Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice held a press conference Thursday morning in which he made an apology for brutalizing his wife earlier this year. The two-game suspension that he received for the incident from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been criticized all week for its leniency. Compared to the much harsher suspensions for players smoking marijuana, it seems disproportionately light.

Rice had issued an earlier apology that used metaphors of violence and seemed to show a lack of responsibility. He made it clear Thursday that he was the responsible party and that his wife was the victim. He pledged that he would be active in the future in the fight against domestic violence.

It is unclear what the real levels of this abuse were in earlier eras because it was rarely reported. Woman who reported it were often scoffed at by police. District attorneys generally declined to prosecute, and the rare case that went it to trial, the victim was subjected to a defense attorney’s assault on her character. The cases were trivialized with an undercurrent of inference that the woman must have done something to deserve it. Women stuck in poverty or traumatized by threat were reticent to report or prosecute. Much of this has now changed and society judges domestic violence in a harsher way.

Athletes have a unique role to play in triggering attitudinal change regarding violence against woman. They are idolized and have a high public profile. When they are instigators of this behavior, it sends a message that it is somehow acceptable to do it because our heroes are involved.

I helped heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis deliver a public service announcement that proclaimed "Real Men Don't Hit Women." When a clearly macho star like Lennox tells young teens that such behavior is not acceptable, it can do more to trigger attitudinal change than a thousand other authority figures. Athletes can lead the way.

Athletes can also make clear that this is not just a "women's issue." For too long domestic violence has been seen as another plank in the feminist movement and their responsibility alone. It is a male issue too. My daughter Katie and I co-hosted a luncheon of men who signed a pledge against domestic violence to benefit an Orange County, California, shelter charity, Human Options. We all have mothers, sisters, relatives, wives, and daughters who need our help and protection from abuse. Nor do we want to live in a society where any woman feels threatened or brutalized.

Ray Rice took a step away from the dark side of human behavior, and we can hope that other athletes will follow.

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Check out why Brown receiver Josh Gordon is bringing aboard a high-powered lawyer, whom the Lakers finally hire as their new head coach and what the NCAA has agreed to in a legal case involving player injuries:

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Gale Sayers made the Pro Football Hall of Fame even though injuries limited him to essentially six seasons with the Bears. So if any running back has an appreciation how short of an NFL career can last, it's Sayers. That's why it is particularly telling when Sayers says he cannot comprehend today's running backs that turn down millions.

Sayers made $25,000 a year in the NFL. To put that in perspective, Marshawn Lynch, who is holding out with Seattle, is going to be fined $30,000 a day for as long as he continues to miss training camp.

Yes, Lynch -- who has already collected $17 million of the four-year, $30 million contract he signed two years ago -- is willing to be fined more in one day that Hall of Famer Gale Sayers made in one year.

Sayers didn't talk about Lynch specifically, but in general terms, he didn't seem thrilled with some of today's players.

"We made the game for those kids that are turning away millions of dollars," Sayers said. Here are more of his thoughts:

Sayers was participating in the Eric Dickerson Hall of Fame Golf Invitational that benefits The Young Warriors Foundation, a mentoring program for boys who are growing up without fathers, living in poverty or have dealt with other traumatic experiences at a young age.

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In its August issue, The Hockey News published a picture of Thomas Vanek throwing out the first pitch at a Minnesota Twins game. On the surface, the picture, placed in the table of contents, seemed innocent. Vanek signed with the Minnesota Wild on July 1, and he excited Twin Cities sports fans with his appearance.

However, some fans took a closer look at it and questioned the magazine's photo selection of the former Minnesota Golden Gopher's baseball appearance. Here is a Getty Images photo of Vanek throwing out the pitch:

There is a clear bulge in Vanek's left pocket, which appears to outline a tin. Such a shape, notably among hockey players, is usually a tin of smokeless tobacco. In the wake of former baseball star Tony Gwynn's death due to salivary gland cancer at age 54, such a photo triggered backlash.

Ironically, columnist Adam Proteau bashed the use of chewing tobacco among hockey players in the same issue. Although the photo and column were unrelated, readers made the connection. Here are two of the letters published by the magazine:

The article about chewing tobacco in the August, 2014 issue carried a strong message. It really is a shame that so many young men are being drawn into taking up the filthy habit. It’s really disappointing though that the same issue features a photo of Thomas Vanek throwing out the first pitch at the Twins game, with a tin of tobacco clearly visible in his pocket. Using this photo is counterproductive when you run an anti-chewing tobacco article six pages later.

Mike MacLean
Cole Harbour, N.S.

I love the idea of kicking tobacco out of hockey. Obviously it is a health risk and a nasty habit; growing up there was nothing more disgusting than falling into a pile of it (that was spit by my coach). However, something immediately caught my eye in your August edition; on the inside cover Thomas Vanek is throwing the first pitch at a Twins game with what appears to be a tin of dip in his left pocket. Let’s hope it’s gum, right?

Michael Weinstock
Blue Bell, P.A.

Editor-in-Chief Jason Kay addressed the issue on The Hockey News Blog on Tuesday. He also asked readers some questions:

Our editors noticed the bulge and discussed it briefly. We thought it was likely dip, but could also be gum, mints or candy that come in a similarly shaped container. One reader wondered if it might be a puck.

We concluded regardless of the contents of the container, we'd run the photo. If it indeed was chewing tobacco, so be it. It's reality and could be a stimulant for more debate (like this one). Some of our editors simply thought it was a non-issue.

Our question to you: did we make the right call by publishing it? What would you have done? Are you 100 percent convinced it’s chewing tobacco?

Kay brings up important points about the media's portrayal of smokeless tobacco. It may be time such an issue is taken more delicately, and publications keep an eye out for it. If Gwynn were still around, he might condemn Vanek's image.

Then again he might have more of an issue with Vanek, considering the location: A baseball stadium with thousands of budding child-athletes.

On the flip side, this could be used as a teaching moment.

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Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin was given many chances when he had off-the-field trouble in the NFL and believes Ray Rice deserves that same opportunity.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games, a decision that was widely panned for being too lenient, after the Ravens running back was charged with third-degree aggravated assault on his fiancee.

Irvin was participating in the Eric Dickerson Hall of Fame Golf Invitational that benefits The Young Warriors Foundation, a mentoring program for boys who are growing up without fathers, living in poverty or have dealt with other traumatic experiences at a young age.

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As part of New York City FC's borough tour, the club introduced its fourth player, Frank Lampard, in Brooklyn Bridge Park Thursday morning. Located along the East River, the park has a direct view of lower Manhattan.

If Lampard sat in the same spot 13 years ago, he would have seen the two World Trade Center buildings towering over the New York skyline. The two skyscrapers collapsed during the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Shortly after the tragedy, Lampard, who is British, garnered a poor reputation among Americans for his insensitivity regarding the events.

As the New York Post retold on Wednesday, Lampard was among four Chelsea players who verbally abused American tourists on Sept. 12, 2001. Lampard was 23 at the time and in his first season at the London-based club when he drunkenly stumbled upon the Americans at a Heathrow Airport hotel. Air traffic to the U.S. was heavily slashed in the days after 9/11.

Lampard and his teammates reportedly mocked the Americans, stripped, swore and vomited in their company.

Lampard took his medicine Thursday. He could not have expected to join a club in the city he once reportedly insulted and go unscathed. Lampard acknowledged he was drunk that night in London, but he questioned the reported details. After saying sorry, he tried to clear the air.

"What I did want to say is that I categorically didn't insult anyone, set out to insult anyone, behave badly in front of Americans or, in fact, anyone," he said. "I was very sensitive to the issue and the tragedy.

"I was naïve and a young boy at the time and I have regrets that I was out and about. I shouldn't be and I wouldn't be if it was today. That's why it was a good experience."

Lampard is now 36, and for the past 13 years, he thrived with Chelsea. He was eventually named captain and he is the club's all-time leading goal-scorer. He also played in three World Cups for England. In the UK and Europe, Lampard is highly regarded as a person.

"I've tried in the last 13 years at Chelsea to just be a good man, not just a good footballer, but a good man off the pitch," he said.

Much of the conversation involving NYCFC's front office involved the character of Lampard. The club expects the 36-year-old to be a leader on and off the field at Yankee Stadium. He is expected to perform on the pitch, help attract new players, boost the club's image in New York City and engage with aspiring young soccer players in the community.

"He has explained it. It happened and he's dealt with it. We certainly knew about it and we talked about it," NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said. "We're very comfortable with the person he is and the man he is and experiences he's had since. He's a model professional the way he plays the game and the type of person he is."

Added head coach Jason Kreis: "If you spend five minutes with Mr. Lampard here, you learn very quickly he's a terrific character and the exact type of player in person that we want to have in New York City."

Although media coverage in New York is intense, soccer still has to fight for attention in an area with multiple NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB teams. In that sense, Lampard might have less of a media circus on his hands than he did with Chelsea and the English National Team, and he took a shot at the UK media Thursday.

"Again, the most important thing for me to say is that I did not categorically insult or mean to insult anyone," he said. "Unfortunately, it was very much misreported at the time in England, and it's actually a chance for me to finally say that."

When asked about visiting the 9/11 memorial, Lampard did not hesitate: "Of course. I think it's very important to pay respect and being in New York right now, I think that's a huge memorial and certainly a place I'd love to go."

"Once people know what he's about, I expect everyone will see he's a great person," Reyna said.

For Lampard, the most important message he can make is to perform on the field. NYCFC's inaugural 2015 season will kickoff in March. Until then, Lampard will help build the image for the franchise in New York City. While he will be an important ambassador for building the club's brand, he knows that can only go so far. If any New Yorkers still have distaste for Lampard, he hopes he can earn it back on the field.

"Hopefully my football can do that talking."

It is called soccer here. But that can fly for now. The point is made.

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Frank Lampard sat under a tent at Pier Five in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Behind him, stood the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. Brooklyn is a long way from Stamford Bridge, the London pitch Lampard spent 13 years directing Chelsea FC.

For much of the world, New York City represents opportunity and freedom, or as one reporter phrased it to Lampard–hope and dreams. For the 36-year-old, the goals are different. In England, Lampard became one of the best midfielders of all-time in the world's most storied league in the nation that invented the game. Lampard does not need to establish himself.

After nearly 19 seasons in the Premier League, Major League Soccer represents a time for adventure. Lampard signed a two-year deal Thursday with New York City FC, which starts play in the 2015 season.

For MLS, it is the crossing of a bridge. Lampard represents so much more than a high-profile MLS signing. He is the legitimacy MLS has been waiting for.

Frank Lampard is the most important signing in MLS history.

Are you crazy, Jeffrey? DAVID BECKHAM! DAVID BECKHAM! DAVID BECKHAM! He has a movie named after him.

There is no doubt Beckham's 2007 signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy was a monumental moment for MLS. International players were not coming to MLS before Beckham. He opened the door for the likes of Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez and Robbie Keane to cross the pond to the United States. He put fans in the seats. He gave MLS the marketing boost it desperately needed.

But Beckham's move was not perfect. Internally, he feuded with the Galaxy. Open Grant Wahl's "The David Beckham Experiment" and one may say he was a failed test case. He alienated fellow Galaxy star Landon Donovan and influenced general manager Alexi Lalas' firing. Those two have garnered critical roles in the growth of soccer in the U.S.

Beckham gave MLS a little boost, but he did not boost soccer in the United States the way people expected him too. Sure, he gave some legitimacy to MLS and was a face, but he did not go over the top. The success of the U.S. Men's National Team at the past World Cups has been a bigger factor in fueling American soccer's momentum.

Although Beckham sold Galaxy merchandise, he could not sell the rest of the league. For soccer to advance in the U.S., it needed success at the national level.

Frank Lampard arrives not just in the United States and not just in MLS, but in New York City, at the opportune time. He is not the name and brand of David Beckham and he perhaps is not as skilled as Thierry Henry. But Lampard may have a better formula than either of his two mega-star predecessors.

"The decision was pretty easy because of the way the club was sold to me," Lampard said. "The city, the challenge of taking on a new franchise, of being an experienced player in a group with a good young manager -- it's exciting."

Beckham played a few dozen minutes from Los Angeles traffic outside the downtown area. Henry plays a similar distance away from downtown New York City along the New Jersey Turnpike.

Lampard is about to play at Yankee Stadium, a short 4-train ride away from Midtown Manhattan. He also has a former Premier League stalwart in Claudio Reyna as sporting director and a former MLS MVP and MLS Cup champion coach in Jason Kreis.

"I've seen a real long term plan from everyone involved with the club," Lampard says. "I want to be a part of that. I want to test myself. I want to challenge myself. I want to be that leader. I want to be that person and not just on the pitch, but off the pitch who can help these things happen."

Lampard isn't looking to score some easy money at an end-of-career American vacation. He is too much of a competitor. His father, Frank Sr., played 19 professional seasons, including 18 with West Ham United. His uncle Harry Redknapp is one of the most Premier League's most respected managers. His cousin, Jamie Redknapp played nearly two decades, spending most of his career with Liverpool.

All Lampard knows is soccer. He is also a winner, claiming the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final as Chelsea's captain. Lampard wants to win in New York.

"From a soccer perspective, it's an absolute no-brainer," Kreis said of the negotiations with Lampard. "That just leaves the box of talking to him and meeting him as a person and understanding his character and if his vision for the rest of his career goes along with ours. And it does."

Kreis says when he meets with Reyna and other front office members to talk about building a roster, which now includes Lampard, Spain's all-time national scorer David Villa, Jeb Brovsky and Josh Saunders, they look for three traits: Soccer ability, leadership and character. Kreis said Lampard was an "A-plus-plus-plus" in all three categories.

"This is a guy who's been a captain at Chelsea," Kreis said. "If you spend five minutes with Mr. Lampard here, you learn very quickly he's a terrific character."

Lampard's day was full of Beckham references. He was asked if he consulting Beckham on his decision.

"No, I didn't," said Lampard, who mentioned he knows David pretty well from Team England experiences.

Lampard did say he has talked about MLS with Becks in the past: "He speaks nothing but great things about the league and the people he's worked with here."

Lampard was told some of the children attending his introduction were murmuring about him being better than Beckham.

"I don't know if I'm better than David. It's opinions, but I appreciate the sentiment," he said.

Lampard can blush all he wants. Aside from the on-field comparisons, deep down, Lampard probably realizes his character is stronger than Beckham's persona. More specifically, it is more suited to help grow MLS.

Lampard hits MLS right as soccer is booming. Another Round of 16 appearance in the World Cup had American fans buzzing. After the U.S. technically finished ahead of England in the same group in 2010, the U.S. progressed further than England in 2014. Meanwhile, the top leagues in Europe and MLS can be found on mainstream cable and in bars. Mastering the FIFA Soccer video game series is one of the most respected skills anyone under age 25 can have.

Lampard is not blind to all this.

"Back home in England, we saw David Beckham come here," Lampard said. "We saw the league take big strides, not just because of David. I think [it is] because of a lot of stable work made by the MLS by people behind the scenes. The quality has gone up and up. I've been watching games in the MLS back home for a long time now. Big players are coming out here. David Villa signing here, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and the American home base players. You only have to look at what U.S.A. did in the World Cup and what imprint they left on the world, not just back home and the character shown in the quality. The respect MLS has in the world has gone up."

Whoa. That is a serious statement. Chelsea's all-time leading scorer and a three-time England World Cup member has that much respect for MLS. And he also has the foresight to recognize MLS and American soccer's rise did not just come from Beckham's American tour.

"I know from talking in dressing rooms over the last few years, the players are interested in moving out here and playing. It might not have been the same five or ten years ago," Lampard added.

This guy may be the total package. As a player, he was still an integral part of Chelsea and the England World Cup roster a few weeks ago. There is no reason to believe Lampard will not be a top player, if not the best player in MLS when he begins play in March 2015.

"He could have stayed at Chelsea. They wanted him," Reyna said.

Meanwhile, Lampard is an even more useful presence off the pitch. Lampard comes over as a respected figure in the London media. On Thursday, he talked about being an ambassador for the sport in the United States. He talked about visiting New York City memorials. He talked about the growth of the U.S. Men's National Team. He referred to Yankee Stadium as "iconic" multiple times.

While Lampard faced a couple dozen members of the media, fans donning Chelsea jerseys swelled in greater numbers. Lampard answered questions from fans during the press conference, took pictures with anyone who put a camera in his face and signed as many items as he could. NYCFC personnel had to drag Lampard away more than once.

Akram Hasanov, 27, was one of the supporters in attendance. He moved to the United States in 2007 from Tajikistan and now lives in Brooklyn. Hasanov did not go to work Thursday because he said he "had to come" to see his favorite player. He said he has 10 Lampard jerseys and will soon add a NYCFC kit to his closet.

"Obviously I'll be a New York City FC fan, although it's really tough to support a team owned by Man City. For Lampard I'll support them," Hasanov said.

Well, there is Example A: Bring a big name from Europe to the U.S. and gain fans. Lampard is going to bring in a bunch of his loyalists to Yankee Stadium.

Hasanov recognizes the growth of soccer since his arrival in the U.S. A sport once thought of as obscure is now earning legitimacy.

"When I came, you couldn't find a place to watch the Champions League," he said. "Now, go into any bar and they'll show it. Big names just keep coming to this country and it's creating more soccer fans."

Andres Loaiza, a board member of the Third Rail, NYCFC's official supporters group, greeted Lampard along with fellow members of the fan base. NYCFC has not even played a game and has a fan base. At the first meeting in February, the group had six members. Now, it has more than 400 paid members. From an x's and o's perspective Loaiza sees success in the Lampard signing.

"He's going to be a European legend and the fact that we get him at a stage in his career where he still has a lot to give to the game, it can't get any better than that," Loaiza said.

The signings of Villa and Lampard give reason for New Yorkers to jump on the NYCFC bandwagon. Other than the convenience of Yankee Stadium and the rising popularity of soccer, the big name players make NYCFC a big deal. The team has also been linked to Barcelona star Xavi, as one more spot still remains open for a designated player.

"You have a lot of elite players now really taking the MLS serious. This is a big market and soccer has grown in the U.S. You have a lot of people excited about soccer. It's only going to get better," Loaiza said.

While dozens of teenage and middle-aged individuals showed up for the press conference, only children got to participate in a clinic with Lampard. It is poetic Lampard simultaneously worked with young soccer players while promoting his addition. It is going to be part of the job for a while.

"As an ambassador to a new franchise, I think it's important not just what we do on the pitch but embracing the community. You saw a little glimpse there and that's not just for cameras," he said after the clinic.

Seven years ago, Beckham arrived in the U.S. to play in a league with many question marks. There was no doubt Beckham was not going to be playing with elite competition and he would be the main attraction wherever he went. The stint was almost like a circus act. Beckham, along with his wife and former Spice Girl, Victoria, embraced show business, but they did less than expected promoting actual soccer.

Lampard comes into a different scenario.

"I want to make New York City FC a team New Yorkers can be proud of," he said.

It is in his blood. It is in his skills. It is in its character. Lampard is a competitor. His next challenge is to build a brand and champion at NYCFC. He could not be more excited to be cast in the role.

For Kreis, Lampard is a step in a direction beyond MLS legitimacy.

"I couldn't be more proud to be part of what I believe is going to become a truly fantastic club, not only in American soccer, but in world soccer," Kreis said.

It is hard to blame Kreis. He just signed a world-renowned name, still holding talent, with the demeanor to run for political office. Lampard does not shy away from the spotlight, but he does not bask in it. He grasps it and structures it how he likes.

In New York City, Lampard has the freedom to build what he wants.

"A city of hopes and dreams -- that's a place you want to go play," he said with a smile.

David Beckham may have established the blueprint for MLS bridge. Frank Lampard just crossed it.

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Since Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, there have been amusing anecdotes about the tiny nation's preparation. These have included plans to develop an artificial cloud to hover above the stadium and block the sun, and a critical review of stadium designs.

But the bulk of Qatar-related stories in recent months have centered on charges of bribery in the bidding process, and the exploitation and deaths of migrant construction workers, mostly from Nepal.

As the body count continues to rise, so has the outrage, particularly because Qatar has not allowed workers who want to quit and go home to leave the country.

HBO's Real Sports takes a closer look at the human cost of Qatar's construction projects for 2022 in an episode that premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT Tuesday. Here's a preview:

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Every defensive player wants to get the opposing team's quarterback, but it's not every day a player admits he wants to sack his own quarterback. Find out why New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan wants to take a shot at Drew Brees.

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Don’t look now, but baseball’s hottest team is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who entered the All-Star break with a 57-37 record, 1 1/2 games behind the first place Oakland Athletics in the American League West.

Can the Angels catch the A’s and win the West? Can they go beyond a playoff berth, and make the World Series, their first trip since winning it all in 2002? The 2014 Angels are more than capable.

The Angels' most valuable player this season has undoubtedly been center fielder Mike Trout, who is poised to take home his first American League MVP award. Trout has defied all logic again this year. At the break, he was batting .310 with 22 home runs and 73 RBI, along with 65 runs, 10 steals, and a .400 on-base percentage.

Trout’s numbers are supposed to be video game statistics, not the mid-season line of a third-year player turning the ripe old age of 23 in August. Trout has captured the hearts of Southern California -- along with the rest of the country -- with his exciting play. Trout’s MVP performance in Tuesday’s All-Star Game solidifies him as an exciting national star.

Trout leads an Angel offense that is an absolute juggernaut. Through 94 games, the lineup scored 478 runs, leading the majors. Outfielder Kole Calhoun missed time in May, but has been solid batting leadoff, with a .295 average and 49 runs in just 59 games. If they are healthy, Calhoun, Trout, first baseman Albert Pujols, right fielder Josh Hamilton, second baseman Howie Kendrick, and shortstop Erick Aybar could form the most dangerous offensive force in all of baseball during the second half. Aybar, who made the All-Star team by batting .283 with 6 HRs and 50 RBI, is arguably the team’s sixth strongest hitter. When your sixth best hitter’s an All-Star, watch out.

While Trout and the offense's performance this year was more or less expected, one player whose sheer brilliance was unforeseen has been starting pitcher, Garrett Richards.

Richards stands 6-3 and possesses a devastating 96 mph fastball that can touch even higher. After a disappointing 2013 in which he had a 7-8 record and a 4.16 ERA, Richards has taken a gigantic step forward. So far, he has posted an 11-2 record with a 2.55 ERA. Richards entered the break riding a seven-game winning streak, proving to be one of the toughest starters in the American League. With a rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Richards, Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, the Angels will compete with any rotation in the American League.

The bullpen, the weak point of the squad, took a step forward in July when reliever Joe Smith grabbed the closer’s role. With Smith in the ninth, the Angels can nail down a one- or two-run lead.

And yet, the Angels are still in second place. The Oakland A’s had a remarkable first half, posting a franchise record 59 wins before the All-Star break. The A’s pitching staff will be electric with the addition of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs. That trade leaves little doubt the A’s are all in on the 2014 season. The A’s All-Star closer, Sean Doolittle, has been unhittable with a 2.89 ERA and astounding 63 strikeouts to just two walks.

The A’s lineup is admittedly tough. The Angels may have scored the most runs in the league, but can you guess who’s second? Oakland. For all the hype that back-to-back Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes receives, it is Brandon Moss who has been the A’s top batter, with 21 HRs and 66 RBI at the break. While Moss is unstoppable against right handed pitching, the outfielder loses his power against lefties. Moss has hit only three home runs this season against lefties, and 18 against righties. In 2013, Moss hit just .200 versus lefties.

Why does this matter for the Angels? Three of their five starting pitchers -- Wilson, Skaggs, and Santiago - are left-handed. In upcoming head-to-head battles, the Angels gain an advantage when facing an A’s lineup heavily dependent on lefty Moss for power. The A’s are beatable.

Trout and the Angels are roaring back in the American League, but they will not be satisfied with the wild card. In 2014, the Angels have bigger fish to fry.

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In his second MLB season, Washington Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon is becoming a household name. His .287 average and 103 hits are tops for the National League East-leading Nationals. Despite his success, Rendon was denied a spot in Tuesday's All-Star Game. He was among the five N.L. players on the final vote ballot, and fans selected the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo.

Rendon does not have any hard feelings. He got the opportunity to sleep in his own bed for four days with no commitments. Besides, entering a game for only a few innings could have been a snooze for Rendon. And when it comes to television, Rendon's baseball fandom is limited.

“I don't watch baseball -- it's too long and boring,” he told the Washington Post.

The Nationals are in the middle of a pennant race and their best hitter does not like watching baseball. Is that a problem? His success thus far in 2014 suggests otherwise.

Perhaps it is a problem for Major League Baseball, which is under constant criticism for games being too long. Just this past month, Americans got a taste of soccer, with standard games never lagging longer than two hours. MLB only produces a couple games every few seasons that rival that pace.

Rendon says his family has a rule that he is not allowed to talk about baseball when he visits. Some players eat, sleep and dream baseball. Rendon only thinks about it a few hours a day.

Whatever works for him. No one in the Nationals front office is complaining right now.

As for the All-Star Game, hosted by the Minnesota Twins, Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmerman was originally named to the roster, but he had to back out due to injury. Fellow Nats pitcher Tyler Clippard was a replacement for the Braves' Julio Teheran. Clippard allowed zero runs in two-thirds of an inning.

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