General Sports: May 7

So before I get into General Sports, I just want to say that my blogs will likely be a little more inconsistent. As I mentioned a little while back, my family got a new puppy. I finally got a chance to meet her and while she is an absolute angel, she’s still a baby and is going to need a lot of attention. So I’ll not only be having to take care of her, but also returning to work at the liquor store, which I resume on Thursday. So for a while I might struggle to post everyday. With that said, let’s get to General Sports.

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-Gleyber Torres is off to quite the start to his big league career. The former top prospect in all of baseball, Torres was acquired by the Yankees as a minor leaguer and the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs in 2016. Torres missed most of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John midseason but was able to return healthy enough to participate in Spring Training. He began the season in the Minor Leagues and was called up on April 22. Since then, he’s hit .327 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI. In fact, that second home run is the one that enticed me to give an update on him since it was a walkoff shot against the Indians. Here it is below.

The kid’s got a good-looking compact swing that looks very well controlled and he’s got pretty good size for a second baseman at 6’1 200 pounds. Second base has been an issue for the Yankees since letting Robinson Cano walk in free agency prior to the 2014 season as they haven’t been able to consistently get a consistent contributor at the position. Starlin Castro was solid but you never got the sense that he was going to be the guy for the next 5 years. Torres has the talent to be a fixture at the top of this dangerous Yankees lineup for the next ten years.

-Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is going to miss a month for groin surgery after taking a foul tip to the nuts. Now, of course, being a catcher, he was wearing a cup. I just wanted to type that. But apparently he felt something was off and was diagnosed with a “pelvic injury with traumatic hematoma.” I’m not quite sure what that means, so I’m just going to say that Yadi got hit so hard in the balls that he’s out a month. Molina is 35 years old but was putting up a decent line of .274/.292/.456. Not MVP numbers by any stretch but solid for a catcher of his age. The injury has one positive note to it, though. The Cardinals will get a chance to give one of their top prospects, Carson Kelly, a shot to see if he has what it takes to be Molina’s successor. But Molina is going to be a tough guy to replace as it doesn’t get much better behind the plate or with handling a pitching staff. Currently the Cardinals are sitting atop the NL Central Standings and if Kelly struggles too much, they might lose their grip on the division and could fall too far behind the Cubs and Brewers, who can get hot at any moment.

-There may be more trouble in Seattle brewing. The Seahawks lost both of their starting pass rushers in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril along with their superstar corner Richard Sherman this offseason. Now it looks like Earl Thomas may hold out for a new contract. He hasn’t been attending voluntary workouts and Pete Carroll admitted he has no idea when Thomas is going to report. Thomas’ contract is up at the end of the season so the desire for a new deal appears to be the motivating factor. Now in all fairness, Thomas isn’t breaking any team rules at the moment, as mandatory workouts don’t begin until June. However anytime a player entering a contract year isn’t attending certain team workouts it becomes worrisome for the player’s current employer. So for now I will say for any Seahawks fans out there, I wouldn’t be too concerned yet. However if he’s not showing up to OTA’s, then there may be cause for concern. Just something to keep an eye on during this NFL offseason.

-Clayton Kershaw is hitting the DL with a bicep tendinitis in his pitching arm. It’s only the 10-day DL so perhaps he’ll only have to miss a start or two. However this makes back-to-back seasons where Kershaw has dealt with injuries. Kershaw is pitching below his LOFTY standards this season, but below standards for Kershaw is still an All Star-caliber season, as he’s currently carrying a 2.86 ERA and striking out over 9 batters per 9. But considering his career ERA is 2.37 (which is absurd) and his career K/9 is around 10, could that suggest that Kershaw is heading towards a bit of regression in his age-30 season? Perhaps. We’ll have to see how he recovers from the injury.

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: May 1

-Here’s a video that’s making its rounds on the web.

As the caption notes, that’s Deion Sanders’ son that just bodied that poor kid who is probably on JV. If I’m the kid, though, there is one positive thing to take away from this. So this is clearly a 1-on-1 drill and from that standpoint there’s nothing to hang your hat on. But let’s say this was during an actual play. He’d have done a good job of getting the corner out of the play. It’s hard to make a tackle when you’re ten feet into the bench. Hell, if the quarterback were to pitch to the runningback in his direction, that’d be a pretty successful block if I do say so myself.

However, if you’re running a route and you get bodied like this, you should retire. For any aspiring receivers out there, I have a few tips for you on how to avoid getting absolutely destroyed when the corner is obviously that much better than you.

1. Don’t face Deion Sanders’ kid. Deion may be the greatest corner of all time so you know he’s taught his son a thing or two about playing the position. Just admit defeat and walk away from that matchup because even if you do shake the press, you’re going to be put on an island.

2. If you ignored tip #1 like an idiot, there are some tactics to breaking the press. My favorite, which I typically found successful, was to slap the wrists. You know the snap count, he doesn’t, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t have the first move. The moment you move he’s going to try and get his hands on you to try and jam you at the line, which he can do within five yards of the line of scrimmage. If you slap his wrists out of the way before he can slam your chest, you can get him off balance and then get the edge on him and make him look silly and get yourself a scholarship.

3. If you’re still ignoring tip #1, then I guess your next best bet will be to pray he’s not in press coverage. Because if you’re that white kid, the only way you’re getting the ball is if he’s inexplicably giving you a big cushion, which is something I did when I was a corner because that was the only way I avoided getting beat deep due to my lack of speed. If he’s 5-7 yards off like what is a normal depth, then you’re probably not going to get the ball but at least you’ll still have your dignity.

4. For the love of Christ just follow tip #1.

I hope this was helpful and informative. Let this poor bastard serve as a cautionary tale.

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-Los Angeles Dodgers superstar shortstop Corey Seager needs Tommy John surgery. It’s rare for a position player to need the surgery, but it’s not unheard of. Seager will most certainly be done for the season after only one month, a huge blow for a Dodgers team that’s not off to a great start in their bid to return to the World Series. Seager wasn’t hitting up to his usual MVP-caliber abilities heading into the surgery, but perhaps this was something that’s been bugging him, hence the average numbers. He was batting .257 with 2 home runs and 12 RBI at the time of injury. The Dodgers will need to find some way to get some guys to try and replicate some portion of Seager’s productivity if they hope to win the division, let alone win the World Series, as the Diamondbacks are off to one of the best starts by any team ever, having won all 9 series to start the season. Right now the replacement at shortstop appears to be Chris Taylor, who will move in from center field to play his natural shortstop position while Kike Hernandez takes over in center. I also saw one column that suggested perhaps this makes the Dodgers a potential suitor for Manny Machado as his contract is set to expire. If the Dodgers are able to get back in the race for the NL West, I fully expect them to be favorites to land the superstar infielder as they have the ammunition to get him.

-More tough news for the Dodgers. Manager Dave Roberts benched 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger for not hustling on a double, which Roberts felt cost them a potential triple. Bellinger was caught off guard by this, as he feels that he always hustles. Here’s the hit in question.

I don’t know, man. MAYBE he could’ve reached third. But Bellinger isn’t what we call fast, that’s part of the reason he plays first base. Bellinger has been one of the bright spots for the Dodgers this season, as he has continued to hit well, posting a .291 clip with 3 home runs and 12 RBI. He’s been one of the Dodgers’ lone bright spots on offense, which has SORELY missed Justin Turner, who has been out with a broken wrist. I think Roberts is overreacting here. Bellinger doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who needs to be flexed on to get the message, just talked to. We’re not even sure if this is a recurring thing or if it’s just one play. If this is something that happens a lot, then yeah, you probably should have him sit a game or two to get it in his head how important hustle is. But if this is the first occurrence, then I think Roberts needs to chill out.

-Players do a variety of things when they’re suspended. Ezekiel Elliott trained in Cabo, for one. Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly was suspended for plunking Tyler Austin that sparked a benches clearing brawl, which included punches thrown by Kelly himself. How did Kelly spend his suspension? He went to the ballgame and hung out with the fans.

This had to be a cool moment for the fans sitting in his section and I think that it’s a cool gesture by Kelly. He’s become a fan favorite in Boston since throwing at Austin and this will just further his popularity. I’m not sure if this is allowed by Major League Baseball, being at the stadium during his suspension, so I’m not sure if he’ll get in trouble for this. But I’ve got to imagine that as long as he payed for a ticket and didn’t interact with the team then it will probably be okay. If it’s Roger Goodell, though, then he’s probably getting an additional 6 games tacked on. But this is Rob Manfred, who is trying to revive fan interest in baseball and a gesture like this by Kelly works really well in achieving that goal so I’m sure he’ll let it go even if it’s not allowed.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you thought of the day’s events in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: April 12

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-The rivalry is back. Red Sox and Yankees finally means something again. For awhile, the rivalry felt pretty dead as it’s hard to top one team coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant like the Red Sox did in 2004. For a while, things were pretty tame between these two teams. That was until last night. It started with a National Anthem staredown where Andrew Benintendi outlasted Sonny Gray, which was nice and harmless. Then Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin took a hard slide into Red Sox shortstop Brock Holt trying to break up a double play. Things got a little chippy at that point, when the two butted heads, resulting in the benches clearing. Things settled down, though. That is until Austin came up to bat against Joe Kelly and we got this.

I always love me a good baseball fight and this is no exception. Love the bat slam by Austin, no particular reason behind it other than it looked kinda cool. Kelly and Austin exchange words and it’s on. Kelly put a swift move on Austin and was able to get the takedown before throwing a punch at the Yankees first baseman’s head. Kelly was, of course, ejected and will likely get a suspension. Austin was tossed as well and will probably face some sort of discipline and Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin was also sent to the showers. Can’t remember the last time I heard about a third base coach getting ejected. But when the Red Sox and Yankees hate each other and both teams are stacked with great talent, that’s when baseball’s at its best. This brought back memories of Jason Varitek punching Alex Rodriguez in the face back in 2004.

-Believe it or not, that wasn’t the first baseball fight of the day. There was one out in Colorado, too, as Luis Perdomo of the Padres and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies got into it. Here’s the play in question.

Perdomo’s glove throw isn’t nearly as bad as Bryce Harper’s monumentally poor helmet throw from last season, but it’s still pretty bad. I’m not sure what the precedent was for Perdomo bringing the heat at Arenado’s back because it kind of came out of nowhere. With Kelly throwing at Austin, it was retaliation for Austin’s hard slide into Holt. There wasn’t really an inciting incident for this one. But I always enjoy a good baseball fight. The second game I ever attended had a baseball fight and I almost missed it. It was at Tropicana Field as I was visiting my grandparents in Florida back in 2005 (I was 9 years old). My grandma was taking me and my brother to the gift shop to get something when I heard a commotion in the stadium. I ran to the nearest entryway and sure enough, the Red Sox and Devil Rays (this was back when they still carried that name) were swarmed together around the mound. What happened was Tampa Bay pitcher Dewon Brazelton had plunked Manny Ramirez then threw at David Ortiz as the very next batter. He missed Ortiz, but Big Papi took exception and he charged the mound. The Red Sox won the game 11-3 on the strength of a grand slam by Jay Payton of all people.

-I got a chance to watch Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines over the course of this past week. It’s 8 episodes long and chronicles Michigan’s season from their spring trip to Italy to their Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina. Amazon Prime has been doing All or Nothing in the NFL for the last couple years and it’s been fantastic every time. This year’s NFL team is the Cowboys and it will be released on April 27. But this was the first time they focused on a college football team and I’m not sure they could’ve picked a much better subject to focus on.

at Camp Randall Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jim Harbaugh basically expressed every emotion imaginable during these 8 episodes. When Michigan won handily, I don’t think there’s a human being alive who is a happier dude. When Michigan lost, particularly the Michigan State loss, Harbaugh seemed terrifying to be around. It was almost like he was going to snap at the first person who talked to him. His wife seemed like she was doing everything she could to tread lightly. We also got a look at his coaching style and I’ll tell you what, he’s a pretty unique dude. His speeches can get a little bizarre but strangely motivating. We find out in the final episode where he gets it from, his father Jack. In the final episode, before the South Carolina game, Jack Harbaugh speaks to the team and gives them a rousing speech about a boxing match he saw once and basically every mannerism and word choice was pretty similar to Jim’s.

Some other things of note: Rashan Gary’s intelligence isn’t highlighted enough by the media. Everyone talks about how he was the nation’s #1 recruit a couple of years ago and that he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the country. But the guy carries a GPA of around 4.0 at one of the toughest universities in the country and he’s really well-spoken. The dinner scene he has with his mom about not wanting his dad to be a part of his life is pretty moving and I thought was the best scene in the whole series and that includes the NFL seasons. His passion is also very apparent in games as he was often mic’d up for the games. You could really feel his intensity.

Defensive coordinator Don Brown didn’t get enough screen time. The guy was electric every time he was on camera and he kind of reminded me of Mike Ditka at times. There was surprisingly very little cussing from anyone on the staff, players or coaches (Hell, Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton yelled “FUDGE” after an Ohio State touchdown). I don’t know if that was planned ahead of time or if that’s just how they run things in Ann Arbor. But I’m pretty sure every single ‘f’ bomb uttered came out of Brown’s mouth while he was coaching or hyping players up. He pretty much stole every scene he was in.

Another scene-stealer was defensive end Chase Winovich. Off the field he was kind of bland but when he was on the field he was an absolute riot with his trash talking. My favorite was in the Wisconsin game after he got a sack. He walked up to a Wisconsin offensive lineman and yelled “protect your quarterback!” at him. It was pretty much like this all the time for every game that was shown.

That’s going to do it for this one. Let me know what you think of 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: Boston Red Sox

Some huge news in the college basketball world as some initial reports have been released regarding current and former players and improper benefits from either schools or agents. The biggest names listed are Michigan State’s Miles Bridges (as if Michigan State needed any more scandals), Alabama’s Colin Sexton, Duke’s Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz of the 76ers (attended Washington), Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers (attended Utah), and Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks (attended NC State). The investigation is still ongoing so I’ll provide more details when more information is released. Also, a big trade was agreed upon between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, as the Chiefs are sending star cornerback Marcus Peters to LA for a package of draft picks. This just made an already good Rams defense absolutely terrifying. But today is 30 Clubs in 30 Days and I’m featuring the Boston Red Sox. As I’m sure readers of my blog are well aware, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I apologize if I go a little more in depth with them than other teams. I’m only human. So let’s get a look at the Red Sox’ chances in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 93-69, Won AL East over New York Yankees by 2 games, lost to Houston Astros in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: OF JD Martinez

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Addison Reed, OF Chris Young, RP Fernando Abad, RP Blaine Boyer, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Rajai Davis, SP Henry Owens, SP Doug Fister

Best Offensive Player: RF Mookie Betts

Best Pitcher: Chris Sale

Depth Chart:

C-Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon

1B-Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland

2B-Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez

3B-Rafael Devers, Deven Marrero

SS-Xander Bogaerts

LF-Andrew Benintendi, Brock Holt

CF-Jackie Bradley Jr

RF-Mookie Betts, JD Martinez (DH)

SP-Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright

Bullpen-Craig Kimbrel (CP), Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Brandon Workman, Robby Scott

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Alex Cora (1st season with Red Sox)

Hitting Coach-Tim Hyers

Pitching Coach-Dana LeVangie

1st Base Coach-Tom Goodwin

3rd Base Coach-Carlos Febles

Bench Coach-Ron Roenicke

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The Red Sox regressed in a big way offensively in 2017. After scoring the most runs in the American League in 2016, they dropped off significantly and finished dead last in the American League in home runs. For a while, it didn’t look like they were going to do a whole lot to change things other than bring back guys from last year’s team (Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez). That was until they signed JD Martinez to a 5-year $110M deal. I won’t expand too much about his potential role in Boston, as I did so in the blog I just linked. Now they look to get back on track under rookie manager Alex Cora. Here’s a look at how the Red Sox are projected to line up in 2018.

1. Eduardo Nunez/Dustin Pedroia-2B

2. Andrew Benintendi-LF

3. Mookie Betts-RF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland-1B

7. Rafael Devers-3B

8. Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

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Now on paper that’s a pretty imposing lineup as long as they can return to their 2016 forms because only Christian Vazquez took a step forward at the dish in 2017. It’s an entirely new coaching staff with a different philosophy so it’ll be interesting to see how they do things. Alex Cora stated recently that he doesn’t really get the whole “lefty/lefty righty/righty” conundrum, stating something along the lines of “you’ve been hitting lefties all your life and now all of a sudden you can’t hit lefties when you reach the Majors? Doesn’t make sense to me.” He hasn’t even managed a meaningful game yet and I already love his style. But there is a ton of ability in this lineup if Cora and company can get the most out of it. The young stars have been nicknamed the Killer B’s, consisting of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi, all of whom can take over games when teams aren’t careful. Betts is the most dangerous of the bunch, as he was AL MVP runner-up in 2016 and despite taking a step back in 2017, was still their best hitter, batting .264 with 24 home runs, 102 RBI, 26 stolen bases, 32 DRS, and was worth 5.1 WAR. Bogaerts is another talented hitter but he’s also extremely streaky. When he’s hot, he’s impossible to get out. You’ll see 3-4 game after 3-4 game and his batting average will skyrocket up into the .350’s. But when he’s cold, you have to work your ass off to let up a hit to him. In fact, there was a long stretch in the middle of the season where Bogaerts was the worst statistical hitter in baseball. Jackie Bradley is another guy who can be streaky, like Bogaerts, but unlike Bogaerts, Bradley is an excellent defender at a premium position so when he’s not hitting well, he can still make excellent contributions in the field. I listed Bradley as the 9th hitter mainly because he’s had so much success in that position. In fact, it’s been a while since I updated this stat, but last I checked, Bradley was a career .346 hitter when batting 9th. Benintendi was the runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year last season and probably would have won it, too if Aaron Judge didn’t set the rookie record with 52 home runs and finished runner-up for AL MVP. Benintendi hit .271 with 20 home runs, 90 RBI, and 20 stolen bases while playing a solid left field. Another guy the Red Sox have to be excited about is third baseman Rafael Devers. Devers is a bad defender at the hot corner and I think that he’s going to have to eventually switch to either first base or start DH’ing before long. But he shows bat discipline well beyond his years (he turns 22 in October). Watching Devers’ at bats as a youngster, I noticed that he doesn’t try and do his own thing at the plate. He takes what the pitcher gives him and goes with the pitch. For example, he’s not going to try and pull everything. If he’s thrown a curveball low and away, he’ll wait patiently for it to get to him and will send it the other way. He’s a guy I’m really excited for in his first full season in a Red Sox uniform.

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The Red Sox pitching was fantastic in 2017, as they finished 4th in the Majors with a 3.73 team ERA. That was thanks in large part to their trade acquisition of Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox in the 2017 offseason. Sale was an absolute monster in his first season in a Red Sox uniform, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts. He was 5 strikeouts away from tying Pedro Martinez’s franchise record, a record he likely would’ve broken had he been allowed to pitch his last start. However that start came at a time that would’ve affected his ability to start Game 1 of the ALDS so I think then-manager John Farrell made the right move there. David Price was battling injuries throughout the year but he was pretty solid when he was on the mound and even better when he was placed in the bullpen. He finished the year at 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA, which included an ERA of 0.00 in 5 relief appearances. A fully healthy season for Price would be huge for the Red Sox. Rick Porcello had a rough follow-up to his Cy Young-winning 2016 season, as he went 11-17 (most losses in baseball) with a 4.65 ERA. However he is still one of the more talented pitchers on the Red Sox roster and if he can return to form in 2018, that’s three aces at the top of the Red Sox rotation. And that’s without even mentioning Drew Pomeranz, who after a brutal first 2 months of the season, was absolutely terrific for the Sox. In the second half of the season, his ERA was 3.01, bringing his overall line to 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Not bad for your fourth starter.

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The Red Sox bullpen is also expected to be very strong, spearheaded by the American League’s Reliever of the Year in Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was dynamite in 2017, as he finished with 35 saves, a 1.43 ERA, and a Strikeout per 9 rate of 16.43, which is absolutely ridiculous. Provided Kimbrel can stay healthy, the 9th inning will be a sure thing for the Red Sox. It’s the rest of the bullpen that has some question marks. Joe Kelly had a breakthrough season as a reliever, including throwing the fastest pitch ever by a righty at 103.5 mph and finished with a 2.79 ERA but that was after being in the low 1’s for much of the year. Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith hope to be big parts of the Red Sox bullpen but both guys are recovering from injuries. Smith was able to appear at the end of the 2017 season and he did pitch pretty well, pitching to a 1.35 ERA in 8 appearances. Thornburg, however, has yet to pitch an inning for the Red Sox after being acquired from the Brewers in the Travis Shaw trade. He was Milwaukee’s closer prior to the trade so he’s another guy the Sox have to be excited for. The Red Sox could potentially have one of the top bullpens in baseball if they can stay healthy.

Overall, I think the Red Sox have a legitimate shot at a World Series. Basically every facet of their team could rank amongst the top 5 in baseball. The problem is going to be getting by the Yankees, who made the biggest move of the offseason when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Marlins. It’s going to be a fight to the death between those two teams. The return to form of the hitters in this Red Sox lineup will go a long way towards the success of Alex Cora’s first year as manager. If all goes well, this team could win 100 games.

Projected Finish: 95-67, Host AL Wild Card Game against Anaheim Angels

That’s going to do it for Day 5 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Chicago Cubs, who are looking to win the NL Central for the third straight season and will try and win their second World Series in 3 years. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Is There Any Punishment More Pointless than Vacating Wins?

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Not that I can think of. That’s going to do it for today’s blog let me know what you think of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

 

 

Oh…I guess you wanted something a little more…in depth. Fine. Well as you may remember (or not, because I certainly forgot there was an issue), Notre Dame just received their punishment for a cheating scandal from the 2012-13 seasons after an appeal they made back in 2016. That’s the judicial process for you. The punishment? Their 2012-13 seasons never happened. The NCAA vacated all 21 of their wins in those two seasons, which included an appearance in the BCS National Championship game after the 2012 season where they lost to Alabama. Allegedly what happened was a student athletic trainer gave improper benefits to 8 football players. More specifically, he did a significant amount of schoolwork for 2 players and gave impermissible aid to 6 others. So because an athletic trainer helped these kids cheat on their homework, the NCAA gets to say that their championship run didn’t happen which is just ridiculous. Now, based on a couple of articles I’ve read, we were not provided the names of the specific players involved in the cheating scandal, however it is noted that of the guys involved in the scandal, three of the eight players involved played while they should have been ineligible and of those three, one played in the National Championship.

Now, I’m more than willing to admit that I don’t have any perfect ideas for how to fix this, but there has to be a better way to go about things. Since the players involved had already moved on from the program prior to the NCAA’s investigation, it doesn’t really make sense for them to punish them since it won’t affect the program. But trying to tell the public that two seasons didn’t happen? Give me a break. College football fans aren’t stupid, unless they root for Purdue. It’s not like WWE where you can retcon certain things to fit the storylines you want to tell. This is college football where legacies and stats matter and fans don’t forget so easily. The 2012 season completely reinvigorated Notre Dame football and brought them back to relevance after years of being totally mediocre under Charlie Weis. You’re not going to make people forget so easily. So what punishment is there? Because I’m not trying to sit here and say there shouldn’t be some sort of retribution. Cheating on your schoolwork isn’t fair to the rest of the students/athletes that put in the work to get their education. But punishing the university isn’t fair to the players who were abiding by the rules by trying to devalue their efforts and it’s not fair to the coaches whose legacies and reputations could be tarnished because some guys decided to take shortcuts. The punishments should only apply to the people involved.  But you can’t exactly retroactively fine these guys because they weren’t paid by the university in the first place. I do have one idea for a punishment, though.

Revoke their degree. I know it sounds harsh and may not even be do-able, as I don’t know how this stuff works with degrees (or anything for that matter, since a miscommunication with my adviser is likely going to result in me graduating later than expected), but hear me out. They didn’t do the work themselves, so the credits that they had towards graduation in which these classes were cheated in should be taken away. They’d have to retake the courses at a community college because from what I understand about cheating, that’s pretty much going to get you kicked out of college. So I’d totally get it if they wanted to say “you’re not welcome back here.” A retroactive expulsion, if you will. Now of course, this is imperfect. It’s entirely possible that the players involved in the cheating scandal declared early for the NFL Draft and wouldn’t have their degree anyway. The credits could still be taken away, but I really don’t have an answer to the issue of players that didn’t have their degree anyway. You could probably just say they’re not welcome at the school anymore, which could be huge for some guys as college pride is still a big thing, especially at a university like Notre Dame. At least with this, only the offenders are punished and not the entire program.

It just sucks to see the NCAA take away wins because not only is it not a real punishment because non-Purdue college football fans aren’t stupid.  But also because it tarnishes legacies. If Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly were to be up for induction into the college football Hall of Fame, they wouldn’t be allowed to include the 2012 run as part of his credentials because some dumb kids decided they’d cheat and they just got caught too late. Like how is that fair to anyone? And don’t even get me started on the whole vacating awards because Reggie Bush won the 2005 Heisman Trophy and there’s nothing you can do or say to convince me otherwise. Yet the NCAA vacated it because he took some money to help his family that was living in poverty. The NCAA is just deciding to let these things happen without trying to come up with a better solution and it’s really frustrating to me that we’ve been dealing with these issues for so long and they still haven’t been able to come up with anything. Sure my revocation of degrees isn’t perfect, but I think it at least gives a little more fairness to the people who didn’t have anything to do with the situation.

That’s going to do it for today’s blog. Happy Valentine’s Day, I’m going to spend mine with my true love, Riley Reid. That’s the life of a blogger for you. Let me know if you have any ideas about how to deal with the NCAA’s retroactive punishment issues in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. I also accept valentines. It gets lonely in my creepy poorly-lit apartment.

College Football Playoff Projections: Week 10

So Tuesday is going to be the first release of the College Football Playoff Committee’s Top 25 of the 2017 season and we’ll finally get a look at how they value the performance of the top teams in college football. I like the format we have right now and it has given a lot of debate, especially as it pertains to the #4 seed. I figured this was going to be a really easy projection when I started thinking about this over the weekend, however there were so many upsets this past week that it has really muddied up the waters for this prediction. Before I get into my personal rankings, I want to get into some ground rules for this segment. I’m only doing the Top 6 teams: The 4 teams that make the playoffs and the two that just missed. I’m also doing this based on who would vote for in the playoffs, not what I think the committee will do. The factors that came into play were win-loss record, quality of opponents, and quality of victories and defeat (notice that “defeat” is singular and not plural. Two-loss teams can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye). So with that, let’s get into the rankings.

#1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Record: 8-0 (5-0)

Notable Wins: #3 Florida State, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas A&M

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Minkah Fitzpatrick and this Alabama team have been unstoppable this season (photo credit: RollTide.com)

This was probably the easiest team to place. Alabama has been doing Alabama things this season and they are clearly the team to beat in all of college football. Their closest game was their 27-19 win over Texas A&M. The next closest game was 24-7 over Florida State (who was ranked third at the time but lost quarterback Deondre Francois for the season in that game and has since gone into a tailspin) and a 41-23 win over Colorado State. Their margins of victory include scores of 59-0 (Vanderbilt), 66-3 (Ole Miss), 41-9 (Arkansas), and 45-7 (Tennessee). It’s not like these are Sun Belt teams that Alabama is destroying. All four of those teams I just listed are SEC opponents and some pretty decent ones at that (wouldn’t call any of them elite, but they’re good enough to put up a fight and beat a good team on any given day). Alabama doesn’t have that signature win against an elite team yet, but they’ve beaten the teams they have faced so handily that I think it evens out.

#2. Georgia Bulldogs 

Record: 8-0 (5-0)

Notable Wins: #24 Notre Dame, #17 Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida

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Roquan Smith is the leader of this dominant Georgia defense (photo credit: Gridiron Now)

Georgia at number 2 was another easy selection. Despite quarterback Jacob Eason being out, Jake Fromm has gotten the job done in his stead and the run game has been unbelievable. And don’t even get me started on the defense. They’ve only allowed 20 points in a game once all season (28 against Missouri) and in that same game they dropped a season-high 53 points. Roquan Smith has been an animal for this defense that matches up well with any team in the country. Probably the best all-around performance out of this team was when they went into Knoxville and embarrassed Tennessee 41-0. They also whipped Mississippi State 31-3 after the Bulldogs trounced LSU the week prior. It’s going to make for a very interesting SEC title game. What happens to the loser of an Alabama-Georgia SEC title game? Should the loser miss out on the playoffs? This is the fourth year of the playoff and we’ve never had two teams from the same conference make it. These two teams don’t face each other in the regular season so I’d say chances are good that both teams are undefeated heading into this matchup. If it were me, I think it would depend on the quality of the performance in the SEC Title game. If one team were to get blown out, then I’d be in favor of removing them from the playoff. If it’s a tightly-contested game, then I’d be all for having the loser be the 4 seed with the winner being the 1 (though I don’t know if the committee would do that, having two teams play each other in back-to-back games). The committee may have their first really hard decision on their hands with Alabama and Georgia.

#3. Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 7-1 (5-0)

Loss: #5 Oklahoma 31-16 in Week 2 

Reason for Loss: Baker Mayfield was inhuman in that game

Notable Wins: #2 Penn State

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JT Barrett is closing out his college career with a bang this season (photo credit: Sporting News)

The notable wins category is a little light here for Ohio State, but the argument in their favor is similar to that of Alabama’s: while the schedule isn’t that great, they’re beating their opponents badly enough to where it evens out. They do have a loss on their record, however I consider it a good loss because they were competitive with an Oklahoma team that was fifth-ranked at the time (moved to #2 after beating OSU) and is currently sitting at #8 in the AP Poll. It was also the infamous Flag Game, where after Oklahoma won, Baker Mayfield (who was unbelievable in that game) ran out to the middle of Ohio State’s field and planted Oklahoma’s flag right on the logo. Like Alabama, Ohio State has wins of 38-7 (Army), 56-0 (Rutgers), 62-14 (Maryland), and 56-14 (Nebraska). Their win over Penn State was a huge signature victory, as they overcame a 21-3 deficit to steal a victory from the Nittany Lions with a minute to go. They only have 2 good opponents remaining on their schedule (Michigan State and Michigan) but I don’t see them losing to either team, allowing them to coast into the Big Ten Title Game.

#4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Record: 7-1

Loss: #15 Georgia 20-19 in Week 2

Reason for Loss: Georgia just outlasted them in a defensive slugfest

Notable Wins: #11 USC, #14 NC State, Michigan State

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Josh Adams and the Fighting Irish have returned to form in 2017 (photo credit: Chicago Tribune)

So I have a 1-loss Notre Dame team getting into the playoff over an unbeaten Wisconsin team for one main reason: quality of wins. Wisconsin has faced nobody good while Notre Dame has beaten every team they’ve played by at least 20 points with the exception of their 1-point loss to the team that currently sits at #2 in the nation. I’ve been very impressed with how well Notre Dame’s defense has bounced back from their abysmal 2016 showing, where offenses could send out a pee wee team and still score 28 points. They’ve turned it into a smash mouth defense and the most points they’ve given up this season is 20 (Georgia and Boston College). A lot of credit has to go to first year D-Coordinator Mike Elko, whom they hired away from Wake Forest after last season, for turning this defense around. We may have one of the next top head coaching candidates when heads start rolling (Florida, anyone?). They’ve also had one of the top rushing attacks in the nation as Josh Adams has thrown his name into the Heisman mix while quarterback Brandon Wimbush has also added some good rushing yards into the mix.

First Team Out: Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 8-0 (5-0)

Notable Wins: Not Available

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Wisconsin hasn’t beaten anybody good, but Jonathan Taylor and this Badgers team have gotten the job done this season (photo credit: Madison.com)

Wisconsin’s schedule is the easiest I’ve seen since Baylor’s schedule while they still had a relevant football program. I looked down their remaining schedule and the only team left worth noting is Michigan, whose defense has been extremely impressive sans the Penn State game but has had no offense whatsoever. Though, Brandon Peters looked really good in relief of John O’Korn against Rutgers, which isn’t saying much. Wisconsin has a similar style to this year’s Notre Dame team in that they have a tough defense and a strong running game, led by true freshman Jonathan Taylor. The reason they’re this high for me with a cupcake schedule is that big goose egg in the loss column. Say what you will about their easy schedule, they’ve gotten the job done. Clemson lost to Syracuse, Oklahoma and TCU lost to Iowa State, and Washington lost to Arizona State. Wisconsin has gone in and done their job each time out. I think they get into the playoff if they win the Big Ten, which would have to include a victory over most likely either Ohio State, Penn State, or Michigan State.

Second Team Out: Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 7-1 (4-1)

Loss: #6 Ohio State 39-38 in Week 9

Reason for Loss: Late comeback effort by JT Barrett in the final minute

Notable Wins: #19 Michigan

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Saquon Barkley and Penn State aren’t out of this yet, but their road to their first CFP appearance got a lot rockier (photo credit: SB Nation)

Penn State is a team I’ve been high on all season and had they been able to hang on against Ohio State last week, I think I would have them at #2 ahead of Georgia. But JT Barrett’s late-game heroics have put the Nittany Lions in a REALLY difficult spot to get back into the playoff discussion. They probably won’t get into the Big Ten title game because not only does Ohio State have a better conference record (5-0 vs 4-1), but they hold the tie-breaker in case they end up with identical conference records. Penn State would not only need to win out, but they would also need Ohio State to lose TWICE in the next four games. Not likely. My reasoning for putting them here even though I think their playoff chances are pretty much dead is because I do feel that they are the best team remaining. As I said, they are a late JT Barrett drive away from being #2 on these rankings. Saquon Barkley is still the Heisman frontrunner despite his stats not being great against the Buckeyes (there’s been a downward trend of late), but they can still put up points against any defense.

So that’s my playoff outlook right now. If you want my thoughts on other teams that you think have a shot at the playoff, let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.