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ESPN The Magazine 04.13.15

ESPN The Magazine is for the NEXT generation of sports fans who want to stay on top of the athletes, teams, topics and upcoming events in their own sports world. The Magazine celebrates not only sports, but the cultures and lifestyles that are an integral part of them - all with ESPN's unique personality and authority.

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top 5 impact prospects

KRIS BRYANT The Cubs’ third baseman of the future (above) probably won’t head north to Wrigley Field on April 5, but he’ll be with the big club maybe two weeks later as the Cubs look to push off his eventual free agency by a year. He’s my pick right now to win the NL rookie of the year, and he likely will hit 20-plus homers and get on base at a strong clip. JORGE SOLER If Bryant doesn’t win the NL ROY, maybe the Cubs’ right fielder will. Soler, a Cuban national who has spent three years in the minors, was called up in late August and had a stunning 1.761 OPS in his first five games before coming back to earth with a .673 OPS in his final 19. With better plate…

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[ failure by design ]

First UNC, now Syracuse—academic fraud is spreading through colleges like mono, and schools have no clue how to contain the outbreak. Administrators have already tried gambits ranging from taking away scholarships to hiring armies of advisers, but nothing has worked. Recently, the University of Maryland cooked up a novel approach: Coaches won’t receive any bonuses unless their teams surpass a modest academic threshold. The University of California system is considering a similar policy. Tom McMillen, one of the Maryland regents who devised the rule, predicts a “trickle-down” effect: “If a coach cares and sets the right culture, you’re going to have academic success.” It’s a compelling, well-intentioned idea. But it won’t fix the academic crisis in college sports because it relies on a flawed premise: that the solution lies with coaches.…

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[ are you seeing this? ]

Remember who led MLB in OPS last spring? Of course you don’t, because it was Brad Miller, whose number dropped by more than 600 points when the regular season started. Perhaps you did notice that Justin Masterson went 4–0 with a 1.09 ERA in the spring of 2014, so you bid him up in your fantasy league—and got rewarded with an ERA of 5.88 when games started to count. It often seems not only silly to predict the future from small sample sizes in exhibitions but downright hazardous. Spring training is one case, maybe the only case, in which statheads believe ignorance is bliss—the one time we can all agree to focus on green grass and hot dogs and tune out the numbers. But it turns out—and I have to admit,…

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They look so peaceful, symmetrical, serene. But in the hands of Danica Patrick’s pit crew, these tools make the No. 10 car fly. Swapping old tires for a fresh set can slice up to three seconds off a lap on the typical NASCAR oval. Fortunately, Patrick’s six-man crew is as finely tuned as the engine. In the time it takes you to get out of your car and turn the gas cap, the crew can change four 65-pound tires, fill ’er up with 18 gallons of gas and even slap some duct tape on the air dam if something gets bent out of shape. At 12 seconds per stop, you’ll see a crew in action for only a minute and a half each race if it’s on point. But as…

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fixing what ain’t broke

Baseball’s winningest team over the past three seasons made Max Scherzer the second-richest pitcher in history, signing him to a seven-year, $210 million deal in January. And for that enormous investment, the Nationals managed to … well, barely improve their division prospects for 2015. That’s no dig on Scherzer—obviously, he’s elite—but it acknowledges a singular truth: Washington, already the most talented team in the NL and playing in the league’s least competitive division, doesn’t need him this year. Here are four reasons. 1 NO “W” IN THIS ROI There isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t benefit from having Scherzer in its rotation. But there also isn’t a team that has a sixth starter (read: working out of the pen) like 28-year-old Tanner Roark , who was more difficult to score against in…

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“what is this weirdo doing?”

VAN PELT: You’ve won the Masters twice in just six starts—faster than Jack, Tiger and Phil. How do you best describe why Augusta suits your game so well? WATSON: I think it’s the course conditions. You always have slick greens, and I love fast greens; it’s all about figuring out how to two-putt. I don’t make a lot of putts, but I’m one of the best two-putters in the world. A lot of the holes go from right to left. I can shape the ball either way, but I prefer right to left off the tee. And all the par 5s are reachable for me. When you look at everything on paper, it makes sense that I play good there. You overpower the golf course, but do you actually attribute your two…