October 3rd, 2016
It was a pleasure listening to Vin Scully one final time yesterday against the Giants. However, Scully probably should have called it quits a week ago, when the Dodgers clinched the division on that Charlie Culberson walk-off homer. Since then, instead of pushing for home field advantage in the division series, the Dodgers have lost 5 of 6 games heading into the post season. It’s ok though. I’m sure Andrew Friedman knows what he’s doing calling all the shots. The Dodgers are only 15 games below .500 on the road, so it’s not like home field really matters right? Knowing Friedman he probably used his super computer to torture a bunch of numbers to convince himself of that. A more sensible nerd would probably just simulate the regular season and playoffs on PlayStation. Instead of spending the last week tinkering with lineups, we should have seen more fine tuning and building momentum for next week. We’ve been forced to see stiffs like Scott Kamir, Brandon McCarthy, and Brett Anderson over the last 6 games, just so Friedman can justify his investment in them. It would be idiotic to put any of them on the playoff roster. As for their matchup against the Nationals, I don’t care if LA won 5 of 6 against Washington this year. I think Clayton Kershaw will step up and get a win against Max Scherzer in game 1, but Rich Hill has little to no playoff experience, as does Kenta Maeda who slowly looks like the MLB workload is wearing him down. I’m still having a hard time envisioning Joe Blanton trotting out of the bullpen in critical late innings and succeeding, and the offense leaves more runners in scoring position than nearly every team in the playoffs. I see nothing that makes me think the Dodger post season results will be any different than what we’ve seen 6 of the past 8 seasons. Nationals in 4.
To the NFL, where the Rams went to Arizona and got a huge win over the Cardinals. The Rams are now 3-1, and in first place in the NFC West. I’m sure everyone saw this coming right? It’s been all about the defense for this team, and an offense that is able to just muster enough points the last few weeks to find the win column. Good thing that Brian Quick learned how to catch the football yesterday. I thought they were going to find a way to lose the game when they took a couple of penalties in the last minute, but they pulled through. I’ve gotta hand it to Case Keenum. He knows that we’re all just waiting for him to give up the job to Jared Goff, but as long as the Rams keep winning, why make a change? Besides, Goff is still trying to figure out what direction the sun rises in, so it might be a while before he can claim the job anyway. There’s something about this team that has me skeptical that they can make the playoffs though. Sometimes it isn’t who you play, but rather when you play them. The Rams had the benefit of playing a talented team, but one that is in disarray. Nevertheless, the Rams could easily be favored in the next three games they play against the Bills, Lions, and Giants.
Elsewhere around the NFL, we sent the Jaguars to London for a game against the Colts? We haven’t screwed England so hard since the Revolutionary War. That was a rough loss, even by San Diego Charger standards. They have blown massive leads in each of their three losses this season. The Chiefs are going to use those terrible towels to hang themselves after the Steelers punished them last night. The Cowboys are 3-1, and nobody is asking when Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are coming back. The Broncos dominated the Bucs, and look like they found another stud quarterback in Paxton Lynch. Can’t the Rams just find one? The Falcons outlasted the Panthers, and the outcome was sealed when Cam Newton came out of the game with a concussion, forcing Derek Anderson to take his place. That’s like going from a Lamborghini to a Big Wheel. AJ Green practically beat the Dolphins by himself on Thursday night. Roger Goodell got himself a good laugh when the Bills finally gave the Patriots a loss without Tom Brady. The Lions had to be really disappointed that Jay Cutler didn’t play against them, or they might have actually beaten the Bears. The Browns need to just call it quits for the year after losing to the Redskins. The Raiders beat the Ravens on the road. The Silver and Black haven’t been this fun to watch since Barrett Robbins was partying with hookers and blow in TJ during the Super Bowl. The Seahawks are still excellent, while every time I see Ryan Fitzpatrick play I can’t help but laugh at the Jets for actually signing that scrub when he held out. Marcus Mariota says the Titans “are close” after their loss to the Texans. He must mean close to the worst team in the league.
To college football, where the Trojans got their fans to back away from the ledge with a big win over Arizona State on Saturday. USC completely overwhelmed The Sun Devils with all their talent, and for the first time this season, it actually looked like Clay Helton executed a decent offensive game plan. It was all about putting the ball in the hands of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who piled up 123 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns. Sam Darnold also looked pretty damn good in his home debut, while Max Browne had to have been rolling his eyes on the sideline wondering why he didn’t get the chance to beat up on some crummy teams during his time as a starter. USC’s talent was so far superior to Arizona State’s, you could hardly notice all the flaws in the Trojans offensive and defensive lines. There’s no need for anybody to get fired right now, but you can be sure the Trojan brass is kicking the tires on what might be out there. I’ve heard names ranging from David Shaw, Gary Patterson, Chris Peterson, Brian Kelly, and Bob Stoops, however, prying those big names from their current situations seems like a tall order, even if USC can pay more. The coaching rumors figure to be a much bigger story the rest of the way than what actually happens on the field, since USC has already lost some of the biggest games on their schedule.
Over in Pasadena, it was the Bruins getting back in the win column when they took down Arizona. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that was an actual running game UCLA showed us in the second half. That sounds almost impossible given the fact they’ve had one of the worst running games in the nation over the first month of the season. Josh Rosen also had one of his best games of the season, playing turnover free football, racking up 350 yards to go along with 3 touchdowns, and 1 rushing touchdown. This is still a relatively underachieving team, however, at least both of their losses came against very good top 10 teams. Stanford may have gotten beat by Washington over the weekend, but the Huskies are now looking like a college football playoff contender. As for Jim Mora, it’s pretty hard to criticize your players for being undisciplined when he himself lost his emotions, and cost his team a 15 yard penalty. You never know with this UCLA team, but the Bruins should be able to bank a couple of wins in the next two weeks before they get stiff challenges in Utah and Colorado.
Elsewhere around college football, it was nice to see the Notre Dame Fighting Irish show up for their game against Syracuse. The Irish defense was still pretty atrocious, but Deshone Kizer does look like one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. After Stanford’s loss to Washington, their students hadn’t been that disappointed since learning that Princess Leia was a fictional character. Florida State got upset by North Carolina. FSU played that game like they really want Jimbo Fisher to take that LSU job. As Jameis Winston would say, there was nothing skrong about Charlie Strong’s defense when Texas got slammed by Oklahoma State. Cowboys’ wide receiver Terrance Williams probably thought Louisville wide receiver James Quick going out of bounds on the final play vs Clemson, before getting the first down, was a genius play. I don’t know what was more amazing: Jourdan Lewis’ interception of the century in Michigan’s win over Wisconsin, or Tennessee’s hail mary to beat Georgia. You decide for yourself.
The Angels quietly finished up their season yesterday with a win against the Astros. Despite the horrendous year, and the dismal future, there’s a few key takeaways here. Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball, and even though he won’t be the MVP this year, the Halos are definitely going to continue to reap the benefits of the best years of his career. The idea of trading him is preposterous, mostly because they will never get equal value for him. The Halos have also hit 3 million in attendance for 14 years in a row, which is a streak that is only matched by the Yankees. There’s still a few things that can give fans hope for 2017. Alex Meyer definitely showed some potential to be an impact big league starter, Jhouly’s Chacin had an ERA of 0.75 in his last four starts, and Garrett Richards is continuing to make strides toward being able to pitch next season. Ricky Nolasco also had an ERA of 1.85 for the last month of the season. The last month of baseball may have been meaningless, so you may not put much stock in these stats. However, this is the cast of characters that the Halos 2017 season depends on to have any hope of being competitive.
To the NBA, where the Lakers wrapped up their Santa Barbara training camp portion of the preseason yesterday. This is going to be a process. However, I’m loving what I’m hearing from Luke Walton and the players so far. There is definitely a new enthusiasm and energy surrounding this team that Walton is bringing, and you can sense the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, and others really enjoying that new environment. More importantly, that environment is all about player development, and getting as many of these young players to fulfill their potential as quickly as possible. Those elements were not always in place in the last couple of years of Laker basketball. I also really like how Mitch Kupchak did not come out and place any expectations as far as number of wins for the team, but rather just talked about wanting to see his young players improve with every game they play. That may feel like an unusual approach for this franchise, but one that is very necessary at this point.
As for the Clippers, they wrapped up training camp on Saturday at UC Irvine, with a very nice open practice for their fans. How many years have we been saying the Clippers are close? Well it’s been six to be exact, and they still haven’t made it out of the second round. As usual, Doc Rivers shuffled the deck on his bench by adding players like Alan Anderson, Ray Felton, and Maurice Speights. However, it feels like every year that bench looks improved and yet they fall flat on their face. I’m not sure this year will be any different, but then again, it may not matter. The Clippers still don’t have a good small forward, and they still can’t seem to meet the moment come spring time. The talent is there, but I’m not sure the intangibles are. Nevertheless, as long as Doc Rivers is in charge of basketball operations, I’m not even convinced that they will break up the CP3-Blake-DJ trio. They all seem firmly rooted in LA, and even if they don’t every achieve anything, they could easily re-sign and continue to take their chances catching lightning in a bottle every year. As for Blake Griffin, he looks healthy, and still has some explosiveness, which you can see from this dunk over Brice Johnson on Saturday.
Nice to see the U.S. finally get a Ryder Cup win over the weekend. It was their first since 2008. This is especially sweet for the U.S. considering that English writer Peter Willett, also the brother of Masters Champion, Danny Willett, has annually done some major trash talking in his writings. Most recently, he wrote that the Americans were “fat, stupid, greedy, classless, bastards.” I guess the real question for Willet is: You mad bro? Meanwhile, Ricky Fowler looks like that guy at last call who knows he’s going to have to settle for Del Taco instead of taking somebody home.
That first Presidential debate was unreal. I was waiting for someone to just come out and say “Live from New York it’s Saturday Night Live!” Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and we were once again left with the reality of choosing between two candidates that are the equivalent of choosing what Browns quarterback you want starting on your fantasy team. Imagine if you played a drinking game where you had to take a shot for every time Donald Trump held up his finger. You would be dead in about 10 minutes. In any case, despite what the polls say, I think come election day this is anybody’s race.
Finally, if you haven’t been to the Forum to see a concert, you need to do it. I saw Blink 182 there on Friday night, and it was fantastic. In fact, it’s probably a much better venue to see a concert than Staples Center or Microsoft Theatre, which is too large and drowns out the acoustics of any band. Ironically, the Forum used to feel so big, however, now that we’ve all been introduced to these larger and more modern arena’s, it feels that much smaller. That smaller arena is perfect for concert viewing.