David's Blog

On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest.  Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!


" new tech that’s making the process more accessible"

How Technology Made Baseball’s Draft Relevant

Major League Baseball's draft has gone from conference call to primetime TV with prospect info galore

Baseball’s draft roster has long been a bastion of anonymity, owing to the limited exposure of amateurs, the less-immediate impact of selections, and the event’s exorbitant length. Though since curtailed to 40 rounds—still a lot, don’t kid yourself—the 1996 draft had 100 rounds. Only the New York Yankees actually made that many picks, No. 1,740 overall being their last, with other teams having long since stopped bothering. (East Oklahoma State junior college third baseman Aron Amundson is your Trivial Pursuit answer; he didn’t sign with the Yankees, played some independent ball, and later became theMinnesota Twins’ bullpen catcher.)

But, that’s finally changing, thanks in large part to new tech that’s making the process more accessible.

For most of its history, the draft was held by conference call, and not until 1998 did Major League Baseball even publicly release the full results the day after the draft ended. When future All-Star reliever Dan Plesac was taken with the 42nd pick in 1980, he found out by a Mailgram, which is quite literally a mail/telegram hybrid delivered to his door. The note did not originate from the team owner, president, general manager, or even scouting director—but, rather, from the minor league scouting department’s administrative assistant.

This is how I found out I was selected by the  36yrs ago! 42nd player taken in 1980.No smartphones in 1980.

 

As Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper noted, only the draft picks in the first two rounds were even told the round number they were selected in. (Plesac, by the way, did not sign then, went to N.C. State, and became a first-round pick three years later.) When the Milwaukee Brewers took B.J. Surhoff No. 1 overall in 1985, he was not bombarded with phone calls or invited to go on a press tour. He recalled doing only one interview on draft day, when the local ABC affiliate visited him in his parents’ home in Westchester.

 

Not until 2002 was the draft accessible to fans, when a pair of Baseball America writers co-hosted an MLB.com radio broadcast of the conference call. Scintillating stuff, really. Television entered the foray in 2007, when ESPN2 presented four hours of coverage—on a weekday afternoon—although three players were on set to shake hands with commissioner Bud Selig after their selections. MLB Network changed the proceedings after its launch before the 2009 season; it now broadcasts the first round in primetime.

That first year was a little awkward, however, as only super-prospect Stephen Strasburg had any national resonance. His pick was cheered by the TV audience, but silence followed the next few selections, leading to some prompting from production assistants. When the No. 7 pick, Mike Minor, received raucous applause, Selig, who didn’t know about the audience instructions, joked, “He must be good, he brought his own cheering section.”

Technology hasn’t just changed the experience for fans following along and players waiting to be notified. Prospect information is much more widely disseminated. With no internet or email and minimal mobile phone use, everything was done by phone. As MLB.com prospect writer Jim Callis recently said, Baseball America used to ask scouts to call into a 1-800 number to give reports on players. Now, mention a name, and most of the time there’s video instantly available online. While MLB.com, ESPN, and BA write up many highly regarded prospects, Perfect Game has write-ups of 500 players and basic profile info on many more who have attended its showcases.

This year’s draft starts Thursday night, again on MLB Network, and there are bountiful mock drafts online as analysts try guessing at what might happen—a change from years past when everyone had to guess at what did happen.

“the most generic superstar athlete of our time”

 

 

 

Derek Jeter honors Muhammad Ali for living the life he never would 

EBENEZER SAMUEL

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Saturday, June 4, 2016, 8:02 PM

It was the most generic tribute possible, dripping of the exact platitudes we'd expect to hear about The Greatest.

So of course it had to come from Derek Jeter, the most generic superstar athlete of our time.

Oh, the irony. On Saturday, we all mourned the passing of the great Muhammad Ali, fondly recalling the legacy of a man who spent a lifetime transcending his sport, who dared to use his athletic platform to push for social change. It was Ali, dead at 74 on Friday night, who showed a generation of athletes that they could be more than stars, that they could truly impact the world if they so chose.

Jeter made a career of never choosing to truly impact the world. Yet there he was on Saturday, praising Ali for teaching him just that.

"He was one of the first athletes to speak his mind, and that opened the door for the many who do so today," Jeter wrote on his website, The Players’ Tribune. "He always stood up for what he believed, no matter what the cost.

"Ali was also the first to bring real personality to sports, and by that I mean he was always himself, no matter who he was with or where he was. He freed us all in that way."

Never had such eloquent words of Jeter's PR flaks rung quite this hollow, the most inauthentic athlete of our time celebrating the most genuine. From LeBron James to Chris Paul to Serena Williams, plenty of athletes spent Saturday paying tribute to Ali, but none came off as insincerely as Derek Jeter, "real" personality for hire.

Freedom, Derek? Really? Jeter always had that, from the very moment he landed in the Big Apple spotlight in 1995, a superstar who could have addressed any issue he ever wanted. But Jeter, tone-deaf on Saturday because he never listened to the world in the first place, never understood what Ali really brought, that what he really did was offer a roadmap for today's athlete to be an activist.

Forget personality, Derek. It was how Ali utilized his personality and charisma that mattered. It was Ali's willingness to tell everyone that "No Vietcong ever called me n-----," (words that no journalist could ever spin) that made his "personality" so great, not his ability to use that personality to garner the endorsements of Jeter, the human MLB bobblehead.

For two decades in pinstripes, Jeter wanted no part of authenticity. He made a career out of not speaking his mind, unless Gatorade or Rawlings or the Steiner Sports memorabilia machine were paying him to speak on their behalf. For 20 years, he stood in front of his locker and addressed the media and stood only for his right to stand for absolutely nothing.

You could walk up to Jeter in the Yankee locker room and ask him about his stance on race issues, or his position on the presidential election, or his thoughts on the way Ken Griffey Jr. wore his baseball cap, but there was always a lot of "what am I supposed to say?" rhetoric.

You're supposed to say what you want and what you believe, Derek. That's how the great Muhammad Ali always spoke.

But Jeter was the anti-Ali, and on Saturday, he stood completely out of place paying tribute to Ali's greatness outside the ring. Ali was the forerunner for today's athlete, showing the way for James and Williams and so many others who have used their platforms to push real change.

There was James in 2012, with his Miami Heat teammates, donning hoodies in protest of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Two years later, there he was again sporting a "I Can't breathe" shirt in support of Eric Garner, who was strangled to death by the NYPD. And there was Chris Paul daring to call the racist rants of Clippers owner Donald Sterling "unacceptable" that same year. Later in 2014, there were the St. Louis Rams, opening games with the "hands up, don't shoot" sign in protest of the Michael Brown killing in nearby Ferguson, Mo.

These are the examples of Ali's influence, the continuation of Ali's legacy. Derek Jeter, the blank Yankee billboard who spent his career waiting to be bought, had nothing to do with Muhammad Ali's legacy at all.

But maybe that's not Jeter's fault. Because on Saturday, Derek Jeter, at his most tone-deaf and most generic, proved that he doesn't have anything useful to say, anyway.

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/samuel-jeter-honors-ali-living-life-woul-article-1.2661449

 

“any pitcher taken high in the draft is a risk”

 

 

Brewers aware of risks in drafting prep pitchers in first round

Yesterday 9:07 p.m.3    

When the Brewers make the fifth selection in the Major League Baseball draft Thursday evening, one or both of the top-rated high school pitchers could still be on the board.

That possibility raises two questions:

1. Will the Brewers select one of those pitchers?

2. Should they select one of them?

Left-hander Jason Groome of Barnegat, N.J., and right-hander Riley Pint of Overland Park, Kan., are talented pitchers with tremendous upside and won't last long in the first round. The Brewers have been linked to each in various projections, but picking prep pitchers high in the draft — or anywhere in the draft for that matter — comes with inherent risks.

Clubs understand it's going to take three or four years, if not more, to get a high school pitcher to the major leagues, leaving plenty of time for things to go wrong. Injuries are a paramount concern at the position that incurs them the most.

One needn't go back farther than 2014 for examples of the risks of picking prep pitchers high in the first round. Houston took lefty Brady Aiken with the first pick and Miami chose right-hander Tyler Kolek at No. 2, snapping up the highest-rated pitchers on the board.

Aiken in essence flunked a post-draft physical over concerns about the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. The Astros lowered their offer from $6.5 million to $5 million, and Aiken refused to sign. He enrolled at the IMG Academy in Florida to await the 2015 draft, but after one outing there he had to undergo Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, validating Houston's concerns.

Kolek, who signed for $6 million, also blew out his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery in April, shelving him for 2016.

Two college pitchers taken after that duo, left-hander Carlos Rodon (third pick to the Chicago White Sox) and right-hander Aaron Nola (seventh to Philadelphia) already are making their mark in the majors. Not that college arms are safe from injury, which is why any pitcher taken high in the draft is a risk.

David Stearns, who will be overseeing his first draft as Brewers general manager, worked for the Astros when the Aiken selection went haywire but said that did not mean Houston made the wrong choice. Likewise, Stearns indicated the Brewers wouldn't shy away from prep pitchers merely for injury concerns.

"Any time you're looking at young players who are farther away, there is going to be a greater degree of unpredictability, both positively and negatively," he said. "And pitchers as a general rule have a higher injury rate than position players. That can contribute to some of the misses at the top of the draft in that category.

"But we would be foolish if we didn't continue to evaluate every segment of players available in the draft. There are really good high school pitchers, high school position players, college pitchers, college position players in this draft. There likely will be quality major-leaguers and probably all-stars from all four of those categories. So, every team is fully evaluating the entire landscape of the draft."

Stearns also was involved in Houston's 2013 draft when the Astros used the first overall pick to take Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, a hometown boy. With the next pick, the Chicago Cubs took University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant.

Hindsight in the draft is always 20/20, but if they could do it over again, do you think the Astros would pass on Bryant, a key figure in the Cubs' resurgence? They traded Appel, who has struggled in the minors, to Philadelphia in a package to acquire reliever Ken Giles last winter.

"The first thing we all recognize is there are risks in every single pick," said Stearns. "There is no such thing as a safe selection in the major-league draft. There is a fairly large degree of failure throughout the draft and that just speaks to how tough it is, how unpredictable it can be to try to project what 17- through 22-year-olds are going to do throughout their baseball careers.

"This is an occupation fraught with unpredictability. We recognize that going into the process. What we try to do is make the most informed and rational decision we can. We talk about risk profiles of every player in the draft. That's a constant topic of discussion for us, and that goes for both high school and college players."

The Brewers' history of selecting prep pitchers in the first round has been mostly dismal. From 1974-'76, they took three in a row with zero success. Butch Edge, their first pick in '74, was grabbed in the 1976 expansion draft by Toronto and pitched in only nine games for the Blue Jays. Rick O'Keeffe, the fifth overall pick in '75, never made it to the majors. Bill Bordley (fourth overall pick in '76) opted to go to college and pitched in only eight games in the majors for San Francisco.

Alex Fernandez (1988) and Kenny Henderson (1991) also passed on bonus offers and went to college. The Brewers finally had some luck in 1993 in picking Jeff D'Amico, who won 12 games for them seven years later. D'Amico was plagued by injuries, however, and went 29-24 with a 4.23 ERA over five years before being traded to the Mets.

Right-hander J.M. Gold, taken with the 13th pick in 1998, broke down shortly after signing and never made it out of Class A ball. Mike Jones, given a $2 million bonus as the 12th pick in 2001, battled one major injury after another before finally calling it quits after nine torturous years in the minors.

Mark Rogers, the fifth overall pick in 2004, also fell victim to the injury bug and never made it back to Milwaukee after a brief, encouraging stint in 2012. In 2010, the Brewers took righty Dylan Covey with the 14th pick, only to discover in a post-draft physical he had Type 1 diabetes (teams are not allowed pre-draft physicals, a huge flaw in the system). It was mutually decided he would go to college instead.

Kodi Medeiros, a lefty taken with the 12th pick in 2014 out of Hawaii, is just getting his pro career going, so we must wait to see what happens with him.

As it turns out, the most successful prep pitcher taken by the Brewers in the first round might turn out to be Jeremy Jeffress, the 16th pick in 2006. But it's the second time around for Jeffress in Milwaukee after being sent to Kansas City (and later Toronto) in the Zack Greinke trade in December 2010.

Suffice it to say that drafting prep pitchers in the first round has not been good to the Brewers over the years. Not that Stearns had anything to do with those misses or, for that matter, amateur scouting director Ray Montgomery, who is running his second draft for the club.

Stearns and Montgomery subscribe to the practice of taking the best available player, regardless of position. Thus, if Groome or Pint is atop their board after the first four selections are made, the Brewers will call his name.

"If we believe the best big-leaguer remaining on our board is a high school pitcher, then we will take him," said Stearns, without mentioning Pint or Groome specifically.

College pitchers also pose injury risks, as the Brewers discovered over the past year. Virginia left-hander Nathan Kirby, taken in Competitive Balance Round A in 2015, had an elbow issue that prompted the team to lower his signing bonus and later resulted in Tommy John surgery that sidelined him this year. Right-hander Cody Ponce, taken in the second round out of Cal Poly Pomona, was kept in extended spring training to work through an arm issue and is slated to finally pitch Monday for Class A Brevard County.

Asked if the experiences with Appel and Aiken in Houston made him leery of taking pitchers so high, Stearns said, "No. Taking small samples of personal experience and applying it to an overall draft philosophy is probably how poor decisions are made and how biases are created.

"I've learned from a number of different draft rooms and a number of different experiences, but I'm concerned more about the process here of evaluating players and ranking them, and then having a coherent selection strategy. I'm less concerned about individual outcomes from the past."

In other words, you take your chances in the MLB draft. That will never change.

http://www.jsonline.com/sports/brewers/brewers-aware-of-risks-in-drafting-prep-pitchers-in-first-round-b99736358z1-381884301.html

 

“a million-dollar gamble”

 

 

 

Athletes Risk Millions To Wear These Fancy High-Tech Socks

Seriously, some pros are risking huge endorsement deals to wear non-slip TruSox

By Joe Lemire May 31, 2016

For many athletes, the most expensive socks in professional sports cost a lot more than the already steep listed price of £25 or $40. TruSox boast the use of INEX technology—yes, there is such a thing as patented sock technology—which are non-slip performance pads to keep feet from shifting within cleats.

“You get what we call better power transference in the new direction,” Jim Cherneski, TruSox inventor and the former soccer player-coach for Crystal Palace USA, told SI.com. “In the plant foot, you get more stability when striking the ball, especially when you’re running at pace. You just have the stability that I think all players are seeking.”

What makes these socks so pricey is that pros are paying fines for uniform violations and/or putting themselves in danger of losing massive endorsement contracts by wearing TruSox instead of the brand they or their team are being paid to wear. Cherneski told the Sunday Telegraph that 30 percent of Premier League players are using his product, as did 100 players at the 2014 World Cup. Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and baseball’s Miguel Cabrera are among the superstars to have been spotted wearing them. Only Barcelona’s Luis Suarez is a paid endorser.

Many players seem to have made Frankensocks—stitching Adidas socks on top of TruSox, for instance—after receiving violation notices from companies they sponsor. Yes, even a sock-sized logo of a competitor can draw the ire of global companies. If only they wore high-top footwear, the players could hide their fashion. Albert Einstein once boasted, “Even on the most solemn occasions I got away without wearing socks and hid that lack of civilisation in high boots.”

Cleverly, Cherneski is now reportedly encouraging players to invest in the company, rather than being paid to endorse the product. This models exactly the success that baseball bat-making company Marucci had in the majors. Its bats spread through word-of-mouth recommendations, with some players using their products even when endorsed by another company. In baseball, at least, bats were protected as tools of the trade and sponsorship contracts weren’t exclusive. Marucci grew not by paying players to sponsor them, the way Louisville Slugger and others did, but by recruiting players to be investors and board members. Elite players such as Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, David Ortiz, and Chase Utley all did so.

Of course it needs to be noted that, if TruSox truly aid performance, then the athletes will play better and garner more positive publicity for their associated sponsors. For some, however, that remains a million-dollar gamble.

http://www.vocativ.com/324247/athletes-risk-millions-to-wear-these-fancy-high-tech-socks/

 

“This is why players cheat”

 

 

 

June 3, 2016 Jonathan Bernhardt 

BASEBALL WON'T FIX ITS PED PROBLEM UNTIL IT FIXES THE INCENTIVES THAT CREATE IT

Marlon Byrd won't be joining us for the rest of his life.

The veteran outfielder's career almost certainly ended on Wednesday when he tested positive for the growth hormone secretagogue Ipamorelin. Given that this is Byrd's second violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program—he was suspended for 50 games in 2012—the test brought down a 162-game suspension. Byrd won't be contesting the suspension, and will almost certainly choose to retire. Even if he doesn't, it's hard to imagine a 39-year-old Byrd walking into a big league job a third of the way through next season. This is almost certainly it.

Byrd's statement on the suspension and the reporting surrounding it portray a man in the end of his on-field career who made a clear-eyed, considered decision to put himself in a position in which he risked being found in violation of the league program so that he could continue playing.

  

 

 Follow

C. Trent Rosecrans 

@ctrent

Marlon Byrd’s statement:

3:08 PM - 1 Jun 2016

All of this misses the key issue: Who is actually being defrauded here? Voiding contracts, never mind going beyond that, helps precisely one party, the team. But the team isn't losing out here, not in the specific ways that voiding a contract or recovering money might rectify. The team loses access to a player for a certain number of games, as they should, but they have not been injured by fraudulent a work-product. Hits that score runs for the team do not come off the scoreboard, games won by that team do not flip to losses in the standings, and lord knows tickets sold by that team will not be refunded.

From an unsentimental, if perhaps unfair point of view, if Verlander didn't want a 38-year-old league-average hitter to hit a home run off him in a game that was late and close, he should have made a better pitch. Marlon Byrd is not and never has been Barry Bonds. In fact, this season has been marked by PED suspensions for players who were only barely getting by at the plate. If Byrd's roster spot had been taken by some hungry up-and-comer, they would not have been appreciably slowed down by Verlander's pitch. I mean, look at it.

But it's certainly understandable that Verlander feels scorned: in his eyes, he was beaten unfairly by a guy who was cheating, in a loss that might cost his team the first (or second) Wild Card somewhere down the line. Verlander isn't alone, either; retired pitcher Dan Haren took to Twitter to ask if anyone was going to take the home runs Byrd hit off him out of the record books. The players who have to play against these cheaters have an entirely reasonable case for feeling how they do, even if it's fundamentally an emotional one. The problem lies in the jump from sympathizing with their hurt feelings to seeing a reason to legislate based on them.

Back during the Gordon news cycle, Sports on Earth's Mike Lupica called Gordon's recent career "fraud" while presuming to speak for unquoted players; just yesterday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post characterized the Byrd news with the suggested headline "Crime Pays." There is no actual case to be made that either player is guilty of criminal felony fraud, nor is it reasonable to actually respond to guys like Lupica or Sherman under the supposition that they're honestly suggesting that. The idea of fraud here is more a cultural one: that baseball players who cheat are selling someone a false bill of goods, and that those who have been thus wronged are entitled to restitution as a result. We can probably all agree on at least the first part of that.

The solutions offered are curious, however. The most common, after Gordon's suspension, involves the voiding of player contracts when a player is determined to have used PEDs; this would let the team who signed that player fully off the hook for both his salary and his roster spot, both of which are already forfeited for the duration of a suspension. And then there are the implications of statements like this, which at the very least suggests that Byrd's earnings are tainted, and at the most suggests he is not entitled to keep them:

 

 Follow

Ken Rosenthal 

@Ken_Rosenthal

Byrd has earned $38.M in career, per @baseball_ref, including $16.7M from 2013 to ’15 after first PED ban. Salary this season was $1M.

All of this misses the key issue: who is actually being defrauded, here? Voiding contracts, nevermind going beyond that, helps precisely one party: the team. But the team isn't losing out here, not in the specific ways that voiding a contract or recovering money might rectify. The team's punishment is losing access to a player for a certain number of games, as it should. But they have not been injured by fraudulent work-product: hits that score runs for the team do not come off the scoreboard, games won by that team do not flip to losses in the standings, and lord knows tickets sold by that team will not be refunded.

The people being defrauded are the players and the fans—of the sport, not necessarily just of the team. In fact, under the usual narrative, it's the players and the fans of the opposingteam who are being wronged, not the one employing the cheater. And fans are the one party whose needs modern professional sports are uniquely equipped never to serve. The fraud exists entirely apart from money; the fraud is that the game was not played in a manner that fans and players could trust. That's true regardless of whether Byrd makes $20 million, $2 million, $200,000, or $7.25 an hour.

The conversation will continue on how best to address cheating in baseball, and it will likely be fairly tiresome. Barring a major change in how pro sports do business, I think the system we have is more than adequate and the fact that Gordon will be a useful pariah the rest of his career and that Byrd's career is over seem like perfectly just punishments. Voiding contracts or worse serves no moral or pragmatic purpose. What it does—the only thing it really does—is permit teams to profit from players who cheat, and then profit again when those players get caught.

PED use in baseball is a systemic issue, and demands a systemic solution. The pressures to cheat are astronomical, and mainly economic; those hurt by cheating are never the main beneficiaries of baseball's economy. There are a number of different ways to combat PED use, ranging from the discovery-and-punishment system the league currently employs to aradical scheme that pays minor leaguers not only a living wage but a competitive one that removes the economic impetus to cheat.

Reducing the economics behind PED use in sports to "players cheat because they want to make more money" is roughly akin to reducing the public health risk of firearms to "people die because they get shot." It is a completely true and totally facile elision of the actual factors at work. To get at the heart of the matter, understand first that the revenue imbalance between team owners and their players is the highest it has been in decades, and second, that record-setting contracts are being signed each off-season, for amounts that outstrip inflation and revenue gains.

How is this possible? Not only is the total revenue pie being cut unevenly between the players and the owners; the players' slice of the pie is then itself cut unevenly amongst the players. In 2016, the 30 MLB clubs have committed some $3,960,649,025 to payroll for some 750 active roster spots; this is the minimum possible number of ways to cut the pie, and some teams are paying players not on the active roster for various reasons. Some $1,108,416,792 of that sum, which is 28 percent of total payroll, is committed to just 51 major leaguers, which is 6.6 percent of total roster spots.

In a vacuum, many of those 51 players deserve their paydays. But this does not represent meritocracy. Rather, it represents the perverse incentives of MLB's model of team control, in which a player essentially has to run a gauntlet for nearly a decade at the bottom of the pay scale before having a chance at landing among the top 150 salaries in the league, let alone the top 50. Some players cash in early, once they've navigated a sufficient portion to convince teams it's worth the risk of buying out their arbitration years, but that's not the point. The point is that the current system stratifies player salaries to the benefit of the league, enriching a few players in exchange for keeping salaries down for the rest. This is why players cheat: because once you get far enough through that maze—once you get to your late arbitration years or, god willing, your free agent years—you've ensured you'll never be like those guys making league minimum or, god forbid, still toiling away in the minors for less than a living wage. Players cheat to get there, and with good economic reason.

Once you recognize that, the question shouldn't be "How do we stop players from getting an edge in this system?" It should be "Why is such a wholly unfair system permitted to exist in the first place?" This is where the issue becomes ideological: Do you believe unfairness of outcome is a virtue in competitive sport, off the field as well as on it? Do you believe that a Hall of Famer fundamentally deserves a more secure financial future than the guy he came up with who never made it out of AA? If the answers to those questions are yes, then: Does the current system properly reward those merit-based differences, or grossly distort them? Put another way: Does the 4,089th best baseball player in America deserve to make a living wage, given that he works in an almost $10 billion industry?

Players also cheated back when ballplayers had day jobs and played part-time; cheating is a part of life. But would there be such an ingrained, systemic PED culture in baseball if salaries flattened out, players were justly given a larger piece of the overall revenue pie, and minor leaguers were paid salaries that reflected the health and wealth of the industry to which they contribute?

These are more complicated questions, and those tend toward complicated solutions even when easy answers aren't hard to find. But it bears repeating that the only parties here whose interest demands no additional consideration are the teams themselves. They created this environment, and they live in it. They benefit from the malfeasance being punished. They will turn a profit either way. They will abide. And they do not need a bigger portion of the pie.

https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/baseball-wont-fix-its-ped-problem-until-it-fixes-the-incentives-that-create-it

 

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