Breven’s Blog: USWNT Wins Second Straight World Cup

USWNT Celebration

Four years ago, the United States Women’s National Soccer (USWNT) team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time in 16 years. This time, their goal was to defend that championship.

In every game leading up to the final, the U.S. scored within the first 12 minutes. However, that was not the case on Sunday and there was no score at the half. But at ten minutes into the second half, a foul would lead to a penalty kick for United States forward Megan Rapinoe, who was the Golden Ball winner for being the best player of the World Cup. She froze the goalie and scored the game’s first goal in the 61st minute. Eight minutes later, another U.S. goal came from midfielder Rose Lavelle.

Then, the defense stepped up and closed the game to win 2-0 over the Netherlands. With the win, this marked the USWNT’s second straight and fourth ever FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. Both offensive and defensively, they were able to hold strong and score early and often.

That began in their first game in pool play of the World Cup by winning 13-0 against Thailand. They would go onto to sweep their pool. Then it was time for bracket play and the knockout rounds. In the round of 16, it was Spain. After an early goal by Rapinoe, the Spanish would score to tie things up a couple minutes later. A 1-1 tie would last until the 76th minute when Rapinoe would score for the second time via a penalty shot.

A 2-1 win over the Spaniards would lead to a date against the hometown Frenchwomen. In was one of the best game to look forward to. Some reporters called it the final that wasn’t. Like the game against Spain, Rapinoe would score twice and the United States would win 2-1.

In the semifinals, head coach Jill Ellis decided to not have Rapinoe in the match. Rapinoe’s backup, Christen Press scored via a header in the tenth minute. Then, one of the superstars of this World Cup, Alex Morgan scored for a third consecutive 2-1 victory.

The United States continues to dominate when it comes to women’s soccer. They did not have a deficit throughout the World Cup and proved to everyone when they were prone to fail, they couldn’t and wouldn’t both offensively and defensively. They demonstrated to everyone why they should be crowned the champions and win back-to-back World Cup titles.

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: MLB All-Star Snubs

The 2019 MLB All-Star starters and reserves were announced this past week for the annual Midsummer Classic. Every year, there are those that do not get in, but deserved to. They are called snubs.

Typically, there are a few snubs, but this year, there was an unprecedented amount. And they affected more than just the San Diego Padres. The Padres’ closer Kirby Yates, who has an MLB-leading 27 saves (entering July 1), was the only one who made the team. This means no Fernando Tatis Jr., no Manny Machado, no Eric Hosmer and no Hunter Renfroe.

Even if Fernando Tatis Jr. missed a month due to injury, he changes the hometown team from good to great. He does it all. Speed. Strength. Power. Awareness. Energy. The energy that he brings to his teammates, his coaches, the fans and to this organization is electrifying and attracts people to watching him and this team play. Even MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal said Tatis Jr. is an All Star, while CBS Sports has called him “special.”

In his first year, Tatis already has a 3.0 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), has scored from third base on a fly ball to the second baseman and scored from first on a single to right, and he became the first rookie shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra to record ten home runs and ten stolen bases before the All-Star Break. These are remarkable achievements in baseball, and it is unfortunate that his talent (including the other Padres that did not return) cannot be seen to the rest of the sport.   

Throughout MLB, there were snubs all across the league.  

In the National League, one of the biggest names besides Machado to not make the team is Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper, who signed a 330 million dollar contract this past winter. 

There is also Los Angeles Dodgers’ infielder Max Muncy, who hit a walk-off homerun in Game 3 of last year’s World Series. Muncy is tied sixth in the NL in WAR and 18 of the top 21 position players made the roster. 

Furthermore, Milwaukee Brewers’ starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff did not make the team and his numbers are one of the best so far in 2019. Woodruff leads the National League in wins with ten and is also in the top spot in WHIP (Walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) with a whopping 1.14. 

The American League is much of the same, whether a team is in a big-market city or not. 

That includes the New York Yankees. First Baseman Luke Voit, who suffered an abdominal injury last weekend during the London Series, was one of the biggest snubs on the American League side. Voit was outlasted by Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu and Seattle Mariners’ Dan Vogelbach. What makes this surprising from this is that Abreu is one of three White Sox (pitcher Lucas Giolito and catcher James McCann) to make the team, despite only having a 39-42 record. 

A couple other snubs comes at the shortstop position with Boston Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts and Yankees’ Gleyber Torres. Both players are hitting over .290, getting on base more than 36% of the time and slugging at least 54%. Torres, along with Voit, were playing and not one to get hurt, like most of their teammates.  

The Minnesota Twins, one of baseball’s surprises in 2019 with a 53-30 record have two All-Stars.  

That was starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi and shortstop Jorge Polanco. However, a couple others from the team had the potential to also be on the team. One of those is outfielder Max Kepler. He already has a career-high 21 home runs. 

It is surprising that the Twins, who are in first place of the AL Central by eight games to the Cleveland Indians, the host team, and 13 games to the Chicago White Sox, only have two players going, but the Indians and White Sox each have three members.  

Even though the reserves were announced this past Sunday, players that had already received the invitation, have the option to decline and not participate in the game for any reason (injury, personal, etc.). Most likely, a couple of players from each side will back out opening it up for some of these players to make a dream turn to reality and be a part of a showcase with the game’s best players. 

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: McDaniels Drafted by Hornets

Jalen McDaniels

The only question heading into last season for former Aztec basketball player Jalen McDaniels was whether or not he was going to be drafted.

This was one thing to look forward to this summer, as mentioned in my earlier preview. McDaniels had a great freshman year and some even compared him to former Aztec, Kawhi Leonard. McDaniels was only one of four freshmen in the country to average at least 10.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and shoot at least 58% from the field. That is how great he was as a freshman and why people were comparing him the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

After his freshman season was over, he tested the NBA waters, which meant participating in camps and playing in front of scouts to see what parts of his game needed to get better for year(s) to come. Obviously his weight was a factor for the position he played (195 pounds) at the power forward spot and sometimes at center. Even SDSU men’s basketball coach Brian Dutcher would refer to him as “the skinniest player in college basketball.” For reference, Anthony Davis has the same height as McDaniels (six-foot-10), but weighs 254 pounds, almost 50 pounds heavier. If Davis were to post up on McDaniels, terms like “Barbeque chicken” or “Bully ball” would be heard (credit to Shaquille O’Neal for those terms). Besides his weight, scouts also wanted to see McDaniels’ perimeter shooting improve.

And McDaniels did improve through his points.

During his freshman year, McDaniels averaged 10.5 points. In his sophomore year, he would increase that to 15.9 points per game. His outside shooting game is one of many factors related to the five-point increase. McDaniels started to not only post up and drive to the basket, but he would take shots from three-point range or make a one-dribble pull-up shot, just inside the 3-point arc.

Having a perimeter shot is huge in the NBA, especially for big men. Big centers or tall power forwards use their mid-range jumper to their advantage like San Antonio Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge. People wouldn’t expect a big man like Aldridge to shoot a mid-range shot; thus, when he does take the shot, it goes in.

Two months before draft, mock drafts had McDaniels as a late first-rounder or early second rounder. 

On draft night, McDaniels was the 52nd overall pick during the second round by the Charlotte Hornets, owned by one of the greatest basketball players to ever play, Michael Jordan. This settles the question of whether or not McDaniels was going to be drafted.

In McDaniels’ two years as an Aztec, he played every game of his career. He averaged 13.2 points, that includes a 30-point game against UNLV this past season, averaged 7.9 rebounds, shot 76% at the free-throw line, shot 50% from the field in two years and had 101 assists. 
In addition, McDaniels recorded 20 career double-doubles, which is the sixth highest in school history and second behind two-year players (Leonard leads with 40).

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: Reflecting on the Life of Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn swinging a bat

Sunday was not just Father’s Day for Tony Gwynn Jr. That day marked five years since the passing of his Dad, Anthony Keith Gwynn, a legend in San Diego.

Gwynn came to SDSU on an unpredictable basketball scholarship, but once his basketball coach let him play baseball, he would be lights out both on the hardwood and on the diamond. The Long Beach native was a star point guard and still hold the records for most assists in a season (221), assists per game (8.2) and in a career (590). In Gwynn’s final game as an Aztec basketball player, he would have a career game, posting 16 points and 16 assists against New Mexico in 1981.

Although he came to SDSU as a basketball player at Montezuma Mesa, he still wanted to contribute to the Aztec baseball team. When he got the OK to play baseball from former SDSU basketball head coach Tim Vezie in his sophomore year, he became a two-time All-American. He would go on to play with teammates that would go on to play or partake some role in Major League Baseball (MLB), including MLB umpire Kerwin Danley (Gwynn’s roommate at SDSU), former pitcher and Colorado Rockies Manager Bud Black, former player and coach Bobby Meacham, and former player and two-time World Series Champion Al Newman. Gwynn received Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors in both basketball and baseball, making him the only athlete in WAC history to accomplish that feat.

Before professional sports were a televised event, Gwynn was able to accomplish things that only few people have ever achieved.

In June of 1981, Gwynn would get drafted by the then-San Diego Clippers (now Los Angeles Clippers) and the San Diego Padres on the same day. Gwynn would choose to stay in San Diego and play for the Padres. He would make his debut one year later in July of 1982 and from that moment on, he would wear the brown and gold, the blue and orange and the pinstripes up until his final season in 2001.

For 20 seasons, Gwynn was known for his hitting, but during his first slump he started a trend – video. In 1983, he was in a slump and asked his wife to get a camera to film his at-bats. From then on, he would never have a slump like what he went through and it was the beginning of video in the game of baseball. With Gwynn initiating the aspect of film in the sport (in terms of looking back and studying the video), people would call him “Captain Video.” Gwynn would finish his 1983 season with a batting average .309 and for the next 18 years of his career, he would never hit below .300. In 1984, it was a great year for the Padres and Gwynn himself. He would go to his first All-Star Game, win his first batting title and go to his first World Series.

As Gwynn would continue to go to All-Star Games, he would also win batting titles, Silver Sluggers and receive Gold Gloves.

When the 1990s came around, he would continue to get better by talking to retired players, such as Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Ted Williams. After his conversations with both of them, his best year were on the horizon. From 1994 to 1997, he led the National League in hits three times, won four batting titles, went to four All-Star games and only struck out 79 times in those four years. And in those four years, he had a slash line of .371 (batting average)/.415 (on base percentage)/.511 (slugging percentage), an ideal spot for hitters, the iconic .300/.400/.500 line. His batting average would also include getting a chance at hitting .400 in 1994, the closest anyone has accomplished that feat since Williams hit .406 in 1941. Gwynn would finish with a .394 batting average in a shortened-season due to a strike.

In 1998, Gwynn and Padres would have another magical run in the postseason, like what they through in 1984.

They would win 98 games and the division, beat future Hall of Famers like Randy Johnson from the Houston Astros, who won 102 games in the NL Division Series. Then, they outlasted the Hall of Fame trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz from the Atlanta Braves, who won 106 games to get to the World Series and face a New York Yankees team that won 114 games during the regular season. At the end of the 2001 season, Gwynn would call it a career as he would finish with a .338 lifetime batting average, record 3,141 hits, go to 15 All-Star games, win five Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and eight batting titles. Another thing he also won was respect; respect from players, coaches, fans and the media from around Major League Baseball because of the humbleness and person that he was, more than a baseball player.

Gwynn’s favorite memory came from the postseason and that was hitting a home run at (old) Yankee Stadium in Game One of the World Series. He cared about his family; he wanted to stay in America’s Finest City and not be traded or take a new contract in a different city. He spent his career in one town for an entire career, was a part of two World Series teams and will forever known as “Mr. Padre.” After Gwynn finished his baseball career, he would continue being on the field by coming back to Montezuma Mesa to be the head coach of the Aztec baseball team beginning in 2002.

In 2007, he would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. by getting 97.6% of the ballot.

Gwynn will forever be known as “Mr. Padre” and an Aztec For Life. Ever since he came to San Diego in 1977, he never wanted to leave the city and the fans never wanted him to leave. It was the bond that he was able to create with players, coaches, fans and the media that made him stand out. June 16 has been a day to never forget Tony Gwynn for Padre fans, Aztec fans, and MLB fans that admired him.

Written by: Breven Honda