The Return of Altidore

U.S. Soccer announced earlier today that Jozy Altidore will be available to play tomorrow against Belgium:

That’s certainly good news for the U.S. Though only 14 men can be used in a game, including substitutes, losing one of 23 to injury severely limits tactical possibilities. That’s especially the case when he’s your starting forward.

One major question, though, is how much and at what level Altidore will be able to play. The fact that coach Jürgen Klinsmann avoided answering the question when SI’s Grant Wahl inquired how much Altidore trained at full speed this week isn’t encouraging in that regard.

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Cuban Crossovers: Jose Abreu

While a number of Central American countries have had their marked impact on baseball over the years, it seems defected Cuban players have recently attracted the most attention in the western hemisphere in terms of potential.
There is sometimes a tendency to over-hype international players, especially when the comparison is made based on Cuba’s somewhat spotty statistics, but the scouting is generally solid, and a number of recent signings have worked out for Major League clubs.
This week I’ll write a series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB.
We’ll start with a recent sensation, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu.

Abreu is just one of the latest examples of an international star whose potential scored him a large contract with a big-league club. Abreu was signed at $68 million through 2019 in a six-year deal. At 27 years old, this contract will take him right through his prime years.

Anticipated to be a middle-of-the-order first baseman, much was expected offensively in his first year. He hasn’t disappointed, establishing himself as one of the league’s biggest power threats.

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Good Stories, June 28

I’ll be working on Monday’s post this weekend. It’ll be back to baseball, based on a recent signing.
If I’m lucky, I’ll have enough information for multiple posts on the topic.
In the meantime, here are some good reads from the past few days to tide you over:

ISAIAH AUSTIN — I needed to start with this story, because whether or not you care about the NBA or its draft, this is a remarkable young man you should know about. Matt Norlander tells the story far better than I can summarize it, so I’ll leave you to read his wonderful perspective on Isaiah Austin.

VIN SCULLY/MIKE MATHENY — I know I said reads, but the video here was the right combination of quirky and endearing to include the link. Deadspin can have its charm, but it’s nothing like that of longtime Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. The site also changes his wording a bit, but if you can get past that, the video is a fun little story (seemingly out of nowhere) about Mike Matheny’s first day of classes in college.

JOEL EMBIID — The man who might have been the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft a week and a half ago went at No. 3 despite a foot injury that will likely keep him out for a good portion of the season. Grantland’s Jordan Conn writes on Joel Embiid’s journey to the NBA and the small basketball-loving contingent of his home country Cameroon.

U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM — Soccer in the U.S. is on the rise. Grant Wahl describes the significance of the national team making it through Group G. A great read today, as the round of 16 kicks off at noon with Brazil vs. Chile. The U.S. will face Belgium, who won Group H, on Tuesday.

FANS OF U.S. SOCCER — In a similar vein, SI writer Chris Ballard takes a step back to write this long-form piece as a U.S. supporter rather than a member of the media, incorporating his first-hand recollections of the 1998 World Cup to draw a picture of the “brave new world of American soccer fandom.” If you’re at all interested in a fan’s perspective of the spectacle, it’s worth a read.

BONUS VIDEO — No story here; this is just a raw display of power. That’s why it’s just the bonus, for you power-loving baseball fans out there. Mike Trout hit the longest home run of the year last night into the fountain at Kauffman Stadium. Here’s footage of his solo shot.

The Sixers, the draft, tanking, and Kentucky basketball

The Sixers have been the butt of many a tanking joke this year. Everyone knew they wanted Wiggins.

Somewhere in all the madness before the draft began, some crazy ideas floated around based on how much the Sixers liked Wiggins, and what they would do to get him:

But the Sixers value the draft too much to give up so many picks. Maybe they had acquired that many draft picks because, I don’t know, they wanted to use some of them?

Last year the Sixers traded away a star, Jrue Holiday, for a future star, Nerlens Noel. They also received a first-round pick in this year’s draft. At this point, it only makes sense to make a run for the future — drafting guys who will mature together and create a forceful lineup in the future. Call it tanking, but it was the most logical approach to rebuild the franchise.

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Pitching injury rates

I wrote these thoughts down a while back, and added to them this week.
Some linked articles are old, but the links are updated.

The injury issue

Pitching an extensive amount is not good for the human body.
In fact, it has become debilitating.

Starters are breaking down.
The way the closer role is set up is incredibly harmful to the players.

The words “elbow surgery” appear 37 times on the current USA Today injury report, only once in reference to a position player (catcher Matt Wieters). 102 pitchers are on the disabled list (n.b. one of those is for food poisoning).

So why is it nothing is being done about it?
It would seem that either the players or the owners would care enough about the problem to speak out and do something to fix it. Yet they stay silent.

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