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This Week in Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers logo, courtesy NBA.com

By Mike Staley

This Week In Sports is The Collegiate’s new weekly roundup of all things happening in the sports world. Any major events or big stories will be covered here in a recap every Monday.

Whitecaps Baseball

The West Michigan Whitecaps season is a month in, and the team is sitting in a good position thus far. The Whitecaps are 17-12 on the season and just one game out of first place in the Midwest League Eastern Conference. In their last 10 games, West Michigan is 5-5 winning their most recent game on Sunday over the Cedar Rapids Kernels by a score of 4-1. Eudis Idrogo picked up his first win of the 2018 season for the Whitecaps, and Wladimir Pinto got his sixth save of the season.

The Whitecaps will be home all week with a three-game series against the Clinton Lumberkings followed by another three-game set against the Burlington Bees. Click here find tickets to upcoming games.

National Basketball Association

The NBA is in the midst of their second round of the playoffs. Thus far, these playoffs have not been as competitive as the league would have hoped for.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have continued their domination of the Toronto Raptors. Cleveland took the first two games from the Raptors in Toronto. Game three shifted to Cleveland on Saturday and LeBron did not disappoint the hometown fans. With the game tied late, LeBron got the ball with the clock ticking down and drove to the lane putting up a shot off the glass as the buzzer sounded to beat the Raptors 105-103 and take a 3-0 series lead.

The surprise in the playoffs has been the Boston Celtics. They lost Gordon Hayward in the first game of the season to a gruesome broken leg that sidelined him for the year. In April, the Celtics found out they would be without their best player for the remainder of the season when they announced that Kyrie Irving would need season-ending knee surgery. Without their two best players, Boston has surprised the experts by taking a 3-0 series lead on the Philadelphia 76ers – a team that many thought might dethrone the Cavaliers and represent the East in the NBA Finals

In the Western Conference, things are going the way most thought it would. The Golden State Warriors have a 3-1 lead in the series, and are one game away from knocking off the New Orleans Pelicans. The Warriors can do so on Tuesday when they host New Orleans for a game five matchup at Oracle Arena.

The Houston Rockets sunk the Utah Jazz Sunday night beating them 100-87 taking control of the series by the tune of 3-1. Like the Warriors, the Rockets will have the opportunity to close out the series at home with a game five match-up Tuesday night in Houston.

National Hockey League

Like the NBA playoffs, the NHL is in the second round of their respective playoffs. Unlike the NBA playoffs, the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been wildly entertaining.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were the first team to punch their ticket into the conference finals when they finished off the Boston Bruins in game five with a 3-1 win in Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday night saw the Las Vegas Golden Knights blank the San Jose Sharks with a 3-0 win. The Knights ended the Sharks season beating them in six games. The Knights continue to surprise everybody in their inaugural season and are looking to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup their first year in the league.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have won the last two Stanley Cups and are trying to become the first team to win three straight since the New York Islanders won four in-a-row from 1980-1983. The Penguins are currently trailing the Washington Capitals in their series 3-2 thanks to a 6-3 game five win in Washington on Saturday night. The Capitals will look to close the series out in Pittsburgh on Monday night when they meet for game six of the series.

The team surprising most viewers in the playoffs is the Winnipeg Jets. They currently hold a 3-2 series lead over the President’s Trophy winning and defending Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators. The Jets handled the Predators on Saturday in game five beating them 6-2 in Nashville. The Jets will head back to Winnipeg looking to close out the series on home ice Monday night.

Major League Baseball

Two of the all-time greats in baseball history made news this week.

Albert Pujols added to his illustrious career building on his hall-of-fame credentials. On Friday, Pujols became the 32nd player in MLB history to record 3,000 hits. Pujols is also just the fourth player in MLB history to be part of the 600 home run and 3,000 hit club joining MLB legends Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez.

Pujols spoke with USA Today about this accomplishment.

“Getting 3,000 hits means the most as far as individual numbers,” he said. “More than the home runs, more than anything. But I’ll tell you that 2,000 RBI’s is pretty close. That’s pretty special.”

Pujols has a chance to reach 2,000 career RBI’s this season as he currently has 1,938 needing only 62 more to reach yet another amazing milestone.

Arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history is calling it quits at the age of 44…or is he? Ichiro Suzuki won’t be playing anymore for the Seattle Mariners this season. He has taken a new role with the team as the “special assistant to the chairman.”

This is one of the stranger stories to come out of the league this year. Ichiro is not retiring. He will still suit up and be with the team for pre-game warm-ups taking batting practice and fielding, but he’s been dropped from the 40-man roster. Because he’s not on the roster and he’s not on the coaching staff, he will not be allowed in the dugout during games.

The Mariners general manager, Jerry Dipoto, did his best to spell out what this means for the future hall-of-famer.

“This doesn’t close the door on Ichiro’s playing career,” Dipoto said in an interview with The Seattle Times. “I’d like to make that clear. We intend that whenever is the appropriate time for Ichiro to retire, that will happen as a Mariner. But we don’t think we’re at that point yet either.”

Ichiro has a career batting average of .311 and has recorded 3,089 hits. But that’s just in the Major Leagues. Ichiro played professional baseball in Japan from 1992 to 2000. In those eight seasons, Ichiro had 1,248 hits. For a reference of how many hits that is, Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader in MLB history with 4,256. Ichiro has recorded 4,367 hits as a professional, and while nobody knows how many of those Japanese league hits would have translated to the Major Leagues, the argument can be made that he is the greatest hitter of all time.

The 2018 MLB season is just over a month in, but teams are already jockeying for position.

In the National League, the Central and Eastern Divisions are tight at the top. Both Divisions have four teams all separated by less than three games. In the National League West, the Arizona Diamondbacks are asserting themselves as the team to beat. They’re 23-11 with a three and a half game lead over the second place Colorado Rockies.

Meanwhile in the American League, the New York Yankees continue to climb the ladder winning nine of their last 10 games and pulling to within one game of the AL East leading Boston Red Sox.

ESPN’s MLB power rankings have Boston at number one followed by Houston, Arizona, New York Yankees, and the Los Angeles Angels to complete their top five.

The Collegiate’s MLB power rankings have the New York Yankees at the top with Boston, Arizona, Houston, and the Los Angeles Angels rounding out the top five.

National Football League

One of the greatest NFL players of all time called it a career this week. Former Dallas Cowboys Tight End, Jason Witten, announced his retirement on Thursday after 15 years in the league.

Witten informed the Cowboys of his decision and also announced at a news conference that he will be joining the booth on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

“I can only hope that the men and women in these hallways will say I was a decent man, tried to do things the right way, and was dependable,” Witten said. “I was never the most talented, never the flashiest. I relied on grit.”

Witten finished with the most catches and receiving yards in Cowboys history, and his 68 touchdowns is good for third most in franchise history. He was not only an all-time great Cowboy, but his stats are some of the best in league history. His 1,152 catches is fourth all-time in NFL history, and he amassed 12,448 receiving yards which is good for 21st in NFL history.

Guys like Witten have been great for the NFL and their reputation. But the NFL has also been dealing with the national anthem issue the last few years and a new aspect of the story surfaced this week.

Former San Francisco 49ers Safety and current NFL free agent, Eric Reid, filed a collusion grievance against the NFL this week. Reid called on Mark Geragos, the same attorney who is handling Colin Kaepernick’s collusion grievance.

Reid joined Kaepernick in kneeling for The National Anthem in 2016 and continued to do so last season after Kaepernick’s departure from the 49ers.

The National Football League Players Association released a statement Wednesday addressing the situation.

“Our union is aware that Eric Reid and his legal representatives filed a collusion claim which will be heard through the arbitration process as spelled out in our collective bargaining agreement,” the NFLPA spokesperson said. “Our union supports Eric and we are considering other legal options to pursue.”

Reid’s claim is that he has not been signed by any NFL teams due to his kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States.

Professional Golfers’ Association

Jason Day won the Wells Fargo Championship finishing at -12 shooting a 69 in his final round on Sunday. The native Australian was recently the top ranked golfer on the PGA tour but slid in the rankings to 14. This win will help his chances at regaining the top spot in the rankings.

Phil Mickelson tied for fifth place in the tournament finishing at seven under par. Tiger Woods’ struggles continued, and he finished tied for 55th place shooting two over par for the tournament.