Nationals Go Big In the Pen, Ink Former Yankee Rafael Soriano

Nationals Go Big In the Pen, Ink Former Yankee Rafael Soriano

The defending NL East Champion Washington Nationals made a big splash on Tuesday afternoon by reportedly adding former Yankees closer-fill-in Rafael Soriano to a 2-year deal worth approximately $28 million with some vesting options that could turn it into a 3-year pact.

CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman takes a look at the stacked back of the bullpen the Nationals now have:

The surprise addition of Soriano (a Scott Boras client) gives the
Nationals yet another power right-hander at the back of their bullpen,
but raises immediate questions about how manager Davey Johnson plans to
divvy up roles.

Drew Storen was in line to retain his position as the Nationals'
closer after a strong finish to 2012 before his blown save in Game 5 of
the National League Division Series. Tyler Clippard, who led the club
with 33 saves last season, figured to retain his role as the top set-up
man.

With the Braves having the best 'pen in the NL East last season, the Nationals look to be competing for that claim in 2013. While the Phillies are banking on big things from Mike Adams and still-young Phillippe Aumont.

Does this deal, coupled with Soriano's previous, help justify Jonathan Papelbon's $50 million pact with the Phillies? Corey Seidman seems to think so.

Papelbon, who is a year younger, signed a four-year, $50 million pact
with the Phillies last fall. That came after seven seasons in Boston
where Papelbon pitched to a 2.33 ERA, had a 1.02 WHIP and struck out
10.7 batters per nine innings.

Soriano, 33, is coming off a
stellar 2012 in which he replaced Mariano Rivera by pitching to a 2.26
ERA and saving 42 games with the Yankees. It wasn’t the best year of
Soriano’s career ... that was 2010, when he had a 1.73 ERA and 45 saves
for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Others seem to think the Nationals got a Papelbon-quality pitcher on a shorter deal, thus making this a real solid move for the Nats. "But $14 mil a year is a lot!," you may grumble. True. But if you've got the money to spend...

And while we're on the discussion of comparing the Phillies to the Nationals, David Murphy went through both teams' lineups yesterday position by position, with a pretty clear advantage going to Washington. He also points out that if a lot of "IFs" go the Phillies way in 2013, they can compete for bragging rights once again.

But like with the Soriano move, it's clear the Nationals are not a Washington team we can scoff at any longer.

Penn State men's hockey ranked No. 1 for first time

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AP Images

Penn State men's hockey ranked No. 1 for first time

At 16-2-1, Penn State's men's hockey team is ranked first in the nation for the first time in program history.

The Nittany Lions have improved each of the last four years under head coach Guy Gadowsky. 

Their record by year:

      2013-14: 8-26-2
      2014-15: 18-15-4
Last season: 21-13-4
This season: 16-2-1

Penn State received 30 of 50 first-place votes in the USCHO Division I poll. Denver is ranked No. 2, followed by Boston University, Minnesota-Duluth and Massachusetts-Lowell (see USCHO poll).

Penn State was ranked fourth last week before sweeping Michigan State.

Joel Embiid now as dominant as Henry Sims

Joel Embiid now as dominant as Henry Sims

There are seemingly countless metrics one can use to detail Joel Embiid's supremacy as a Sixer, but perhaps no stats more clearly tell the story of how indefatigable the rookie has been this season than those of his free-throw shooting. Despite ranking just eighth on the team in total minutes, he's already gotten to the line 215 times this season and made 169 of them, about 250% more than the second-most made FTs on the team (Ersan Ilyasova, 65). What's more, his seven games with ten or more free throws attempted is already more than Thaddeus Young (six), Evan Turner (three) or Jrue Holiday (zero) ever had as a Liberty Baller. 

But yesterday against the Bucks saw JoJo hit a new level with his foul drawing. Despite essentially being shut down by the Bucks in the first half -- I can't remember if he even had a single bucket at the break -- The Process eventually imposed his will in Milwaukee in a major way, parading to the line in the second half, ending with 22 points (as well as 12 rebounds and five blocks) on 4-9 shooting, getting to the line an astounding 18 times. 

Who was the last Sixers giant to accomplish such a feat, you might wonder? Well... 

Yes, it's been an impressive season for our double-redshirt rookie, and every game he seems to add another immortal name to his list of historical analogues. But not until now could we afford to mention him alongside the great Henry "Lickface" Sims, two-year Process legend whose 18 trips to the free-throw line on April 4, 2014 totally helped us win that random late-season game against the then-rebuilding Boston Celtics. As impossible as it once seemed, it now appears that soon, Embiid's folk herodom will be as self-evident and undeniable to the Sons of Sam as that of Hammerin' Hank himself. 

Get this guy to the All-Star team already.