Monday Morning Coffee

goff-struggles

December 5th, 2016

Let’s start with the comedy show that is the Rams.  After getting blown out in New England yesterday, the Rams are an ugly 4-8, and dealing with some obnoxious off the field issues at the same time.  Jared Goff and Todd Gurley were pretty pathetic, as was the entire defense as the Pats dismantled LA.  This outcome was fairly predictable though, as Jeff Fisher was probably watching game tape on Drew Bledsoe in preparation for this matchup.  Fisher couldn’t even identify who the Patriots running backs were heading into the game, so how could he stand any chance against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady? If that’s not bad enough, we found out yesterday that Jeff Fisher and General Manager, Les Snead, were given contract extensions.  That’s like rewarding your child with a new car for getting C’s in school.  Fisher also got caught lying to the media earlier this week during the Eric Dickerson drama as well, in which he claimed he was welcome around the team, while he really told the Rams legendary running back he didn’t really want him around the team.  The Rams have no idea what being in the LA market means both on and off the field, and they are learning about it the hard way.  Looks like we’re going to see some mediocre NFL football in LA for a while.  Jeff Fisher can’t even find his challenge flag……

Elsewhere around the NFL, the Chargers lost another close game after leading in the 4th, and their fans are probably numb to it by now.  Pretty soon LA is going to have two mediocre football teams.  The Seahawks had a good laugh on Sunday Night Football against the Panthers, until Earl Thomas broke his leg and is now considering retirement.  Eric Berry looked like Deion Sanders, and the Chiefs got by the Falcons.  The Lions beat the Saints, then trolled all the ESPN analysts on Twitter for picking against them.  Blake Bortles isn’t very good at football, and the Jaguars got handled by the Broncos.  The Packers aren’t dead just yet after beating the Texans.  The Eagles are getting Philly fans ready for a long 76ers season by losing their third straight to the Bengals.  Those are the Miami Dolphins I know! They got pounded by the Ravens.  Is Chip Kelly ready to go back to college football yet? His 49ers got blasted by the Bears.  The Raiders came back from the dead and beat the  Bills.  The Steelers remembered how to play football again and beat the Giants.  The Redskins played more like the foreskins, as they got beat by the Cardinals.  The Cowboys beat the Vikings on Thursday Night Football, and the Chargers will move to LA by the time the Vikings offense ever scores another touchdown.

On to the college ranks, where after all the drama, the Trojans are going to the Rose Bowl.  In just a matter of two months, USC went from having a dumpster fire of a football program that wanted its coach ejected from the universe, to having one of the elite programs in the country.  The Trojans are playing as well as almost any of the playoff teams, and you could still make a case for them to be in the playoff with 3 losses.  However,  It’s almost better that USC is going to the Rose Bowl instead of the playoff, so they don’t get their brains beat in by Alabama, as Washington will on New Years eve.  With huge victories against Washington, Colorado, as well as against rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, USC should feel like they have rightfully earned their place in the Rose Bowl.  They’ve also brought the program back to where USC football probably should be.

As for the rest of the college football playoff, Alabama clinched a spot in the playoff after beating Florida 54-16, and Nick Saban probably chewed out his kids for giving up 16 points.  They might as as well request a promotion to the NFC South so they can actually have a challenge in the playoffs.  Ohio State and Clemson deserve to be in there, but I was hoping to see some new teams.  Washington is sure to get embarrassed by Alabama, which is basically a punishment for winning the Pac 12.  I think it’s safe to say that Penn State just got “Sanduskied” by the playoff committee.  Urban Meyer once said if you win your conference you shouldn’t play for a National Championship.  I’m still not sure how Ohio State is in under that logic, and why Michigan even got consideration.

Let’s talk college hoops, where UCLA basketball is back! The Bruins just had their biggest road win in about a decade, as they upset #1 Kentucky on Saturday.  John Calipari is outraged because he isn’t paying his kids millions of dollars to lose games like this in December.  As punishment, he’s going to take away all of the cell phones and cars he gifted his players.  In all seriousness though, Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf are playing so well,  their talent has actually allowed many other Bruins to  settle into more effective roles on the team.  Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton are perfect examples of this.  More than anything though, the Bruin defense is beyond impressive.  Never did I think a Steve Alford coached team could challenge so many shots at that end of the floor.  There’s still a long way to go, and Pac 12 play won’t be easy, but UCLA has a shot to be the #1 seed out West, and has the talent win a National Championship.

To the NBA, where the Laker injuries are starting to catch up with them.  The Lake Show got crushed in Toronto, and lost a very disappointing game to Memphis on Saturday.  This is an absolutely brutal stretch, where its starting to feel like that playoff seeding is starting to slip away.  There’s not too many teams that can win when losing their starting backcourt, and the Lakers have done pretty well just to get this far.  It doesn’t help though that LA is letting guys like Troy Daniels (yea I’ve never heard of him either) drop 31 points on him.  We’re starting to see more instances of lackluster defense, more isolation basketball, and silly turnovers, which is very characteristic of a young team.  Hopefully the Lakers can correct that to stay in the race.

As for the Clippers, I’m still not buying what they are selling.  Yes, they went on the road and beat up Cleveland.  However, Lebron looked about as relaxed as he does when he goes Banana boating with Chris Paul in the summer, and the Cavs didn’t seem to care.  The Clipps have lost four of their last six games including last night’s loss to Indiana, and they still look a lot more like the team we’ve seen the last 5 years.  They’ve also slipped to third in the West, and here come the mighty Warriors to Staples Center on Wednesday.  This is one showdown I can’t wait to see, but fully expect Golden State to handle business.

I completely forgot about Tiger Woods, and he’s back.  Although he finished 15th out of 17 at the Hero World Challenge.  As sad as it is to say, that’s a major accomplishment for him these days.  I’m not sure how that gets him to move up 248 spots in the world rankings, but apparently it’s likely to happen.  We are far from the days of Tiger’s dominance, however, hopefully he can win a major this year and has a tournament or two win in him.  That would definitely bring some excitement back to the PGA, because the current names just don’t bring it.

Finally, a creepy episode of The Walking Dead went down last night on AMC.  Spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see it, so read no further if you plan on watching it later.  This episode was 90 minutes of Negan toying with Carl.  If Carl was supposedly on this suicide mission to kill Negan, then why didn’t he just pull the trigger and shoot him and everybody else when he had the chance?  He has a lot of guts, but also has a lot of stupidity.  So does Michonne, who suddenly thinks she can take out Negan by herself.  Who does she think Negan is, the Governor? He makes the Governor look like Mr Rogers.   I think Negan spent more quality time with Judith in that episode than Rick has over the course of the entire series.  I love that slap Olivia gave Negan, but there’s gotta be a small part of her that would think about sleeping with him like he offered.  I mean, she probably doesn’t get laid much in the real world, let alone with the apocalyptic world.  Negan is clearly Hugh Heffner in the apocalyptic world.  This was definitely not the episode to be ironing your laundry while watching.  If Negan was really intent on punishing Carl, he would have given him a haircut.  This was definitely an “eye-opening” episode.  I can’t believe we’re already at the mid-season finale next week!  For once, I don’t think we’re going to get an all out war between Rick’s group and the opposition during the mid-season finale.  When did Gabriel become so damn likable on this show?  That war feels like several episodes away.  If there’s one character that I would bet wouldn’t make it to through the next episode, it’s Spencer.  Looking forward to seeing how it all goes down next week!

carl-and-negan

 

Monday Morning Coffee

goff-raises-hand

November 28th, 2016

The Rams took a beating from the Saints yesterday in New Orleans, and coach Jeff Fisher was right.  He’s not going 7-9, or 8-8, or 9-7, or 10-6 for that matter.  He’s going to go 5-11.  The Rams defense that’s been so good all year long was nowhere to be found.  The Saints don’t exactly have the 1985 Chicago Bears defense, but Jared Goff helped the Rams offense put up more points than the Rams have scored in a month.  The Goff situation is making Fisher look really bad.  Everyone is wondering why he was sitting on the bench for the first 10 weeks of the season.  Had Goff been terrible, everyone would want to burn Fisher and Les Snead at the stake for trading so much for an inept quarterback.  At least it appears the Rams have a QB they can build around, but if we’ve learned anything from the Dallas Cowboys, it’s that elite NFL teams are built with great offensive lines as their foundation.  The Rams don’t have anything close to that, which makes both Goff and Todd Gurley look like scrubs at at times.  This is just how I remember the NFL in LA when I was a kid.

Elsewhere around week 12 in the NFL, you thought for a second the Chargers were going to find a way to blow another 4th quarter lead, but then you realized they were playing against the $72 million bust Brock Osweiler, so they hung on to beat the Texans.  Only the Cleveland Browns could throw a pick six to a guy with only 8 fingers.  Giants took down the Browns and sent them closer to 0-16.  The Ravens topped the Bengals.  Justin Tucker is like Steph Curry from three, while Mike Nugent is like DeAndre Jordan from the free throw line.  The Falcons beat the Cardinals, got a big performance from Taylor Gabriel, and then trolled the Browns on Twitter by thanking them for releasing him earlier in the season.  The Bills beat the Jaguars, who just aren’t very good at football.  Where did the Dolphins come from? They are now 7-4 after beating the 49ers.  I guess the better question is where Jay Ajayi came from.  Matt Barkley threw his first three career touchdown passes in the Bears loss to the Titans.  He’s been in the league since 2013!  The Raiders got by the Panthers for their 9th win of the season, which is funny because Derek Carr probably has only nine fingers left.  Tom Brady got his 200th win as the Pats edged the Jets.  It would take the Browns 200 years to get that many wins.  Russell Wilson didn’t bring his bag of magic tricks this time, and the Bucs handled the Seahawks.      That was one wild Sunday night game, as the Chiefs rallied to beat the Broncos in OT.  I guess the Broncos can shutdown Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers, but can’t find a way to contain Alex Smith.  As for the Thanksgiving day games, Sam Bradford should have been forced to eat Spam for Thanksgiving after the Vikings lost to the Lions.  Thanksgiving just didn’t feel the same without Tony Romo turnovers, but seeing Josh Norman and Dez Bryant talk trash in the Cowboys win over the Redskins made up for it.  There was also Antonio Brown breaking defenders ankles in the Steelers win over the Colts….

To College Football where the Trojans kept rolling on Saturday, this time beating Notre Dame 45-27.  Before I get to the disaster that was my alma matter, let’s talk about USC.  The Trojans just looked like the team that was oozing with talent, and poured it on with some huge plays from Adoree Jackson and Ronald Jones, to go along with another solid performance from Sam Darnold.  Unfortunately for the Trojans, they won’t win the Pac 12 because Colorado defeated Utah, so they won’t even get to play in the Pac 12 Championship game.  That leads to some major “what if” questions we often ask ourselves when talking about College Football.  There’s still a chance USC could play in the Rose Bowl if Washington goes to the College Football Playoff.  Most will say that loss to Utah is what really hurt but even if the Trojans won that game, who is to say they don’t end up having a let down in another conference game?  Ultimately though, USC is arguably playing like the 2nd best team in the country to Alabama (who would still crush them again), but they could certainly beat any of the other College Football Playoff teams.  Frankly, since the committee takes into account injuries to certain teams in their rankings, you could make the argument that they should be in the playoff because they would provide the most competitive games now that they have Sam Darnold under center.  These never ending arguments will only come to an end when they do the right thing and expand the playoff to more than four teams.  I do expect that USC will be playing in one of the six major New Year bowl games though.

As for my Irish, their lackluster performance against USC was predictable, and just the final blow to a a horrendous season on Brian Kelly’s watch.  The Irish have talent on both sides of the ball, but their defensive fundamentals and discipline were absolutely atrocious all season long, which has to fall at the feet of the coaching staff.   Notre Dame defensive tackle  Jerry Tillery made a completely classless move as well, kicking Cedric Ware in the helmet, and then stomping on Zach Banner’s foot.  I was happy to see Kelly chewing him out for that.  While I’m totally disappointed with Kelly’s football product this year, I am still not a believer that he should be fired.  There’s simply nobody out there who can presently be an upgrade over him.  In one year from now, if the Irish struggle, that may not be the case.  Notice that I haven’t even mentioned any of the stupid NCAA rulings that were made earlier in the week, in which the Irish had been asked to vacate their wins from the 2012 and 2013 season.  Ok no problem NCAA.  We’ll just pretend like that embarrassment against Alabama in the championship game from that season never actually happened.  For the most part, Notre Dame hands down way more discipline for its players stupidity than all the other Universities in those football loving, red neck filled towns.  Here’s Kelly chewing out Tillery…..

Some of you may have forgotten that UCLA was still playing football over the weekend as well.  Then again, after seeing that game against Cal, it made me realize that they stopped playing football weeks ago.  Mike Fafaul definitely looked like a walk-on quarterback in this game, and looked more and more like that since his decent first couple of starts.  For years we’ve heard that UCLA has all this talent, and we’ve just heard excuse after excuse during that time.  The Bruins have already said goodbye to their offensive coordinator, Kennedy Polamalu.  Now for the next six months, Jim Mora will consider whether or not he wants to stick with a pro style offense, which usually takes a year before it looks the way you want it, or go another route.  Since Josh Rosen got hurt running that offense with little protection, it makes you wonder what the right decision is.  Either way, Rosen will be on to his third offensive coordinator in three years, which can’t be easy to build consistency with.

That Michigan-Ohio State game was a great finish, but now the playoff polls are really screwed up.  The two best teams in the Big 10 are not only not going to win the Big 10, but not even play for the Big 10 Championship.  A Michigan vs USC Cotton Bowl would be a pretty intriguing matchup.  Alabama is still Alabama.  Clemson looks good, but is likely to get bounced again in the semi-finals.  Very tough loss for Nebraska against Iowa.  To be fair though, nobody that lives in Nebraska or Iowa is a winner.  This guy really wanted to spend some quality time with Miss Arizona…..

Thank god the Lakers got some relief in their schedule yesterday, by playing the Atlanta Hawks, a team without a real franchise player.  The schedule has been unbelievably brutal of late, and the injuries have been piling up at the worst time.  However, somehow LA is still sporting a .500 record.  That’s a tribute to Luke Walton and all the minutes he’s been handing out throughout the roster.  There’s a reason why Thomas Robinson and Jose Calderon can step into the starting lineup in the absence of Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell.  It’s because Luke Walton has given them enough playing time to make sure they are ready.  If the Lakers can get through this horrible part of their schedule by mid-December at around .500, then the playoffs are a realistic goal.  However, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell need to come back soon, or else those playoff chances will evaporate quickly.  I’m also getting annoyed hearing the ridiculous Phil Jackson rumors again, and about him potentially joining the Laker front office at the end of the season.  The Lakers are finally beginning to turn it around because they have let go of their past, and now they want to cling to it again? Given how out of touch PJ is with modern day basketball since he became an executive, this story needs to die immediately.

Then there’s the Clippers, who have suddenly dropped two straight.  The Clipps have become that guy who tells you every year that he’s going to show up to your party, yet when that party comes he never shows.  This year, everyone seems to be convinced that your friend is coming to the party, because everyone is convinced that the Clippers are at least going to the Western Conference Finals.  However, slowly, the Clippers have been surpassed in the standings by the Warriors and Spurs.  They are reverting back to the same team we’ve seen the last few years that is inconsistent at the defensive end, and a bench that can only rely upon the firepower of Jamal Crawford.  Call me when your friend actually shows up to the party.

To College Hoops where the Bruins put together an impressive performance in the Wooden Legacy Tournament over the holiday weekend.  UCLA put together three wins in four days, including victories over Nebraska and Texas A&M to win the tournament.  Bryce Alford looks much better without the ball in his hands, while Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf continue to make their mark.  The Bruins haven’t been this much fun to watch in years.  However, the most impressive part of the last two wins was the fact UCLA defended and played a slower, grind it out, type of game.  They’ll need that versatility as they continue to play better teams.  Those better teams are coming up with matchups against Kentucky and Michigan over the next two weeks.  The Bruins haven’t been this much fun to watch in years, and according to Lonzo Ball’s dad, they are going to win the National Championship.

The Dodgers have been ordered to reduce their debt by Major League Baseball.  MLB rules state that after an ownership change, a team must comply with the debt service rules within 5 years.  Those rules are that a teams debt must be no more than 12 times annual revenue, minus expenses.  This brings up a few important points.  First of all, it’s going to make it that much more difficult to re-sign Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner this winter.  Second of all, it’s a reminder to all you whiny babies who complain that the team was “too greedy” when it put together its TV deal, when it was just trying to be competitive, while some of you were just too lazy to change your cable provider.  Thirdly, why can’t the MLB order the Dodgers not to blow money on scrubs like Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Brett Anderson? Had Friedman and his band of nerds not screwed up there, then maybe the Dodgers would be more like the Cubs, who have no such debt problems and nicely supplemented their youth with quality veterans.  Sure enough it was the Cubs who handled the Dodgers in the postseason, and went on to win the World Series.

Here come the LA Kings.  LA has won 5 in a row, and now they are getting some of their injured players back like Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik.  LA’s defense has been so good, they have made Peter Budaj, a questionable NHL goaltender, look like a very good NHL goaltender.  This team may not be as good as the 2012 team that won the Stanley Cup, but once they get Jonathan Quick back, they are going to be a lot better than we expected.  Then there’s the Ducks who have lost three of their last four.  Ryan Getzlaf actually scored on Saturday to help end their skid.  Getzlaf still scores goals? He’s scored less this season than most married guys do.

Finally, another episode of The Walking Dead went down on AMC last night.  Spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see it, so read no further if you plan on watching it later.  Did anybody actually remember that Tara and Heath left the group to go on a supply run?  Also, did anybody really care, or care if they got killed in the process? This episode was ok, but it seems to create an unnecessary additional story arc.  Now we have another community in Oceanside, that was terrorized by the Saviors at one point, and got away after the Saviors killed all their men.  The last five episodes have now created five different arcs in five different communities: The Kingdom, The Saviors, Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside.  That’s a lot of communities, but I fully expect the next two episodes, and potentially the rest of this season, to connect all of these different communities.  I’m one that has said most people are unnecessarily complaining about the show, but for this episode the complaint is valid.  Tara just isn’t interesting enough to make an entire episode about her and Oceanside.  These stories should all be intertwined much earlier within each episode.  This feels somewhat lazy on the part of the writers.  Also, why is Tara so cool regarding Heath’s whereabouts? Doesn’t it seems like he was kidnapped?  Despite this disappointing episode, I’m still looking forward to the final two episodes in 2016.

tara

Monday Morning Coffee

goff

November 21st, 2016

The Jared Goff era began yesterday at the Coliseum but the Rams still couldn’t get back in the win column.  If you like offense, then you probably didn’t like watching this game.  The Rams didn’t exactly look a whole lot better on offense with their rookie QB, but Goff was steady, and showed some signs of potential.  I wish Jeff Fisher would have opened up the playbook and let him throw the ball down the field, rather than spoon feeding him the playbook.  If anything, this game was a reminder of just how inept LA’s offense line and receivers are, and how much work they need to be able to actually become a good team.  That’s really a shame though because the defense is damn good, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald is arguably the best player in football right now.  The Rams  aren’t totally out of the NFC Wild Card chase, but the rest of their schedule is a death trap, starting with road games against the Saints and Patriots.  Knowing this team though, they’ll probably end up beating New England and Seattle while losing all the other games that seem winnable.

Elsewhere around Week 11, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are elite again, while the Eagles are mediocre again, as Seattle beat dismantled Philly.  No Gronk, but no problem for the Patriots, as they took care of the 49ers.  The Redskins were all over the Packers, and Kirk Cousins is way better at football than most of you thought.  The Steelers beat up on the Browns, and Cleveland is working on asking the NFL if they can forfeit the rest of their games.  The Lions took down the Jaguars and Calvin Johnson is somewhere wondering why Detroit decided to start winning after he retired.  Carson Palmer must think it’s playoff time because he threw a 100 yard pick 6, as the Vikings beat the Cardinals.  The Cowboys won against the Ravens and Tony Romo didn’t get injured.  That’s always an excellent weekend for Dallas.  The Colts were so desperate to beat the Titans that they actually resorted to using the wild cat.  It worked, but I thought that scheme died after Tim Tebow left the NFL.  The Bills topped the Bengals, and AJ Green is now out for the season with a hamstring tear, which virtually ends the Bengal’s season.  The Giants took down the Bears, and now Kristin Cavallari can’t talk shit anymore on everybody that’s talking shit on her husband, Jay Cutler.  The Bucs surprised the Chiefs, and it’s gotta be tough for K.C. to win when their best player is their kicker.  The Saints beat the Panthers on TNF, in a game that couldn’t go five minutes without a player getting injured.  There were five misses on extra points yesterday.  It’s like Blair Walsh was kicking for every team.  This sound guy definitely picked the wrong time to run by the Vikings tunnel….

The Bruins put up a spirited effort against the Trojans on Saturday night, but that lasted about as long as Hillary Clinton’s chances on election night.  USC got another big game from Sam Darnold, and handled UCLA 36-14 at the Rose Bowl.  Despite the early struggles in this game, USC is back to playing like one of the best programs in the country.  In fact, they are playing so well that it would be a shame if Colorado wins next week, and goes to the Pac 12 title game instead of them.  A Rose Bowl appearance against a team like Ohio State or Michigan would be an amazing feat for a program that appeared to be shattered less than two months ago.  As for the Bruins, most will point to having Mike FaFaul, a walk-on, start this game.  Let’s not pretend though like Josh Rosen would have made all the difference in the world.  UCLA still couldn’t run the ball, and their receivers don’t scare anybody.  What happened to all those big physical lineman they were going to recruit?  Last year the excuse was the injuries on defense, and this year it’s Rosen.  Where was the defense on Saturday night? It let them down, just as much as Jim Mora has at the end of every season.  Once again, the Bruins lose their final home game of the season, as they have the last couple of years.  The last few years it seems like the Bruin football program’s self-worth has been defined by that game.  That’s pathetic because the talent has been there to do so much better on a national level.  Jim Mora has turn this group into a bunch of annual underachievers.

Notre Dame is now 4-7, and they’ve managed to do it without playing a single team that is currently ranked in the AP Poll.  That’s not easy to achieve so congrats to my Irish.  The Irish should play the Cleveland Browns in the Waffle House Flag Football Iron Bowl.  Also, Brian Kelly is now 15-14 in his last 29 games.  Coincidentally, Charlie Strong was 15-14 in his final 29 games at Texas, before he was fired yesterday.  Strong had no chance from the moment he took that job, since he was their fallback plan to Nick Saban.  Louisville players definitely picked the wrong week to complain about not being in the Top 4 of the College Football Playoff, because they got wacked by Houston.  Next week’s top 4 will probably consist of Alabama, Alabama, Alabama, and Alabama.  Even with Washington’s loss to USC, they can still make it into the playoff by winning out, and winning the Pac 12 Title game.  It’s only been a couple of seasons and we already need this playoff to get to 8 or even 16 teams to make it more fair.  It’s not like college kids are doing anything in December anyway over Christmas break.

To the NBA, where the Lakers are getting better, but they reminded us how much work they still have to do the last couple of games.  San Antonio executed at a much higher level, which is a level the young Lakers just aren’t at yet.  The same can be said for Chicago, who rode on the coattails of Jimmy Butler to beat the Lake Show last night.  In all these games the Lakers have lost, they still need to learn to beat the elite teams in the 4th quarter, and play smarter.  That’s why I’m not sold yet that they can make the playoffs, especially when you consider the schedule over the next few weeks.    As for D’Angelo Russell, he was definitely favoring the knee last night, and if it’s an issue, the Lakers should shut him down until he is right.  In case you haven’t realized how good Julius Randle has been,  he’s one of seven players in the Association that are averaging at least 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.  The other 6? Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.  That feels like just the start of players on this team that can develop into excellent NBA players.

Then there’s the Clippers who are still rolling.  The Clipps are 12-2 and Blake Griffin has scored 20+ points in 7 straight games, and he’s been killing people inside the paint.  I’ve always thought that Chris Paul would have a much steeper decline in performance by 31 years of age, but he really hasn’t.  In fact, he’s shooting a career high percentage from three point land, and is averaging a career high in steals per game.  The bench has been nice too, but can we just get to the point where we get to see the Warriors facing the Clippers? We’re still a little over a week away from these two Western Conference powerhouses meeting, but I’m not so convinced the Clippers can beat them, especially not in a 7 game series.

Phil Jackson is arguably the greatest coach in American team sports.  However, as a front office executive, he is completely out of touch with how to handle himself.  His latest blunder as an exec came when he claimed Lebron James requires special treatment, and that when James was with Miami, he and his “posse” wanted to spend an extra night in Cleveland.  Of course James took offense to this.  Obviously Phil Jackson isn’t racist, but he has a history of making crude, ridiculous, and obnoxious comments about players (sometimes his own) through the media.  When you have Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neil on your team and you are winning championships, you can get away with it.  However, as an exec without them, you can’t.  Phil is now trying to run an outdated offense modern day players don’t want to run, and now he’s going to have free agents questioning him prior to joining the Knicks.  This is the guy some of you Laker fans want to be a part of the teams front office? Phil the coach is legendary.  Phil the executive is far from it.

It’s nice to see UCLA basketball taking care of business against the opponents they should be blowing out of the gym.  This may not seem like a big deal, but last night’s blow out win against Long Beach State is the type of game we’ve seen the Bruins lose at home over the last few years, even with elite talent.  TJ Leaf and Lonzo Ball have looked great, and the Bruins are on track to be undefeated come their showdown with Kentucky in two weeks.  I still don’t understand why Steve Alford can’t trust a couple of more players to add to his regular rotation.  If he wants to play this up and down style, he needs bodies, especially if he wants to keep the intensity at the defensive end.  I haven’t seen the Bruins look this good so early in five years, but I’m reserving my excitement until I see them play some real teams.

It’s been a very rough first twenty games of the season for the LA Kings, but somehow, they are tied for first place in the Pacific Division after beating the Ducks last night 3-2.  It’s pretty hard to win when you don’t have your starting goaltender, two of your top 6 forwards, and one top four defenseman.  However, the Kings are finding young players like Nic Dowd and Kevin Gravel to pick up the slack, and develop in the process.  I have officially jumped on the “I have a man crush on Nic Dowd bandwagon”.    Not only are these young players how the Kings are going to get through this  stretch without their key players, but it’s how they will better contend for a cup, as they become more reliable when everyone is completely healthy.  As for Anaheim, even after last nights loss they are still part of that three way tie for first in the Pacific, winning 6 of their last 10.  I’d still be a little concerned about Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf though.  Getzlaf has just 1 goal in his first 15 games, while Perry has four in 18 games.  As these guys are aging, their production is coming further into question.

Congratulations to Dave Roberts for winning the NL Manager of the Year.  Roberts did a great job managing a team that lost its only reliable starting pitcher for the majority of the season, and dealing with a bunch of injuries since his GM signed a bunch of guys made out of glass.  Unfortunately for Dodger fans, the team has raised ticket prices on all seats for next seats. I have no problem if a good team wants to raise ticket prices because they are contending for a World Series Championship.  The Dodgers aren’t fooling anybody, thinking they actually are going to assemble a team that is going to truly contend.  Under Andrew Friedman, they are lowering payroll, and looking for “cost-effective options” at every opportunity, as opposed to trying to supplement their great farm system with quality pieces that can put them over the top.  We’re likely to see this play out when Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner sign with new teams in the next few weeks.  If the Dodgers want to raise ticket prices, they should be raising their payroll, rather than lowering it.  The Dodgers have been in the playoffs for 6 of the past 8 years, and they still have no World Series title for the past 28 years.  Not sure how anybody can look at this new front office as any kind of success compared to the previous front office.

Congrats to Mike Trout as well for winning the AL MVP award.  It’s his second career MVP, and a reminder that he is on his way to becoming one of the best players in the history of the game.  That’s also a reminder of why the Angels wouldn’t dare trade him, no matter how bad the team gets.  Also, in case you missed it, Kate Upton, who is engaged to Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander, went off on Twitter after losing the Cy Young award to Rick Porcello.  This woman has no chill……

Finally, another episode of The Walking Dead went down on AMC last night.  Spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see it so read no further if that is the case.  This episode was a little slow, taking us back to the Hilltop, where Maggie slowly gets her health back.  The Saviors visit Hilltop and bully Gregory for a little bit.  The only real suspenseful moment was whether or not Gregory was going to rat out Sasha and Maggie to the Saviors for staying with the Hilltop, even after saving them from Walkers the night before.  Gregory is nothing more than a figurehead at Hilltop, and by the end of the episode, Maggie has basically positioned herself as the leader of the community.  You might as well add him to the “characters that are for sure going to die” list.  Anybody that cares about their own life more than others in this show is toast, and that’s exactly what he does.  Both Maggie and Sasha are looking more and more bad ass by the minute, and the deaths of Glenn and Abraham are pushing them toward any revenge they can get.  What the hell is Carl thinking?  He goes on a rollerblading date with Enid, and suddenly thinks it’s a good idea to jump in the back of the Saviors truck to go exact some type of revenge. My guess is that Negan is just going to toy with him and not actually kill him.   Sounds more reckless to me than anything else, but then again, Sasha’s request that Jesus do the same is just as ridiculous.  Jesus is one loyal dude though.  Enid had Hershel’s watch. Does everybody get a turn with Hershel’s watch?  That thing has been passed around more than the Kardashian sisters during NBA All-Star weekend.  We’ve got several strong characters developing quickly in this season, but I’m curious to see how it’s going to come together in an attempt to take down the Saviors.  It’s probably the women that lead the charge: Maggie, Sasha, and Michonne, who ultimately lead the war against Negan.

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Monday Morning Coffee

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November 14th, 2016

There is much to get to in this edition of Monday Morning Coffee, so let’s start with the Lakers.  Taking two out of three on their latest road trip isn’t too bad and after 11 games, a 6-5 record is a very pleasant surprise.  I’m going to overlook the fact that Andrew Wiggins looked like Dominique Wilkins last night, and the Lake Show was blown out of the building.  Instead I’ll focus on the positive.  Luke Walton is playing with a 10 man rotation, with each one playing between 20-25 minutes a night, and closing with the group of players that are playing the best.  There’s a ton of mistakes being made, but there’s energy, there’s effort on defense, and there’s accountability.  On any given night, I’m actually starting to believe that this team can beat anybody that they play.  On the other hand though, if the Lakers are gonna play .500 ball, the playoffs are a realistic goal. If that’s the case then they can’t afford to lose games to Minnesota and Dallas like they did last week.  This is definitely a fun team to watch, and one that Laker fans can really get excited about.  Let’s hope they get back in the win column against Brooklyn on Tuesday before the schedule gets tougher again.

As for the Clippers, they’ve got the best record in the NBA after 10 games, and they are off to their best start in franchise history.  However, nobody cares, and it’s not just because they are the red headed step child of LA sports teams.  It’s because they will be defined by whether or not they make it past the 2nd round of the playoffs, which they have never done.  I fully expect Golden State to get their act together and finish 1st in the West.  However, the Clipps best hopes of getting to the conference finals are to finish 1st so they can avoid what is likely to be the Warriors or Spurs in the 2nd round.  In that case, I guess I should say that nobody cares about the Clippers until the playoffs, but the Clippers should care about the regular season if they have hopes of making a real playoff run.  Between the Lakers and the Clippers, the NBA in LA is getting very fun to watch.

On to the NFL and the Rams.  Look people…our troops don’t defend our freedom in this country so we can watch Case Keenum vs Bryce Petty on Sundays.  That Rams-Jets game went exactly the way we thought it would, with neither team being able to do anything on offense.  The Rams may have come away with the ugly 9-6 win, but it’s nothing more than a game that one of two mediocre teams had to win.  As usual, Jeff Fisher didn’t put any blame on the quarterback, and gave us no reason to think he’s going to give Jared Goff a chance to start next week against Miami.  Since Case Keenum is easily the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, and Fisher insists on keeping Goff on the bench, I’ve subscribed  to a new theory.  The theory is that Fisher and General Manager Les Snead realize that Goff really isn’t that good, and that trading their first born child for him in the draft was a mistake.  That’s right folks, that means that Goff isn’t even better than the worst starting quarterback in the NFL right now.  Since Fisher and Snead know this, they won’t let Goff see the field or else everyone will realize how badly they screwed up, and they could lose their jobs.  In other words, keeping Goff on the bench actually increases their job security.  As if the quarterback situation isn’t bad enough, I’m beginning to wonder about Todd Gurley too, since he’s yet to have a 100 yard game this year.  Gurley might just be an average NFL running back, and not the all-pro we thought he was going to be last year.  In fact, Gurley might not even be the best back on the Rams, given how Benny  Cunningham looked yesterday.  Collectively, the offense is so bad, I can’t tell who is a stiff and who is actually a serviceable player.

Elsewhere around week 10 of the NFL, I don’t know how the Chargers do it.  They lost another game late in the 4th, this time on a Philip Rivers pick 6, at the hands of the Miami Dolphins.  The Bolts are now losing on and off the field.  More on that in a moment.  I’m surprised that Tony Romo wasn’t waiving one of those terrible towels yesterday, in hopes that Dak would screw up and he’d get his starting job back next week.  Sorry Tony, Cowboys got by the Steelers in a good one.  Jay Cutler is back to throwing interceptions, so everything in our country seems right again.  The Bucs beat up on the Bears.  The Packers defense has as many holes as the cheese that’s made in Wisconsin, and they got blown away by the Titans.   The Browns couldn’t even get a win in the same week that a reality TV star became President, as the Ravens beat up on Cleveland.  Carson Wentz got his game back and the Eagles took down the Falcons.  Saints fans are probably jumping in the bayou with the alligators after losing to the Broncos on a blocked PAT.  The Texans beat the Jaguars in a game that should have been aired on Comedy Central.  Sam Bradford has suddenly remembered that he’s only Sam Bradford, and the Vikings lost again, this time to the Redskins.  Cam Newton brought back the dab, but that wasn’t enough to get the Panthers to beat the Chiefs.  The Cardinals got by the lowly 49ers, who have nothing but Colin Kapernick’s political crusade to keep them relevant.  There’s always time for a selfie at an NFL game right?

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The city of San Diego voted against a hotel tax that would fund a stadium downtown for the Chargers.  That leaves the Chargers with very few good options.  They’ve been trying to get funding for a new stadium for 16 years, and the city just won’t do it.  Now it seems as though their only viable option for a new stadium is to go to LA, and share the new Inglewood stadium with the Rams.  That may be a smart monetary move for the Chargers, but they would become by far the most irrelevant team in the LA sports landscape.  The Bolts would have completely alienated all of their San Diego fans, while simultaneously struggling to  build a new fan base in a market that’s already dominated by the Rams.  It’s a crummy situation for the Chargers who are either going to lose money, or lose their fans.  It also means that we might be just a year away from having not 1, but 2 terrible NFL football teams in Los Angeles.

To college football, where the Trojans pulled off the big upset against #4 Washington on Saturday.  I wasn’t really sure, but now I am: USC is back, and Clay Helton is off the hot seat.  Helton has found a dynamic quarterback in Sam Darnold.  The kid takes chances, but he’s one of the best freshman quarterbacks we’ve seen at ‘SC in the last twenty years.  It’s not just Darnold’s greatness that’s putting the Trojans on this run.  The defense shut down one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, and the special teams play has been huge during their six game winning streak.  That streak is something that hasn’t been done by USC since the Pete Carroll era, which the Trojans have been desperately trying to replicate since his departure.  It would almost be a shame at this point if USC doesn’t get a chance to play Washington again in the Pac 12 Title game.  The Trojans still need to win against UCLA and hope for Utah and Colorado to lose another game for that to happen.  That’s a little bit of a long shot.  Looking back on it, losing to Utah and Alabama was understandable, but the Stanford loss is what really hurt.

It was nice to see the Bruins get back in the win column on the football field against Oregon State.  it was also good to see Mike Fafaul get himself a win as the Bruins starting quarterback.  However, it’s going to be blood bath next week when UCLA takes on USC at the Rose Bowl.  I have no idea how the Bruins are going to be able to move the ball considering that have no running game, and the Trojan secondary is going to be licking their chops at every pass Fafaul puts in the air.  This one could get ugly.

Elsewhere around college football, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame managed to avoid an embarrassment this weekend by beating Army.  That counts as something significant these days for the Irish, who have suffered mass amounts of humiliation this season.  Then there’s the chaos that is now the polls after Clemson, Michigan, and Washington lost.  I do hope this moves Louisville up in the ranks though, because they would probably give Alabama the best game in the playoffs.  Meanwhile, Alabama beat up on Mississippi State, clinching the SEC West title, and inspiring tons of inbred sex on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.  There’s also UNLV’s backup punter who wasn’t really planning on playing, and instead wore his girlfriend’s Yoga pants to the game…..

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Is UCLA basketball back? Ok maybe not, but they look pretty damn exciting in their first two games.  Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf are already looking like super freshman, and the Bruins have depth.  I’m not going to lose my mind over a couple of wins against Northridge and Pacific, but we’ve seen UCLA have major let downs at home against those types of schools in recent years.  The Bruins should win their next four games and be undefeated going into their showdown against Kentucky.  That will be the first true test on the national stage.  This team is going to score, but as with any Steve Alford team, the question is whether or not they can play defense.  They have the athleticism to do so, it’s just a matter of being accountable on that end of the floor.  Also, now that Arizona appears to have lost it’s best player, the Bruins have an even better chance to win the Pac 12.

As for USC basketball, their off to two quick wins against easy opponents, but it’s like everyone completely forgot about their success last year.  They finished 6th in the Pac 12 last year, and were actually picked to finish 6th again, mostly due to a couple of players turning pro.  However, Andy Enfield’s recruiting has been a little bit underrated the last couple of years, and he has some players that can help make some noise in the conference, and be dangerous again come tournament time.  What isn’t going to help USC though is that they don’t have a single non-conference game against a ranked opponent.

To baseball, where I had a feeling Andrew Friedman was going to do something stupid.  Sure enough he did.  He traded Howie Kendrick to the Phillies for two useless minor leaguers.  Farhan Zaidi, Friedman’s “whipping boy”, explained that his was simply done to create payroll flexibility.  Thank god for that considering there are no good free agents out there.  The Dodgers have a good third baseman and a good closer, but they are about to give us a bunch of excuses about why they aren’t going to sign them, even after clearing $14 million with the trades of Kendrick and Carlos Ruiz.  I’m also going to lose my mind the next time I hear Zaidi or Friedman say they have starting pitching depth.  Apparently these guys didn’t watch the same NLCS that we did, when they had no starters beyond Clayton Kershaw who they could give the ball too.

I’ve been telling you for about a year now, but nobody was listening.  Donald Trump had a real shot to be the next President of the United States.  Now it’s finally happened, so I’m not surprised.  Now that we’re here though, people need to stop losing their minds.  Give the man a chance before you continue your protesting, complaining, and threats to move to Canada.  I can’t believe somebody hung the Nazi flag in San Francisco as a sign of protest.  Really people? So Donald Trump is Hitler? Apparently some people have zero historical perspective.  People complained about Ronald Regan when he was elected because he was an actor, yet he turned out to be one of our best Presidents ever.  Wait and see what happens before you start complaining.  As for Hillary, she foolishly failed to campaign extensively in the most critical states she needed, which she totally took for granted, just like many of Donald Trump’s opponents over the last year.

Finally, a 90 minute episode of The Walking Dead went down on AMC last night.  Spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see it, so read no further if that is the case.  We finally get back to Alexandria and see how the group is doing, but the entire episode was Negan basically taunting Rick as his people raided the Alexandrian’s supplies.  Learning that Rick is aware that Judith isn’t really his daughter and is Shane’s, really didn’t have quite the effect on me as I thought it would.  Since Lori died four seasons ago when Judith was born, we are just so far removed for me to be really connected with it anymore.  However, I get the significance, which is that Rick is willing to endure these difficult situations like this, and still raise Judith like she is his own.  The fact that Rick didn’t smash Negan over the head with Lucille just goes to show you how much fight has been taken out of Rick.  The same can be said for Darryl, who didn’t even have the energy to convince Negan he wanted to stay in Alexandria.  It’s interesting that Negan doesn’t want to kill women, but it’s actually the women in this group that are probably the most dangerous to him: Michonne, Maggie, Sasha, and Rosita.  I suspect they will be the ones that are going to inspire the group to take down Negan.  I haven’t heard that much talk about guns since the Presidential election.  Negan is definitely not a guy you want to be “audited” by during the apocalypse.  Not a bad episode, but I’d say my least favorite of the first four we’ve seen this season.  Looking forward to seeing what’s up back at Hilltop next week.

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Monday Morning Coffee

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November 7th, 2016

It’s time to start planning the Laker championship parade right? Ok, maybe not, and I know it’s way too early to be drawing any conclusions about just how good the team is.  However, after taking down the Suns last night for their 3rd straight win, and improving to 4-3, there’s a few key takeaways from the early going.  Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell are developing quite nicely, and learning how to make an impact on the game in a number of ways that we didn’t see last season.  There’s also way better offensive structure and ball movement than last season’s train wreck.  It feels like we see more ball movement in one possession this year than we did in an entire game last season.  There’s also a much greater effort and accountability on the defensive end, even though many of the teams younger players are still learning how to defend at this level.  Much of that can be attributed to the job Luke Walton is doing, especially since the players look like they are having fun.  At minimum, the Lakers are becoming fun to watch again, just as Larry Nance reminded us on Friday night……..

As for the Clippers, they are off to a hot 5-1 start.  On Saturday, Blake Griffin looked like the second coming of Karl Malone, and J.J. Redick looked like Mark Price.  With those two playing like that, it would’t have mattered if Tony Parker and Danny Green had been in the lineup for the Spurs.  Besides, Tony Parker has played more like Sarah Jessica Parker so far this year.  As I said earlier, it’s way too early to be drawing conclusions.  However, in the early going, it’s starting to feel like the West has some aging teams aging teams like San Antonio, Memphis, and Dallas, which the Clipps can take advantage of.  I fully expect the Warriors to become more dominant as the season goes on, and they find their chemistry.  However, if the Clipps are going to contend, Blake and DeAndre have to dominate in the paint.  That’s the edge they have over almost every other team in the league.  The only question is whether or not they decide to take advantage of it.

I guess that bye week didn’t make the Rams offense any better.  LA lost their fourth straight yesterday, this time to Cam Newton and the struggling Panthers.  The Panthers followed the usual “beat LA” playbook by stacking the box and daring Case Keenum to beat them.  That strategy worked beautifully, as Keenum missed some very important throws.  Keenum is the worst person to play the Coliseum, and OJ Simpson killed two people.  Roger Goodell should order him to move back to St. Louis.  As if Keenum isn’t bad enough, his pass catchers like Lance Kendricks are dropping touchdown passes. I’m not sure how much longer Jeff Fisher is going to make us endure the Keenum era, but the fans yesterday were not only chanting “we want Goff”, but things got so bad, the fans even chanted “we want Tebow”.  Wait until next week when the Rams travel to New York to play the Jets.  Case Keenum vs Ryan Fitzpatrick? That’s almost as bad as Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump.  The Rams have not only reverted back to the team we thought they might be, but much worse.  Fans were headed to the exits yesterday with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter.  I guess they wanted to beat that Uber surge pricing.  Football in LA is back, and just like I remember it.

Elsewhere around week 9 of the NFL, Melvin Gordon continued his Jim Brown imitation, as the Chargers topped the Titans.  The real question for the Bolts though is what’s going to happen on Tuesday when the City of San Diego votes on funding for a new stadium.  The Raiders are relevant for the first time in a decade after beating the Broncos last night  The Eagles are back to looking like the Eagles again.  Eli Manning ate his Lunchables before the game, and the Giants took down their division rivals.  To make it more fair, the NFL should spot the Browns 14 points before every game the rest of the year.  I guess it wouldn’t have mattered anyway yesterday, when Cleveland got blown out by the Cowboys.  The Saints crushed the 49ers, and for the love of God, Chip Kelly needs to go back to coaching college football.  It was the Colts all over the Packers.  A squirrel ran onto the field and gained more total yards than the Packers did all day.  Good thing the Steelers fans have those terrible towels.  They needed them to dry their tears after losing to the Ravens.  Minnesota’s running game is worse than it’s weather.  The Vikings lost to the Lions in OT.  The Chiefs got by the Jaguars, but the highlight of the game was seeing Travis Kelce getting ejected from the game after throwing his towel at the official.  The Dolphins outlasted the Jets in what was “The Incompetent Quarterback Bowl”, and the Bucs were the latest team to get destroyed on Thursday Night Football, when they got dismantled by the Falcons.  This was the worst onside kick in the history of the NFL…….

Off to the college ranks, where the Trojans made it 5 in a row by crushing Oregon at the Coliseum on Saturday.  We’re going to get a lot of answers as to how good the Trojans are next week when they take on Washington.  The reality of it is that three of the last five wins have come against three of the worst defenses in college football.  However, I’ve always said what makes life so difficult for the Trojans is the fact they constantly have to live up to the greatness of the players in the Pete Carroll era.  Some of these players are now doing things that we haven’t seen since the Carroll era.  Sam Darnold has been putting up video game numbers we haven’t seen since the Matt Leinart, added another 309 yards and two touchdowns against the Ducks.  Compared to some of his other recent performances, that was rather unspectacular.  Then there’s sophomore running back Ronald Jones, who tied Lendale White’s school record of four TD’s in a single game on Saturday night.  That comes after running all over Cal the week before for a career high of 223 yards.  I guess nobody is talking about Clay Helton getting fired anymore either.  Next week will tell us just how far USC has come since the beginning of the season.

As for the Bruins, they can’t even hope to go to a crappy bowl game after losing to Colorado.  UCLA would need to win out for that to happen, and with games against USC and on the road against Cal later in the month, the odds of Kanye West becoming the U.S. President in 2020 are better than a Bruins bowl appearance.  When you look at the big picture, it doesn’t seem all the bad for the Bruins.  They have been within a play or two of winning all their games, they have a new pro-style offense that usually takes a full year for players to adjust to, and their defense is much improved.  Even though you wouldn’t expect UCLA to win those close games without Rosen, their inability to become elite with our without him could not be more disappointing.  Their running game has been nonexistent, and their receivers drop more balls than average local high school players.  The last couple of years have been one excuse after the next when it comes to why UCLA can’t get their football program to the next level.  It’s been a soft schedule that the Bruins just couldn’t take advantage of.  I guess nobody is treating this as a crisis since UCLA is a basketball school.  Except right now, it isn’t that either.  More on that shortly.

How bad has it gotten for Notre Dame? They just lost to Navy, and are now 3-6.  Somewhere, Rudy is drinking a bottle of Jameson and holding a shotgun.  The Irish probably aren’t even going to go to a bowl game, although if they did, they should call it “The Toilet Bowl”.  The punters in that Alabama vs LSU game were really earning their money.  ‘Bama still #1 in the country after that ugly game.  Just give Lamar Jackson the Heisman Trophy already. Texas A&M got upset, but of course in the eyes of the playoff committee, LSU and Texas A&M have the most important thing on their resume: a loss to Alabama. Arkansas pulled off the upset over Florida.  The Razorbacks haven’t beaten the Gators since Michael Jackson was black.  Clemson, Michigan, and Washington dominated, and should all be in Tuesday’s latest college football playoff poll.

To college hoops where that so called “basketball school”, UCLA, is opening up their season on Friday.  The Bruins are #16 in the preseason poll, but are going to be facing some stiff Pac 12 competition.    Arizona and conference favorite Oregon, are both ranked in the top 10.  The Bruins ranking is all coming based on two recruits: Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf.  Ball is one of the most hyped prospects I’ve seen coming out of high school, so much so that I’m concerned that he isn’t going to live up to the ridiculous expectations.  Leaf is a solid player as well, but UCLA has had great recruiting classes in recent years that haven’t vaulted the Bruins into national championship contention.  However, the Bruins non-conference schedule isn’t too bad.  Their only tough game is at Kentucky.  The teeth of their schedule will actually be once they get into conference play.  Aren’t you impressed I haven’t even ripped Steve Alford yet after writing all that about UCLA basketball? I’m sure there will be plenty of time for that though as the season goes on.

Well the Cubs did it.  They won the World Series, ending their identity as “the lovable losers”.  I’ve gotta tip my hat to the team, and its long suffering fans.  The last time the Cubs won the World Series the dinosaurs were roaming the earth.  That game 7 was really one of the best I’ve seen.  Of course some poor 100 year old Cubs fan probably died during that rain delay.   This has to be payback for all those Cleveland fans that were making fun of Warrior fans for blowing a 3-1 series lead a few months ago during the NBA Finals.  If nothing else though, the last few months have put Cleveland back on the map as a sports city, despite all the depressing things about that town.  There were two things I loved about the final out of game 7.  Kris Bryant fielded that ground ball at 3rd base with a gigantic smile on his face, which was hilarious to watch.  Then there was Anthony Rizzo, who had the presence of mind to actually put the ball in his pocket after the final out.  Amazing that he remembered to do that in all the commotion of the celebration.  Rizzo might have actually listed that ball on Ebay by now.  In any case, congratulations to the Chicago Cubs.

Speaking of baseball, the Angels made the first move of the baseball offseason by acquiring Cameron Maybin from the Tigers.  The Halos have had a black hole in left field for the last couple of years, and prior to this trade, I was beginning to think they should hold open tryouts for fans for that position.  However, since they couldn’t find a decent left fielder, Billy Eppler decided that he would trade for a center fielder, and just move him to left him.  The cost wasn’t very high, and Maybin has a reasonable contract, so this seems like a pretty good move.  The real question is whether or not Maybin can stay healthy because he’s had some very unlucky injuries the past few seasons.  Nevertheless, it’s a decent start to the offseason for the Angels, who need to plug holes at 2nd base and catcher next.

We may be coming closer to the Dodgers TV blackout coming to an end.  The U.S. Justice Department is suing DirecTV over colluding with other cable companies to keep the Dodgers off-air.  If AT&T is going to proceed with it’s Time Warner merger, it will probably need to settle this lawsuit, and that will ultimately mean putting the Dodgers on DirecTV.  I’m not really sure how the U.S. Justice Department is going to force the exorbitant price of SportsNet LA on cable providers, but cable companies are starting to get desperate.  More and more people are cutting the cord, and resorting to streaming alternatives to get the content they want.  If you try hard enough these days, you can probably watch whatever content you want for free.

On the ice, the Kings finally won in regulation.  I don’t even remember the last time that happened.  If you think that’s rare, they got goals from Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, and Devin Setoguchi, who hasn’t scored since high school, in their 5-0 win against the Flames.  With all due respect to Setoguchi and his quest for NHL redemption, I’d really like to see the Kings give their younger players from Ontario a chance to develop at the NHL level.  Instead of hoping veterans like Setoguchi, Teddy Purcell, and Tom Gilbert can acquire some career reviving magic, I’d much rather see promising young players like Nic Dowd, Kevin Gravel, and even Michael Mersch try to make an impact.  The Kings did it before in 2011-2012 in their first run to winning a Stanley Cup.  No reason to not follow that path this year, especially during a time with so many injuries.  As for the Ducks, they’ve looked a lot sharper the last few games.  They throttled the Kings, then pounded the Coyotes and Flames.  Anaheim is starting to gain some ground on those upstart Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division.

Are you ready for the election? I’m ready for it to be over.  That way I don’t have to have to listen to somebody telling me how “out of my mind” I have to be to vote for Clinton or Trump.  Never have I seen such passion and anger from two political candidates.  This race is becoming a lot closer than I thought it would be, and frankly, either outcome is possible come late Tuesday night.

Finally, another intense episode of The Walking Dead went down on AMC last night.  Spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see it, so read no further if you haven’t seen it yet.  This episode was all about Negan, his relationship with Dwight and his wife, and their efforts to break Daryl.  The real question out of this episode is whether or not you feel bad for Dwight and his wife Sherry, or not.  Even in the world of The Walking Dead, there’s only so much one should do to remain alive, otherwise life is just too unbearable to go on with.  Dwight and Sherry had choices to make, and they made poor ones out of fear.  Sherry had the chance to go to Alexandria, and probably could have convinced Dwight to come too.  Instead, they left themselves susceptible to the mercy of Negan.  I found it laughable when Dwight and Sherry were speaking to each other, claiming that they were better off at the mercy of Negan, rather than being dead.  That sounds highly questionable considering that Dwight got half his face burned off, and had to endure losing his wife Negan.  What’s the point of living in this world if you have to sacrifice so much? The best part of all this is that Dwight is just getting more and more angry at Darryl because Negan likes him, and because he’s learning that Daryl has the strength that Dwight wishes he had.  He refuses to succumb to Negan, and he won’t be broken.  Daryl knows the choices that Dwight made and knows why he made them, but he won’t do it.  Even Sherry knows that Daryl is the person that she and her husband used to be, and in some ways, is also envious of that.  Honestly though, if I kept hearing that “Easy Street” song like Daryl did, I’d succumb to Negan in a second.  Overall, a very good episode with some pretty good story telling.

dwight

Monday Morning Coffee

russell-vs-utah

October 31st, 2016

Welcome to the Halloween edition of Monday Morning Coffee.  Although this edition is more like Monday Afternoon Coffee.  We start with the Los Angeles Lakers, who are off to a so-so start after 3 games.  The opener was amazing.  The Lake Show played with energy, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram all gave us hope for the future.  Then they began a road trip on Friday that is the equivalent of trying to walk through a mine field.  Nobody shot well in Utah, but the Lakers played hard, and played cohesively.  They just didn’t take the game away from the Jazz when it was presented to them.  Against Oklahoma City, they just had a bad matchup.  D’Angelo Russell may have taken a beating from Russell Westbrook yesterday, but so does everybody.  For him, there’s value in that, and it will make him a better player in the long run.  Russell and Randle still were effective, but it’s the superstars like Westbrook that take over in the 4th quarter.  If somehow the Lakers can come back 2-2 on this trip, that would be a nice accomplishment for this young team.  You can see the potential.  You can see the effort and the engagement level.  However, it just needs time and patience.

As for the Clippers, as much as I criticize them for not getting it done, they have looked great so far against two pretty good teams.  CP3 still looks like he has quite a bit of game left in the tank, and Blake Griffin is back to putting up big numbers.  As I noticed in training camp a few weeks ago, Blake isn’t necessarily trying to dunk on everybody like he used to, which may be a product of age and the mileage on his body.  That doesn’t mean he can’t be a great or even better player than he’s ever been.  However, there really is no reason for him to be settling for three-pointers.  He’s too big and strong for most of the people that guard him, so he should focus on dominating people in the paint.  The addition of Mo Speights also seems to be giving the Clipps a different offensive look in their front court and off the bench, which should help neutralize DeAndre’s free throw issues when the game is on the line.  DeAndre may not have role offensively that he wanted, but if he’s dominant on the defensive end, that’s all you need from him.

As for what we’ve seen early on in the Association, Anthony Davis is putting up video game numbers in New Orleans, but he can’t get any help.  It’s going to be a looooooong season for the Pelicans.  Russell Westbrook is a machine.  Who cares if Russell Westbrook took 44 shots against the Suns? He had a triple double.  Are you going to call him selfish?  Less than a week into the season, the 76ers have already been eliminated from the playoffs.  However, Joel Embiib is actually good for more than just drinking Shirley Temples, because he’s been impressive on the court so far.  After getting blown out by the Spurs, the Warrior fans are ready to trade Kevin Durant to Dallas for Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes.  I love the prison of the moment panic we’ve seen, but I’m pretty sure the Warriors are still going to be dominant this season.  Just give them time to get their chemistry right.  I love Russell Westbrook’s reaction to this loser fan in Philly……

Let’s to week 8 of the NFL, where Philip Rivers took a beating I haven’t seen since watching last week’s episode of The Walking Dead.  Rivers was hit 17 times, sacked four times, and picked off three times in the Chargers loss to Denver.  I guess the Eagles thought leaving nobody in the end zone to cover Jason Witten was a good strategy, but unfortunately for them, the Cowboys beat Philly in OT.  If the league really wanted to stop domestic abuse, they wouldn’t give us the Titans and Jaguars on Thursday night Football.   If you thought that was bad, the Browns vs Jets was the dumpster fire game of the week.  They really wonder why ratings are dropping? Too much football means over saturation. What’s gotten into Matt Ryan?  He’s usually great in September and early October.  Apparently he’s a lot better than that, as he’s still dominating the league, and dominated the Packers yesterday in the Falcons close win. The Redskins and the Bengals ending in a tie couldn’t be any more fitting.  The game was played on a soccer field.  The Cardinals were doing a great re-enactment of last years NFC Championship game by getting blown out by the Panthers.  Gronk and the Patriots steam rolled the Bills, and the Pats tight end had his 69th career touchdown.  Knowing Gronk, he’ll probably find it cool to not score for the rest of the year to stay at that number.  The Raiders vs Bucs was the game of teams with pirate logos that nobody wanted to win, until Derek Carr threw his 5th TD pass in OT.  The Chiefs took down the Colts, but not before Alex Smith’s wife began ripping KC weather men on Twitter, after they took shots at her husband.  Russell Wilson got married and see what happens? He never scores anymore.  The Saints shocked the Seahawks at home.  Playing the Lions was the perfect cure for Brock Osweiler to not suck for a week, as the Texans defeated Detroit.

Ok, how good is Sam Darnold? The statistics say he’s doing better as a freshman than Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Matt Barkley.  In fact, he’s suddenly the best quarterback in Los Angeles, surpassing the injured and cocky Josh Rosen.  After beating Cal, the Trojans still have a shot to win the Pac 12 South, and potentially have a chance to play for the Rose Bowl.  The Trojans could easily go 8-4 before losing in the Pac 12 Championship game.  With a suddenly elite quarterback, a couple of victories over rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, Clay Helton is going to be smiling and thinking he’s done enough to keep his job.  But has he? I think most Trojan fans would say no, but until I see what USC looks like against Washington, and potentially in the Pac 12 Title game, I’m reserving judgement.  Even if the Trojans look good, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t go out and get themselves and elite head coach, given how much more attractive the program is going to look.

Elsewhere around College Football, Notre Dame finally got back in the win column by beating Miami. The Irish still managed to blow a 20 point lead though, which is nothing new for them this season. Amazingly, the Notre Dame defense even managed to get a few sacks. Brian Kelly said after the game that “we actually sack the quarterback here at Notre Dame.” Really? Because, it’s felt like your defense hasn’t even been able to tackle anybody all season, let alone sack anybody. Clemson got by Florida State, in game that featured Jimbo Fisher coaching against Dabo Sweeney. Might as well have called it the Red Neck Bowl brought you by ‘Natti Light. Washington got by Utah, in what was probably their last big test on their schedule. The Huskies better win out, because they are unlikely to make the College Football Playoff with their soft schedule down the stretch. This is definitely the point where Nebraska comes crashing back to earth and becomes the team we thought they were. They lost to Wisconsin, and are probably going to take a beating from Ohio State next week. Michigan is now in the driver seat in the Big 10, and as long as they keep winning, it doesn’t matter how many people Jim Harbaugh pisses off.

I thought the city of Chicago was going to burn down last night if the Cubs had lost game 5 to the Indians. It might still happen on Tuesday night anyway. See what happens when you have more than 1 quality starting pitcher, and more than 1 quality reliever? You can actually shut down a pretty good lineup like the Cubs. Are you listening Andrew Friedman? On paper, the Cubs have a great team, but the Indians pitching is just a little bit better right now, and that’s going to be the difference in this series. Besides, the Cubs losing the World Series is still a better story than them winning. They are “the loveable losers” , and the fact that they keep losing in these big moments keeps them an intriguing story. It’s not like the Indians have been reeling off World Series Championships annually for the last half-century either, so they will at least get to end their years of futility in the next few days. That’s a pretty nice story for the city of Cleveland, which has had to deal with the Browns for all these years.

Speaking of the Cubs, after they defeated the Dodgers, I couldn’t be any more irritated with the comments from Andrew Friedman and Stan Kasten. Instead of acknowledging that they are going to go out and get the one or two pieces needed to put them over the top, they chalked October up to nothing more than luck. They simply think that by going to the playoffs 10-12 times, they are bound to break through. Funny, because Friedman never won anything in Tampa, and Kasten failed to get his teams over the top year after year of having solid teams in Atlanta in the 1990’s. I’m pretty sure the Indians and Cubs got to the World Series because they spent a little extra money on quality starting pitching, and in the bullpen.   Neither one of those teams has to ask themselves what injury prone stiff they forced to start in a long playoff series. The Dodgers better be smart enough to bring back Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner if they are serious about contending. Sounds to me like it’s the fans that are the unlucky ones, since they are stuck with a front office that has no idea how to get it done.

On the ice, it’s been a tough road trip for the Kings. The last time LA scored a goal, Donald Trump had real hair. Ok, so it wasn’t that long ago, but the Kings offense has been shutdown badly on this trip. The Kings really miss the speed and skill of Marian Gaborik. They also miss the elite goaltending of Jonathan Quick. I admit that Peter Budaj has surpassed my expectations so far, but I can’t imagine the Kings going another three months with him and Jack Campbell as their goaltenders. Then there’s the Ducks who took a beating from the Blue Jackets last week. A 4-0 loss to Columbus at home has to make you question how well the Randy Carlye coaching change is going. We’ve seen a lot of players on this team not respond to Caryle before, so that’s something to keep an eye on. The Ducks are also the latest good team to be facing salary cap issues after re-signing Hampus Lindholm. The production of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are going to be under a microscope for a while with their massive salaries on the books.

Ok people, it’s time to let go of the emotional distress the Walking Dead caused you last week, and move on to the next episode.  With that being said, spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see last night’s episode, so read no further if you plan on watching it later.  This episode was a much less stressful one, and one that reminded us of one of the shows best qualities: world building.  Rick always seems to run into blood thirsty, power-hungry maniacs, disrupting these plans.  Carol and Morgan have stumbled upon The Kingdom, which seems to be an inspiring place of hope, led by King Ezekial.  Seeing Ezekial’s medieval themed kingdom with his tiger made me feel like I was watching some weird combination of Game of Thrones and Sigfried and Roy.  Ezekial becomes a pretty likable character immediately when he calls Carol out for being a bullshitter, and seeing through her phony sweet act.  Even with his ability to keep his people safe from The Saviors by providing them with weekly goods, we’ve seen these idealistic leaders get crushed in the world of savages around them.  However, for the time being, this guy seems to have given Carol and Morgan some inspiration to continue fighting.  We need Carol to go back to that ruthless assassin that she was, and we need Morgan to begin to realize that sometimes he has to fight ruthlessly to survive.  The Kingdom has probably given those two reason to do that for the time being, and I suspect that somehow they will team up with the Kingdom to help fight back against Negan.  A pretty good episode, and special thanks to the writers of the show for giving us one that was stress free.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

 

Monday Morning Coffee

toles-blows-it

October 24th, 2016

I’ve been telling you all since last spring that this Dodger team isn’t going to the World Series. The fact they were eliminated by the Cubs in the NLCS on Saturday night doesn’t making it any less disappointing.  It was like Steve Bartman was playing left field for the Dodgers.  Ok fine, for about two seconds I believed that the pressure might be too great for the Cubs after the Dodgers went up 2-1 in the series. Then I realized that once Kenta Maeda was starting game 5, LA had no chance. Just like the Cubs, the Dodgers have some good young players.  However, unlike the Cubs, the Dodgers haven’t adequately supplemented that young talent with the proper veteran support to make themselves a true World Series contender.  We’ve been hearing “the Dodgers are close” since 2013. Under Andrew Friedman, they are no closer.  The Cubs have a Cy Young candidate themselves in Jake Arrieta.  He’s been struggling, but you’d never know it because they have three other capable starting pitchers. The Dodgers don’t, and their bullpen wasn’t as good as we thought.   Clayton Kershaw has to do everything for LA. When he and Kenley Jansen fail, that’s all we hear about.  I’m surprised Kershaw’s arm hasn’t fallen off given how much he’s pitched in the last two weeks. What we should be talking about is how pathetic the Dodger offense is. How Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, and Josh Reddick can’t hit, and how the team has no speed.   Your window to win isn’t forever, especially when you have a great pitcher like Kershaw. When Andrew Friedman decides not to re-sign Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Rich Hill, the Dodgers will be no closer to the World Series, which is really a shame and very frustrating for Dodgers fans.

As for the Cubs, you have to give them credit. Theo Epstein built this team to win now, after suffering through several losing years.   What’s a few more losing years when you’ve been waiting 108 years to win a title? Somewhere in a Chicago dungeon, Steve Bartman is in chains celebrating the Cubs victory.  I think it’s safe to say that hell has frozen over since both the Indians and Cubs are in the World Series, except one of these long suffering fan bases is going to be extremely disappointed. Here’s a live look at hell.

devil-frozen

Remember when Jeff Fisher said the Rams “aren’t going 9-7, 7-9, or 8-8”? Oh yes they are. In completely unsurprising fashion, the Rams went to London, and lost another close game to a non-divisional opponent.  There are guys with erectile dysfunction that finish better than this team has over the first seven games of the season. They just don’t have enough playmakers on the roster.  My goodness Case Keenum!  That was the worst interception of all-time on the final drive of the game. Tavon Austin is supposed to be the teams’ most dangerous weapon, and even he couldn’t be counted upon to hang onto an important pass, which resulted in one of the Giants’ touchdowns.  I think it’s safe to say the Rams have regressed towards the mean after a couple of big divisional wins, and that the team is simply average at best.  If the team is going to lose, and their quarterback is going to throw four interceptions, then it should be their quarterback of the future, Jared Goff, who is throwing them.  Goff is going to go through growing pains, so why not let him do it now? The Rams have a bye week coming up, and the struggling Carolina Panthers after that. Sounds like a pretty good time to get your rookie quarterback in there. Still, I feel like Jeff Fisher is going to hold onto false hope that this team can go 7-2 down the stretch and get in the playoffs. That sounds laughable though, especially given the way Seattle and Arizona are playing now.  We can’t find a quarterback better than this?

Elsewhere in week 7 of the NFL, The Falcons reminded that Chargers that they have been collapsing in games way before San Diego made it cool again.  The Bolts have suddenly won two in a row, and their new game plan should be to trail heading into the 4th so they can’t blow the game.   I like how everyone suddenly believes in Aaron Rodgers again after beating up on the Bears, one of the worst teams in football. Let’s see him do that against some reasonably good competition before we jump back on the bandwagon.  Both the Seahawks and the Cardinals deserved to lose that game last night.  Seattle is scoring less these days than before Russell Wilson married Ciara.  That game ended and Donovan McNabb was still sitting in his living room wondering when the game was going to resume.  LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots defeated Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers in “The Weed Bowl”.  The Raiders not only beat the Jags, but they discovered the best running back on their team is actually their punter.  Sam Bradford did a great job reminding the Eagles why they traded him when Philly beat up on the Vikings.  Drew Brees has way more class than me.  If I were him I’d be saying after every game that “it’s not my fault our defense can’t tackle.” So that’s what happens when you protect Andrew Luck? He goes off and the Colts actually win.  49ers linebacker Aaron Lynch said San Fran is the most talented team in the NFC after his team got pounded by Tampa Bay.  Lynch should be suspended immediately for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.   Jay Ajayi is like the cocaine boost the city of Miami needed, as the Dolphins got by Buffalo.  Ryan Fitzpatrck to Geno Smith, and back to Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Does it matter when your team stinks? The Jets only won because the Ravens offense is horrendous.  The Redskins should blame Skip Bayless for losing to the Lions.  He tweeted that the game was in the bag once the Skins got the lead.  If Skip said the sun was going to rise tomorrow, I’d be worried the world was going to end.  It turns out that God doesn’t actually hate Cleveland.  He just hates the Browns.  AJ Green proved this with his miraculous catch.

The UCLA football team amazes me. They find new ways to disappoint on a weekly basis. With their backup quarterback, Mike Fafaul, they found a way to put 45 points on the scoreboard, yet still lost at home to Utah. Where was the much-improved defense that we’ve seen of late from UCLA? The Bruins also have the worst running game in Division I football.  How can a school like UCLA not have any halfway decent running backs? The Utes piled up 539 yards of offense, and the Bruins let some kid who retired from college football a few weeks over, run over them for 332 yards rushing.  UCLA can kiss it’s hopes for winning the Pac 12 South goodbye, and pretty soon it might be kissing its hopes goodbye just to make a sorry bowl game.  After a few years of “coming close”, it looks like the Bruins aren’t that close at all.  At best, you might get a win or two against your cross-town rival, USC, who has been down in recent years anyway. However, on the national stage the Bruins are nothing more than an average team.  It’s ok Bruin fans, you still have basketball season. Oh wait, nevermind.

Elsewhere around college football, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbick has ended the speculation.  Head Coach, Brian Kelly, will be keeping his job regardless of what happens the remainder of the season. Kelly looks like William Shatner, and there have definitely been moments where I thought Shatner would do a better job coaching this team than Kelly.  Still, unless you can find me a better option than Kelly, and there’s not one available that I can think of, the wise thing to do would be to give him another year.  He has built enough equity to give him that opportunity.  On the scoreboard, huge upset by Penn State over Ohio State. The referees must have been busy watching the Cubs-Dodger game though, because they completely missed a pass interference call on Penn State late in the game that cost the Buckeyes.  It really doesn’t look like anybody is going to be stopping Alabama right now.  The Tide crushed A&M, and are killing it even though their fans probably aren’t smart enough to count the 33 points they scored. Speaking of killing, Leonard Fournette should be arrested for murder after what he did in the LSU game.

I was in Chicago over the weekend and got in an Uber.  It turns out that my driver was a former  lineman at Southern Illinois, and his son graduated last year from Michigan and was a starting defensive back for them.  The driver spent the duration of the ride telling me how much of a jerk Jim Harbaugh is, and how after just 1 year, all his players hate him.  In fact, he went on to say that not only do he and his son despise Harbaugh, but that it would only be a matter of time before he has a mutiny on his hands in the locker room, and he’s out as coach.  That may be a little extreme since Harbaugh probably wasn’t hired to be nice to his players.  However, I think it’s safe to say that despite his success, Jim Harbaugh is becoming more and more unlikeable with both his players and the media.  By the way, the driver also kicked me out of the car when he found out I went to Notre Dame.

To the NBA, where the 2016-2017 season begins this week.  The Lakers will open things up at home on Wednesday against the Houston Rockets.  This may sound sorry to say, but if the Lakers can win 30 games this season, that should be seen as huge progress.  That may be asking a lot though, so if nothing else, I’d like to see some major development from the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr.  If two of those players can become all-stars in the next couple of years, LA will be in a good place.  Russell and Ingram look like they have the best chance to do that, so much of this year should be based on development, more so than wins and losses.  That development and the establishment of a new culture under Luke Walton is what this season is all about.  The early going could be tough since the Lakers have to play the Warriors three times in November.  However, as long as we see that development and culture change to re-establish a new Laker foundation, that’s something we can be satisfied with for now.  Just remember, the core are basically a bunch of teenagers.  You were probably buying booze and sneaking into clubs with a fake ID at that age.  It takes time, however, If things break right the Lakers might be back in playoff contention in 2017-2018, especially with some teams in the West getting older.

As for the Clippers, the storyline is going to be similar to the last five years.  They have a very good team on paper, but one that probably isn’t good enough to contend for an NBA title.  One of these days, Doc Rivers is sure acquire some players that will actually make the bench better.  We thought that was the case going into the last two seasons, but it never worked out.  Mo Speights, Ray Felton, Brandon Bass, and Alan Anderson seem like nice additions, but that’s probably not going to determine the fate of the Clipps.  It’s whether or not the CP3-Blake-DeAndre trio can elevate their game enough to take down the Warriors.  That’s a nice trio, but probably not. No matter how hard Doc Rivers tries to convince us and himself that they have a shot, I don’t really believe he thinks they can do it.  He knows however, that there’s no better situation for him, and the same with Blake and CP3, who will be free agents at the end of the year.  The best case scenario for this team is that they become the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, who caught lightning in a bottle, and managed to snag an NBA title before the Miami Heat got their act together.  That sounds far-fetched to me, but the Clipps should be #2 in the West during the regular season. The question is whether or not they can finally make it out of the second round, let alone beat the Warriors.

Who are we kidding? The NBA Finals are going to be the Warriors vs the Cavs again. This time, the Warriors will have too much firepower, beating the Cavs in 5. They are more than head and shoulders above everybody else.  Lebron and his children could make it out of the East.  There’s a few other teams and stories I’m keeping my eye on though. In the East, the Celtics might be a little improved, but people are acting like Al Horford is the second coming of Bill Russell.  The Raptors are still the 2nd best team in the East, but a distant second.  I can’t wait to see the disasters that are the Knicks and the Bulls.  The Knicks will be Porzingis and a bunch of injured guys. The Bulls can only compete if they find a way to convince the league to get rid of the three-point line.  I expect that neither will make the playoffs.  In the West, the Spurs will be #3, but the question is whether or not LaMarcus Aldridge will be a part of their core moving forward.  I can’t say I see a trade out there that makes the Spurs better without him.  The Thunder, Grizzlies, and Mavs had major roster turnover, and will be hard pressed to make the playoffs, but I expect them to hold off the Rockets, Timberwolves, and Suns.  I’ve been saying that Jazz will make the playoffs the last two years and have been wrong.  Third time is the charm right?  That Jazz should make it in this year.  It’s going to be fun, until you see Steph-KD-Klay-Draymond and the Warriors rule the league.

Let’s go to the ice where the LA Kings can’t go more than five minutes without losing a goaltender to a groin injury.  Jonathan Quick is out for three months, and now backup Jeff Zatkoff is out too with a groin pull.  My groin is starting to hurt just thinking about these injuries.  Even though Peter Budaj has helped the Kings win two straight, LA can’t spend the next three months playing with goalies who might not be able to stop a beach ball from going in the net.  I’d love to see Dean Lombardi pick up the phone and call the Red Wings about Jimmy Howard, who’s salary is high, but could fit with Quick on injured reserve.  The Kings may also be able to flip him later for some assets when Quick comes back from injury.  Then there’s the Ducks, who are also off the a rough start under Randy Carlyle. Jonathan Gibson seemed like he was a lot better goalie when he had Freddy Anderson pushing him for the starting job.  I expect that the Kings, Ducks, and Sharks will turn it around shortly, and will still be the class of the Pacific Division despite their early struggles.

Finally, who isn’t emotionally drained after watching The Walking Dead last night? Spoiler alert for those of you that have yet to watch it, and I’m about to drop some serious spoilers on you if you haven’t so read no further if you don’t want to know.  This show was such a blow to the fans, and just to frustrate us even more, Negan’s victims were drawn out until the middle of the episode.  Although the show did a good job of providing some misdirection for the last few months, if you followed the chatter online, you knew it was both Abraham and Glenn who were killed in gruesome fashion, and that’s exactly what happened.  Damn you Darryl! Had it not been for you punching Negan in the face, we might still have Glenn.  Glenn was my favorite character by far.  He was saving lives, getting tail, and became a man over the last six seasons.  Ultimately though, losing two significant characters was necessary.  As angry as you are, if they had just killed Aaron and Rosita, it would have lost credibility and the cliffhanger would have been stupid.  Ok, so they could have just made this whole thing 1 episode instead of two grueling episodes and a five month intermission between the two.  Ultimately though, the show just couldn’t go where it needed to go without this moment.  Frankly, I’m tired of hearing many of you cry about how you’re over the show because of the teasing and taunting the writers put you through.  Look television series kill off important characters all the time.  It’s all about luring you in and making you believe those characters could never die so that when they do, the dramatic impact is that much more magnified.  Apparently most of you forgot that, and for some reason convinced yourself that couldn’t be the case on this show.  The bottom line is that we’re still left with a a charming yet very evil villain in Negan, and what could potentially become a new leader in Maggie.  Oh, there’s also still plenty of great characters in the show in Darryl, Carol, and Morgan.  In other words, stop complaining and let the season play out people!

negan-lucille

 

Monday Morning Coffee

kershaw-gm-2

October 17th, 2016

Clayton Kershaw has shut down the Cubs, and shut down his critics.  Kershaw has been nothing but heroic over the last week.  7 shutout innings yesterday in game 2 of the NLCS, 7 solid innings against the Nationals in game 4 of the NLCS, and closing out the Nationals in game 5.  Kershaw is totally being overworked.  He doesn’t care.  He’s been challenging his playoff demons head on, especially when he had the balls to ask Dave Roberts to close out the Nationals on short rest.  Despite yesterday’s win, the Dodgers probably don’t have enough around him to beat a much deeper Cubs team.  Without Kershaw, this series is a bigger mismatch than Dwight Howard vs condoms.  Saturday was a tough loss.  I had been dreading that moment since the season started.  The moment where Joe Blanton trots out of the bullpen in a big moment of the playoffs, and blows it for the Dodgers.  Sure enough, that’s what happened on Saturday night.  The Dodgers patchwork pitching staff cannot compete against a team that has four quality starters, a deep bullpen, and a lineup capable of exploding at any time.  This is where the flaws of LAs lineup and roster will be exposed.  If you have the highest paid payroll in baseball, you should be able to match the Cubs playoff roster.  Somehow, Andrew Friedman failed to do that.  He spent all his money on a bunch of injured pitchers who aren’t even good enough to make the post season roster.  His best offensive players are being paid to play elsewhere.  That’s the real shame for Clayton Kershaw.  He is doing amazing things, but unless the Dodgers can find a way to put a winner around him, his greatness will be forgotten.    It was a nice run while it lasted, but this is the end of the line for LA.  Cubs in 5.

We always criticize MLB skippers for not managing playoff games with desperation.  I have never seen desperation from any team like I did with Dodgers in game 5 against the Nationals.  Having your closer pitch the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings seems like stupidity, as does having your ace close a game.  However, it worked, so I can’t complain.  It also worked last night when Jansen pitched the last two innings against the Cubs.  Nevertheless, the fact the Dodgers had to do that speaks volumes about just how flawed their roster really is.

To the NFL, where only the Rams could do this.  For one week, Case Keenum looked like the second coming of Dan Marino, and Kenny Britt looked like Jerry Rice.  Except none of that was enough, and the Rams lost to the Lions, falling to 3-3.  Of course once the offense gets clicking, the defense goes straight to hell.  I’m not buying the injury excuse here, LA had their chances to win the last two games, and should be 5-1.  Instead, Jeff Fisher is on pace for another 8-8 season.  At least he’s consistent.  Fisher cost the Rams the last two games, including a foolish decision to go for it on fourth and goal at the end of the first half yesterday.  LA could have used those easy three points when it was all said and done, and the Rams lost 31-28 to the Lions.  All we heard last year what that the Rams were a play or two away from being 10-6.  It’s the same story this year.  It feels like they should be better.  Except like Bill Parcells said, “you are what your record says you are.”  The next 5 games are very winnable games for LA, but given the inconsistencies we’ve seen, I can’t say the Rams are any better than the .500 team that we thought they would be when the season started.

Elsewhere around the NFL, the Chargers save Mike McCoy’s job for the time being by beating the Broncos on Thursday night at the Q.  Colin Kapernick tossed a touchdown pass, so racism is over right?  The 49ers losing ways aren’t though, as they got blown out by the Bills.  Brock Osweiler is like that hot girl that you take home from the bar only to realize that she’s a tranny when it’s too late.  The Texans may have beaten the Colts yesterday, but they definitely have buyers remorse on their new QB.  The Redskins got by the Eagles, who have suddenly remembered that they are the Eagles.  The Browns players are getting salty watching all the other Cleveland teams win while they remain winless after getting beat by the Titans.  Good thing Seattle beat Atlanta.  I thought Steve Hauschka was going to get thrown off the Space Needle after missing an easy field goal earlier in the game.  Remember when everyone thought the Panthers were Super Bowl contenders?  Not anymore after the Saints took them down in the Dome.  The Raiders played like they are ready to move to Vegas in their loss to the Chiefs.  Dak Prescott and the Cowboys continue to roll after beating the Packers.  Dak isn’t so worried about Tony Romo taking his spot because he knows Romo will be injured again in 5 minutes after returning.  Tom Brady continued his revenge on the league as the Patriots beat up on the Bengals.  The Steelers should be demoted to the CFL after losing to the Dolphins.  The Jaguars beat the Bears in a game that should have been aired on Comedy Central.  The Giants beat the Ravens, Odell Beckham had a huge game, and then he proposed to the love of his life.

To College Football, where USC is back in the drivers seat for the Pac 12 South.  The Trojans still have a reasonable shot to win the Pac 12 South after pounding Arizona over the weekend.  Sam Darnold and JuJu Smith-Schuster looked like they were playing PlayStation with the video game like numbers they put up.  Not too many people are complaining about Clay Helton with the Trojans taking advantage of the soft part of their schedule.  Their best chance to win the Pac 12 South is going to be for them to beat Washington, and for Utah to get knocked off a couple of times along the way.  However, a loss to Washington and an 8-4 finish is very reasonable.  The question is whether or not that’s going to satisfy the Trojan faithful.  Probably not, but it may actually keep Clay Helton around for another season.

Then there’s the Bruins, who took another loss at Washington State.  UCLA was playing without starting quarterback Josh Rosen, so they really couldn’t have been expected to win this one with a starting quarterback that had only throw 7 passes in his college career.  Mike Fafaul did an admirable job filling in for Rosen, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdown passes, but the Bruins made some very typical Bruin like mistakes that they always make.  They had two critical turnovers in the final minute, and their running game was still non-existent.  This is an extremely average football team that still lacks the elite playmakers to compete with some of the best teams in the nation.  The luster of the Jim Mora Jr. era has officially worn off.

I think the question has to be asked: is Brian Kelly trying to get fired from his head coaching job at Notre Dame?  Despite their defensive issues, the Irish have a great deal of talent, and a fairly easy schedule, yet they are awful.  He’s also tried to pick a fight with the Stanford strength and conditioning coach after Saturday’s loss.  Everybody knows you never mess with the strength and conditioning coach.  They always get those “made in Bangladesh” shirts three sizes too small, and their muscles are exploding out of their clothes.  Tennessee got crushed by Alabama so badly on Saturday, they wish they were playing XBOX and could just unplug the controller and quit before it was over.  Ohio State and Clemson may have won, but the Tide look head and shoulders better than everyone else in the nation.

Laker point guard D’Angelo Russell is improving, but his critics kill me.  Russell had a tough game against Portland last week, missing every three point shot he took.  His critics we’re all over him for that game.  Then he rebounds against Sacramento with a 33 point and 11 assist game.  Where were all his critics after that showing? I didn’t hear one person talk about how great he looked.  The Lakers took a beating on Saturday against Golden State, and of course D-Lo got lit up by Steph Curry.  Frankly, I find these types of beatings that Russell is going to take from time to time very valuable.  Only by getting his beatings from Damian Lillard and Steph Curry can he actually get better as a point guard and mature.

All of a sudden, the outlook on the Angels 2017 season is much different.  Ace Garrett Richards threw 55 pitches to minor leaguers last week and looked like himself.  Richards has been recovering from a torn ligament in his pitching elbow, and suddenly looks like he’ll be ready to pitch at the start of next season.  There is no pitcher on the free agent market that is anywhere near as good, or affordable as Richards.  This is going to be a great story if Richards stays health and pitch effectively next season.

Finally, what a rough start for the LA Kings.  They lose their first two games, and lose goaltender Jonathan Quick for 3-4 months with a groin injury.  I’ve said all along that the cornerstones for the Kings are Quick, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Jeff Carter.  Losing any of those pieces and the team just isn’t nearly as competitive.  Sure enough, Quick is out, so LA is going to be tested.  I don’t think the Kings should go out and get themselves another goaltender though.  Even though their defense isn’t what it once was, the Kings developed goaltenders like Jonathan Benier and Martin Jones, by letting them play.  The Kings badly need more depth at that position, and they may actually discover some through the Quick injury.  After all, the Kings success this year depends on how much of their young talent they can actually develop.

Monday Morning Coffee

rich-hill

October 10th, 2016

The Dodgers put together a gritty game 1 win, but yesterday’s loss was just a reminder of why I think this team will be watching the rest of the playoffs on TV in just a few days from now.  In the first 6 innings they were 0-5 with the bases loaded, leaving 11 men on base.  It was like the Nationals were begging the Dodgers to end their season, yet LA said, “nah, we’re good.”  Then there’s Rich Hill, who somehow found a way to let the worst hitter in the Nationals lineup get the best of him, ultimately causing him to give up a 3-run bomb that completely altered the momentum.  So this is why Andrew Friedman pulled Hill from that perfect game he was throwing a few weeks ago, in order to “preserve him” for the playoffs?  So he could give us 4.2 innings of that nonsense?  I guess Hill needed to pee on his blister a little more.  I also get that the bullpen has performed well, but if you need your closer to record an 8 out save in big games, and your starters can’t routinely get through five innings, you’re entire pitching staff is fundamentally flawed.  The Nationals are a wounded animal, and while the Dodgers could have basically finished them off yesterday, now they have given them life and every possibility of sending the Boys in Blue home early once again.  Just another October for the Dodgers.

As for the rest of the MLB Playoffs, the Blue Jays-Rangers series should have been played in an Octagon.  It’s Jose Bautista and the Jays who got the last laugh though.  Texas hasn’t seen a beating that hard since Greg Hardy played for the Cowboys.  I still can’t believe that stupid Blue Jays fan threw a beer can at the Orioles outfielder.  That fan still threw more pitches than Orioles closer Zach Britton.  I’m not sure how you can leave your best pitcher on the bench in a do-or-die game.  Madison Bumgarner was amazing in that Wild Card win against the Mets, but enough of this even year non-sense.  The Giants are going to be going home after tonight.  Everyone seemed to have conveniently forgotten they were one of the worst teams in the league during the 2nd half.  The last time the Cubs won the World Series, America had only 13 colonies.  You think Clayton Kershaw has trouble in October? David Price can’t buy a win around this time of year.  When Mike Napoli is stealing bases on delayed steal signs, that’s a pretty good indication that everything is going the Cleveland Indians way.

To the NFL, where the Rams defense can only take them so far.  That was the case yesterday when the Bills came into the Coliseum and took down LA.  Coaching decisions were an issue.  I have no idea why Jeff Fisher decided to go for a fake punt late in the game, because he still had plenty of time for his team to get the ball back.  For the first time since week 1 though, LA’s defense was getting torn up.  A lot of that had to do with some injuries to important defensive lineman.  I also don’t understand why Aaron Donald, one of their best defensive players, was stuck on the sideline on a 3rd and goal? It’s fine to rotate your lineman, especially on a hot Sunday, but not on a critical down like that.   At the same time, It’s almost like the defense needs to ask themselves ever week “if we don’t score, who is going to?”  Case Keenum is literally the worst quarterback in the NFL, and you simply cannot win getting that kind of consistent ineffective play from that position.  It’s so bad that their best offensive player, Todd Gurley, is taking on the world on every offensive play.  He was a little better yesterday, but I can’t even tell anymore if there’s something wrong with him physically, if he’s in a sophomore slump, or if the offensive pieces around him are so inept that he just can’t succeed.  It’s certainly not helping my fantasy team, that’s for sure.  There’s not many immediate solutions to fix the offense, other than for Jared Goff to just hurry up and get better as a player.  I’m not so optimistic that’s gonna happen soon.  That was a big lost opportunity yesterday, because the Arizona Cardinals aren’t going to be down for long.  We know the Rams can win against teams in their division, but they just can’t to take care of business outside of it.  That’s trouble because their upcoming schedule is all opponents they just don’t see very often.

Elsewhere around the NFL, weren’t you just asking yourself all game how the Chargers were going to blow this one? Sure enough they found a way to do it again.  Maybe somebody needs to scream at Philip Rivers after all his turnovers, like he was screaming at DJ Fluker.  Odell Beckham made up with the kicking net, but it didn’t stop the Giants from losing to the Packers.   Apparently Tom Brady was throwing the football around with Giselle to stay sharp, because he looked dominant yesterday against the Browns.  Are the Browns out of quarterbacks yet? The Dolphins laid another egg, this time against the Titans.  Miami hasn’t played this badly since someone stole their mascot, Snowflake, right before the Super Bowl.  That $72 million Brock Osweiler contract is working out great for the Texans isn’t it? Jay Cutler is probably enjoying watching Brian Hoyer take his job.  It still didn’t get the Bears a win against the struggling Colts.  The Redskins beating the Ravens softened the blow for the folks in DC of having to listen to another Presidential debate last night.  The Ravens offense is horrible.  The Steelers cruised to another win.  Isn’t it time for the Jets to give Geno Smith another shot?  Just when you think the Eagles might be some juggernaut, they go and lose to the Lions.  Dak Prescott doesn’t look like he plans on giving up the starting QB job anytime soon after the Cowboys throttled the Bengals.  I’m surprised it’s taken six weeks for Chip Kelly to really consider starting Colin Kaepernick.  I guess all the Cardinals needed to solve their problems was to play the 49ers.  Is it me or do the Falcons make us think they are a good team every year before collapsing? I’m not buying it this year.  This is what it’s like playing against the Vikings defense…..

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Let’s go to college football where USC picked up another win, this time against Colorado.  The Trojans used to annually abuse Colorado, but this was no easy win.  The Buffaloes forced Sam Darnold into a couple of fumbles, and another from Justin Davis to hang around late, but the USC defense stepped up and helped get them another win.  Despite all the turnovers from Darnold, I still can’t figure out if this guy is going to be a really good quarterback, or if he’s just benefitting from facing the softest part of the Trojans schedule.  Max Browne was really the one getting screwed from having to face Alabama and Stanford.  Until USC goes to Washington in November, I don’t think we’ll have an answer.  In all likelihood, Darnold is just masking the Trojans lack of quality coaching, game planning, and player development.  One thing Clay Helton does have going for him is the fact the Pac 12 South is still very winnable.

Over in Tempe, UCLA suffered a very disappointing loss to Arizona State.  I don’t care if Josh Rosen got hurt during key stretches of this game.  There’s no reason for this UCLA team to have lost to an ASU team that could only scrape together 275 yards of total offense.  The Bruins turned it over four times, they still have no idea how to generate a running game, and their quarterbacks have been sacked 15 times, which is already more than all of last season.  The only thing I had liked about UCLA was the fact their schedule was soft, but they are still finding a way to screw it up.  It turns out that Stanford loss wasn’t all that impressive anyway, since the Cardinal are falling apart faster than Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.  Now UCLA will head to Washington State which could be trouble, since they seem to be suddenly blowing teams off the field.  All of this has done nothing other than remind me of why the Bruins football program has become a group of perennial underachievers.

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Elsewhere in the college ranks, it took a hurricane, but the Notre Dame defense finally played well.  Unfortunately, Brian Kelly seemed to think passing the ball in the face of gusty winds was a good idea, causing Notre Dame to drop to 2-4.  Oh, that big showdown against Stanford next week in South Bend? Not so big anymore after the Cardinal got blown away by Washington State.  Then there’s Washington, who looks like a true playoff contender are dismantling Oregon.  Police are filing charges of rape, assault, and battery against the entire Michigan football team, after they humiliated Rutgers.  Navy just ran all over Houston, and will probably run them out of the rankings.  A new poll shows 62% of Ohioans think Ohio State would beat the Browns.  These are the people critical in deciding our next President?  This is what it’s like playing football in the midst of a hurricane….

I hate to put a lot of stock in preseason results for anything.  However, I like what I am seeing so far for the Lakers.  Before you roll your eyes while reading this, let me remind you: this is a process.  However, we are seeing that process come in the form of much more accountability and effort on the defensive end of the floor from the team, especial from D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson.  It’s going to take a while for these guys to develop their shooting, but defense is an area that can improve the Lakers results by leaps and bounds.  Once that happens, the Lakers can get themselves some easy baskets in transition, and make the game a lot easier for themselves.  Those were all elements that were absent last season, which can make a noticeable difference in a very short amount of time.

As for the Clippers, it’s come to this.  They’ve become so desperate to find a small forward, Doc has resorted to starting Austin Rivers there.  They’ve tried everybody, so how much worse can it go with Rivers there? Well, DeMar Derozan dropped 20 points on him in the first half of a preseason game last week, so we’ve reached a new low.  I’m not really sure how Doc Rivers convinced himself that having a 6’4 player guard a 6’7 or 6’8 player is a good idea.  Then of course there was the fact the Clippers got blown off the floor by the Warriors in a preseason game at Staples.  I’m thinking once the Warriors were up by 50 points, I was convinced the Kevin Durant addition was going to help them.

As we close the book on the Angels disappointing season, it’s hard not to look at just how good Mike Trout really is, at just 24 years old.  I’m not a baseball stats geek like some of you, but these numbers can’t just be minimized.  He is one of 8 players in the history of the game, prior to the age of 25, to finish a season with at least 25 home runs, 120 runs, and a .440 OBP.  The other 7 are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Jimmie Fox, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Jim Thome.  He’s also one of 7 players prior to the age of 25 to have a season with at least 100 RBI, 110 walks, and 120 runs.  The others are Mel Ott, Jimmie Fox, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and Troy Glaus.  Trout’s 48.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is the best ever by a player before the age of 25.  Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle were the next closest.  In other words, Trout is very likely going to be the best player you’ve ever seen in your lifetime.  However, the sad part about that is the Angels are wasting away the best years of his career, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope of turning it around any time soon.

Let’s go the ice, where the Kings are getting ready to open up their 50th NHL season on Wednesday at Staples Center.  The Kings are getting further and further away from their Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, and they’ve lost quite a bit of depth and key role players since that success.  It’s resulted in just 1 playoff win in the last two seasons.  However, the Kings still have several of the best players at their position in the league, and are going to be dangerous.  Drew Doughty is arguably the league’s best defenseman, Anze Kopitar is one of the best two-way centers, Jeff Carter is a very dangerous scorer, and Jonathan Quick is still one of the games best goaltenders.  That gives LA a chance against anybody.  The Kings should be a playoff team again, however, they need to give some of their younger prospects a chance to develop.  They might not have any stars in their pipeline, but they don’t need them.  They need good role players, yet have the chance to develop some, based on what they’ve shown in Ontario.  Those players will need to step up and fill the void left by key departures on defense and on the third and fourth line.  Darryl Sutter isn’t the best at trusting young players, but he’ll need to do it since the team is so salary cap constrained.  I’m picking the Kings to win the Pacific, but until their defensive depth is fixed, I think they are getting bounced again early in the playoffs.

As for the Ducks, it’s hard to know what they are going to get with Randy Carlyle as their coach again.  The are loaded with talent, but they can’t seem to win in the playoffs.  Now that their talent is slowly starting to age, the question is whether or not their window to win has closed.  Carlyle wants to play at a faster pace, which is something that is far different than last years puck possession style stressed by the departed Bruce Boudreau.  Their goaltending and defense should be great, but Carlyle did not mesh well with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf when his last tenure with the Ducks ended.  They are also running out of time to get Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell under contract before their season opens.  They might be able to survive short term without those guys, but not if the Ducks expect to do anything in the playoffs.  Ultimately, I think the Ducks end up finishing 3rd in the Pacific after going through their ups and downs adjusting to Carlyle.  I still don’t see much changing though in the playoffs, and another early exit.  As for my meaningless, way-too early Stanley Cup prediction, I’ll take the Dallas Stars over the Florida Panthers in 6 games.

Who had the stomach to watch the debate last night? As far as I’m concerned, the entire debate was “locker room talk”.  That’s really what the subject of last nights entire debate should have been, because the majority of it was spent on both candidates skeletons in their closet.  I think we’ve all taken plenty of shots at both Trump and Hilary, but the moderators and the media are really doing a terrible job covering this, and need to get their share of criticism.  Why? It’s because this election is bringing out the worst in everybody.  Nobody can tell you what really happened last night without putting their own spin on it.  Anderson Cooper does not like Donald Trump.  You could come to that understanding within 1 minute of watching the debate.  Then the headlines from last night are going to read that Hillary won the debate.  If anything, Trump probably got the best of her, but there are just so many people that dislike him at this point, they’ll all tell you the opposite.  It’s a very entertaining reality show, I’ll give you that, but at least let’s talk about the issues at hand.  It felt like we hardly did that last night.  Hopefully we can finally see more of that in the final debate in two weeks.  Otherwise, if I wanted the entertainment, I’d just watch these skits on SNL.

Monday Morning Coffee

puig-stare-down

October 3rd, 2016

It was a pleasure listening to Vin Scully one final time yesterday against the Giants.  However, Scully probably should have called it quits a week ago, when the Dodgers clinched the division on that Charlie Culberson walk-off homer.  Since then, instead of pushing for home field advantage in the division series, the Dodgers have lost 5 of 6 games heading into the post season.  It’s ok though.  I’m sure Andrew Friedman knows what he’s doing calling all the shots.  The Dodgers are only 15 games below .500 on the road, so it’s not like home field really matters right?  Knowing Friedman he probably used his super computer to torture a bunch of numbers to convince himself of that.  A more sensible nerd would probably just simulate the regular season and playoffs on PlayStation.  Instead of spending the last week tinkering with lineups, we should have seen more fine tuning and building momentum for next week.  We’ve been forced to see stiffs like Scott Kamir, Brandon McCarthy, and Brett Anderson over the last 6 games, just so Friedman can justify his investment in them.  It would be idiotic to put any of them on the playoff roster.  As for their matchup against the Nationals, I don’t care if LA won 5 of 6 against Washington this year.  I think Clayton Kershaw will step up and get a win against Max Scherzer in game 1, but Rich Hill has little to no playoff experience, as does Kenta Maeda who slowly looks like the MLB workload is wearing him down.  I’m still having a hard time envisioning Joe Blanton trotting out of the bullpen in critical late innings and succeeding, and the offense leaves more runners in scoring position than nearly every team in the playoffs.  I see nothing that makes me think the Dodger post season results will be any different than what we’ve seen 6 of the past 8 seasons.  Nationals in 4.

To the NFL, where the Rams went to Arizona and got a huge win over the Cardinals.  The Rams are now 3-1, and in first place in the NFC West.  I’m sure everyone saw this coming right?  It’s been all about the defense for this team, and an offense that is able to just muster enough points the last few weeks to find the win column.  Good thing that Brian Quick learned how to catch the football yesterday.  I thought they were going to find a way to lose the game when they took a couple of penalties in the last minute, but they pulled through.  I’ve gotta hand it to Case Keenum.  He knows that we’re all just waiting for him to give up the job to Jared Goff, but as long as the Rams keep winning, why make a change?  Besides, Goff is still trying to figure out what direction the sun rises in, so it might be a while before he can claim the job anyway.  There’s something about this team that has me skeptical that they can make the playoffs though.  Sometimes it isn’t who you play, but rather when you play them.  The Rams had the benefit of playing a talented team, but one that is in disarray.  Nevertheless, the Rams could easily be favored in the next three games they play against the Bills, Lions, and Giants.

Elsewhere around the NFL, we sent the Jaguars to London for a game against the Colts? We haven’t screwed England so hard since the Revolutionary War.  That was a rough loss, even by San Diego Charger standards.  They have blown massive leads in each of their three losses this season.  The Chiefs are going to use those terrible towels to hang themselves after the Steelers punished them last night.  The Cowboys are 3-1, and nobody is asking when Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are coming back.  The Broncos dominated the Bucs, and look like they found another stud quarterback in Paxton Lynch.  Can’t the Rams just find one?  The Falcons outlasted the Panthers, and the outcome was sealed when Cam Newton came out of the game with a concussion, forcing Derek Anderson to take his place.  That’s like going from a Lamborghini to a Big Wheel.  AJ Green practically beat the Dolphins by himself on Thursday night.  Roger Goodell got himself a good laugh when the Bills finally gave the Patriots a loss without Tom Brady.  The Lions had to be really disappointed that Jay Cutler didn’t play against them, or they might have actually beaten the Bears.  The Browns need to just call it quits for the year after losing to the Redskins.  The Raiders beat the Ravens on the road.  The Silver and Black haven’t been this fun to watch since Barrett Robbins was partying with hookers and blow in TJ during the Super Bowl.  The Seahawks are still excellent, while every time I see Ryan Fitzpatrick play I can’t help but laugh at the Jets for actually signing that scrub when he held out.  Marcus Mariota says the Titans “are close” after their loss to the Texans.  He must mean close to the worst team in the league.

To college football, where the Trojans got their fans to back away from the ledge with a big win over Arizona State on Saturday.  USC completely overwhelmed The Sun Devils with all their talent, and for the first time this season, it actually looked like Clay Helton executed a decent offensive game plan.  It was all about putting the ball in the hands of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who piled up 123 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns.  Sam Darnold also looked pretty damn good in his home debut, while Max Browne had to have been rolling his eyes on the sideline wondering why he didn’t get the chance to beat up on some crummy teams during his time as a starter.  USC’s talent was so far superior to Arizona State’s, you could hardly notice all the flaws in the Trojans offensive and defensive lines.  There’s no need for anybody to get fired right now, but you can be sure the Trojan brass is kicking the tires on what might be out there.  I’ve heard names ranging from David Shaw, Gary Patterson, Chris Peterson, Brian Kelly, and Bob Stoops, however, prying those big names from their current situations seems like a tall order, even if USC can pay more.  The coaching rumors figure to be a much bigger story the rest of the way than what actually happens on the field, since USC has already lost some of the biggest games on their schedule.

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Over in Pasadena, it was the Bruins getting back in the win column when they took down Arizona.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say that was an actual running game UCLA showed us in the second half.  That sounds almost impossible given the fact they’ve had one of the worst running games in the nation over the first month of the season.  Josh Rosen also had one of his best games of the season,  playing turnover free football, racking up 350 yards to go along with 3 touchdowns, and 1 rushing touchdown.  This is still a relatively underachieving team, however, at least both of their losses came against very good top 10 teams.  Stanford may have gotten beat by Washington over the weekend, but the Huskies are now looking like a college football playoff contender.  As for Jim Mora, it’s pretty hard to criticize your players for being undisciplined when he himself lost his emotions, and cost his team a 15 yard penalty.  You never know with this UCLA team, but the Bruins should be able to bank a couple of wins in the next two weeks before they get stiff challenges in Utah and Colorado.

Elsewhere around college football, it was nice to see the Notre Dame Fighting Irish show up for their game against Syracuse.  The Irish defense was still pretty atrocious, but Deshone Kizer does look like one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.  After Stanford’s loss to Washington, their students hadn’t been that disappointed since learning that Princess Leia was a fictional character.  Florida State got upset by North Carolina.  FSU played that game like they really want Jimbo Fisher to take that LSU job.  As Jameis Winston would say, there was nothing skrong about Charlie Strong’s defense when Texas got slammed by Oklahoma State.  Cowboys’ wide receiver Terrance Williams probably thought Louisville wide receiver James Quick going out of bounds on the final play vs Clemson, before getting the first down, was a genius play.  I don’t know what was more amazing: Jourdan Lewis’ interception of the century in Michigan’s win over Wisconsin, or Tennessee’s hail mary to beat Georgia.  You decide for yourself.

The Angels quietly finished up their season yesterday with a win against the Astros.  Despite the horrendous year, and the dismal future, there’s a few key takeaways here.  Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball, and even though he won’t be the MVP this year, the Halos are definitely going to continue to reap the benefits of the best years of his career.  The idea of trading him is preposterous, mostly because they will never get equal value for him.  The Halos have also hit 3 million in attendance for 14 years in a row, which is a streak that is only matched by the Yankees.  There’s still a few things that can give fans hope for 2017.  Alex Meyer definitely showed some potential to be an impact big league starter, Jhouly’s Chacin had an ERA of 0.75 in his last four starts, and Garrett Richards is continuing to make strides toward being able to pitch next season.  Ricky Nolasco also had an ERA of 1.85 for the last month of the season.  The last month of baseball may have been meaningless, so you may not put much stock in these stats.  However, this is the cast of characters that the Halos 2017 season depends on to have any hope of being competitive.

To the NBA, where the Lakers wrapped up their Santa Barbara training camp portion of the preseason yesterday.  This is going to be a process.  However, I’m loving what I’m hearing from Luke Walton and the players so far.  There is definitely a new enthusiasm and energy surrounding this team that Walton is bringing, and you can sense the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, and others really enjoying that new environment.  More importantly, that environment is all about player development, and getting as many of these young players to fulfill their potential as quickly as possible.  Those elements were not always in place in the last couple of years of Laker basketball.  I also really like how Mitch Kupchak did not come out and place any expectations as far as number of wins for the team, but rather just talked about wanting to see his young players improve with every game they play.  That may feel like an unusual approach for this franchise, but one that is very necessary at this point.

As for the Clippers, they wrapped up training camp on Saturday at UC Irvine, with a very nice open practice for their fans.  How many years have we been saying the Clippers are close? Well it’s been six to be exact, and they still haven’t made it out of the second round.  As usual, Doc Rivers shuffled the deck on his bench by adding players like Alan Anderson, Ray Felton, and Maurice Speights.  However, it feels like every year that bench looks improved and yet they fall flat on their face.  I’m not sure this year will be any different, but then again, it may not matter.  The Clippers still don’t have a good small forward, and they still can’t seem to meet the moment come spring time.  The talent is there, but I’m not sure the intangibles are.  Nevertheless, as long as Doc Rivers is in charge of basketball operations, I’m not even convinced that they will break up the CP3-Blake-DJ trio.  They all seem firmly rooted in LA, and even if they don’t every achieve anything, they could easily re-sign and continue to take their chances catching lightning in a bottle every year.  As for Blake Griffin, he looks healthy, and still has some explosiveness, which you can see from this dunk over Brice Johnson on Saturday.

Nice to see the U.S. finally get a Ryder Cup win over the weekend.  It was their first since 2008.  This is especially sweet for the U.S. considering that English writer Peter Willett, also the brother of Masters Champion, Danny Willett, has annually done some major trash talking in his writings.  Most recently, he wrote that the Americans were “fat, stupid, greedy, classless, bastards.”  I guess the real question for Willet is: You mad bro? Meanwhile, Ricky Fowler looks like that guy at last call who knows he’s going to have to settle for Del Taco instead of taking somebody home.

ricky-fowler

That first Presidential debate was unreal.  I was waiting for someone to just come out and say “Live from New York it’s Saturday Night Live!”  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and we were once again left with the reality of choosing between two candidates that are the equivalent of choosing what Browns quarterback you want starting on your fantasy team.  Imagine if you played a drinking game where you had to take a shot for every time Donald Trump held up his finger.  You would be dead in about 10 minutes.  In any case, despite what the polls say, I think come election day this is anybody’s race.

Finally, if you haven’t been to the Forum to see a concert, you need to do it.  I saw Blink 182 there on Friday night, and it was fantastic.  In fact, it’s probably a much better venue to see a concert than Staples Center or Microsoft Theatre, which is too large and drowns out the acoustics of any band.  Ironically, the Forum used to feel so big, however, now that we’ve all been introduced to these larger and more modern arena’s, it feels that much smaller.  That smaller arena is perfect for concert viewing.