30 Clubs in 30 Days: Houston Astros

The NFL Combine began yesterday and there are a couple of things I want to bring to light. Penn State runningback Saquon Barkley was a freaking monster, as he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among runningbacks at an unofficial 4.41 and tied for the most bench press reps at 29. You can’t really say Barkley helped himself at the Combine because his draft stock couldn’t have been much higher already. On the other end, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown was abysmal. He ran a 5.86 40-yard dash (nobody who has ever run worse than 5.7 has ever made the NFL) then only did 14 bench press reps. Brown is 6’8 340 pounds and he did 14 reps at 225 pounds. I’ve got a buddy I work out with who I’m confident can do that and he’s a college freshman. Brown also got chewed out by a coach for dogging his drills. Bad day for Brown. I had him as my #3 tackle and a late first round prospect at that but those numbers are alarming. I’ll do a Combine recap after the event is done so we can get my full thoughts on who helped their stock and who hurt it. But for now, it’s day 12 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and today we have the defending champion Houston Astros.

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2017 Results:

Record: 101-61, won AL West by 21 games over Anaheim Angels. Defeated Boston Red Sox in ALDS. Defeated New York Yankees in ALCS. Defeated Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series.

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Gerrit Cole, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon

Notable Offseason Subtractions: DH Carlos Beltran (retired), SP Francisco Liriano, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, RP Luke Gregerson, OF Cameron Maybin

Best Offensive Player: 2B Jose Altuve

Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Depth Chart:

C-Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH), Juan Centeno, Max Stassi

1B-Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White

2B-Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher

CF-George Springer, Jake Marisnick

RF-Josh Reddick

SP-Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock

Bullpen-Ken Giles (CP), Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Hector Rondon, Buddy Boshers

Coaching Staff:

Manager-AJ Hinch (4th season with Astros)

Hitting Coach-Dave Hudgens

Pitching Coach-Brent Strom

1st Base Coach-Alex Cintron

3rd Base Coach-Gary Pettis

Bench Coach-Joe Espada

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The Houston Astros won their first World Series in franchise history just months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area. This victory meant a lot for the city of Houston as it was a moment of happiness for everyone in a time of grief. This is VERY similar to the 2013 Red Sox, who won the World Series just months after the Boston Marathon bombings. But the Astros are also about as loaded a team as you’re going to find in Major League Baseball. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. George Springer-CF

2. Alex Bregman-3B

3. Jose Altuve-2B

4. Carlos Correa-SS

5. Yuli Gurriel-1B

6. Josh Reddick-RF

7. Marwin Gonzalez-LF

8. Evan Gattis-DH

9. Brian McCann-C

There are superstars all over this lineup, most notably of course being reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve. Last season Altuve won MVP over the likes of Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez by hitting .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, 32 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and was worth 7.5 WAR. Not bad for a guy who’s the same height as my mom. Protecting him in the lineup is Carlos Correa, arguably the best shortstop in the game and a guy that has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, slugged .550, and was worth 5.2 WAR in an injury-plagued season. And we cannot forget World Series MVP George Springer at the top of the lineup. Last season Springer hit .283 with 34 home runs, 85 RBI, 112 runs scored, and was worth 4.5 WAR. In the World Series, Springer was a monster after a poor Game 1 where he struck out in all 4 at bats (he was the first World Series MVP ever to have such a game in the same Series). He hit .379 with 5 home runs and 7 RBI in the Fall Classic, and this is including that Game 1 performance. If you don’t include that, Springer hit .440. There are so many other guys in this lineup that can kill you too. Alex Bregman was clutch in the postseason. Josh Reddick hit .314 and was worth 3.5 WAR. Marwin Gonzalez, their usual super utility guy, hit .303 and was worth 4.1 WAR. This lineup is absolutely loaded with young talent and the Astros expect to be bullies in the American League for quite some time.

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The Astros’ starting rotation is arguably just as loaded as their lineup. They have two Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation with another Cy Young candidate in Gerrit Cole, whom they acquired from the Pirates in the offseason, right behind them. After being acquired by the Astros from the Tigers at the last minute, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings, striking out 43 batters in the process. Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young-winning form after a down 2016 season by going 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts. Gerrit Cole comes from the Pirates after a down season, however he is capable of fantastic numbers, such as his 2015 season where he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. The big question mark is going to be who the #5 starter is. The candidates for that job are Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock. The losers will likely wind up in the bullpen because they’re all too talented to keep in AAA, which is a good problem for the Astros to have. Plus if anybody in the rotation gets injured, they’ll have each of these guys on retainer. My pick to win the 5 spot is Charlie Morton, who is suddenly getting his fastball up in the high-90’s and earned manager AJ Hinch’s trust to close out Game 7 of the World Series.

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The Astros’ bullpen struggled in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a talented bunch. Closer Ken Giles pitched to a 2.30 ERA and struck out almost 12 batters per 9 innings while saving 34 games. It looks pretty apparent that the Astros won that trade with the Phillies after they traded former #1 overall pick Mark Appel to get Giles as Appel is stepping away from the game without having reached the Major Leagues. Will Harris was an All Star in 2016 and in 2017 he had an ERA of 2.98 and struck out 10 batters per 9. Chris Devenski pitched to a 2.68 ERA and struck out 11.16 batters per 9. They also added submarine pitcher Joe Smith to the bullpen as well as former Cubs closer Hector Rondon. I expect this group to return to their regular season form and make people forget about how brutal they were in the World Series.

Overall, I expect the Astros to be favorites to repeat as World Series champions. AJ Hinch’s club didn’t lose anybody of major significance and only got better, as they added the likes of Gerrit Cole to an already deep pitching rotation. Their core is also very young, as each of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman are all under the age of 28. Not only is this team going to score a ton of runs, but they’re going to prevent a ton of runs as well with their stacked pitching staff. Unlike last season, they will face a bit stiffer competition in their division as the Angels have added a lot of pieces to their roster that could make them challengers to the Astros’ throne while the Mariners could be a sneaky team in that division.

Projected Record: 101-61, Win AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Kansas City Royals, who will be in the first stages of life after their core that led them to their 2015 World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Astros’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 18

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-Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell won the Slam Dunk contest in what was a decent event compared to years’ past. Far from being the worst but not nearly as good as the one in Toronto two years ago. There were two dunks where my eyes popped out of my head, that being from Dennis Smith Jr and Larry Nance Jr. Here’s Smith’s.

That one was my personal favorite, followed closely by this one from Larry Nance Jr, which gets bonus points for creativity for me.

Nance’s father, Larry Sr, was the first ever winner of the Slam Dunk contest and paid homage to his old man with his first dunk. Fun fact, the people who helped dress him were some clothes magicians I actually saw perform during the halftime show of Indiana vs Michigan State a couple weeks ago. They’re extremely talented. Another fun fact, Donovan Mitchell went to my high school’s arch rival, Brewster Academy. I actually got to watch him play in high school but I was somehow more focused on one of his teammates than I was him and I’m kicking myself for it. I was focusing more on Isaac Copeland, who ended up committing to Georgetown without realizing the future Slam Dunk Contest winner was playing on the same team. Copeland is currently at Nebraska after transferring from the Hoyas. Here’s my favorite dunk from Mitchell on the night:

And here was my favorite dunk from the guy I thought would win but ended up finishing last, Victor Oladipo.

What ended up hurting him in the competition was the fact that he couldn’t land his first dunk and once that happened you knew he was done. But it was nice seeing him pay homage to the Black Panther movie that came out on Friday. Plus he received the mask from the Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, who also played Jackie Robinson in the movie “42.” From what I’ve been able to gather, not only is Black Panther allegedly really freaking good, but it’s supposedly supposed to be really important to the black community. Plus that’s a fucking awesome mask. Probably the best superhero mask there is in my humblest of opinions.

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-I royally messed up in my All Star Weekend picks blog. For the Skills Challenge, I forgot to list two participants: Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen and Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Well I got my comeuppance because guess who were the final two. If you guessed Joel Embiid and Lou Williams like I did, you’d be wrong. It was Markannen and Dinwiddie. Though Embiid didn’t make the finals not from a lack of trying.

CHEATER! Oh well, it didn’t end up mattering, Markkanen ended up burying the final 3-pointer ahead of Embiid to advance to the finals. He eventually lost to Dinwiddie, who basically just won the “who the Hell are you?” award. I mean I feel like I’ve heard his name in passing, but nothing really of substance. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what team he played for had he not been in the competition in a Nets jersey. But nonetheless, congrats to Dinwiddie.

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-I damn near freaking nailed my 3-point contest prediction. Devin Booker not only won it, but in the final round he broke the record for points in a single round with 28, defeating Klay Thompson (who I accurately predicted would be a finalist) and Tobias Harris (who I did not expect to make it this far). I had Paul George ahead of Harris, but George went and had arguably the worst 3-point contest round I’ve ever seen, scoring just 9 points. And people say that the Lakers are going to go after him hard, he can’t even shoot in their building! That probably will make very little difference, but it’s still fun to bitch about. But congratulations to Booker, who continues to be one of the more underrated players in the league.

-Poor Bob Huggins. Note to anybody who puts on dress clothes: your belt is extremely important, no matter if it’s going to be covered or not.

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-One of the most confusing moves I’ve ever seen occurred while the 3-point shootout was happening. The Tampa Bay Rays acquired first baseman CJ Cron from the Angels (which I expected to happen, not necessarily Cron winding up on the Rays, but Cron being on the move after the arrival of Shoehei Ohtani) for a player to be named later. The confusing part is that the Rays then promptly DFA’d Corey Dickerson, who was their DH and leadoff hitter last season. Uhhh, wtf Rays? Dickerson was arguably your best hitter last season. Dickerson was the starting DH for the AL in last year’s All Star game. He was hitting over .320 at the time, however he hit .240 after the break to bring his line to a more than respectable .282 with 27 home runs and 62 RBI. Plus he’s 28 years old, in the athletic prime of his career, and he’s only owed about $5M. I guarantee you he won’t be in limbo for long as teams will be rushing to claim him off waivers. But a really bizarre situation. CJ Cron is talented, believe me, I know. I was there when the Angels beat the Red Sox 21-2 and Cron went 6-6 with 2 home runs and was a triple away from the cycle. But you’re trying to tell me he’s a better option at DH than Dickerson? Sure Cron is only going to cost about $2.3M after his arbitration hearing with the Angels in January, but his numbers last year were not nearly good enough to warrant DFA’ing Dickerson over. He hit .248 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI. The DFA’ing of Dickerson in response to adding Cron continues to make less and less sense to me the more I think about it. Not only is Cron the same age as Dickerson with significantly less overall production and at half the cost, but there was definitely room on the roster for both guys. Right now the Rays first baseman is slated to be Brad Miller, who can play pretty much any position so you have some flexibility with him. You could very easily have plugged in Cron at first then put Miller at second and had Daniel Robertson come off the bench like where I think his talent merits while still having Dickerson as your DH. There has to be something going on with Dickerson that we don’t know about to warrant this move.

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-Shortly after acquiring CJ Cron, the Rays continued to make moves, this time trading pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a package that includes shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios. Originally it was believed that Dickerson would be a part of this deal, but it doesn’t appear that he is. But Odorizzi is a good acquisition for the Twins, who badly need starting pitchers. He’s been battling injuries over the last few seasons, but when healthy I think he’s a quality #3 option, maybe even a #2. Last season, in 28 starts, Odorizzi went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA but he’s capable of better, as he went 9-9 with a 3.35 ERA in 2015. Right now the only quality starter on the Twins is Ervin Santana, who is 35 years old right now. Jose Berrios is extremely talented, but he hasn’t been able to put it altogether yet. Odorizzi’s a solid guy to have around as you try and build your pitching staff.

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-And finally we have the biggest bit of baseball news of all. I had already scheduled this article when he was signed so I had to hop right back in and make some edits. But Eric Hosmer has finally signed with the San Diego Padres on an 8-year deal worth $144M. He signed the deal at around midnight, or 9:00 west coast time. The deal is pretty front-heavy, as Hosmer will average $20M a season for the first five years of the deal, after which he’ll be able to opt out. After those 5 years, he’ll be making $13M a year plus a $5M signing bonus. I actually like this layout because it better protects the team from those nasty back-loaded contracts that end up biting them in the ass down the line. Plus for Hosmer he’ll be making his money the first five years of the deal, then if he decides to remain in San Diego, he’d be taking a paycut at a time when his skills will likely have deteriorated, as he will be 33 when the opt-out option kicks in and likely headed towards a decline. Hosmer had an excellent season in 2017, hitting .318 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI for the Royals, though I did mention buyer beware, as I rated him as the luckiest hitter in the majors last season. Hosmer and the Padres have been linked for a while now and I think Hosmer was just trying to wait out the Padres for a larger deal for as long as he could before deciding to sign with Spring Training starting up. Here’s what the Padres lineup looks like with their new first baseman, though it is worth noting that their best hitter Wil Myers currently occupies that spot. I’m willing to bet that Myers returns to the outfield, though, where he began his career.

1. Manuel Margot-CF

2. Freddy Galvis-SS

3. Eric Hosmer-1B

4. Wil Myers-LF

5. Chase Headley-3B

6. Cory Spangenberg-2B

7. Austin Hedges-C

8. Hunter Renfroe-RF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s probably not going to be enough to keep the Padres out of the cellar in the NL West this season, but if the younger guys, particularly Margot and Hedges, develop the way the organization hopes, this could be an exciting team in the near future. As for the Royals, the team Hosmer’s leaving, they had to have expected this to happen, though they reportedly did try and bring him back while the market wasn’t biting. Hosmer was a big part of their championship run in 2015 including his famous mad dash that tied up Game 5 and sent it to extra innings, a game that the Royals ultimately won, leading to their first World Series title since 1985. Here’s the play in question.

That play will forever live on in Royals lore. But with Hosmer signing with the Padres, that pretty much just leaves JD Martinez, Jake Arrieta, and Mike Moustakas as the biggest free agents still without a team. Spring Training games start on Thursday, fellas, let’s get a move on.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you thought of NBA All Star Weekend and the Rays’ roster moves in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA All Star Weekend Preview

We’re at that magical time of year where it’s NBA All Star Weekend, which aside from the Super Bowl is really the only sporting thing of note in February. It’s in Los Angeles this year and I typically find that the challenges they do to be more interesting than the actual game itself. I’m writing this around 6 pm on Friday night, so I’m just going to give a couple of quick picks on the Celebrity Game and Rising Stars Challenge. I think that team Lakers, coached by ESPN NBA Analyst Rachel Nichols, is going to win mainly because they’ll have Candace Parker on their team, who is really the only person on either roster that I know for a fact is good at basketball. For the Rising Stars Challenge, I think Team World is going to defeat Team USA. I know, that’s very unpatriotic of me, but Team World has both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The best Team USA has to offer is Donovan Mitchell and Jaylen Brown, two good players but not up to par with what Team World can offer. I’ll be rooting for Team USA, though, not just for nationalism purposes, but because they have 2 Celtics players (Brown and Jayson Tatum) whereas Team World has none. We’ll see how my picks did on Saturday morning when this blog is published. Let’s get into the festivities.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

Are they not doing that Shooting Stars challenge this year? Damn shame, I actually really enjoyed that event, especially once everybody got to shooting half-court shots to try and beat the best time. Well as we get into the third year of the Skills Challenge obstacle course/gauntlet/whatever you want to call it, the new twist implemented has been pretty riveting. The 6 participants are not only just guards now, but big men as well and in fact, both years that this has been in effect a big man has won (Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porznigis). Granted both winners were genetic freaks of nature, which makes it surprising to me that Giannis Antetokounmpo is not taking part in this, as I feel he could totally keep the streak going for big men. But as it stands right now, the participants this year are guards Buddy Hield of the Kings, Jamal Murray of the Nuggets, and Lou Williams of the Clippers to go along with big men Andre Drummond of the Pistons, Al Horford of the Celtics, and Joel Embiid of the 76ers. Drummond’s involvement in this has to be a joke, right? The guy’s a terrific defender and post player, but handling a basketball? Come on now, the guy has a family. Of course, as soon as I say that he’s probably going to go and win the damn thing. I’ve got to imagine the favorite to actually win this thing is Clippers guard Lou Williams, but the way this competition has been going, it’s going to be an athletic big man. Al Horford is probably the most athletically gifted of the bunch but he gives off such a vanilla air that it’s probably going to be a colorful personality like Joel Embiid, who had a pretty great comment over the weekend. Paying homage to Dikembe Mutombo, Embiid was asked what his favorite pickup line is, to which he responded “who wants to sex The Process?” Legend. Embiid’s probably going to win.

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Projected Winner: Embiid defeats Williams in the final.

JBL Three-Point Contest

Wrestling fans will probably do a double-take at the sponsor, but no, it’s not that JBL, but a speakers company. Shame that there won’t be anyone yelling “ballgame” or emotionally (and in some cases, physically) abusing coworkers. But all tangents aside, the contest this year will feature reigning champ and former Indiana Hoosier Eric Gordon of the Rockets, Klay Thompson of the Warriors, Devin Booker of the Suns, Wayne Ellington of the Heat, Paul George of the Thunder, Bradley Beal of the Wizards, Kyle Lowry of the Raptors, and Tobias Harris of the Clippers. Klay Thompson’s got to be the odds-on favorite to win this event as he’s arguably an even more prolific 3-point shooter than his teammate Stephen Curry is, but that’s probably because shooting 3’s is all Thompson is really known for while Curry has insane handles to go with his 3-point shooting prowess. But I actually think that Thompson won’t win. He did win it when the event was in Toronto two years ago, but I think the fact that he has won it before will kind of take the sense of urgency out of him. I’m actually going to go with a guy who’s star is on the rise…a star…rising to the sun? Okay, I’m saying I’m picking Phoenix Suns’ guard Devin Booker to win. He’s a very capable shooter and I think he’s going to be on a mission to make an impression on the rest of the league, considering he doesn’t get much respect being the best player on one of the worst teams.

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Projected Winner: Booker defeats Thompson and George in the final.

Verizon Slam Dunk Contest

Didn’t it always use to be Sprite sponsoring this? I wonder how Verizon is going to make their little scorecards look. But that’s neither here nor there. We’re at the Slam Dunk contest and here’s another event where I think the NBA is totally whiffing on an opportunity to have Antetokounmpo participate. A guy of his freakish athleticism would certainly shine. But we do have a pretty solid list of participants. We have rookies Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz and Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks, Larry Nance of the Lakers, and former Indiana Hoosier Victor Oladipo of the Pacers. No real household names (though the way Mitchell and Oladipo are improving, that may change), but some real hop from all of these guys. Oladipo lost in the final round of this contest in 2015 to Zach LaVine, which pretty much spells disaster if you have to face that guy. The fact that he still won in 2016 even though Aaron Gordon’s dunks were way better still doesn’t sit well with me. The reigning champ, Glenn Robinson III, is not participating this year in a dunk contest that was ultimately a letdown from the absolutely incredible 2016 affair. But I think Oladipo is going to come out on top this year. I don’t know if the contest is going to be great, as 3 of the 4 competitors will be making their first appearance in this contest so we don’t know how creative of dunkers they really are. But I do know that Oladipo is capable of some impressive dunks in games, plus he was pretty good when he lost to LaVine in ’16. I think he takes home the hardware this year.

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Projected Winner: Oladipo defeats Mitchell in the final.

NBA All Star Game

This one has an interesting component to it because the top two vote getters, LeBron James and Stephen Curry, picked their teams. On Team LeBron, we’ve got of course, LeBron James of the Cavaliers, Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, Kyrie Irving of the Celtics, Kevin Durant of the Warriors, LaMarcus Aldridge of the Spurs, Bradley Beal of the Wizards, Goran Dragic of the Heat, Andre Drummond of the Pistons, Paul George of the Thunder, Victor Oladipo of the Pacers, Kemba Walker of the Hornets, and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder. On Team Curry, we’ve got of course, Stephen Curry of the Warriors, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks, DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors, James Harden of the Rockets, Joel Embiid of the 76ers, Jimmy Butler of the Timberwolves, Draymond Green of the Warriors, Al Horford of the Celtics, Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers, Kyle Lowry of the Raptors, Klay Thompson of the Warriors, and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves. I’m not nearly as interested in the winner of this game as I am to seeing if a team reaches 200 points. They’ve come close each of the last two years, as the West hit 196 and 192 in 2016 and ’17, respectively. But I guess I have to pick a winner in this game and I think I’m going to go with Team Curry here, as I think they’re a little deeper than Team LeBron. Poor LeBron, can’t seem to shake that Curry kid.

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Projected Score: Team Curry: 187 Team LeBron: 181

That’s going to do it for my NBA All Star Weekend preview, let me know what you think is going to happen in each event in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Trade Deadline Recap

I should probably rephrase that title. It should read more on the lines of “Cavaliers completely overhaul their roster.” But let’s take a look at what specifically happened during the Trade Deadline because there were some juicy moves.

Cavaliers trade Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye to the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance.

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What a rough go of it IT had in Cleveland. Injured for the first half of the season, then when he came back everybody hated him after he started butting heads with some of his teammates and the media. It’s hard to watch, being a Celtics fan because IT meant so much to the Celtics’ rebuild despite the fact he was only in green for about 3 and a half years. He went from one of the most beloved athletes in Boston to one of the most hated in Cleveland. But I think this trade is good for both sides. It became a pretty toxic situation in Cleveland so now one of the problems is out of the way and Thomas can get a fresh start with a Lakers team that could genuinely use him. Plus, IT was at his best when the Celtics were his show. Now he’s in a place in LA where he can be “the guy” while Lonzo Ball develops. I definitely think things will go better for him in LA than it did in Cleveland. Plus, IT is a free agent at the end of the season, which could open up a ton of cap space for the Lakers to make a run at another Cavaliers player… In return, the Cavs get some high-quality role players in Clarkson and Nance, who I think can really provide a huge spark off the bench, depending on who the Cavs decide to go with at point.

Cavaliers trade Dwyane Wade to the Heat for a Protected Second Round Pick

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This was pretty surprising to me since Wade and LeBron are as close as they are. But Wade goes to a place that probably never should have let him go in Miami. Sure his skills have deteriorated, but he is and always will be the face of Miami basketball after what he did with the Heat. It’s good to see him return. That’s all I really have to say on the matter, it’s more of a feel-good thing for me than a legitimate impact trade at this stage in Wade’s career.

Three-Way Trade Between the Cavaliers, Kings, and Jazz. Cavaliers Receive Rodney Hood and George Hill, Kings Receive Joe Johnson and Iman Shumpert, Jazz Receive Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder

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A lot to unpack with this one. Let’s start with what the Cavs are getting. Rodney Hood has gotten better and better with each season he’s been in the league and I think he’s going to replace Wade as the starting 2 guard. Hill could wind up getting the majority of minutes running point when LeBron doesn’t have the ball and I think he could wind up being a valuable asset, as he’s much more of a traditional point guard than IT is. He won’t be taking shots away from LeBron like IT has been, rather he may create even more shots. The Kings getting Joe Johnson kind of falls under the Dwyane Wade thing, Johnson is past his real usefulness and I don’t really understand the deal, except as I typed that sentence it was announced the Kings would be buying out Johnson’s deal, making him a free agent. Early reports are that the Celtics, Warriors, and Rockets are all interested. Shumpert will likely be a major part of their rotation as he immediately becomes arguably their best player, considering the overall lack of talent on the Kings’ roster. The Jazz receiving Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder is interesting to me. The Jazz are in the thick of a playoff race, currently sitting at 2.5 games out of the 8 seed in the West. This appears to me to be them more tanking a little bit and rebuilding around Donovan Mitchell than anything, as even if the Jazz make the playoffs, you can guarantee they won’t get far. They’d probably end up with the 8 seed and face the Warriors in the first round, which guarantees they won’t win a playoff game, let alone reach the second round. So it’s better to tank so you can get a higher draft pick than get a mid-first rounder and not have any chance of going anywhere in the foreseeable future.

Three Team Trade. Knicks Receive Emmanuel Mudiay, Nuggets Receive Devin Harris and a 2nd Round Pick, Mavericks Receive Doug McDermott

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This is a lower-profile trade but I still believe in Mudiay’s potential when put in the right circumstances that I feel like this could be a steal for the Knicks. I think once Kristaps Porzingis returns from his unfortunate ACL injury, he could elevate Mudiay’s play and vice versa. Harris and McDermott are more of depth for the Nuggets and Mavericks. The Mavericks are playing for the #1 pick at this point in the season while the Nuggets are surprisingly the 6 seed in the West. But I don’t think Harris is an upgrade over Mudiay so the move doesn’t really make sense for me unless the Nuggets are trying to lose their way out of a playoff position to try and land a top prospect in this year’s NBA Draft, which right now looks pretty stacked with talent.

Magic Trade Elfrid Payton to the Suns for a 2nd Round Pick

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This trade makes no sense to me from the Magic’s perspective. Payton is, in my opinion, an underrated point guard who I think could really excel if he’s got teammates to work with. He’s certainly worth more than a 2nd rounder. I actually think that Payton is an upgrade over Tyler Ulis and once Devin Booker is fully healthy again, I think he and Payton could form a formidable duo.

Trail Blazers Trade Noah Vonleh to the Bulls for the Draft Rights to Milovan Rakovic

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This trade is mainly just something that gets the Trail Blazers under the luxury tax as Vonleh is no more than a decent bench player. I’m mostly including this because not only did Vonleh play at Indiana, but he actually played against my high school a few times. I got to see him play twice as a high schooler. First time he absolutely whipped us, the second time we put on a full court press and totally frustrated him into a bunch of turnovers.

That’s going to do it for my trade deadline recap. The Cavaliers look totally different and this may be what they need to get themselves back on track. Also, in football news, congratulations to Jimmy Garoppolo on his 5-year $137M deal with the 49ers, the largest annual contract in NFL history. That’s what 5 starts can do for you. As a Patriots fan, watching Garoppolo succeed is like watching my son succeed. Let me know what you think of the NBA Trade Deadline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Your move, MLB.

CFP Championship Recap

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Alabama defeats Georgia 26-23 in overtime for their second CFP title, Nick Saban’s 6th championship, 5th at Alabama. Saban’s 6 titles ties Bear Bryant for most by a head coach all time and is more than all active coaches in the FBS combined. Let’s get into some quick thoughts.

-To be honest, I missed a large chunk of this game. I had an “Intro to Games” class from 7-10 (game started at 8). Now normally I would’ve skipped this class, but it’s a class that only meets once a week and there wouldn’t be a class next week since it will be Martin Luther King Jr Day, so I kinda felt obligated to attend. I tried streaming the game on first my phone then my laptop, but the connection wasn’t even close to being satisfactory. Then we had to play a board game called “Ogre” and I couldn’t dedicate my attention to the game. Ogre kinda sucks. It’s a needlessly complicated version of Stratego, which is already kinda needlessly complicated. I didn’t get a chance to REALLY sit down and watch the game until about 10:51 left in the third quarter, so you can imagine my shock when I saw someone else in at QB for Alabama.

-If you picked Tua Tagovailoa (that’s the only time I’m writing out his last name. If I have to do it every single time I mention him I’m going to go insane) to be MVP of this game, I’d like your opinion on some stocks, though I would settle for picking my football games for me. He was totally unknown until he replaced Jalen Hurts at quarterback to start the second half. This decision by Saban apparently was originally supposed to be a rotation, with Tua and Hurts alternating drives. Well Tua led Alabama down the field and threw a touchdown on his first drive and it appears the decision was made. It was a good one too, because after Tua was inserted into the lineup, Alabama outscored Georgia 26-10 after trailing 13-0 at halftime.

-Occasionally, Tua’s inexperience showed through. Look at this interception he threw.

I’m not so sure that play was designed to be a pass. Look at how not a single Alabama receiver is looking in Tua’s direction.

-Speaking of true freshmen, this game was dominated by them. From Jake Fromm to Tua to Najee Harris to DeVonta Smith, this game was all about the 18-19 year olds.

-I’ve gone through four bullet points and haven’t even shown the walkoff touchdown throw by Tua to fellow true freshman DeVonta Smith. Here it is.

If you’re wondering what the caption is all about, Tua got sacked for a loss of 16 on the play immediately preceding this one by Davin Bellamy (who famously mocked Baker Mayfield after the Rose Bowl to “humble himself”). Not to take anything away from Tua or Smith, but where the Hell was Georgia safety Dominick Sanders on this play? I think cornerback Malkom Parrish thought he had help over the top, which would explain why Smith was so open. Maybe Sanders was paying more attention to tight end Hale Hentges (#84) underneath? I mean, the guy did have a whopping 1 catch for 2 yards on the day.

-Nobody is happier than Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos after Smith made that catch. At the end of regulation, he lined up for this 36-yarder.

I’m actually kind of glad Alabama won after a moment like that. We have enough Scott Norwoods in the world.

-Jake Fromm looked like a true freshman with the game on the line. He had some good moments throughout the game, like this throw to MeCole Hardman.

But when the Bulldogs needed him to be great, he wasn’t. After Alabama tied the game up, the Bulldogs ran twice, then Fromm missed an open receiver running a crossing route. Then, in OT, he took a bad sack that nearly knocked them out of field goal range. Luckily for him, Rodrigo Blankenship nailed a 51-yarder to give the Bulldogs the 23-20 lead. He’s got plenty of growth left in him.

-Probably the guys who helped their draft stock the most this game was the defensive linemen. Da’Ron Payne dominated the point of attack and Raekwon Davis was all over the place, including this odd interception.

I don’t think Davis is draft eligible yet, but he’s going to be another guy to look out for when 2019 rolls around. But the guy that really elevated his stock to me was Georgia interior lineman Trenton Thompson. He was all over the place for the Bulldogs and really gave the Alabama offensive line fits all game. He also delivered probably my favorite hit of the game.

I’ll have to go back and take a closer look at this guy because he was catching my attention seemingly every play in this game. Could be a potential sleeper for a defensive line-needy team *cough* Patriots *cough*.

-Take a good look because this is the one time the “WildDog” formation worked all night.

Georgia tried running it several more times throughout the night, and notably in key situations I might add. They got stuffed on seemingly all of them.

-Tua wasn’t perfect throughout the night, in fact there were times where I thought he downright sucked. But his touchdown passes were absolute things of beauties. Here’s the one that tied the game to Calvin Ridley, who had been shut down for most of the game by DeAndre Baker.

He did a similar thing on the first touchdown to Ruggs. Neither he nor Ridley were open when Tua threw the pass, however the pass was thrown in the exact perfect spot. This is the exact definition of “throwing your man open.” Tua also displayed some surprisingly solid arm strength. I was caught a little off guard by how well he can sling it. Probably just because I’m not used to lefty quarterbacks.

-Mekhi Brown is VERY fortunate he didn’t get sent to the locker room for this.

A lot of coaching staffs would’ve sent him packing for trying to fight a coach in the middle of a national championship game after he just got called for a personal foul for seemingly throwing a punch (which the refs should’ve ejected him for anyway). He kind of made amends later, as he made a nice one-armed tackle on kick coverage. It was the exact opposite of form tackling, but it looked cool.

How he managed to not grab any facemask on that is beyond me.

-Jalen Hurts was the definition of class during the postgame interview after getting benched in the biggest game of his life. ESPN had been running the story of how the background on his phone was his defeat in last year’s championship game against Clemson to try and motivate him. This was his opportunity to exorcise those demons and a lot of guys would’ve viewed this benching as their coach taking that away from them. But during his postgame interview, I got the sense that Hurts didn’t care about what kind of impact he had as long as his team won the game. Really classy guy right there and the definition of a team player at that.

-To be perfectly honest, I felt kind of empty after this game ended. It was a crazy finish to an excellent game, but I felt nothing. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown bored of Alabama’s dominance in the national title picture? Perhaps I’m disgruntled that a team that didn’t even win its conference is champ? Couldn’t tell you, but I definitely felt a lot more when Clemson won with 1 second to go last year or even when Alabama was able to hold off Clemson’s comeback the year prior. This game just kind of left me in a weird place. It’s probably just the knowledge that the college football season is over. That usually puts me in a depressing mood. Oh well, time for draft season.

-A couple quick interesting facts about the playoff before I put a bow on the college football season. All 4 championships have been won by the lower-seeded team, or the team wearing their white uniforms. #4 Ohio State beat #2 Oregon, #2 Alabama beat #1 Clemson, #2 Clemson beat #1 Alabama, #4 Alabama beat #3 Georgia. Odd numbered seeds have also yet to win the title game, as only the 2’s and 4’s have won it all.

-I’m going to add one last thing before I end it: my year-end rankings, now that all is said and done.

1. Alabama

2. Central Florida

3. Ohio State

4. Georgia

5. Oklahoma

6. Clemson

7. Wisconsin

8. Penn State

9. Notre Dame

10. Michigan State

11. USC

12. Washington

13. Miami (FL)

14. TCU

15. Oklahoma State

16. Stanford

17. Northwestern

18. Auburn

19. Mississippi State

20. North Carolina State

21. LSU

22. South Florida

23. Wake Forest

24. Boise State

25. Virginia Tech

Welp, that’s gonna do it for this one. This was my 100th blog, by the way. When I started this thing up in late September, I honestly figured I would’ve given up on it by now but the positive responses I’ve been getting to this thing have kept me going so I just wanted to take time to thank all my readers for sticking with me throughout, particularly Heidi and Tom Wyman, my parents. Whenever I look at my site stats and only see 1 or 2 views on a blog, I can safely guess who it is. That’s going to do it for this college football season. Let me know your thoughts on the title game in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

CFP National Championship Preview

So it’s all come down to this, a bona fide SEC championship game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide to decide the best team in college football. Let’s see how all my picks did leading up to this moment.

Regular Season Record: 86-34

Conference Championship Record: 8-0

Army-Navy: 0-1

Bowl Record: 16-23

Yikes, I figured I wouldn’t be great for the bowl games, but I didn’t think I’d miss that many. I mean, I wrote a blog for two days to put up those numbers? Inexcusable. Goes to show you really can never guess what’s going to happen this time of year. Put all these games together and I went 110-58, which suggests theres a 65% chance I get this pick right, no big deal. For this I’m going to go position group by position group and compare each team. Let’s take a look at what both Georgia and Alabama bring to the table.

Quarterback:

Georgia: Jake Fromm

Alabama: Jalen Hurts

Advantage: Alabama

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This was difficult because it’s like comparing apples and oranges with these two quarterbacks. With Fromm, you get a traditional passer in the mold of Alex Smith, as he only threw 5 interceptions as opposed to 23 touchdowns while throwing for an acceptable 2383 yards. Hurts, on the other hand, is pretty much a pure running quarterback who will throw on occasion and most likely to Calvin Ridley. However the thing that puts Hurts over the top for me is his experience in this atmosphere. He was a true freshman when he nearly led Alabama to the National Championship against Clemson before Deshaun Watson’s heroics stole the day. He’s back with a year of maturing under his belt and I think he will be the better quarterback on the field in this game.

Runningback:

Georgia: Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift

Alabama: Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, Najee Harris

Advantage: Georgia

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At the beginning of the season, I would’ve called this a very difficult decision. But after the play of the Georgia backfield, which practically kept pace with Baker Mayfield all by itself, and the decline in play of Bo Scarbrough, this was an easy decision. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are a dominant 1-2 punch by themselves but throw in D’Andre Swift, who is also a capable pass catcher, and it’s just downright domination by the Georgia backfield.

Pass Catchers:

Georgia: Javon Wims, Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta (TE)

Alabama: Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III

Advantage: Georgia

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Yes, the best receiver on the field is by far Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, however he’s the only receiver that poses any sort of threat on the Crimson Tide offense. He recorded 935 receiving yards on 59 catches. Next best? Jerry Jeudy, who had 244 yards on just 13 catches (averaging 1 catch per game). That’s really bad and basically screams to the opposing defense who’s getting the ball when Hurts drops back to pass. Georgia’s stable of receivers isn’t great, but each guy is pretty solid and they spread the ball out pretty well. Wims, Godwin, and Hardman all had at least 20 catches and 300 yards receiving, with Wims leading the way in both categories at 44 catches for 704 yards.

Offensive Line:

Georgia: Isaiah Wynn, Kendall Baker, Lamont Gaillard, Ben Cleveland, Andrew Thomas

Alabama: Jonah Williams, Ross Pierschbacher, Bradley Bozeman, Lester Cotton, Matt Womack

Advantage: Alabama

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This is a hard decision mainly due to the success of both ground games. However I’m giving the edge to Alabama as they have more NFL-caliber talent and it’s pretty hard to block, typically, when the defense can pretty much just decide between a run or a pass to Calvin Ridley on every play. For Georgia, Isaiah Wynn is the only real NFL talent on that offensive line at the moment whereas Alabama’s entire offensive line could find themselves on NFL rosters in the near future.

Defensive Line:

Georgia: Trenton Thompson, John Atkins, Jonathan Ledbetter

Alabama: Da’Shawn Hand, Da’Ron Payne, Raekwon Davis

Advantage: Alabama

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Alabama wins a nail-biter and the deciding factor was probably recency bias for me, as Da’Ron Payne and Raekwon Jones in particular were absolutely DOMINANT against Clemson while Georgia’s defensive line had problems against Oklahoma’s offensive line. This group is extremely hard to run on and will be critical to Alabama’s success, which I’ll delve into a bit more as to why that is in the linebacker position group.

Linebacker:

Georgia: Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Reggie Carter

Alabama: Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings, Mack Wilson, Jamey Mosley

Advantage: Georgia

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Georgia gets a major advantage in this category for one main reason: health. With everyone healthy, this would likely end up being a draw, as these may be the two absolute best linebacking corps in the nation. However, Alabama has lost Shaun Dion Hamilton and Dylan Moses for the season due to injuries and will have to count on the less talented Mack Wilson and Jamey Mosley. Rashaan Evans might be the most important player in this game, as much of the onus is on him to stop the Georgia ground attack, though a lot of pressure could be taken off if the defensive line gets a good push. As for Georgia, their linebackers struggled in the first half against Oklahoma, Roquan Smith in particular, but they really stepped up big in the second half, imposing their will on a previously dominant Oklahoma offense. They looked like their old selves and if they can do what they typically did all year against Alabama, then the Crimson Tide will have a hard time running the ball.

Defensive Back:

Georgia: Malkom Parrish, DeAndre Baker, Tyrique McGhee, Dominick Sanders, JR Reed

Alabama: Anthony Averett, Levi Wallace, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison

Advantage: Alabama

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No knock against Georgia’s secondary, as those guys are a part of one of the better units in the country. But they don’t hold a candle to Alabama’s secondary. They have three guys who could potentially be first round picks in the NFL Draft, Fitzpatrick, Harrison, and Averett, and you’ll basically need a dominant receiver to beat these guys, which Georgia lacks. I think this group is going to have a big game in this one.

Specialists:

Georgia: Rodrigo Blankenship, Cameron Nizeliak, Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin

Alabama: Andy Pappanastos, JK Scott, Trevon Diggs, Xavien Marks

Advantage: Georgia

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The main deciding factor in this is Georgia’s kicker. First of all, just look at him in all his glory. The other reason is his name. Blankenship. There was an amazing TV show from the early 2000’s called Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) where they showed footage of a Japanese game show but with English dubs and the dubs were hilarious. One of the commentators was named Kenny Blankenship in the dub and he would make lots of hilarious remarks, whether that be in regards to potentially critical injuries (“let’s hear the bones crack!”) or perverted analysis (using slow motion replay to look up a female competitor’s skirt). That show was so funny to me I just have to pick Georgia for this category thanks to Blankenship.

Head Coach:

Georgia: Kirby Smart

Alabama: Nick Saban

Advantage: Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

In my humblest of opinions, Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time. It’s harder to win now than it’s ever been and Saban’s Crimson Tide is consistently in the discussion for the nation’s best in every season. They’re the only team to make the playoff all 4 years of its existence and he will be coaching his third straight national championship game, 7th overall (he carries a 5-1 record in Natty’s, 4-1 as Alabama head coach). He has also never lost to a former assistant, which Georgia coach Kirby Smart is. Smart hasn’t been a head coach long enough to even be in the same discussion as Saban, but he’s on the right track if his first couple years are any indication.

Score: Alabama-5 Georgia-4

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Congratulations on your national championship, Alabama. Don’t worry about playing the game Monday Night, I’ve already made the decision. Let me know what you think of my championship game comparisons in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

World Series Game 4 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 4. Tony Watson was the winning pitcher, Ken Giles got the loss. The series is tied 2-2 heading into game 5. Some thoughts:

-Words cannot express how important Alex Wood’s performance was for the Dodgers. The bullpen was depleted and they needed him to go deep in this ballgame. While I wouldn’t call 5.2 innings deep, per se, the quality of those innings cannot be overstated. He was no-hitting this potent Astros lineup for 5.2 innings before serving up a laser home run to George Springer.

But he gave the Dodgers what they needed and while he didn’t get the winning decision, he was arguably the most important Dodger in this game.

-It seemed at first that Cody Bellinger hadn’t learned a thing from the last few games of this World Series, as he continued to look lost against that low curveball running in. But he finally snapped out of it in the 7th inning when Charlie Morton hung him a curveball and he was able to put it in the gap in left center. The FOX mics were able to pick him up saying “it’s a miracle” as he looked to the heavens. He had been 0-13 with 8 strikeouts in the World Series leading up to that at bat. His next time up?

Hopefully for the Dodgers this is what their rookie first baseman needed to break out of that slump.

-One fact about Bellinger’s 9th inning go-ahead double: it was the first time all postseason that the Astros trailed at home, a Major League record (over 70 innings, I don’t have the exact number at the moment).

-Dave Roberts did a lot less managing in this game and trusted the guys he had in there to get the job done and his faith was rewarded with a big victory. I thought he did much better managing his bullpen, as now he’s got plenty of options available tonight for Game 5.

-Something has to be done about Ken Giles. Coming into this appearance he had an ERA over 8 in the postseason and he let up 3 runs in this game without recording an out. This late in the season, I’m not so sure there’s a legitimate solution to his problem other than just sitting him down and bringing in other guys to shut the door, such as Chris Devenski or Will Harris.

-I wrote for Game 2’s blog that I didn’t like Roberts’ decision to put Joc Pederson on the World Series roster instead of Curtis Granderson. Once again, Roberts shows he knows more about baseball than I do.

Pederson has hit 2 clutch home runs this postseason, the first one came in Game 2 to knot it up off of Justin Verlander, this time to give the bullpen some breathing room, which was much needed considering Jansen let up a solo home run to Alex Bregman in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs.

-Speaking of Bregman, don’t run on him.

He did something similar to this in Game 7 of the ALCS, only the play was much tougher in that one than this one. The Dodgers are going to have to rethink their strategy when it comes to runners on third with less than two outs. Maybe freeze on a chopper to third.

-Charlie Morton gave a repeat performance of Game 7 of the ALCS, going 6.1 innings, allowing 3 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, and 7 K’s. The one run was Bellinger on this Logan Forsythe game-tying single.

It was his reliever Will Harris allowing the inherited runner to score that was the only blip on Morton’s line. He gave a fantastic performance and one has to think we haven’t seen the last of him in this World Series as well as Alex Wood (neither pitcher is scheduled to start the remainder of the Series, we may see both in relief in Games 6 or 7).

-Alex Bregman’s home run has to have Dodger fans worried about Kenley Jansen (my apologies, I can’t find the footage of the blast). Jansen has been getting tagged by Astros hitters all Series and you’ve got to be nervous about his ability to shut the door in a clincher. But Jansen is also the best closer in the NL and I think he finds a way to figure it out. But this is the second time in his career that he’s allowed home runs in back-to-back appearances (he allowed a home run to Marwin Gonzalez in Game 2 that tied the game and sparked the insanity).

-One more note on Bregman. He has hit four home runs this postseason. Two were hit off Chris Sale in the ALDS. One was off Clayton Kershaw in Game 1. The most recent was off Jansen. 3 superstar pitchers couldn’t keep Bregman in the park this postseason. Note to self, if you’re going to pitch to Bregman, send in someone bad.

-Both Astros hits in this game left the yard. The long ball has been king in this series, as 15 home runs have been hit already between the two teams in these 4 games.

-Yuli Gurriel will serve a 5-game suspension in 2018 for his racist gesture at Yu Darvish’s expense in Game 3. Rob Manfred explained that the reasoning behind this was that it would be unfair to his Astros teammates to infringe on their World Series hopes because of the actions of one player. The Astros have stated that the forfeited salary by Gurriel for those 5 games will be donated to charity. I’m not sure how I feel about this suspension. On the one hand, I like that MLB didn’t want to disrupt the competitive balance of this nail biting World Series by suspending a hitter that bats in the middle of the team’s lineup. On the other, it’s unfair of Gurriel to put his team in that situation by making the idiotic gesture and he should pay for what he did. Though I did read an article on Barstool Sports by Jared Carrabis that stated that no matter what, the destruction of Gurriel’s image is punishment enough because now he’s the guy who was racist towards Yu Darvish, one of the nicer guys in the league.

-Joe Buck and John Smoltz also mentioned during the game that AJ Hinch called Dave Roberts to apologize for Gurriel’s actions. It turns out, Roberts’ mother is Japanese. Roberts said he wasn’t surprised that Hinch made that phone call because that’s the type of guy he is.

-It’s also worth noting that Gurriel was a non-factor in this game. He hit into a double play in his first at bat and never seemed to make any good contact all night. I wonder what the media response to the suspension would be if Gurriel had himself a Hell of a game, say 2 home runs, including 1 in a clutch moment. Luckily for Major League Baseball’s PR team, Gurriel’s bat was nowhere to be found in this game.

-We may need to keep an eye on Justin Turner. There was a ball that skipped on him and hit him in the knee and it was clearly bothering him. He had to get pinch run for in the 9th inning, which oddly enough was the only substitution Roberts made to his lineup all game.

Looking Ahead:

Game 5 is a rematch of Game 1. The Dodgers will send Clayton Kershaw to the mound to face Dallas Keuchel of the Astros. Both guys were excellent in Game 1, Kershaw going 7 strong innings allowing 1 run (Bregman homer) and striking out 11. Keuchel let up 3 runs in his 6.1 innings of work, all on home runs to Chris Taylor and Justin Turner. Kershaw has a career ERA of 3.19 at Minute Maid Park in 5 career starts and will pitch with an even series, much like he did in Game 1. Keuchel had an ERA of 2.26 in 11 home starts this season with 6 wins so I expect a low-scoring affair.

Prediction:

It’s going to be tightly contested, but I think the Dodgers ride the momentum from their 5-run 9th inning and take Game 5 from the Astros to go back to LA up 3 games to 2. I think Kershaw is going to give the Dodgers another stellar performance and I think he will give the bullpen a well-deserved rest (except for maybe Jansen and Brandon Morrow, the latter of which has appeared in every game this World Series). I also think Keuchel will be really good in opposition of Kershaw, but I think a timely home run will be the difference. I’m going to predict a 3-2 Dodger victory.