October 10th, 2016
The Dodgers put together a gritty game 1 win, but yesterday’s loss was just a reminder of why I think this team will be watching the rest of the playoffs on TV in just a few days from now. In the first 6 innings they were 0-5 with the bases loaded, leaving 11 men on base. It was like the Nationals were begging the Dodgers to end their season, yet LA said, “nah, we’re good.” Then there’s Rich Hill, who somehow found a way to let the worst hitter in the Nationals lineup get the best of him, ultimately causing him to give up a 3-run bomb that completely altered the momentum. So this is why Andrew Friedman pulled Hill from that perfect game he was throwing a few weeks ago, in order to “preserve him” for the playoffs? So he could give us 4.2 innings of that nonsense? I guess Hill needed to pee on his blister a little more. I also get that the bullpen has performed well, but if you need your closer to record an 8 out save in big games, and your starters can’t routinely get through five innings, you’re entire pitching staff is fundamentally flawed. The Nationals are a wounded animal, and while the Dodgers could have basically finished them off yesterday, now they have given them life and every possibility of sending the Boys in Blue home early once again. Just another October for the Dodgers.
As for the rest of the MLB Playoffs, the Blue Jays-Rangers series should have been played in an Octagon. It’s Jose Bautista and the Jays who got the last laugh though. Texas hasn’t seen a beating that hard since Greg Hardy played for the Cowboys. I still can’t believe that stupid Blue Jays fan threw a beer can at the Orioles outfielder. That fan still threw more pitches than Orioles closer Zach Britton. I’m not sure how you can leave your best pitcher on the bench in a do-or-die game. Madison Bumgarner was amazing in that Wild Card win against the Mets, but enough of this even year non-sense. The Giants are going to be going home after tonight. Everyone seemed to have conveniently forgotten they were one of the worst teams in the league during the 2nd half. The last time the Cubs won the World Series, America had only 13 colonies. You think Clayton Kershaw has trouble in October? David Price can’t buy a win around this time of year. When Mike Napoli is stealing bases on delayed steal signs, that’s a pretty good indication that everything is going the Cleveland Indians way.
To the NFL, where the Rams defense can only take them so far. That was the case yesterday when the Bills came into the Coliseum and took down LA. Coaching decisions were an issue. I have no idea why Jeff Fisher decided to go for a fake punt late in the game, because he still had plenty of time for his team to get the ball back. For the first time since week 1 though, LA’s defense was getting torn up. A lot of that had to do with some injuries to important defensive lineman. I also don’t understand why Aaron Donald, one of their best defensive players, was stuck on the sideline on a 3rd and goal? It’s fine to rotate your lineman, especially on a hot Sunday, but not on a critical down like that. At the same time, It’s almost like the defense needs to ask themselves ever week “if we don’t score, who is going to?” Case Keenum is literally the worst quarterback in the NFL, and you simply cannot win getting that kind of consistent ineffective play from that position. It’s so bad that their best offensive player, Todd Gurley, is taking on the world on every offensive play. He was a little better yesterday, but I can’t even tell anymore if there’s something wrong with him physically, if he’s in a sophomore slump, or if the offensive pieces around him are so inept that he just can’t succeed. It’s certainly not helping my fantasy team, that’s for sure. There’s not many immediate solutions to fix the offense, other than for Jared Goff to just hurry up and get better as a player. I’m not so optimistic that’s gonna happen soon. That was a big lost opportunity yesterday, because the Arizona Cardinals aren’t going to be down for long. We know the Rams can win against teams in their division, but they just can’t to take care of business outside of it. That’s trouble because their upcoming schedule is all opponents they just don’t see very often.
Elsewhere around the NFL, weren’t you just asking yourself all game how the Chargers were going to blow this one? Sure enough they found a way to do it again. Maybe somebody needs to scream at Philip Rivers after all his turnovers, like he was screaming at DJ Fluker. Odell Beckham made up with the kicking net, but it didn’t stop the Giants from losing to the Packers. Apparently Tom Brady was throwing the football around with Giselle to stay sharp, because he looked dominant yesterday against the Browns. Are the Browns out of quarterbacks yet? The Dolphins laid another egg, this time against the Titans. Miami hasn’t played this badly since someone stole their mascot, Snowflake, right before the Super Bowl. That $72 million Brock Osweiler contract is working out great for the Texans isn’t it? Jay Cutler is probably enjoying watching Brian Hoyer take his job. It still didn’t get the Bears a win against the struggling Colts. The Redskins beating the Ravens softened the blow for the folks in DC of having to listen to another Presidential debate last night. The Ravens offense is horrible. The Steelers cruised to another win. Isn’t it time for the Jets to give Geno Smith another shot? Just when you think the Eagles might be some juggernaut, they go and lose to the Lions. Dak Prescott doesn’t look like he plans on giving up the starting QB job anytime soon after the Cowboys throttled the Bengals. I’m surprised it’s taken six weeks for Chip Kelly to really consider starting Colin Kaepernick. I guess all the Cardinals needed to solve their problems was to play the 49ers. Is it me or do the Falcons make us think they are a good team every year before collapsing? I’m not buying it this year. This is what it’s like playing against the Vikings defense…..
Let’s go to college football where USC picked up another win, this time against Colorado. The Trojans used to annually abuse Colorado, but this was no easy win. The Buffaloes forced Sam Darnold into a couple of fumbles, and another from Justin Davis to hang around late, but the USC defense stepped up and helped get them another win. Despite all the turnovers from Darnold, I still can’t figure out if this guy is going to be a really good quarterback, or if he’s just benefitting from facing the softest part of the Trojans schedule. Max Browne was really the one getting screwed from having to face Alabama and Stanford. Until USC goes to Washington in November, I don’t think we’ll have an answer. In all likelihood, Darnold is just masking the Trojans lack of quality coaching, game planning, and player development. One thing Clay Helton does have going for him is the fact the Pac 12 South is still very winnable.
Over in Tempe, UCLA suffered a very disappointing loss to Arizona State. I don’t care if Josh Rosen got hurt during key stretches of this game. There’s no reason for this UCLA team to have lost to an ASU team that could only scrape together 275 yards of total offense. The Bruins turned it over four times, they still have no idea how to generate a running game, and their quarterbacks have been sacked 15 times, which is already more than all of last season. The only thing I had liked about UCLA was the fact their schedule was soft, but they are still finding a way to screw it up. It turns out that Stanford loss wasn’t all that impressive anyway, since the Cardinal are falling apart faster than Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. Now UCLA will head to Washington State which could be trouble, since they seem to be suddenly blowing teams off the field. All of this has done nothing other than remind me of why the Bruins football program has become a group of perennial underachievers.
Elsewhere in the college ranks, it took a hurricane, but the Notre Dame defense finally played well. Unfortunately, Brian Kelly seemed to think passing the ball in the face of gusty winds was a good idea, causing Notre Dame to drop to 2-4. Oh, that big showdown against Stanford next week in South Bend? Not so big anymore after the Cardinal got blown away by Washington State. Then there’s Washington, who looks like a true playoff contender are dismantling Oregon. Police are filing charges of rape, assault, and battery against the entire Michigan football team, after they humiliated Rutgers. Navy just ran all over Houston, and will probably run them out of the rankings. A new poll shows 62% of Ohioans think Ohio State would beat the Browns. These are the people critical in deciding our next President? This is what it’s like playing football in the midst of a hurricane….
I hate to put a lot of stock in preseason results for anything. However, I like what I am seeing so far for the Lakers. Before you roll your eyes while reading this, let me remind you: this is a process. However, we are seeing that process come in the form of much more accountability and effort on the defensive end of the floor from the team, especial from D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. It’s going to take a while for these guys to develop their shooting, but defense is an area that can improve the Lakers results by leaps and bounds. Once that happens, the Lakers can get themselves some easy baskets in transition, and make the game a lot easier for themselves. Those were all elements that were absent last season, which can make a noticeable difference in a very short amount of time.
As for the Clippers, it’s come to this. They’ve become so desperate to find a small forward, Doc has resorted to starting Austin Rivers there. They’ve tried everybody, so how much worse can it go with Rivers there? Well, DeMar Derozan dropped 20 points on him in the first half of a preseason game last week, so we’ve reached a new low. I’m not really sure how Doc Rivers convinced himself that having a 6’4 player guard a 6’7 or 6’8 player is a good idea. Then of course there was the fact the Clippers got blown off the floor by the Warriors in a preseason game at Staples. I’m thinking once the Warriors were up by 50 points, I was convinced the Kevin Durant addition was going to help them.
As we close the book on the Angels disappointing season, it’s hard not to look at just how good Mike Trout really is, at just 24 years old. I’m not a baseball stats geek like some of you, but these numbers can’t just be minimized. He is one of 8 players in the history of the game, prior to the age of 25, to finish a season with at least 25 home runs, 120 runs, and a .440 OBP. The other 7 are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Jimmie Fox, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Jim Thome. He’s also one of 7 players prior to the age of 25 to have a season with at least 100 RBI, 110 walks, and 120 runs. The others are Mel Ott, Jimmie Fox, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and Troy Glaus. Trout’s 48.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is the best ever by a player before the age of 25. Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle were the next closest. In other words, Trout is very likely going to be the best player you’ve ever seen in your lifetime. However, the sad part about that is the Angels are wasting away the best years of his career, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope of turning it around any time soon.
Let’s go the ice, where the Kings are getting ready to open up their 50th NHL season on Wednesday at Staples Center. The Kings are getting further and further away from their Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, and they’ve lost quite a bit of depth and key role players since that success. It’s resulted in just 1 playoff win in the last two seasons. However, the Kings still have several of the best players at their position in the league, and are going to be dangerous. Drew Doughty is arguably the league’s best defenseman, Anze Kopitar is one of the best two-way centers, Jeff Carter is a very dangerous scorer, and Jonathan Quick is still one of the games best goaltenders. That gives LA a chance against anybody. The Kings should be a playoff team again, however, they need to give some of their younger prospects a chance to develop. They might not have any stars in their pipeline, but they don’t need them. They need good role players, yet have the chance to develop some, based on what they’ve shown in Ontario. Those players will need to step up and fill the void left by key departures on defense and on the third and fourth line. Darryl Sutter isn’t the best at trusting young players, but he’ll need to do it since the team is so salary cap constrained. I’m picking the Kings to win the Pacific, but until their defensive depth is fixed, I think they are getting bounced again early in the playoffs.
As for the Ducks, it’s hard to know what they are going to get with Randy Carlyle as their coach again. The are loaded with talent, but they can’t seem to win in the playoffs. Now that their talent is slowly starting to age, the question is whether or not their window to win has closed. Carlyle wants to play at a faster pace, which is something that is far different than last years puck possession style stressed by the departed Bruce Boudreau. Their goaltending and defense should be great, but Carlyle did not mesh well with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf when his last tenure with the Ducks ended. They are also running out of time to get Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell under contract before their season opens. They might be able to survive short term without those guys, but not if the Ducks expect to do anything in the playoffs. Ultimately, I think the Ducks end up finishing 3rd in the Pacific after going through their ups and downs adjusting to Carlyle. I still don’t see much changing though in the playoffs, and another early exit. As for my meaningless, way-too early Stanley Cup prediction, I’ll take the Dallas Stars over the Florida Panthers in 6 games.
Who had the stomach to watch the debate last night? As far as I’m concerned, the entire debate was “locker room talk”. That’s really what the subject of last nights entire debate should have been, because the majority of it was spent on both candidates skeletons in their closet. I think we’ve all taken plenty of shots at both Trump and Hilary, but the moderators and the media are really doing a terrible job covering this, and need to get their share of criticism. Why? It’s because this election is bringing out the worst in everybody. Nobody can tell you what really happened last night without putting their own spin on it. Anderson Cooper does not like Donald Trump. You could come to that understanding within 1 minute of watching the debate. Then the headlines from last night are going to read that Hillary won the debate. If anything, Trump probably got the best of her, but there are just so many people that dislike him at this point, they’ll all tell you the opposite. It’s a very entertaining reality show, I’ll give you that, but at least let’s talk about the issues at hand. It felt like we hardly did that last night. Hopefully we can finally see more of that in the final debate in two weeks. Otherwise, if I wanted the entertainment, I’d just watch these skits on SNL.