#WallStar Shining Bright

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By William Beal

Fan voting for the 2015 NBA All-Star game has begun, and it’s time for Wizards fans to come out in force and get John Wall the starting spot he deserves on the team.

Wall is currently second in the NBA is assists per game with 10.5 per game, and is tied with Pau Gasol for the most double-doubles in the league with 14 already in 22 games played.

He has led the Wizards to a 16-6 record on the season, winning 7 of their last 8 games.

Wall had his most emotional performance of the season, and possibly his career, on Monday in a thrilling double-overtime victory over the Celtics.

After losing the first game of a two-game set in Boston, the Wizards were cruising to an easy victory in D.C. on Monday.  Then they blew a 16-point, 4th-quarter lead as the Celtics sent the game into OT.

The Wizards erased not one, but two 7-point deficits in the extra periods, one in each OT.  Wall scored the last 10 points for the Wizards in the game to lead them to a 133-132 victory.  He finished with 26 points and 17 assists to save himself from being the goat after contributing to blowing the lead with four of his nine turnovers coming in the 4th quarter.

After the game, a clearly emotional Wall broke down during the post game interview.  His friend Miyah, a 6-year-old girl who had been battling cancer, passed away earlier in the day.  You may remember Miyah from back in March, when Wall helped her meet her idol, Nicki Minaj.

Wall garnered national attention that night, being praised for both his play and his compassion for his little friend.

So let’s show out Wizards fans, and get Wall the start he deserves in Madison Square Garden on February 15.

Where is DeJuan Blair?

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By William Beal

After acquiring DeJuan Blair in a sign-and-trade this offseason with the Dallas Mavericks, many people thought that he could be a great contribution to the Wizards front court depth.

Blair was excited about joining the team, but after after appearing in only three games so far, for a total of 11 minutes, people are wondering what is going on.

Front court depth was a problem for the Wizards last season, and they addressed it in the offseason. They resigned Kevin Seraphin and Drew Gooden, also bringing in Kris Humphries and Blair on free agent deals.

The problem for Blair is that he is at the back of this rotation, and all of the guys in front of him, including starters Nene and Marcin Gortat, are playing very well.

There has been no news of an injury for Blair, so his lack of playing time is disappointing after his nice performance against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs last season.

There have already been speculations about what the Wizards should do with Blair, but it seems likely that they will keep him, mostly as an insurance policy for Nene, who routinely misses a stretch of 20 games every season due to injury.

It is possible that Blair may just not have gelled with the team in practices yet, and that as he does, he works his way into the rotation.  It is also possible that somebody in front of him in the rotation stumbles a little bit and he works himself into the rotation that way.

One thing that is good to see is that he hasn’t publicly voiced his displeasure about his role with the team. This may bode well for his future on the team, but, for now, a proven rotation big continues to waste away on the bench.

The case for Clayton

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By Ben Sieck

When Clayton Kershaw stepped off the mound for the final time Sept. 24, he concluded the best individual pitching season of the past decade.

He’s a shoo-in for the NL Cy Young, but the accolades should not stop there.

Despite the perception position players are more deserving of the award, Kershaw’s season merits NL MVP honors as well.

The Dodgers’ ace led the league in ERA, wins, complete games, Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP), Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

Kershaw clearly has the edge over his fellow hurlers, but he also bests all NL position players in WAR. Kershaw averaged 7.2 wins above the league average for his position. His closest challengers were Andrew McCutchen, 6.9, and Anthony Rendon, 6.6.

On statistics alone, Kershaw is a strong candidate—if not the frontrunner. However, there are several other factors at play.

The argument against any starting pitcher winning the MVP award, never mind one as dominant as Kershaw, is starting pitchers don’t have the same impact over the course of a season as position players. Position players take the field every day, while starters only grace the field once every five.

It’s an interesting argument. A player who plays in 150 games would seemingly have a bigger impact on his team than a player who participates in just 30. But consider this: a pitcher’s impact on a game is significantly greater than any position player’s.

Over the course of Kershaw’s 27 appearances, the lefty faced 749 batters. Compare that with the NL leader in plate appearances, Matt Carpenter, who batted 709 times. Position players may play more often, but pitchers make more of their appearances.

There is a case to be made for the defensive and base-running impact of a position player. Thankfully, WAR factors in those things. Kershaw’s league-leading WAR should also dispel the notion his influence is not as great as an everyday player.

As deserving as Kershaw may be, history is not on his side.

In the history of the NL MVP award, a pitcher has only won it nine times since it was first given out in 1931. Since the NL Cy Young was first awarded in 1967, only Bob Gibson has won both awards. He did it once in 1968.

Although Justin Verlander accomplished the feat in the AL in 2011, the NL hasn’t had a dual winner in nearly 50 years.

I can’t speak for all voters, but the trend is clear. The best pitcher is given the Cy Young, and the best position player wins the MVP. However, the ballot does not mandate voters overlook pitchers when considering who’s most valuable. As long as all players are eligible, pitchers should not be excluded based on the presence of another award.

Even with this unwritten rule in place, Kershaw’s performance might be historically good enough to win over enough voters.

His 1.77 ERA is the lowest since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 in 2000.

His 1.81 FIP is the fourth-best mark in the past 60 years.

His streak of 41 scoreless innings in June and July is tied for the fifth-longest streak since 1961.

His June 18th no-hitter against Colorado is the second-greatest pitching performance in the modern era, according to sabermetrician Bill James’ game score metric.

The Dodgers won 23 of Kershaw’s 27 starts. If Kershaw were to be replaced with an average pitcher, and the Dodgers won about half of those starts—lets say 14—Los Angeles would have missed the playoffs entirely. Instead, Kershaw will start game one of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.

Pitcher or not, Kershaw was the best player in the NL.

Unwritten rules be damned, give the man his trophy.

Have media, fans, courts been hasty on Panthers’ Greg Hardy amid spate of domestic violence cases?

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By Ryan Love

Sunday rituals are a little bit different this year for Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy.

No more are the days of putting on intimidating war paint and colored contacts. No more are the days of creeping onto the field at Bank of America Stadium and putting his sack celebrations into effect. Instead, he finds himself in the discomfort of his home, cowering from the media and fans calling for his head on a platter.

Hardy was arrested in May 2014 and charged with assault on a female and communication threats. He is currently on the exempt commissioner’s list, taking a leave of absence with pay from the NFL while his legal issues become resolved. His court date is scheduled for Nov. 17.

The domestic dispute, ignited by an argument involving Hardy’s concern with his then girlfriend Nicole Holder’s previous relationship with rapper Nelly, has all of the makings of being a career-killer for Hardy. But the full story has yet to be told, and the Panthers are committed to following due process in order to make a final decision on Hardy.

The decision to put Hardy on the commissioner’s exempt list is particularly troubling for the Panthers, as they put the franchise tag on Hardy, who will be making $13.1 million over the next year, whether he plays or not. A self-described monster on the field, “The Kraken” has had 26 sacks in the past two seasons, good for fifth in the NFL over that span. He quickly emerged as one of the NFL’s top young defensive linemen, making the Pro Bowl for the first time last season.

But all of that came to a screeching halt.

It didn’t come to a halt on May 13 when he was arrested for assault on a female and communicating threats.

It didn’t come to a halt on July 15 when he was found guilty of assault on a female and communicating threats by a Mecklenberg County, N.C., judge.

It came to a halt on Sept. 8 when TMZ released a video of Ray Rice punching now-wife Janay Palmer in an elevator, knocking her out, and dragging her out of the elevator. This, followed the next day by the announcement of Adrian Peterson’s child abuse accusations, began to raise questions about the “The Kraken.”

“Why is Greg Hardy still playing?” they asked.

“What is the difference between Ray Rice and Greg Hardy?” they asked.

Did the media simply overlook the Greg Hardy case? Did he not have enough star power behind his name to make the story?

The media has only told part of the story. Whenever the term “domestic violence” is used, it is almost as if red paint is splashed over the suspect’s reputation, never to be washed away. Their reputation becomes tarnished forever.

Things looked particularly gloomy for Hardy when the media began reporting the domestic violence charge. Headlined was the account of Holder, who stated in a police report that Hardy threw her into a bathtub, pulled her by her hair, choked her with both hands around her throat and told her that he was going to kill her. She also states that he picked her up over his head and threw her into a couch laced with assault rifles before she could run away to a nearby hospital.

Lost in the media’s reports is the 9-1-1 call made by Hardy, who makes the call while Holder is still in his apartment. She can be heard screaming at him while Hardy is on the phone, stating that the woman was attacking him. He states that she is blocking the door and “will not stop coming at me.” He also states that she hit him in the face twice and he and his manager (Sammy Curtis) was simply trying to restrain the woman.

Holder admitted in court to being under the influence of alcohol and having cocaine in her system at the time of the incident. She also did not appear in court for her request for a restraining order. Her attorney, Stephen Goodwin, withdrew from the case shortly before it began due to “irreconcilable differences.”

A key witness in the case was Holder’s friend Christina Lawrence, who testified that there were only a few weapons in Hardy’s apartment; two guns against the window and a few on the bar.

Needless to say, Holder’s account of the story has its holes. While a court of law should ultimately pass judgment on whose version of the case is most credible, the least the media should do – including here in this venue – is portray all aspects of the story fully, fairly, and accurately.

So far, the media – for the most part – has dropped the ball in this regard. Due to the overwhelmingly lopsided media coverage of the charges, Hardy quickly became victim to the pitfall of public opinion. Despite already being found guilty by Judge Rebecca Thorn-Tin, North Carolina law states that Hardy has the right to appeal to a jury trial before being convicted of anything.

The NFL and Carolina Panthers acted far too soon on this issue. While public relations practices should be praised for putting the fire out before it spread, it lays the groundwork for the NFL that due process will not be followed whenever legal matters come to surface.

Hardy has never had the reputation of the NFL’s “good guy.” His weekly war paint and colored contacts make him look like a barbarian straight out of a horror movie. Fox Sports even did a feature on Hardy in December 2013, explaining his nickname of the Kraken and detailing his aggressive nature to the tune of the theme song from horror movie franchise, “Saw.”

In the feature, Hardy describes himself as a monster. He explains that you cannot separate real life from football and that it’s “a whole ‘nother swag.”

“When the Kraken comes out, whatever happens happens. You’re stuck with it,” Hardy said.

“It’s not my fault. If you’re in my way, I’m going to remove you. If you have an attitude, I’m going to kill it. I’ve been this guy my whole life and it’s finally able to come out and be its own monster.”

“It’s get killed or do the killing.”

Unfortunately for Hardy, it appears as though the media overload of domestic violence this year may have prematurely killed his NFL career.