If you’re a Dodger fan, you’re probably in the latter stages of grieving. Be prepared to grieve some more, as we kick-off Monday Morning Coffee by discussing the Dodgers disaster last week. LA was eliminated from the playoffs by the Cardinals, and the reality of it is, the blame starts with Clayton Kershaw, the $215 million man. He knew he needed to win games 1 and 4, and collapsed in the most critical moments of the Dodger’s season. The Cardinals simply own Kershaw, who has lost his last 4 playoff starts to St. Louis. Then there’s the useless pile of crap that is the Dodger bullpen. The Dodgers spent a total of $45 million on Brandon League, JP Howell, Brian Wilson, and Chris Perez. Not a single one could be trusted late in a playoff game, which forced Don Mattingly to stick with his starters as long as possible. Mattingly isn’t off the hook either, as he benched his most dynamic player in Yasiel Puig in a must-win situation, in favor of a guy who probably doesn’t even remember how to play baseball, Andre Ethier.
Spending lots of money guarantees you get to the playoffs, but that’s it. The playoffs are a crapshoot in baseball. Rumor has it that Ned Colletti could take the fall for the Dodgers playoff failures, which is absurd. This is the same general manager who should have been arrested for shoplifting in the McCourt era, as he had limited resources yet put together playoff caliber teams. Many of the most critical personnel decisions like the Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzales trades were all done at the ownership level. The Dodgers have plenty of money to fix some of the easier problems to fix: A bullpen and a better defensive shortstop. That’s it. After that, it’s on the players to step up and get it done. Yes, I’m talking about you Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw. If those guys do their jobs, the Dodgers are still playing, and ownership isn’t arbitrarily assigning blame to Colletti.
So the Angels and Dodgers were eliminated and on Saturday, the Bruins continued the Southern California losing streak that has taken place for more than a week now. Things haven’t been this bad in SoCal since the Real Housewives of Orange County started airing. The Bruins got destroyed by Oregon, in a game that was not nearly as close as the final score. The worst part is, the Bruins had plenty of chances to score, but Oregon controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. This was exactly my fear at the end of last season. The Bruins quickly went from a team that was on the rise, to a team that is overrated and can’t compete with the big boys. They are no better than last year, possibly even slightly worse. Brett Hundley is a good quarterback, but still has moments of inconsistency, which doesn’t make him a Heisman Trophy candidate. This is who the Bruins are: a good team, but not the great team for some reason everyone thought they could be. There’s still time to win the Pac-12 and take down their cross-town rival, but even that would be amazing for this group.
Then there’s the Trojans, who were one Southern California team that actually came up with a victory on Saturday. USC got by Arizona 28-26, in a game that looked like the Trojans were going to lose by another devastating last second loss. For all the moaning and groaning most of the USC faithful has experienced over the last few weeks, the Trojans are actually in 1st place in the Pac-12 South, and actually have a decent chance to go to the conference championship game. The next four games will also be the softer part of USC’s schedule, before taking on UCLA and Notre Dame. Sark needs to make sure he’s putting the ball in the hands of Javorius Allen as much as possible the rest of the season. Allen has been running wild of late, and he’s SC’s best chance to win the conference.
Elsewhere around college football, The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame survived a trap game against UNC, with a 50-36 win. Everett Golson is beginning to solidify himself as a Heisman Trophy candidate. That sets up a huge showdown next week against #2 Florida State, in Tallahassee. The Irish undefeated string will likely come to an end, but I fully expect a close game against FSU. Mississippi State looks like the most complete team in college football. That Baylor-TCU game looked like an arena football league game. The Big Ten stinks, but don’t sleep on Michigan State climbing back into the playoff, as all those SEC teams beat up on each other.
To the NFL, where it was a tough night for the Giants last night against the Eagles. New York fans hadn’t been that embarassed since early Sunday afternoon when the Jets played. The Bucs should be demoted to the Big Ten. I’m thinking Jacksonville has an excellent chance to go 0-16, but they are really going to have to do something to keep that morale down, or else my hopes and dreams will be shattered. In case there were any doubts, Tom Brady and the Pats still run the AFC East. If the Chargers had lost to the Raiders, most San Diegans would be getting ready to jump off the Coronado Bridge. Branden Oliver looks like the Chargers best running back, and it took 3 others to get hurt to learn that. The Steelers are more terrible than their towels. I think we all owe the Cowboys an apology until they find a way to collapse in December. The Redskins are taking a beating like our forefather’s gave them years ago. While Jay Cutler did a nice job hitting the referee in the nuts with this left handed pass….
I’m not a big believer in extracting anything significant from pre-season games. However, I have to say that in limited action, Kobe Bryant still looks like a very good player. That’s great to see, but that’s just about all the enjoyment we will get out of Laker games this year. As great as Kobe looks, he still won’t have the ability he used to have in controlling a basketball game at both ends of the floor. That is the Kobe this Laker team will need to have any chance of even making the playoffs. Not to mention Julius Randle becoming the next Tim Duncan.
It’s amazing that the NHL Season has already started up again. In typical opening night fashion after raising their Stanley Cup banner, the Kings laid an egg against the San Jose Sharks. How pissed was San Jose? They get beat by the Kings after taking a 3-0 series lead last spring, they have watch the Kings raise their banner on opening night, and wait for a whole extra 37 minutes for the game to start. Of course they were angry. Glad to see the Kings finally find the win column last night. It already looks as though “That 70’s Line” with Carter, Toffoli, and Pearson have left off where they were last spring. Meanwhile, the Ducks have a brutal schedule to open the season. Their 4 game east coast trip to start the season feels like the ultimate screw you from the league, and coming back at .500 would be a reasonable goal.
Finally, last night was a phenomenal season premier of The Walking Dead. What an edge of your seat first episode. Spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see it. To recap quickly, the episode begins with a flashback to Gareth, the somewhat sadistic leader of Terminus, trapped in the same train car as Rick’s group is in the present. He explains to the others in his group that “we were trying to do something good. We were being human beings?” One of Gareth’s friends responds “What are we now?” We come to find out that Terminus was once a “good” community that was twisted into deceit and cannibalism. In the present, Rick, Glenn, Darryl, and a few others in the group are taken inside, and 4 group members throats are slashed over a trough. Before anyone else is killed, Carol shoots a propane tank from outside Terminus, causing an explosion, and Walkers overrun the area. Rick, Glenn, and Darryl, get free amidst the chaos, kill a bunch of Walkers and free the remaining group members. The group escapes to meet up with Carol. She then takes the group to meet Tyreese and Judith, who survived a violent struggle of their own.
Last season they eased us into things. This season is the total opposite. It also gives me the feeling that this season is going to be far more gruesome and dark than other seasons. I love that after Rick escaped, he immediately transformed from “farmer Rick” to “everyone must die Rick”. This episode was also another reminder of what kind of transformation Carol has made since the start of the series. She began as a battered house wife, now she’s practically a war hero. The moment where Carol and Daryl meet and embrace is also one of the most emotional moments in recent memory for the show. Seeing 4 throats slashed in the first five minutes, gruesome Walker scenes, along with some really unappealing pictures of human flesh, all made this an episode that probably can’t be topped for a while. In any case, can’t wait to see what else is in store this season.