College Football Picks: Week 1

Last Season: 86-34

Football’s back. And for that reason, it’s time for me to play spoiler to what’s going to happen week-by-week. I’m going to try and do this every week, but given my schedule, this might not always be possible, but again, I’ll do my best. So enough chit chat, let’s get to picks.

Texas Spring Game

#23 Texas (-13.5) vs Maryland

I think Texas is a little overrated again this year, as they seem to be every year by the preseason AP polls, but I do think they’ll come out with the victory against Maryland. However head coach Tom Herman might have some issues coming his way in the future, as he may have also known about the domestic abuse of a former Ohio State assistant while he was there. Who knows what the future holds?

Projected Score: Texas 38, Maryland 31

Ole Miss vs Texas Tech (-2.5)

Ole Miss got ravaged by the sanctions and aside from tackle Greg Little and receiver AJ Brown, all the talent recruited in the Hugh Freeze era is pretty much gone. Texas Tech will likely be a pushover defensively once again but you can pretty much throw anybody at quarterback there and they’ll throw for 5000 yards. This year, it’s a toss-up as to who will earn the job between JUCO transfer McLane Carter and Jett Duffey, but Texas Tech’s offense had the same success with Nic Shimonek (undrafted) as they did with Pat Mahomes (10th overall pick) so whomever it is, I’m sure they’ll be fine. Texas Tech wins.

Projected Score: Texas Tech 55 Ole Miss 38

#6 Auburn (-2) vs #9 Washington

This is going to be a slugfest. Auburn returns a lot of talent from a top-10 team last year so they’ll be in contention for the SEC crown again this year. Washington is the favorite to come out of the Pac 12 so this could be a potential CFP preview. I think Auburn comes away with this one, though. I think they have more weapons both offensively and defensively and I think this is the year that Jarrett Stidham takes the next step.

Projected Score: Auburn 31 Washington 27

West Virginia v Kansas State

#17 West Virginia (-9.5) vs Tennessee

Will Grier is in the conversation to be the top quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL Draft but I think he’s got a little too much of a gunslinger mentality for me to trust him just yet. But I think he shows plenty of flashes as he takes apart the Volunteer defense.

Projected Score: West Virginia 35 Tennessee 24

North Carolina vs California (-7)

I never know what to expect out of North Carolina on a year-to-year basis. Some years, they’re competing for an ACC title. Others they’re struggling to win 3 games. I think this one leans towards the latter, unfortunately for Tar Heel fans, as they don’t have a quarterback like Mitch Trubisky or the defensive talent to compensate for that. Cal wins and I think they do it handily.

California 42 North Carolina 21

Cincinnati vs UCLA (-15)

The Chip Kelly era at UCLA begins and former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight will get the start. Not sure how Speight fits Kelly’s system, but Nick Foles had success in it with the Eagles and he has even less mobility than Speight does so I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it work. I think there will be some growing pains, though, and I think I’m going to pick this game as my upset. Cincinnati is always a tricky team and can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful. Cincinnati edges UCLA as Kelly drops his debut.

Projected Score: Cincinnati 31 UCLA 30

Outback Bowl -  Michigan v South Carolina

#14 Michigan vs #12 Notre Dame (-1)

The rivalry is back on and it looks to be a defensive slugfest. Michigan has about as loaded a defense as there is in the country while there is some uncertainty on offense. Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson is getting the start and while he has shown flashes, he hasn’t quite materialized like everyone expected when he was a 5-star recruit. As for Notre Dame, there’s a little bit of uncertainty at quarterback. Brandon Wimbush showed a lot of ability but was inconsistent at times while Ian Book looked really sharp in relief. It’ll be interesting to see what Brian Kelly rolls out there Saturday night. But I think Michigan’s defense makes more plays and they win a low-scoring affair.

Projected Score: Michigan 20 Notre Dame 17

Louisville vs #1 Alabama (-24)

Alabama has another high profile game to open their season against Louisville and I’m going to be perfectly honest, that line seems a little generous. ‘Bama is as loaded as ever and Louisville lost Lamar Jackson to the NFL, who was the team the last few years. There is some uncertainty at quarterback for the Crimson Tide as Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa both are vying for the spot, but I think Bama wins the game handily with a steady dose of defense and the ground game with Damien Harris and Najee Harris (no relation).

Projected Score: Alabama 51 Louisville 17

BYU vs Arizona (-11.5)

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is one of the most exciting players in the country and he’ll have a full season as the starter under his belt to cement himself as the most dynamic player in the country. I think he runs all over the BYU defense and Arizona wins handily.

Projected Score: Arizona 48 BYU 24

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#8 Miami (FL) (-3.5) vs #25 LSU

Miami had a breakout season last year thanks to the Turnover Chain but they finished pretty slowly, as they ended the season with losses to Pittsburgh, Clemson, and Wisconsin with the Turnover Chain getting destroyed and humiliated. I have a feeling that LSU is going to take this one in a low-scoring turnover-fest.

Projected Score: LSU 17 Miami (FL) 13

#20 Virginia Tech vs #19 Florida State (-7)

Last year could not have gone much worse for Florida State. They start the year ranked 4th, Deondre Francois goes down for the year in Week 1, they struggle to reach a bowl game, and Jimbo Fisher leaves for Texas A&M. On the other side, things could not have gone much better for Virginia Tech as Justin Jackson showed a lot of flashes as a true freshman quarterback. They will look to build on last year’s success as they try and take down the Seminoles and I think they do.

Projected Score: Virginia Tech 31 Florida State 24

BONUS GAME: Indiana (-10.5) vs Florida International

Only I care about this game but screw it, it’s my blog. FIU tends to play Indiana pretty tough for most of the game, as they nearly pulled off the upset each of the last two times they played (2015 and 16, 17 was cancelled due to hurricane). Peyton Ramsey has been named the starting quarterback and I think he’s an efficient passer, albeit limited in terms of skillset. Indiana will win, but it’ll be close.

Projected Score: Indiana 28 FIU 20

Are there any games I didn’t do that you want my thoughts on? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

MLB Trade Deadline Recap

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

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

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers

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

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

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox

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

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

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays

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

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

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

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

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

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

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

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

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox

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

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

Tampa Bay Rays v Miami Marlins

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

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

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds

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

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

Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays

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

1B-Max Muncy/Cody Bellinger

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Manny Machado

Yeah. Just what the Dodgers needed. More talent.

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

Miami Marlins v Tampa Bay Rays

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

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

What Would Baseball Look Like Without Starting Rotations?

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners

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

SgAR

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

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

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

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

New York Yankees vs New York Mets

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

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

Seattle Mariners v Colorado Rockies

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith (3)(Photo by Jim Hipple)

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.