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The Penn State cover-up

The Jerry Sandusky trial is over, but now the story will move on to the alleged cover-up at Penn State. The news report above from CNN is devastating, as emails have been discovered suggesting a cover-up among Penn State officials. More importantly, references to Joe Paterno in the emails suggest that athletic director Tom Curley decided to change course and not follow a plan to report the incidents to authorities after he spoke with Paterno on the matter.

These are all allegations at the moment, but if these emails are accurate, it appears there was a conspiracy to handle the Sandusky allegations by confronting Sandusky but not reporting it to the authorities, and that Joe Paterno was actively involved. Not only was he involved, these emails suggest that Paterno himself may have been the primary influence to cause the plan to go to authorities to be changed.

This is a stunning development. Again, we need to wait for the report and for all of the evidence to come out. But, we do know that Mike McQueary testified that he told Paterno and then Penn State officials about what happened. And we also know that after Paterno informed his superiors, nothing was ever reported to the authorities. Now the rest of the details are coming to light, and Joe Paterno’s legacy might be completely destroyed.

More importantly, because Penn State officials and Joe Paterno never informed the authorities, more boys were raped and assaulted by Jerry Sandusky in the years that followed. Just disgusting.

We’re following SPORTSbyBROOKS on Twitter to track the developments in this story. This article from Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! summaries the issues and the devastating emails better than our short summary here.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Spain and Italy set up epic Euro final

Until this week, when people mentioned Spain and Italy in the same sentence, many would be referring to the financial crisis that has plagued Europe for the past several years. But now that’s changed as these two soccer power will meet up in the final of the Euro 2012 tournament on Sunday in Kiev at 2:30 PM.

Many were predicting a Germany/Spain final, but Italy stunned the Germans on Thursday behind two goals by Mario Balotelli. Germany was a big favorite but I pointed out Balotelli as one of the factors that could lead to a victory by the Italian side, and those same factors now apply against Spain. Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo have been spectacular for Italy, but the entire team seems to be coming together. They dominated most of the match against Germany and unleashed a powerful counter-attack strategy with aggressive sprints and long balls that stunned the Germans.

Spain and Italy have won the last two World Cups and Spain is the defending Euro champion. But this is a very different Italian team from the one that one the World Cup back in 2006, and it’s also different from the squad that had a a disappointing finish in 2010. So Spain was a favorite at the beginning of the tournament, but now many are starting to pile on the Italian bandwagon as Spain hasn’t been dominant and the Italians seem to be playing their best football.

Still, Italy will be the underdog again on Sunday, but this should be a great game.

Can Italy upset Germany?

Most of the experts think that Germany can easily handle the Italian side in tomorrow’s Euro 2012 semifinal and one can hardly blame them given what we’ve seen from Germany so far. As usual, the Germans are living up to their pre-tournament billing with dominating performances in their first four games. In the quarterfinals, Germany easily handle Greece in a 4-2 victory.

Italy, on the other hand, has played well with a more aggressive style. But even though they thoroughly outplayed England, they had to close the game with a penalty shootout in order to seal the win after a scoreless tie in regulation.

While Italy is a traditional power, few are giving them much of a chance against a Germany team that many assumed would face Spain in the final.

There are several factors, however, that could help the Italians pull off the upset.

First, this is a typical Italian team with plenty of talent. The Italians know how to win big games as Germany found out in the 2006 World Cup, And while this Italian team isn’t nearly as good as the 2006 champions, it is very deep with quality players.

Next is the Pirlo factor. Andrea Pirlo is one of the best midfielders in the world and he completely dominated against England. He also had one of the craftiest penalty kicks in recent memory to help the Italians win that match.

And finally, we have the Balotelli factor. Mario Balotelli Barwuah is a total wild card with amazing talent despite his volatile personality. If he gets hot and has a good game, Italy can beat anyone.

This is a matchup of two soccer titans so check it out on Thursday.

Dr. CliffLee or: How we Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate the Win

It’s 2012, in case you hadn’t heard, and by now I’d think most baseball fans are well aware that a pitcher’s win-loss record is worthless. It’s simply not a reliable way of charting performance. Wins, like RBI, are a function of opportunity, not ability. We know that, on the forefront of our consciousness. But then why does R.A. Dickey’s record of 11-1 give me such a sense of smug satisfaction? And why is Cliff Lee’s 0-4 line troubling Phillies’ fans, and more importantly, the pitcher himself?

Well, because behind the facade, our perception of baseball, like so many things, is rarely guided by the parts that help make us calm, rational, or logical. That much was made perfectly clear over the weekend when Bill Baer, who writes for ESPN and runs the Phillies blog Crashburn Alley, began re-tweeting some “phan” responses to Lee’s most recent performance. You don’t need to scroll through to figure out the message, most involved the pitcher’s name and a certain four-letter word, so I’ll give you one swear-free highlight: @GutterTheGreat said, “I think the man love for Cliff Lee needs to end – don’t give me this run support shit or about the poor fielding.”

Baer, being of sound mind, gave him something a little more in-depth. On Monday, he published an analysis of Lee’s performance, arguing that the pitcher’s woes have not all been of his own design. Baer gets plenty specific and sabermetric, but it’s simple enough to know that when a pitcher goes 10 innings without giving up a run, as Lee did on April 18, he should have at least one win. The article led to a retort from ESPN’s David Schoenfield entitled “Maybe Cliff Lee hasn’t been all that good,” I’ll wager you can figure out what that one was about on your own.

Baer’s piece began with a response to another, more collected tweet. User @alexrolfe said, “what’s weird to me is that the no wins makes people reevaluate lee instead of reevaluating wins. why is that?” You’ll get all the coverage you need on Lee specifically from Baer and Schoenfield, so here’s where I’m going with all this: Indeed, random internet person, why is that?

Let’s start by considering what a win is. MLB official rule 10.17 defines the winning pitcher as one “whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead.” Of course, the rule is different for starters. In a game that goes the full nine innings, a starter has to pitch at least five to get a win.

You know you’ve got a silly statistic when it’s perfectly reasonable (number-wise) that Jon Rauch can have three wins and Lee none. Yet fans, players, and front offices still give the win-loss record a tremendous amount of undeserved influence. Even if every fan thought the way Bill Baer does, you better believe Cliff Lee would still be pissed off about his lack of a win. If concentrating on getting one is a good way for Cliff to self-motivate, so be it. But it shouldn’t go any farther than that.

There a million different stats and sabermetrics out there, but the Cy Young Award is given to the “best pitcher” in each league. It’s one of the game’s few simplicities. Want the Cy Young? Be the best. That’s it.

In 2004, Roger Clemens won the NL Cy Young because of his 2.98 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 218 strikeouts in 214.1 innings pitched. He was the best. Supposedly. We’re sane, we know that wins are entirely out of a pitcher’s control. Clemens was the best so he won the honor, right? In any other year perhaps, but not 2004. That was the year, Ben Sheets‘ line looked like this: 2.70 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 264 strikeouts and just 32 walks in 237 innings pitched. Along with his 8:1 strikeout to walk ratio, the league’s best by a mile, Sheets outpitched Clemens based on every major pitching stat. He was in fact, though not in name, the best. So what gives?

Well, he outpitched Clemens in every major pitching stat but one, and I think you know which. Sheets had a record of 12-14, while Clemens was 18-4. Yet Sheets’ Brewers went 67-94 that year, while Clemens and the Astros brought home a record of 92-70. Given that, any sane person might consider Sheets’ 12 wins on that miserable squad to be the more impressive count. But the trophy sits on Clemens’ shelf, along with his other six Cy Youngs, and, I imagine, the cream and the clear. Try and tell me wins didn’t influence the voting, or that the best pitcher won.

We like to think we’re living in a more civilized time. Everyone loves to point out that Felix Hernandez brought home the AL Cy Young in 2010 despite a 13-12 record. But 2004 wasn’t all that long ago, and the rabbit hole goes far deeper than awards.

You all know how I feel about closers, and “saves.” Well, I was wrong when I wrote that piece. Don’t worry, the notion of a closer is still ridiculous, but I shouldn’t have said “a save situation is the only time a manager makes a decision based on arbitrary numerals rather than what’s going to help his team win.” Wins will do that too. Imagine this scenario: your team’s up 8-2, the starter’s on the mound with two outs in the fifth when he suddenly gives up four runs that were inarguably his fault, and there are still a couple men on base. Any other pitcher gives up four runs in an inning and he’s getting the hook. But nine times out of ten your manager will leave him in there for a while longer, hoping he can get that third out and be in line for a win. Suddenly, the pitcher getting a win is more important than the team getting one.

Better offense, pitch counts, specialized relievers, and a thousand other changes have all contributed to the ever increasing worthlessness of the win-loss record. But the stat still affects contracts, awards, All-Star selections, fan opinion, and sometimes even a pitcher’s self-worth. It’s 2012, yet there are still those among us who give wins the respect they were due in 1912. To those people, listen closely: wins are a relic of a different era, whether or not it was a better era is entirely subjective, but the present can only be right now. And right now, wins and losses should not be anywhere but the periphery of statistical analysis.

Larry Doby was another pioneer

Jackie Robinson rightfully has his place as one of the icons of our national pastime, but Larry Doby is also an important pioneer who deserves significant recognition as well. Doby was the first African American ballplayer in the American League and the second after Jackie Robinson in Major League Baseball. And like Robinson, Doby proved to be an incredible ballplayer along with being a great person. His accomplishments were recognized in 1998 when he was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

Cleveland Indians by their owner Bill Veeck signed Doby in 1947, eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Doby was a part of two incredible Indians teams. The Indians won the World Series in 1948 against the the Boston Braves. Then the Indians won a staggering 111 games and the American League pennant in 1954. Unfortunately they were swept by Willie Mays and the New York Giants after Willie’s iconic over-the-shoulder catch in Game One of that series. For obvious reasons, Doby remains a revered figure in Cleveland. Bill Veeck also deserves credit for his bold move. The video above offers a nice retrospective even if the narrator totally mangles the pronunciation of Veeck’s name.

Doby endured many of the same hardship endured by Robinson when he entered the league. But he also had the character to handle all of the adversity. In the end, his play on the field became the focus of his career. Doby hit .283 for his career and he slugged 253 home runs and drove on 970 runs in a career that spanned 1,533 games. He led the American League in dingers twice with 32 in 1952 and 1954m and he had a streak of at least 20 homers in each season from 1949–56.

Doby had some other interesting milestones as well. He was the third American to play professional baseball in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. And, in another interesting twist, he was also the second black manager in the major leagues after Frank Robinson got the Cleveland job. It was the legendary Bill Veeck who also made this move, hiring Doby to manage the Chicago White Sox.

It’s a shame that sometimes Doby’s accomplishments are overshadowed by Jackie Robinson, but true baseball fans are very aware of what this man did for the game.

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