Monthly Archives: August 2023

Monday Morning Coffee

August 28, 2023

USC took the field on Saturday night against San Jose State to open the season. The Trojans earned a decisive victory as you would have expected in Week 0. However, coincidentally, “0” is also an excellent description of the level the Trojan defense played at. USC couldn’t stop the run, giving up massive gains on the ground late in the game, while also giving up an average of over 4 yards per carry. They had a huge busted coverage at the end of the 2nd quarter, and had 5 penalties on defense and special teams. Caleb Williams is still phenomenal with his four touchdown passes, but if USC has plans to win the PAC-12 and go to the College Football Playoff, they have a lot of work to do on the defensive end. Of course Lincoln Riley defended the group, but you could have taken everything he said from last year early on, and just replayed it this year.

Elsewhere around College Football, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame had a statement win over Navy in their Week 0 opener. It must be some kind of a disrespect from the Football Gods if Notre Dame ever loses a game in Ireland. Sam Hartman looks solid, throwing 4 touchdown passes, and the offensive line couldn’t have looked any better. The Irish should start 4-0 before the schedule gets real. They’ll have showdowns against Ohio State, USC, and Clemson, who are all pre-season top 10 teams. This is probably a 10-2 or 9-3 team going to a good bowl game, but probably not going to the College Football Playoff.

To baseball, where this might have been the worst week in the history of the Angels. Shohei Ohtani tears his UCL, putting the future of his pitching career in question, and Mike Trout went back on the injured list with a hand injury. Seeing Perry Minasian hold a press conference announcing this was like watching an episode of The Office. Arte Moreno is so cheap, I’m surprised he didn’t say that he’s taking the team to Zankou Chicken after the game to cry in their hummus, while being limited to dark meat and one pita each. In all seriousness, this franchise is fundamentally flawed. Over dependent on two stars, who’s durability is now in serious question, and with little investment in infrastructure around them. Sorry Arte, this isn’t the NBA. The only good news for the Angels is that this new injury may lower Ohtani’s off-season market value, to a point where the Angels might actually be able to compete for his services. That bad news though is that if they can’t put a winning team on the field with him making $30 million a year, what makes them think they can put a winning team on the field with him making $50 million a year or more?

As for the Dodgers, they took 2 of 3 from the Red Sox, and have all but put the NL West division away. Julio Urias struggled a little on Saturday again, which is still somewhat concerning, but the Dodgers need to find a way to get their pitching in better form over the next month. It’s certainly been better than earlier in the season, but it all comes down to the health and performance of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Lance Lynn, and Bobby Miller. As for how the Ohtani injury impacts their off-season outlook, it only further reinforces what I thought before: there is no baseball player who is worth a $500 million contract. Ohtani would certainly brings a level of marketability to the Dodgers, but who knows if he will ever be a durable front line starting pitcher again. The success rate after two Tommy John surgeries is low, so why would we think this would be any different? Sure he’s phenomenal as a DH, but the Dodgers could easily get 5-6 really good players for that price.

Congratulations to El Segundo on winning The Little League World Series. Luis Lappe hit a walk-off home run to clinch it in dramatic fashion. Can you imagine being 12-years old and experiencing something like that? That kid is going to be spending the next few weeks visiting the likes of Disneyland and The White House. Hopefully someone explains to Joe Biden what actually happened 50 times so he can remember.

The Rams finished up their pre-season slate by getting demolished on Saturday by the Broncos, 41-0. Pretty much anybody that played in that game should be cut, or never see much time after that embarrassment. I’m mildly concerned about the inexperience, especially on the defensive side of the football. I’m also worried that Aaron Donald said he’s not where he wants to be about a week ago, Cooper Kupp might be coming off injury, and who knows what Matthew Stafford will look like considering we haven’t seen him in an NFL game in a while. The over/under is 6 wins which I thought is way too low, but now I’m wondering if Vegas knows something that we do not!

I love seeing how much Austin Reaves has improved his game. He looks like he’s getting better and better with every FIBA game I see him play. The USA has had some close calls, but you gotta remember, all the international teams have NBA players too. It’s pretty difficult to win without sending our very best players. France has NBA players too but they lost early. Nic Batum said he’s never been more ashamed to wear a jersey. I don’t know what he’s talking about though. He should be way more ashamed to walk around in a Clipper jersey in Los Angeles.

Monday Morning Coffee

August 21, 2023

I think it’s safe to say that the race for the NL West is over. The Dodger lead has ballooned to 11.5 games over the Giants. On one hand, that sounds great because the Dodgers can relax a little bit in September. On the other hand, there are 5 teams within 1.5 games of the last two Wild Card spots. That means as we’ve seen before, two of those teams are going to go into October with a hell of a lot of momentum, and could be extremely dangerous to teams that don’t need to play with urgency, like the Dodgers and Braves. We’ve only seen it tons of times the past few years. It’s like the 5th installment of a bad horror movie. It’s also a shame to see Tony Gonsolin going down with another arm injury, and likely done for the season. The man clearly has not been himself since getting injured in the 2nd half of last season, where he pitched more innings than he’s ever had. It’s going to be a long way back for The Cat Man. I was happy to see the Dodgers win with some small ball over the weekend, with Austin Barnes with a perfectly executed suicide squeeze. The Dodgers will need more of that in the postseason, against elite pitching, rather than sitting back and waiting for the 3-run homer. That is the approach the Dodgers need to think about to be more successful in the postseason than they have been over the last decade.

As for the Angels, they got beaten up by the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend. They are now 11.5 games back in the West, and 8.5 games back of the Wild Card. There’s also 3 teams to jump over to get that last playoff spot. I’m not sure what’s left for this bunch. It’s gotten so bad, the Halos are now the punching bag of jokes for other teams. On the Diamondbacks broadcast over the weekend, the Angels were described as “an annual joke”. The D’Backs have won fewer division titles and have the same number of playoff appearances as the Angels in the past decade, and even they are talking smack. The Rays broadcast teams also violated the Halos this weekend when they said “it never really feels like you are out of the game when you’re playing the Angels”. The LA Times even piled on with an article about how the Halos are one of only two franchises that don’t send their radio team on the road to broadcast their games, and instead they have them call the games from a studio. Does Arte Moreno even have any pride anymore? The man is truly the laughing stock of MLB owners at this point, and even more so among Southern California sports fans. I’m not sure what the Angels have left this season, other than trying to pretend like they can put a decent franchise around Shohei Ohtani to get him to stay beyond this year.

The NBA schedule is out. For any team in the West, the schedule is just going to look tough because the conference is stacked. However, I don’t expect the Lakers to start 2-10 next season, and I certainly don’t expect them to scramble to get into the playoffs like last season. That’s because they have a huge advantage in the middle of the season. From January 1 to January 24 the Lakers will only leave California once (to Utah). From February 22 (post All-Star Break) to March 24, the Lakers will only leave California once (to Phoenix). That is 55 days of the 2023-24 season where the Lakers will do minimal travel. They will have to endure 15 back-to-back games, but don’t be fooled, the Lakers are a young team. Lebron James is their only older player, and even Anthony Davis is just 30 years old. That stretch at home in the dog days of the season should really benefit them. Also, savvy move by Adam Silver to schedule the Lakers against the Nuggets on opening night. Nobody would give a crap about the Nuggets raising the banner otherwise.

Why is this James Harden noise such a story? The dude is about to be on his 4th team in 3 years. He’s 34, and he’s simply not that guy anymore. He thinks he is though. With that being said, Daryl Morey still knows that he gave up a lot for Harden, and that his best move to stay in contention is to keep him. For those of you that keep thinking it’s inevitable he’s going to be a Clipper, don’t count on it. The Clippers want him, but they aren’t going to open the vault to get him at all costs. This isn’t prime James Harden. He comes with baggage and risk. No matter how much Harden stomps his feet and cries about it, he knows that he has to report to training camp, or else the Sixers can prevent him from becoming a free agent next summer. Still, nobody knows how to cost himself money like James Harden.

I have no idea what to make of the Rams in the preseason so far. Cam Akers is throwing punches at opposing players, Matt Stafford looks sharp in practice, Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee are getting healthy, and Aaron Donald hasn’t done much. I refuse to put any stock in the loss over the weekend to the Raiders in the preseason, or the week before against the Chargers. Most of these guys will not be playing in week 1. I think it is fair to say however, that Stetson Bennett is looking like he will be the backup QB.

Meanwhile, the NFL doesn’t care about hurricanes, earthquakes, and potential tornadoes. Instead they are making the Chargers and Saints play a preseason game under those conditions. In all seriousness though, Hurricane Hillary is just a bunch of media hype, and nothing more than 24-48 hours of light rain that the media can manufacture a story out of.

Monday Morning Coffee

August 14, 2023

Are you really that surprised? The Dodgers are doing exactly what they’ve been doing for about a decade. They are dominating the NL West. You all thought it was the year of the Padres or D’Backs, but we took for granted that the Dodgers just have a very solid organization, no matter how much we criticize their approach. It turns out the off-season of limited spending on the likes of JD Martinez and Jayson Heyward is working out just fine, while the trade deadline additions of Kike Hernandez, Lance Lynn, and Ahmed Rosario are working out even better. Since the Dodgers couldn’t win much in October before, why not try a slightly different approach? Well so far, you can’t argue with that approach, especially when it lets dudes like James Outman, Michael Busch, and Bobby Miller develop faster. Even the starting pitching and the bullpen has been looking up, as the Dodgers have won 8 straight, and have a 7.5 game lead in the division. I still think this team will always be judged by what they do in October, because that’s just how it works for Los Angeles sports teams. But ultimately, their success then will depend on their approach, more than the talent they put on the field.

As for the Angels, they’ve lost 9 of their last 12 games since the All-Star break, and the team is in shambles. They are 11.5 games back in the division, and now 6.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. They also have to jump over 4 teams just to get that final playoff spot. The Halos are never going to make the playoffs getting their brains beat in by the Astros every year. Since 2017, the Halos are 40-78 against Houston. There’s no way at this point the talent gap between these two teams is that large. The mental edge though is much bigger when they step on the field. I also thought the pitching problems were being resolved, but they aren’t at all. Tyler Anderson has been nothing like the guy we saw last year, Reid Detmers has been awful of late, and Lucas Giolito has tanked since he was traded. It’s also a bit problematic when you have a bunch of lefties in your rotation with a short porch in right field in Houston. That’s just asking for more trouble. Also, Anthony Rendon is such an overpaid bum, we can’t even get injury updates on him anymore because the team already knows he’s a waste of $36 million a year.

To the NBA, where the Clippers and Sixers have reportedly ended trade talks for disgruntled guard James Harden. The Sixers plan to bring Harden to training camp, but now Harden has publicly called Philly GM Daryl Morey “A liar” and claims he will never be a part of an organization that he is part of. Morey is reportedly “unmoved” by Harden’s comments and still plans to keep him. This is one of those situations where nobody is wrong here for taking the positions that they have. James Harden took less money last year, and Morey verbally promised him that he would take care of him with a long-term deal this year. Now Morey doesn’t want to pay him that long-term deal because he knows Harden is not the player he once was. Harden has a right to be upset, but at the same time, Morey knows that if he trades Harden for pennies on the dollar, his superstar Joel Embiid will likely ask for a trade, which will dismantle the franchise. As for the Clippers, they have a good team, and it’s always been about health for Kawhi and PG13. If they can get Harden for their price, which is just expiring contracts, it makes sense. Otherwise, they are smart to move on. I still don’t see a circumstance though where Harden is traded. No matter what he says, he will be forced to play if he wants to sign another NBA contract. If there is a limited market for Damian Lillard, who hasn’t been traded, then there sure as hell is an even more limited market for Harden. Besides, even he has to realize there are only so many cities with great strip clubs in this country, which narrows his interests.

Meanwhile, only the Lakers would command coverage of who is going to take up the last roster spot. Otherwise, almost every other team, nobody would care. Everybody is talking about Christian Wood, since Rob Pelinka said he would like a big man, preferably with a different skill set. However, like anybody, Wood wants more money and a bigger role. I don’t know if anybody has told him, but it’s August, and the money has dried up. This is your market my man. Veteran minimum deals. It’s not so bad though. Malik Monk came in on a minimum deal, proved himself and got paid. Dennis Schroeder came in on a minimum deal, and got paid. The Lakers have a track record for getting guys paid, and Wood shouldn’t be concerned about playing time. History shows us that Anthony Davis probably isn’t going to be playing 82 games, so there will be minutes available for him in the front court. Unfortunately, dude and his agent still don’t see it yet.

Congratulations to Pau Gasol, Dwyane Wade, Jim Valvano, Greg Popovich, Tony Parker, Becky Hammond, Dirk Nowitzki, and others on their Hall of Fame Induction over the weekend. As I mentioned a few months ago when the Lakers retired Pau’s jersey, the man was a soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer, he is so deserving, and instrumental to the Lakers winning two straight titles in 2009 and 2010. Of course it was hard to listen to Pau’s speech and not want to cry when he talked about Kobe. You can see it for yourself here, just make sure you have a tissue in hand.

UCLA Football is just a couple of weeks away from opening the season. Chip Kelly has yet to name his starter, but the open competition is reportedly down to freshman standout Dante Moore, and red-shirt junior Ethan Garbers. Kelly says that he will not feel pressure to name Moore the starter, the highest rated QB prospect at UCLA in two decades, just out of fear that he could transfer to another school. So I guess we should all look forward to Dante Moore starting on September 2nd at the Rose Bowl against South Carolina.

As for the Trojans, their offensive line is supposedly improved, but by all accounts in practice it’s been a bumpy start. Given Caleb Williams ability to improvise, I think it’s more about the defense and how much they’ve improved since last season, which will determine just how good USC can be. USC is ranked #6 in the preseason AP Poll, and they are one of five PAC-12 Teams ranked in the Top 25. USC should easily start the season 6-0 before getting into the teeth of their schedule with four pre-season ranked opponents. The first 6 games are vs San Jose State, Nevada, Stanford, @ Arizona State, @ Colorado, Arizona. Then they’ll have Notre Dame and Utah in back-to-back weeks. If USC doesn’t handle business early, they will be crushed in the playoff poll due to their weak strength of schedule.

Am I crazy, or are the Rams trying to sell us on a rebuild this season? Les Snead came out a week ago and said they’ll return to being aggressive in 2024. Sean McVay also came out and stressed “patience”. Are these the same dudes who have been running the Rams? I don’t think when you have Matt Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald you can be that bad, but if one of those guys goes down, maybe they will be worse than we think. Then again, I’m beginning to think this might actually all be by design. I do have to say though, I like what I saw from Stetson Bennett over the weekend in preseason action. He’s showed some good poise after a few mistakes, and could develop into something.

Finally, there’s the Chargers, who had their own set of Door Dash drivers beat up the Rams collection of Door Dash drivers over the weekend. No real starters played on either side, but one spoke to the media about the ongoing talk about running backs and their compenstation: Austin Ekeler. He explained that the lack of running back compensation is a union issue that will need to be addressed. Ekeler was given a $1.75 million sweetner of incentives to get him to end his contentious negotiations with the Chargers. It’s a lot better than many of his running back counterparts in the NFL are doing. Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott, Kareem Hunt, and Leonard Fournette all remain unemployed. These dudes are about to update their LinkedIn profiles looking for employment. Looks like unless they are going to take some incentive based deal for a million or two, they won’t be playing football anytime soon.

Monday Morning Coffee

August 7, 2023

Everybody wants to beat up the Dodgers for coming up empty on pitching at the trade deadline. You all know how critical I am of these guys in general, but I can’t blame Andrew Friedman and Stan Kasten on this one. They went hard for Justin Verlander, and hard for Eduardo Rodriguez, but neither one wanted to be Dodgers, no matter how good their offer was. Sure Verlander would have been nice with the Mets covering most of his salary and Rodriguez as a rental, but it’s not exactly like the Dodgers were acquiring Nolan Ryan in these deals. The team has a lot of pitching issues, but the good news is they may be getting help soon. Clayton Kershaw is due back next week after being on the injured list for a month, and Walker Buehler might come back to the starting rotation in September. That would be huge for a team in desperate need of good starters. There’s also a chance Gavin Lux could be available in a bench role come September, which could be significant if he’s on the playoff roster. The bullpen has even pitched a bit better, but this team still has more holes than swiss cheese for a potential division winner.

As for the Angels, it was a rather disastrous week, losing 6 straight games. This team is a complete tragedy at times. On the nights where the starting pitching looks good, the offense disappears like the USWNT (more on that later). On the nights where the offense is clicking, the pitching looks awful. They just find a way to lose when it matters most. They entered Sunday 10 games back in the division and 7 games back in the Wild Card. On paper, this team is one of the best they’ve assembled in 10 years. However, they don’t play on paper. On the field, the pitching isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, the leadership isn’t great, and neither is the in-game management. This is sadly going exactly like we thought it would after the trade deadline, and after seeing the Angels brutal schedule. Mike Trout can’t get back soon enough, but by the time he does, it will probably be too late. Meanwhile, Anthony Rendon is still being an idiot, on the IL and just refusing to talk to the media because he can since he claims he’s not active.

The Lakers have signed Anthony Davis to a three-year contract extension worth $186 million. My initial reaction here is that this is a wise move. You may not like the fact AD misses a lot of games, but when he is on the floor he is among the best players in basketball, and arguably the best defensive player in the game. If you were to trade Anthony Davis you would be getting lesser parts in return. In any case though, even when Lebron James move on, at minimum, Anthony Davis is an asset worth retaining to try and get value out of. He’s only 30 years old, so he still has some good basketball left in him. In general though, I wish teams would play hardball a bit more with players on these negotiations. It seems to be all or nothing on these max contracts. Why can’t it be something in between? I guess the precedent has been set that you will piss off your star players if you don’t offer them the max.

The collapse of the PAC-12 is just sad. You can no longer blame UCLA and USC for making the decision to leave last year, because 6 other teams just decided to in the past week. The saddest part about this is that the rivalries are going away. With Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah going to the Big 12, what will become of the UCLA and USC rivalries with the Arizona schools? With Oregon and Washington going to the Big 10, what will happen to the Ducks rivalry with Oregon State, and the Huskies rivalry with Washington State? Also, since the Big 10 now has 18 teams, we should probably stop calling it the Big 10. At this point the PAC 12 would struggle getting the University of Phoenix and Trump University to join their conference. Time to Pac it in. Ultimately, College Football is going to start looking incredibly different in the next 5 years with the conference realignment and the next phase of NIL. The only problem with this is that the much smaller schools, or schools with less media draw are going to get left behind.

Last week UCLA Basketball announced the signing of 7’3 Spanish center Aday Mara, who is projected to be a potential lottery pick. They also announced the signing of Berke Buyuktuncel, a Turkish wing/forward who has 1st round NBA draft pick potential. To be honest, I don’t really know what this means because nobody has seen a lot of these dudes play. The Bruins now have 7 freshman, they have a a lot of big bodies, and what appears to be a lot of skilled Euros, but not necessarily a lot of proven players in the backcourt. That part concerns me, but given the size and skill set of the freshmen they have acquired, they should be coming into the pre-season as a Top 25 team.

To the NFL, where the Rams are already dealing with an injury to Cooper Kupp. The All-Pro wide receiver pulled his hamstring and is considered week-to-week. This brings up an interesting concern. The Rams are going to be extra reliant this year on Kupp, Matthew Stafford, and Aaron Donald. When you have these 3 and you’re coached by Sean McVay, I expect them to compete for a playoff spot. However, if any of those 3 stars get injured for a significant length of time, there isn’t nearly enough depth to overcome that. The Rams also own their own 1st round pick for the first time in a while. With that being said, if these stars get injured, don’t be surprised if they shut it down to get involved in the “Caleb Williams sweepstakes”. Injuries aside, the national outlook on the Rams isn’t great, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as the media is making it out to be. The NFC isn’t that strong, neither is the NFC West, which makes me think the Rams could actually be a playoff team again.

Finally, the US Women’s National Team lost to Sweden in the round of 16 on penalty kicks yesterday. I certainly feel bad for Megan Rapinoe to end her career the way that she did, missing a PK. I’m also extremely annoyed that the USWNT made it political, and that the political crowed attacked them. Megan Rapinoe and others can have their opinions like anybody, but we don’t need to hear them when it’s about the soccer. Sports are supposed to be unifying. By bringing your political views on wages and inequality, you are bringing that into a platform that is not the time and place. As a result, we now have all these idiots, Donald Trump included, who are coming out of the woodwork to criticize them, instead of getting behind them and uniting.