College Basketball Has Some New Wrinkles To It

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So the NCAA finally started taking steps in the right direction, albeit imperfectly. They made a few amendments to their player compensation and eligibility rules. Here are the two big changes:

-If an underclassman player goes undrafted in the NBA Draft, they have until the Monday following the draft (about 4 days) to inform their school if they will return and will regain their remaining eligibility, which had been forfeited upon declaration for the draft in years past.

-“Elite” recruits will have the opportunity to sign with NCAA-approved agents.

Now, on the surface, this sounds fantastic. However there are a few kinks that need to be worked out before this can actually become a positive reality. First of all, the NBA has to start allowing players to be drafted out of high school again in order for the agent rule to actually come into effect, which hasn’t happened since Amir Johnson was a second round pick of the Pistons in 2005 (technically 3 players have been drafted since then despite not attending college or playing overseas, however all of them were a year removed from their high school graduation, which is acceptable under the current guidelines). The NCAA will only let players sign with approved agents if they have an opportunity to go to the NBA INSTEAD of the NCAA (the “elite”), which would lead to a bigger decision for the prospect. Go pro now, or go pro later and take some classes? Either way they’ll be making money but they’ll most certainly make more in the NBA, especially given the max contract climate of today’s game. Since players can’t get paid by the university, they’ll only have the endorsement money they get from working with an agent, unlike in the NBA where they’ll get a multi-million-dollar salary on top of those same endorsement deals. It doesn’t change too much but it is a step in the right direction.

However the part I have the most issue with is the term “elite” when talking about which players are allowed to do endorsement deals. Referring to someone as “elite” is about as subjective as you can get and the NCAA has defined this as being players selected by USA Basketball. There’s just one problem: the NCAA announced this without consulting USA Basketball or the NBA, who are reportedly pissed off that the NCAA is throwing these responsibilities on them without their approval. So should the rule come into effect, USA Basketball will have to pick the players who get to sign with agents and those who don’t. And I guarantee you any guy they snub is going to be PISSED, which will just create more tension than there already is amongst the very good players. I don’t understand why everyone can’t just sign with an agent. Besides, what kind of guidelines would they have to put forth? Does the player have to be a 5-star recruit, which is already extremely subjective and not always a great predictor of success? So in that case, using ESPN’s star system, Marvin Bagley would get to sign with an agent but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can’t (he graded as an 89, 1 point away from being a 5-star player). Plus, if that was the case, only about 30 players would’ve gotten to sign with an agent from last year’s class and only around half of them actually got drafted this year.

Also, the verbiage of the agent having to be “approved by the NCAA” seems kind of fishy. A part of me wonders if they’ll only allow players to sign endorsement deals as long as the agent works into the contract that the NCAA gets a cut as well. It does not sit well whatsoever with me and I’d have to see what one of the contracts looks like before I feel comfortable with that. I understand you don’t want a fishy agent representing 18 year-old kids, but you also don’t want a clean agent to be in the NCAA’s back pocket.

The idea that would allow undrafted college basketball players with unused eligibility to return to school is a damn good one and should’ve been in place a long time ago. The 4-day time period to inform their school of their decision feels a little short, however it may become up to the player to consider the possibility of not getting drafted longer and force them to ponder what they would want to do should they not hear their name called by Adam Silver. Maybe they’d prefer to sign as a 2-way undrafted free agent. Maybe they’d prefer to play overseas instead. But at least they’ll have the option to play college hoops again even though the draft didn’t work out yet and refine their skills. It’s better than the alternative, which is putting these kids at a crossroads. I’m sure a lot of them would choose to go back to college and continue to not only play basketball, but continue their degree.

How long these rules take to make it to college football and other college sports is unknown but if these new rules the NCAA has put out are any indication, they’re going to need to work out the kinks before they’re ready to really compensate these players.

Let me know what you think of the new rules in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

MLB Trade Deadline Recap

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In all honesty, I actually forgot that yesterday was the trade deadline. I had some work-related things to take care of. BUT, as soon as I was done with that, it hit me and I scoured the internet for everything that happened during the Trade Deadline. Now to be clear, teams can still trade after this, however a trade can only occur after a player clears waivers. But this was the end of straight-up trades. So let’s take a look at 10 trades and what they mean for everyone involved.

10. Detroit Tigers trade CF Leonys Martin to the Cleveland Indians for prospects

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers

This trade was a little funny to me because I literally JUST saw Martin play centerfield for the Tigers AGAINST the Indians on Saturday. I had luxury box seating for that game, which the Tigers won 2-1 (the picture above is actually from that game). Martin didn’t really do anything in that game, just thought it was funny to me. Centerfield has been a black hole for Cleveland this season and while Martin doesn’t necessarily fill that hole, he does represent an improvement over what the Tribe had been sending out there all season.

9. Minnesota Twins trade SP Lance Lynn to the New York Yankees for 1B Tyler Austin

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox

Aside from Luis Severino (who has been ice cold of late), the Yankees have had mediocre starting pitching this season. They already added JA Happ from Toronto and now they add Lance Lynn from Minnesota. However, Lynn is in the midst of the worst season of his career, as he currently carries an ERA of 5.10. Prior to this year, he had yet to record an ERA over 3.97 for an entire season so the talent is certainly there. They send Tyler Austin to Minnesota, who is most notable for getting his ass kicked by Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly. Probably good for Austin’s safety getting him out of Kelly’s division. Gotta’ love it when teams have a player’s best interests in mind.

8. Toronto Blue Jays trade CP Roberto Osuna to the Houston Astros for Ken Giles and prospects 

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays

This is basically a swap of problematic closers for both teams, both of whom for VERY different reasons. For the Astros, Ken Giles has struggled so much that he actually got demoted last week. Osuna is working his way back from an 80-game suspension as a result of a domestic violence incident from back in early May. However, up until then, Osuna had been one of the game’s best closers, posting 2.93 ERA (2.05 FIP) with 9 saves in 15 games. So we’ll see how they deal that in the coming weeks.

7. Baltimore Orioles trade SP Kevin Gausman and RP Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves for prospects and $2.5M in international signing bonus money

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Gausman has flashed the talent to be an ace but hasn’t been able to put it all together for an extended period of time. Darren O’Day is a submarine pitcher with vicious offspeed stuff that can make him a real asset to a team on a playoff run like the Braves. The Braves didn’t give up a ton to acquire them, though it was smart of the Orioles to get international signing bonus money in return, as they had very little to speak of and would struggle to sign international prospects in the future without the added boost. A good rebuilding move by Baltimore.

6. Baltimore Orioles trade 2B Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Jonathan Villar and prospects

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Jonathan Schoop has struggled mightily this season but over the last couple years, he has been one of the best power-hitting second basemen in the game. The Brewers hope that by giving him a change in venue he will return to the 2017 form that saw him hit .293 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI. If he can do that, the Brewers will be right back at the top of the NL Central, where they had spent most of the season prior to being eclipsed by the Chicago Cubs recently.

5. Anaheim Angels trade 2B Ian Kinsler to the Boston Red Sox for prospects

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox

As I’ve said before, second base has been a black hole for the Red Sox and acquiring a 4-time All Star like Ian Kinsler won’t fix all of those issues, but he will certainly be an upgrade over the incumbent Eduardo Nunez. The 36 year-old Kinsler is hitting .239  with 13 home runs but is far superior defensively to Nunez. Aside from Mitch Moreland at first base, the Red Sox have really struggled defensively on the infield so a glove like Kinsler’s will be very welcomed even if he’s not the same guy who would average 20-20 seasons in Texas.

4. Tampa Bay Rays trade C Wilson Ramos to the Philadelphia Phillies for a PTBNL and cash

Tampa Bay Rays v Miami Marlins

I’m surprised how little it cost the Phillies to acquire Ramos from the Rays, especially considering he was supposed to start this year’s All Star game for the American League. I mean, I guess the fact that he’s currently injured would diminish his value, but a guy who can hit like he can and man the backstop the way he does should theoretically command more than a PTNBL and cash. But Michael Brantley was the PTBNL when the Brewers acquired CC Sabathia from the Indians for some prospects and the PTBNL so maybe that one becomes a gem (David Ortiz was a PTNBL before his MLB debut with the Twins in 1996).

3. St. Louis Cardinals trade CF Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays for prospects

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds

I don’t understand this move from Tampa’s perspective. They appear to be a team that is selling despite their decent record (53-53 before the start of play on July 31) yet the acquire a talented outfielder like Tommy Pham from St. Louis. They traded Ramos and another player I’m going to get into soon, suggesting that they were blowing the team up, yet they add a Major League talent in Pham. Pham hasn’t been nearly as good this year as he was last year, but he still possesses the talent both offensively and defensively to be a major contributor.

2. Minnesota Twins trade 2B Brian Dozier to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2B Logan Forsythe and prospects

Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays

Brian Dozier is struggling mightily this season but he is still one of the deadliest second basemen if you aren’t careful. Dozier has hit 30 homers in each of the last two seasons, including 42 in 2016. Now he joins the Dodgers, who need help at second base, which has been a consistent revolving door for the last couple seasons. But look at this infield the Dodgers are now boasting, provided everyone performs to their abilities:

1B-Max Muncy/Cody Bellinger

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Manny Machado

Yeah. Just what the Dodgers needed. More talent.

1. Tampa Bay Rays trade SP Chris Archer to the Pirates for SP Tyler Glasnow and CF Austin Meadows

Miami Marlins v Tampa Bay Rays

This was a surprising move despite the fact that there had been rumblings about it for the last few days or so. Chris Archer had been rumored to be on the move for years now but the Rays had been hesitant to do so since Archer is not only one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he’s also had a big impact on the community. But with the haul the Pirates sent for Archer’s services, how do you say no? Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows are two of the best prospects in baseball. Glasnow has struggled in his brief stints in the Majors while Meadows is hitting .292 in his 49-game stint in the Majors. Pittsburgh’s recent 11-game winning streak likely prompted management to rethink their playoff odds as they’re now only a few games behind in the Wild Card hunt and 7.5 games out of the NL Central lead. But this is a BIG risk the Pirates are taking here because they are essentially mortgaging their future on one playoff run where they aren’t even in the driver’s seat. Luckily for them, though, Archer is under contract through 2021 so even if they miss out this year, they’ll have him for a couple more potential runs.

So another Trade Deadline has come and gone. Did you like the moves your team made or didn’t make? Or is your GM destroying your team from the inside? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Washington Nationals Should Trade Bryce Harper

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The trade deadline is today so get ready for some wheelings and dealings as playoff contenders try to add that final piece to send them on their World Series run. I considered doing a blog about 10 guys who could get traded before 4:00 on July 31, but I decided I was way more interested in doing a blog about a guy who won’t get traded but should. That would be 2015 NL MVP and impending free agent Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

So if you’ve been following the MLB season, you’ll probably know that Bryce Harper is not having his best season. Before the start of play on July 30, Harper was slashing .220/.369/.473 with 25 home runs and 62 RBI with a 1.6 WAR. Honestly, aside from the low batting average, his numbers aren’t that bad. He’s having the second-best walk rate of his career behind his MVP season in 2015, though his strikeout rate is also the second-highest of his career. Harper also has been having his worst season defensively, as his DRS is -10, which is the third worst amongst right fielders in all of baseball. He’s ahead of only Stephen Piscotty of the A’s and Nicholas Castellanos of the Tigers (the latter of whom is naturally a third baseman). But Harper is also arguably the most feared hitter in the game. Despite his struggles at the dish this season, you have to be mindful of Harper when he steps into the batter’s box. This is what he’s capable of:

And that was earlier this season. You’ve got to be a REALLY strong dude to hit a home run on a pitch that broke your bat. That ball traveled about 390 feet, too. Any guy who can do that is a threat every time he comes to the dish.

But I do feel like this low batting average is going to cost him a lot of money. There was a time where people thought that Harper was going to become the first player to earn a $400M contract in free agency. That’s probably not going to happen but Giancarlo Stanton got a $300M extension from the Marlins before his 59 home run season last year so I definitely believe somebody will be willing to give him $300M this offseason. But the question becomes whether the Nationals should cut ties now and get something in return or ride it out and hope they get hot enough to go on a World Series run.

The latter would be a mistake. Right now the Nationals are sitting at 52-53, third place in the NL East, 6 games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies and 6 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second Wild Card spot. Neither is an insurmountable deficit. However, they have the fifth worst record in the National League and have been trending in the wrong direction heading into this Deadline, as they’re 10-14 in the month of July. It would be a huge mistake for them to hang on to Harper because they think they can make a playoff run only for them to not reach the NLCS. Because let’s face it: the Nationals of the last few seasons were far better than this year’s bunch and not once did they reach the NLCS so I doubt hanging on to the current roster is going to fix anything. The haul a contending team would give up in order to secure Harper’s services would be astronomical, even if it’s only a rental. The Nationals do have a decent young core at the moment, which appears to be spearheaded by the 19 year-old Juan Soto and if they land the right prospects, that could result in a potentially shortened rebuild.

People are already aware that there’s now way in Hell Harper is remaining in DC as a free agent for a number of reasons. Number one, the Nationals won’t be able to afford him, a fact that was made pretty apparent when the team chose to extend Stephen Strasburg a couple years ago. On top of that, Max Scherzer is going to be on the books for the next decade or so (his contract is an interesting one that could put him in Bobby Bonilla territory). The next is that he’s a client of Scott Boras, who always has his players test the waters in free agency and rarely do they ever re-sign with their former club (Mike Moustakas last season was a rarity, though he did just get traded from the Royals to the Brewers).

But ultimately, the Nationals likely won’t trade Harper. There just simply haven’t been enough rumblings. Perhaps the Nationals have an impossible asking price for him? Perhaps they still think they can compete? Or perhaps they think they’ll alienate the fanbase by trading away their favorite player? Realistically, the Nationals are headed for dark days unless they get out in front of this rebuild, trade Harper for a bevy of top prospects, and give up on what is a lost season for the sake of the future of the franchise.

Should the Nationals trade Harper? Or should they take a chance on the rest of the 2018 season? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

What Would Baseball Look Like Without Starting Rotations?

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So on Wednesday night, I had just gotten home from work and was having a few beers while my brother and I watched a replay of the Edge vs Mick Foley Wrestlemania 22 Hardcore match. You know, this one:

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After we got done watching that, I was scrolling through Twitter and noticed a user pointed out that on mlb.com’s depth chart page for the Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer is the only starting pitcher listed. I thought that was weird and sent it to a buddy who said “looks like Archer will be getting his innings in.”  I then went and watched the James Cameron movie “Aliens,” which was badass, but the Rays’ pitching situation wouldn’t leave me alone. So finally, when the movie was done, I got to thinking: what if ALL of baseball did away with pitching rotations?

A little background first on why Tampa’s depth chart probably looks the way it does. So at the start of the season, manager Kevin Cash announced that the Rays would go with a 4-man rotation and would make the 5th day an all-bullpen day. A pitcher that usually comes out of the bullpen will get the start, go as long as he could (typically no more than 4 innings) before other bullpen arms got in the mix. It led to the creation of the term “opener,” rather than “closer.” Tampa opened the year with a starting rotation of Chris Archer-Blake Snell-Jake Faria-Nathan Eovaldi (who didn’t debut until a little over a month later). Snell and Faria are currently on the DL while Eovaldi was just traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitching prospect Jalen Beeks. So right now, of those four, only Archer is currently standing. As for who the “openers” are, the Rays have sent out Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Matt Andriese, Johnny Venters, and Sergio Romo among others. All in all, 14 pitchers have made a start for the Rays.

So how well has it worked? Well the Rays currently sit in 3rd place in the AL East at 52-50 (this blog was written before the start of play on July 26), 18.5 games behind the Red Sox in the division and 9 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. However that’s due in large part to the fact the Rays have struggled to score runs, as they’re 22nd in all of baseball in runs scored. Their pitching has put up very good numbers, though. Right now they’re currently 9th in pitching WAR at a combined 10.6 with the 7th best ERA at 3.70. That’s the main contributing factor for why a team as untalented on paper as the Rays has a winning record in late July. In fact, if the Rays were in the weak AL Central rather than having to face the Red Sox and Yankees a million times every year, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see them battling the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the division (they currently trail Cleveland by just 3.5 games overall).

So how would Major League Baseball look if they took Tampa’s formula a step further and did away with starting rotations? Well, for one, there would be a lot more opportunities for managers to get creative. I’m going to use the Red Sox as my example team in order to simplify things for myself. The pitchers at manager Alex Cora’s disposal are, in alphabetical order: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Eovaldi, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez, and Brandon Workman (this is not accounting for the injured Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith, and Steven Wright). Assuming each staff follows Tampa’s model, the Red Sox could send any one of these guys out to start and go up to four innings. Not only that, but they could appear in back-to-back games and pitch in more games overall over the course of a season. As if we couldn’t get enough Chris Sale already, now he could be pitching back-to-back days and 70 times in a season as opposed to now where he only pitches every 5 games and about 30 times in a season. We could also see David Price come in relief for Sale, meaning teams will have to face two Cy Young-caliber pitchers back-to-back. Which sounds pretty menacing to me. Or Hell, the Yankees could start the game with Aroldis Chapman, go to Luis Severino for the second-fifth inning, then send out Dellin Betances. The combinations managers would have at their disposal are endless. Plus, we won’t have to think of bullpens as having just 7 or 8 options available to choose from. When you add guys who normally start to the mix, that gives teams 11 or 12 guys to choose from.

New York Yankees vs New York Mets

We will also definitely see a rise in fastball velocity. The reason some of these starters aren’t hitting 100 mph on every fastball is due to the fact that they’re preserving some energy in case they need to go deep into the game, whereas relievers put everything they have behind every pitch because they know they’re probably only going the one inning. So take this into account: a few years ago, the Cincinnati Reds toyed with the idea of making their superstar closer Aroldis Chapman into a starting pitcher. They tried him out in the role in Spring Training. Chapman’s fastball in his career has topped out at an MLB record 105.1 mph. Chapman’s fastball as a starter never got over 94 mph. The 105.1 mph pitch is obviously an outlier, but Chapman’s fastball still is routinely clocked at around 101 mph. Now let’s take into account what some guys are throwing despite the knowledge that they’re going to have to go multiple innings. Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Mike Foltynewicz, and Eovaldi’s fastballs all average about 97 mph. By the logic of Chapman’s dropped velocity as a starter of -7 mph (typical 101 to 94), we can imperfectly assume that these guys’ fastballs would rise by about 7 mph (the math that got me to that assumption is probably very wrong, but you get what I’m trying to say here), meaning we’d have four dudes averaging a 104 mph fastball. I’m not sure how teams would manage to hit that on a day-to-day basis, especially when you consider that guys who normally throw 91 are now throwing 98.

We would also see the absolute annihilation of the pitching wins stat. As if it wasn’t already useless enough in today’s game, now it will pretty much only favor the second pitcher to be used, since in order for a starter to qualify for a win, he has to go 5 innings and his lead can’t evaporate. If the first pitcher used only goes 4 innings with a 10-0 lead, whomever replaces him first will vulture his win even if he struck out all 12 batters he faced. However other stats would likely be significantly improved, such as the ERA and opponent batting average stat. Think of it this way. In seemingly every game where a pitcher is going deep into his outing, the broadcast shows a graphic that showcases how a pitcher does each time through the lineup. Usually, the hitters will have the pitcher figured out by their third time seeing him in the game. With this type of pitching staff, you deny hitters the opportunity to see a pitcher for a third time, thus relinquishing that late-inning value at their disposal, leading to potentially fewer runs being scored. Now, of course, bringing in a bunch of relievers makes it more likely that you’re going to bring someone in who is having an off-night, but I think overall the number of runs scored is going to drop substantially.

Seattle Mariners v Colorado Rockies

There will also be more talented pitchers take the next step and become studs than before. Consider the fact that Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Archie Bradley, Wade Davis, and Brandon Morrow all began their careers as starting pitchers but flamed out and failed to realize their great potentials. Then consider the fact that they became dominant bullpen arms upon their move to that role. Well now everybody will make that switch so we could see extremely talented guys such as Kevin Gausman, Lucas Giolito, or Tyler Glasnow be given the opportunity to reinvent themselves. David Price even looked like his Cy Young-winning self during his brief stint in the Red Sox bullpen to finish the 2017 season, as he didn’t give up a run in his 9 relief outings.

Sadly, though, the individual no hitter would cease to exist as any future no hitter would be of the combined variety. The most exciting outcome for a pitcher where nothing happens has been something that has always been a goal of mine to see from start to finish would be a thing of the past since the starter would likely be gone by the third or fourth inning. However I’m sure there are plenty of managers out there who don’t really care, as long as they got the win, which is ultimately what really matters.

There will be a few changes that will have to happen, though, in order for this change to work. For one, guys who are currently starting pitchers need to COMPLETELY overhaul their routine. Starting pitchers have routines they do on their off days to get ready for their next start, but without the certainty that comes with being a starting pitcher, that will change dramatically and will more than likely affect some guys for the worst. Another change will be MLB’s requirement of teams announcing who will start each game. If a manager is going to run with this type of pitching staff, they’re going to have to give a few days’ notice for each pitcher. If this type of staff were to be rolled out, I’d personally be more invested in a surprise starter for every game, keeping opposing teams on their toes. Though I guess managers typically fill out their batting orders based on who the opposing pitcher is so that would probably cause a problem. Damn, thought I was on to something or a moment.

In short, I think that taking the Rays’ formula for a pitching staff a step further and doing away with starting rotations could potentially be a very innovative way to go about pitching and re-think the way teams construct their staffs. Did I just break baseball? Or did I have way too much to drink and this idea is stupid? Let me know what you think of the idea of no pitching rotations in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Can Tiger’s Inevitable Decline be Good for Golf?

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By James Neary

This past weekend at the Open Championship, we were able to see Tiger sniff a major victory for the first time since the same tournament in 2013. It seems the entire spectrum of golf fandom clung to our TVs and Twitter feeds to ceremoniously welcome the king back to his rightful place as ruler. But as Tiger made his turn onto the back 9 Sunday in Carnoustie, the inevitable reality of his decline took hold in our minds again. A full-on Tiger comeback would in no doubt be spectacular for Golf in the short, and probably even long term, but in this article I explore the opposite vantage point. Assuming Tiger has begun his descent, rather than continued his ascent, into the history books, I elaborate on the opportunities this case study offers the golf industry.

What the golf world has undergone throughout Tiger’s woes can very easily be likened to an economic recession. Sports Media Watch has a useful table detailing final round viewing tallies from all 4 major tournaments over the past 30 years, found here. As you can see, the numbers coming this year from Tiger’s cumbersome resurgence do show a pretty solid uptick from recent years, but they barely reach over 50% of what they were during his peak. His first major win, the 1997 Masters blowout, marked the beginning of a massive bull run for the golf industry. Every. single. one. of the high-end view counts, in every major, came between that tournament and the 2009 PGA Championship, just a few months before Tiger’s infamous Thanksgiving Day, affair-revealing, career-spiraling crash. Tiger’s dominance in that time period pushed the industry into a new era. After such a sudden downfall of such a massive star, it’s easy to understand why the industry has struggled to recover in the following years. Since 2009, golf’s path has been one of desperate contention. Multiple young and rising stars have attempted to take the torch from Tiger, yet the entire industry seems to be pining for a comeback of unimaginable proportions. I would argue this contention is understandable and predictable, and while golf transitions into the post-Tiger era, there arrive abundant opportunities for expansion and development never before seen in the game.

Economies, industries, businesses, financial entities of all types undergo periods of fluctuating growth and shrinkage. While the pull-back golf has seen during the past 10 years may seem drastic and even dangerous, the viewing numbers at their lowest point are right on par with what they were prior to Tiger’s dominance. Obviously, TV viewership isn’t a pure indication of popularity or economic health in the sports entertainment industry, but it’s a pretty standard candle. I do argue, however, that TV viewership does hold more weight in golf, due to the nature of the season and championships. Having practically every player be present on the course during the TV broadcast, yet having talent disproportionately skewed towards one player, sets the industry up for disaster once said player succumbs to injury or scandal. Tiger’s decline puts the world of golf in a position to welcome a greater abundance and distribution of superstar caliber players. Having the industry’s premium talent distributed more evenly amongst the top players will provide much needed stability in the long run. In this scenario, if number 1 doesn’t show up to a tournament because of a bum knee or exposed mistress, you can be damn sure numbers 2 and 3 will be there to put take advantage. With Tiger dominating the 2000’s like he was, there was nobody there to support the industry as a whole upon his collapse. Now, as his decline from the upper echelon continues, golf is able to more effectively distribute its talent and ratings power throughout the top of the rankings to provide insurance for another Tiger-like catastrophe.

In addition to the new support system golf can establish upon Tiger’s decline, there lies another opportunity golf has sorely missed out on thus far: expansion and diversification. We’ve seen the NBA do it in China and Europe, soccer do it in America, the NHL in the southwest, alongside countless others. Entertainment industries without an eclectic and diverse audience continually fall behind. We’re seeing this playout in real time as post-steroid era Major League Baseball struggles to keep up with the rapidly growing popularity of lacrosse among youths in America and Canada. MLB’s fan base and youth programs were disproportionately concentrated in a single demographic, and suffered as another sport ate up some of its market cap. Although Tiger was the first non-white player to ever win the Masters, having all that talent, power, and potential locked up in one individual obviously dampens diversification. There’s no doubt that Tiger’s rise had an immensely positive impact on the relationship between minorities and golf, but you cannot deny that the concentration of power in him proved incredibly difficult for golf to grapple with upon his descent. His decline will allow more golfers from different backgrounds and cultures to compete for the number 1 spot in golf, and that could do wonders for the industry in the long term.

Overall, Tiger’s reign at the top of golf has been unprecedented, and is likely never to be forgotten. For more than 10 years, nobody came close to this guy. Then, practically overnight, he entered a downward spiral which, until recently, seemed impossible to pull out of. We all hope Tiger will bless us with a thunderous Sunday at some point in the near future. But if that never comes, there remains a silver lining for the golf industry. Being able to more evenly disperse the premium talent among the top players on the tour will provide greater security for both the players and the future in the long term. The decline of Tiger, and superstars in general, positions his industry to make unique and exciting revitalization efforts to restore the tour to its former glory.

 

General Sports: July 19

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-So Kawhi Leonard was finally traded. It was announced in the wee hours of yesterday morning that the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors had a deal that would send Leonard north in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected first round pick that could become 2 2nd rounders in 2020 if the pick somehow ends up being in the top 20. Already we can tell that this trade is an absolute mess. First off, DeRozan was reportedly “extremely upset” that he was included in the deal because he felt he was reportedly “lied to” by the front office about a potential trade. It was also reported that Leonard was not happy with landing in Toronto, as he had made it pretty clear he wanted to play in Los Angeles. To both players I say grow the fuck up. For DeRozan, the only player who is untradeable is LeBron James and that’s because he basically acts as his own GM for whichever team he happens to play for. Could it suck? Yeah, I’ve got to imagine getting suddenly told you don’t play for a team you’ve spent your entire adult life playing for probably feels tough right now. But unless he was flat out told by the front office that he was off limits in any potential deal, then I don’t see why he should think he was untouchable. If he led Toronto to the NBA Finals, then perhaps I’d give him some more credit. But the Raptors got their dicks kicked in by the Cavaliers in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Nobody on that team is untouchable. As for Leonard, you can’t expect the Spurs to bend to your whim because you want to go somewhere else while you’re still under contract. The Lakers and Clippers do not have the assets necessary to compensate for the value lost by your departure. The Spurs need to get something in return if they’re going to trade you. Besides, your contract is up at the end up the season. Suck it up, play in Toronto (which I think is a very pleasant city), then if you decide you’d still rather go to LA, then you can sign there as a free agent. Just make sure you keep playing your ass off with the Raptors so that the Lakers or Clippers will actually WANT to sign you. Because let’s face it, these last few months haven’t been very favorable for your public image with NBA teams.

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-Speaking of trades, it was announced during the MLB All Star Game that the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers had a deal in place that would send superstar shortstop Manny Machado to LA for a package of prospects, one of whom is Yusniel Diaz, MLB.com’s 84th best overall prospect. Pretty much everyone and their mother had Machado to the Dodgers pegged ever since Corey Seager went down for the season with an arm injury. It’s been a revolving door of utility guys at shortstop since then and now that Machado is there, the Dodgers will once again have a superstar manning short while they make another run at a World Series title. That is until Machado hits free agency at the end of the season, which is why the prospect return wasn’t as high as a guy of Machado’s caliber typically commands. Diaz has a ton of potential, but he was far from LA’s best prospect (Alex Verdugo) and the fact that Machado will likely only wear Dodger blue for a few months lessens the trade value a little bit. From what I’ve been reading, it seems very likely that Machado will sign with the Yankees in the offseason and will likely replace fellow impending free agent Didi Gregorius. However the addition of Machado has the red-hot Dodgers looking even better as they go for another deep run into the playoffs. Also, as a sidenote, Machado and pretty much everyone involved with him beating around the bush about the potential trade during the All Star game made for some pretty great television.

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-Brewers breakout reliever Josh Hader had some pretty problematic tweets pop up while he was pitching in the All Star game, which included several uses of racial, homophobic, and other demeaning slurs. Hader has been unbelievable this season and it seems that anytime somebody’s star is on the rise, some idiotic things they said in the past seem to sprout up. MLB has since ordered Hader to take sensitivity training and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s matured a lot since those tweets were sent out and that he isn’t the person those old tweets make him out to be. But guys like Hader need to become examples for future generations for why you need to be careful what you say on social media. It’s basically like getting read your Miranda Rights. Anything you say on Twitter can and will be held against you in the court of public opinion.

-The Home Run Derby was great, particularly the final 2 rounds. I don’t care that Bryce Harper’s dad was throwing pitches before Harper’s home runs landed, which is against the rules. All in all, the Home Run Derby is meaningless, it’s just a fun experience for everyone involved. Plus, Kyle Schwarber, the guy getting screwed in this situation, didn’t care so I don’t care. If you care about Bryce Harper’s dad’s pitches, you take the Home Run Derby WAY too seriously, and this is coming from a guy who already takes the Home Run Derby a little too seriously as it is. Try and tell Bryce Harper’s dad that he cheated. I dare you.

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-Darrelle Revis retired after 11 seasons in the league, most of which with the Jets. Probably the greatest corner of my adolescence, Revis’ last great season came in his lone year with the Patriots en route to helping them win Super Bowl XLIX. It also led to this great text I got from my mom the day after that Thursday Night Football game where he repeatedly got burned by Marquise Goodwin.

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Gotta love parents.

So that’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

MLB Midseason Awards

So it’s the All Star Break and it’s technically the midpoint even though most teams have played around 98 of the 162 games. But whatever. That’s not important. What is important is that the season has reached its virtual halfway point and it is now appropriate to start recognizing who’s been killing it and who hasn’t. So without further ado, let’s get to some midseason awards as well as my prediction for the Home Run Derby on Monday at the end.

AL MVP: Mike Trout-CF-Anaheim Angels

<> at Angel Stadium on July 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California.

This would be Trout’s third MVP before his 27th birthday should he hold on to the run he’s been on. At the break, he’s slashing .310/.454/.606 with 25 home runs and 50 RBI while leading the Majors with a WAR of 6.6. However Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts are both on a tear right now and both could catch him by the end of September.

Runners Up: Jose Ramirez-3B-Cleveland Indians, Mookie Betts-RF-Boston Red Sox

NL MVP: Nolan Arenado-3B-Colorado Rockies

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I would argue that Arenado should have won NL MVP last year but he’s picked up where he left off last season by slashing .309/.391/.585 with 23 homers and 67 RBI while leading the NL with a 3.8 WAR and playing an excellent defensive third base. Lorenzo Cain and Freddie Freeman aren’t far behind him and it’s a pretty wide open race.

Runners Up: Lorenzo Cain-CF-Milwaukee Brewers, Freddie Freeman-1B-Atlanta Braves

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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Chris Sale is the hottest pitcher in baseball right now, as he has been absolutely dominating opposing hitters of late, as he had an ERA of 1.76 in June and 0.69 in July. He leads the Majors with 188 strikeouts and has over 13 K/9. However if you were to argue for Luis Severino or Justin Verlander, I wouldn’t fight you over it.

Runners Up: Luis Severino-New York Yankees, Justin Verlander-Houston Astros

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom-New York Mets

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Since cutting his hair, Jacob deGrom has gone from really good to great, as he has far and away the best ERA in the Majors at 1.68 with a K/9 over 10 and a minuscule HR/9 of 0.51. As far as I’m oncerned, the only way deGrom doesn’t win the NL Cy Young Award is if he’s traded to an American League team. The Mets are currently fielding offers for him and may ship him before the Trade Deadline July 31st.

Runners Up: Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals, Aaron Nola-Philadelphia Phillies

AL Rookie of the Year: Gleyber Torres-2B-New York Yankees

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Gleyber Torres has been nothing short of phenomenal since his callup on April 22nd. He’s slashing .294/.350/.555 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI en route to making the All Star team as a 21 year-old rookie despite being in the Minor Leagues for the first month of the season. His own teammate, Miguel Andujar is also having a heck of a rookie campaign and likely isn’t far from Torres. Shohei Ohtani could also be considered but his UCL injury has a lot of things up in the air.

Runners Up: Miguel Andujar-3B-New York Yankees, Shohei Ohtani-SP/DH-Anaheim Angels

NL Rookie of the Year: Brian Anderson-RF-Miami Marlins

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There aren’t many legitimate candidates this season for the NL Rookie of the Year race, however Brian Anderson has been having a pretty solid season, slashing .288/.363/.429 with 8 homers and 49 RBI. Not a lot has gone right for the Marlins this season but Anderson has been pretty solid for them.

Runners Up: Alex Reyes-RP-St. Louis Cardinals, Christian Villanueva-3B-San Diego Padres

AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash-Tampa Bay Rays

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The fact that the Rays are headed to the All Star break with a record of 49-47 despite having literally no talent on the roster should alone earn Cash the nod for AL Manager of the Year. But he’s also had a ton of success using a 4-man rotation then a bullpen day for the 5th day. The “opener” is what they’re calling it. Cash’s Rays are starting to revolutionize starting relievers more frequently and even teams like the Red Sox have begun adopting the strategy.

Runners Up: Alex Cora-Boston Red Sox, Bob Melvin-Oakland Athletics

NL Manager of the Year: Brian Snitker-Atlanta Braves

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The Braves are several years ahead of schedule and the development of the young talent such as Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, Mike Soroka, and Sean Newcomb has been huge for the rise of the Braves and manager Brian Snitker deserves a lot of credit. The Braves look like legitimate pennant contenders this season in a very wide open NL field just a year after finishing 72-90 last season and making very few significant additions in the offseason.

Runners Up: Gabe Kapler-Philadelphia Phillies, Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

Home Run Derby Winner: Kyle Schwarber-LF-Chicago Cubs

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I’m a little biased since Kyle Schwarber and I both attended Indiana, but his power is made for a Home Run Derby. I will not only be rooting for my fellow Hoosier, but also picking him to win it.

That’s going to do it for my midseason awards, let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Major Announcement

I haven’t been posting much lately, I apologize. But there has been a LOT going on in my life lately. Well I’ve got some major news to talk about. I got hired by Pro Football Focus as a Player Personal Analyst (PPA). This is probably going to consume much of my fall and will only be compounded by the fact that I’ll still be taking classes to finish my degree at the same time. So this fall, the blog is going to be on the backburner. However, I would like to continue doing my weekly picks blogs and my College Football Playoff rankings when the time is right. But my top priorities are going to be school and PFF.

So what exactly will I be doing at PFF? Well as I mentioned, I’m a PPA, which requires me to watch the game that’s assigned to me and go through every single play and chart who is on the field, where they’re aligned, what their positional designation is, and what their role is on the play. This information gets sent to NCAA and NFL teams that are clients of PFF in order to learn the trends and formations that teams like to use. I’ve already gotten some practice at this, as I’ve charted the first quarter of the Iron Bowl, the first half of the Fiesta Bowl, and the entirety of the Alamo Bowl from this past season. I’m probably going to be mostly on college teams but there will certainly be plenty of NFL opportunities. Hopefully I can move up the ladder enough to where I’ll be writing for them and talking on their podcasts and youtube shows.

It’ll be tricky to keep this blog going, but I’m going to do my best to do so and I appreciate all the support I’ve received since I started this thing back in September. The only thing I can promise out of that is that I’m going to do my best to get picks and rankings out in the fall because those were always my favorite blogs to write.

Just How Good Have the Red Sox Been This Season?

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Before I get into the blog, I just wanted to apologize for the lack of content lately. My schedule has been absolutely STUFFED, plus there hasn’t been a ton of major news worth blogging about. But I feel that since it’s been a week since my last blog, I figured I’d pull something out just to keep things going.

So how ’bout them Red Sox, eh? After destroying the Royals 15-4 despite David Price not having his good stuff, they now carry a record of 61-29 through 90 games, a winning percentage of .678. If the Red Sox kept this pace, they’d finish with a record of approximately 110-52, which would surpass the previous franchise record of 105-47 in 1912 (their second World Series-winning team, first time being known as the “Red Sox”). In fact, the Red Sox have not won 100 games in a season since 1946, when they lost the World Series in 7 games to the St. Louis Cardinals when Johnny Pesky infamously “held the ball.” Here are some interesting tidbits about the Red Sox’ historically strong first half.

-If the Red Sox keep this pace and do reach the 110-win threshold, it would obliterate the previous record for rookie manager success, as Alex Cora’s 110-win season would be a record for rookie managers (unfortunately I am having a very difficult time finding the actual record for rookie managers so I couldn’t tell you how much Cora would hold the record by, but I’m assuming 110 would be the record. The highest I’ve been able to find is Ken Macha’s 96 in 2003 with the A’s). Cora’s .678 winning percentage would make him the winningest manager of the modern era for managers that lasted at least 1 season  (George Wright went 59-25 in his lone season as a manager in 1879 for a .702 winning percentage, however Cora has already managed more games than that dude).

-Mookie Betts is currently leading the majors in batting average (.343), slugging (.672), and OPS (1.112) and is third in the Majors in WAR at 5.2 and that’s even with missing 21 games due to injury. He’s been a legitimate MVP candidate all year and would likely be the favorite if Mike Trout weren’t on his bullshit at the moment.

-JD Martinez leads the Majors in both home runs and RBI with 27 and 73, respectively, and is on pace to hit over 50 home runs and drive in nearly 150 RBI while also hitting .329 with an OPS of 1.038. Remember when nobody wanted to sign him in the offseason? He’s been the best high-profile free agent acquisition the Red Sox have had since Manny Ramirez (yes, David Ortiz also joined the Red Sox via free agency, but at the time of his leaving the Minnesota Twins, he wasn’t considered “high profile”), which isn’t saying a lot because the Red Sox have whiffed on quite a few of those recently. But regardless, Martinez has been a major part of this offense.

-Mitch Moreland is currently sitting on a 2-year, $13M deal. There are 16 first basemen in the Majors making more than him and the only ones with a higher batting average than his .288 are Freddie Freeman (.304), Brandon Belt (.289), and Joey Votto (.294). Moreland is currently slashing .288/.354/.533 with 11 homers and 40 RBI and is probably the lowest profile cleanup hitter that is doing the best job of it at the moment. He also plays a very strong defensive first base, which cannot be understated given that the rest of the Red Sox infield tends to struggled defensively (Eduardo Nunez has a lot of mental lapses in the field, Xander Bogaerts has limited range, and Rafael Devers leads the Majors in errors at any position with 18).

-Chris Sale has been absolutely dominant of late. He’s carrying an ERA barely over 1 in his last 5 starts since getting roughed up by the Braves and is currently holding a 2.36 ERA while striking out roughly the same amount of batters per 9 innings (12.98) as he did last season (12.93) when he hit 308 punchouts. At the rate he’s going, he may be in line to start his third consecutive All Star Game and perhaps land his first Cy Young Award (though Houston’s Justin Verlander may have something to say about that).

-David Price had been lights out prior to getting roughed up in his last two starts. Since the carpal tunnel problem, he had gone on a 7-start stretch where he was carrying an ERA of 2.63. Price seems to turn it on as soon as everybody starts talking about what a bust of a signing he was so perhaps we may see another string of stellar outings pretty soon.

-The Red Sox’ bullpen has quietly been pretty strong for the team, as they’re 6th in the Majors in bullpen ERA. That effort is spearheaded by Craig Kimbrel, who is again dicing up opposing hitters with a 2.02 ERA and 13.12 K/9. Matt Barnes has been going a bit under the radar for the team this year, as he’s carrying a 2.45 ERA with over 12 K/9 and actually has the same WAR as Kimbrel right now at 1.0. Hector Velazquez has been a welcome addition to the ‘pen, as his bullpen ERA is 2.91 and he’s also capable of making a spot start should the team need him.

-The Red Sox are tops in the Majors in runs scored and that’s despite the fact that they have gotten absolutely nothing out of their 6-9 hitters. The combination of Rafael Devers (who is admittedly starting to heat up a little bit), Eduardo Nunez, the catchers Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr have basically been liabilities this season. The Red Sox are basically only getting production out of Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Martinez, Moreland, and Bogaerts and they still lead the Majors in runs scored. But despite some of the poor hitting, some of these guys in the bottom of the order help your team in others ways. Jackie Bradley Jr is a magician in the outfield and quite frankly, I can give him some leeway for his hitting woes because of how good in the field he is (the fact he doesn’t have a gold glove is a crime). Christian Vazquez is basically impossible for base stealers to run on. Sandy Leon calls a very good game. Devers is a guy who can take you deep if you aren’t careful.

-Really the only black hole the Red Sox have had is at second base, where Eduardo Nunez has had a really tough season both offensively and defensively. He’s been losing a lot of playing time to Brock Holt, who is hitting a cool .296 at the moment but is best utilized as a swiss army knife. Dustin Pedroia’s knee problems have me VERY worried about his future and I wonder if the Red Sox will pursue a second baseman at the trade deadline (or just call up the recently signed Brandon Phillips).

So yeah, the Sox are really freaking good. But it’s going to be critical that they outpace the Yankees in the division, who currently hold the tie-breaker over them. The Yankees are just 2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East right now and with the new Wild Card stipulations, winning the division is that much more important. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ hot start in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

LeBron James Signs With the Lakers

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As I craftily predicted, LeBron James will be taking his talents out west to Hollywood. The deal, as Woj pointed out, is a league max of 4 years and $154M. It was also interesting to note that some of LeBron’s reps were in Philly meeting with the 76ers, who were the other team that seemed most likely to land his services. He was not present at those meetings, though, and he was in fact in Los Angeles. Now he joins the storied Laker franchise that has the second most titles among all NBA franchises (trailing the Celtics, of course).

So what does this mean for the NBA? Well, first and foremost the Western Conference is now even more of a bloodbath than ever. You have, of course, the Warriors, who have won 3 out of the last 4 titles and were a blown 3-1 lead away from having won 4 in a row. You have the Houston Rockets who took the Warriors to the brink and are bringing back their future Hall of Fame point guard in Chris Paul with a max deal (again, as I craftily predicted) as well as reigning MVP James Harden. You have the Thunder, sort of, who managed to convince Paul George to stay even though everyone and their mother thought he’d be joining LeBron in LA. And now you have the Lakers, who are mainly just LeBron James right now since he hasn’t really acquired any teammates yet. However LeBron has taken a worse supporting cast to the NBA Finals before so just because there isn’t a ton of talent around him now doesn’t mean that doesn’t make the Lakers contenders.

This also takes a mack truck and clears all the small children out of the road for the Celtics to reach their first NBA Finals since 2010 (which happened to be against the Lakers). There is virtually no competition for them. Yeah, the 76ers and Raptors are pretty good, but the Celtics curb stomped the 76ers in the second round of the playoffs last year while the Raptors got destroyed by the Cavaliers, whom the Celtics took to Game 7. And the Celtics did all that without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, who will both be healthy for the start of the 2018-19 season. The LeBron signing also opens the door for a potential LeBron James vs Kyrie Irving NBA Finals, which will just be a bonanza of storylines to work with.

So what do the Lakers need to do in order to unseat the Warriors? Well for one, they need another player. Since they traded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance to the Cavaliers at the Trade Deadline (very sneaky play there, LeBron), the Lakers now have room for 2 max contracts in their salary cap. LeBron takes up one of them and they could use another one on one of the potential free agents still out there (DeMarcus Cousins) or pay Kawhi Leonard after acquiring him in a trade from the Spurs (or both, since Leonard has stated he doesn’t really care about the max contract, he just wants out of San Antonio). The development of Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball is also critical, however the latter’s may take a little more time since he tore his meniscus and it is unknown how much time he’s going to miss. Provided, their development only matters as long as one or both of these two aren’t part of a package for Kawhi Leonard. However, since the Lakers have no other ammunition except the potential of Ingram and Ball, there really isn’t any other option for them if they want to land Leonard. I’m also interested to see how LeBron works with Lakers head coach Luke Walton, who was taken 31 spots after LeBron in the 2003 NBA Draft. Pretty much everywhere he’s been, LeBron has basically been the Jackie Moon of his organization and has been the alpha over his head coach. Walton doesn’t strike me as the pushover that Tyronn Lue does or David Blatt and Erik Spoelstra did so there could be some potential head butting.

But regardless, this coming NBA season will certainly be a lot more interesting than last season’s. That’s it for today’s blog, sorry about the brevity but I just came back from the beach and I am just dead, however I couldn’t NOT blog this news so I powered through it the best I could. Good on me. Let me know what you think of LeBron James joining the Lakers in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.