September 29th, 2014
At this point in the year, when most of you hear about baseball, you think “those guys are still playing? It felt like the season started ages ago!”. Not this year though for SoCal baseball fans. The Dodgers rolled through the final week of the regular season by clinching the NL West behind more mastery from Clayton Kershaw, and finished strong by winning 5 straight. The offense has been on a tear the last two weeks, and the next five days will give Hyun-Jin Ryu a chance to get very healthy and be a contributor in the next two weeks. Hopefully it also gives the veterans in the bullpen time to think about how they can avoid sucking like they have been of late. With a $220 million payroll, it’s World Series or bust for the Boys in Blue.
As for LA’s matchup against the Cardinals, this is going to be another classic playoff showdown between two of the NL’s best. This year, with home field advantage, along with a healthy and productive Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers should win this series in 4 games. The real question for St. Louis will be whether or not Michael Wacha can start a game in this series, and how effective he will be. Wacha had the Dodgers number last year, but he’s been glued to the disabled list all season. However, in a short series, Kershaw is likely to start twice, which is trouble for the Cards. If the Dodgers face the Nats next, it’s a very different story.
Meanwhile, the Angels post season hopes are practically a mirror image of the Dodgers. The Halos are also concerned about the health and effectiveness of their own #3 starter, Matt Shoemaker. Just as the Dodgers could have trouble with the Nats, the Halos could have trouble if they run into Baltimore. They should have no problem with Oakland or Kansas City, who are both just happy to make the playoffs at this point. Ultimately, the Angels have to continue to score runs, and hope their bullpen can continue to be dependable. If that happens, there’s a good chance the Halos will be in the World Series.
Switching over to college football, where i’m still trying to figure out what the hell got into the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night. That looked like the Bruin team most people thought they would see at the beginning of the year. I don’t care if the defense gave up 600 yards either. Three weeks ago, everyone was complaining UCLA’s offense was trash, and they hadn’t played anybody yet. ASU can play, and the Bruins’ offense is now looking great. Think of it this way: The Bruins are 4-0, and they haven’t even put together a complete game. That’s the sign of a good team: one that can win when they aren’t at their best. Besides….you didn’t really think that Brett Hundley was going to this one out with a wimpy little elbow injury right?
As for the Trojans, I’m not sure who was more nervous in the game vs Oregon State: Sark or the fans? If the Trojans had lost this game, their fans would have demanded Sark’s head on top of that flag pole the fans kick on their walk to the Coliseum. Luckily for both parties, that wasn’t necessary. I was also really concerned that much of the talk for this game would revolve around lame “Trojan” and “Beaver” jokes, and how the game will be won with “penetration” at the line of scrimmage. Fortunately, the talk was really more about the improved USC running game and Cody Kessler’s steady play. Now here comes the always dangerous Arizona State next week, which will go a long way in determining whether or not USC is a player in the Pac-12 south.
A few other close calls for some top teams around college football over the weekend. That included my Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, who had to overcome 4 turnovers to take down Syracuse. The Irish have put up at least 30 points in all 4 games they’ve played this year, which is a far cry from what we saw in 2012 when it was all about the Irish defense.
In the NFL , it was a very unusual week 4 that was filled with surprises. I now realize why native Americans get offended by being called “Redskins” after watching Washington get destroyed by The Giants. The Packers and Texans got their acts together at least temporarily, the Colts and Ravens are starting to look really good. Shouldn’t the Jets be starting Michael Vick by now? The Steelers mediocrity came crashing back to reality after losing to the Bucs. The Chargers continue to look solid. Miami and Oakland should fold both of their franchises, and it’s amazing the NFL sent those two teams to London. the 49ers are still a threat to come out of the NFC, while the entire NFC South should just move to the Big 10 after the Saints were beaten down the by the Cowboys.
Finally, NBA training camps open up starting today, and that means Laker fans get hit with the reality that their team just isn’t that good. However, speaking of LA, I’ve heard a lot of comparisons of Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter this week since Jeter is retiring. While there are certain aspects of each of these guys careers that are very similar, I have to point out some of the stark differences that people failed to mention. Jeter is a great player, a great leader, and known for his clutch play. Kobe has similar qualities, but differs in that he is arguably the greatest player to ever play for the greatest franchise in NBA history. Jeter on the other hand is arguably the 6th or 7th greatest player to ever play for the greatest franchise in MLB history. Let’s keep all that in mind before we get too crazy on our comparisons.