag Show Podcast

What's the thirstiest thing you've seen this year in sports culture? This week alone featured Blake Griffin in some pretty, uh, exclusive company—and Kanye going to UCLA basketball practice...with 2 Chainz!

So who won the week? Props to Rudy Gobert for interrupting The Month We Talked a Lot About Gordon Hayward (albeit with some pretty old Chris Brown), but No. 1 was not, unfortunately, The Stifle Tower. Subscribe to The B/R Mag Show on iTunes now, or listen up to find out who came out on top of the latest Sports Culture Power Rankings from podcast hosts Dave Schilling and Natalie Weiner.

Also this week, we do The Three-Minute Drill with Andy Samberg, one of our favorite funny people who also happens to be a sports fan, on the eve of his HBO cycling mockumentary, Tour de Pharmacy. Oh, and he got takes:

• On Lance Armstrong's cameo in Tour de Pharmacy: "Some of those [lines] we were like, 'Yeah, I don't know if we want to ask him to say that.'"

On co-star/wrestler John Cena: "He is jacked as hell. He's a strong, thick man. It's crazy they haven't done a He-Man movie remake with him. ... Don't let the muscles fool you. He's taking over the world."

On growing up a pro wrestling fan: "I was a Hulkamaniac, but I also liked Andre the Giant. I liked Junkyard Dog, British Bulldog."

In case that wasn't enough star power for you, we've got exclusive audio of Ken Griffey Jr. on the future of baseball, as part of a B/R Mag special issue: Make Baseball Cool Again.

To find out how, click here to subscribe to The B/R Mag Show on iTunes. (Or here foriHeartRADIO, or here for TuneIn.)

And listen to Episode 5 of The B/R Mag Show right here...

...because it may or may not leave you having dreams about Andre Iguodala.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

The Make Baseball Cool Again Commission

The Kid is pushing 50. The only baseball player whose silhouette ever made sense on a sneaker is, believe it or not, already the father of a professional athlete—and Ken Griffey Jr.’s son...is playing football.

It’s been seven seasons since Griffey hung up the backward hat, and more than a year since Nationals slugger Bryce Harper wore a different kind of hat with a new kind of mission on it: MAKE BASEBALL FUN AGAIN.

Which, yeah: But is it cool?

Over the first half of the MLB season, B/R Mag canvassed the game, seeking ideas to rejuvenate America’s pastime for our Instagram afternoons and the Snapchatted summer of 2017. The result: some bold proposals of our own, plus a proper introduction to Hunter Greene, who has already—with apologies to The Kid—been called a combination of LeBron and the Babe, at just 17 years old.

But for a new generation of baseball fans still searching for a successor to Griffey (if they haven’t already given up in favor of LeBron or Steph or one of the NBA’s many GOATs in our midst), we talked directly to some of the coolest, most outspoken role models in Major League Baseball today and asked them a dozen simple questions.

They hit us back with questions of their own: A DJ at every ballpark? A ban on stats? Custom cleats? Two strikes and you’re out? Sounds cool to us.

Which, yeah: But does Mike Trout have swag? Maybe not, but a lot of today’s baseball heroes do, including all seven of these guys—one legit legend and six would-be legends in the making. That’s not including Harper’s potential second career as a host on the Food Network. —The Editors (Interviews by Scott Miller and Brandon Sneed)

    

‘SOME DAYS ARE GOOD, SOME DAYS ARE BAD’

Question No. 1: A segment of people say baseball isn’t cool anymore. Do you think there is anything to that?

DEXTER FOWLER, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder: I think it’s just perspective. But at the end of the day, if the fans don’t think it’s cool, then I guess it’s not cool. But there are ways to make it cooler.

KEN GRIFFEY JR., Hall of Fame outfielder: Baseball’s always cool. I just don’t think kids are learning the game of baseball.

DAVID PRICE, Boston Red Sox pitcher: A lot of baseball players think it’s cool, and the audience that we have think it’s cool. It might not hit every audience, but I don’t think there’s a single sport that’s going to hit every audience.

MAX SCHERZER, Washington Nationals pitcher: If you play football, you’re just going to scramble up your brain. We’ve seen the long-term consequences of that.

ADAM JONES, Baltimore Orioles outfielder: Baseball’s 162 games in 183 days. Some days are good, some days are bad, some days are ugly. In football, the whole world can concentrate on that Sunday. Basketball, they play 82 games, but they get days off. We play a lot more games.

MOOKIE BETTS, Boston Red Sox outfielder: Some people may think that probably because it’s not as fast-paced, there’s not as much action going on as in some other sports. But I think it’s just as cool as all the rest of them. It’s just something different.

BRYCE HARPER, Washington Nationals outfielder: I don’t know if I hear that at the big league level. I think MLB does a pretty good job, and the players do a great job of really trying to do what we can to spread the game.

     

Question No. 2: What makes baseball cool to you?

GRIFFEY: It is fun. My dad has always said, “It’s a game. It’s a game played by grown men. But it’s still a game.” The only thing that changes from Little League to high school to college to minor league ball to big league ball are the people in the stands. The game still stays the same.

BETTS: As a player, it’s that you have to focus for three hours, but it’s short bursts of focus. In other games your mind is constantly going, and it gets you drained a little more.

FOWLER: The flair of the guys. Obviously, it’s not an easy game to play. And when guys go out and make it look fun, that’s cool.

SCHERZER: With the NFL all we do is talk football. Whereas baseball we play it every day, the whole league plays every single day. It’s the only league that does it that way.

PRICE: Our diversity. The different type of people you get to play with, the people you compete against. Every clubhouse is so diverse. It’s got to be one of the most diverse sports out there.

JONES: I’m not looking for a cool factor. Cool? I just think the strategy—the mentality of this game—can’t be matched.

    

Question No. 3: What does it mean to you when you hear “Make Baseball Cool Again”?

GRIFFEY: I’ve had college and pro football players say, “Baseball’s boring. I don’t like going to a game.” But I get them close enough. I get them on the front row. And now they’re looking at the manager. They’re looking at the coaches. They’re looking at all these things that happen. And they go, “This is just like every other sport.” I go, “Absolutely.” I mean, there are so many things that go on from pitch to pitch that people don’t look at, because they don’t get a chance to see it.

PRICE: I think players should get to express themselves more with the way that they play. If you’re from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, wherever you’re from, I think it would be really cool if we could express ourselves with our shoes, with our cleats. I’ve said that for probably about three years straight now. Kids are paying $200, $300 for a pair of shoes now, whatever it is, and for us to be able to have cleats that express us, that express where we’re from, that tell a story, I think that’s what we should be able to do.

JONES: To me it just means getting rid of all these stats. Everything they’re throwing at us nowadays: You hit a home run, this was the exit velocity—who gives a crap? The ball was a home run. You can hit a ball 110 mph off the bat and you’re out. I can’t discredit the actual data, but, to most of us in this game, it’s complete eyewash. But somebody from Harvard or Yale or Tufts or one of those schools is going to get a job in baseball that is not even their field, but they love the game. But when you step between these lines, education means absolutely nothing. That’s the part you can’t measure. But they’re trying.

SCHERZER: What needs to be cool? I like the game where it’s at. Pitchers are better than ever, hitters are hitting home runs at a higher rate than ever. You’re getting to see some baseball played at its very, very best. You have young stars. You have everything you want as a fan.

     

‘I CAN WATCH MIKE TROUT PLAY ALL DAY’ 

Question No. 4: Who are some of the coolest guys in baseball right now?

GRIFFEY: Adam Jones. Mike Trout—I know that he’s pretty laid-back, but I think he’s a great ambassador of the game of baseball. He does show excitement, whether it be on the basepath, or hitting a home run, or robbing somebody. He has it in him. He is one of those guys that baseball needs to embrace, along with Bryce Harper. I mean, there are so many things that Major League Baseball could capitalize on.

FOWLER: I would have to start with myself, obviously. No, there’s a lot of cool dudes. You look at the Manny Machados, the Mike Trouts, the Giancarlo Stantons, obviously Aaron Judge. Those are the guys of our game because they’re good, just to start off. But also they go out with some swag. Manny has swag. Myself, I play with swag, with having fun. You always see a smile on our faces.

PRICE: Mike Trout. He’s cool. Obviously everybody knows how great of a player he is and all that, but it’s just the way he carries himself. You wouldn’t be able to tell by the way he plays the game that he’s the best player in baseball. He’s a generational player, and he acts like he’s the 25th person on the roster. That’s the way he treats everybody. To me that’s extremely special.

JONES: Hmmm. Cool guys to me, obviously the best player in baseball—Trout—followed by Harper. What they do between the lines is nothing short of amazing. Obviously I get to see Manny Machado on a daily basis; he’s special. Playing in the WBC, I got a chance to see players I don’t get to see often. Christian Yelich is one of my favorite players—as a 25-year-old he batted third for Team USA with a lot of big-name guys and held it down like no other. [Paul] Goldschmidt, the man works tirelessly at the same thing. That’s why he’s unbelievable. Brandon Crawford is one of my favorite players. I love the flow with the hair—he’s got real big league hair. Nolan Arenado, intense. Daniel Murphy—that whole Team USA opened my eyes.

BETTS: I like watching middle infielders. Like Francisco Lindor—you just see his style and how he goes about the game. Jose Altuve has fun and enjoys it. I’m maybe a little biased because I like middle infielders, their swag and whatnot.

SCHERZER: I can watch Mike Trout play all day. I can watch Miggy [Cabrera] hit baseballs all day. I get front-row seats with Zim, Murphy and Harp every single day [Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper]. Trea Turner is pretty exciting. I mean, the arms across the league, guys keep elevating their games higher and higher. Obviously when you watch Clayton Kershaw pitch, it’s unbelievable.

HARPER: I think a lot of the younger generation does a great job. The guy who retired last year, David Ortiz, he had a flair for the dramatic, of course. One of the coolest guys out there with gear and things like that is Manny Machado. He’s got some nice stuff. Kris Bryant has some good stuff. Players who go out and try to get their styles to where they want it to be.

   

Question No. 5: For the haters, people who say baseball is not cool, what do you think makes them say that?

JONES: They can’t play it; that’s probably why. Most people like to talk bad about things they can’t do.

GRIFFEY: I don’t get, “It’s not cool.” I get, “Why’s it take so long?” And I go, “Well, if you look at it, it’s right around the time of a football game.” They go, “What?” I go, “Just go ahead and time a football game and a baseball game.” [Football] is like 12 minutes of actual action.

SCHERZER: I don’t know. I appreciate the NFL, I appreciate the NBA, the skill sets those guys have. Hockey. They’re unbelievable on skates, with the puck. It’s so much fun to watch. I just know the things we can do on a baseball diamond, day in, day out. You watch the league and you’re seeing phenomenal baseball players in front of you.

PRICE: A lot of people don’t know the stars in baseball. Aaron Judge could walk down the street—probably nobody would even take a second glance at him. I think baseball needs to do a better job marketing its stars. It’s something we’ve talked about for quite a while. I’m sure they’re trying to do that, but they can still do a better job. Paul Goldschmidt could walk in right now and half of our team would be like, ‘Who’s that guy?’ He’s one of the best players in baseball and he could walk down the streets of Boston and I don’t know if anybody would recognize him. I really don’t.

HARPER: I think you come to watch baseball, and if you’re a true fan, then you enjoy watching baseball. MLB tries to change this and change that, speed up the games, but baseball’s baseball. You can’t change it. It’s America’s pastime. It’s the greatest game on earth. I don’t really want to change it that much.

     

‘MORE MUSIC’ + MORE KICKS + TWO STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT 

Question No. 6: What could make the game better or cooler?

GRIFFEY: Baseball in general has to do a better job of showing the fun side of the sport. We don’t show the guys making a mistake and somebody laughing about it. The MLB Network does a good job. But when you talk about entertainment, you’re gonna go to the NFL Network or you got Charles and Shaq and Kenny on TNT saying funny stuff. We just don’t have the personalities now to compete with those. That falls on everybody. It’s our job to promote the sport, whether you’re playing now or you played 40 years ago.

FOWLER: MLB puts all this stress on uniforms and stuff. I’m a big sneakerhead, so I feel like if we could change up the shoe game a little bit, let guys be a little more free, that would help. Because at the end of the day, fans are watching the game. And to see us, the way we play and what we wear, that’s a big part of it.

SCHERZER: We keep harping on pace of play, and there is something to it. I think, really, the simplest thing is, you’ve gotta crack down on the pitchers, and the way you do it is incentivize guys to work quick and not leave the mound. Fine them if they do. For me, I was taught that, and I think it actually helps my teammates because it allows me to work a little quicker and the guys behind me playing defense are on their toes a little more. But too, it just helps dictate the pace of the game when a pitcher gets the ball and is right back on the rubber.

PRICE: More music. That is what is really cool about the NBA. Like they had that game...when the Warriors were playing—they had an announcement on Jumbotron there’s not going to be any replays, no music, we’re just going to enjoy the pure sounds of basketball. I don’t think anybody liked that. Music does a lot for people. Just to have that rhythm. It’s not even the words that are being said. It’s just the beats, the rhythm of it. It just has a really good flow for people trying to do something athletically.

HARPER: I think when you’re looking cool is when you’re hitting homers and playing well. Those are the cool things. When you look across and you see Corey Seager hitting the ball nine miles or having a great at-bat against a lefty and hits the ball in the gap. Those are the cool things to me. Machado hitting one in the upper deck at Camden Yards. Seeing Clayton Kershaw strike out 20 or Max Scherzer doing the same thing. That’s what brings fun to the game. I think a lot of people are drawn to how guys play or what they do.

    

Question No. 7: What do you wish would change about baseball?

GRIFFEY: There are kids, African-American kids, who are playing baseball, who could play in the big leagues, who are in less fortunate situations, so scouts will never see them because they are not playing at these showcases. So I think that’s the conversation that needs to happen. There are tons of kids who can play this game who may not get the chance because of the area that they live in.

HARPER: I’d probably change the pitch clock back to the normal thing. I don’t enjoy coming in from right field and having just two minutes to get my stuff on and get into the box.

PRICE: It would be cool if two strikes were a strikeout, three balls could be a walk—it would speed the game up. Baseball wants to speed the game up, and yet they want more offense. It doesn’t work like that; I’m sorry.

SCHERZER: Get rid of the dropped third strike. If you’re bad enough to swing at a pitch the catcher can’t catch, then why do you get first?

FOWLER: They need to have a DJ at every ballpark. Get some good music. But they probably think it’s a distraction. You know, baseball’s so old-school.

    

Question No. 8: Do you even watch baseball on TV?

GRIFFEY: Yeah. TV does the game such an injustice. They only show the pitcher and catcher. They don’t show the movement of the infielders. They don’t show the movement of the outfielders. It’s either the pitcher, catcher, guy who’s on base. On the little split-screen. They don’t show everybody. They don’t show the manager relaying the signs in. And how strategic this game is. [Watching football on TV], you got guys drawing stuff out on the board. “That’s what he’s doing here because of this”—they don’t do that in baseball.

HARPER: I don’t. I play and watch the Food Network. I’m good.

PRICE: No. If I do, I watch it on mute. Absolutely. Half the time they don’t even talk about what’s going on in the game. I don’t know. Broadcasters either forgot how hard the game is or they didn’t play and they don’t know how hard it is.

FOWLER: I think sometimes you gotta put the TV on mute because you don’t want to hear some of the guys, just because some of what they’re saying is wrong. But I think telecasts need to be more upbeat and there needs to be more swag in the booth as well.

JONES: Yeah. Big Padres fan. Get all of them stats off the TV, man. A guy gets a base hit, I’m like, OK, man, talk about the base hit. Talk about his approach. They don’t talk about his approach because they don’t have the right guys to talk about it. They just know about a stat.

BETTS: No. I’m a big basketball guy. I’ll watch a basketball game. I play baseball for eight months every year, so I try to shut my mind off from baseball sometimes just so when I get back to the field I’m refreshed and ready to go.


GET MORE FROM B/R MAG’S “MAKE BASEBALL COOL AGAIN” SPECIAL:
Inside the Fabulous Life of MLB Prodigy Hunter Greene >


‘LEAVE IT UP TO THE NERDS’ 

Question No. 9: How many casual fans are being driven away by sabermetrics and stats?

PRICE: Baseball players don’t even understand that stuff, so there’s no way the casual fan can understand what is being talked about if we don’t get it.

GRIFFEY: No matter what you do, you still have the eye test: “Can this kid play baseball?” Because the two things you can’t measure are human heart and human error. Every day, your body changes. We’re not machines. So every day, something hurts, something twinges, something’s tight. We’re not loose every day. That’s why we play the game.

FOWLER: That stuff is wrong sometimes. And people stop watching the game and start going to the stats. You leave it up to the nerds, I guess. They do the whole fielding-range thing. Like do they realize that there’s wind, that’s there this and that? There’s a lot of variables I don’t think they take into account.

    

Question No. 10: What’s causing all the home runs this season—and how far they’re being hit?

PRICE: Statcast is completely wrong. The ball Aaron Judge hit on top of the batter’s eye in Yankee Stadium, Statcast has it 435 or 445 feet. That ball’s every bit of 500 feet. Could be something going on with the baseballs. The ball they tracked Chad Pinder against us in Oakland, I’ve never seen a ball go that far in Oakland, not in BP watching Miguel Cabrera or J.D. Martinez or Yoenis Cespedes. I don’t even know what it was, but it was 500 feet. If it said 499, I’m telling you it’s false.

There’s something going on with the baseball—that’s for sure. The difference between a Triple-A baseball and a big league baseball is ridiculous. Ridiculous. We were doing the test when I was making my rehab starts: sitting there with both balls—you can just feel the difference, the way some of them sound and the way some of them come off the bat.


GET MORE FROM B/R MAG’S “MAKE BASEBALL COOL AGAIN” SPECIAL:
Subscribe to The B/R Mag Show podcast for more Ken Griffey Jr. >


‘SOCIAL MEDIA IS ALMOST EVERYTHING’ 

Question No. 11: How much can social make baseball cool?

BETTS: You get to see players in their personal life—and it makes it a little more cool, seeing them during the game, knowing what they wore to the field that day or what his spikes really look like or what his glove actually is. It is just a different way for guys to interact with fans and let them get to know us and realize that we’re normal people.

JONES: I get people saying all kinds of things to me in all kinds of nasty ways on social media, and all I say, I’m just trying to do my job. I just try to tell people, Trust me, we’re frustrated for you, we’re frustrated that we didn’t get the job done, we’re frustrated that we struck out, the pitcher is frustrated that he made a bad pitch, the defense is frustrated it made an error—trust me, we’re frustrated, too. Probably a little more frustrated than you because it actually is helping or hindering us in terms of this is our livelihood, this is our job.

HARPER: I try to do the best I can to put things out there. You control those situations. Those are the fun parts of it. You’re able to really control what you want out there and how you want to go about it. I want to try to do the best I can to connect and try to get that younger generation, because they do enjoy the social media aspect of it. That’s huge for me, that social aspect.

FOWLER: The time we’re in, social media is almost everything. The young kids and everybody else, that’s what they are looking at. And if we’re not present on there, they don’t really know who we are.

     

Question No. 12: Should players engage more on social?

SCHERZER: Social media is dangerous for baseball players. Things can get taken out of context so fast. You can say something you don’t want to say. It’s dangerous.

JONES: Recently I’ve tried to disconnect myself when it comes to social media and sports talking because, at the end of the day, people are going to agree with you or disagree with you. I try to put up things that are uplifting, but people don’t want to talk about that. Put up something with baseball and people want to talk about that.

GRIFFEY: I think social media has allowed the players to be able to say things that maybe didn’t come out right the first time and say what they really meant. I think that it keeps people fair and honest.

BETTS: I always say you have to give something to get something. And for people to get to know me I may have to post pictures and whatnot, but then you’re going to get the people who say ‘You suck’ and those type of things, too. It’s just a part of it.

PRICE: If I was a kid and my favorite player has a good game, and if I tweet him after the game and he replies back or favorites my tweet, it’s essentially like you just had a conversation with him. I couldn’t imagine what that would do for me. To me it’s the way it should go. It’s not always the case, and I understand that. There are over a million-and-a-half pitching coaches and whatnot all over social media. It’s easy. This is an easy game. Yeah. You come do it.


Click here to get B/R Mag on the go in the new B/R app for more sports storytelling worth your time, wherever you are.

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Hunter Greene Is Not the LeBron of Baseball. He Wants to Be Something More.

Hunter Greene opens the door in his underwear—and only his underwear. It is 5:45 a.m., but he happily offers me a glass of water and welcomes me into his family’s two-story home in Stevenson Ranch, California, with a 360-degree view of the Santa Susanas and, just south of the mountaintops, the city that breeds stars. There are African masks and sculptures all over, arcade versions of Ms. Pac-Man and Centipede upstairs, and a painting of Jackie Robinson in the dining room. On top of the kitchen cabinet, a sign: BE YOURSELF. EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN. Justice, the family cat, slinks from room to room before, as if programmed, appearing on the kitchen countertop.

This is where a senior at Notre Dame High, working on two hours of sleep after returning from Coachella, gets ready for school. But this particular high school senior wakes up before the sunrise every day—to eat, to take three dozen swings in his backyard batting cage and get to first period by 7:45.

Hunter and his father, Russell, have established a breakfast program by now: omelette, bacon or sausage (corned beef hash on Wednesdays), strawberries and bananas, plus a power-shake blend of chocolate Muscle Milk and spinach. As Hunter showers, exhausted, Russell flips the egg, alive. Hunter and his friends prefer Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert, the new Kendrick, but as the grill sizzles, Russell’s playlist—Maxwell, Erykah Badu, Floetry—dominates the morning air.

“Hunt, you almost ready?”

“Yep.”

It’s a production all right, bringing up a baseball prospect as senior spring gives way to becoming the No. 2 pick by the Cincinnati Reds in the MLB draft. “I’m glad it’s almost over,” Russell says in the last week of April, nearly two months before the draft.

But this is no ordinary prospect. This is “Doc Gooden,” says one longtime California scout. This is the next Jose Fernandez, says a National League executive. And that’s just on the mound. At shortstop, this is “Cal Ripken, Carlos Correa, Alex Rodriguez,” the executive declares. This young man is also just 17 years old.

“He’s like a mythical legend already, Hunter Greene,” Marcus Stroman, the Blue Jays pitcher and World Baseball Classic MVP, tells B/R Mag. “People are already whispering about him: Did you see that guy throw 105 AND hit the ball 700 feet? … Oh, my God, there’s a black baseball player!” Adds another scout: “If you created a player in the video game MLB: The Show and turned up all of his attributes to 99 overall, that would be Hunter Greene.”

Hunter and Russell used to play their own kind of video game—“The Scout Game,” they call it—while scrolling through a pro player’s social media feed: “tattoos, finger flipping, foul language,” says Russell, a Hollywood private investigator who represents Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.

And then he’d ask his son: “Are we going to pay this player money?”

“No way.”

“Now,” Russell says, "I don’t really have to worry about him.”

The family even has a rule: “If you’re going to text-message, everything has to be in full, complete sentences,” Russell says. “We don’t abbreviate in this house—it builds bad habits.”

But to know the real Hunter Greene—to see him unscripted in his underwear, to read his real text messages, to drive him around Los Angeles for a week—is to step into a fantasy world where celebrity fuses with conformity and the greatest of expectations only expedite the inevitability of adulthood.

By Friday, after playing three games for Notre Dame, hobnobbing with Dodgers legends past, present and future, and being declared both THE NEW BABE and BASEBALL’S LEBRON by Sports Illustrated, Hunter will admit to barely remembering Monday’s breakfast. By draft night two months later, he will be answering 140 more texts and getting briefly interrupted by more fans in the middle of Times Square, by more onlookers and after-parties, more hangers-on and hopefuls, all wanting more more more from the Hunter Greene machine, which never stops.

As Russell washes away the dirty eggs and sweeps away the cat hair, he turns to Hunter, who is wearing thigh-high socks, like he often does with his uniform, only these have Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die cover sewed on them.

“We took in a new case,” Russell says. “Black high school athlete dating white girl.”

“Oh no,” Hunter mumbles, food in his mouth.

“Sexual relationship. Now he don’t want to be her boyfriend anymore, so now there are allegations…. Then we come to find out, he’s been with six other girls—so what’s the lesson?” Russell asks. “Keep your hands to yourself. Can’t trust anybody.”

Russell puts down the pan and points at Hunter:

“In his position? No way, man.”

“It sucks, but it’s the truth,” Hunter says. “It’s reality.”


The text from his dad is simple: “Proud of You.” In the back of psychology class Tuesday morning, Hunter begins to tear up, but his classmates don’t notice, and before long the buzzing won’t stop. That’s what happens when you become the 13th high schooler on the cover of Sports Illustrated. That’s what happens when people compare you to Babe Ruth (“Come on, dude—I’m not that good,” he says) and LeBron James. That’s what happens these days, when you’re a prodigy with an iPhone, a smile and a 102-mile-an-hour fastball.

Young women begin sliding into his DMs, with over 200 requested messages on Instagram alone. “Girls who like pictures from a year ago and then DM me?” Hunter asks. “I can’t be a part of that shit, no matter how hot they are.” He has no interest in dating, at least not until he establishes himself in the majors. “I just don’t have time,” he says.

Hunter’s advisor (now agent) from Creative Artists Agency calls to see how he’s handling the attention. Two local TV stations stop by. He gets invited to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live and SportsCenter; he turns them down. Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Jordan Brand have all made it clear they want Hunter wearing their gear come summer.

But right now, Hunter walks with a purpose past the luxury cars on the campus of Notre Dame High, holding doors open and trying to blend in, as one teacher puts it, as “a little nerdy.” But even with the younger students whispering about the legend in their midst, even with educators gawking as they, too, ask for autographs, and even as, according to his father, stalkers keep asking for his attention, Hunter keeps a very, very tight circle. “That’s going to be one of the most challenging things when I move on,” he says. “Knowing who’s real and who’s fake. Having people who actually care and are not in it for fame, money or just whatever they want.”

By design, Hunter’s catcher, Justin Rorick, is his only close friend. The family calls him Boogie.

They became friends when they were eight years old on the same baseball team. During freshman and sophomore years, while Boogie attended Birmingham Community Charter High School in Van Nuys, he caught Hunter’s bullpen sessions on the weekends, and they hung out afterward. Russell encouraged Boogie to transfer to Notre Dame so that the friends could go to school and play baseball together again. When Hunter participated in the Junior Home Run Derby at the MLB All-Star game in San Diego last July, Boogie was there. When Hunter was drafted by the Reds last month, Boogie was there.

Whenever there’s not a team lunch, Hunter and Boogie eat together, alone, on a bench outside the baseball field. They have no interest in sitting in the cafeteria. Too cramped. Too many cliques. Too much drama. Too much high school.

“If you want to stay in high school, there’s something wrong,” Hunter tells me on the way to school one morning before falling asleep in the passenger seat, which happens frequently. “It’s only the beginning.”

Eating a box of orange chicken, Hunter checks Twitter to see what people are saying about the SI cover. “Some dude thinks I look like if Russell Wilson and Tiger Woods had a baby,” he says. “Looks like Tyler the Creator.” He laughs. He checks Snapchat, then Instagram to see how many followers he’s gained: 10K, 12.5K, 14K. As for Facebook, well, that’s where he posts photos for old people in his family. But with more money, more attention, more pressure, more…everything, Hunter is feeling more like one of the olds, all of the time.

“I definitely feel like an adult 24/7,” he says. “It’s hard to be in the moment because everything is happening so fast, and I’m so young. It’s hard to slow down because everything is moving so fast.

“I have something way bigger going on than all these other people,” he says of his high school classmates. “And in a couple weeks, they’re going to be like, ‘Wow, this is what this kid was preparing for since he was seven years old.’”

Hunter says he doesn’t feel the weight of expectations from scouts or the media, but he does care about living up to them for those who have invested time in him: his fans, his teachers, his friends, his family, the Reds.

“He knows he can’t make everyone happy,” Boogie says, “but he wants to feel like he at least tried.”

At the family’s regular postgame dinner on Thursday, Hunter says he is trying very, very hard: “I just want to make everyone happy. I want to be able to be successful and show for all the effort I put in and that others put in to my career. I want to make it worth it.”

“You know you won’t make everybody happy, right?” Russell asks.

“I know,” Hunter says, looking down. He takes a bite of macaroni and cheese.

“Yep.”


Hunter Greene’s bedroom is a museum. By the door, there’s his No. 23 Team USA jersey, a bat given to him by Ken Griffey Jr., a miniature statue of him in a Yankees uniform, his 2015 Jackie Robinson National Player of the Year Award. On the right wall, two whiteboards with his previous three months planned out: games, meetings, family trips, yoga. His handwriting is as tidy as auto-tune, a product of his mom’s calligraphy lessons. Below the calendar are two hashtags, #NOCONFUSION2017 and #I’MTHEBESTINTHEWORLD! On the right, a list of goals:

  1. HEALTHY (Hunter’s never had a major injury in his life)
  2. LONG TOSS (part of a throwing program)
  3. .400 BATTING AVERAGE (finished the season at .324)
  4. 101 MPH (check, and then some)
  5. MISSION LEAGUE CHAMP (check)
  6. COMMUNITY SERVICE (Notre Dame requires 30 hours each year to graduate)
  7. FINISH STRONG ACADEMICALLY (3.5 GPA)
  8. FOCUS (private yoga lessons every week)
  9. FAMILY TIME (the postgame dinners)
  10. DMV (Hunter Greene cannot drive)

On the bed is his sister’s blanket featuring Tinkerbell from Peter Pan, rotating in for Spiderman this wash cycle. There are two framed posters of Greene hitting and pitching, a box of pins, four community service awards and his varsity letters. Next to a stack of magazines with his face on the cover, a Windows desktop computer sits on the desk, littered with baseball cards. Hunter says that if he sold his collection of autographs, he’d easily collect $300K—maybe a couple thousand for the Willie Mays ball alone.

“I don’t want to be a dumb jock,” Hunter says, as if primed. “I want to be something more.”

If Hunter Greene stays healthy and plays well enough to make the Baseball Hall of Fame, as so many already expect him to do, the curators could pretty much just up and transport this bedroom. Cooperstown is certainly on the list of career goals, but first, Hunter would “like to celebrate a playoff victory with Martinelli’s apple cider.” (Hunter Greene cannot legally drink champagne.)

Then there’s the other thing everyone expects him to do: you know, just...inspire an entire generation of young African-American kids to come back to baseball, to single-handedly power diversity in a sport lacking as much in star power as national cool—indeed, to save America’s pastime from itself.

No pressure.

“I’ve always been under the radar since I was young, since I was 13,” Hunter says on draft night. “It’s just routine, everything that is going on. I expect myself to be able to handle stuff like this if I’m going to put myself in this position. I can’t be avoiding people, avoiding interviews, avoiding whatever it is.”

This is not whatever: On Opening Day in 2016, just 8.3 percent of players in Major League Baseball, or around 60 young men, were black. In the first 16 years of this century, just 10 African-American pitchers—1.9 percent—were selected in the first round, with three—David Price, Dillon Tate and Dewon Brazelton—chosen in the top five. Hunter made four. In the past six MLB drafts, less than 20 percent of first-round picks were African-American, but baseball has a complex road ahead.

“The beauty of Hunter is that he grew up in a perfect storm,” says former MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon. “You put everything together, and it gives us a refreshing young man who can maybe change the sport from a playing standpoint and social consciousness with his maturity level and how well-spoken he is about what he’d like to do in the game.”

MLB rosters included 13 African-American pitchers on Opening Day this season, and for the last 10 years, the percentage of African-American major leaguers has stayed flat, at around seven or eight percent. Hunter, doomed and destined as a savior, wants to combine his generational talent with a willingness to be a social activist.

At 13, he won an MLB essay contest that let him meet Jackie Robinson’s daughter, Sharon. In March, he gave a speech to the Ladera Little League, in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, to encourage elementary and middle-schoolers. “Be the best version of yourself on and off the field,” he told the crowd. “On the field, every position is important and you can win the game for your team. Off the field, don’t do anything to embarrass yourself or your family.” In December, Hunter organized a sock drive for the homeless in downtown Los Angeles, collecting more than 2,300 pairs.

“Thank God he is coming,” Stroman says. “We need him.”

“He’s so vital because those kids are going to be picking up those magazines and saying, ‘Who’s this?’” Stroman continues. “A black baseball player? A pitcher? Who is throwing 102? Once you see all of that, that’s what sparks the interest in that younger culture. That’s what leads to saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to go pitch like Hunter Greene.’”

When I text Hunter from Toronto about the praise from Stroman, who is black, he texts right back: “Nah, I haven’t done shit yet 😂😂.”

Erikk Aldridge, one of Hunter’s youth baseball coaches who previously worked as the director of community relations for the Lakers and Dodgers, is not afraid of mythical comparisons.

“He’s like Magic Johnson,” Aldridge says. “He’s going to hit you with that smile until you get on the field. Then, it’s business.”

“He’s the type of guy you could see being the mayor of Los Angeles.”

"A black baseball player? A pitcher? Who is throwing 102? Thank God he is coming. We need him." —Marcus Stroman

At dinner Thursday at Granville, an organic restaurant on Ventura Boulevard, Russell Greene zips from one diatribe to another, primed to talk about everything on his mind, about the importance of teaching his son about race, about raising a “major league citizen.” Hunter sips on pink lemonade as his father reminds me that it was racism that led him to enroll Hunter at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, 50 miles away, where he could see other African-American baseball players, that he was—is—afraid for his son’s life as a black man in the United States. “I worry when my son is out and about in the streets,” Russell says. “They don’t give a shit that he’s Hunter Greene, an upper-class, middle-class kid going to private school. They see him as a black face.”

As Russell preaches, man alive, Hunter remains quiet, listening. It happens each night I have dinner with the Greenes: The more Russell opines about the world, the more Hunter opens his ears and his eyes. Whenever I turn to Hunter to ask him if he has anything to add to one of his father’s sermons, the response is similar.

“All of that sounds good to me,” Hunter says. “He’s speaking from a place of life experience.”


Russell watches the games by himself. Occasionally, he’ll cheer on Hunter and his teammates. (“Atta boy, bud!” “Good swing, kid!”) Every once in a while, he’ll shout out a coaching tip to his son. (“Keep your backside straight at the plate!” “Stop trying too hard!”) Other parents will congratulate him on his son’s success, but he keeps the conversations short. Between innings, he searches Hunter’s name on Twitter. He wants to know everything. With all they’ve gone through, Russell needs to know everything.

When Russell became a parent at 25 years old (“He came out of this nut—the right one” he says, pointing to his groin), he promised to never miss one of his son’s games. In the 17 years since, he has missed only two, and they were in Japan. “I made sure Hunter never experienced what I experienced,” he says.

Russell’s parents got divorced when he was two. He grew up with his father, a veteran of the Green Berets, in Sacramento, where they lived until Russell was in fifth grade. When Hunter’s grandfather started dating his soon-to-be second wife, he stopped regularly attending Russell’s football and baseball games. And then he stopped going to them at all, so feeling left behind, Russell decided to run away.

He called his mom, who lived in Los Angeles, and she came to pick him up. He lost contact with his dad. He smoked and transported weed. He drank. He was a good athlete, playing Division II football at Humboldt State, but had no aspirations to play sports professionally. It’s why he has no regrets about Hunter’s abnormal high school experience. “What he’s missed out on is stuff he doesn’t need to be a part of,” Russell says.

For 15 years Russell worked for Johnnie Cochran, starting at the end of the O.J. Simpson murder trial, before opening a private practice, in which he specialized in violent crimes, often homicides and sexual assaults. His work with celebrities, Russell says, helped prepare his son for what, to him, was near-certain fame: “Everything you hear about Justin Bieber, Hunter knows about. Everything about the Kardashians, he knows about it because I use them as an example, whether they are good or bad.”

Russell sports slicked-back, shiny silver hair and frequently rocks a $6,000 Rolex Submariner watch with ripped, acid-washed jeans. It only makes sense that both NBC and CBS have offered him a reality show.

“There’s a little LaVar Ball inside of me,” Russell Greene tells me as he watches his prodigal son play from behind the dugout. “I want to jump on top of this dugout and scream at the top of my lungs that my kid is on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I want to yell at all the people who called him the N-word and the people who said he would never make it. I want to put the Sports Illustrated on a thumbtack on their front doorstep. I want to shrinkwrap their car with the Sports Illustrated wrap. I want to beat my chest and run up and down the street. But I can’t do that. That’s not me personally. It is on the inside.”

“I can’t judge that man,” Hunter Greene’s father says of the new Laker star Lonzo Ball’s notorious dad. “He loves his family. Does he say things he shouldn’t say? Yeah, but he’s fired up.”

"There's a little LaVar Ball inside of me. I want to scream at the top of my lungs that my kid is on the cover of Sports Illustrated." —Russell Greene, Hunter's father

As we talk, Hunter, playing shortstop, chases a dribbler in front of second base. With each giant step across the infield, he becomes more superman than boy, transforming into a kind of Optimus Prime in cleats as he grabs the ball off the grass and throws across his body, impossibly, to nail the runner by two full steps. The crowd cheers, excited to see what they came for, and one of Notre Dame’s coaches turns around from the dugout to holler at Russell.

“Which controls did you use for that one?” the coach asks, miming playing video games.

“Just messing around with the controls,” Russell yells back to the dugout, fidgeting with the invisible controller in his lap for the father’s version of MLB: The Show, in real life.

Over the phone a week later, Boogie, the catcher and confidant, says of Russell: “It’s like he knew this was going to happen a long time ago, and he made it happen.”


Hunter Greene heads for the door of the Dodger Stadium luxury box in his signature jacket—and this is no ordinary varsity jacket. It’s a resume: his Mission League MVP, Team USA baseball, All-City 2016, All-League 2016, All-Area 2016, All CIF, Under Armour All-American, UCLA. On the back is a much more muscular, cartoon version of himself, a baseball on fire in his right hand, a crushed bat in his left and his foot atop a stack of textbooks. Anyone who vaguely recognizes this young man confirms their suspicions after one glance at his jacket.

“Are you Hunter?” asks Don Newcombe, Major League Baseball’s first African-American star pitcher, who has invited him as his guest for the day.

“Yes, sir.”

“This is our suite,” Newcombe says. “It’s for special people.”

“We are special people,” Hunter says.

Newcombe and his wife guide Hunter, Russell and Boogie into the underbelly of the stadium, through the clubhouse and onto the field, where Chase Utley pushes his way through a small crowd to introduce himself. A few minutes later, Joc Pederson does the same. Heads turn, cameras click and the whispers are as loud as the crack of a bat. Dennis Haysbert—you know, from the Allstate commercials, and, not to be forgotten, Pedro Cerrano in Major League: Back to the Minors—makes small talk about Hunter’s future in the majors. Corey Seager stops by with a lesson on how to be a tall shortstop: “Don’t listen to the critics,” he says. “Do your thing.”

Yasiel Puig, in fluent English, tells Hunter about his difficulties with the cultural transition, moving from Cuba to the United States, driving down the freeway in fancy cars and facing pitchers who throw 97-mile-an-hour fastballs, seemingly unaware that the lanky high school senior next to him can throw much, much faster than that.

Russell asks Puig about how he handles all of the attention, all of the pressure, all of the…everything. “Last year, I would go into the bathroom and people would be like, ‘Why is Puig in the bathroom?’” the All-Star responds. “It’s like, ‘What, I can’t shit?’” Hunter laughs—like, [😂 😂]. “Everybody is waiting and looking for me.... Everyone wants to follow you.” There will be more reporters, Puig is saying—more young women sliding into your DMs, more fans asking for your autograph, more pressure than even your parents can prime you to overcome. “Do everything the right way and nobody can say nothing.”

Puig is crushing batting-practice pitches over the Dodger Stadium fence, into the sky that looks over the stars, when I turn to Boogie, who is busy Snapchatting the scene from through the cage.

“Wow,” I say to Hunter’s best friend. “Isn’t this all a little surreal?”

“Yeah, but it’s just another day in the life of Hunter Greene,” he says.

Over sliders, salad, pink lemonade and blondies at the Dugout Club, Newcombe tells stories of playing with Jackie Robinson. The Dodgers legend tells Hunter how building strength in his legs helped preserve his arm. Russell watches his son speak to a man who, President Barack Obama once said, “helped America become what it is.” Russell begins to tear up. “This is history,” he says. “This is history.”

 

At the end of dinner, Newcombe and Hunter sign copies of their Sports Illustrated covers for one another. “This makes me feel wonderful,” Newcombe says. “There should be more Hunters. I wish there were…. Thank God for Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe and, later, Larry Doby. We showed them that we could play baseball.”

Newcombe turns and points to Hunter.

“That’s what this young man is doing again.”

As we pile into the elevator, one more fan calls out, hoping for an autograph. The elevator is full, but the door gets held open for Hunter to sign two more baseballs. “We’ve got to go!” someone calls out. But Hunter stays for five more seconds and signs everything—just to make sure everyone is happy with him, just to make sure nobody gets left behind, just to make sure he gives everybody what they want.

But as the legend grows, they’ll only ask for more.


Joon Lee is a staff writer for B/R Mag. Follow him on Twitter: @iamjoonlee

Click here to get B/R Mag on the go in the new B/R app for more sports storytelling worth your time, wherever you are. This week: Make Baseball Cool Again—a manifesto in five parts.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Yankees Emphasize Russell Wilson over Cam Newton Qualities in Media Training

All New York Yankees can check their attitudes at the door—along with any other excessive outward emotions or opinions.

Following the trend of encouraging progressively more prescribed athlete reactions, the renowned baseball organization aimed to instill within its players the makings of a proper postgame interview.

Their subjects of study? Quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Cam Newton.

According to ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand, the session went something like this: 

During the Yankees' media training, the Super Bowl is being used to portray the right and wrong way to act. Part of a video shown to pitchers and catchers compares how Cam Newton handled his Super Bowl loss to the way Russell Wilson dealt with his defeat the previous year.

Sports fans are already well aware of the dichotomy between Wilson's polite bow and Newton's abrupt exit, but as many have pointed out, passion is a difficult thing to quell.

Wilson's teammate Richard Sherman was mightily criticized for his own postgame outburst. Recently, fellow Seahawks defensive back Earl Thomas took to Twitter to criticize the NFL's restrictions on individual expression. 

The various personalities seem to suit Seattle, but don't expect the Yanks to be embracing the assortment of commentary. If tight-lipped is what they're aiming for, however, perhaps Marshawn Lynch would have been the best example of all. 

[Yahoo Sports]

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

The Passbook Football Lets You Play Catch With Yourself

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It sucks being forever alone. Don’t let us count the reasons. But we’ll mention one: you can’t play catch with a football by yourself. The pointy end of the ball will make it bounce off a wall all wrong, making solo play impossible. That’s of course until you buy a Passbook Football. It’s really half a ball, with one flat side. This way you can throw it at a wall and expect it to bounce right back at you. You can practice your aim by placing a target on said wall, or just have a bit of fun while thinking about how you’d actually really like to have some friends to do this with. And even if you do have pals, the Passbook Football can still be used in a whole new kind of gameplay that wouldn’t require you to have an entire field to your disposal. All in all, it’s an ingenious little toy, and it’s just $25.

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[ Product Page ] VIA [ OddityMall ]

The Most Can’t-Miss Remaining Sports Days of 2015

The year we've learned to call 2015 has already been a wonderful one in terms of sports.

We've seen Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors win an NBA title and the New England Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX in dramatic fashion. After months of speculation, The Undertaker finally returned to face off with Brock Lesnar.

With only a few months left to go before we turn the page on another calendar year, we decided to list the best remaining sports days in '15.

Spanning the vast and complex universe of sports, here are the gems we came up with. 

Begin Slideshow

The Most Can’t-Miss Remaining Sports Days of 2015

The year we've learned to call 2015 has already been a wonderful one in terms of sports.

We've seen Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors win an NBA title and the New England Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX in dramatic fashion. After months of speculation, The Undertaker finally returned to face off with Brock Lesnar.

With only a few months left to go before we turn the page on another calendar year, we decided to list the best remaining sports days in '15.

Spanning the vast and complex universe of sports, here are the gems we came up with. 

Begin Slideshow

David Villa: All set for Melbourne City’s season opener

David Villa
In a recent interview, the former Spanish football player, David Villa, announced that he is fit and impatient to go for the Melbourne City’s season opener at Sydney Football Club. Though it is totally not declared as to what exact role the striker of New York City FC will be playing as a guest of the Melbourne City FC. Read More

The Most Fun Awful Teams in Sports History

It's often said that sports aren't all about winning and losing but about having fun as well. The problem, though, is that loss and fun are almost always conflicting, mutually exclusive notions. In other words, few people can lose and have fun at the same time.

This reality is every bit as true from the perspective of the fans too. Take a moment to consider the history of sports and you'll find it hard to identify teams that were both really exciting and really bad; the teams we love to watch are mostly winners, sometimes average but rarely awful. 

There are, however, exceptions to most rules, this one included.

The 1996 Detroit Lions, for example, found wins incredibly hard to come by but still register as one of the NFL's most captivating teams thanks largely to some guy named Barry Sanders. 

This year, in the NBA, Kobe Bryant is doing the same thing for the Los Angeles Lakers, who remain a popular, can't-miss attraction despite their depressing, losing ways. 

In 1962, a gregarious manager named Casey Stengel played the same role of fun and entertaining savior, using humor to turn the miserable Mets into the country's most lovable losers.

With these historical anomalies in mind, we were inspired to rank the 10 most fun awful teams in sports history.

Some of the terrible teams we chose entertained fans with legendary stars, while others featured a dynamic coach or compelling style of play. No matter what, though, people had plenty of fun watching each one lose.

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The Most Successful Father-Son Combos in Sports History

Though athletic greatness is most often associated with notions like hard work and dedication, sometimes genetic excellence supersedes all, in a way stealing the leading role.

In these rare instances, sports stardom is passed down from father to son(s), almost as if they were born to play their respective games.

Along the gridiron, for example, three different Mannings have dominated football on both the collegiate and pro levels, beginning with the patriarchal Archie all the way back in 1969.

Likewise, in hockey, Bobby Hull set the standard for offensive excellence in the '50s, '60s and '70s, while his son, Brett, seamlessly continued the family tradition more than two decades later. 

The same can be said of numerous baseball families, like the Alous, Bonds, Griffeys and Boones, all of which produced multiple generations of baseball greats. 

With, then, the aforementioned families in mind, we've sought to highlight and honor the 15 most prolific father-son combos in sports history. 

Though we used a sliding scale of sorts—one generation's mediocrity could, in theory, be overcome by the next generation's excellence—for the most part we only selected duos in which both members had achieved some form of professional success.

Also, additional credit was given if a father-son combo's athletic greatness extended to a third generation—to another son, if you willor if a father produced not one, but two or three superstar sons (like Archie).

And while most of our spotlighted duos played the same sport, a few chose to migrate in divergent directions. Either way, though, each of our father-son combos nonetheless ranks among the most naturally gifted and athletically prolific in all of sports history.

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Most Viral Sports Moments of the Year

In relatively recent history, increased Internet activity has augmented sports coverage in a profound way, driving millions upon millions of eyes and ears toward the industry's biggest stars and stories.

This year was no different, as the 2014’s most captivating sports moments found a home and plenty of room to flourish all across the Web.

Landon Donovan, for example, never received as much publicity as when news spread online that U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann had decided to leave him off the prestigious World Cup squad.

And, in a similar vein, news concerning the NBA’s Donald Sterling fiasco spread like wildfire mere minutes after TMZ exposed the former owner for his unknowingly recorded and unquestionably racist diatribe.

Finally, in the NFL, Richard Sherman gained a new and perhaps unprecedented level of infamy as soon as Internet users clicked on his colorful conversation with Erin Andrews following 2014’s NFC Championship game.

With the aforementioned events and New Year's around the bend, we were inspired to highlight the 30 Most Viral Sports Moments of the Year.

Some brought laughter, while others inspired anger or even tears. In the end, though, each moment had—at least temporarilyone major thing in common: extraordinary fame and following all across the information highway.

Begin Slideshow

Most Viral Sports Moments of the Year

In relatively recent history, increased Internet activity has augmented sports coverage in a profound way, driving millions upon millions of eyes and ears toward the industry's biggest stars and stories.

This year was no different, as the 2014’s most captivating sports moments found a home and plenty of room to flourish all across the Web.

Landon Donovan, for example, never received as much publicity as when news spread online that U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann had decided to leave him off the prestigious World Cup squad.

And, in a similar vein, news concerning the NBA’s Donald Sterling fiasco spread like wildfire mere minutes after TMZ exposed the former owner for his unknowingly recorded and unquestionably racist diatribe.

Finally, in the NFL, Richard Sherman gained a new and perhaps unprecedented level of infamy as soon as Internet users clicked on his colorful conversation with Erin Andrews following 2014’s NFC Championship game.

With the aforementioned events and New Year's around the bend, we were inspired to highlight the 30 Most Viral Sports Moments of the Year.

Some brought laughter, while others inspired anger or even tears. In the end, though, each moment had—at least temporarilyone major thing in common: extraordinary fame and following all across the information highway.

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People in Sports Who Had the Best and Worst Year Ever

In life, and in sports, nearly everyone experiences prolonged periods of both success and failure. Of course, the 2014 sports year was far from different, as fans were treated to some truly memorable performances, of both the good and bad sort.

Madison Bumgarner, for example, had a downright iconic year, establishing himself as one of baseball’s all-time greats with the type of postseason pitching we’d never seen before.

In a similar vein, Russell Wilson led his Seahawks to the mountaintop and, in so doing, catapulted himself into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks.

In contrast, however, Tiger Woods battled injury all year long and lost his spot atop golf’s world rankings, while Robert Griffin did the same and lost his stranglehold on the starting quarterback spot in Washington.

So, with these guys and others in mind, we’ve done our best to highlight 10 People/Teams in Sports who had the best/worst year ever.

We should note, we’ve dodged the heavier side of sports in 2014, excluding from our list major violators like Donald Sterling, Jameis Winston, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Roger Goodell.

Instead, then, we’ve explored those who struggled for non-legal reasons, and exalted the athletes who had a dream 2014.

Begin Slideshow

People in Sports Who Had the Best and Worst Year Ever

In life, and in sports, nearly everyone experiences prolonged periods of both success and failure. Of course, the 2014 sports year was far from different, as fans were treated to some truly memorable performances, of both the good and bad sort.

Madison Bumgarner, for example, had a downright iconic year, establishing himself as one of baseball’s all-time greats with the type of postseason pitching we’d never seen before.

In a similar vein, Russell Wilson led his Seahawks to the mountaintop and, in so doing, catapulted himself into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks.

In contrast, however, Tiger Woods battled injury all year long and lost his spot atop golf’s world rankings, while Robert Griffin did the same and lost his stranglehold on the starting quarterback spot in Washington.

So, with these guys and others in mind, we’ve done our best to highlight 10 People/Teams in Sports who had the best/worst year ever.

We should note, we’ve dodged the heavier side of sports in 2014, excluding from our list major violators like Donald Sterling, Jameis Winston, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Roger Goodell.

Instead, then, we’ve explored those who struggled for non-legal reasons, and exalted the athletes who had a dream 2014.

Begin Slideshow

2014’s Best Sports Commercials

When executed properly, the best sports commercials have the ability to both amuse and inspire.

In 2014, viewers were treated to memorable spots that ran the gamut, getting a taste of all forms of clever and witty.

The year’s biggest sporting event—World Cup—inspired a collection of cinematic shorts, with companies like McDonald’s and Nike taking full advantage.

The year also saw the great Derek Jeter hang up his cleats, and certain tribute commercials left a lasting impression as they paid The Captain the type of profound respect he deserves.

Finally, stealing a page out of Peyton Manning’s book, James Harden teamed up with Foot Locker this year and made us laugh hysterically, while Manning himself worked with Gatorade on yet another chapter.

With these commercials in mind, then, we’ve worked to highlight 2014’s 11 best sports commercials.

While some are funny and others more serious, each commercial skillfully achieved what it set out to accomplish, taking viewers on an emotional and entertaining ride, in one direction or another.

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Stars Fans Love to Hate

While we mostly seek to highlight the positive side of sports—whether its great plays or heroic achievements—we can’t help but acknowledge that some athletes inspire tremendous anger and outrage.

These athletes—you know, the ones who really piss fans off—are often as fun to “hate” as others are to love.

For example, there are as many fans rooting against Jameis Winston on most Saturdays as there are rooting for Peyton Manning on any given Sunday.

And Houston’s Dwight Howard is mocked and criticized every bit as often as Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant is praised.

Likewise, look to NASCAR and you’ll find that the most dominant driver of the last decade—Jimmie Johnson—is arguably the sport’s least popular figure, too.

With these athletes in mind, then, we’ve added to the list, highlighting the top 10 stars fans love to hate.

Those chosen have committed a wide range of sometimes differing transgressions, but they all have one certain thing in common: For who they are and what they’ve done, sports fans everywhere love to hate them.

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