What NBA Free Agency Can Teach Us about the International System & Political Signaling

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By James Neary

The intersectionality of politics and sports is an ever-present fissure in the harsh divisions of America today. You can yell back and forth across the dinner table about why players should or should not kneel, wear black hoodies, or lambast the president. But you can’t argue this: sports ​are politics. Power dynamics, economics, and public relations are obvious driving forces behind both the Warriors and the White House. While this article largely focuses on the context of the NBA and the boisterous atmosphere surrounding free agency headed into this weekend, the concepts mentioned here will be largely applicable to other leagues as well. While to most political scholars the metaphor is apparent, the sports fan less versed in the traditions of Capitol Hill stands to gain a lot from this discussion.

Although the metaphor isn’t perfect, the NBA today can be seen as an international system similar to the one every human on earth calls their own, except for maybe Marxists. Political scholars usually refer to our syste​m as ​anarchy ,which you know the meaning of. Despite the UN and other international organizations’ best effort to instill some rule of law on a global level, realist theory in political science argues that doesn’t mean much. How the NBA functions similarly to this follows: Each team acting as a nation, or ‘black box,’ in which you can hardly see the inner policy, practices, and traditions of the institution itself, but are left instead with the resulting implications of the choices made through their internal processes. There are institutions such as the NBA itself, the NBPA, the television and internet service providers, etc. that do impose rules over combat (games), economics (salary caps), diplomacy (trades), and ethics (dress code). Politically, either from a realist or liberal (not like that, idiots) perspective, the argument can be made both that these institutions do and do not play a leading role in the decisions made by teams.

Now that the overall framework and political theory is established, it’s time to take a look at this year’s NBA free agency circus and see how it corresponds to our political conditions. To be completely forthcoming, I’m a diehard Celtics fan, but I also appreciate the unprecedented grandeur of (IMHO) the greatest player of ever, Lebron. In our metaphor, the games these teams play against each other are representative of actual battle between states. This can be thought of as either military or economic competition, as the former seems to be traded for the latter in recent politics. If you are going with the most basic metaphor, games as battles, then in that context Lebron is equal to the largest concentrated nuclear payload on Earth. Golden State has the most combined nukes, and maybe even the second largest single concentration in KD or Steph. Draymond is kind of like a predator missile: easy to deploy and very destructive, but can cause a lot of unwanted damage. Teams, just like states, are in a constant struggle with others to secure these assets and deploy them effectively on the battlefield to maximize their returns.

As stated above, the metaphor isn’t perfect, but it’s obvious the teams in the NBA (and the WNBA, NFL, CFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, LLWS… maybe not that last one) function according to a framework of power dynamics similar to that of our international system. What prompted this discussion, however, is the ​seemingly exaggerated media circus leading up to Lebron, Kawhi, and PG’s decision to stay or leave their respective teams this year. Sorry to burst the bubble, but I’m of the school of thought that this is not out of the ordinary in any way. It’s the very nature of our political institutions and their derivative economy to systematically bombard us with information every hour of the day, every day of the year. This might be a phenomenon that has developed recently, seeing as the most unrelenting place it manifests itself, in both the political and athletic arenas, is my push notifications. The logic stands though, the NBA or any other sports organization has nothing to gain in a quiet offseason. They lose money, they lose ratings, and they lose traction. Michelle Beadle and Mike Greenberg, on GetUp! On ESPN following the NBA awards, pointed out the balance of awkwardness for having the show so long after the regular season (when the votes were cast) and of politics for having so much invested in such an ambitious event. So there it is, whether through free agency, championship parades, fallings out between superstars, or fashion shows, the NBA will always give you as much to talk about in the offseason as it can.

 

That being said, what was about this offseason in particular that prompted such a discussion on the intersectionality of sports and politics? To be honest, I think the average basketball fan is becoming increasingly aware of this connection due to the rate at and ease with which we see these developments. What has been particularly noticeable this offseason is the amount of political signaling going on between teams and parties. Magic Johnson, proving to be a very skilled statesmen, has executed some of the better attempts at this so far. Signaling to fans his resolve, he recently committed to stepping down as President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers if he were unable to land some big free agents this offseason or next. Signaling resolve is often used by leaders during international combat, but can be utilized in economic and diplomatic relations as well. Perhaps most similar to Magic’s case in a relevant American context, Republican Senate Candidate for Missouri Austin Petersen challenged grassroots Republican primary adversary Tony Monetti to a high stakes unofficial ballot in which the loser would resign. Both candidates initially agreed, but Monetti backed out, signaling weak resolve to his voting base while Petersen signaled strong. US Rep Maxine Waters’ call for private discrimination against members of the Trump administration and Senator Chuck Schumer’s condemnation of her remarks are also signals of resolve relevant to their respective voting bases. Magic Johnson’s recent strategic move, however, is also indicative another political phenomenon we’ve seen play out on the international stage recently. What Magic did was essentially ‘draw a line in the sand,’ as President Obama did in 2012 with his denunciation of the Assad regime in Syria. What weight these red lines actually hold in practice however, is up for debate.

Besides just the words of Magic Johnson, there have been numerous occurrences of political signaling in recent days of the NBA offseason. Perhaps the most obnoxious form of signaling is coming from Lavar Ball. When looking at the dynamics of the Kawhi Leonard situation, Lavar’s endless media stunts, self-promotion, and cold takes make perfect sense. The Spurs, a franchise notorious for flying under the radar and giving the media as limited access as possible, see Lavar as significant cost to obtaining Lonzo from the Lakers. The fact that it’s the Spurs makes that cost significantly higher than it would be for any other team as well. Knowing that the Lakers will probably have to deal Zo or Kuzma to San Antonio to grab Kawhi, Lavar is making it exponentially more difficult for that deal to happen with his son. Therefore, Lavar is setting up Lonzo, a pass-first and lanky rebounding point guard, to play with two of the greatest two-way wings of all time. A pretty brilliant move in my opinion, and one that echos Israel’s attempts to leverage as much power as they possibly can to shift the international relation strategies of the United States more in their favor.

 

The metaphors and political connections in this scenario between the Lakers, Spurs, and Lebron do not stop there obviously. You have virtue signaling, like in that horrible poem that Lakers intern wrote for softy Paul George. Commitment signaling, like in how Kyrie was absent from the Celtics bench in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals this year. I think it could even be reasonably argued that Lonzo’s diss track to Kuzma was a signal to Lebron that he was willing to part ways with his good friend to make space for him. The Lakers, evidently thought this was poorly executed, as they reprimanded the two rising sophomores for their antics, thus signaling to Lebron their capabilities. Lebron has even engaged in this signaling himself, most probably by orchestrating leaks from his camp that he doesn’t want to hear any pitches, most absurdly by wearing a hat during the finals saying “There is no magic pill.” It seems that every year, every summer, there has developed this atmosphere of circus surrounding NBA free agency. I hope that I’ve established this atmosphere is far from unprecedented or unreasonable. Applying frameworks of political science, including organizations of international systems, political signaling, and power dynamics is useful for understanding the neverending onslaught of Joel Embiid’s tweets and Stephen A.’s rants involving the NBA.

Golden State Warriors Sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers to Win Their 3rd Title in 4 Years

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Finally, it’s over. An NBA season that was about as predictable as the sun rising has mercifully come to an end. Warriors-Cavs IV was kind of a drag when all was said and done. Yeah the Cavs kept it close a couple times (probably should have won Game 1), but I don’t think anybody really believed they were going to pull off the upset over Golden State. I figured they’d at least win one game, but alas, Golden State pulled off the sweep in convincing fashion with a 108-85 victory. Now that I think about it, there hasn’t been a sweep in the NBA Finals since the Spurs swept the Cavs in 2007, LeBron’s first ever trip to the Finals. So I guess I’ll give the NBA that. In all honesty, this was really the first time I didn’t give a shit. The first installment of Cavs-Warriors was basically “oh cool, two new teams even though one of them has LeBron James for the 5th straight year.” The Warriors won in 5 games thanks in large part to a Kyrie Irving knee injury. Cavs-Warriors II was like “oh…a repeat.” That one actually turned out to be a really good series as the Cavs won the city of Cleveland’s first title since 1948 in 7 games, a series in which the Warriors famously blew a 3-1 series lead. Cavs-Warriors III’s main storylines were “the tie breaker” and “can Kevin Durant get that elusive first ring?” Warriors won in 5. But what can you really do with Cavs-Warriors IV? There weren’t any interesting storylines and even the Warriors didn’t even look that excited that they won the Finals.

The Warriors won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, either. Kevin Durant can opt out of his contract basically whenever he wants but as long as this team is winning like they are, why would he? Steph Curry has 3 years left on a deal he signed last season, Draymond Green has 2 years left, and Klay Thompson will be a free agent after next season provided he doesn’t get a new deal before that. So this super team isn’t going anywhere and its nucleus will be firmly cemented next season.

As for the Cavaliers, this was most likely their last chance. LeBron James is a free agent and all signs point to him leaving the Cavaliers once again and it would be hard to blame him. There’s just no way the Cavaliers are going to be able to get much more help for him to get over the hump that is the Warriors. When a guy takes that supporting cast to the NBA Finals, you know he’s on another level. There’s a reason people are legitimately debating whether he’s better than Michael Jordan. The problem with his legacy, though, is that he’s now 3-6 in his NBA Finals career, a .333 winning percentage. The first title came in a strike-shortened season, the second came with the help of a CLUTCH Ray Allen 3-pointer to save them from elimination, and the third came after Draymond Green got suspended for a Finals game, giving the Cavs the momentum they needed to overcome the first ever 3-1 Finals deficit. I’m not one to say that these should be held against LeBron, because as far as I’m concerned, a win is a win is a win and the fact that he has played in 9 NBA Finals is incredible and he doesn’t get enough credit for that feat. But there will always be naysayers who will pick apart literally everything. I won’t delve too deep into where I think LeBron James will wind up in the offseason because, quite frankly, we don’t know shit yet. For a while I heard it was certainly going to be the Lakers, now I’m hearing 76ers. All I know is that I really want him to choose a Western Conference team so my Celtics can go to the Finals for the first time since 2010.

We also shouldn’t discount what LeBron has done in these last 8 years. Since 2011, every single Eastern Conference representative in the NBA Finals has featured LeBron James (4 years for the Heat, 4 years for the Cavaliers). The last time LeBron wasn’t in the Finals was 2010 when the Lakers beat the Celtics in 7 games. Where was I the last time there was an NBA Finals game without LeBron James? My middle school graduation dance, which had the horrifically poor timing of being during Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Here’s a picture of me from that day.

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In case you were wondering, I was mad because my crush was dancing with another dude. It was a rough night for me. She was with that dude and the Celtics were losing a sloppy game to the Lakers while I was stuck at this dance I didn’t want to be at but was morally obligated to because I would never see most of these people that I had grown up with ever again. Now look how far I’ve come since the last time LeBron James wasn’t in the Finals.

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I conquered Westeros, took my place on the Iron Throne, and got a much-needed hair cut. It’s unbelievable what can happen in 8 years.

So here’s to what should be a VERY interesting offseason in the NBA. Let me know what you thought of the Finals in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NBA Finals Preview

*Sigh.* Here we go again. As I, and literally everybody else, predicted, it’s Warriors-Cavaliers for the fourth consecutive season in the NBA Finals. I already bitched about this yesterday so I’m not going to do that here. I’m just going to do what I always do when I prepare for championship games: go position-by-position and give advantages where I see fit. So without further ado, let’s do it.

Point Guard

Warriors: Stephen Curry

Cavaliers: George Hill

Advantage: Warriors

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Duh. Even if Curry isn’t 100%, he’s still the most impactful point guard in the game today. He’s one of the greatest shooters of all time and people don’t talk about his handles enough. Hill’s not a bad player, don’t get me wrong, he’s actually pretty good. But he can’t hold a candle to Steph.

Shooting Guard

Warriors: Klay Thompson

Cavaliers: Rodney Hood

Advantage: Warriors

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Another pretty easy one and it’s basically the same explanation as point guard: Thompson is one of the best shooters of all time and while Hood isn’t a bad player, he can’t hold a candle to Thompson. I know it’s copy-paste, but that’s been the NBA Finals the last four years, hasn’t it?

Small Forward

Warriors: Kevin Durant

Cavaliers: LeBron James

Advantage: Cavaliers

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This is probably the closest matchup in these comparisons. Kevin Durant has been doing most of the dirty work for the Warriors while Steph Curry has been dealing with an injury. But LeBron James is the best player on the planet, perhaps all time (I’m not getting suckered into the LeBron-Jordan debate. I won’t do it). He has to win out here. But that being said, KD can do things with a basketball that nobody else can and he will have a huge impact on this series.

Power Forward

Warriors: Draymond Green

Cavaliers: Kevin Love

Advantage: Warriors

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This was another close one but I’m going to give the edge to the Warriors mainly because I have a soft spot for guys that stuff the stat sheet. Green may be a bit undersized for his position and style of play, but you can’t deny the guy gets numbers and plays great defense. Love has a tendency to disappear at times from games but he can also put on an absolute show if he can get into a rhythm. But Green is more consistent, so he wins out.

Center

Warriors: JaVale McGee

Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson

Advantage: Cavaliers

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JaVale McGee is easily the weakest link in the Warriors’ starting 5 but the other members are so good that he can get away with just being in the background. Tristan Thompson is a rebounding machine and really turned it on late in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics. He’s going to need to dominate the glass if the Cavaliers are going to have any shot of upsetting the Warriors in this series.

Bench

Warriors: Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, David West, Kevon Looney, Zaza Pachulia, Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell, Damian Jones, Quinn Cook

Cavaliers: JR Smith, Jeff Green, Kyle Korver, Larry Nance Jr, Jordan Clarkson, Jose Calderon, Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, Kendrick Perkins, Okaro White

Advantage: Cavaliers

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This might be a slight upset but my reasoning for putting the Cavs over the Warriors in this regard is that Andre Iguodala is not healthy. A healthy Iggy and the Warriors win this category no problem. But aside from him and Shaun Livingston, the Warriors bench doesn’t do a whole lot for the team. With the Cavs, a lot of their bench guys have had plenty of time in the starting lineup and can explode at any second (Smith, Green, and Korver in particular). So I’m going with the Cavs for bench.

Head Coach

Warriors: Steve Kerr

Cavaliers: Tyronn Lue

Advantage: Warriors

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Tyronn Lue may be the worst coach to ever win the NBA Finals. Granted, he was technically an interim head coach when the Cavs won in 2016, having fired David Blatt midway through the season, but Lue is basically just a guy who chills at the head coaching chair on the bench while LeBron runs this team. As for Kerr, I honestly have no idea if he’s good or not because his team is so goddamn good. I mean, Hell, he took a game off and his team still won by 40. But I do know for certain that he’s better than Lue so the Warriors win this category.

Final Score: Warriors: 4 Cavaliers: 3

I do believe that the Warriors will win this series in 5 games. Now yes, they only won my categories by 1 spot, however the gap for the Warriors’ wins was significant while the gap for the Cavs’ wins was minuscule. So I stand by my prediction from yesterday that the series will go 5 games. As for MVP? I think Durant repeats as Finals MVP. That’s going to do it for my NBA Finals predictions, let me know how you think the series is going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

I’m Sick of Seeing the Same Shit Every Year

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You want to know why I don’t blog about basketball that much? Do you want to know why I blog more about random baseball games than I do about the NBA Playoffs? It’s because it’s just not worth writing about. It’s the same shit every year, it seems. There is a MAJOR parity issue in the NBA.

The Cavaliers have won the Eastern Conference for the 4th consecutive year and it’s the 8th consecutive year that the East’s representative in the Finals is led by LeBron James. Now, that’s not to say I’m salty against LeBron or saying that he should stop winning so damn much. He’s the greatest player on the planet and perhaps of all time, especially considering he’s taken this dumpster fire of a Cavs team this far (I still think his taking the 2006-07 Cavs to the Finals was more impressive. LeBron really was by himself that year. At least this year he has Kevin Love, who people often forget is a good player).

This also may come off as sour grapes considering I’m writing this shortly after my Celtics lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m well aware of that. But believe me, I blame the Celtics for that loss. They shot 29-85 (34.1%) from the field and 7-39 (17.9%) from 3. You’re just not going to win when you shoot that poorly. Defensively, they did their job. They just couldn’t get their shots to fall.

But there is literally no parity in the NBA and it’s making it hard to care about the league. Now yes, the Warriors still have to beat the Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals tonight, but come on, who really expects the Rockets to win this game, especially without Chris Paul and with James Harden in this weird stretch of shooting? I may come back to eat those words, but whatever. That would make it 4 straight years of the same matchup in the NBA Finals. FOUR!!! It’s never happened in baseball (there has never been more than 2 consecutive identical World Series matchups), it’s never happened in the NFL (they have only repeated Super Bowl matchups once: Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII where the Cowboys beat the Bills on both occasions), just now in the NBA. It never even happened in the NHL, either, and there was a time when there were just 6 fucking teams!

The NBA seems to have this issue of super teams that also plagues the United States, where most of the league’s talent is held by the top 1% of teams. But basketball seems to be the sport that is easiest for one player to take over a game. LeBron James is so good that he could probably lead this year’s Suns team to the Finals while the Golden State Warriors have the “Death Lineup” (I refuse to call them the “Hampton Five” because that’s just so much less cooler than “Death Lineup”) that is so good that head coach Steve Kerr literally took a game off, let the players do whatever they wanted, and still won by 40. The fact that a team like the Warriors can boast 4 superstar players and still somehow not face any sort of salary cap restrictions is just bonkers.

Am I saying the Warriors and Cavaliers should tone it down and let other teams catch up? Absolutely not. This is more that the other 28 teams need to step their game up because the NBA is just getting unwatchable to me. I can’t just keep watching the same NBA Finals over and over again. I can already tell you how this year’s series is going to go, too. The Warriors will win in 5 and will absolutely dominate a couple of them. LeBron will be so good in one of the games (let’s say…Game 3) that he practically wins it all by himself. However despite the fact that Steph Curry isn’t 100%, the Warriors are still able to lean on Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to take over the game and fluster the Cavs’ cast of benchwarmers to the point where LeBron actually breaks down in tears in frustration. Book it.

So what do I suggest the league do about such a thing? Well I don’t know if there’s anything they really CAN do. The Warriors drafted Curry, Thompson, and Green and the success of those three allowed them to land Durant in free agency. What are you going to do, encourage teams NOT to draft quality players when they already have some? Quite frankly, the only way I see any real change happening is if LeBron left the Cavaliers this offseason and joined a Western Conference team. That way it will become a legitimate mystery as to who will come out of the East and it won’t be an absolute cakewalk getting to the NBA Finals for the Warriors.

But something has to change in order to renew my interest in this league because quite frankly, I’m sick of it.

I apologize if I come off as testy. The Celtics’ crap shooting can do that to a man. I was actually in a really good mood before I turned that game on because I just got done watching Solo and I was actually pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t the dumpster fire I was expecting it to be and I actually had fun watching it. Also, the cameo at the end has me very intrigued about the Star Wars Anthology films going forward. I’d go into more detail but this is a sports blog and Star Wars is for NERDS, not us jocks. Oh well. Am I overreacting to the NBA’s parity issue? Or is this a legitimate concern? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Rookies Best (and Worst) Set up for Early Success

So every year guys get drafted by teams that just put them in the perfect situation, whether that be the scheme fit or having the right supporting cast around them. A lot of times success and failure in the NFL is based on just being in the best situation. So with that, let’s take a look at some rookies that are in the best and worst position to succeed.

Best: Sony Michel-RB-New England Patriots

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This one’s not quite so obvious, but hear me out. Yes, Michel is in a VERY crowded backfield in New England and he’s going to be in an offense that prefers to throw the ball (who could blame them with the GOAT slinging it). However it’s a very similar situation to what he had at Georgia and look how that turned out. Michel shared a backfield first with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb, then with Chubb and D’Andre Swift. Nowadays he’s going to be sharing with James White (pass catcher), Rex Burkhead (wildcard), and either Jeremy Hill or Mike Gillislee (power back) and replacing Dion Lewis as the de facto all-around guy. One of Michel’s main issues coming out of college was stamina and when you’re splitting carries, it allows you to remain fresh throughout the game. Michel will basically be doing the exact same thing in New England that he was at Georgia only this time the roles are more defined and there will likely be a specific gameplan geared towards his skills. I think that bodes well for his future NFL success. He may never reach 1000 rushing yards in a season, but his yards per carry is probably going to be nuts.

Worst: Sam Darnold-QB-New York Jets

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Darnold is probably the safest quarterback in this year’s class. There’s very little that he does poorly, or at least there are far fewer red flags than what you get from the other quarterbacks. However there was one major flaw at USC that had me a little concerned about team fits and that was the fact that his play dropped significantly when the talent around him wasn’t as good. He was awesome his redshirt freshman season when he was throwing to guys like Juju Smith-Schuster, however when Juju was drafted by the Steelers and Darnold’s entire offensive line went pro as well, he struggled mightily. While from a talent standpoint, the Jets are obviously better than USC, they are one of the least talented offenses on paper. Robbie Anderson is the #1 receiver and while he had a pretty solid season last year, that was more out of necessity than anything. The offensive line of the Jets isn’t great either and unless the front office somehow manages to swing a deal for some talent before Darnold gets the starting job (whether that be this year or next), he could be in for a world of hurt, no matter how good he is.

Best: Saquon Barkley-RB-New York Giants

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Barkley doesn’t really need help to be great but he’s going to get it anyway. Not only is he the most talented runningback to come out of college maybe ever, but he’s going into a situation that will be really beneficial for him. Now yes, the Giants sucked last season, but injuries and offensive line woes played a big part of that. Well ODell Beckham Jr is coming back healthy and the Giants signed Nate Solder at left tackle and drafted Will Hernandez out of UTEP to play guard. Plus, if they should decide to move Ereck Flowers to guard, that could wind up being beneficial for his career. So having Beckham back to take pressure off of him and an improved offensive line should set up Barkley nicely for early career success.

Worst: Denzel Ward-CB-Cleveland Browns

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Ward is a really good corner but given the Browns’ lack of options at the position, he may draw #1 receiver duties from Day 1. Now granted, it worked for Marshon Lattimore with the Saints last year, but I felt like Lattimore was a more complete player than Ward was. Ward struggled with the bigger receivers and there are plenty of them in the AFC North like AJ Green, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Michael Crabtree. Plus there’s also the smaller but even more dangerous Antonio Brown to contend with. Lattimore didn’t have an ideal group of guys to cover either like Julio Jones and Mike Evans, but again, he was more polished than Ward is and Lattimore also didn’t have to draw #1 receiver duties out of the gate. And even if he did, he had better safeties available to bail him out should he need them. I’m not saying Ward isn’t up to the challenge because if any cornerback in this year’s rookie class is it’s him, but his situation isn’t ideal by any stretch.

Best: Rashaan Evans-LB-Tennessee Titans

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Evans was a leader on Alabama’s National Championship-winning defense and it looks like he’s going to be thrust into the limelight in Tennessee as well, as he immediately becomes the best member of the Titans’ needle-thin linebacking corp. The offensive lines he’ll be going up against in the AFC South are mediocre and the only really potentially deadly runningback he’ll have to face at this point is Leonard Fournette. He’s also got an excellent coach of linebackers in Mike Vrabel as his head coach so he’s going to get even further mentoring. He’s in prime position for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Worst: Rashaad Penny-RB-Seattle Seahawks

<> on December 23, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Penny was a reach by Seattle, however given that he was likely going to be gone the next time they picked (late 3rd round), I can understand why they went that route if they were so high on him. Penny’s a good back, don’t get me wrong, and he fits the bruising style of running back the Seahawks like to employ. However the Seahawks have once again hardly touched that god-awful offensive line this offseason so they’re just setting Penny up for failure. Duane Brown at left tackle is the only competent guy on that offensive line and he’s going to be 33 when the season starts. He’s basically going to be running for his life out there. Plus aside from Doug Baldwin, there aren’t any receivers of note to take the pressure off the running game. Again, Penny does have the power to bulldoze over guys, but he’s going to get stuffed behind the line more often than not and I’ve got a feeling his yards per carry numbers are going to be pretty ugly.

So those are just a few guys that have some interesting situations brought about with them. I stuck with just first rounders given that the expectations for them are so much higher than the others. Let me know what you think of these conundrums in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: May 3

at Fenway Park on May 2, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts.

-Mookie Betts is on a freaking tear. While he did miss some time with a leg injury (his absence was more precautionary than anything since it was determined to just be a bruise), he has been a monster for the Red Sox in the first month of the season, culminating with his 4th career 3-home run game, the most in franchise history. The Major League record is 6 by Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa. Oh and he’s still just 25 years old. Mookie is currently hitting .365 with a Major League-leading 11 home runs and 21 RBI and along with the hot-hitting Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, and JD Martinez, the Red Sox boast one of the deadliest lineups in baseball to go along with a stellar pitching rotation. This team is scary. 

-Not to be outdone, Indians DH Edwin Encarnacion also hit 3 home runs in a game, this one against the Rangers. As of right now, I have no idea if there has ever been 2 3-home run games on the same day in Major League history, but it sounds like one of those oddities that could be the case. Encarnacion really needed a game like this because heading into it, he was slashing .171/.250/.352, which are abysmal numbers for the notorious slow-starter. However once he gets going, there isn’t a deadlier right-handed bat in the Majors. As I mentioned, Encarnacion always gets off to a slow start to the season and by the end of it, he’s usually his typically dangerous self. He is 35, though, so perhaps a downward trend is on the horizon.

-Glenn Jacobs won the Republican nomination in the Knox County, Tennessee mayoral race. Since he is a Republican in Tennessee, that pretty much all but guarantees that he’s going to become Knox County’s next mayor. In fact, he won the Republican nomination by just 17 votes! Now, you might be wondering why I give a shit about this when I’ve made it known I hate politics and this is seemingly the most unimportant mayoral race ever. Well the fact of the matter is that I love Glenn Jacobs and he had a profound impact on my childhood and even now currently in my adulthood. Never heard of him? Well, that’s because he is better known to the public by a different name. HE’S FUCKING KANE FROM WWE!!! That’s right, the Big Red Machine, the Undertaker’s brother, the guy who had some very problematic storylines in the WWE (including an angle where he rapes a female wrestler, impregnates her, then another wrestler causes her to miscarry) is the favorite to become the mayor of a county in Tennessee. When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to perform wrestling moves on each other like any other kids. There were a few moves that we liked to do. The one we probably did the most was Chris Jericho’s “Walls of Jericho” mainly because it was a pretty easy move as well as John Cena’s “Attitude Adjustment” (which back then was called “The FU”). But Kane’s “Chokeslam” was one of our favorites to do. So I’m pretty excited for the Devil’s Favorite Demon to hit that Chokeslam on some ne’er-do-wells in Knox County, Tennessee and have Hellfire lining the sidewalks. Here are some Gifs to showcase just how great a mayor Kane is going to make.

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Don’t you just love America? Also, Kane’s first name is “Glenn.” If that doesn’t destroy a man’s aura then I don’t know what does.

-Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer thinks that Astros pitchers may be doctoring the baseballs. In a Twitter thread, Bauer basically stated that the balls feel stickier there and that he feels that it’s very suspicious that Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have become absolute monsters since joining the Astros and went into a rant about gum and stuff like that. While I am a fan of Bauer and his lack of filter, I think this is a bit farfetched and just begging for somebody to get targeted when the Indians and Astros square off. First of all, yes, Verlander and Cole have seen significant upticks in production since joining the Astros. However these are also two of the most talented pitchers in baseball who needed a change in scenery and got that in Houston. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that Verlander and Cole would be #1 and #2, respectively, in the AL in strikeouts, which is where they currently rank. These guys have always been strikeout pitchers and now they seem to be invigorated. I think it’s more likely that Astros pitching coach Brent Strom is doing a Hell of a job. I mean have you seen Charlie Morton lately? A 34 year-old hitting 99 mph has nothing to do with doctoring baseballs. Strom is just killing it with these guys right now.

-I finished All or Nothing’s Dallas Cowboys edition a few days ago but kept forgetting to give my thoughts on it like I did with their Michigan edition. Here’s a few things I noticed:

Michigan definitely employed a no-swearing policy because the Cowboys had some of the biggest potty-mouths in the league (Dez Bryant being a particularly big offender). I was also a little surprised by head coach Jason Garrett’s potty mouth. He strikes me as the kind of guy who says “flipping” when he means “fucking.” But nope. No he says “fucking” like a normal person.

Cowboys runningbacks coach Gary Brown was the breakout star of this show. His relationship with the runningbacks was kind of a mixture of a father who will be your best friend but will also impart his wisdom upon you. This was very apparent when he had the backs over his house for dinner with his family and you could just tell everybody loved each other. Darren McFadden showing up dressed like Brown and talking like he does was also pretty amusing. I actually had no idea McFadden actually retired during the season until All or Nothing talked about it. Shame, too. McFadden was a big “what if” in the NFL because he was extremely talented but was held back by injuries.

Dez Bryant and Jourdan Lewis talking trash to each other was my favorite part of the series. It was only a one-part segment but these guys were jawing at each other during their STRETCHING. It was pretty funny how much tension you could sense, though I kind of got the vibe that Lewis was just trying to provoke Bryant and Bryant was taking the bait. They then went one-on-one with each other and had to get separated because Lewis got pissed because he thought Dez pushed off of him when he made the catch (he kind of did, but it was pretty bang-bang).

My one complaint was that I don’t think they emphasized Tyron Smith’s importance to the offense enough. Yes, when he went down, they made sure to highlight that his replacements, Chaz Green and Byron Bell, got absolutely DESTROYED by Adrian Clayborn to the tune of 6 sacks. But while they were in the starting roles there was little to no mention of Smith’s absence or recovery timetable. In fact, they didn’t even acknowledge his return. Smith is the best left tackle in football now that Joe Thomas is retired but you wouldn’t know it based on All or Nothing. In fact, I think the entire offensive line kind of got the shaft in favor of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

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. Vote Kane.

 

The Wonderlic Test: Football’s Most Puzzling Test of Players

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The Wonderlic Test is something that the NFL has potential Draft prospects take in order to test their intelligence. We often hear about leaked scores and which players performed well and which didn’t. The test is 50 questions and you have 12 minutes to complete it. Well, I took a sample Wonderlic while I was taking a break from writing my papers and guess what?

I’m in the 97th percentile among NFL prospects. Put me in coach!

I got a 38 on the Wonderlic, which actually ranks pretty well. Only one prospect has ever scored a perfect 50 on it, that being former Harvard punter Pat McInally back in the 70’s. McInally was a 5th round pick by the Bengals in the 1975 NFL Draft and went on to be their punter for a decade. The worst was former LSU corner Morris Claiborne and former Iowa State running back Darren Davis, both of whom scored a 4. Davis went undrafted and ended up playing in the CFL while Claiborne was made the 6th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Claiborne was overall a bust with Dallas but he started showing some signs of being a solid corner upon joining the Jets. Here are some notable players who did really well on the Wonderlic.

Ryan Fitzpatrick-48

Ben Watson-48

Eric Decker-43

Blaine Gabbert-42

Calvin Johnson-41

Carson Wentz-40

Here are some guys who compared with me. Mind you, my score was a 38.

Eli Manning-39

Matthew Stafford-38

Colin Kapernick-38

Andrew Luck-37 (Yes, I scored higher than the supposed “genius” Andrew Luck)

Josh Allen-37

Tony Romo-37

Joey Bosa-37

Jared Goff-37

Drew Bledsoe-36

Sam Bradford-36

Aaron Rodgers-35

Jonathan Ogden-35

Tom Brady-33

And here are some guys who did really poorly.

Morris Claiborne-4

Frank Gore-6

Vince Young-6

Kelvin Benjamin-7

Terrelle Pryor-7

Bobby Wagner-8

AJ Green-10

Darrelle Revis-10

Leonard Fournette-11

Keyshawn Johnson-11

Jamal Adams-11

The best Wonderlic score in this year’s Draft class that has been leaked is Josh Allen’s 37. Another thing for draft pundits to gush over. The worst? Lamar Jackson’s 13. Granted, hardly anybody in the recent classes have been leaked, so it’s probable that there are better and worse scores. But having taken the test myself and seen what others have scored, what do I think of the Wonderlic?

I think it’s a poor method of projecting success in the league. Typically quarterbacks do really well on it but even that can’t project who is going to be particularly good. Ryan Fitzpatrick got a 48 and he’s just a quality backup. Blaine Gabbert scored a 41 and he was awful as a starter. Donovan McNabb scored a 14 and he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks the Eagles have ever had and was one of the best of the 2000’s. Terry Bradshaw scored a 15 and he’s a 4-time Super Bowl champion and a Hall of Famer. Yet there are other quarterbacks who did pretty well at it, like Eli Manning’s 39 and Carson Wentz’s 40 that went on to have successful careers. A lot of the questions are word associations or recognizing patterns in sequences. Hell, I couldn’t even finish mine (my last two answers were not recorded because I ran out of time) because of the 12-minute time limit. There are also plenty of players who did poorly on the Wonderlic and had great careers. Frank Gore had one of the worst Wonderlics of all time (6) and he’s the 49ers all-time leading rusher and a future Hall of Famer. Bobby Wagner is arguably the best linebacker in the game today and he scored an 8. AJ Green is one of the best receivers in the game and he got a 10.

My point is, Draft analysts really shouldn’t take any stock into how a player does on the Wonderlic because it really doesn’t do a good job of projecting who’s going to be good. In fact, I’m not even sure why it’s even administered because none of the questions I answered had anything to do with football.

So I’m going to post two links. The first link is to the Wonderlic Test that I took. Granted it’s a sample but the questions are supposedly very similar to what the players have to take. There also may have been some improper coding done because a couple of questions I answered were repeats. The other link I’m posting is to a list of players and their Wonderlic scores so you can see how you did compared to some notable NFL players.

https://samplewonderlictest.com/

http://wonderlictestsample.com/nfl-wonderlic-scores/

So that’s going to do it for today’s blog. Let me know what you think of the Wonderlic in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also be sure to let me know how you did!

 

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

With the 2018 NFL Draft just a couple weeks away, I thought I’d do things a little different. The week of the Draft (more specifically, April 26) I will have my final Mock Draft published. The week before, I’ll have my final Big Board. This week, as you can see because you’re reading it, we’ve got my positional rankings. These rankings are based on my personal feelings about each prospect. I haven’t gotten to watch film on all of them so there are a bunch that will be there based on reports I’ve read and other rankings I’ve seen. These rankings also won’t be reflective about where I think they’ll go in the Draft, as team fits and needs will play a factor in that. However, they will somewhat reflect my Big Board. So without further ado, let’s get to the positional rankings.

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

Alabama at Vanderbilt

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

Those are my positional rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft class. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: San Diego Padres

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaack. Well, as of writing this, I’m not back from Spring Break just yet, however I’m in a hotel with competent wifi now so I can make another go at 30 Clubs in 30 Days. I won’t be back at school until Sunday night. But in my absence, a LOT in sports has happened. Here are some things that I missed that I REALLY wanted to blog about but didn’t have the opportunity to because of conditions out of my control:

-#16 seeded UMBC upset #1 Virginia in the first ever instance of a 16 beating a 1 in the history of March Madness (1 seeds had been 135-0)

-Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings, Sam Bradford signed with the Cardinals, Case Keenum signed with the Broncos, and Teddy Bridgewater signed with the Jets

-Bills traded the 21st pick and tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals for the 12th pick

-Jets acquire the 3rd pick from the Colts in exchange for the 6th pick and 3 2nd rounders, including 2 in 2018 (OUTSTANDING trade by the Colts, considering that, given the teams picking ahead of them, the move won’t cost them NC State edge rusher Bradley Chubb)

-Allen Robinson signs with the Bears, Sammy Watkins signs with the Chiefs, Jordy Nelson signs with the Raiders, and Michael Crabtree signs with the Ravens

-Richard Sherman signs with the 49ers, Sheldon Richardson signs with the Vikings, Muhammad Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham sign with the Packers

I could go on but the Padres have been patiently waiting for me to tell them how good or bad they’ll be this season for much too long so without further ado, let’s get into this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the San Diego Padres.

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2017 Results:

Record: 71-91, 33 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, 16 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Eric Hosmer, SS Freddy Galvis, 3B Chase Headley, C AJ Ellis, SP Tyson Ross, SP Chris Young, SP Bryan Mitchell

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SS Erick Aybar, RP Kevin Quackenbush, RP Travis Wood, C/RP Christian Bethancourt, 3B Yangervis Solarte, SP Jhoulys Chacin

Best Offensive Player: 1B Eric Hosmer

Best Pitcher: CP Brad Hand

Depth Chart:

C-Austin Hedges, AJ Ellis

1B-Eric Hosmer

2B-Carlos Asuaje, Cory Spangenberg

3B-Chase Headley

SS-Freddy Galvis, Allen Cordoba

LF-Jose Pirela, Hunter Renfroe

CF-Manuel Margot

RF-Wil Myers, Matt Szczur

SP-Clayton Richard, Bryan Mitchell, Dinelson Lamet, Luis Perdomo, Colin Rea, Robbie Erlin, Tyson Ross, Chris Young

Bullpen-Brad Hand (CP), Carter Capps, Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, Jordan Lyles, Kazuhisa Makita, Phil Maton

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Andy Green (3rd season with Padres)

Hitting Coach-Matt Stairs

Pitching Coach-Darren Balsley

1st Base Coach-Skip Schumaker

3rd Base Coach-Glenn Hoffman

Bench Coach-Mark McGwire

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The Padres had arguably baseball’s thinnest roster in 2017 yet still managed to avoid the basement in the NL West. They had 3 guys on their 25-man roster that were Rule 5 picks, which essentially means they weren’t good enough to be on their previous team’s 40-man roster. But they made some moves in the offseason to try and shore things up. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. Manuel Margot-CF

2. Freddy Galvis-SS

3. Eric Hosmer-1B

4. Wil Myers-RF

5. Chase Headley-3B

6. Carlos Asuaje/Cory Spangenberg-2B

7. Jose Pirela/Hunter Renfroe-LF

8. Austin Hedges-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Eric Hosmer, of course, is the big signing here. The hero of the 2015 World Series, he signed an 8-year $144M deal. I did say that Hosmer was the luckiest hitter in baseball last season, however that doesn’t mean he can’t hit. Far from it. Last season Hosmer hit .318 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI while being worth 4.1 WAR. He’s also just now entering the prime of his career at 28 years old and will be switching to a more hitter-friendly ballpark. Petco Park still tends to favor pitchers even after they moved the fences in a few years ago, but Hosmer’s old stadium, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, is about as pitcher-friendly as stadiums get so one can expect an uptick in Hosmer’s offensive production in 2018. Wil Myers is the only holdover from last year’s team of note, though. He started at DH for the National League in the 2016 All Star Game but had a down year in terms of his rate stats in 2017. Last year he slashed .243/.328/.464, which is underwhelming, however he did manage to hit a career high 30 home runs while also stealing 20 bags. He’ll be moving from first base back to the outfield with the arrival of Hosmer and will likely be the thumper in this lineup. After those two, though, there isn’t much to go off of. Chase Headley isn’t nearly the player he was the last time he wore a Padres uniform after a disappointing tenure with the Yankees and Manuel Margot is more or less just a speed threat at this stage of his career. Austin Hedges, whom the Padres were very excited about when he was coming up, so far has only shown that he’s an excellent defender behind the plate and hasn’t given any reason to be excited about his bat. This lineup is definitely better than last year’s, though that’s not saying much considering the Padres scored the fewest runs in baseball in 2017.

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The pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. Clayton Richard is currently their ace and that’s a very bad sign considering he had an ERA of 4.79 last season. He’s a #4 starter at best and he has never cracked 7 K/9 in his Major League career. Dinelson Lamet is a guy that has shown a ton of talent but hasn’t quite put it all together yet. Lamet had an excellent 10.94 K/9 in 21 starts last season, which would’ve ranked 6th in the Majors had he pitched enough innings to qualify (he would’ve trailed only Chris Sale, Robbie Ray, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and Chris Archer). He’s got the stuff to make guys miss, however he’s had trouble with his command and when guys do make contact, the ball tends to go a long way. He had a 4.57 ERA last season while walking over 4 batters per 9 and giving up 1.4 HR/9. There is some talent with this kid, it’s just a matter of whether he can learn to pitch rather than just throw. After that, though, there really isn’t much of note in the Padres’ rotation.

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San Diego’s bullpen has a couple of interesting arms. Brad Hand was mainly just a quality middle reliever for much of his career until he burst onto the scene in 2017. He was the Padres’ lone representative in that year’s All Star game and finished the year with a 2.16 ERA and saved 21 games while striking out almost a dozen batters per 9 innings. He’ll open the season as the team’s closer. Carter Capps is a guy that really intrigues me. He used to have the funkiest windup in the world, where he would basically crow hop from the mound towards the plate and it really helped him dominate in 2015 with the Marlins, where he posted a 1.16 ERA and struck out almost 17 batters per 9. However, he missed all of 2016 due to injury and by that time his funky delivery had been banned by Major League Baseball. His return from injury and a normal windup really hurt him upon his return in 2017. He only pitched 12.1 innings and posted an ERA well over 6 and a K/9 rate of 5.11, nearly a third of what he had posted the last time he pitched. If he can somehow recreate that magic he had in 2015, the back end of the Padres’ bullpen could quietly become one of the most lethal in all of baseball.

Overall, I don’t like the Padres’ chances in 2018. It’s already hard enough that they have to try and follow up a season where they went 71-91 despite having just Wil Myers, but they’re also in a division with 3 playoff teams from last year and a fourth team (the Giants) who had a fluky 2017. It’ll be damn near impossible for the Padres to not find themselves in the cellar in 2018 given their overall lack of Major League talent and the tough division they’ll be playing in. They can look forward to their prospects arriving, though, as they feature the likes of Mackenzie Gore, Luis Urias, Cal Quantrill, Michel Baez, Adrian Morejon, and in a couple years Anderson Espinoza. So the future is bright for the Padres, they just have to suffer through the present.

Projected Record: 70-92, Last in NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Thanks for the wait on this one, it sucked not being able to write these for a few days, though I survived (the alcohol helped). Join me tomorrow when I discuss the San Francisco Giants, who look to bounce back and continue their trend of success in even-numbered years. Let me know what you think of the Padres’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: New York Yankees

Lots of football news to talk about. The Seahawks released Richard Sherman as they continue to blow up the Legion of Boom, the Eagles traded Torrey Smith to the Panthers for Daryl Worley, and the Browns got BUSY, acquiring Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, and Damarious Randall while also sending Deshone Kizer to Green Bay. And not one of them cost a first or second round draft pick. What kind of world is this where the Browns look like the most competent organization in football? Absolutely stunning haul. Now the Browns have Tyrod Taylor throwing to Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry with potentially Saquon Barkley in the backfield. The Browns may actually win a game this season. But enough football, let’s get to 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the New York Yankees.

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2017 Results:

Record: 91-71, 2 games behind Boston Red Sox, hosted AL Wild Card Game, defeated Minnesota Twins, defeated Cleveland Indians in ALDS, lost to Houston Astros in ALCS

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Giancarlo Stanton, 3B Brandon Drury, 1B Adam Lind, OF Shane Robinson

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 3B Todd Frazier, 3B Chase Headley, SP Jaime Garcia, SP Michael Pineda, 2B Starlin Castro, DH Matt Holliday

Best Offensive Player: RF Aaron Judge

Best Pitcher: Luis Severino

Depth Chart:

C-Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine

1B-Greg Bird

2B-Ronald Torreyes, Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade

3B-Brandon Drury

SS-Didi Gregorius

LF-Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier

CF-Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury

RF-Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton (DH)

SP-Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery

Bullpen-Aroldis Chapman (CP), Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle, Daniel Robertson, Adam Warren, Chad Green, Chasen Shreve

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Aaron Boone (1st season with Yankees)

Hitting Coach-Marcus Thames

Pitching Coach-Larry Rothschild

1st Base Coach-Reggie Willits

3rd Base Coach-Phil Nevin

Bench Coach-Josh Bard

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I can’t remember ever seeing a coaching staff where  every member (except Larry Rothschild, whom I feel like has been Yankees pitching coach forever) played in the Major Leagues during my childhood. But that’s beside the point because holy shit do the Yankees look dangerous this season. It’s not a guarantee that they’ll be successful, we still have to actually play the games, but just look at this lineup.

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Aaron Judge-RF

3. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

4. Gary Sanchez-C

5. Greg Bird-1B

6. Didi Gregorius-SS

7. Brandon Drury-3B

8. Ronald Torreyes/Gleyber Torres-2B

9. Aaron Hicks/Jacoby Ellsbury-CF

The Major League record for team home runs is 264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners. Last season Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined for 112 between the two of them. If the Yankees don’t set the new single season team home run record, it’ll be considered a down year. After acquiring Stanton from the Marlins in the offseason for a bag of peanuts, the Yankees now boast both home run champs from the AL and NL from last season. Aaron Judge set a rookie record with 52 home runs last season en route to winning AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up for AL MVP while Stanton belted 59 bombs and won NL MVP. Now he moves to an even more hitter friendly ballpark in Yankee Stadium where the fences are about 30 feet closer than at Marlins Park. Give me a break. Even if you decided to intentionally walk both Judge and Stanton for some reason, you’ve got Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings, who led all Major League catchers with 33 home runs in 2017. Didi Gregorius has also become a power threat at shortstop, as he hit a career high 25 home runs last season. There isn’t an easy out in this lineup and opposing pitchers are going to have nightmares trying to prepare for them.

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Don’t sleep on the Yankees pitchers. Luis Severino was a breakout star in the Bronx last season, going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings while being worth 5.7 WAR. Masahiro Tanaka had a down year in 2017, as his ERA of 4.74 was far and away the worst of his career. However Tanaka’s previous worst ERA in his 4 seasons in the Majors was 3.51, which is a quality number. Despite posting the worst ERA of his career in 2017, Tanaka actually posted his career-best strikeout rate of 9.79. He did get tagged by the long ball quite a bit, as his 1.77 HR/9 was third worst in the Majors and worst amongst pitchers who spent the entire season in the American League (Jeremy Hellickson’s 1.92 was worst but he went from the NL Phillies to the AL Orioles). Tanaka had previously been very good at keeping the ball in the yard, as he had a sub-1 HR/9 in 2 of his previous 3 seasons. Then there’s 2017 trade deadline acquisition Sonny Gray, who was inconsistent upon joining the Yankees but overall had a very solid season, which was very encouraging given his poor 2016 in Oakland. Gray went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA in pinstripes while striking out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. And let’s not forget CC Sabathia, who had his best season since 2012 by going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA while also pitching some inspired ball in the postseason. This unit is going to get overshadowed by the powerful lineup, but they are more than capable of shutting teams down for 9 innings.

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The bullpen for the Yankees last season was fantastic overall but there were some inconsistencies, particularly with their two best relievers, closer Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances. Chapman had a 3.22 ERA and only 22 saves last season but still struck out over 12 batters per 9, but that’s to be expected when you’re the author of the fastest pitch ever thrown in the history of the game at 105.4 mph. However Chapman was disastrous in May and August, as he had an ERA over 10 in May and 9 in August. Betances had his inconsistencies as well. While his overall numbers were pretty good (he had an ERA of 2.87 and struck out over 15 batters per 9), he struggled mightily with his control, walking over 6 batters per 9 innings. Betances has some of the most electric stuff in the game, as his fastball consistently hits 98 mph while his slider is like something out of the Matrix. He just needs to maintain better control. After those guys, though, there’s a lot of underrated talent in the Yankees bullpen. David Robertson returned to the Yankees after 2 and a half years with the White Sox and was fantastic in 2017, posting a 1.84 ERA and struck out nearly 13 batters per 9 innings. Tommy Kahnle was also tremendous with a 2.59 ERA and struck out nearly 14 batters per 9 as he too was an addition from the White Sox. This is an extremely talented bullpen but command is an issue. If they can limit the walks, this team will be even more dangerous.

Overall, the Yankees have one of the deadliest rosters on paper in all of baseball. The one knock against them that I could find is that they’re probably going to strike out a lot, as Judge and Stanton in particular whiff more than pretty much anybody in the league. But when this team does make contact, crooked numbers will follow. This Yankees team is a very legitimate threat to win their first World Series since 2009 and they’re going to be in a fight to the death with the Red Sox for the AL East title. Hopefully the acquisitions of Stanton to the Yankees and JD Martinez to the Red Sox are exactly what this rivalry needs to rejuvenate itself. It hasn’t felt the same since the 2004 ALCS because I mean, come on, how can you top that?

Projected Record: 98-64, win AL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Oakland Athletics, who always seem to teeter between “darkhorse” and “dumpster fire.” Let me know what you think of the Yankees’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also, I will once again be on the call for college baseball on the Big Ten Network, so check out Indiana vs Pacific at 2.