Tuesday, August 15, 2017

NBA Schedule Announced

OK basketball fans, its time. Start marking off your calenders now. The National Basketball Association has announced the schedule for the 2017-18 season. We will get into the schedules for the local teams, don't worry. Before we do that, though, we got some big dates. For the first time in league history, the schedule does not have any team playing four games in five nights. This is part of the NBA's effort to cut down on injuries and reduce the number of games in which teams rest healthy players. So here's a look at the big dates for this year.

- NBA Finals Rematches: Christmas day at Golden State, Januar 15th at Cleveland
- October 26th, New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins gets his wish to return to Sacramento
- January 3rd, Lakers against Thunder, the whole Paul George ditching the Lakers angle
- The Lakers are on ESPN 11 times this season, including on Nov. 22 when they visit the Sacramento Kings for a budding rivalry showdown between Ball and fifth overall pick De'Aaron Fox
- November 15th 76ers vs Lakers: Ball vs Joel Embiid

Now here's the local schedules:

Wed, Oct 18 @ Indiana 7:00 PM
Fri, Oct 20 vs Orlando 7:30 PM
Sun, Oct 22 vs Atlanta 3:30 PM
Tue, Oct 24 @ Orlando 7:00 PM
Wed, Oct 25 vs Cleveland 7:30 PM
Fri, Oct 27 @ NY Knicks 7:30 PM
Sun, Oct 29 vs Denver 6:00 PM
Tue, Oct 31 vs Phoenix 7:30 PM

Fri, Nov 3 @ LA Lakers 10:30 PM
Mon, Nov 6 @ Phoenix 9:00 PM
Tue, Nov 7 @ Denver 9:00 PM
Fri, Nov 10 @ Portland 10:00 PM
Sat, Nov 11 @ Utah 9:00 PM
Tue, Nov 14 vs Boston 7:30 PM
Fri, Nov 17 vs Utah 7:30 PM
Sun, Nov 19 vs Golden State 6:00 PM
Wed, Nov 22 @ Cleveland 7:00 PM
Fri, Nov 24 vs Portland 12:00 PM
Sun, Nov 26 @ Memphis 6:00 PM
Mon, Nov 27 @ Houston 8:00 PM
Wed, Nov 29 @ Dallas 8:30 PM

Sat, Dec 2 vs Atlanta 3:00 PM
Mon, Dec 4 @ Atlanta 7:30 PM
Thu, Dec 7 vs Oklahoma City 10:00 PM
Sat, Dec 9 vs Miami 6:00 PM
Tue, Dec 12 vs Washington 7:30 PM
Thu, Dec 14 vs NY Knicks 7:30 PM
Fri, Dec 15 @ Toronto 7:30 PM
Sun, Dec 17 vs Indiana 6:00 PM
Wed, Dec 20 vs Sacramento 7:30 PM
Fri, Dec 22 vs Washington 7:30 PM
Sat, Dec 23 @ Indiana 7:00 PM
Tue, Dec 26 @ San Antonio 8:30 PM
Wed, Dec 27 @ New Orleans 8:00 PM
Fri, Dec 29 @ Miami 8:00 PM
Sun, Dec 31 @ Boston 5:30 PM

Mon, Jan 1 vs Orlando 7:30 PM
Wed, Jan 3 vs Minnesota 7:30 PM
Sat, Jan 6 vs Boston 6:00 PM
Mon, Jan 8 vs Toronto 7:30 PM
Wed, Jan 10 vs Detroit 7:30 PM
Fri, Jan 12 @ Atlanta 7:30 PM
Sat, Jan 13 @ Washington 7:00 PM
Mon, Jan 15 vs NY Knicks 3:00 PM
Wed, Jan 17 vs San Antonio 7:30 PM
Fri, Jan 19 vs Miami 7:30 PM
Sun, Jan 21 @ Detroit 4:00 PM
Tue, Jan 23 @ Oklahoma City 8:00 PM
Fri, Jan 26 @ Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Sat, Jan 27 @ Minnesota 9:00 PM
Tue, Jan 30 @ NY Knicks 7:30 PM
Wed, Jan 31 vs Philadelphia 7:30 PM

Fri, Feb 2 vs LA Lakers 7:30 PM
Sun, Feb 4 vs Milwaukee 12:00 PM
Tue, Feb 6 vs Houston 7:30 PM
Wed, Feb 7 @ Detroit 7:00 PM
Sat, Feb 10 vs New Orleans 6:00 PM
Mon, Feb 12 vs LA Clipeers 7:30 PM
Wed, Feb 14 vs Indiana 7:30 PM
Thu, Feb 22 @ Charlotte 7:00 PM
Mon, Feb 26 vs Chicago 7:30 PM
Feb 27 @ Cleveland 7:00 PM

Thu, Mar 1 @ Sacramento 10:00 PM
Sun, Mar 4 @ LA Clippers 9:00 PM
Tue, Mar 6 @ Golden State 10:30 PM
Thu, Mar 8 @ Charlotte 7:00 PM
Sun, Mar 11 vs Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Tue, Mar 13 vs Toronto 7:30 PM
Fri, Mar 16 @ Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Sat, Mar 17 vs Dallas 7:30PM
Mon, Mar 19 vs Memphis 7:30 PM
Wed, Mar 21 vs Charlotte 7:30 PM
Fri, Mar 23 @ Toronto 7:30 PM
Sun, Mar 25 vs Cleveland 1:00 PM
Wed, Mar 28 @ Orlando 7:00 PM
Sat, Mar 31 @ Miami 8:00 PM

Sun, Apr 1 vs Detroit 6:00 PM
Tue, Apr 3 @ Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Thu, Apr 5 @ Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Sat, Apr 7 @ Chicago 8:00 PM
Mon, Apr 9 vs Chicago 7:30 PM
Wed, Apr 11 @ Boston 8:00 PM

Thu, Oct 19 @ Oklahoma City 8:00 PM
Sat, Oct 21 vs Detroit 8:00 PM
Tue, Oct 24 @ Boston 7:30 PM
Fri, Oct 27 vs Brooklyn 7:30 PM
Sun, Oct 29 @ Cleveland 7:00 PM
Mon, Oct 30 vs Denver 7:30 PM

Wed, Nov 1 vs Houston 8:00 PM
Fri, Nov 3 vs Phoenix 7:30 PM
Sun, Nov 5 vs Indiana 7:30 PM
Tue, Nov 7 vs Charlotte 7:30 PM
Wed, Nov 8 @ Orlando 7:00 PM
Sat, Nov 11 vs Sacramento 8:00 PM
Mon, Nov 13 vs Cleveland 7:30 PM
Wed, Nov 15 vs Utah 7:30 PM
Fri, Nov 17 @ Toronto 7:30 PM
Mon, Nov 20 vs LA Clippers 7:30 PM
Wed, Nov 22 vs Toronto 7:30 PM
Fri, Nov 24 @ Atlanta 7:30 PM
Sat, Nov 25 @ Houston 8:00 PM
Mon, Nov 27 vs Portland 7:30 PM
Wed, Nov 29 vs Miami 7:30 PM

Sun, Dec 3 vs Orlando 3:30 PM
Mon, Dec 4 @ Indiana 7:00 PM
Wed, Dec 6 vs Memphis 7:30 PM
Sat, Dec 9 @ Chicago 8:00 PM
Sun, Dec 10 vs Atlanta 7:30 PM
Tue, Dec 12 vs Los Angeles Lakers 7:00 PM
Thu, Dec 14 @ Brooklyn 7:30 PM
Sat, Dec 16 vs Oklahoma City 7:30 PM
Mon, Dec 18 @ Charlotte 7:00 PM
Thu, Dec 21 vs Boston 8:00 PM
Fri, Dec 22 @ Detroit 7:00 PM
Mon, Dec 25 vs Philadelphia 12:00 PM
Wed, Dec 27 @ Chicago 8:00 PM
Thu, Dec 28 @ San Antonio 8:30 PM
Sat, Dec 30 @ New Orleans 7:00 PM

Tue, Jan 2 vs San Antonio 7:30 PM
Wed, Jan 3 @ Washington 7:00 PM
Fri, Jan 5 @ Miami 7:00 PM
Sun, Jan 7 @ Dallas 7:00 PM
Wed, Jan 10 vs Chicago 7:30 PM
Fri, Jan 12 @ Minnesota 8:00 PM
Sun, Jan 14 vs New Orleans 3:30 PM
Mon, Jan 15 @ Brooklyn 3:00 PM
Wed, Jan 17 @ Memphis 8:00 PM
Fri, Jan 19 @ Utah 10:30 PM
Sun, Jan 21 @ Los Angeles Lakers 3:30 PM
Tue, Jan 23 @ Golden State 10:30 PM
Thu, Jan 25 @ Denver 9:00 PM
Fri, Jan 26 @ Phoenix 9:00 PM
Tue, Jan 30 vs Brooklyn 7:30 PM
Wed, Jan 31 @ Boston 8:00 PM

Fri, Feb 2 @ Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Sun, Feb 4 vs Atlanta 12:00 PM
Tue, Feb 6 vs Milwaukee 7:30 PM
Thu, Feb 8 @ Toronto 7:30 PM
Sun, Feb 11 @ Indiana 5:00 PM
Mon, Feb 12 @ Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Wed, Feb 14 vs Washington 7:30 PM
Thu, Feb 22 @ Orlando 7:00 PM
Sat, Feb 24 vs Boston 7:30 PM
Mon, Feb 26 vs Golden State 7:30 PM

Fri, Mar 2 @ LA Clippers 10:30 PM
Sun, Mar 4 @ Sacramento 9:00 PM
Tue, Mar 6 @ Portland 10:00 PM
Fri, Mar 9 @ Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Sun, Mar 11 vs Toronto 1:00 PM
Tue, Mar 13 vs Dallas 7:30 PM
Thu, Mar 15 vs Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Sat, Mar 17 vs Charlotte 7:30 PM
Mon, Mar 19 vs Chicago 7:30 PM
Wed, Mar 21 @ Miami 7:30 PM
Fri, Mar 23 vs Minnesota 7:30 PM
Sun, Mar 25 @ Washington 6:00 PM
Mon, Mar 26 @ Charlotte 7:00 PM
Wed, Mar 28 @ Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Sat, Mar 31 vs Detroit 5:00 PM

Tue, Apr 3 vs Orlando 7:30 PM
Fri, Apr 6 vs Miami 7:30 PM
Apr 7 vs Milwaukee 7:30 PM
Mon, Apr 9 vs Cleveland 7:30 PM
Wed, Apr 11 @ Cleveland 8:00 PM

So there you have it, your 2017-18 NBA Schedules! Start making the plans now!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Subway Series Preview

It only comes around once a year, twice if we ever get so lucky. The rivalry never seems to die off,it just varies depending on standings at the time of the year when the two ballclubs face off. Yes, that's right, Subway Series time has arrived in New York. It's the annual four game meeting between the New York Mets and New York Yankees that rolls around every summer. Its the battle of New York and its had soome pretty memorable moments over the last twenty years that these two teams have faced off.

The very first game played between the two clubs, in June of 1997, sticks out with a lot of fans, as Dave Mlicki threw a complete game shutout, with the Mets coming away with a 6-0 victory. The rivalry reached a new level in 2000, when Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza had their incidents, what with the regular season bean ball, and the broken bat being thrown at Piazza in the World Series. Since then, there have been some more memorable moments between the two clubs. There was the Louis Castillo dropped pop up at Yankee Staduim in June of 2009. A couple days after that, Mariano Rivera drove in his first career RBI and picked up career save #500 in a 4-2 Yankees win. Then there are also a few happy notes for Mets fans, like the day Carlos Delgado went off against the Yankees, driving in 9 runs in a 15-6 win at the Stadium in 2008.  Or how about the game winning hits off Mariano Rivera by first Matt Franco in 1999 and then David Wright in 2006.

Out of the twenty series that have been played between the two clubs, the Mets have three wins, the Yankees have nine wins, and the other eight series have been even splits at either two or three wins a piece. In total, there have been 104 games played between the two clubs, not including the 2000 World Series. The Yankees hold the advantage, with a 60-44 lifetime record against the boys from Queens. Each team holds a solid winning streak against the other one. The Mets won six straight, from May 27, 2013 through May 13, 2014. As for the Yankees, they've won 7 in a row, spanning from June 30, 2002 through June 29, 2003 (covering the length of two seasons). That's part of what makes things fun when you talk about this rivalry. I know that the Yankees have dominated it more over the past number of years, but there's still just something about it that draws out another level of emotion in you as a baseball fan when you play a crosstown rival.

So enough with the fluff, lets get right down to it. Here's the breakdown of the series.

Here's the pitching matchups for the four games in the series:

Monday, August 14th 7PM Louis Cessa (0-3) vs. Rarfael Montero (1-8)
Tuesday, August 15th 7PM Sonny Gray (6-7) vs. Jacob deGrom (13-5)
Wednesday, August 16th 7PM Jamie Garcia (5-8) vs. Seth Lugo (5-3)
Thursday, August 17th 7PM Luis Severino (9-5) Steven Matz (2-6)

The Mets head into this series ten games under .500 and are 17 games back in the division, 11 games back in the Wild Card race with five teams to try and jump. This is a baseball team that had very high expectations heading into this season, due to the injury bug, they have failed to live up to those lofty expectations. The kicker is, the Mets had been at least a .500 baseball team as of May 9th of this year (they sat at 16-16 at that time). Then, once the injuries started to really kick in, the wheels kind of just fell off the wagon with this team. With all the moves that the Mets have made, it almost looks like a shell of a team when you look at what they had on paper at the start of the year compared to what we've got right now. Its been rough for the Mets as of late, as they are 15-20 in their last 35 games, though they just won three of four at Philadelphia.

Things have gone the total opposite direction for the Yankees this year as a whole. They still sit a top the wild card standings at the moment, but are now five and a half games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East going into the start of this four game series. Even though he has slumped as of late, the fact that Aaron Judge has played as well as he has says a lot about how well this Yankees club has done for themselves this year. Judge's slump is kind of a depiction of the way things have gone for the Yankees as of late. They're still in contention but they are starting to lose a lot of that steam that they had earlier this year.

Looking at the two teams as they are constructed at the moment, things look pretty even: base running, fielding, players coming off the bench. It looks like it could be a good series. Sure the Mets may have the better pitching on paper, Monday's starter Rafael Montero not withstanding. But the Yankees have the better bullpen, its not even really close in that regards. They are better coached, I'm sorry as much as I kinda like Terry Collins, I think Joe Girardi has done a way better job at being able to manage his ball club. I know he hasn't had to deal with as many injuries to key players as Terry has, but still Joe has a better overall handle on his team.

All that being said, I still think its going to be an entertaining series. One of two things will happen, Either the Yankees take three out of four games, or it ends in a split. The only win I could realistically see the Mets getting is the Tuesday night game in the Bronx. As good as Sonny Gray is, Jacob deGrom has been that much better this year. Maybe the Mets can pull off another win with Seth Lugo on the Mound on Wednesday night.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Two MLB Legends Pass

Its been a rough last couple of days for the baseball world. Two legends of the game have passed away in the last couple of days. Darren Daulton and Don Baylor have both passed away after battles with cancer. Both guys have left a major mark on Major League Baseball and left multiple imprints on the game.

First, there was Darren Daulton, who passed away at the age of 55 after a four-year fight with glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer. Dalton spent 14 years in the Majors, playing for the Phillies and half a season for the Florida Marlins, the team with which he won a World Series in 1997. He was a .245 lifetime hitter, blasting 137 home runs and driving in 588 runs. His best season was in 1992, when he hit .270 with 25 home runs and 109 RBI. He followed that up in 1993, with 24 home runs and 105 RBI, the only times he broke those RBI and home run numbers in his career. When most people hear his name, they associate him with the 1993 National League champion Phillies. They went six games with the eventual World Champion Blue Jays. Despite putting up what some viewed as paltry offensive numbers, the reason that Daulton resonated with so many people was the intangibles of his locker room leadership.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, what made him valuable was his knack for calling games and commanding respect. Curt Schilling, who blossomed when he began throwing to Daulton in 1992, frequently calling his battery mate “the best catcher in baseball.” Manager Jim Fregosi labeled Daulton the game’s “best leader.” A lot of guys can prove to be great players and it has nothing to do with what shows up on a score sheet. He was outstanding at calling a game, as evident by how he was able to get Curt Schilling on track to what would be an outstanding career.

Then there was Don Baylor, who passed away at the age of 66 from a long-standing battle with multiple myeloma, also a form a cancer. Don played 19 years in the Majors, playing for the California Angels, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics. Baylor was a .260 lifetime hitter, smashing 338 home runs and driving in 1,276 runs. He won the AL MVP in 1979 while playing for the California Angels, the same year he lead the AL in RBI and runs scored (which turned out to be his best offensive year of his career). Baylor was also a three-time Silver Slugger winner, and went to the postseason seven times in his career. Baylor won one World Series title with the Minnesota Twins in 1987. Once his playing days were done, he became the manager of the Colorado Rockies for their inaugural season in 1993. Baylor also won the 1995 NL manager of the year and joins a hallowed list of manager that includes Frank Robinson, Kirk Gibson and Joe Torre as the only former players to win an MVP award and Manager of the Year.

Baylor could do a little bit of everything at the plate, he could hit for average, power, drive in runs. He was a productive hitter. He was a leader as a manager as well, having a very successful career as a coach, showing in fact just how well he knows the game of baseball. He was able to make a pretty successful transition from player to manager, which is hard for a lot of guys to be able to do, but Baylor did it pretty well.

Bot guys will be dearly missed by the baseball community, friends and family. They may be gone, but their legacy will live on forever!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ravens Taking On Colin Kaeprnick?

It was around this time last year that Quarterback Colin Kaeprnick started to make his statement. He was making protest in regards to some of the social issues that were going on around this country at that time. He decide to take a knee every week during the National Anthem. He took a ton of heat for it by fans, players and management in the league a like. Once last season ended, he was let go by the 49ers. During the winter months, no team in the NFL wanted to take a flyer on him or even touch him with a ten foot pole. As training camp around the league has started to open up, no team had taken a flyer on him. Until now.

The Baltimore Ravens are no stranger to controversial decisions. Just three years ago, Ray Rice had that whole domestic violence issue and the Ravens still supported him. Because of that situation, the Ravens became the face of the league’s problem with how it handled domestic violence issues. They are back at it again now with Colin Kaepernick’s NFL future. It was announced on Wednesday that Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome are both in favor of signing Kaepernick to provide insurance as starting quarterback Joe Flacco deals with a back injury, but owner Steve Bisciotti has resisted the idea. Kaepernick's name came up last week after Harbaugh said starting quarterback Joe Flacco would miss a week with a back injury. Backup Ryan Mallett has struggled while filling in with the first-team offense, throwing at least five interceptions during one practice.

It should be no surprise that the Ravens are the one team taking on this challenge, they are no stranger to this type of situation. Its a bit of a sensitive matter, there's no doubt. But what I'm still trying to figure out is why people are still making a big stink over what Kaepernick did.

Perhaps I'm looking at this in too simple of a manner. All he did was take a peaceful protest against a problem in this country, its not like he did anything horrible. All he did was take a knee during the National Anthem as a means to draw attention to his cause, he didn't hurt anybody. Nowadays people are way too sensitive if you ask me, he really didn't do anything wrong. The fact that no teams are taking a flyer on him is a little surprising. I know, at times, Colin went a little overboard with his stance, but still he went about making his statement in a way that didn't really hurt anybody.

The reason why I think Ravens ownership is hedging this is the PR point of view, but I don't think it should make much of a difference. Ray Lewis brought up a great point and tip for the young quarterback, he should take a bit of a step back and lighten up a little bit on his activism. It might have been a good idea on Colin's part to make his stand and bring awareness to an activist party to make social change and then let others handle it and just focus on football.

Besides, if Kaeprnick gets signed by Baltimore, there's no way he's taking over the starting job. Joe Flacco is the man under center for the Ravens and nothing is going to really change that. Right now, Flacco is dealing with an injury and signing Kaeprnick would give them a solid, proven backup to take snaps. Lets not forget, Kaeprnick lead this team to a Super Bowl appearance and back to back NFC Championship games. So he has the skills to be good in this league, if playing in the right system.

Is that system going to be in Baltimore? Somewhere else? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MLB Trade Deadline Recap

There's only two real ways to approach the Trade Deadline.......build for the future or go for it all right now at a shot at a World Series in October. Some teams made moves in this direction, while others just staid put without doing a damn thing. It wasn't all in a quick series of moves today, its been happening over the last few weeks. With all the things that have gone down the past few weeks and hours, we have a better idea of who came out top in the deadline day moves. So here's a look at the winners and losers from trade deadline day.

Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
Andrew Friedman and Dodgers management had stayed quite for a while, almost to the point where it didn't look like they were going to do anything. They had the best record in all of the game heading into Monday, sitting at 74-31. Now they just got better. How you ask? Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani don't exactly blow you away, there's enough there to be a big help for a lefty coming out of the pen and help bridge the gap to Kenly Jansen in the 9th. Then the whopper came with the Dodgers getting Yu Darvish from the Rangers just before the buzzer. Further, the consensus is that the top prospect on the move was Willie Calhoun and that he was only the Dodgers' fourth-best prospect. It helps out an already loaded rotation, which by the way will be without the top pitcher in the NL in Clayton Kershaw till at least the middle of September at least. Yu has been an ace since coming over and he will look to make an impact and earn a big contract by the time the winter rolls around. Now the Dodgers can potentially run out a playoff rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill. If all are pitching up to their potential, that's a tall order for anyone in the playoffs, especially against a team that's loaded with position players and has Kenley Jansen at closer. Yes folks, the best team in the game just got a whole lot better.

Winners: New York Yankees
The Yankees had been good for most of the year, even with the holes in the starting rotation, the pen and first base. Now those holes have been fixed. Lets go back a little bit first. Last year, Cashman got rid of a lot of his older talent for young prospects. Then, just last week, he trades away some of those young prospects in order to add relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle along with third baseman Todd Frazier. So far its worked out OK adding those guys into the mix. Now throw in adding Jaime Garcia for almost nothing from the Twins. Then the icing on the cake was adding another rental player of sorts in Sonny Gray from Oakland. Gray, who is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA and just eight home runs allowed in 97 innings, could generate enough value to be the difference between winning the AL East and winning a wild card, and that’s why this deal looks like the most important of this trade deadline. If the Yankees can avoid that wild-card game (or win it), a postseason rotation of Severino, Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Jaime Garcia is good enough when combined with that power-packed bullpen to get the Yankees back to the World Series for the first time since 2009. This team is far from perfect, taht's for sure. But thanks to Cashmans moves, at least on paper, its good enough to be a real dominant force in the American League over the final two months of the year.

Winners: Chicago Cubs
Things didn't look very good for the defending champs by the All Star Break. They sat two games under .500 and looked to be just barley staying above water. Then they start making moves. They first go out and land Jose Quintana, then go out and grab late-inning, shutdown lefty in Justin Wilson along with a quality veteran catcher in Alex Avila to tandem with Willson Contreras. Some might point to the Cubs having emptied a lot of their farm system in the past few years, but they have a World Series ring and seven big-league position players age 25 or younger and under team control through at least 2022 (this includes Kris Bryant). Would those people feel better if guys like Contreras, Albert Almora, Ian Happ and Addison Russell were in the minors so the Cubs would have a few good prospects in the rankings? Please. The Cubs' window is wide open, like it has never been before. They have solid footing to be back in the mix again this year, and for years to come for that matter.

Winners: Arizona Diamondbacks
Lets face facts, it looks like the Dodgers are pretty much a lock it seems to win the National League West this year. While I say that, I wouldn't totally sleep on the Arizona Diamondbacks just yet foilks. Sure they are 14 games back from the Dodgers in the West, which almost rules that out by this point in the year I feel. The D-Backs do hold a half game lead for the top wild card spot in the National League, and are only going to get better once JD Martinez gets more comfortable in the desert. They didn't give up a lot to get Martinez's bat into the middle of that lineup, and that'll play huge down the stretch. Especially in a wild-card game situation, one swing of the bat could change everything.

Losers: Houston Astros
Losers? With the 2nd best record in all of baseball and a 16 game lead in the AL West? Well to a degree, yes they are. Let me explain. Yes, Houston acquired lefty Francisco Liriano and will use him out of the bullpen. There are zero concerns about the position players, who should be able to remain healthy throughout the year. But what about the rest of the pitching staff? Dallas Keuchel is a clear-cut postseason ace. He's also been on the disabled list twice this year. Lance McCullers had a 9.64 ERA in four July starts and is now on the disabled list for the second time this year. Behind them, the options to start playoff games are Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers. Meantime, the Astros failed to secure deals for the likes of Quintana, Darvish and Gray (CBS Sports). Look, it is still possible that Houston could be one of the teams left standing in the American League by the time the ALCS rolls around, it is very possible. See the Yankees had question marks and they went out and addressed them. Houston didn't exactly go out and do that, leaving one to wonder about the Astros.

Losers: Boston Red Sox
On paper, the Red Sox should have been running away with the American League East. They had the horses to do that, but David Price hasn't quite panned out this year, as he's once again back on the Dl with an elbow issue, which has been bothering him all year. Now things have slipped a little for the boys from Beantown. The minor league system is thin because of moves made by Dave Dombrowski, as he has traded 24 prospects since he took over the Red So. The only deal he made was for reliever Addison Reed. Things can still turn around for Boston, as they can get the young bats to start heating up again and hope David Price returns to form. The thing is, the Yankees got a lot better, while Boston couldn't really do much to improve their ballclub. So it will be very interesting to see how things play out over the final two months of the season in Boston.

Loser: Texas Rangers
Think back to a year ago. Texas was in a fight for a division crown and they gave up highly regarded outfield prospect Lewis Brinson to get Jonathan Lucroy. The season ended with a disappointing sweep in the division series to the Toronto Blue Jays, and now they sit four games under .500, gasping for breath in the wild-card race. Lucroy wasn't hitting very well in Texas this year, and was traded to the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named. The Rangers gave up a lot to get Lucroy, didn’t win in 2016 or 2017 and didn't get anything for him. Oh yeah, then there's the fact that they got rid of Yu Darvish too, trading him away to the Dodgers. They got back solid prospects for him, which may not be so horrible in the long run, but it would have been nice for the Rangers to acquire a top-50 guy even for a rental such as Darvish.

Loser: Baltimore Orioles
They bought in talent at the deadline and din't get any better. The Orioles entered Monday 6 1/2 games out in the AL East, sitting fourth. They were 5 1/2 games out of the second AL wild card, but there are three teams between that spot and they are tied with still two others. SportsLine gives the O's a 4.9 percent chance of making the playoffs and projects them for 75.7 wins (CBS Sports). So what does Baltimore do? They traded for starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and shortstop Tim Beckham. Um what the what? If they are trying to make a late push for the playoffs, they sure as hell didn't do a lot to improve the team. I can't see how these deals make any bit of sense for Baltimore at all. Really just seems like a waste of a trade if you ask me.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

What To Watch In Training Camp

Its getting close to that time of year once again. NFL Training Camps have opened up league wide, leaving a lot of intrigue going around. As we are a little over a month away from the return of Pro Football to our TV screens on Thursday, Sunday and Mondays, the clubs are working hard to get ready. The Vince Lombardi trophy is the ultimate goal for every NFL franchise. The journey to reach that goal this year starts right now. We will take a look at the top five stories to watch for the two local teams, of course. But before we do that, here's some other big story lines to keep an eye on around the rest of the league.

Adrian Peterson In New Colors
AP had a rough stay of it his last year or so in Minnesota, so now he's getting a new, fresh start playing in New Orleans. What is going to be a change for Peterson is the fact that he won't be seen as the featured back anymore. He's probably going to get some reduced time playing with the Saints lead back Mark Ingram, who had 1,043 rushing yards last season. Still, there's always that chance that AP could return to his old form and help take the Saints to the promise land.

Return of Beast Mode
Its been two years since we last saw Marshawn Lynch take the field. In 127 games before this year, Lynch had 9,112 rush yards and 74 career touchdowns. He hasn't touched a field in two years, and he goes out and joins a team that ended a 13 year playoff drought by making the post season last year. Oakland can only get better from here and by adding a guy like Lynch could make them even better.

Rookie QB's Pick Up Quick
Most fans know that the NFL is a quarterback driven league. There's a few new fresh faces that are coming into play this year. Mitchell Trubisky Bears), DeShone Kizer (Browns) and Deshaun Watson (Texans) all have high expectations placed on their shoulders going into this year, because of the high praise that they had coming out of college. Watson is going to have to compete with Tom Savage for the starting job with the Texans, so who knows what Houston is going to want to do with the man under center. The Texans now have a young QB that they could mold so hopefully it turns out to work out in their favor.

The Return Of Golden Arms
Two of the brightest stars at the quarterback position in the game are coming off injuries. Cam Newton (partially torn rotator cuff) and Andrew Luck (labrum repair) are coming off shoulder surgeries. Luck, who played well last year, hasn't started to throw yet and seems likely to miss at least the first few practices of camp. It would suck yes, but you need to make sure he's healthy and ready to go by opening day. As for Newton, who had a dramatic drop-off in 2016 from his MVP season, started throwing late in the offseason. Their progress will be two of the most closely scrutinized stories this summer, particularly if their preseason game action is limited in any way.

Now we move on to the biggest stories from the local teams:
New Look Offense Taking Shape
Last year, the Giants managed to make the playoffs by going 11-5 and gaining a Wild Card spot. They did so while averaging 19.4 points per game, which is a tad paltry for a playoff team. So what do the Giants do to improve that? Add weapons. They drafted Evan Engram to play Tight End, bring in Brandon Marshall as the #2 threat behind Odell Beckham Jr., and give Paul Perkins the starting Running Back job. On paper, this looks like it could be a very scary offense to go up against. But that's on paper, how well it translates to on the field will be determined over the course of camp. Hopefully, this offense can get to the level the defense was at last season.

Is The Offensive Line Good Enough?
What good is the new, high powered, offense going to be, if the offensive line can't hold up? There's a few question marks there. Its going to be the same line that started most of last season, which leaves massive doubts about their tackles. Left tackle Ereck Flowers dropped weight this offseason, but will it translate to a better, more effective player? Also, how will free-agent signing D.J. Fluker fit into the mix? Will he fit into the mix? We’ll find out quickly this summer.

Defense Stepping Up
This was the strength of the G-Men last season, as they allowed 17.8 points per game a season ago, which was the 2nd fewest points against in the league last year. There's now potential for them to get even better. The goal, in camp, will be to keep this group healthy and find ways to integrate young players such as middle linebacker B.J. Goodson, safety Darian Thompson and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. Let's see if they dominate, and can gel quickly, this summer.

Who's Behind Eli?
More then in years past, the eyes will be on the Quarterback position, but a lot of it won't have much to do with Eli Manning. There's no doubt that Eli is the starter. The question will be, who is gonna be the #2 on the charts right behind Eli? It's a three man battle betweenthird-round pick Davis Webb, former Jets starter Geno Smith and veteran Josh Johnson are expected to compete for the backup job, and Webb probably will serve as the third-stringer this season as he makes the massive jump to a pro-style offense. All their performances this summer will be scrutinized. Who can really step up and make a name for themselves in camp and establish as the guy to be right behind Eli for the Giants.

Do The Jets Have Any Idea What They're Doing?
Where do we start with this one. It will probably take a full season to figure out what's really going to be done with this team, there's not much here this year. General manager Mike Maccagnan built this team with an eye on 2018, stripping down a roster filled with overpaid, underperforming veterans and replacing them with young, unproven talents. They figure to carry at least 10 rookies, many of whom could play key roles. It'll be a tough, competitive training camp with no fewer than six starting jobs up for grabs. It will be very interesting to see who's going to emerge to play a role on this years football team.

Who's Under Center?
Seems like its been a revolving door for the Jets as to who's going to play Quarterback for this football team. Who's going to be the starter and backup for this season has yet to be decided by Head Coach Todd Bowles. many believe that 38 year old newly signed Josh McCown will be the top guy to take the snaps this year. The Jets will set it up so Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty have the chance to compete for the starting gig, but that won't fool anyone. Barring an upset, McCown will be the opening day starter based on experience, if nothing else.  For the record, this isn't McCowns job to lose, its can Hackenberg, or even Petty, step up and possibly take it from him? As soon as the former second-round pick is capable of running the offense,  he'll be in there. But only time will tell if the team actually has their future star under center or if they have to dig for him in the draft next year?

Change of guard with offensive Coordinator
New year, new system, new players, new offensive coordinator. Gang Green is starting over on offense, with first-time Offensive Coordinator John Morton taking over a unit that probably will have at least six new starters and arguably the worst quarterback situation in the league. The talent base is thin, and the receiving corps is largely unproven. Morton will deserve a nice raise if his West Coast offense cracks the top 20. But with what's here, on paper at least, it looks like a long shot.

Sheldon Richardson Front And Center
One of the bright spots over the last number of seasons has been the Jets defense. Sheldon Richardson is one of the anchors of that Jets defense, and has been the last couple of years. But last year, it didn't look that way from Sheldon. There's no doubt about how good he is, but his future is uncertain because he's entering the final year of his contract and has been on the trading block since last fall. It wouldn't be a shock if he's dealt by the midseason trading deadline. In the meantime, the plan is to move him back to his natural position, 3-technique tackle, where he has thrived in the past. And  get him back to playing the type of football all Jets fans know him to be able to play. If he can do that he'll be able to earn himself a nice contract, either from the Jets (I hope) or some other team willing to pay for his services.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

NBA Free Agency Recap

Oh, free agency periods. It's around this time of year where you start to possibly see the major power shifts in the NBA. Players getting traded, others signing on with new teams, and others still resigning for HUGE contracts with their current teams. We've seen some drastic changes to the competative landscape in the league so far, and we've seen some major reworking of rosters around the league. Chris Paul, Paul George and Jimmy Butler were all traded. Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague are the latest fresh faces in a loaded Western Conference. Gordon Hayward is ready to help the Celtics threaten the Cavaliers. Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka are back for more in Toronto. Blake Griffin is finally The Man for the Clippers, surrounded by an all-new supporting cast. And the Warriors have still somehow managed to have a better summer than anybody.

So here's a look at some of the winners and losers from free agency so far.

Winner: Golden State Warriors
As if things couldn't get any better for the champs, it may have just done so. Both Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have been brought back into the mix. Curry signed a new deal worth just a shade over $200 million. They brought back Kevin Durant on a lesser deal, he actually took a pay cut to be able to stick around. In Durant’s case, he signed a two-year, $53 million contract that actually amounts to a pay cut from his previous salary while also roughly $9 million shy of his max contract starting number. Andre Iguodala was also brought back on a three year deal. Shaun Livingston, David West, Nick Young and Omri Casspi all brought back to be prime roll players on this loaded team. Some of the other teams in the west, like Houston and Oklahoma City in the west have been trying to close the competitive gap a little on the Warriors, have just seen Golden State push it that much further away.

Winner: Boston Celtics
Boston is a good team that's going to get better. Will they be a threat to knock off Cleveland? In time that's a big yes. Why? Adding Gordon Hayward into the mix was a very big deal. They may have also gotten lucky had they waited a few more days and possibly gotten Paul George as well, but getting Hayward is a very solid pickup in its own right. Hayward is a crafty scorer with a sneaky explosiveness and a deep bag of leaning midrange shots. He adds something to his game every summer. Last season, he weaponized an off-the-dribble 3-pointer that will be even more dangerous as he rockets off picks from Al Horford; Hayward hit 41 percent of his pull-up 3s last season, fourth-best among 57 guys who jacked at least 1.5 such shots per game. He's also got a solid defensive game as well, which is really going to help out in Boston. Facts are they may not knock Cleveland off the pearch in the East in 2018 but, hey, Heywards got a way better shot at it now then he did playing in Utah.

Winners: Oklahoma City Thunder
Talk about taking a huge step forward in the Western Conference, that's what you get with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Yes they lost Taj Gibson (who signed with Minnesota) and they had to give up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. But at the end of the day, the reward for trading away thouse two guys could be well worth it. In the trade, Oladipo and Sabonis got sent to Indiana in exchange for Paul George. Sure they got some stiff competition with Minnesota and Denver getting better, by adding a guy like Paul George, even if its only for one year (at least on paper that's how it looks), it will keep OKC in the mix for the playoffs for one more year at least. If this year goes well for the Thunder, then there's a better then even chance they might be able to get both guys back in the mix over the long term. This maybe a one and done deal, but its a huge step up for the Thunder.

Winners: An Already Stacked Western Conference
We already mentioned how the Warriors got better. There's more to it in the West then just that. Denver got better, inking Paul Milsap to a three year deal was a slam dunk (no pun intended). Minnesota revamped its roster with Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. Minnesota doesn't have enough 3-point shooting, and the backup wing situation is a disaster zone. Tom Thibodeau targeting former Bulls is indicative of classic coach/executive narrow-mindedness that will eventually hurt the Wolves if they don't install some checks and balances. Oh yeah, and the Rockets grabbed Chris Paul in a major deal. Its going to be fun out West this year.

Losers: Standing By The Eastern Conference
This is going to be easy to analyze. The Nets, Knicks, Pacers, Bulls and Hawks are all going to be bad. The Magic, entering Year 6 of an interminable rebuild, have done nothing. The Pistons, Hornets and Heat won almost by de-fault, he two sweetest words in the English language. The Eastern Conference: Where standing still is winning.

Losers: Utah, Memphis and Portland
Some of the teams from the West got better, while others just stood by and did nothing and even possibly downgraded. I mean look at it out West. Utah lost Gordan Hayward, Portland got hit with major cap issues and look like a shell of themselves, and Memphis is getting older and doesn't seem like they're going to really do anything about it. All hope is not lost. Utah could swing a sign-and-trade around Hayward, or look to reinvest the money it was going to pay their star on other free agents. The Blazers will welcome back a healthy Jusuf Nurkic next season and could still try to dump salary, which really should remain their top priority. The Grizzlies still have two All-Star caliber starters in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, and together they have proven to be ultra-resilient over the last six years or so.