Four MLB Teams Project To 100 Losses This Year

At the end of April, six major league teams projected to lose 100 games or more in 2018.  At the end of June, three of those six still projected to lose 100 or more games in 2018 – – and the Mets threatened to join that less-than-elite grouping.  So, here we are at the end of July and what is the “Bottom-Feeder Outlook” projecting:

  • Baltimore:  Their record as of this morning is 32-74 or a winning percentage of .302.  That projects to season-long losses of 113 games.  The Orioles have been on this “watch list” from April forward.
  • Chicago White Sox:  Their record as of this morning is 37-68 or a winning percentage of .352.  That projects to season-long losses of 105 games.  The White Sox have been on this “watch list” from April forward.
  • Kansas City:  Their record as of this morning is 32-73 or a winning percentage of .305.  That projects to season-long losses of 113 games.  The Royals have been on this “watch list” since April.
  • San Diego:  Their record as of this morning is 42-67 or a winning percentage of .385.  That projects to season-long losses of 100 games.  The Padres were solidly on the list at the end of April but rallied to be well clear of the list by the end of June.  As of today, they squarely on the “100-loss mark”.

For the moment, no one else seems in danger of losing 100 games or more this year; and if that pans out, it would mean that the clear majority of the “stinko teams” for 2018 would be in the American League.  In fact, the American League “races” are not particularly interesting this season.  If you concede that either the Red Sox or the Yankees will win the AL East and that the loser of the AL East will be a wild card team, then the only real “race” is for the second wild card slot and even that looks to be a “race” between the Mariners and the A’s.

Meanwhile, in the National League, there are races within races wherever you look.

  • In the NL East, the Phillies lead the Braves and the two of them lead the Nats.  Anyone who says they “had that” back in March needs to raise his/her hand and then provide some documented evidence.  Any of these teams would have wild card aspirations if they lose this division.
  • In the NL Central, the Cubs and the Brewers are at the top of the standings, but the Pirates are right in the middle of the wild card race.  The Cardinals are close and the Reds who have blossomed since the start of May could make a late run but their deficit from early in the season could well be too much to overcome.  Baseball is not a sport friendly to a “Silky Sullivan” pace – – Google is your friend.
  • In the NL West, the Dodgers seem to have gotten their act together and yet find themselves in a dogfight for the division lead with the D-Backs and the Rockies.  Only 1 game separates these three teams this morning.  Right now, the second-place finisher in the NL West would be a wild card team in the NL.

Switching gears – figuratively and literally – NBC is televising the Tour de France on a variety of its networks/platforms, so I am not surprised to see a ton of promotional “stuff” at places like  Nevertheless, I did shake my head when I read this headline on that website:

“Ever Wonder what’s on a Tour de France team bus?”

Since you asked, the answer is a resounding, “NO!”

Over in NFL happenings, the NY Jets finally got a deal done with Sam Darnold – drafted overall #3 by the team a few months ago to be the franchise QB that the team has lacked since Joe Namath left town more than 40 years ago.  Without a signed contract in place, Darnold has missed OTAs and minicamp and several days of training camp.  He is a rookie QB who needs time to learn the differences between NFL football and NCAA football; no matter what else happens from this day forward, that is learning time he will never get back.  According to various reports, there were two “sticking points” in the negotiations:

  1. The Jets were pushing for “offset clauses” in the contract that would apply to the “guaranteed money” in the case that Darnold is cut within the first four years of the deal.  Essentially, the Jets wanted to be sure that if they cut Darnold and he signed with another team, he would not get the Jets’ money plus the other team’s money.
  2. The Jets also wanted to be able to “clawback” some of the “guaranteed money” in the deal if Darnold was suspended or fined by the NFL for things like domestic violence or PED usage or drug usage.

Those “sticking points” for the Jets were stupid from Day One.  Here’s why:

  • If the Jets are going to cut Darnold loose sometime in the first four years of this deal, the last thing they need to worry about is a few million dollars that will come out of the team exchequer and find their way to Darnold’s.  If Darnold is a bust and has to be released that soon, the havoc that will be wrought within the organization and throughout the fanbase will dwarf the few million dollars that the Jets will “lose” here.
  • I can see “clawback language” that relates to suspensions because that would mean that Darnold would be unavailable to the team for regular season games.  However, if he is fined by the league for something, I do not see how or why that should entitle the Jets to take more money from him.  And, oh by the way, your scouts and coaches and background checkers should have given you a bit of confidence that your #3 overall pick and future franchise QB is not going to have those sort of problems, right?

The Jets need a franchise QB and Darnold has the physical tools to be that sort of player.  Given the time Darnold has missed over this summer, it is not “career-threatening” but that time lost is going to make his 2018 impact a tad problematic.  To my mind, this is just another incident in the body of evidence that says the NY Jets are a royally screwed-up franchise.  Plus ça change, plus ça même chose…

Finally, here is a childhood recollection from Brad Dickson formerly with the Omaha World-Herald:

“When I was a kid my family traveled to Husker football away games and stayed at KOAs which stood for Campground of America. Picture Guantanamo Bay with picnic tables.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



All Over The Map Today …

Six players were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY yesterday.  I am only half surprised that Terrell Owens did not show up wearing a yellow blazer as part of the audience to draw attention to himself.  After all, he won’t be attending the Football hall of Fame induction ceremony in about a week even though he is one of the inductees.  I thought he would be a party-crasher here; I’m glad he was not.

News from the Canadian Football League is that Johnny Manziel might get an extended chance to show that he can play professional football and that he is serious enough about doing that to maintain a measure of self-control in his life.  Manziel had been on the roster of the Hamilton Tiger Cats this season but he was blocked from the field because the Ti-Cats starting QB, Jeremiah Masoli, was tearing it up.  Masoli has thrown for 300+ yards in every game for the Ti-Cats this year – – and 9 in a row if you go back to the end of last season.  Last week, the Ti-Cats traded Manziel to the cellar-dwelling Montreal Alouettes.  There is more to the trade than just Manziel; four other players and a draft pick next year are also involved, but Manziel is the most interesting component of the trade.

Manziel did not play in last week’s game for the Alouettes – a game they lost to the Edmonton Eskimos by a score of 44-23.  The Montreal QB in that game was Vernon Adams and his stat line was mediocre (15 for 28 for 217 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT).  [Aside:  Adams is the fourth starting QB the Alouettes have used in 6 games this year.  It is safe to say they are not “settled” at the QB position.]  The Alouettes record in 1-5 this year; notwithstanding that record, they are only 1 game out of second place in the Eastern Conference of the CFL.

When Manziel signed with the Tiger Cats, the coach there, June Jones, hailed his arrival in glowing terms saying that Manziel might become one of the greatest players in CFL history.  Halfway through his first season, he never saw the field and got shipped off to what is arguably the worst team in the league.  I am accustomed to the practice of coaches hyping new players beyond any realistic standard but in this case, Manziel went from a potential “all time great” to “trade bait” after 5 games.

There was another story from last week that boggles the mind.  Swimmer Ryan Lochte was suspended from competition for 14 months by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).  Lochte has done some bizarre things in the past – – Google is your friend here – – but this suspension comes as a result of sheer stupidity.  Here is the deal:

  • There is a rule – I don’t know why this is a rule, but it is a rule – that athletes subject to testing by the USADA cannot receive an IV unless the administration of the IV is related to hospitalization or unless the USADA has granted a waiver.
  • Lochte took an IV infusion of a Vitamin B complex.  That is not a banned substance; he failed no tests.  However, it was an IV and not a pill that delivered the Vitamin B to his system.
  • Then, Lochte notified the world on social media of his use of the IV by posting a photo of the event.

Also, from last week, the Phillies hit 7 HRs in a game against the Reds.  That is unusual in and of itself but in that game the Phillies only scored 9 runs meaning there were lost of solo shots there.  I went looking to see if the Phillies had set a record, but they did not:

  • In 1977, the Red Sox hit 8 homeruns game against the Blue Jays and 7 of those homeruns were solo shots.  That is the MLB record for most homeruns in a game with no one on base.

This homerun outburst did tie a franchise record for the Phillies and you do not have to go back 100 years to find the other time it happened.  It was in 1998 and here are the players who combined to hit those 7 homeruns back then:

  • Rico Brogna (2)
  • Bobby Estalella (2)
  • Kevin Sefcik (2)
  • Marlon Anderson (1)

If you can pick any of those 4 players out of the official team photo for 1998, you are a better person than I…

Yankees’ outfielder, Aaron Judge was hit on the wrist by a pitch and it fractured a bone in the right wrist.  Judge will be out of the lineup on the DL for 3-4 weeks.  When I read the account of this, my advanced age showed itself because I thought of the old Rowan and Martin Laugh In show on TV and Pigmeat Markham:

  • There go da Judge …  There go da Judge!

I’ll go adjust the dosage on my meds; I promise…

Finally, Bob Molinaro had this commentary in his column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot.  I could not agree more…

“TV timeout: Jon Gruden says that he’ll ‘walk away’ from his 10-year, $100 million Oakland Raiders contract ‘if I can’t get it done.’ I wish he’d taken that approach when he started as ESPN’s Monday Night Football blabbermouth.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



NFL Training Camps Are Open

Yesterday, I spent a bunch of time on NFL “matters” – particularly the LeSean McCoy situation in which the NFL looks destined to come out the end of the cycle with dirt on its face.  There are other NFL “stories” out there as teams head to training camp So let me focus on a few of those.  Let me start with ones that seemingly will take on a positive aura as we approach the regular season:

  1. The defending Super Bowl Champs – Eagles – have no idea yet if their prodigy QB, Carson Wentz, will be ready to play football in Week 1.  Given that their backup for now was named Super Bowl MVP in February, the Eagles would be stone-cold stupid to rush Wentz back to the field.  Wentz is their QB of the present and the future IF he is healthy.  The Eagles’ braintrust must resist the temptation to rush him back to the field.
  2. Andrew Luck returns to the Colts’ camp and reports say that he can “make all the throws”.  The Colts have to hope that report is 100% correct because none of the backups on the roster this morning is going to lead the Colts to a playoff slot.
  3. Kirk Cousins takes his very rich and 100% guaranteed contract in Minnesota seriously.  That is a good idea, because the Vikes came within a game of playing the Pats in the Super Bowl.  The Vikes need him to stay healthy and to continue his growth as a QB.
  4. Meanwhile in DC, the Skins project that Alex Smith continues his high-quality play over the season.  If the Skins falter badly again this year, Smith will be a pariah in Washington and Jay Gruden may be looking for work.
  5. The Rams shocked the NFL last year.  They have seemingly doubled down this year by signing free agents who have a history of “disruptive behaviors” on the field and off the field.  The Rams are going to be more than just a football team this year; they will be a study in how eccentric characters interact with one another.  [Oh yeah, they also signed their star RB, Todd Gurley, to a contract that has $40M in guaranteed money.]

Some of the storylines heading into training camp for NFL teams are not nearly as positive/upbeat as the five listed above:

  1. Jon Gruden takes over the helm for the Raiders.  If you look at résumés, Gruden is the best coaching hire for the Raiders since Mark Davis took over running the team for his now dead father.  At the same time, the seeds of dysfunction are strewn all around this team.  Kahlil Mack is their best DE/OLB; not only is he unsigned as of this morning, reports say that he and Gruden have not talked in the 5 months or so that Gruden has been the head coach.  This could suck…
  2. There may be trouble in New England this year – if not in paradise – if the media reports about friction between Tom Brady Bill Belichick and owner, Robert Kraft are real.  If things go south for the Pats, it will not show up until the playoffs because the other three teams in the AFC East have bigger problems to deal with than petty squabbles.
  3. I mentioned the LeSean McCoy situation yesterday.  There is more turmoil in Buffalo – a team that made the playoffs last year.  The Bills traded away their starting QB and will have a competition for the new starter among AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman and rookie Josh Allen.

I am going to presume that the story about Jimmy Garoppolo having dinner with a porn star will have a shelf life as short as that of Anthony Scaramucci’s stay in Washington as White House Communications Director.  There is a “snicker factor” associated with the story:

  • Jason Whitlock called Garoppolo “Jimmy G-String” on Speak for Yourself.
  • Garoppolo said in a press conference that the “date” was a “learning experience”.  That can be taken more than one way.

Notwithstanding the above, consider that Garoppolo is a single, adult male.  He is free go to dinner with just about anyone – convicted game fixers would cross the line so he should not have Tim Donaghy in his Rolodex.  He did not come close to breaking any laws; the video after the dinner showed him getting into the back seat of a car meaning he did not drive after – possibly – consuming alcohol at dinner.  I hope this is the last we hear of this matter.

I mentioned above that the Rams are going for broke this year.  There could be several reasons for the organization deciding to do that and one could be to whip up interest in LA because the Rams have made it clear that it will not be cheap to see games in the new stadium under construction in Inglewood.  According to the LA Times here is the bottom line:

  • Premium seating – about 25% of the stadium – will require a Personal Seat License costing $100K.  This is actually a 50-year interest-free loan to the team because after 50 years, the $100K will be returned to the purchaser
  • Tickets for premium seats to Rams’ games will cost $375 each – for 10 games a season.  The Rams guarantee that this price will be frozen for 3 years.
  • Non-premium seats will require a PSL at a lower cost than the premium seats.  Some PSL’s will be less than $1K and ticket prices will not be as high.  However, the Rams are not guaranteeing that the prices of the “cheap seats” will be frozen for any period of time.

If you are interested in more detail about the Rams’ new stadium – – and the Chargers’ new stadium too – – here is a link to the LA Times report.

Finally, here is an observation by Brad Rock of the Deseret News from a while back:

“Several players and their coach have been suspended a combined 23 games after a fight during a women’s soccer match in Australia.

“The Age newspaper says charges included ‘violent conduct’ and ‘bringing the game into disrepute.’

“In other words, becoming the XFL.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



So, You Want To Host The Super Bowl …

Sometimes when older folks wax nostalgic about the wonders of early TV programming, they recall the good shows such as Ed Sullivan’s show and Jackie Gleason’s show and I Love Lucy etc.  They rarely recall any of the bombs that were on the air “back then” such as The Flying Nun or My Mother the Car – – or a mercifully short-lived series called So You Want to Lead a Band[Seriously, this was a program with Sammy Kaye and his orchestra.  Audience members were “invited” to come and lead the band and then a “winner” was selected at the end by audience applause.  My father loved it; I thought it was mind-numbingly stupid.]

I mention So You Want to Lead a Band because an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune could well have carried the headline:

  • So, You Want to Host the Super Bowl…

This article reveals what the NFL demands from a city/county/state in order to bestow them with a Super Bowl event.  There is a 163-page list of things which are non-negotiable ranging from the easily accommodated (minimum seating capacity at the stadium) to the very expensive (loads of free hotel rooms plus full exemption from all local taxes).  Oh, and the NFL also gets to keep all the ticket money – tax free.

Here is a link to that article in the Star Tribune and embedded there is the PDF for the NFL’s list of “demands”.  It is not required reading, but it is an example of how the NFL strongarms the venues for a Super Bowl game.  It demonstrates the economic power of a monopoly – which the NFL is when it comes to putting on a Super Bowl game.

Sticking with NFL stuff for the moment, the league has a decision to make soon regarding the status of LeSean McCoy.  His estranged girlfriend alleges that she was beaten up by a man or men sent to evict her from the house she is living in – which belongs to McCoy – at the behest of McCoy.  Obviously, McCoy denies the allegations and the investigations by law enforcement folks and by the NFL roll on.  However, …

  • Given the NFL’s historically horrible record in dealing with domestic abuse issues, the question now is what to do with LeSean McCoy.

In the wake of the Adrian Peterson “situation” involving his disciplining of his young son, the NFL created something called the Commissioner’s Exempt List.  It is an adjunct to the league’s personal conduct policy and essentially it puts a player on what in government would be called paid administrative leave.  As I understand this – – and I am sure that I do not fully understand it:

  1. A player on the Commissioner’s Exempt List does not count against the team roster.
  2. The player is paid the salary due him – – without any performance bonuses of course because he will not achieve them while on the list.
  3. The player cannot practice with the team or attend games.  [I assume this means he cannot attend games with the team or in the owner’s box; if the player wants to buy a ticket and sit in Section 505, I would think that would be permissible.  Or, maybe not…]
  4. The team can allow the player to be in the practice facility to attend meetings or do rehab work.  What he cannot do is be part of “football activities”.
  5. There does not seem to be a time limit on the Commissioner’s Exempt List.  Its purpose seems to be to buy time for the investigations(s) to proceed in the sense that it keeps the player away from the team and out of the public consciousness.
  6. Since the player is being paid during his time on the list, there is no real claim against the league or the team if he is fully exonerated by the investigation.  It is not clear if “time served” on The List is ever part of any discipline that might come from a finding that the player is guilty of whatever is being investigated.

The NFL has a dilemma here.  These allegations are very recent; these investigations will take time and then the adjudication process will take even more time.  It would not be surprising to see that this matter might still be unresolved by Christmas.  So, if the NFL plays the “Exempt List Card” now, it could well be consigning McCoy to a full season on the sidelines – – without knowing if he is innocent here.  On the other hand, if they put him on the field and it turns out he did what his estranged girlfriend says he did, the NFL suffers yet another Public Relations black-eye.

I guess this is why Roger Goodell gets $40M a year from the league…

One more NFL note …  The Eagles released a CB from UCLA who had been injured all last season named Randall Goforth.  I am positive that if Chris Berman was still covering the NFL for ESPN, he would have named this CB:

  • Randall Goforth-and-Multiply.

Finally, here is an “announcement” from Brad Dickson, formerly with the Omaha World-Herald of a new business enterprise.  You know, in Nebraska, he just might have a goldmine here:

“In Omaha we already have a Husker Law, Husker Dental & Husker Plumbing. Now I’m introducing Husker Crematory where your loved ones are cremated inside a giant red & white helmet while the NU fight song plays.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



No Clairvoyance Here …

I had exactly zero “inside info” yesterday when I said the Orioles should trade Zach Britton because the O’s are clearly going nowhere this year and need to restock their farm system.  Reports today are that the Yankees have acquired Britton for three pitching prospects.  Given the strength of the Yankees’ bullpen with Chapman, Betances and Robertson, I would not have predicted that NYC would be Britton’s new home; but I guess the Yankees’ brass figures you can never have too much pitching.  As of this morning, the Yankees have 5 games to make up on the Red Sox to win the AL East and avoid the one-game wild card playoff.

A friend of mine was an avid NY Mets fan for a very simple reason.  He was from NYC and he hated the Yankees.  QED…  He often lamented that the “baseball gods” were Yankees’ fans and they conspired to find new ways to torture the Mets and their fans.  My friend passed away about 4 years ago; I wonder what he would think about the “baseball gods” if he were around today:

  • Noah Syndergaard has hand, foot and mouth disease and is on the DL.  There is no treatment; you just have to wait for Syndergaard’s immune system to get over this.  This condition arises one start after Syndergaard spent time on the DL for another reason and comes just before the trade deadline.  If – I said IF – the Mets thought about trading Syndergaard, it would be lots better for teams to see him pitch a few times after his return from that first stint on the DL.
  • Yeonis Cespedes – – he of the multi-year $110M contract – – now says he needs surgery on BOTH of his heels.  Cespedes had been out for about 10 weeks with a “hip flexor injury”; he came back for one game and announced the problem was really in both of his heels.  He had an MRI and is seeing a “specialist” this week.

With regard to the Cespedes situation, I know that the foot bone is connected to the heel bone and the heel bone is connected to the ankle bone and – – – all the way up to the hip.  What I don’t understand is this

  • A heel problem involves bone(s).  A hip flexor is a muscle.  I need a consultation with Dr. Oz on this one…

At the start of the season, the Cleveland Indians announced that their logo/mascot, Chief Wahoo” would be replaced on their uniforms/caps/paraphernalia at the end of this season.  I have no interest in getting into the insulting/not-insulting nature of Chief Wahoo; the Indians are putting the logo to rest so it is time to move on.  However, the team was evidently asked about what would replace the departed Chief next year.  I say that because the team felt the need to issue a statement saying that no final decision had been made, but that the “new logo” would “… honor the team’s tradition …”.

  • OK; I’ll bite.  What pray tell is “the team tradition” of the Cleveland Indians?

Bob Molinaro had this comment in a column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Talk show: In a matter of a couple years, the All-Star Game has gone from determining which league claims World Series home field advantage to Fox miking the players so that they can chit-chat with Joe Buck while in the field.”

I have argued that Bud Selig was an excellent Commissioner of Baseball and would be happy to maintain that argument.  However, for the sake of brevity, here is a link to what I wrote about that back in October 2012.

Back then, the decision to try to make the All-Star Game relevant by linking it to the home field advantage in the World Series was the least of the things that Selig did that I thought was of any value.  I characterized it then – as I would now – that it was not nearly as bad as the people who hate(d) Bud Selig would make it out to be.  Having said that, I think Bob Molinaro’s juxtaposition of World Series linkage with miking the players on the field demonstrates how many ways one might experience an All-Star Game.

I prefer the players being miked-up approach because it adheres to the “All-Star Game Tradition” which is to say that the MLB All-Star Game is an Exhibition Game that does not count and therefore is put on simply to have fun.  Think of it as a “Pro Bowl” where the players selected to participate actually show up for the event.

I do not know the individual who “invented” the concept of “walk-up music” for batters in baseball games.  I do know that said individual is someone who is worthy of at least the Sixth Circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno – – and maybe even worse.

Finally, let me close today with a baseball themed observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and model wife Kate Upton are expecting their first child.

“In lieu of Johnson’s baby powder, they plan to use a rosin bag.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Baseball Today

Scott Boras wants MLB to outlaw defensive shifts and says that it discriminates against left handed hitters more than right handed hitters because one of the players to the right side of the infield can play short right field due to the short(er) throw to first base.  The fact that Scott Boras represents Bryce Harper who will be a free agent at the end of this season and Harper is hitting a measly .218 this year means that every one of his statements must be viewed in that context.  It also seems as if Commissioner Rob Manfred has an anti-shift point of view.  I look at this differently:

  • Unless the rulebook defines specifically the area of the playing field in which a player must stand as the ball is put into play, then those players should be able to position themselves in any way they want to.

Note, the pitcher’s position is defined in the rulebook and so is the catcher’s position as is the batter’s.  Technically, the positions of the base coaches are defined also, but it seems as if that positioning is rarely if ever enforced.  So, if a manager wants to play 5 infielders and only 2 outfielders, I think he should be allowed to do that.  Similarly, if he wants 4 outfielders and only 3 infielders, mazel tov.

Only one rule change idea that I have seen makes even a little sense to me and that is to require all four infielders to have both feet on the dirt infield at the time that the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.  That would still allow managers to shift defensively, but it would get rid of the short-fielder in right field.

My position here is that this is a problem to be solved by MLB players who face a defensive shift.  Long ago, Wee Willie Keeler explained his success at the plate saying that he “hit ‘em where they ain’t”.  When the defensive shift is on, there is a lot of territory where “they ain’t” available to hitters who want to take advantage of it.

There is also talk among the baseball pundits that MLB will be expanding to 32 teams in the near future.  I do not like that particularly even though it would solve a scheduling problem that now exists.  With 16 teams in each league, the schedule would not have to have inter-league games every week of the season; that would be a plus. I don’t like the idea because there are not enough good pitchers around these days and the addition of 2 more teams would put 24 or 25 Triple A pitchers in MLB.  I know they want to increase offense, but that is not the answer.

Some of the pundits also suggest that if the leagues expand and if offense continues to be in a downward trend that the DH will be adopted by the National League.  I would absolutely hate to see that happen.  The DH is a way in which each team can carry a player or two whose toolbox only contains one tool; the only position they can play reliably is “Batter”.

If you want to see “change”, then consider that there are other baseball players who can do parts of the game as well as DHs can play “Batter”.  So:

  • Why not Designated Fielders?
  • How about Designated Base Runners?

If you expanded the roster from 25 players to 35 players, you could emulate the NFL and have a two-platoon system.  Makes as much sense as the DH to me…  [Aside:  You do realize that this is reduction ad absurdum, right?]

Sticking with baseball, two trades recently made a lot of sense to me.

  1. Mets sent closer Jeurys Familia to the A’s for prospects.
  2. Padres traded Brad Hand to the Indians for a “top catching prospect”.

The reality of 2018 is that the Padres and the Mets are not going to threaten to make the playoffs; they do not need elite closers; if they blow a game or two with a lesser talent at closer, that means they will miss the playoffs by 20 games instead of by 18 games.  Familia and Hand are both top-shelf closers.  Both the Indians and the A’s are looking at the potential for a playoff run; they need closers.

According to my reasoning, there are 2 other closers who could easily be on the move soon:

  1. Kyle Barraclough, currently with the Marlins, has a 2.45 ERA, a 2-to-1 strikeout to walks ratio and a WHIP of 1.07.  The Marlins have been playing well for the last 4-6 weeks but they ain’t making the playoffs, so this may be a commodity that they use to add to their form system.
  2. Zach Britton, currently with the Orioles, only has 4 saves this year but he spent some time on the DL and the Orioles do not get to the 9th inning with the lead very often.  For his career, he averages 27 saves per 162 game seasons.  The Orioles are going nowhere and need farm system upgrades desperately.

Finally, Gregg Drinnan had this note in his Taking Note blog recently.  I read the same column by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times and somehow missed this great line.  Fortunately, Gregg Drinnan did not:

“ ’England not only lost 2-1 to Croatia in the semifinals,’ notes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, ‘but the team was fined $70,000 for wearing ‘unauthorized socks.’ Since when has Roger Goodell been in charge of the World Cup?’ “

But don’t get me wrong I love sports………




I am familiar with the existence and the use of hyperbole as a figure of speech.  I am perfectly aware that when someone uses hyperbole, that statement is not intended to be taken literally; it is used as an example of what is being described.  For example:

  • I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.  Really?
  • I told you a million times not to do that.  No, you didn’t.

I mention this today because UNC head football coach, Larry Fedora, had to be using hyperbole when he said this at a press conference for ACC football coaches:

“I fear that the game will get pushed so far to one extreme that you won’t recognize the game 10 years from now. And I do believe, if it gets to that point, that our country goes down too.”

The context here is that Fedora was lamenting some of the recent rule changes that have come into football to address player safety issues.  Even if you agree with Fedora that the rule changes have already or may someday go so far that the popularity of football is significantly diminished, you have to admit that it is a stretch to equate the diminution of football’s popularity with the demise of the nation.

That has to be hyperbole, right?  If it isn’t, then Larry Fedora has an empty cranium under his fedora.

As NFL training camps open, it is time to start looking at the prospects for teams for the season that starts in about 8 weeks.  Last year, the Eagles went from last in their division to first in their division – – and then won the Super Bowl to put a punctuation mark on that last-to-first movement.  Looking at the 8 teams that finished last in their division last year, I asked myself which of them had a real shot at going from last to first in their division.  As things stand now, I see three teams that just might do that:

  1. Broncos:  The defense is still very good – albeit aging.  Their QB situation last year was a mess to say the least.  Case Keenum is not going to the Hall of Fame, but he showed last year that he can lead a team to the playoffs if that team has a very good defense.
  2. Giants:  The Giants were riddled with injuries last year and could not run the ball very well at all.  The injured players will be back – more importantly Odell Beckham, Jr.  Saquon Barkley will give the Giants a running attack that defenses will have to plan for and the Giants did upgrade their offensive line via free agency and the draft.
  3. Texans: In terms of injuries to key players, the Texans had to lead the league last year.  JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus went out for the season early on.  DeShaun Watson was holding things together – sort of – for the Texans and then he was injured and needed surgery.  The reason I think the Texans have the best shot at doing the last-to-first thing in 2018 is the fact that they get these 3 very good players back PLUS the fact that the AFC South is not nearly the toughest division in football.

I considered adding the Niners and the Bears to this list but did not even though I think both teams are on the upswing.  The problem for these teams is that they are in divisions that will be difficult for them to win because each of those two divisions has two teams in the division who are going to be better than average.  I don’t think they can leapfrog two very good teams to win the division.

My grandson was visiting last week; he and his parents live in Dublin, Ireland so it is always a treat to have him come and stay for a while.  He asked me which team in MLB I would want to manage.  After thinking about it for a moment I said it would be either the Rad Sox or the Astros.  Now, before anyone thinks of labeling me as a front-runner, let me tell you what I told my grandson was the reason for my answer.

  • Both teams are very good – in fact you can make a reasonable case that either one is the best team in MLB this year.  However, there is an additional factor at work here; both teams are fun to watch.  When I tune in to see a game on TV, I always enjoy watching either the Astros or the Red Sox play; they seem to enjoy the game in a way that makes me also enjoy watching their game.
  • So, if I were the manager of either team, I would get to “watch” that team play 162 games and I could enjoy myself while doing my job.

As you might conclude from that reasoning, I am a firm believer in a Mark Twain adage.  He said that the secret to a happy life is to do two simple things:

  1. Take the time to figure out what it is you truly love to do.
  2. Then, find some damned fool who will pay you to do that.

You know; I think he was onto something there…

Finally, since I mentioned Mark Twain above, let me close with another of his commentaries that I have always enjoyed:

“Last week, I stated this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen.
I have since been visited by her sister, and now wish to withdraw that statement.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Random Thoughts Today

NBA player movements continue to dominate the sports news this month – – at least until the NFL teams all open their training camps when the focus will switch dramatically.  The news today is that the Thunder, Hawks and sixers worked a 3-way trade and the headline on the deal is that Carmelo Anthony was “traded” to the Atlanta Hawks.  The only thing that makes sense for the Hawks now is to move Anthony on to some other team in another trade or to cut him outright and send him into free agency because the Hawks are trying to rebuild their team and they need Carmelo Anthony about as much as I need to listen to Mark Emmert read a prepared statement on the “student-athlete”.

Players who are much lesser known than Carmelo Anthony moved around in this deal and to me the most interesting guy moving around is Mike Muscala from the Hawks to the Sixers.  Muscala is a power forward who can shoot from 3-point range (38% over his 5-year career in the NBA) and who can play center if he has to.  The NBA these days puts a higher value on players who can play and/or defend multiple positions.  Muscala is potentially a very “interesting” player.

Of course, the Thunder are big winners in this trade even if none of the players they receive amounts to anything more than a pinch of pigeon poop.  They added immensely by subtracting Carmelo Anthony who did not fit with the Thunder offensive style and who refused to play even a charade of defense there.  Addition by subtraction works perfectly well in the world of sports and in algebra…

The 2018/19 NBA regular season will begin in late October 2018 and will run through late April 2019.  Between now and then, there will be “juicy” storylines about the next best free agent available for signing or possibly another multi-team swap of players that will change the balance of power in some segment of the NBA cosmos.  Sadly, all that intrigue and all that projected change will have to yield the floor to the fact that the NBA regular season will start.  And the flat-out fact that dominates the NBA regular season is this:

  • It is a 7-month slog that is relatively predictable – – absent the occurrence of key injuries to star players.

The NBA off-season and free agency period is a whole lot more interesting than the NBA’s 82-game regular season.

Speaking of the NBA and uninteresting things, might I suggest that the NBA Summer League is a non-event.  It is even less important than MLB Spring Training or the NFL Exhibition Season for a simple reason.

  • In the cases of MLB and the NFL, the actual players who will participate in the real games are involved – – even if only as cameo appearances.  In the NBA Summer League, you have meaningless games involving players who – for the most part – are going to be playing in anonymity in places like the Luxembourg League.

So, why does ESPN make such a huge deal out of the NBA Summer League – sometimes telecasting as many as 4 games in a day?  The answer is very simple, and it has to do with basic math:

  • ESPN has a multitude of networks and each one of them must fill the airwaves with programming for 168 hours each week.
  • The NBA Summer League is an ESPN “property” for the same reason.  It fills time on the air and it provides the opportunity to do re-runs of the event after the fact filling yet more air time.

Switching sports, news out of Las Vegas is that the Las Vegas Raiders will employ Brent Musberger as their radio play-by-play guy.  The report is that the team has signed Musberger to a 3-year deal.    Brent Musberger is “famous” in Vegas for dealing with and referring to the gambling aspects of sports in those “Dark Ages” when major sports leagues pretended that gambling did not exist – – or if it did then gambling was some sort of insidious force determined to ruin the sport itself.

When Musberger retired from network broadcasting, he joined up with a fledgling outfit called VSIN – the Vegas Sports and Information Network.  He hosts a show on that syndicated radio network that deals with sports gambling extensively – if not exclusively.  Since he will be doing local radio broadcasting for the Raiders, I wonder to what extent he will do the games with point spreads and totals and things like that in mind.  In any event, the Raiders did themselves a favor aligning themselves with Brent Musberger.

A friend who is a big fan of horseracing was lamenting the continued decline of the sport and asked me if there was any single thing the folks in charge could do to revive it.  We chatted for a while and finally came to this conclusion:

  • Horseracing is exciting and interesting because of the gambling aspects of the sport.  If you take betting out of the equation, the sport would die quickly because people are not going to assemble in a specific spot on a regular basis to watch horses run around in a circle.
  • Therefore, if you want to “goose up” interest in horseracing, you have to make the wagering experience more exciting/interesting.
  • To our minds, the thing that makes the wagering experience uninteresting are the 5-horse or 6-horse fields that are way too common at many tracks.  There are not a sufficient number of horses in training at any moment to fill all the race cards at all the tracks.
  • Since tracks are not going to close, the best way to augment the racing experience would be for each track to cut back the number of races it presents such that it would be a rarity to see a field of runners with less than 8 entries.

That seemed simple enough to us.  I shall not hold my breath until that happens, however…

Finally, since I mentioned ESPN needing things to fill lots of airtime, let me share with you a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“ESPN says more words beginning with the letter O are misspelled at the National Spelling Bee than any others.

“Remember, that’s Olbermann with two n’s.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Manny Machado Moves West

The Dodgers and the Orioles have negotiated a “blockbuster trade”.  The Orioles – a team mired in a season that is a disastrous disappointment when compared to pre-season expectations will get 5 “prospects” from the Dodgers’ farm system.  The Dodgers get Manny Machado who – I believe – is the second-best young player in MLB at the moment behind Mike Trout.  And that last statement intends to throw exactly no shade on Kris Bryant or Bryce Harper or a bunch of other young stars of the game.  The surprise element in this trade to me is this:

  • The Dodgers are well represented on the left side of their infield for the future with Justin Turner at third abase and Corey Seager at shortstop when he returns from Tommy John surgery next season.   Machado can play shortstop this year but if the Dodgers seek to sign him to a long-term deal at the end of this season, that will create a logjam at shortstop/third base.  This can only mean that the Dodgers are going all out to win the World Series this year – – and they just might do that.

On the flip side of this trade, the Orioles have to be the most disappointing team in MLB when compared to what they thought they could do this season.  I doubt that any of their fans seriously thought they could beat out the Yankees or Red Sox in the AL East, but a solid third-place finish was certainly not out of the question – – until about the first of June.  At the All-Star break, the only team in MLB with a worse record than the Orioles would be the KC Royals – and just about everyone knew that the Royals were going to stink out the joint in 2018.  The Orioles of 2018 look as if they are a team that is tanking to restructure their roster; indeed, that may be the strategy as of July 2018, but it was not the plan as of March 2018.

The Orioles will get 5 “prospects” from the Dodgers’ farm system in the trade.  Let me translate that for you:

  • The Orioles are getting 5 players who have never shown the ability to play baseball at the MLB level.  Their scouts have identified these prospects as “MLB-ready” or “developmental players with a high upside”.  The team needs to hope that those scouts are really close to accurate on those projections because in baseball the definition of a “Prospect” is “Someone who has achieved nothing to date”.

Regarding next season for the Dodgers, Justin Turner is signed for $18M in 2019 and then $19M in 2020.  Corey Seager is on a 1-year deal for $605K making him a ginormous bargain even with his injury.  He is not eligible for free agency yet, so he will be a huge bargain for the Dodgers again next year.  My point here is how does the team fit those two high quality players in with free-agent-to-be Manny Machado.  It will not be easy…

Let me make one more comment about the World Cup tournament here.  If all one did in the US was to tune in to see the final game between France and Croatia and all that one brought to the game was the press coverage of the tournament to date, I think that viewer/casual fan would have been confused and disappointed.  The game on the pitch was plenty interesting; the announcing that accompanied the game was pretty bleak.

  • Far too much air time was taken up by the announcers regaling folks with the myriad storylines that came from this World Cup tournament.  Big Bleeping Deal!  No one tuned in to see/hear the storylines; people tuned in to see and hear about the game on the pitch.
  • There had to be at least a half-dozen [I am being generous here with such a small number.] of references to lightening and thunder and a storm in the area of the stadium.  So, what?  Soccer is an outdoor sport; weather conditions are not always ideal; players routinely play through the weather conditions.  If I need or want weather updates and/or commentary on the position of lightening/thunder events, I can check out the Weather Channel App on my phone.  Cut that nonsense out of the coverage of the game on the pitch; it is irrelevant.
  • For TV coverage of major soccer events, US networks need to hire announcers from the EPL.  Those announcers know the game; they know how to let the pictures on the screen speak for the action on the pitch; put simply, they know when to shut up or to minimize the duration of their speech.  My all-time favorite soccer announcer is Ian Darke; I never heard his voice on any of the World Cup games that I saw this time around.  Sad for me; a black mark for FOX.

Here is another international soccer note…  It is not all that surprising to find a bad team that churns through coaches/managers at a blinding clip.  Palermo has been relegated from Serie A to Serie B in Italy and in the process of falling down the Serie Table to the point where they were relegated, Palermo ran though 13 coaches/managers between November 2015 and April 2018.  Bad teams lose games and it is easier for owners to fire a coach/manager than it is to fire an entire team and that is what happens to bad teams.

It is a bit less common to see a good soccer team grind its way through coaches/managers at an accelerated clip.  But to check that out, look at Chelsea in the English Premier League:

  • Chelsea recently fired its manager, Antonio Conte.  It was not a huge surprise but given the Chelsea record over the past decade, this firing makes the managerial situation there a bit out of the ordinary.
  • With Conte gone, that means Chelsea will start the next season with their 11th manager since 2007.  In that last decade, Chelsea has spent most of the time in the top quartile of the EPL.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this observation regarding the English side in the World Cup Tournament:

“England not only lost 2-1 to Croatia in the semifinals but the team was fined $70,000 for wearing ‘unauthorized socks.’

Since when has Roger Goodell been in charge of the World Cup?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



A Surprise Trade …

I must admit that I did not see this coming.  Breaking news overnight says the Spurs and Raptors have reached and agreement on a trade that would send Kawhi Leonard to Toronto and DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio.  Based on initial reactions contained in the report at, the players involved did not see this coming either.

  • DeRozan posted on Instagram something that shows he is not happy with leaving the Raptors.  He has spent his entire NBA career (9 seasons) in Toronto.
  • Someone identified as being “in Leonard’s camp” [Aside: Is that different from “a source close to Leonard”?] said that Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto.

Like it or not, this trade has all the ingredients to become a storyline for the next 12 months when Kawhi Leonard will become an unrestricted free agent.  Meanwhile, DeRozan’s contract runs through the end of the 2020 – 21 season and he will make $27.3M in each of the next three years under that contract.  There are other components to this trade – including the Spurs’ first round pick next year – but the center of gravity for the deal is the swap of Leonard for DeRozan.

In another basketball note, several players from Louisville’s 2013 national champion team have sued the NCAA over the forfeiture of that national championship.  If you recall, that penalty came because of allegations made by a woman who claimed that she and others were hired by the team as strippers and sex partners with recruits who might attend Louisville.  While I have difficulty seeing how any harm came to those players of such a magnitude that a lawsuit makes sense, I do have to root for them in this matter for two reasons:

  1. This is another example of the NCAA’s flawed-to-the-core enforcement procedures.
  2. One of the lawyers for the players in his pleading to the court referred to the NCAA as “a morally bankrupt organization” and said, “They answer to nobody but are bad for everybody”.  When I read that, I yelled “Bullseye!

In another area of US jurisprudence, I read that Harvey Weinstein – through his attorneys and spin-meisters – will assert that he was “born poor” and that he lived through his adolescence as an “ugly” kid and that these elements will be in his defense against new sexual abuse charges/accusations.  If that seems a bit thin to you as a defense, just imagine that the venue for the trial is LA and the jury is picked from among the LA jury pool.  Anyone recall the OJ trial?  It could work.

For the record, given Mr. Weinstein’s appearance today, it is not hard for me to imagine that he was “ugly” as a teenager…

Since I am off on a tangent here, let me offer up a Quick Quiz:

  • In the pantheon of poor taste, which of these two things ranks higher:
  • Papa John’s CEO John Schattner’s comments regarding race – – OR – –
  • A Papa John’s pizza.

Answer below…

Terrell Owens is in the news again for something other than being a no-show at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  He has hired a Canadian agent and has said he wants to play in the CFL.  The Edmonton Eskimos have his Canadian rights and according to the report I read, the team has until 24 July to offer Owens a contract or they will relinquish those rights making him a free agent in Canada.  Owens professes a love of football and a desire to play in Canada – and/or the NFL if they would have him back.

Personally, I do not care even a little bit if he shows up or stays away from the hall of Fame induction ceremony.  Moreover, I do not care even a little bit about where he plays football or does not play football from here on out.  He has been signed and released/traded by 5 NFL teams so far; if he adds a Canadian team or two to that tally, so what?

Owens will turn 45 in December of this year.  His last appearance in a pro football game was in 2010 (age 37) with the Bengals.  He appeared in 14 games that year, caught 72 passes for 983 yards and 9 TDs.  The fact that no NFL team took him aboard after a season with those stats tells you something about Owens’ “intangibles”.  [Note:  Technically, he played “pro football” in 2012 for the Allen Wranglers in the Indoor Football League.]

Speaking of things I do not care about at all, let me get this straight.  At the end of the meaningless Home Run Derby, there was a controversy.  As soon as I read that headline, I figured it would be about as important as a controversy at a quilting bee – – and I was right.  It seems that Bryce Harper’s father – who was pitching to Harper in the Home Run Derby – did not wait for the ball to land on a hit before launching the next pitch.  Holy Moly!  If ever there were an issue that called for Congressional hearings…

Here is my desired resolution to this scandalous behavior:

  • Cancel the Home Run Derby – – which is at least 99% as lame as the Slam Dunk contest during NBA All-Star Week.

Answer to the Quick Quiz:  Both of them are in hugely poor taste.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment recently in the Seattle Times:

“Canada will legalize marijuana nationwide on Oct. 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced.

“Coming soon to an NHL trophy case near you: the Lady Bong Trophy.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………