General Sports: May 18

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-49ers linebacker Reuben Foster seems to be on the fast track to getting cleared of all charges. A little while ago, Foster allegedly assaulted his girlfriend so badly that he ruptured her ear drum and the charges he was facing could potentially land him in prison for up to 11 years. Well the “victim” gave her testimony where she basically stated that Foster never hit her and that she was actually the one who hit him (with a coat hanger) and that she wanted to “end him.” Now there is a possibility that she was paid “hush money” but I’m the type of person who will believe otherwise until it is proven to be true. But if the girlfriend did fabricate the story to try and derail Foster’s career, then quite frankly I’m sickened. Not only is she essentially trying to destroy an innocent man’s life, but she’s also making it harder for real victims to step forward. The reason there are people who will question victims of domestic assault is because of people like this chick who fabricate stories out of revenge. As long as people like this exist, there will people who will question the legitimacy of other assault victims and that’s just heartbreaking. That’s all I’m going to go into on the matter. It’s a sports blog.

-The Cleveland Browns have been chosen as this year’s Hard Knocks team and quite frankly, I’m kind of excited. It’s going to be risky choosing a team that’s coming off an 0-16 season but the Browns made so many moves in the offseason that they legitimately look like they could be halfway decent in 2018. There are also some legitimate personalities and some interesting storylines to boot. You can already tell that Baker Mayfield and Josh Gordon are going to be the stars of this show simply for their pasts and personalities. Hue Jackson, I feel, is going to be hit or miss. He’s been on Hard Knocks before as a runningbacks coach with the Bengals and he wasn’t that memorable so I’m interested to see if there’s going to be anything out of him. The best parts of these types of shows are coaches with personalities, which is a big reason why the 2010 Jets edition is pretty much unanimously considered to be the best season of Hard Knocks. Todd Haley and Gregg Williams are Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, respectively, so if Jackson doesn’t bring the energy to the show, these two will. The Browns were an excellent choice by HBO.

-So it’s the middle of May and at the top of the NL East Standings are the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, separated by just a game. What the Hell is going on out here? With Atlanta, it’s been the young guns, particularly Ozzie Albies, who is absolutely DESTROYING the ball through a month and a half, slashing .283/.320/.598 with 13 home runs and 31 RBI. His 13 home runs place him in a 6-way tie for the MLB lead and he leads the NL with 40 runs scored (next closest is Charlie Blackmon and Chris Taylor with 31). And he’s just 21 years old. Then there’s Ronald Acuna, who has picked up right where he left off after a big Spring Training, slashing .275/.348/.500 in his first 20 games. He’s 20 years old. These guys have lit a spark in this Atlanta lineup and it helps that Nick Markakis is having a HUGE year, slashing .333/.408/.518. Markakis hasn’t been relevant since 2014 so his presence on this Atlanta ball club has been huge for their turnaround. As for the Phillies, it seems like so long ago that Gabe Kapler was reportedly on the hot seat just 6 games into his big league tenure. Since toning it down after a rough first couple series, the Phillies have quietly been near the top of pretty much all major categories and are playing damn good baseball despite the fact that their prize offseason acquisition, Carlos Santana, is batting a measly .192. If the season were to end today, both clubs would make the playoffs. Might I remind you that these two teams finished in the cellar of the division last year. Crazy what difference a year can make.

-The Carolina Panthers are set to be bought by David Tepper, a hedge fund billionaire for $2.275 billion. This is a record purchase of an NFL franchise, eclipsing the $1.4 billion mark set by the Pegulas when they purchased the Buffalo Bills a few years ago. P Diddy, Steph Curry, and Colin Kaepernick all expressed interest in purchasing the Panthers when they went up for sale after sexual harassment allegations arose against now-former owner Jerry Richardson. But it’s going to be Tepper, a guy who I know literally nothing about except for what I read on an NFL.com article. But apparently he takes credit for coining the phrase “it is what it is,” which if that’s the case then I probably owe him some kind of royalties. Tepper does have experience in ownership to a degree, as he previously held a 5% stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers, which he will now have to sell. So it’ll be interesting to see if there’s some kind of culture change in Carolina.

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.

General Sports: April 8

-So remember how I wrote yesterday that Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was on the hot seat after only 6 games? Well…

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It seems that Kapler survives another day. The Marlins got out to a quick 1-0 lead thanks to a wild pitch by Vince Velasquez, then things imploded for Miami. Maikel Franco hit a grand slam in the first inning, Altherr hit another grand slam in the third, then an 8-run 4th inning. A few factoids from reading the box score:

  1. Everybody who had a plate appearance for the Phillies got a hit (with the exception of relief pitcher Jake Thompson). Even starting pitcher Velasquez recorded 2 knocks and scored a run.
  2. 4 players in the Phillies lineup drove in at least 3 runs. This was spearheaded by Franco driving in 6. Altherr drove in 4, Rhys Hoskins drove in 3, and Carlos Santana drove in 3.
  3. Jake Thompson actually managed to record a save despite the fact the Phillies won by 19. A little known fact about the save statistic, you are eligible to record a save if you relieved the starter and went at least the final 3 innings, even if the deficit is greater than 3 runs. Thompson went the final 3 innings and only allowed 1 hit.
  4. 7 of the 8 Phillies position players that started this game recorded an extra base hit. Leadoff second baseman Cesar Hernandez was the lone exception.
  5. 2 separate Marlins pitchers allowed at least 8 runs in this game. Starting pitcher Dillon Peters allowed 9 runs on 9 hits in 2.2 innings. His replacement, Jacob Turner, allowed 8 runs on 6 hits in his lone inning

As if we didn’t already know it was going to be a long year for the Marlins, they get hit with this shit storm of a game. These things can be miserable. I would know. I attended a Red Sox game in 2016 when the Angels came into Fenway and beat their asses 21-2. CJ Cron went 6-for-6 in that game. The Angels managed to score 11 runs in the 7th inning. That 7th inning got so bad that when Red Sox fans finally lost hope, we started trying to see how many runs the Angels could put up. That game ended up turning around the slumping Red Sox’ season, as they got hot shortly after that game and it propelled them to the division title. But these Marlins don’t have the talent the 2016 Red Sox did so 2018 is going to suck for them.

-Speaking of the Red Sox. I mentioned a couple days ago that there would come a time when the starting pitching would need to get picked up by the bats. Little did I know that it would come the very next game. I’m not going to sit here and say Rick Porcello struggled on the mound. It’s hard to call 7.1 innings allowing 3 runs and at one point retiring 17 batters in a row “struggling.” But he got off to a shaky start, allowing 2 runs in the top of the 1st, which for a while to start this season meant a long day for the Red Sox, who have struggled to score runs. Well they shook that REAL fast, as they answered with a 4 spot in both the first and second innings, which included a grand slam by Xander Bogaerts, who had 6 RBI through 2 innings. JD Martinez recorded his first homer as a member of the Red Sox and Rafael Devers also got in on the longball action and the Sox took home their 7th straight win by a score of 10-3.

-I know wrestling is scripted and it’s more a show than a sport, but it’s Wrestlemania tonight and I’m very excited for it and I think it’s the one time where you can put wrestling in your sports blog. I’m just going to go ahead and give my predictions. Samoa Joe returns from injury to win Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, Bayley wins Women’s Battle Royal, Cedric Alexander wins Cruiserweight Championship, Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle beat Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, Braun Strowman and mystery tag partner (I’m predicting Big Show) win RAW Tag Team Championship, Bludgeon Brothers win Smackdown Tag Team Championship, Finn Balor wins Intercontinental Championship, Randy Orton retains United States Championship, Nia Jax wins RAW Women’s Championship (Carmella tries to cash in her Money in the Bank contract but fails), Asuka wins Smackdown Women’s Championship, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn beat Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon to keep their jobs through some shenanigans, Undertaker beats John Cena (not officially a match yet, but come on), Shinsuke Nakamura wins WWE Championship, and Roman Reigns wins Universal Championship. *Pant, pant.* There. Let’s see how I do.

-Not to blow up Conor McGregor’s spot, but…

 

His bail was $50K, which I’m sure he easily could’ve paid out of pocket, so I’m not surprised to see he’s not in jail anymore, but that’s pretty ballsy to sneak into a UFC event after the stunt he pulled. This just adds fuel to the “it was a work” fire that people have been speculating as I doubt McGregor could’ve have just snuck in, being the most recognizable man in UFC right now.

-Well this is one way to get a walkoff win.

I’ve overrun the ball before in my lifetime, but I really have no idea what Eric Hosmer was doing there. It’s not like it was windy, the Astros play in a stadium with a retractable roof and even when that thing is open, the stadium is structured in a way that wind has a tough time getting in and out. You can probably just chalk that up to early season rust, which I guess is an excuse even though spring training began in February. But this must have been the worst game ever to watch. 0-0 in the 10th inning and the only run that scores comes across on a botched popup. Astros fans are probably just happy with the win whereas Padres fans could be just happy they competed with the world champs. But damn that’s a tough box score.

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.

General Sports: April 7

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-Sooooooo. Conor McGregor, eh? I would’ve gotten to this topic on yesterday’s blog, but I was already winding down for the night when I heard about it and had everything ready to go so I’m going to open this blog with the news. I don’t know what the Hell happened there, but the Irish fighter attacked a bus at UFC 223, throwing guardrails and chairs. He was arrested and charged with assault. I really don’t have too many details on this so I’m not going to go too in depth about it, plus I don’t know a whole lot about fights. But this is just a bad look. He was already considered a hothead and this doesn’t deter that opinion of him. McGregor isn’t even really employed by UFC anymore since he hasn’t competed there in over 500 days and has had a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in that time. I’m anxious for more details to come out with this because this is just a bizarre story. Plus how many times outside of WWE do you hear about guys attacking their competition outside of their sport? Maybe the whole Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding thing, but other than that, this is so bizarre that there are people suggesting that this was staged to build some hype for UFC 223, especially now that Canelo Alvarez vs GGG is off because Alvarez failed another drug test. Again, I’m awaiting more details. But we do have some video of the incident. Here it is with ESPN giving an account through Brett Okamoto on everything that transpired.

-Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis was busted for PED’s and has been suspended the first 4 games of the 2018 season, which is a shame, too, because I really like Davis. He’s a former Walter Payton Man of the Year winner and played Super Bowl L with a broken arm and it feels like he’s been in the league forever and still looks like he could play another few years, even though he announced that 2018 will be his last. He claims that an estrogen blocker triggered the positive test and that he’s never used performance enhancers in his life. I normally call bullshit on these types of situations but with Davis I get a sense that he’s telling the truth. He, of course, will have an opportunity to appeal the suspension in the coming weeks.

-Phillies rookie manager Gabe Kapler got mercilessly booed by the Philly faithful for the home opener. Kapler may be getting more heat than any manager has had this early in his career. His devotion to analytics hasn’t been sitting well with his players and he’s mismanaged seemingly at every turn, whether it’s pulling Aaron Nola after 68 pitches on Opening Day despite not having allowed a run or calling in a pitcher from the bullpen who hadn’t begun warming up yet. Reportedly he’s already losing the locker room after just 6 games (and a 2-4 record) and he may be on the hot seat. I like Kapler, always have from his Red Sox days. But this has the potential to be an utter disaster if he doesn’t figure something out quickly, especially in a city like Philadelphia where the Eagles finally won the Super Bowl and the 76ers’ process looks like it’s coming to fruition. They’re developing a winning culture in that city and that may lead them to be more ruthless than they’re already reputed as being.

-The Saints have signed wide receiver Cameron Meredith to an offer sheet of 2 years $9.6M. Under the CBA, since Meredith is a restricted free agent, his current team, the Bears, have 5 days to match the Saints’ offer for Meredith or he will be able to sign with New Orleans. If they do match it, he returns to the Bears on that deal. Meredith missed all of 2017 after tearing his ACL in the preseason however he broke out in 2016, catching 66 passes for 888 yards and 4 TDs after having gone undrafted in 2015. New Orleans has been a great place for receivers to go in the past, as we’ve seen the likes of Marques Colston, Michael Thomas, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, and Ted Ginn all have success there after having been undervalued at some point or another in their careers. The Bears signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in the offseason so perhaps that makes Meredith a bit more expendable.

-Cardinals rookie reliever Jordan Hicks has been setting the baseball world on fire by consistently throwing over 100 mph in his first appearances. His fastest pitch so far was a 2-seam fastball that touched 101.6. His next fastest was a SINKER at 101.4. If you’re throwing a sinker that fast, now only is the hitter’s bat going to shatter when that ball inevitably hits the skinny part of the bat, but your hands are going to be killing you for hours afterwards. The Cardinals recently signed Greg Holland to their closer’s role but if Hicks can consistently dominate, we could be looking at one of the next great closers in the game.

That’s all I got. Another short one, but it’s kind of a slow news week at the moment. Won’t really be able to go super in depth on the whole Conor McGregor thing until we have more information, particularly as it pertains to motives. Let me know what you think about the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Opening Day Recap

 

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It was a glorious Opening Day and baseball could not have returned with a bigger bang than it did on Thursday. While we were robbed of the “everybody opens at the same time” thing by rain in both Cincinnati and Detroit (and Bloomington, Indiana. Rained all day and when you have to walk as far as I do to and from class, you tend to loathe the rain), we still got some great baseball. So let’s get to some thoughts I had about what I saw (and didn’t see because of the goddamn technology ban in both my classes).

-Can’t start a season much better than the Cubs did. Their game against the Miami Marlins was the first game on tap so the first pitch of the season would be to a Cubs hitter. Leading off the season was Ian Happ. So how did the season’s first pitch go?

This was the first time since 1986 that the first pitch of the baseball season went yard. Dwight Evans did so for the Red Sox. Boston went on to lose the World Series in heartbreaking fashion (“BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER! HERE COMES KNIGHT AND THE METS WIN IT!”) so we’ll have to see if the Cubs can avoid that same fate.

-Speaking of the Red Sox, what a freaking choke job. They led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th after an absolutely dominating performance by Chris Sale (6 innings, 9 K’s, 1 hit) and I’ll put how that 8th inning went with this: Joe Kelly’s ERA is 108.00. Just an absolute waste. However it is Game 1 out of 162 and the Red Sox lost Opening Day in both the 2004 and 2007 seasons, both of which ended with World Series victories. There were some positives from this game, though. Xander Bogaerts looked really good, getting 3 hits including 2 doubles. Eduardo Nunez hit the first Opening Day inside-the-park home run by a Red Sox player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1968. In fact, counting the postseason, the Red Sox have back-to-back games with an inside-the-park home run, as Rafael Devers hit one in the 9th inning of the Sox’ Game 4 ALDS defeat at the hands of the Astros. Here’s the play in question.

-The Chicago White Sox scored 14 runs on the Royals. Wait, that’s a typo, right? The same White Sox team that many people are picking to be the worst in baseball? Again, it’s Game 1, but you have to be excited about the future if you’re a White Sox fan. DH Matt Davidson was the star as he hit 3 home runs, the 4th time someone has ever done so on Opening Day. Also something to note with this game, the Royals got out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning and the White Sox didn’t score a single run until the 4th, where they scored 5, then added on 3 more in the 5th, nothing in the 6th, then 3 in both the 7th and 8th inning. So when the White Sox scored, they scored in bunches.

-The Baltimore Orioles won via walkoff on Opening Day for the second consecutive season. A number like that is just unprecedented to me. Here’s the play.

It was a pitcher’s duel throughout between Dylan Bundy and Jake Odorizzi, which is surprising considering the fact that starting pitching appears to be the weakest part of both teams. I only caught the first couple innings of this one but I did notice that Manny Machado looks good to start the season. His first at bat he hit a laser over the right fielder’s head and coasted into second with an easy double.

-Offensively the Mets looked really good. I sporadically changed my feed between this game and the O’s-Twins for a little while and basically every time I watched, the Mets were compiling hits and scoring runs, which was great for them because Noah Syndergaard fell into some tough luck. He struck out 10 batters but gave up 4 runs, including a 2-run homer against Yadier Molina on a really nice pitch that you really can’t do anything about. I said before in their 30 Clubs in 30 Days, but I think the Mets are going to be a lot better than they were last year.

-If you weren’t terrified of the Yankees before, you should be now. Giancarlo Stanton homered twice in his Yankees debut, the second to ever do so (the first was Roger Maris). Here’s his first at bat as a Yankee.

His other homer also went to the opposite field. So you’ve got both Judge and Stanton who have stupid power to all fields. The Yankees cruised to a 6-1 win over the Blue Jays, who were honoring the late Roy Halladay before the game.

-Nick Markakis got his first career walkoff home run out of the way on Opening Day.

Gotta feel great for the 34 year-old. However Phillies fans were pretty bent out of shape by Gabe Kapler’s managerial decisions in his debut. He pulled Aaron Nola after just 68 pitches, 5.1 innings, and only a run allowed. The bullpen promptly imploded, allowing 6 runs after the 7th inning. So a rough debut for Kapler.

-I mentioned how Ian Happ homered on the season’s first pitch. Well George Springer was jealous that Happ’s game started first.

It is the second consecutive season that Springer led off his teams’s season with a home run, the only man ever to be able to say that. And last time the Astros had a guy homer to start Opening Day, they won the World Series. Just sayin’.

-Shohei Ohtani singled on his first at bat in the States, which has to be encouraging because he had a MISERABLE spring training. He went 4-for-32 at the plate and on the mound he gave up 9 runs in 2.2 innings. He DH’d and hit 8th for the Angels and will be the starting pitcher on Sunday against the A’s. Speaking of the A’s, they won on a walkoff as well on a Marcus Semien single in the 11th inning. The A’s were also able to absolutely shut down Mike Trout, who went 0-6 in a game for the first time in his career.

-Clayton Kershaw got outdueled by Ty Blach of all people. Kershaw traditionally is INSANE on Opening Day, as he entered the game with a career 0.99 Opening Day ERA. He was great again, as he only let up 1 run on a solo shot by Joe Panik that barely stayed fair and collected 2 hits of his own at the plate, but Blach didn’t let up a thing, going 5 innings and letting up just 3 hits.

It was a Hell of an Opening Day and I think we’re in for a great season. Let me know what you think Opening Day 2018 in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Philadelphia Phillies

There’s a video circulating of ODell Beckham Jr in a hotel room with a woman smoking what looks like a blunt and what appears to be cocaine present in the room. The blunt I don’t really care about, it’s pretty well known that a large majority of NFL players smoke weed and even the NFL is like “you can’t smoke weed, wink wink,” but the blow is a different issue. Beckham doesn’t snort the substance in the video so maybe they just emptied the sugar out of a bag of sour patch kids. Can’t really know for sure unless you stick a little bit on your tongue or snort it so let’s give Beckham the benefit of the doubt before condemning him. Also I know Selection Sunday was yesterday, but I’m writing this in the airport before my flight at 11 AM just in case things get out of control tonight, so I won’t be sharing my March Madness bracket until tomorrow. We’ve got a couple days between Selection Sunday and the play-in games so I’m not too worried. With that, let’s get to day 21 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Philadelphia Phillies.

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2017 Results:

Record: 66-96, 31 games behind Washington Nationals, 21 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Jake Arrieta, 1B Carlos Santana, RP Pat Neshek, RP Fernando Abad, RP Tommy Hunter, IF Adam Rosales

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF Daniel Nava, OF Hyun Soo Kim, SP Clay Buchholz

Best Offensive Player: 1B Carlos Santana

Best Pitcher: Jake Arrieta

Depth Chart:

C-Jorge Alfaro, Cameron Rupp

1B-Carlos Santana, Tommy Joseph

2B-Cesar Hernandez

3B-Maikel Franco

SS-JP Crawford, Adam Rosales

LF-Rhys Hoskins

CF-Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn

RF-Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr

SP-Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin

Bullpen-Hector Neris (CP), Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos, Fernando Abad

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Gabe Kapler (1st season with Phillies)

Hitting Coach-John Mallee

Pitching Coach-Rick Kranitz

1st Base Coach-Jose Flores

3rd Base Coach-Dusty Wathan

Bench Coach-Rob Thomson

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I was pretty disappointed in the Phillies last season. I thought last year was the year their young guys would start to put it together and show some progress in this rebuild. But they didn’t, really. The team continued to suck and finished with a record of 66-96, second worst in the NL. They continue to pay for not drafting me in the 2014 MLB Draft. They sent a scout to my high school and he witnessed with his own two eyes me line a single down the left field line to start a 9th inning rally. Who cares if I had a weak throwing arm, no speed, little power, and started 2 games all season (and yes, I did check to make sure they didn’t actually draft me)? That one hit should’ve been all the proof they needed. Instead they drafted Aaron Nola, but I’ll get to him later. They hired Gabe Kapler to be their new manager, as I recommended they should, so hopefully the young guys develop the way they should. Here’s a look at what he’s got to work with heading into this season.

1. Odubel Herrera-CF

2. Cesar Hernandez-2B

3. Carlos Santana-1B

4. Rhys Hoskins-LF

5. Maikel Franco-3B

6. Nick Williams/Aaron Altherr-RF

7. JP Crawford-SS

8. Jorge Alfaro-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s some young talent here. JP Crawford is one of the top prospects in all of baseball and he got a brief taste of the Majors last season. He only hit .214 in 23 games but he walked a TON, as he reached ball 4 on 18.4% of his plate appearances (which would’ve ranked 4th in the Majors behind Joey Votto, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout), resulting in a .356 OBP despite the low average. Maikel Franco is a guy I’ve been frustrated with because he’s one of the most talented third basemen in the game but he has done nothing so far in the Majors. Reportedly the newly-signed Carlos Santana is taking him under his wing, though, so if he can learn from Santana’s approach, then we could see a significant uptick in production. Santana is notorious for his plate discipline, as he’s traditionally one of the best at drawing walks year-in and year-out while also displaying 30-home run power. But of course, the biggest story for the Phillies offensively last season was Rhys Hoskins. Despite only playing 50 games last season, Hoskins launched 18 home runs, slugged .618, and was worth 2.2 WAR. That’s outstanding for such a short period of time. He’s going to do a lot of damage for the Phillies this season and he’ll likely be doing it with runners frequently on base ahead of him, as Santana draws a lot of walks and Odubel Herrera has never hit below .280 in his 3-year career. So provided this talented group of youngsters grows under Kapler the way I thought they would last season under Pete Mackanin, this could be a sneaky good offense.

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Pitching was pretty inconsistent for the Phillies last season, as they posted a 4.60 team ERA. There’s a lot of untapped potential in this staff. Aaron Nola looks like a budding star at the top of their rotation. Last year he went 12-11 with a 3.54 ERA and struck out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings. He’s already been named the Opening Day starter against the Atlanta Braves, a huge honor for the 24 year-old. After him there’s some talented guys but with mixed results. Jared Eickhoff showed flashes of brilliance at times for the Phillies but his final numbers were pretty underwhelming, posting a 4.71 ERA and striking out a little over 8 batters per 9. Vince Velasquez is another guy who has flashed a ton of ability, particularly in a 2016 start against the Padres when he threw a shutout while striking out 16 batters on just 3 hits. However he also hasn’t built on that amazing outing, as he finished with an ERA over 5 in 2017. Kapler has a reputation for developing players in the Dodgers’ organization so hopefully for these guys’ sakes he’s able to work his magic with them, too. This is also a late edit, but I had already had this blog set up so forgive me if it reads weird, but Jake Arrieta just agreed to a 3-year $75M deal with the Phillies. It likely doesn’t change Nola’s status as team ace, but it is certainly a MAJOR upgrade on the mound. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner didn’t have his best year in 2017, but he’s still a stud on the mound. It’ll be interesting to see how soon he’s able to suit up for the Phillies.

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There’s a lot to be desired in the Phillies bullpen. Hector Neris is set to be their closer and he was pretty good last season, saving 26 games with a 3.01 ERA and 10.37 K/9. He’s got some electric stuff and I think he could be a potential breakout candidate. The star for the Phillies’ pen was 36 year-old Pat Neshek. Before being traded at the Deadline to the Rockies, Neshek was the Phillies’ lone All Star last season, posting a 1.12 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per 9, a very high number for a submarine pitcher at his age. Neshek returned to the Phillies in free agency in the offseason and he will likely be the 8th inning guy and possibly the closer when Neris can’t go. After those guys there’s a lot of uncertainty. New additions Fernando Abad and Tommy Hunter have had success in the past but have also had plenty of rough patches and might not be the most reliable guys for the Phillies. This bullpen may struggle in 2018.

Overall, I think there’s talent on the Phillies and like the A’s in yesterday’s blog, it’s all going to come down to how their young guys develop. If Kapler can awaken the talent in these guys like he did for guys like Chris Taylor and Justin Turner with the Dodgers, then the Phillies’ rebuild could be ending very soon. I think the Phillies are going to be my pick for most-improved team in 2018.

Projected Record: 75-85, 3rd in NL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are on the brink of a rebuild after trading stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Let me know what you think of the Phillies’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

A Look At the Managerial Hunts in MLB

So we’ve had five managers lose their jobs since the start of their team’s offseason: Terry Collins with the Mets, Pete Mackanin with the Phillies, John Farrell with the Red Sox, Brad Ausmus with the Tigers, and most recently, Dusty Baker with the Nationals. The Nationals and Phillies positions have yet to be filled and I will briefly discuss their situations. As for the other three teams, the Mets have hired away former Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, the Tigers have hired Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire, and the Red Sox will make their hiring of Astros bench coach Alex Cora official after the Astros finish the World Series. I talked in the John Farrell article that I linked above about what I think of Ron Gardenhire so I won’t go into too much depth about his hiring with the Tigers. So let’s look over the managerial hires.

Mickey Callaway to the Mets:

This was long overdue. Callaway is, or was, in my opinion the best pitching coach in baseball and now you give him an extremely talented group of starting pitchers that underachieved last season as a whole. It just makes too much sense for the Mets to hire Callaway. He had great success, particularly over the last two or three seasons as the Indians pitching coach. I think he did a great job getting the most he can out of Trevor Bauer, who is a really talented pitcher but can’t seem to get out of his own way. He also did a good job with Josh Tomlin, who would give up bomb after bomb but then when the Indians needed a big game out of him, like in the 2016 postseason, he stepped up and delivered. For the Mets, Noah Syndergaard missed almost the entire season due to a lat issue while Matt Harvey has pretty much disappeared into oblivion and Steven Matz refuses to take the next step. Jacob deGrom was the only member of that super rotation whom I felt had a strong season and even then his numbers were low-end number 2 starter high-end number 3 (3.53 ERA). Callaway is going to be a huge addition to getting this Mets team back into relevance because this is the most talented pitching staff he’s ever had to work with, and that’s really saying something considering the talent he had on that Indians staff.

Ron Gardenhire to the Tigers:

I like Gardenhire a lot, he did a great job with the Twins from 2002-2014 especially considering they never had much of a payroll to work with. The Tigers had one of the highest payrolls in baseball before things went south and they gutted the team. I don’t know if there will be immediate success with Gardenhire in Detroit, but I am confident that he will set the Tigers back on the right track in short time.

Alex Cora to the Red Sox

Alex Cora is a guy I’ve heard a lot of hype surrounding his potential managerial career even while he was still playing. There was a point in the 2007 season where rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia was struggling and Cora, seeing how much talent Pedroia had, worked with him to get better even though it would likely cost Cora his shot at a starting job at second base, which it did. Pedroia, with Cora’s help, went on to win the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and helped lead Boston to the 2007 World Series championship and he followed that up with the 2008 AL MVP, the first by a second baseman in over 50 years. Basically every single Red Sox hitter took a big step back last season, most notably Xander Bogaerts and Cora seems like the right guy to get these guys back on track to the potent offense they can be.

The Nationals Job

The Nationals got ousted in Game 5 of the 2017 NLDS and it proved to be Dusty Baker’s last game as manager of the Nationals despite easily winning the NL East with a 97-65 record. This has to be a very desirable job in the short term, long term we will have to wait and see. The short term is that this is a LOADED roster, with All Star potential all over the pitching rotation and up and down the lineup. The problem may revolve around Bryce Harper, the Nats superstar outfielder. He is set to hit free agency after the conclusion of the 2018 season and the Nats aren’t expected to be able to retain him. They shelled out a big contract to Stephen Strasburg last year and with the current salaries on payroll, there won’t be the cap space to give Bryce Harper the $300M contract he would likely be able to get. If I’m GM Mike Rizzo, I want to be in win-right-the-fuck-now mode. Bryce Harper’s going to be gone soon and there may be a Phillies-esque contract situation where you may have given out too many huge contracts that it weights your team down when the guys’ skills start to deteriorate. Hell, Max Scherzer signed a 7-year $210M deal, but they’re going to spread the payments out over 14 years. So for 7 years after Scherzer’s contract is up, he will be making $15M a year to not play for the Nationals. Great for Scherzer, awful for the future Nats. You want to at least be like Ruben Amaro Jr and be able to hang your hat on that one World Series title you got when you need to find your next job. For Amaro, that job was first base coach of the Boston Red Sox. But Rizzo has yet to have that manager that gets them over the top. So who fits the bill? Certainly not Brad Ausmus, he had loads of talent in Detroit and couldn’t do better than a 90 win season and a quick playoff exit. The other top candidates that I listed above are all gone. Gene Lamont doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in Detroit. One name I would keep an eye on for these Nats is their current pitching coach Mike Maddux. Maddux’s name was thrown all over the place as a potential managerial candidate when he was pitching coach of the Texas Rangers when they went to back-to-back World Series’ from 2010-11. Those talks never gained much traction and he has yet to get a real gig. The team won 97 games this year so I think an in-house hire might be a good idea in this situation because you want to keep up that regular season success. You just need a guy that can get you over the top. Maddux has potential, but he’s not a sure thing like what Joe Maddon was when he left the Rays and joined the Cubs. It’ll be risky because there has to be some sort of reason why Maddux never got a managerial job, but I think he would be the safest choice for Washington.

The Phillies Job

This has to be one of the most undesirable jobs in baseball. The Phillies are sorely lacking in the talent department and have been for quite some time. They are finally rid of Ryan Howard’s enormous contract and can at long last make some plays for some free agents. The problem will be convincing guys to come play for Philly. First of all, I know this is a little unfair but their reputation precedes them, is finding a guy who can deal with the fans. Philly fans are notorious for being ruthless when things aren’t going well and even when they are, they still find something to boo. That’s probably overgeneralizing, but the fact of the matter is these fans have been starved for good baseball for over 5 years now and those dominant teams of the late-2000’s seems like a long lost memory. I felt that Pete Mackanin got as much out of the lack of talent that the team had as he could, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The Phillies went 66-96 in 2017, second worst record in the NL and they need to find a guy they can trust for the long haul to be part of a rebuild. Philly sports has been known for “Trust the Process” as the 76ers and Joel Embiid have made so popular, and it’s high time the Phillies showed some semblance of a process. They don’t appear to have any direction. Personally, if I’m Team President Andy McPhail, I would clean house and start from scratch. I’d trade every asset I have for top prospects and find a GM with a fresh take on how the organization should be run. That’s basically what the Astros did a few years ago and look at them now. The Phillies really don’t have much going for them and if you’re going to suck, you might as well build towards the future. But who should be the manager for this team? Well the Phillies are amazingly in week 4 of their search, which is bonkers to me. If you’re going to let a manager go, you’ve got to have some sort of succession plan. Hell, Dave Dombrowski was considering his options for next Red Sox manager during the ALDS when Farrell still held the damn job! One guy I think would be perfect for this job is Gabe Kapler. I may be biased because he was a beloved member of the Red Sox teams from my youth, but this guy was neck and neck with Dave Roberts for the Dodgers job a couple years ago. If an organization like the Dodgers is seriously considering you as comparable to as good a manager as Roberts, there’s got to be something to it. I don’t know a whole lot about Kapler’s abilities as an in-game manager, but I do know that he is a likable guy who really helps tie a clubhouse together. He’s currently the director of player development with the Dodgers and you’ve seen what kinds of rookies they’ve turned out over the last couple years as well as some of the breakout seasons they’ve had (ie: Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor). If a guy does that well with developing young talent, then he would be the perfect candidate to lead a rebuild.

Those are my thoughts on the current managerial situations around baseball. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.