Monday Morning Coffee

 


September 26th, 2016

I have to start with the Dodgers.  The Boys in Blue clinched the NL West yesterday on a walk-off home run from Charlie Culbertson.  That’s a fantastic way to not only clinch their fourth straight division title, but more importantly, a terrific way to send Vin Scully off into retirement.   Scully  called his final Dodger game at home prior to calling it quits.  I’ve been as critical as anyone of the Dodgers this entire season, but even with the Giants struggles, it’s nice to see them getting big contributions from some of their younger players in order to win games.  That’s been the story all season long for LA, and I decided this was one time I wasn’t going to piss and moan about the Dodgers front office. I only wish Scully had decided to call some of the Dodger playoff games on radio, but it’s understandable why he would want to say goodbye now to bring some official closure to his career.  Sometimes you don’t really know how good things are until they are gone.  We’ve been spoiled with Scully, Chick Hearn, and Bob Miller, as hall of fame voices for our Southern California teams over the years.  The end of the road is here for Scully, as well as Miller,  but it’s been an honor to listen to them and yesterday was another reminder of that.  As for the Dodgers, they might even be able to catch the Nationals for home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs before the season is over.  Hopefully LA’s injury prone pitchers who are auditioning for playoff roles will be able to help make that happen in the next week.

Jumping over to the NFL, the Rams actually scored a touchdown!  No really, they did.  The offense was halfway respectable, and they found a way to win a game by scoring 37 points against Tampa Bay.  I still have no idea how a group of receivers and a quarterback that are so pedestrian managed to do it, but it happened.  LA is now 2-1 on the season, which seemed impossible after the first game against San Francisco.  It had to be impossible for the Rams, USC, and UCLA to lose in the final minute in the same weekend.  We got close, but the Rams made sure that did not become a reality with yesterday’s win.  This is a team that is clearly going to rely on their defense to win games, while they just need to scrape together just enough offense.  I don’t expect that it will be easy to score another 37 points again anytime soon, but hopefully the offense can establish some type of consistency after yesterday.  Todd Gurley was great yesterday, but can’t do it all by himself, and he sure can’t do it without any receivers making plays.

Elsewhere around the NFL, the Chargers always find new ways to lose football games, and yesterday was no different against the Colts.   the Patriots might as well have one of their fans play quarterback, and they could still win football games.  Brian Hoyer is like herpes.  Just when you think he’s done and forget about him, he shows up again.  That’s what happened when the Bears got beat by the Cowboys last night.  How many interceptions does Ryan Fitzpatrick need to throw before the Jets play Geno Smith again? Apparently more than six.  The Dolphins-Browns game should have been broadcasted on Comedy Central.  Carson Palmer played that game against the Bills like it was a playoff game.  Of course that meant Arizona lost to Buffalo.  The more players the Vikings lose, the more games they seem to win.  Their defense is that good.  Odell Beckham Jr. looked like he was going to kill Eli Manning after yesterday’s loss to the Redskins.  Who does Trevor Siemian think he is anyway? Joe Montana? The Broncos are dominating on both sides of the ball.  The Packers may have beaten the Lions, but what happened to Aaron Rodgers? He finally looked good yesterday, but wasn’t this guy supposed to be the best player in the NFL not long ago?  So much for all you people that actually believed the 49ers were a decent team.  They got smoked by Seattle.  The Steelers took some beating against the Eagles.  How are the Ravens 3-0? Oh that’s right, it’s because they haven’t played anybody.  The same can be said for the 2-1 Raiders, who took advantage of the Titans yesterday.

On to college football, where apparently changing the starting quarterback at USC was not the problem.  The Trojans got beat by at Utah on Friday, after blowing a 14 point lead, and losing late in the final seconds.  You hear that sound? It’s the sound of USC alums closing their checkbooks.  Replacing Max Browne with Sam Darnold was a total desperation move, and was the equivalent of trying to stop a flood with a couple of paper towels.  The first four games of this season have been the same story every week: poor discipline, outplayed at the line of scrimmage, questionable defensive coverage, and very inconsistent play calling.  There were moments where things looked better on Friday, but ultimately, USC reverted back to who they are: a mediocre team.  SC may have talent, but Utah is a much better and more cohesive team.  The Trojans will be lucky to be a .500 team with their brutal remaining schedule, but replacing Clay Helton at this would probably wouldn’t serve much purpose.  Even though he’s in way over his head, I can’t think of an available head coach that can fix this mess (unless you think Les Miles is that guy after getting fired yesterday).  The Trojans need a big name, but at the moment, that big name doesn’t exist.  You can bet that Lynn Swann is looking at his options though.

Then there’s the Bruins, who had their own sob story at the Rose Bowl this weekend.  This game was going perfectly.  UCLA was beating the Cardinal at their own game, and for 3.5 quarters they weren’t pushed around.  Then during the final few minutes, Stanford wore them down.  The Bruins also committed the dumbest penalty at the worst time, when Marcus Rios brushed Christian McCaffrey on a punt return in which he called for a fair catch.  Isn’t this how most of the UCLA meltdowns start? The rest was all about Stanford making big plays in the final minute.  It’s pretty hard to win when you have absolutely no running game, and your receivers drop every big pass.  Jim Mora also has to deal with his own players bitching at each other on Twitter on top of all that.  This would have been the biggest win in the last 8 years for UCLA, but it ended up being just a reminder of how the Bruins can’t get it done against elite teams.  Also, if you had UCLA +3 or +3.5 you cried after this last play…….

Speaking of the Bruins, I thought that Kevin Love hated his time at UCLA?  Love matched Russell Westbrook’s recent large donation to the school, and the strength and condition center in their new state of the art athletic facility will be named after him.  K-Love was was honored at halftime of the Stanford game.  Maybe it’s really that he just hated Ben Howland, and not UCLA itself?

How about the embarrassment right now that is Notre Dame football? We live in a world where Duke football can actually go on the road and beat the Irish.  That’s as humiliating as it gets.  This looks exactly like two years ago, when the Irish lost a couple of big games early, and then played the rest of the season like they didn’t give a crap.  I realize that Notre Dame’s defensive backfield isn’t that great, but I’m pretty sure Duke’s wide receivers shouldn’t be killing them like they did.  This team struggles to just line up, pay attention to detail, and not make careless mistakes  Even more irritating was Brian Kelly blaming his players rather than holding his coaches accountable.  You can bet that it was AD Jack Swarbick, who made Kelly fire defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder yesterday.  Pretty soon it might be Kelly looking for another job.  Elsewhere around college football, Tennessee beat Florida for the first time since the stone age.  Wisconsin is killing it on a brutal schedule: they beat LSU and Michigan State, and now they have Michigan and Ohio State coming up.  It was a shame that LSU touchdown in the final seconds against Auburn was called back because it would have been a great finish.  It might have actually allowed Les Miles to keep his job too.

The Angels haven’t had a whole lot to get excited about for a while, but they did a nice job of taking a sledgehammer to the Houston Astros playoff hopes.  More importantly though, the Angels got great news last week when Garrett Richards successfully threw 20 pitches off a mound in a bullpen session.  Richards next step will be to face some live hitters in a simulated game, but he says that he has no doubt that he will be able to avoid surgery and pitch for the Halos next season.  His recovery sounds rather miraculous, and makes me wonder if Oral Roberts is on the Angels training staff.

Kevin Garnett is retiring.  His career is quite remarkable, with one MVP, one championship, 9 all-star appearances, and sleeping with Carmelo Anthony’s wife.  But in all seriousness, KG is one of the five best power forwards to ever play in the NBA, and he did an amazing job of transforming the defense and the culture of the Celtics in 2008.  Even though Doc Rivers knows it’s not going to happen, I’m sure he will lob a call to KG and ask him if he’s interested in signing with the Clippers (even if it means parting ways with one of his guaranteed contracts).  Doc is that obsessed with his former players, players who have played really well against him, and anybody related to him.  The NBA is losing an entire era of basketball in Kobe, Duncan, and KG, all in the same offseason.  That’s going to be arguably the greatest hall of fame class ever when they are inducted.

The LA Olympic bid for the 2024 games got a boost last week from the news that Rome might actually drop their bid, citing that it might be fiscally irresponsible to host the games.  Some sources are actually saying that since NBC paid so much to broadcast the Olympics, they are guaranteed one Olympics in the United States during the next 3-4 games.  This might give LA the inside track, especially since Hungary will lose support for refusing refugees.  Paris is still going to contend, despite all the recent terrorist attacks that were there.  I still think that if LA wins the bid, it’s got the infrastructure to host one of the best games in a while.

The finals for The World Cup of Hockey are set.  It’s Canada vs Team Europe.  In other words, Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin will be taking on Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar.  I still find this whole “Team Europe” and “Team North America” concept ridiculous, but at least we get to see some competitive hockey in the preseason.  I’m also offended by the effort put forth by the United States team, which was 0-3, and got sent home faster than the Anaheim Ducks every spring.  At least Jonathan Quick played well for the Americans, however, that team could not score goals, and their idea of putting more grit and toughness on the roster backfired.  The good news is that there are some very good American hockey players that should be on the team in the next 2-3 years, which improve Team USA quite a bit.

Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump.  What kind of man joins forces with a rival that completely embarrassed him.  I feel like Kevin Durant might know the answer.

What do you do if you need a new phone these days? The Galaxy Note 7 blows up, and the IPhone 7 has no head phone jack.  That sounds just as bad as choosing between Clinton and Trump.

RIP Arnold Palmer.  You were truly a legend, and one of the greatest golfers we’ve ever seen.  He also helped change sports into a business.  The sports marketing industry began when Mark McMormick signed Arnie to IMG.  I’m going to be drinking Arnold Palmers all week.

Monday Morning Coffee

 

gurley-vs-sherman

September 19th, 2016

Well we’ve waited for over 20 years for NFL Football to return to LA, and after a really ugly first game, it was nice to see the Rams find the win column in their home opener.  It was ugly, but it got the job done.  The nostalgia of Pete Caroll coming back to the Coliseum was cool for a moment too.  Then the Rams started playing football, and we came to the realization that watching the offense is like watching a dumpster fire.  The Rams are scoring less than Steve Urkel on Prom night.  But the Rams defense was tough, Russell Wilson was banged up, and for some reason this team seems to own the Seahawks.  Still, it’s not a great feeling right now knowing LA gave away a truck load of draft picks for a guy that’s barely cutting it as their backup quarterback.  Oh, and after all this mess, Jeff Fisher was just rewarded with a 3 year extension.  He hasn’t had a winning season since George W. Bush was in office, yet somehow, he pulled this off.  Further adding to our frustration is the fact that now that the Rams are playing football in LA, we don’t get to see as many great NFL games on TV like we used, since the networks don’t want to take coverage away from our new NFL team.  It’s everything you’ve been dreaming about the last twenty years right?  Enjoy yesterday’s win because it might not get much better for a while.

Elsewhere around the NFL, how sorry are the Miami Dolphins? The Patriots have 3 quarterbacks that are better than Ryan Tannehill.  There goes the #1 running back on my fantasy football team after Adrian Peterson went down with a big knee injury last night.  AP was carried off the field, and dragged through a TGI Friday’s on the way to the locker room.  The Chargers may have beaten up on the Jags, but they suffered another big blow with the loss of Danny Woodhead.  That Broncos defense looked even better than last year in their win over the Colts.  Julio Jones shows a little emotion after a big TD in the Falcons win over the Raiders, and he gets a flag.  Let these guys have a little fun! I would have thought that Steelers win over the Bengals was played at a correctional institute given the number of players on both sides with criminal records.  What happened to all the offense we were promised in the Saints-Giants game?  Jameis Winston had more turnovers yesterday than Betty Crocker.  Neither team was all that impressive.  The Browns had a 20 point lead after 11 minutes in their game with the Ravens, so it’s only natural they lost.  Cam Newton is a beast.  Who is calling the Redskins plays? A member of the Obama administration? Not a single run around the goal line in their loss to the Cowboys.  The Texans don’t win pretty, but they’re 2-0.  Not as ugly as that Titans-Lions game.  Andre Johnson is still in the league after last season’s debacle? Bills and Jets on Thursday night football.  It’s like the NFL asks themselves what the worst possible game is that they could give us.

Let’s go to college football, where the Trojans fell flat on their faces again against Stanford.  Everybody’s immediate impulse is going to be to break out the pitchforks and tiki torches and blame Clay Helton.  Although the play calling is a little strange at times, and their three games have been filled with penalties and undisciplined play, there’s something to be said for just how good the USC talent is.  You can talk about how great the talent is until you’re blue in the face, however, if you have all this undeveloped talent, then you really aren’t that talented.  The defensive line looked very overrated and overmatched on Saturday.  Max Browne is nothing special, and I thought the plan was to be a running team, and go back to old school Trojan football? These guys don’t really seem to know their own identity.  Maybe everyone just needs to come to grips with the fact that Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, Lendale White, and Mike Williams were in a college football class of their own, as was Pete Carroll.  Trying replicate that anytime soon isn’t going to be easy.

Then there’s UCLA, who came away with an ugly and unimpressive win against BYU.  How many times do I have to hear Josh Rosen tell me about how bad he played, and how much better he needs to be? Ok, I get it, you’re trying to be accountable.  However, it doesn’t do anybody any good to tell us where you suck when you don’t fix it.  His play is just too uneven, with a lot of missed throws, the Jim Mora coaching is starting to be suspect, and there isn’t much of a running game.  The only good news for the Bruins is that they only play one more elite team, which will be when they host Stanford next week.  Despite all their flaws, they still stand a great chance to win the Pac 12 South.  They just might take a Buster Douglas like beating next week at the Rose Bowl though.

Just in case you thought the Notre Dame football season wasn’t over with their loss to Texas during week 1, you can be assured that Irish fans hopes and dreams have been shattered after that loss to Michigan State.  Even more infuriating is Brian Kelly’s continued support for defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.  I’ve seen better tackling in Pee Wee football than I have from the Irish defense this season.  I was rather disappointed to learn that Kelly did not actually like a tweet regarding firing VanGorder.  Elsewhere around college football, Lamar Jackson is killing it for Louisville.  However, if he were smart he would retire at the end of this college season so he can avoid being drafted by the Browns.  Ole Miss wishes that all their football games against Alabama could end at halftime.  Iowa is devastated over their loss to North Dakota State.  At least they still have corn.  Oklahoma’s defense should have just taken a knee for the last quarter of that Ohio State game to protest their coaches oppressive treatment of making them cover Noah Brown.  His TD catch was amazing.  This is how you do it Dez Bryant…….

To baseball, where the Dodgers took two of three from Arizona over the weekend, and their magic number is down to just 9 games to clinch a fourth straight NL West title.  Now the sorry San Francisco Giants are coming to town for a three game set.  As dangerous as I think the Giants could be in the playoffs, I think it’s probably better for LA if they get in and play the Cubs.  San Francisco might actually be able to catch lightning in a bottle in a short series and knock off Chicago.  I think the Boys in Blue have no chance against the Cubs ridiculous lineup, but they could take the Giants in a playoff series.  Then again, I’m not so sure they could beat anybody else like the Nationals either.  I was very disappointed to learn that the Dodgers couldn’t make that Yasiel Puig and Brandon McCarthy trade for Ryan Braun happen a few weeks ago.  I would have even offered to pack McCarthy’s bags and drive him to the airport, given how useless he’s been.  Hopefully this trade gets revisited in the offseason.  I wish the Dodgers front office would cut bait faster with guys that just haven’t worked out like McCarthy.  It’s bad enough to make moves like that in the first place, but it’s even worse when you have people in your front office that can’t admit when they made a mistake.  Too bad Vin Scully is going to be calling it quits after October 2nd.  The man has earned the right to say goodbye when he wants to, however, I was under the impression that he came back because he thought the Dodgers had a chance to win the World Series, and wanted to be along for that ride.  The fact that he’s calling it quits prior to the postseason tells you everything you need to know about what he thinks of the Dodgers’ playoff chances.

There goes another Angel pitcher.  Tyler Skaggs is the latest player to go down, this time with a forearm injury.  At least there was no ligament damage.  It was good to see Alex Meyer get through five innings yesterday against the Blue Jays.  This sounds pathetic, but the Halos need to be thinking about all these little victories right now.  If they hope to turn it around in the next two seasons, it’s going to require finding these types of gems, and hoping a couple of them can turn into Major League ball players that can actually make an impact.  Otherwise the fans might as well spend their summers at Disneyland instead of the ballpark.

Finally, I’d like to thank the United Staes of America for “participating” in the World Cup of Hockey.  The U.S. laid an egg against a team that’s not even a real country, in Team Europe.  If I wanted to see Anze Kopitar dominate Ryan Kessler, I could have just waited to see the Kings play the Ducks when the season starts.  I get that the NHL is trying to monetize international play, instead of not being compensated when they send their players to the Olympics.  However, the tournament just isn’t the same, and it’s been so manufactured, that the players aren’t approaching it with any sense of pride for their country.  Team Europe? Team North America? Give me a break.  It’s no wonder that the Americans played that game like it was an all-star game they didn’t give a crap about.  Meanwhile, there’s some jerk sitting somewhere with a spreadsheet trying to come up with a reason why Jonathan Quick shouldn’t be starting for team USA.

Monday Morning Coffee

adoree

September 12th, 2016

Well the Trojans got back in the win column on Saturday.  However, USC played a team that looked worse than a Stevie Wonder coloring book.  The defense was much improved and USC has some athletes, but I remain very unimpressed with Max Browne.  His numbers should have been huge against a team like this, his delivery is very slow, and his decision making is questionable.  It’s no wonder that he couldn’t beat out Cody Kessler for the starting QB job.  I’m also amazed at how undisciplined Clay Helton’s team is so far.  The latest incident came early on in Saturday’s game when sophomore offensive tackle, Chuma Edoga, was ejected for making contact with an official.  I’m reserving true judgement until next week, when the Trojans travel up north to take on Stanford.  The truth is somewhere between last week’s loss to ‘Bama and this week’s win against Utah State.  If anything though, it’s much closer to the former.

The Bruins had what was supposed to be a bye week of their own, but instead, they ended up in a big struggle with UNLV.  Even after the win, I’ve seen nothing in the first two games that make me think this team is any better than the team they’ve had the last couple of years.  Josh Rosen tends to miss some important throws, and his receivers are dropping even more important ones.  Meanwhile, the defensive line looks worse than tonight’s special at Olive Garden.  They’ve had one sack in two games, and being healthier than last year doesn’t hide their mediocrity.  The Bruins are once again a decent team, but far from elite.  I think it’s time to stop pretending like this team is ready to take the next step and win the Pac 12 Title, let alone pretend like they can contend for the College Football Playoff.  UCLA should be worried about next week’s final non-conference tune-up at BYU.  The ginger ale is going to be flowing in Provo if the Cougars pull off the upset.  The last time UCLA went up there they also lost 59-0, in a shocking beat down.

Elsewhere around college football, Notre Dame’s defense looked a little better, although their competition was a bit worse in Nevada, but they got back in the win column.  Clemson barely escaped against Troy, while Ohio State, Alabama, and everybody else in the top 25 played absolutely nobody.  Jim Harbaugh was celebrating a Michigan win by eating his own snot on the sideline (you’re just going to have to Google that one).  I hope most of these small schools that we’ve never heard of have cashed their checks already, since they basically agreed to take a beat down from these larger Goliath schools in the Top 25.  Central Michigan did pull of this crazy play against Oklahoma State though to pull off the upset.  If this happened while playing a video game, I still probably wouldn’t believe it……

The NFL is back, and week 1 was in full effect!  It took the Chargers exactly one game to do Charger things.  That might have been one of the biggest choke jobs in San Diego history, after they blew a 24-10 lead.  As if that isn’t bad enough, they lost Keenan Allen to probable torn ACL, and everybody else in their division won.  Might as well throw in the towel on the season.  The Patriots are probably going to be 4-0 while Tom Brady gets a month long vacation.  Even though Drew Brees plays every game like he’s playing Madden on XBOX, the Saints defense let them down again.  The Raiders look like they might contend!  Aaron Rodgers is pretty damn good at football.  The Jaguars are “so much better this year”, it only took them two minutes to have their first turnover.  Carson Wentz looked great for the Eagles.  I’m sure he’s used to playing teams about as good as the Browns when he was in college.  I’m also sure Dallas receiver Terrance Williams feels terrible for his bonehead play at the end of yesterdays game.  It’s ok Terrance, the loss isn’t on you.  You play for the Dallas Cowboys so it was inevitable.  Looks like AJ Green bought a house on Revis Island, because he and the Bengals dominated the Jets yesterday.  What happened to the Colts? Seattle dodged a bullet against Miami, and with the Russell Wilson injury.  I think the last time Cam Newton got hit as hard as he did on Thursday, it was when he rolled his pick up truck.  Still not sure how there was no flag on that play, or how he doesn’t have a concussion.  Here’s a look at everyone’s reaction once they found out the ESPN fantasy app was down……

ari-throws-phone

The Rams have got to come up with a win tonight in San Francisco.  The division is going to be tough enough having to play four games against Seattle and Arizona.  The Rams defense is good, but given their limitations on offense, their defense needs to be as dominant as the Broncos to be successful.  Their starting quarterback is truly nothing more than a game manager, and their wide receivers cannot be relied on.  Nevertheless, NFL football is back in LA, and tonight is the night the Los Angeles Rams return to action, which is exciting enough.

To the NBA, where Shaquille O’Neal was inducted into the basketball hall of game last week.  Shaq is one of my favorite players of all time, and watching him win three titles with the Lakers was a pleasure.  However, Shaq came out and said that Tim Duncan is not considered “a big man”, since he is really a power forward, and not a center.  He went on to say that Duncan is not in the same class as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwon, and himself.  I do agree in principle with Shaq’s statement that Duncan is a power forward and not a center.  However, if Tim Duncan were considered a center, he’d probably be the 6th best center to ever play the position.  Duncan was arguably the best defensive player of all time, and a top 10 great.  Shaq is too, and while he was the most dominant ever, I think he simply felt the need to separate himself from Duncan because he knew his teams came out on top most of the time when they met in the playoffs.

The Dodgers are unbelievable.  On Saturday night, for the 2nd time this season, they removed a starting pitcher from a game that could potentially have been historic, had they been allowed to complete it.  This time, Rich Hill had a chance to pitch a perfect game.  He only needed 6 more outs. Do you realize there are only 23 perfect games in the history of baseball? Manager Dave Roberts claims he was pulled because he had concerns about his blister reopening.  If 20 more pitches were going to put this guy back on the disabled list, then he’s not nearly as durable as he should be coming down the stretch.  The game wasn’t even in jeopardy.  Of course when Joe Blanton came in, he blew the perfect game.  I also don’t think the call was made my Roberts.  I think as usual, he got the call from the front office, and Andrew Friedman told him that Hill needs to be pulled.  I keep hearing about the need for preserving players for the future, like the Dodgers are doing with Julio Urias now, Ross Stripling earlier in the season, and now Rich Hill with his blister issue.  I wonder how the Washington Nationals feel about this strategy, since four years ago they limited Stephen Strasburg’s innings to prevent injury.  That strategy came in the middle of a season when they were a contender for the World Series, yet they came up short in the playoffs.  Four years later, that future they were saving for has yet to arrive.  You never know when the opportunity will be as good as it is now.  Andrew Friedman has never understood that from the moment he started working here.

The Angels came up with a win yesterday against Texas.  Jered Weaver made one of his final starts for the Halos, and managed to put together a performance that was so good, I’m wondering if he entered a time machine to become the player that he was 5 years ago.  I’m thinking bringing Weaver back to the team next year on a short and cheap deal wouldn’t be terrible.  The Angels need arms, and Weaver might be able to fill in at the back end of the rotation.  He might even be better served re-inventing himself as a bullpen guy too.  Speaking of re-inventing players, the Angels are also doing so with recently acquired Alex Meyer.  Meyer was a reliever for the Twins, despite the fact he wanted to be a starter.  The Halos are now planning on using him as a starter, and hope he can be a gem for them in 2017.  Meyer showed some potential last week, but he’ll need to work on his control to be successful.

Finally, we just went through a weekend where the Dodgers, UCLA, and USC were all in action, yet not a single DirecTV customer could see them.  That means that 70% of cable subscribers in Southern California could not see any of these teams in action.  Have the cable companies given up on reaching a deal? It sure feels like it since DirecTV doesn’t even want to come to the table to negotiate with Time Warner Cable.  The cable model is totally broken, and ultimately, it’s the sports fan that is really paying the price.

 

Monday Morning Coffee

Trojan catch

September 5th, 2016

Ok Trojan honks.  I don’t think you can use the sanctions as an excuse anymore.  USC got obliterated by Alabama on Saturday in it’s season opener by a score of 52-6.  Did you really think that Lane Kiffin was going to milk the clock when he was up big against the school that fired him? Of course not! He was going to make sure that he rubbed salt in the wound.  The Trojans played so poorly and so undisciplined, I really don’t know exactly how good or bad the team is right now.  Max Browne played more like Charlie Brown, totaling just over 100 passing yards, while his receivers could create no separation whatsoever from the Crimson Tide secondary.  The Trojans need to just throw out the tape and pretend like that game never happened.  Jabari Ruffin should be thrown off the team or at least suspended for the classless stunt he pulled.  At least to the Trojans credit though, Osa Masina and Don Hill were sent home after being under investigation for sexual assault.  Had anything like that happened to Alabama players, like Hootie Jones and Cam Robinson a few months ago, Nick Saban would have found a way to have them on the field.  ‘Bama is also becoming the new football factory for rejected USC coaches, since they might add Steve Sarkisian to their staff.  This could easily be a 1-3 start for SC, so the Trojan faithful better have some patience with Clay Helton, or else they are going to jumping off the roof of fraternity houses on 28th street.  I knew I had seen Max Browne somewhere before…..

MaxBeavis

Then there’s the Bruins who found a way to disappoint again.  Josh Rosen looked like a guy who fell in love with his own hype, yet got a big slap in the face when he threw three interceptions. The receivers dropped more balls than Times Square, and UCLA’s running game disappeared like David Copperfield.  This is getting to be a very tired story for Jim Mora’s talented recruiting class.  They can’t find a way to win when it really matters.  I realize that A&M is a very good team at home, but they are likely going to be a 5 loss team in the SEC.   The Bruins failed to pay attention to detail, and they found themselves playing catch-up for most of the day.  Of course Mora is going to try and sell us on the idea that the comeback showed a lot of character.  However, this team looks ticketed for another middle of the road finish, that will once again make you think they are capable of achieving so much more.  The Mora era started off so promising, but now it’s just starting to feel like more and more underachievement with every game that goes by.

Elsewhere around college football, nobody breaks their fans hearts like Notre Dame.  The Irish suffered a devastating overtime loss at Texas in their opener, which already kills their chances at the College Football Playoff.  The team has some talent, but their secondary was awful against Texas.  I guess that’s probably because their entire secondary was kicked off the team for being idiots.  I think we’ve seen enough of the two quarterback rotation though.  Deshone Kizer is the guy.  It wasn’t the best weekend for the Pac 12.  UCLA and USC took their lumps against the SEC, while Oregon struggled to win against Davis, as did Stanford against KSU.  Oklahoma and LSU are looking overrated early, while Wisconsin and Houston should surge up the polls.  Speaking of LSU, they came away from this weekend with one loss and one murder…..

To baseball where the Dodgers have opened up a 3 game lead on the Giants in the NL West.  That’s right folks, the Giants have been literally the worst team in baseball in the 2nd half.  Just how bad? The Dodgers have no starting pitching, a 3rd baseman who plays half the time, a 2nd baseman who sits against lefties, a left fielder who is really a 2nd baseman, a center fielder who can’t make contact, no right fielder, and Andrew Friedman as the head of their front office.  I like how the Josh Reddick acquisition was such a failure that the Dodgers were forced to bring up Yasiel Puig just a few weeks after sending him down.  I was really impressed with Jose DeLeon’s MLB debut yesterday.  He might not be Clayton Kershaw, or have the upside of Julio Urias, but he has the potential to be a front line starter for the Boys in Blue at some point.  Speaking of Kershaw, if all goes well he should be back in the rotation on Friday, which will put him in line to get a couple of starts agains the Giants before the season is over.  I also found it hilarious that former Dodger owner Frank McCourt not only bought French soccer club, Marseille, but that the club made a statement that described his ownership with the Dodgers as a tremendous financial success.  How many of you fell out of your chair laughing when you read this? There is a sucker born everyday in this world.

Can the Angels go five minutes without another starting pitcher getting hurt? The latest is Matt Shoemaker, who took a 105 mile an hour line drive off of his head yesterday in Seattle.  Shoemaker is suffering from a small hematoma and skull fracture after the incident.  Who knows what his prognosis will be after his CT scan, but they will obviously have to be very careful with him for a while.  As if the Halos needed more bad news, promising pitching prospect Nate Smith is now suffering from elbow soreness, and is awaiting the results of an examination.  I’m no pitching expert, but the question has to be asked about how the Angels are building their pitching staff, if potentially four of their starters have elbow issues.  The Halos are also finding a way to win meaningless games against teams they should be losing to at this point in the season, which would help improve their draft position.  Considering the Angels have by far the worst farm system in baseball, I’d say tanking should have been something they considered strongly months ago.

To the NFL, where the Rams have trimmed their roster down to 53, and are ready to start the regular season one week from today against the 49ers.  I hate to panic about the Jared Goff situation, but this is the NFL, where from week to week you have no choice but to do so.  Even if he’s improved a little, Goff is barely a third string quarterback in the NFL, and even more devastating is the fact that he looks totally unworthy of the truck load of draft picks the Rams gave up for him in April.  The Rams could have gotten the same type of player by staying at #15 and taking Paxton Lynch, or Dak Prescott, who looks a lot better than Goff right now.  Actually, if the Rams were smart, they could have traded Goff to Minnesota after Teddy Bridgewater went down with a knee injury, and gotten a bunch of those draft picks back.  As for the season, the team is talented, but the schedule and the division is just too tough right now.  The winning streak against Seattle seems like an anomaly that is bound to correct.  I’m thinking this team goes 8-8, and settles for 3rd in the NFC West.

As for the rest of my NFL predictions, my AFC division winners are Kansas City, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and New England.   In the NFC, I’ve got Arizona, Carolina, Green Bay, and Dallas.  The wild cards in the AFC are Pittsburgh and Oakland, while in the NFC, they are Seattle and Minnesota.  I’ll take Cardinals over the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

I still think Colin Kaepernick’s decision to not stand for the national anthem is a poor one.  Nobody is talking about police brutality, race, and how we can improve upon community relations.  Instead, all we are talking about is how offended we are that he would do such a thing, along with wearing those silly socks he has of police officers looking like pigs.  While I respect the guys right to protest,  Kaepernick isn’t good enough anymore to make such a stand be really meaningful.  On the other hand, you’ve got NBA players like Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, DeMarcus Cousins, and Dwayne Wade who are driving the conversations at the community level, as opposed to taking some silly stand during the national anthem.

With the NFL preseason in the books, the Cleveland Browns have officially been eliminated from the playoffs.  Teddy Bridgewater can really learn a thing or two from newly acquired Sam Bradford, a veteran QB who has plenty of experience on the injured list.  He might even injure himself while packing for Minnesota.  At least Viking fans should be thankful their QB won’t be Mark Sanchez. The Cowboys acquired him. I hear the Broncos were willing to trade Sanchez for an $8.47 store credit at the nearest Denver Game Stop.

 

 

Monday Morning Coffee

Jansen win

August 29th, 2016

I have no idea how the Dodgers are winning, but they are lucky the Giants are a pile of hot garbage. San Francisco has been one of the worst teams in baseball, and somehow, the Dodgers are putting together wins.  They’ve won four of their last six games against the Giants and Cubs, and are holding down a 2 game lead in the NL West.  The more disturbing piece of Dodger news that happened last week was the trade of veteran catcher AJ Ellis to Philadelphia for catcher Carlos Ruiz.  This was simply another example of Andrew Friedman valuing statistics over people.  Ruiz may be a slightly better player, but everybody knows how important Ellis is to both Clayton Kershaw, and as a presence in the clubhouse.  If clubhouse chemistry isn’t all that important, than why is Yasiel Puig still in the minor leagues? Puig is still a more talented player than Josh Reddick, who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat at the present time.  I had to laugh when Andrew Friedman said that he made the trade in order give the Dodgers the best chance to win the World Series.  Did you give the same consideration when you let Zack Greinke sign with the Diamondbacks? Or when you traded Dee Gordon to the Marlins?  Despite a good showing against the Cubs, it’s this type of flawed approach that makes me doubt the Dodgers will last very long, even if they make it to October.

As for the Angels, i think it’s safe to say that Tyler Skaggs has recovered from his elbow injury.  He’s just as inconsistent now, as he was prior to his surgery.  We’re just a few days away from September, and the Halos have faded into irrelevance in both the Major League Baseball pennant race, and the Southern California sports landscape.  It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Mike Scioscia gets to keep his job, however, the Halos might end up with their worst record in the last twenty years, which would naturally lead to questions about his future.  Even if the results on the field can mostly be attributed to injury, one has to ask themselves if a new voice in the clubhouse is necessary to get the Angels back to respectability,

To college football, where the Bruins are getting ready to open the season next week at Texas A&M. If there’s one thing I’m really looking forward to seeing, it’s whether or not Jim Mora Jr. has finally recruited some much bigger, stronger, and more physical offensive lineman.  If so, this is exactly the type of game that can be won by managing it properly.  Don’t turn the ball over, control the line of scrimmage, and ultimately the Bruins can win comfortably without Josh Rosen trying to be a hero.  There’s been a lot of hype around the work that Mora Jr. has been doing in the recruiting department, and although the transformation of the program takes time, we need to start seeing wins against some of the more physical teams for UCLA to be taken seriously.  I like the Bruins in this one to get their season off to a nice start.

As for the Trojans, I’m curious to see how much slack Clay Helton is going to get once they lose to Alabama next week.  The schedule is completely brutal, and as much talent as USC has, they have a tremendous amount of inexperience at the quarterback position with Max Browne.  Just listening to Helton talk about Browne makes me think he’s just hoping that Browne can be an effective game manager that can avoid the “critical error.”  To make matters worse, USC is nursing an injury to guard Chad Wheeler, who is suffering from plantar fasciitis.  The Trojans are looking at Alabama as the program they aspired to be during the Pete Carroll era, but even by those lofty standards, still fell short of the Crimson Tide’s sustained excellence.  Alabama has four national titles since 2009, compared to two under Caroll, and USC hasn’t finished ahead of Alabama in the polls since 2010.  It could be a brutal start for USC, but if they can salvage a win or two in their first four, they have the talent to do some damage after that.

Watching the Rams 3rd preseason game against the Broncos made me think they were ticketed for another mediocre season.  The team just couldn’t muster much offense against an elite NFL defense.  Case Keenum didn’t do much, Jared Goff did less, and both came away with injury scares, as did Pharaoh Cooper, who might even miss the opener now with a shoulder injury.  There was absolutely nothing positive to take away from this game, other than the fact it’s over now.  It’s games like that that make me ask myself the annual question: why do we need four preseason games? The answer is that it’s nothing more than a money grab by the owners, but as football fans, we are the ones who are going to suffer when we have to hold our breath that our teams best players don’t get hurt in these meaningless contests.

Speaking of getting hurt, there are some things in life that are certain: death, taxes, and Tony Romo injuring his back.  This may actually be a blessing in disguise for the Cowboys.  They’ll be forced to move on from the Tony Romo era with Dak Prescott.  Then there’s Colin Kaepernick, who’s play has actually been far more offensive than his decision to not stand for the national anthem.  There’s a time and place for everything.  If you don’t like the Presidential candidates this fall, that’s fine, but there’s no need to disrespect those who fought for the United States by not honoring the National Anthem.  Then again, maybe Kaepernick may just be pushing for the 49ers to release him, so this could have been some form of desperation in that regard.  As for the Chargers, I can’t really blame them for their position in the Joey Bosa contract dispute, however, their decision to make the negotiations public was not wise.  The Bolts already have a reputation of historically playing hardball in negotiations with some rookies (dating all the way back to Eli Manning) so there  was no need to perpetuate this perception by going public with the details.  Here’s a look at Tony Romo’s text inbox after his most recent injury…..

Romo Inbox

Finally, I think it’s great that the USOC is holding athletes like Ryan Lochte and Hope Solo accountable for their stupidity in Rio.  Don’t get me wrong, Solo and Lochte are both great athletes, who have contributed a great deal to the US Olympic success in their respective sports, especially Lochte.  However, these athletes also have a major responsibility to represent our country in the best way when they go abroad, especially when we are making an effort to try to bring the Olympics back to the US in 2024.  The suspension for Solo was very appropriate, and one for Lochte should be in the works too.

 

 

Monday Morning Coffee

on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

August 15th, 2016

Michael Phelps has been a joy to watch over the last 10 days.  He’s an athlete that makes you want to stop everything you are doing, and watch him because he’s that good.  He’s arguably the greatest Olympian of all-time, and maybe even one of the greatest athletes of all-time, but I don’t for one second believe we’ve seen the last of him.  In 2012, he claimed he was walking away, and was adamant about it, yet he came back.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.  Even his teammates don’t believe he’s done.  He’s too good and too competitive to not come back for another run four years from now in Tokyo.  See you then Mike.

Elsewhere around the Olympics, I admit that watching the fastest man in the world competition is very entertaining, and I was glued to the TV watching the dominance of Usain Bolt last night.  However, I’m definitely ready for a new era of sprinting for the U.S. and others. We already know that Justin Gatlin was caught for doping years ago, even though he might be clean now.  It’s also hard to believe that Usain Bolt and all the other Jamaicans are clean with their weak drug testing program.  As far as I’m concerned, any 100 meter time under 9.80 seconds is suspicious, a mark that Bolt has gone way under before.  I don’t know why any of those parents of the U.S women’s gymnastics team looked so stressed, since they dominated, especially Simon Biles.  They clearly don’t pay attention to betting odds.  My hat goes off to American swimmer Lilly King, who called out her Russian rival, Yulia Efimova, before and after beating her in the 100 meter breast stroke.  Like King said, U.S. Olympians are tested multiple times a month.  You should know everything that is going in your body, so Efimova has no excuse.  It’s obvious the IOC has no integrity by allowing the Russians to compete, so good for King for calling out the drug cheats, and then backing it up.  Speaking of swimming, I feel bad for Missy Franklin, who suffered an unbelievable fall from grace in these Olympics.  It seems to be more than just an injury issue for her but nevertheless, she deserves credit for being a good teammate and handling everything with class.  The same can’t be said for Hope Solo, who showed no class when the U.S. Women’s soccer team lost in the quarterfinals to Sweden.  Apparently she think she shouldn’t be accountable for her own play, or her teammates.

Then there’s the U.S. men’s basketball team, who has had some major close calls.  If these guys lose, frankly, they should be deported.  This team has some major defensive issues.  Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins, and Carmelo Anthony are known to struggle at the defensive end, and the team often relies heavily on isolation basketball.  I still think at this point, the only way to insure that the U.S. wins the gold medal in basketball is to send their very best players.  In other words, nothing is for sure without Lebron James and Steph Curry.

If Ryan Lochte and his three swimming teammates getting robbed at gun point but walking away unharmed is the worst thing that happens during the Olympics in Rio, then everyone should consider themselves lucky.  This kind of thing happens in Brazil everyday.  This whole thing was a disaster waiting to happen, and those disasters have been rather minor in the big picture.  Then again if Michael Phelps was held at gun point, he would have beaten the criminals with his 23 gold medals.

NFL Football returned to LA over the weekend, but it only took one play to remember how much the Rams stink.  The Rams ended up giving up a 60 yard TD kick return to the Cowboys on the first play of the game.  I thought by halftime the Rams were going to board a plane and head back to St. Louis.  Despite the victory, LA has to have some concerns.  Jared Goff looked pretty bad after only 9 passes, Case Keenum was underwhelming, and the secondary was getting burned like breakfast toast on every play.  The Cowboys didn’t play anybody of significance, and the Rams didn’t play Todd Gurley, so I wouldn’t take too much away from this, other than the fact that Jared Goff, the Rams franchise QB has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to stick in the NFL.  I do really love what I’ve seen on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” so far.  Through 1 episode, the show has helped me get to know some of the players a little better, and didn’t just focus on the obvious story lines of Gurley’s star power, and Goff’s potential as a quarterback.  I also found it entertaining how stupid Deon Long was for getting cut just for having some girls in his room.  That sounds like something Michael Beasley would do.  Oh wait…that’s because it is something Michael Beasley did.

The Olympics nearly made me forget that the Dodgers existed for the last week.  The Boys in Blue missed out on an opportunity to overtake the struggling Giants in the NL West, by losing two of three to the Pirates over the weekend.  Brett Anderson is back, and he reminded us of his mediocrity in an instant, by giving up 5 runs in the first inning.  Since Brandon McCarthy is going back on the DL, it’s only right that LA replaces one mediocre pitcher with another by activating Anderson.  I don’t care how good the bullpen is on paper.  If the Dodgers continue to throw out mediocre starting pitching, they will burn out their bullpen very quickly.  The acquisition of Rich Hill makes more and more sense with every passing day.  He’s an injured starting pitcher that has been mediocre for a long time.  He should fit in quite nicely with the rest of the Dodger pitching staff.

Then there’s the Angels, who not only got swept over the weekend, but have now lost 10 in a row.  They now have the 3rd worst record in the AL.  The Halos just can’t seem to find the pitching.  Yesterday it was Jared Weaver who got bombed early.  In the two days earlier, it was Matt Shoemaker and Tyler Skaggs.  The Angels don’t just have bad pitching, they don’t have any pitching because so many are on the DL.  It’s going to take some extreme creativity on the part of GM Billy Eppler to fix this team.  On a better note, the Angels are now looking at re-negotiating their lease in Anaheim, and potentially renovating their current stadium again.  Although renovating the stadium again seems shortsighted compared to building a new stadium, the Angels have their focus in the right place by trying to keep the team in Anaheim.  LA has too many stadiums at this point, and it would take a lot of approvals and a lot of obstacles to overcome to get a brand new stadium.  Plus, the Angels would have lost quite a few fans, had they moved the team to South Orange County.

I just don’t understand Tim Tebow.  Now he wants to play baseball? Isn’t it obvious that the guy just wants to be a football player? He should just suck it up and go play in the CFL or the arena league.  He’s a good enough player to get back to the NFL if he were to switch positions, but unfortunately, most coaches and players don’t want to deal with the media circus that he brings with him.  That problem is still going to exist if he were to get himself on a major league baseball team.  I also find it odd that he decided to try baseball since he’s never actually made it past first base.  Tebow’s phone has been blowing up since he said he’s going to try baseball.  Here’s a look at his text inbox….

Tebow text message

Finally, the NBA didn’t do the Lakers any favors at all when it came out with the 2016-2017 schedule a few days ago.  LA will have to play 20 of their first 33 games on the road, and will play the Warriors three times in the first month of the season.  They have 16 back-to-backs, and 13 of them end with road games.  Their longest road trip of the season is 7 games in December, and they’ll also have a grueling 5 game trip in February for their annual “Grammy Trip”.  Oh, and just in case the last game of the season means anything, they’ll have to finish up against the Warriors on the road.  For a young team that is trying to learn to win in the NBA, that definitely does not bode well for a much improved Laker season.  Nevertheless, if the Lakers can manage to win 30 games, that would be a significant improvement, and something they can continue to build on.

Monday Morning Coffee

Josh Reddick LA

August 8th, 2016

I’ve been saying it for more almost two years now.  The Dodgers need to trade Yasiel Puig.  Andrew “Jones” Friedman and his bumbling front office have completely destroyed his trade value.  Puig’s trade value is about as valuable right now as a promise from Hillary Clinton, and now LA is stuck with his piss poor attitude, or forced to get rid of him without compensation.  Just think, one year ago the Dodgers could have traded Puig for David Price, Aroldis Chapman, or Cole Hamels.  In other words, the one player that could have made them World Series Champions for the first time since 1988.  If that’s not bad enough, two years ago they could have traded him for Giancarlo Stanton.  Apparently Puig had the equivalent of a babysitter in Tim Bravo his first couple of years, but Bravo is no longer with the club.  The fact Puig is being sent to the minors while hitting .260 tells you just how terrible of a teammate he is, and how much people can’t stand him.  So now we’re left with the underwhelming Josh Reddick and Rich Hill trade.  Both have been useless since being acquired.  We are supposed to believe that Reddick is that much better than Puig? The guy can’t even hit left handed pitching.  Remember when the Dodgers had four stud outfielders? Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and what you thought was a stud in Puig? They are all gone now, and they’ve hung on to the worst of the four.  LA is luckier than a leprechaun right now, since their starting pitching is mediocre at the moment, yet the Giants have been awful for over a month.  The Dodgers could be so good, but their leadership in the front office will forever hold them back.

What’s with every baseball team honoring David Ortiz? The Dodgers did so on Friday, and the Angels did a few weeks ago.  We know that he used steroids in the steroid era, and although he actually has never failed a drug test, nobody thinks he’s on PED’s? He’s 40 years old, and somehow he’s got a higher batting average than he’s had in almost a decade, and he’s going to hit nearly 40 home runs.  Yea that’s not suspicious at all, yet we are giving him the farewell tour in every ballpark he goes to.  None of the other steroid users like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens were given this type of treatment.  Just because Ortiz is smart enough to beat the system, doesn’t mean he’s not as guilty as the rest of them.

What a weird trade the Angels made at the deadline.  The Halos are desperate for quality starting pitching, yet they traded away cost controlled starting pitcher Hector Santiago to Minnesota, in exchange for pitchers Alex Meyer and Ricky Nolasco.  Meyer is a prospect who has had shoulder problems, who the Angels are gambling on.  Ricky Nolasco is awful, and he’s the new Tim Lincecum, because Lincecum was released over the weekend.  It won’t be long before Nolasco is next.  GM Billy Eppler seemed to just shrug his shoulders and chalk it up to having to take a chance on somebody.  Didn’t they take a chance a frail pitcher like Andrew Heaney? Didn’t they take a chance Josh Hamilton? It feels like they have taken risks that aren’t so calculated, and this is another in a long line of them that is bound to not work out.  I wasn’t sure if the Halos could make their pitching any worse in 2017, yet somehow they managed to do so without even improving their farm system.  At least Mike Trout is still making super human plays….

I have been totally glued to the Olympics this weekend, however, I completely understand why the Opening Ceremony got poor ratings.  It wasn’t because of the tape delay.  The Olympics have been tape delayed for years.  It’s because people are disgusted with the IOC, and the fact that they’ve even put the games in Brazil.  As for the ceremony itself, it was rather underwhelming compared to the show put on in London and China in the last two summer Olympics.  Funny how Brazil had enough money to spend on that Opening Ceremony, but not enough to provide clean water, pluming, or enough to clean up all the criminal activity.  I also found the focus on the environment hilarious when the water is the most polluted anybody has ever seen.  It’s very disappointing that they can’t even fill up these stadiums and arenas because the locals can’t afford the tickets, and the tourists are just too scared to go.  The new competitions in this years games should include: how to escape a mugging, swimming in sewage water, and track and field – Zika version.

As for the games themselves, the Team USA men and women’s basketball steam rolled their competition early on.  I thought the Chinese were just going to forfeit and play Pokemon Go instead.  Good thing Draymond Green didn’t kick anybody in the balls in that game, otherwise a Chinese man might have died.  Michael Phelps reminded us yesterday that he’s probably the best swimmer of all time (and maybe the greatest Olympian), but Katie Ledecky is the most dominant swimmer ever.  Speaking of dominance, Simone Biles not winning the all around gold medal in women’s gymnastics would be even more shocking than the US Men’s Basketball team losing.  US Men’s Volleyball is now getting destroyed in Olympic matches by Canada? That’s shameful, but not as shameful as the Brazil men’s soccer team tying with Iraq.  I miss the Misty-May Treanor & Kerri Walsh Jennings duo in beach volleyball, however, the Jennings-April Ross duo is pretty damn good as well.  I love how Olympic ping pong is only played by Asians, none of whom actually play for Asian countries.  That’s probably because white guys play beer pong.  I love watching all these very obscure sports in the Olympics.   However, I don’t care if it’s referring to women’s Olympic weight lighting, nobody in their right mind can keep a straight face when the announcers keep using the term “snatch” and “clean and jerk”.

Major League Baseball has proven over the years that it has a serious problem marketing their players.  This was magnified when last year, Cubs’ 3rd Baseman, Kris Bryant, drove around as an Uber Driver, yet nobody in Chicago recognized him.  Many of those people that rode in his car claimed they were huge Cubs fans.  I bring this up because baseball is coming back to the Olympics in 2020.  The World Baseball Classic is interesting to nobody.  However on the Olympic stage, Major League Baseball players competing would be great television.  This would require the MLB to adjust the schedule for a couple of weeks in the summer to allow players to play.  The NHL does it for the Olympics, and it’s by far the best Winter Olympic sport.  Since the NBA has been spending pros to the games, the game has exploded globally.  If Rob Manfred were smart, he would figure out a way to make this happen, and the players would probably love to do it.

To the NBA, where Russell Westbrook has shocked us all by signing a re-negotiated contract extension with the Thunder.  On one hand, this has to be a bummer for Laker fans, who were holding out hope Westbrook would sign with the team as a free agent next summer.  He seemed like a logical candidate to return to LA since he’s from here.  Had he been available in a trade, giving up all the teams’ young talent for him wouldn’t have been smart.  However, the extension may not be all that bad.  Westbrook is essentially under contract for two more seasons, and then he can test the free agent market.  In one year from now, the Lakers probably won’t be that good.  However in two years from now, they could be a playoff team if things break right and their young players develop.  That would put the Lakers back in position to sign Westbrook and/or DeMarcus Cousins, who will hit free agency then as well.  However, whatever way you look at it, the Lakers young players have to become very good players to have a successful rebuild.

Jared Goff was looking really good on Saturday at the Coliseum during the Rams scrimmage.  I still don’t think Jeff Fisher is going to start him early on.  The schedule is a mine field in the first several weeks.  Three of the first four are on the road, and will consist of games against San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Arizona.  Considering they have to play the Panthers, and travel to New Orleans and New England to close out the regular season, a 7-9 season would almost be an accomplishment.  As long as Goff develops nicely and Gurley emerges as an elite back, they can build on that moving forward.

Couldn’t A-Rod have waited at least a couple of days before making this announcement yesterday that he was essentially retiring? Even if this was a decision made by the Yankees, at least let Mark Teixeira have a week of enjoyment after he announced his retirement just the other day.  As for A-Rod’s career, he should go down as one of the greater position players in the history of the game, Unfortunately though, his legacy is somewhat tarnished by wasted postseason potential, along with his documented Performance Enhancing Drug usage.

Finally, this has really been killing me.  I mean we really have to get on the same page here as a country.  It’s a major issue that needs to be resolved.  When we go to the checkout counter of a retail store, are we swiping our cards, or are we using the chip reader? For the love of God, make up your mind retail stores! I thought everybody was supposed to be using the chip reader.  Then some merchants install it, then tell you not to use it, and slide your credit card instead.  You go to the next merchant, and you attempt to slide the card, then they scold you and tell you to use the chip reader.  Then you are confused, while the person in line behind you give you the death stare because you are taking too long.  If only more merchants would have Apple Pay then this crisis could be averted.

Monday Morning Coffee

Puig

August 1st, 2016

We’ve reached the baseball trade deadline, and the Dodgers do not look like they are going to do anything of significance yet.  Even though they have until 1 pm PST on Monday to do so, don’t hold your breath.  The Boys In Blue have crept within 2 games of the Giants in the NL West, and have a 2 game lead in the wild card standings.  However, Andrew Friedman and the Dodger front office probably look at where they are as a pleasant surprise.  LA has less talent than in previous years, and their next wave of talent is still developing.  The trade market is complete garbage (as is the coming free agent market), so less than impactful players are commanding premium talent.  It’s like a Ford dealer asking $100,00 for a Prius, because there aren’t that many Ferrari’s available.  Still, a player like Jay Bruce makes too much sense for the Dodgers, because they need power in their lineup, and they shouldn’t have to give up top tier prospects to get him.  I guess that explains why all they want to give up is Yasiel Puig, who’s play is about as consistent as Hilary Clinton is on any social or economic issue.    I also love how Dodgers reliever Adam Liberatore told the LA Times that he’s the best left hander in baseball.  Is Clayton Kershaw dead and we just don’t know about it? That’s a pretty awkward statement for Liberatore to make considering arguably the best left-hander of all time is his teammate.

Then there’s the Angels, who endured a rough weekend against the Red Sox.  The Halos ended up splitting four games with Boston, but closer Huston Street blew yesterday’s game in brutal fashion, giving up 5 runs in the 9th inning.  Street cost the Halos last season down the stretch as well, blowing a crucial game against the Astros that probably prevented the Angels from making the playoffs.  At least this year the team won’t have to worry about his games costing them the playoffs, because they stink even when he doesn’t blow games.  On the bright side, Tyler Skaggs looks great, while Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago are looking more and more reliable.  In fact, teams have been calling the Angels about Santiago and Shoemaker, but the Angels are hesitant to give up any cost controlled pitching when they barely have any healthy arms for next year.  I’ve never seen a situation like this before: a team that can’t afford to be buyers or sellers.  It’s the worst possible situation, and one that sets up the Angels as no better than a .500 team for the next three years.

For years people criticized Michael Jordan for not being outspoken enough against social issues.  Finally, MJ stepped up and not only spoke out against police brutality against African Americans, but also made a $2 million donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Institute for Community Police Relations.  Still, journalists like Kevin Blackistone are finding a way to criticize Jordan for his actions.  Blackistone suggested that he donate his money elsewhere, like the Black Lives Matter movement, and also felt that Jordan should encourage Hanes to bring jobs back to the US from overseas.  These types of criticisms are ridiculous because Jordan is simply trying to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.  How much money did Blackistone donate to Black Lives Matter? Jordan can’t be criticized for putting his money in the place where he feels is best to solve the problem.  Also, the notion that bringing back jobs to the US will suddenly improve relations between policemen and African Americans is shortsighted.  Jordan should absolutely be applauded for stepping up and speaking out.  As for why he never acted before, his livelihood was never impacted the way social issues impacted the livelihood of Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and Jim Brown.  Times change, and Jordan should be credited with adapting to the changing social environment around us.

The Clippers are reportedly exploring options to move to a new arena.  It’s about time this happened, however, it won’t be easy.  The Clippers are the bastard child of the Los Angeles sports market.  They have their best team they’ve ever had, yet their popularity is unchanged.  Do you have any idea how difficult it’s going to be to get approval to build an arena on the westside of Los Angeles? I highly doubt Steve Ballmer could get the approval to build in Santa Monica, Westwood, or even Inglewood.  Look how hard it was just to get a football stadium approved in Inglewood. That makes me think he would consider Orange County, but suburban stadium and arena building is becoming a thing of the past.  There’s still some conspiracy theorests that think this is all the start of a ploy to eventually move the team to Seattle.  However, those that think that just don’t understand business.  Even as the least relevant sports franchise in the Los Angeles market, the Clippers are still far more valuable in Los Angeles than they are in Seattle.  The same way a piece of real estate is more valuable in Southern California than it is many other places in this country, the Clippers can command more TV money in LA than in Seattle.  The Nets just recently built a beautiful new arena in Brooklyn but it didn’t make them any more relevant compared to the Knicks in New York.  Expect the same with the Clippers if they build a new arena.

The next time the NBA collective bargaining agreement is negotiated, it’s going to be interesting to see which way the owners decide to go.  Do they care more about making money, or competitive balance?  During the last negotiation, it appeared as though they wanted competitive balance, but in the end it was all about profitability.  Now there’s whispers that they want more competitive balance again.  They hate the idea of super teams, like the one Kevin Durant just created by signing with the Golden State Warriors.  If the owners are really serious about competitive balance, they might consider a rule that allows them to place a “franchise tag” on one player on their roster.  Under that rule they could pay one player as much as they wanted without it counting against the salary cap.  That would likely eliminate super teams from being created, but the owners might balk at that since it would cost them quite a bit of money.  Just think, a player like Lebron James might get $50 million a year from a team.  Even though that might eliminate the super teams, it would give the bigger markets a competitive advantage over the smaller markets when bidding for superstars.  It would also expose certain owners as being cheap or more frugal than others.  Ultimately, I think the owners care more about profitability than anything else, but we’ll find out come the next negotiation.

What a great turnout the Rams had at UC Irvine over the weekend as training camp opened up.  10,000 fans showed up on Saturday, and they had another great turnout on Sunday.  I stopped by for a couple of hours to watch practice, and the energy surrounding the team was incredible.  Jared Goff looked a lot better in the last two days than he did at the end of OTA’s.  However, it probably won’t matter who the Rams quarterback is because they really don’t have any reliable wide receivers who can make plays.  The teams success is going to rest on their defense, and how effective they can run the football with Todd Gurley, who looks like one of the best backs in the game.  We’ll see how long the honeymoon lasts, but this is definitely going to be a brutal division to play in.  Also, now that Nick Foles has been released by the Rams, he should have plenty of free time to film Napolean Dynamite 2.

Foles

Elsewhere around NFL training camps, Tony Romo decided to add 20 LBS of fat to protect his collarbone, since the Cowboys offensive line couldn’t do so.  The Titans have signed Andre Johnson.  His retirement plans is to play on a worse AFC South team this year.  Anquan Boldin will sign with the Lions.  At 106 years old, he should be an excellent replacement for Calvin Johnson.  Josh Gordon celebrated his re-instatement with a few more bong rips.  Starting next Sunday, there will be professional football every Sunday until February.  Unless of course you live in Cleveland.  It’s going to be hilarious when Ryan Fitzpatrick returns to his horrendous play after his dramatic contract standoff with the Jets.

Someone asked me about Sharknado yesterday, and why they needed to make four of these movies.  I explained that this was a very complex question.  One that is similar to “what happens after we die?” Or “Are there other forms of life in the universe?”  Then again, those questions can probably also be answered just by watching a movie or two on the SyFy channel.  Sure enough Sharknado 4 premiered last night on SyFy, and once again, this mock buster nearly broke Twitter.  This movie actually featured Gary Busey, who was a mad scientist.  I think it’s far more likely a Sharknado occurs before Gary Busey would be any kind of a scientist.  Speaking of Busey, if you played a drinking game while watching the movie, your BAC still wouldn’t be higher than that of either Busey or Tara Reid.  I still think a movie about a Sharknado is far more factual than the Republican and Democratic National conventions combined.   If this movie has taught us anything though, it’s that Apple needs to come out with a shark emoji instead of that stupid whale emoji we are forced to use if we need it.

SHARKNADO: THE 4TH AWAKENS -- Pictured: (l-r) Masiela Lusha as Gemini, Ian Ziering as Fin Shepard, Imani Hakim as Gabrielle, Cody Linley as Matt Shepard -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/Syfy)

Finally, the RNC and the DNC were like nothing we have ever seen before.  This is the new reality TV.  It’s polarizing drama that people are tuning in for, just to see what kind of disaster is going to happen next.  At this point though, it would take WWIII or martial law to keep Obama as President.  Maybe WWIII is better than Trump or Hillary?  Every single speaker at the DNC was fantastic.  All I could think about was how all of them would make better Presidents than her.  I’m also amazed at the networks.  CNN used to hide their democratic bias.  Not anymore.  We always knew Fox News wore the Republican tendencies on their sleeve.  However, in this election, watching two networks that are totally polar opposite extremes is way more interesting than watching a balanced perspective.  Still, I don’t need 9 analysts on CNN giving me their opinion.  That’s right folks…NINE! CNN apparently thinks this is NFL Primetime.

Monday Morning Coffee

Kobe Parents

July 25th, 2016

Last week Kobe wrote a letter to his 17 year old self in The Players Tribune.  You would think the letter might reflect back on what he might have done differently in his career, but it was much different than that.  The letter was a sad reminder of just how fractured Kobe’s relationship is with his parents.  Kobe essentially said that if he could do it all over again, he wouldn’t give his family and friends material things, but rather give them opportunity to help them achieve for themselves.  It’s truly a shame that their relationship has fractured to the point of Kobe not feeling like he should take care of people in his life that took care of him at one point.  That’s not to say though that Kobe’s attitude is wrong.  The man has a tireless work ethic in whatever he does, and it’s clear that he is trying to inspire those around him.    Kobe is a complex person, but that definitely played a key role in getting him to where he is in life.  If the rest of us wrote a letter to our 17 year old selves, we’d probably just remind ourselves to wear a condom or find a better fake ID.

USC cornerback Isaiah Langley has been suspended by the Trojans for the season opening game against Alabama.  Langley was arrested on suspicion of three misdemeanor offenses in May, including being intoxicated and trespassing on the UCLA campus after a fraternity party.  Langley was a backup last year, and probably won’t be looked at as a critical missing piece when the Trojans take on Alabama in week 1.  However, most schools, especially those rednecks in the SEC, would probably just hit the kid with a slap on the wrist and have him suit up anyway.  Hopefully this is Clay Helton with an early statement about how he will treat discipline.  I guess we’ll never know though until one of his star players gets in trouble.  Nevertheless, Langley’s arrest after trespassing is a reminder that even USC football players can’t get into the UCLA.

To baseball where the Dodgers are still holding their breath on the health of ace Clayton Kershaw.   Skipper Dave Roberts seemed to have lost command of the English language because everyone suddenly come away with the impression that Kershaw might need season ending surgery.  If that happens they might as well just pack it in and go home, because they couldn’t contend with Kershaw, and they sure as hell won’t contend without him.  Even though LA took two out of three against the Cardinals, they have blown a serious opportunity to gain more ground on the Giants.  San Fran is sinking like the Titanic but the Dodgers are providing them with plenty of life rafts.  Kenley Jansen is still a great closer and all, but he has blown some pretty awful saves this year, and it feels like the Cards still have his number.  He’s also probably exhausted from all that extra work LA gave him in the early going, while they fixed a bullpen that was garbage at the time.  There’s also the teams mind blowing inability to hit with runners in scoring position, which is totally pathological, as is Andrew Friedman’s incompetent devotion to analytics.  At this point the trade market is awful, and I’d be angry if the Dodgers gave up an important prospect for a mediocre player, when they are more than 1 player away from truly contending.  This especially when you consider that they refused to give up prospects when the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, and Aroldis Chapman were available a year ago.

Then there’s the Angels who got destroyed in Houston over the weekend, getting swept in three games.  Tim Lincecum gave up 8 runs in just over 1 inning of work, including three home runs.  These days that should count as a “quality start” for an Angels pitcher, since he didn’t need his arm surgically replaced when the game was over.  The same can’t be said for Andrew Heaney, Garrett Richards, and most recently Nick Tropeano, who needs Tommy Johns as well.  You can add CJ Cron to that disabled list too.  After a nice little win streak to start the 2nd half, the Angels came crashing back to last place in the West, and reminded us that 2016 is over, and 2017 might as well be too.  They only have three healthy starters under contract next year, making it difficult to trade anybody to improve their horrendous farm system.  In other words, not only do the Angels not have the assets to be buyers at the trade deadline, they probably can’t afford to give up their limited pitching assets to be sellers, especially with horrible options coming up in free agency.

I don’t know if Chris Sales is either a total genius, or if he has the maturity of a 5 year old.  Sales was not happy with the White Sox throwback jersey on Saturday, so he cut it up with scissors.  How could he destroy all that hard work put in by all those Asian children?  The Sox actually have pretty cool throwbacks.  Can you imagine what he would have done if he had to wear the Astros or Padres throwback jerseys or if he had to wear one of those ugly NBA jerseys with sleeves? He would probably take a bazooka or a grenade launcher to them.  Sales probably does have the maturity of a 5 year old, however, he might have done this just so no team would want to trade for him, and bring that immaturity into their locker room.  Then again, maybe the Sox will just decide they need to get him out of their clubhouse ASAP.  I guess we’ll find out shortly.

The IOC decided not to ban the entire Russian Olympic team from next months summer games.  This comes after everyone knows that virtually all their athletes participated in institutionalized doping.  This decision had to have been made out of fear that Vladimir Putin has some major dirt on the IOC.    I’m sure much of this includes bribes accepted for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, among other ridiculous corruption.  How else do you explain the IOC giving the Summer Olympics to Brazil? That country has more problems Johnny Manziel.  I love the Olympic Games and what they are supposed to stand for, but I hate what they are turning into with each passing day.  The IOC is looking more and more like it’s run by a bunch of third world miscreants that could care less about what the Olympics mean, and only want a pay day regardless of the collateral damage.

Tiger Woods announced that he is out for the season.  Why do we care? Because golf just hasn’t been the same without a dominant Tiger.  For years, the PGA has been trying to sell us on Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and other “young stars”.  Nonsense.  Not a single one of these guys are half as dominant as Tiger Woods was in his prime, and to this day, none of them can hold an audience the way Tiger can.  He’ll never be what he used to be, but I’m still holding out hope that Tiger can give us another exciting couple of major victories.

 

Monday Morning Coffee

Brandon Ingram walking up

June 27th, 2016

The Lakers didn’t screw up the draft.  They didn’t overthink it, and took what the 76ers didn’t take, which was Brandon Ingram.  Ingram is arguably the best player in this years draft, and easily the best fit for the Lakers.  More importantly, the Lake Show is finally developing an identity.  That is defined by uptempo, position-less basketball.  Ingram can play 3 positions.  So can Julius Randle, while Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell can play both guard spots.  If you are ok with building around youth and assuming you’re doing it with the right guys, the Lakers are off to a great start.  As for free agency, I find it strange that the Lakers don’t have a meeting scheduled with Kevin Durant, even if the odds of Blake Lively becoming my girlfriend are greater than him signing in LA.  Maybe Mitch Kupchak is going to try to lock down another veteran or two, and then attempt to secure a meeting with Durant.  Otherwise, there isn’t going to be much to pitch to Durant, other than how nice the beach is in Southern California.  For a team that’s been so superstar hungry the last few years, its hard to believe that Kupchak doesn’t have a plan.  He has one, and regardless of how effective it’s going to be, he knows how to operate with the secrecy of the FBI.

As for D’Angelo Russell, his Foot Locker commercial where he poked fun of his cell phone incident was very well done.  No matter how much you hate Russell for breaking “the man code”, he’s owning up to what he did, and it’s part of the maturation process for a teenager that is new to the NBA.  Then there’s Nick Young, and I don’t think there’s any way that those two can be teammates again, after D-Lo essentially monetized the incident with the commercial.  I don’t think anybody really cares though, because ultimately, Nick Young was the one who cheated on his girlfriend, and nobody wants him on the Lakers anymore.  Actually, the biggest trade of the NBA offseason so far has been Swaggy trading his classic Impala back to Iggy Azalea, in exchange for his engagement ring.  In case you haven’t seen Russell’s Foot Locker commercial, here it is…..

Meanwhile, the Clippers actually had a first round pick this year.  Doc Rivers made a solid, but predictable 1st round draft choice with Brice Johnson.  Johnson might end up being a useful player off the bench, however, Doc Rivers General Manager playbook continues as follows: draft players out of the ACC, and acquire players who played well against you, played for you in Boston, or are related to you.  This type of cookie-cutter operation should keep the Clippers in 2nd round purgatory indefinitely.

On to baseball, where the Dodgers have found a way to fall further and further behind the Giants in the NL West.  I guess Clayton Kershaw must be washed up since he gave up 4 runs last night to the Pirates.  Keep in mind, LA is falling further and further behind after a stretch where prior to their series against Pittsburgh, they played their best baseball of the season, which still hasn’t been good enough.  They are barely hanging on in the wild card race, and some of you seem to think this is ok given the youth on the team.  As far as I’m concerned, this has been unacceptable.  When Andrew Friedman took over the team, the Dodgers had a roster that was a World Series contender.  Now they likely won’t even make the playoffs.  Even if they did, I don’t care what the statistics say, I wouldn’t trust any Dodger starters not named Clayton Kershaw in a playoff game.  Frankly, the Dodgers are a lot closer to being trade deadline sellers than buyers, and watching them continues to be aggravating.

For the Angels, despite yesterday’s win, they have now lost 6 of 7 games, and are quickly sinking to the bottom of the American League standings.  Only the Minnesota Twins have a worse record in the AL, and they aren’t even trying to win games.  The Halos are on pace to lose 95 games, their worst under Mike Scioscia.  The worst part about it is that the injuries that have ravaged the team are probably masking the real issues: the starting pitching isn’t that good, and the lineup is fundamentally flawed.  They are still getting underwhelming production out of left field, the middle of their infield, and there is very little to no help on the way in their farm system.  Even putting aside the disaster that is this season, Billy Eppler is going to have to get really creative to improve this team in the coming seasons.

To the ice, where it’s been an interesting last week of the offseason for the Kings and Ducks.  Of course the year the Kings don’t win the Stanley Cup, their star players finally get recognized for awards.  Drew Doughty won the Norris Trophy last week as the league’s best defenseman, and Anze Kopitar won the Selke Trophy, as the league’s best defensive forward.  It’s nice to finally see the voters have actually subscribed to cable, and stayed up past their bed times to do their jobs and cover the games.  The Kings also made a very smart move in letting scoring left wing Milan Lucic go, while signing Trevor Lewis to a long term deal.  Players like Lewis win championships, while Lucic is simply a luxury for a team in cap hell.  On the other hand, I’m not sure why the Ducks traded goaltender Frederik Anderson so damn soon.  They could have afforded to sign Anderson, then use him as an asset to trade much later.  Their offseason moves have been about as confusing as Hilary Clinton’s sexuality.

That Argentinian beat down of the USMNT in Copa America was a reminder that we still can’t hang when it comes to soccer.  It’s also a reminder that it’s probably time to remove Jurgen Klinsmann from his head coaching duties for someone who will actually trust his younger budding stars.  Klinsmann showed about as much trust in those younger players as Iggy Azalea has for Nick Young.  At least this tournament tells us now that we can’t hang with the best, instead of waiting for another year or two on an even bigger stage to let us know that.

Not only was I super pumped for Game of Thrones last night (more on that in a moment), but also, Shark Week on Discovery.  This year it has come about a month earlier than usual.  I definitely appreciate the focus on more scientific talk about Sharks, rather than scaring me about the next time I’m in the ocean.  That more scientific talk includes a discussion on Shark sex, which doesn’t exactly go down with your typical love making music in the background, and is much more analogous to an even more aggressive form of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Nevertheless, given the amount of sightings off the coast of our Southern California beaches, I have no desire to enter the ocean past my knees at this point.

Since Great Britain voted to leave the EU, we should all celebrate by drinking tea, canceling our next dentist appointment, and watching cricket.  It’s good to see that the financial markets didn’t overreact to the news on Friday or anything.  The US version of the Breexit we can look forward to is the Obama exit coming this fall.

Finally, a huge season finale of Game of Thrones went down on HBO last night.  Spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see it, so read no further if that is the case.  There was more that happened in the first thirty minutes of that episode than in the entire season! The Red Wedding was like kindergarden, however, what Cersei did was college, when she took down Kings Landing with wildfire.  I suddenly went from feeling terribly bad for Cersei, to hating her guts once again when she kllled Margaery, one of my favorite characters, but you knew she was going to get her revenge.  For nearly a full season, we forgot just how evil the woman is, and how far she will go to stay in power.  I guess you could say she got her trial by combat when it was all said and done.  Then there’s Tommen, the biggest pansy there ever was for a King.  He really re-defined the phrase “Kings Landing” with his suicide.  He probably decided to jump when he realized that he and his mother were seeing the same barber.  In some ways, Cersei losing her son that way was poetic justice for what she and Jamie did to Bran.  So many people died at once, it was hard to come to grips with it.  The Gily and Sam story wasn’t all that necessary, other than reminding us that Sam actually grew some balls.

Then there’s the Starks, who suddenly had the greatest comeback since the Beatles.  Arya’s revenge against Walder Frey made her “no name” nonsense totally worth the wait.  She’s now the “Frey Slayer”.  Something tells me Jamie Lannister isn’t so sad to see him go.  Funny how Lancel was stabbed once by a child, and couldn’t even move, while Arya was stabbed a bunch of times, yet managed to live and eventually take down her enemy like she was a Ninja Turtle.  If I were on my way home to Winterfell I’d wanna stop for food at McDonalds.  Arya decided to stop to kill somebody on her way home to Winterfell.  Sansa finally grew a brain, and decided not to trust Littlefinger.  After all this time, all she cares about is kicking ass, rather than being in power, which is exactly what she should be doing.  By the way….who knew that Sansa was actually much taller than Jon Snow? Of course we also learned that Jon’s mother is Lyanna Stark, which really makes him Ned Stark’s nephew.  Ned obviously lied because he knew the Lannisters would kill Jon if they knew he was a Targaryen.  It also explains the superpowers than Jon has, similar to Daenerys.  Speaking of Daenerys, she might as well be called the “Breaker of Hearts” instead of the “Mother of Dragons”.  When did Daario become as clingy as Ser Jorah?  Lady Mormont is one hell of a leader, and basically gave the Game of Thrones equivalent of a Ted Talk during that episode.  The only thing that would have made that episode better is if they somehow introduced Lady Stoneheart.  The last two episodes were maybe the two best of the entire series.  However, this is what happens when you realize you have to wait a whole year for the show to come back…..