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This Week in Sports

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The Pittsburgh Pirates' Corey Dickerson (12) reaches second base with a double ahead of the tag from Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist in the ninth inning on Thursday, April 12, 2018, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Pirates won, 6-1. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Welcome to another weekly roundup in the world of sports. This week, the MLB All-Star Game and Home Run Derby took place and didn’t disappoint. The Pittsburgh Pirates have rattled off nine straight wins while the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Manny Machado to strengthen their World Series chances. The Whitecaps lost three of their five games this week. Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line coach, Tony Sparano unexpectedly died on Sunday and the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell couldn’t reach an agreement on a long-term deal. A blockbuster trade in the NBA went down on Wednesday that involved Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan. And Carmelo Anthony got shipped out of Oklahoma City to the Atlanta Hawks.

Major League Baseball

The MLB All-Star break was this week and started off with a bang during the Home Run Derby. The all-star festivities took place in Nationals Park in Washington D.C. The fans of the Nationals came to see their hometown guy Bryce Harper and he gave them a dramatic and exciting finish.

Harper faced off against Kyle Schwarber in the finals. Schwarber went first and put up an impressive 18 home runs to put the pressure on Harper. Harper got off to a slow start and with 1:20 left, Harper trailed by nine home runs. It appeared that the pressure was too much and the hometown fans were going to leave disappointed. But Harper had other plans. In the last 1:20 he began rattling off home run after home run and with five seconds left, he needed one more to tie. As the clock hit zeros, Harper sent the crowd into a frenzy as he smacked number 18 into the sea of red. Harper earned the 30 second bonus time and wasted no time hitting a walk-off derby winning home run on the second pitch he saw in extra time to beat Schwarber and take home the trophy.

After such an exciting Home Run Derby, the All-Star Game had a lot to live up to. The game started with a rematch on the mound from last year’s all-star game with Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals taking the mound for the National League and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox on the hill for the American League.

Pitching was dominant to start the game and through seven innings, the game was tied 2-2. The AL came up to bat in the top of the eighth inning and Jean Segura of the Seattle Mariners hit a three-run bomb to give the AL a 5-2 lead that looked like it was going to be the game winner. But the NL didn’t back down. Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder, Christian Yelich homered in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it 5-3. Then, in the bottom of the ninth with the game on the line, Scooter Gennett of the Cincinnati Reds hit a two-run home run to send the 89th MLB All-Star game into extra innings.

In extras, it became the Houston Astros show. Alex Bregman hit a homer to take a 6-5 lead in the top of the 10th. On the very next pitch, Bregman’s Houston teammate, George Springer hit a homer to make it 7-5. The AL would add another insurance run before the end of the inning. In the Bottom of the 10th, Cincinnati Reds’ first baseman, Joey Votto hit a solo home run to make the score 8-6 but the NL couldn’t add any more runs and the AL won 8-6 winning their sixth straight mid-summer classic. This game had 10 home runs in it shattering the previous record of six. Alex Bregman was named the MLB All-Star Game MVP.

After the break, the second half of the season officially started. The hottest team in baseball right now is the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’ve won nine straight games and 10 of their last 11. Pirates’ outfielder, Corey Dickerson is leading the way for Pittsburgh hitting five home runs in the last four games. The average has been there for Dickerson all season long, but his power numbers are starting to come around. He had six homers on the season before hitting these five in the last four games.

In this nine-game winning streak, the Pirates are averaging over six runs a game while their pitching staff is only allowing just over two runs a game. Dickerson has elevated his batting average to .315 which is a team high. The Pirates are now 51-49 and have jumped the St. Louis Cardinals in the standings. Pittsburgh trails the first place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central by eight games while the Milwaukee Brewers continue to struggle. The Brewers have lost eight of their last 10 games and have fallen three and a half games behind the Cubs.

The Philadelphia Phillies have jumped the Atlanta Braves in the NL East for first place. The Braves are now one game behind the Phillies in the standings. The Washington Nationals have continued to struggle and have fallen six games out of the division lead and are sitting at .500 with a record of 49-49.

The Los Angeles Dodgers made the first big move before the July 31 trade deadline acquiring Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles. This move, in the eyes of many experts, makes the Dodgers the favorite to come out of the NL to go to the World Series for a second consecutive season. The Dodgers are sitting atop the NL West but have the Arizona Diamondbacks just a game and a half behind them. The Colorado Rockies are also hot on their trail sitting just two games out of first place.

The Boston Red Sox are on pace for the fourth most wins in MLB history. They have put separation between themselves and the second place New York Yankees at the top of the AL East. The Yankees are also on pace for a historic amount of wins but despite that fact, are five games back of the Red Sox. The Yankees are playing .500 ball in their last 10 while the Red Sox have won eight of their last 10.

The AL Central has become a one-team division with the Cleveland Indians holding the largest lead of any division leader. The Indians are only 10 games over .500, but with the the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers both sliding in the standings, the Indians haven’t had much to sweat about as of late. The Twins are nine and a half games behind Cleveland while the Tigers are 13.5 behind the Indians.

The AL West has been an interesting division all season long. The Houston Astros have a five-game lead over the Seattle Mariners and an eight-game lead over the Oakland A’s. Seattle currently holds the second wild card spot behind the Yankees, and the A’s are just three games behind them. One of those two teams will likely make the playoffs as a wild card but with the Yankees playing the way they are, it’s unlikely that both Oakland and Seattle will find themselves playing in October.

ESPN’s top five power rankings

1. Houston Astros (66-36)
2. Boston Red Sox (70-31)
3. New York Yankees (63-34)
4. Chicago Cubs (58-40)
5. Los Angeles Dodgers (55-44)

The Collegiate’s top five power rankings

1. Boston Red Sox (70-31)
2. Houston Astros (66-36)
3. New York Yankees (63-34)
4. Chicago Cubs (58-40)
5. Los Angeles Dodgers (55-44)

West Michigan Whitecaps

The West Michigan Whitecaps started off the week with one final home game to finish a series before heading out on the road for six games.

The week started with the Whitecaps trying to avoid being swept by the Beloit Snappers. The Whitecaps couldn’t avoid the sweep dropping the final game of the series 3-2.

After a travel day on Tuesday, West Michigan headed to Kane County to take on the Cougars for a three-game series. The Whitecaps took the first game Wednesday night 8-5 but lost the next night 8-5. On Friday, the third game of the series was rained out and postponed to a later date.

After the Friday rainout, the Whitecaps moved on to do battle with the Quad Cities River Bandits on Saturday. The Bandits blanked the Whitecaps on Saturday shutting them out 4-0. On Sunday, the Whitecaps were looking for revenge. West Michigan got that revenge by out dueling the River Bandits 6-4. The rubber match is today at 2:15 p.m.

Overall this week, the Whitecaps went 2-3 and drop to 13-16 while remaining seventh place in the division. The Whitecaps finish off their series with the River Bandits today and have Tuesday off. On Wednesday, the Whitecaps welcome the Lake County Captains to town for a three-game series. Then on Saturday, the South Bend Cubs invade Fifth Third Ballpark for a four-game series with West Michigan. For tickets to upcoming games, click here.

National Football League

The NFL had some sad news come out of Minneapolis early Sunday. The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line coach Tony Sparano unexpectedly died at the age of 56.

According to ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen, Sparano was having chest pains and was taken to the hospital on Thursday. Sparano was tested and released on Friday. According to Mortensen’s source, Sparano’s wife found him unconscious as they were getting ready for church, but he couldn’t be revived.

Sparano was heading into his third season as the Vikings’ o-line coach. He has been in the NFL as a coach for 19 seasons serving for nine different teams. He was most notably the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2008-2011. He was 32-41 as a head coach in the NFL.

The Viking’s general manager, Rick Spielman addressed Sparano’s passing in an official statement on Sunday.

“I am at a loss for words with Tony’s sudden passing,” Spielman said. “Tony loved the game of football and his players. More importantly, he was a strong man of faith who treasured his family. My heart is with the Sparanos today. As an organization, we will support them in whatever ways we can.”

Sparano leaves behind his wife, Jeanette, his two sons, Tony and Andrew, his daughter, Ryan Leigh, and four grandchildren.

When tragedies like this happen, it’s hard go on with the business of football. But the Vikings and the rest of the NFL will have to do just that.

One team that has been dealing with business this week is the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers and their star running back, Le’Veon Bell have been trying to come to an agreement on a long-term contract all off-season long. Bell had the franchise tag placed on him for the second consecutive season earlier this off-season. The deadline to sign a player who had been tagged was Monday, July 16 at 4 p.m. ET.

The deadline came and went with Bell and the Steelers not coming to an agreement on a long-term deal. The Steelers have offered two large deals to Bell over the last calendar year. The first one started at $13.3 million per year. The most recent offer was a five-year deal worth $70 million. Bell had stated repeatedly that he was not going to take anything less than $14.5 million a year, and he did not back down from that.

Since entering the league, Bell has been arguably the best running back in the league. His patient running style mixed with his pass-catching ability out of the backfield makes him one of the most unique and valuable running backs in the league. Bell knew this and wanted to be compensated as such.

In 62 regular season games, Bell has amassed 7,996 yards from scrimmage. That’s the most of any player in that amount of games since the 1970 AFl-NFL merger.

Bell’s agent, Adisa Barkai spoke with ESPN’s Adam Schefter about the situation.

“His intention was to retire as a Steeler,” Bakari said. “But now that there’s no deal, the practical reality is this now likely will be Le’Veon’s last season as a Steeler.”

Barkari went on to say, “It became clear the Steelers wanted to pay the position, not the player.”

Bell will earn $14.5 million this year, $4 million more than the next highest paid running back in the league (Jerick McKinnon of the San Francisco 49ers, $10.5 million) on the franchise tag before becoming an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Steelers may now have to prepare for life without the league’s best running back if what Bell’s agent said ends up coming to fruition.

National Basketball Association

Kawhi Leonard has found a new home and it’s not where most of the experts were predicting. On Wednesday, the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors agreed to a trade that sent Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round draft pick.

In the short-term, the deal could work out for Toronto this year giving them one of the top-five players in the league to compete against Boston in the East. Long-term however, the Spurs may have gotten the better part of the deal. With it still being rumored that Leonard wants to play in Los Angeles next season, he might just be a one-year and done player.

If this is the case, the Spurs got a perennial all-star in DeRozan to fill the void of Leonard. No, DeRozan is not as talented as Leonard but the best ability is availability and with Leonard giving the Spurs no choice but to trade him, the Spurs get just about the most in return they could’ve hoped for.

Another trade happened this week that was expected. The Oklahoma City Thunder traded Carmelo Anthony and a 2022 protected first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala. The Thunder wanted to get rid of Anthony’s contract while the Hawks were doing the same with Schroder. Muscala was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers from Oklahoma City in return for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Justin Anderson was sent from Philadelphia to Atlanta to round out this three-team trade.

The Atlanta Hawks are planning to wave Anthony allowing him to become a free agent. The Houston Rockets are the team most people expect to sign Anthony once this happens. The Miami Heat have also been rumored as a possible landing spot for the 15-year veteran.

The Thunder are saving nearly $100 million dollars while adding an athletic point guard to back up Russell Westbrook and speed to the team. Schroder has three years left on his current deal which gives them time to figure out how he fits in their system.

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