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This Week in Sports

Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer gets a kiss after his team's 27-21 Big Ten Champsionship win over the Wisconsin Badgers at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017 in Indianapolis. (Sam Riche/TNS)

Welcome to another weekly roundup in the world of sports. This week, the MLB trade deadline has now passed and teams are moving forward with the players they have trying to get into the postseason. The Whitecaps climbed back into contention following a six-game winning streak and are now only four and a half games out of first place. The NFL season got underway Thursday night with the annual NFL Hall of Fame game. The Bears and Ravens battled on the field and two days later, the NFL Hall of Fame inductees took to that same field to deliver their speeches. And Ohio State and Urban Meyer are in hot water following reports coming out that Meyer had knowledge of domestic abuse committed by one of his fellow coaches.

Major League Baseball

Baseball is coming down to the final stretch and with just about seven weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. The non-waiver trade deadline was July 31 and teams in contention added what they could to help their chances at punching a ticket for October.

One of the biggest moves made at the deadline was the Pittsburgh Pirates snagging Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays. The Pirates gave up two promising prospects in Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows but pulled the trigger to try and strengthen their pitching rotation. The Pirates continue to be the hottest team in baseball winning 17 of their last 24 games. Archer had a rough outing in his debut with the team going four and a third innings and giving up four earned runs. Despite that, the Pirates picked up a 7-6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in his debut.

Pittsburgh is currently in fourth place in the National League Central just one game behind the Cardinals. The top of the division remains tight with Chicago Cubs holding a one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have a five and a half game cushion over the Cardinals but are focused on recapturing the top spot in the NL Central.

The NL East has been run by two surprising teams all year long and that hasn’t changed this week. The Philadelphia Phillies are riding a five-game winning streak and hold a game and a half lead on the second place Atlanta Braves. While those two teams continue to fight for NL East supremacy, the Washington Nationals have climbed back into the race. They’ve won seven of their last 10 games despite a lot of criticism for them staying put with the team they had at the deadline. Bryce Harper was rumored to be on the trade block but the morning of the deadline, Nationals’ GM, Mike Rizzo put those rumors to rest and made it known to inquiring teams that he would not be available via trade. Washington is now six games out of first place and is once again relevant in the Wild Card race.

The Los Angeles Dodgers made some big moves before the deadline. After acquiring Manny Machado over the All-Star break, the Dodgers picked up Brian Dozier from the Minnesota Twins. These moves have put them in the driver’s seat as the favorites in the National League. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, they’re playing in the tightest division in baseball. The Arizona Diamondbacks have been slowly chasing the Dodgers and now share the division lead with the Dodgers. With Arizona and Los Angeles tied atop the division, the Colorado Rockies are right on their heels just two games back of the division lead. The San Francisco Giants are also trying to remain relevant in the West. They’re one game over .500 right now but only five games out of first place. This division will be one to watch as the season winds down.

The National League has over half the teams in contention for a playoff spot. Here is where the contenders stand at this moment.

(**GB=Games Back)

NL Division Leaders
East – Philadelphia Phillies (63-48)
Central – Chicago Cubs (64-47)
West – Arizona Diamondbacks/Los Angeles Dodgers (62-51)

NL Wild Card
Milwaukee Brewers (65-50) +1.5
Atlanta Braves (60-48) —
Arizona Diamondbacks/Los Angeles Dodgers (62-51) 0.5 GB
Colorado Rockies (59-52) 2.5 GB
St. Louis Cardinals (58-54) 4 GB
Washington Nationals (57-54) 4.5 GB
Pittsburgh Pirates (57-55) 5 GB
San Francisco Giants (57-56) 5.5 GB

Nothing has changed in the American League Central. The Cleveland Indians still hold a nine-game lead over the Minnesota Twins and have increased their lead over the Detroit Tigers to 15 games. With seven weeks left in the season, something drastic is going to have to take place in the Central for the Indians not to win it. With the way they’ve been playing lately, winning seven of their last 10 games, the Central is theirs to lose.

The Houston Astros have lost six of their last 10 games while the Oakland A’s have won six straight games. The Astros still hold the division lead in the AL West, but what was once a comfortable lead is now down to just four games over the A’s. The Seattle Mariners have been struggling along with the Astros. They have lost seven of their last 10 games and have fallen behind the A’s in both the division and the Wild Card. They’re now six and a half games out of first place and are in danger of not making the playoffs if their woes continue.

The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have been battling for the AL East all season long. The Red Sox however, have been pulling away from the Yankees over the past month. These two teams were within a game of each other a month ago, but the Red Sox have put major distance between themselves and New York, most recently by sweeping the Yankees in a four-game series this past weekend. The Indians have held claim to the largest division lead for months now, but the Red Sox now hold that honor with their nine and a half game lead on the Yankees. The Yankees have slipped in the Wild Card as well. They had a six-game lead over the second Wild Card spot a week ago but that lead is now down to two and a half games.

Unlike the National League, the American League only has six teams in serious contention of making the postseason. Of those six teams, only five teams will be playing in October. More than likely, it will come down to the two Wild Card spots with the A’s, Yankees and Mariners vying for those final spots.

AL Division Leaders
East – Boston Red Sox (79-34)
Central – Cleveland Indians (61-49)
West – Houston Astros (71-42)

AL Wild Card
New York Yankees (68-42) +2.5
Oakland A’s (67-46) —
Seattle Mariners (64-48) 2.5 GB

ESPN’s top five power rankings

1. Boston Red Sox (79-34)
2. Houston Astros (71-42)
3. New York Yankees (68-42)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (62-51)
5. Chicago Cubs (64-47)

The Collegiate’s top five power rankings

1. Boston Red Sox (79-34)
2. Houston Astros (71-42)
3. New York Yankees (68-42)
4. Chicago Cubs (64-47)
5. Philadelphia Phillies (63-48)

West Michigan Whitecaps

The West Michigan Whitecaps started the week riding a three-game winning streak. Last Monday, July 30, they looked to keep riding that wave as they continued their series with the South Bend Cubs.

The Whitecaps shutout the Cubs on Monday 3-0 and the next night topped them 6-5 completing the four-game sweep of South Bend. After the sweep, the Whitecaps went out on the road for a three-game series with the Great Lakes Loons. Wednesday night, the Whitecaps took the first game of the series 4-2 and stretched their winning streak to six games. The next night however, the streak came to an end when the Loons’ pitching staff shutdown the Whitecaps’ bats in a 3-1 West Michigan loss. The Caps got back to their winning ways the next night and shutout the Loons 2-0.

After winning seven of their last eight games, the Whitecaps returned home on Saturday to take on the Dayton Dragons. The Whitecaps got a 4-1 game one victory over the Dragons. Yesterday afternoon, the Dragons’ bats came to life as they scored five runs in a 5-3 win over the Whitecaps. Before this game, the West Michigan pitching staff had only allowed six runs in their previous four games. The Whitecaps will look to win the rubber match tonight at Fifth Third Ballpark when they take on the Dragons at 7:05 p.m.

Overall, the Whitecaps went 5-2 this week. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games and have worked their way back to .500 with a 21-21 record. More importantly, they’ve gotten out of the division cellar moving from seventh place to third place and are now only four and a half games out of first place.

The Whitecaps will finish their series with the Dragons tonight and have a day off tomorrow. Wednesday, the team will head to Bowling Green to take on the first place Hot Rods for a three-game series where they will try to gain even more ground in the division. After that, they’ll move on to Fort Wayne to face the Tincaps for a four-game series that starts Saturday, and ends Tuesday, July 14. The team won’t return home until Wednesday, July 15 when they host the Lansing Lugnuts. For tickets to upcoming games, click here.

National Football League

The 2018 NFL season officially got underway Thursday night with the annual NFL Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.

Before the game began, all of the 2018 Hall of Fame inductees got introduced at midfield with the exception of Terrell Owens. After the introductions of this year’s class, the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens took the field. Neither Joe Flacco nor Mitch Trubisky played in the game. Both men are the expected starters for their teams at the quarterback position come week one. Trubisky was dressed but never entered the game, while Flacco was in street clothes cheering on his team from the sidelines.

Even without Flacco playing, there was plenty of excitement to see the Ravens’ quarterbacks as Robert Griffin III got the start for Baltimore. This was the first time Griffin had seen action since he played for Cleveland in 2016. Griffin got off to a rough start throwing an interception on the team’s first possession. After throwing the pick, Griffin came back and led his team on a 77-yard drive that was capped off with a touchdown pass to Maxx Williams to tie the game 7-7. Griffin had a decent outing in his return to football after sitting out over a year. He threw for 58 yards on 7/11 passing. He had one touchdown and one interception. He also had nine yards rushing on three attempts. His QBR (quarterback rating) was 69.5.

In the second half, Ravens fans got their first look at the team’s 32nd overall pick in the 2018 draft. Lamar Jackson made his NFL debut and was less than stellar. The former Heisman Trophy winner was sacked three times and like Griffin, threw an interception. Before throwing the pick however, Jackson led his team on a 36-yard scoring drive that saw Baltimore’s other first round pick, Tight End Hayden Hurst, catch the touchdown pass from Jackson. This would be the only scoring drive in Jackson’s NFL debut. Besides the interception and touchdown, every other drive Jackson led his team on ended in a punt. Jackson threw for 33 yards on 4/10 passing. Like Griffin, he also had one touchdown and one interception. Jackson ran the ball eight times and picked up 25 yards. His QBR was a low 42.9.

As for the game, the Bears scored a touchdown with under three minutes to go in the fourth quarter to make it 17-16 in favor of the Ravens. Because it’s preseason and the games don’t count, the Bears decided to forgo the extra point attempt to tie the game and instead went for the two-point conversion to try and win the game. The two-point attempt failed and the game would end with the Ravens on top 17-16.

Saturday night was the Hall of Fame induction night where all the inductees received their gold jackets, delivered their speeches and had their busts revealed. This year’s class of inductees were Jerry Kramer, Brian Urlacher, Brian Dawkins, Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile and Terrell Owens.

While the first seven men listed all enjoyed their moment in Canton, Terrell Owens held true to his word that he would not attend the events after saying he feels like he was disrespected by not getting in on the first ballot. Owens held his own induction at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The NFL mailed Owens his gold jacket so he could wear it during his speech.

The NFL regular season starts Thursday, Sept. 6 in Philadelphia where the defending champion Eagles will host the Atlanta Falcons. Until then, there’s only four weeks separating us from meaningful football.

NCAA Football

College football is less than three weeks away from kickoff. While the focus should be on the typical arguments like who should be the number one team in the country or who’s going to win the Heisman Trophy this year, all eyes have shifted to the scandal coming out of Columbus, Ohio.

Urban Meyer is undoubtedly a top three coach in NCAA Football. He led the University of Florida to two National Championships then moved to Ohio State where he captured another. His teams are always in the conversation for one of the best in the country. All the success aside though, if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that no matter how much success someone achieves, they’re not above the law. Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, Baylor and Art Briles, Michigan State and Larry Nassar and now the possibility of Ohio State and Meyer.

Here’s a quick summary of what’s happening with the situation in Columbus. Former Ohio State assistant football coach Zach Smith was accused by his wife of beating her on more than one occasion. The university is investigating what exactly coaches and their wives knew. In 2009, Smith was arrested for aggravated battery against his pregnant wife Courtney Smith. It’s alleged that he threw her into a wall during an argument while the couple was living in Gainesville, Florida where Smith was working under Meyer at the University of Florida. Smith’s wife eventually dropped the charges after allegedly being persuaded by one of Meyer’s close friends, Hiram deFries, and Earle Bruce who is a mentor of Meyer, former Ohio State coach and more interestingly, Smith’s grandfather (see, “What was the 2009 incident? in link here).

In 2015, the couple lived in Powell, Ohio where Smith was working under Meyer at Ohio State. Police investigated Smith for domestic violence against his wife from whom he was now separated. Charges were never filed, but what set this whole thing in motion was Mrs. Smith telling a reporter last week that she divulged the information of both incidents to the wives of multiple Ohio State coaches. One of the wives she informed was Shelley Meyer, wife of Coach Meyer. The major evidence that came to light was text-messages between Mrs. Smith and the wife of Ohio State Football Operations Director Brian Voltolini, Lindsey Voltolini. Ohio State fired Smith when the reports came out and Mrs. Smith says she believes that Meyer was aware of the abuse, but Meyer denied this at media day on July 24.

The reason Meyer is under investigation is because other text-messages have surfaced where Meyer’s wife asked Mrs. Smith if she had filed for a restraining order yet. She made references to pictures that had been sent to Meyer’s wife of bruises Mrs. Smith obtained during the abuse. This confirms that Meyer’s wife had knowledge of at least one of the incidences, if not both. Mrs. Smith told the reporter that Meyer’s wife would regularly check in with her to make sure she was ok. Mrs. Smith says she believes Meyer’s wife informed him of the abuse but never had confirmation of that.

Ohio State said late last night that the investigation into Meyer is expected to be completed with in two weeks. Ironically, Meyer, during his media day interview on July 24 said that he and his wife are close and talk about everything. One of the specific things he said that he and his wife talk about is “people” in their lives.

It doesn’t look good for Meyer as his story has already changed since denying having any knowledge of the 2015 abuse at media day.

On Friday, Meyer issued a statement saying he “failed” when he denied knowing about the domestic abuse allegations between the former coach and his wife.

“Here is the truth,” Meyer said in his statement. “While at the University of Florida, and now at The Ohio State University, I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.”

It will be hard to prove any wrongdoing against Meyer, but the question will come down to whether or not investigators believe that Meyer did in fact follow protocol after learning about the incidents. Meyer is currently on paid administrative leave.

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