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.

 

30 Clubs in 30 Days: New York Yankees

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

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2017 Results:

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

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

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

Best Offensive Player: RF Aaron Judge

Best Pitcher: Luis Severino

Depth Chart:

C-Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine

1B-Greg Bird

2B-Ronald Torreyes, Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade

3B-Brandon Drury

SS-Didi Gregorius

LF-Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier

CF-Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury

RF-Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton (DH)

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

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

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Aaron Boone (1st season with Yankees)

Hitting Coach-Marcus Thames

Pitching Coach-Larry Rothschild

1st Base Coach-Reggie Willits

3rd Base Coach-Phil Nevin

Bench Coach-Josh Bard

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

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Aaron Judge-RF

3. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

4. Gary Sanchez-C

5. Greg Bird-1B

6. Didi Gregorius-SS

7. Brandon Drury-3B

8. Ronald Torreyes/Gleyber Torres-2B

9. Aaron Hicks/Jacoby Ellsbury-CF

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

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

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

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

Projected Record: 98-64, win AL East

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