October 17th, 2016
Clayton Kershaw has shut down the Cubs, and shut down his critics. Kershaw has been nothing but heroic over the last week. 7 shutout innings yesterday in game 2 of the NLCS, 7 solid innings against the Nationals in game 4 of the NLCS, and closing out the Nationals in game 5. Kershaw is totally being overworked. He doesn’t care. He’s been challenging his playoff demons head on, especially when he had the balls to ask Dave Roberts to close out the Nationals on short rest. Despite yesterday’s win, the Dodgers probably don’t have enough around him to beat a much deeper Cubs team. Without Kershaw, this series is a bigger mismatch than Dwight Howard vs condoms. Saturday was a tough loss. I had been dreading that moment since the season started. The moment where Joe Blanton trots out of the bullpen in a big moment of the playoffs, and blows it for the Dodgers. Sure enough, that’s what happened on Saturday night. The Dodgers patchwork pitching staff cannot compete against a team that has four quality starters, a deep bullpen, and a lineup capable of exploding at any time. This is where the flaws of LAs lineup and roster will be exposed. If you have the highest paid payroll in baseball, you should be able to match the Cubs playoff roster. Somehow, Andrew Friedman failed to do that. He spent all his money on a bunch of injured pitchers who aren’t even good enough to make the post season roster. His best offensive players are being paid to play elsewhere. That’s the real shame for Clayton Kershaw. He is doing amazing things, but unless the Dodgers can find a way to put a winner around him, his greatness will be forgotten. It was a nice run while it lasted, but this is the end of the line for LA. Cubs in 5.
We always criticize MLB skippers for not managing playoff games with desperation. I have never seen desperation from any team like I did with Dodgers in game 5 against the Nationals. Having your closer pitch the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings seems like stupidity, as does having your ace close a game. However, it worked, so I can’t complain. It also worked last night when Jansen pitched the last two innings against the Cubs. Nevertheless, the fact the Dodgers had to do that speaks volumes about just how flawed their roster really is.
To the NFL, where only the Rams could do this. For one week, Case Keenum looked like the second coming of Dan Marino, and Kenny Britt looked like Jerry Rice. Except none of that was enough, and the Rams lost to the Lions, falling to 3-3. Of course once the offense gets clicking, the defense goes straight to hell. I’m not buying the injury excuse here, LA had their chances to win the last two games, and should be 5-1. Instead, Jeff Fisher is on pace for another 8-8 season. At least he’s consistent. Fisher cost the Rams the last two games, including a foolish decision to go for it on fourth and goal at the end of the first half yesterday. LA could have used those easy three points when it was all said and done, and the Rams lost 31-28 to the Lions. All we heard last year what that the Rams were a play or two away from being 10-6. It’s the same story this year. It feels like they should be better. Except like Bill Parcells said, “you are what your record says you are.” The next 5 games are very winnable games for LA, but given the inconsistencies we’ve seen, I can’t say the Rams are any better than the .500 team that we thought they would be when the season started.
Elsewhere around the NFL, the Chargers save Mike McCoy’s job for the time being by beating the Broncos on Thursday night at the Q. Colin Kapernick tossed a touchdown pass, so racism is over right? The 49ers losing ways aren’t though, as they got blown out by the Bills. Brock Osweiler is like that hot girl that you take home from the bar only to realize that she’s a tranny when it’s too late. The Texans may have beaten the Colts yesterday, but they definitely have buyers remorse on their new QB. The Redskins got by the Eagles, who have suddenly remembered that they are the Eagles. The Browns players are getting salty watching all the other Cleveland teams win while they remain winless after getting beat by the Titans. Good thing Seattle beat Atlanta. I thought Steve Hauschka was going to get thrown off the Space Needle after missing an easy field goal earlier in the game. Remember when everyone thought the Panthers were Super Bowl contenders? Not anymore after the Saints took them down in the Dome. The Raiders played like they are ready to move to Vegas in their loss to the Chiefs. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys continue to roll after beating the Packers. Dak isn’t so worried about Tony Romo taking his spot because he knows Romo will be injured again in 5 minutes after returning. Tom Brady continued his revenge on the league as the Patriots beat up on the Bengals. The Steelers should be demoted to the CFL after losing to the Dolphins. The Jaguars beat the Bears in a game that should have been aired on Comedy Central. The Giants beat the Ravens, Odell Beckham had a huge game, and then he proposed to the love of his life.
To College Football, where USC is back in the drivers seat for the Pac 12 South. The Trojans still have a reasonable shot to win the Pac 12 South after pounding Arizona over the weekend. Sam Darnold and JuJu Smith-Schuster looked like they were playing PlayStation with the video game like numbers they put up. Not too many people are complaining about Clay Helton with the Trojans taking advantage of the soft part of their schedule. Their best chance to win the Pac 12 South is going to be for them to beat Washington, and for Utah to get knocked off a couple of times along the way. However, a loss to Washington and an 8-4 finish is very reasonable. The question is whether or not that’s going to satisfy the Trojan faithful. Probably not, but it may actually keep Clay Helton around for another season.
Then there’s the Bruins, who took another loss at Washington State. UCLA was playing without starting quarterback Josh Rosen, so they really couldn’t have been expected to win this one with a starting quarterback that had only throw 7 passes in his college career. Mike Fafaul did an admirable job filling in for Rosen, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdown passes, but the Bruins made some very typical Bruin like mistakes that they always make. They had two critical turnovers in the final minute, and their running game was still non-existent. This is an extremely average football team that still lacks the elite playmakers to compete with some of the best teams in the nation. The luster of the Jim Mora Jr. era has officially worn off.
I think the question has to be asked: is Brian Kelly trying to get fired from his head coaching job at Notre Dame? Despite their defensive issues, the Irish have a great deal of talent, and a fairly easy schedule, yet they are awful. He’s also tried to pick a fight with the Stanford strength and conditioning coach after Saturday’s loss. Everybody knows you never mess with the strength and conditioning coach. They always get those “made in Bangladesh” shirts three sizes too small, and their muscles are exploding out of their clothes. Tennessee got crushed by Alabama so badly on Saturday, they wish they were playing XBOX and could just unplug the controller and quit before it was over. Ohio State and Clemson may have won, but the Tide look head and shoulders better than everyone else in the nation.
Laker point guard D’Angelo Russell is improving, but his critics kill me. Russell had a tough game against Portland last week, missing every three point shot he took. His critics we’re all over him for that game. Then he rebounds against Sacramento with a 33 point and 11 assist game. Where were all his critics after that showing? I didn’t hear one person talk about how great he looked. The Lakers took a beating on Saturday against Golden State, and of course D-Lo got lit up by Steph Curry. Frankly, I find these types of beatings that Russell is going to take from time to time very valuable. Only by getting his beatings from Damian Lillard and Steph Curry can he actually get better as a point guard and mature.
All of a sudden, the outlook on the Angels 2017 season is much different. Ace Garrett Richards threw 55 pitches to minor leaguers last week and looked like himself. Richards has been recovering from a torn ligament in his pitching elbow, and suddenly looks like he’ll be ready to pitch at the start of next season. There is no pitcher on the free agent market that is anywhere near as good, or affordable as Richards. This is going to be a great story if Richards stays health and pitch effectively next season.
Finally, what a rough start for the LA Kings. They lose their first two games, and lose goaltender Jonathan Quick for 3-4 months with a groin injury. I’ve said all along that the cornerstones for the Kings are Quick, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Jeff Carter. Losing any of those pieces and the team just isn’t nearly as competitive. Sure enough, Quick is out, so LA is going to be tested. I don’t think the Kings should go out and get themselves another goaltender though. Even though their defense isn’t what it once was, the Kings developed goaltenders like Jonathan Benier and Martin Jones, by letting them play. The Kings badly need more depth at that position, and they may actually discover some through the Quick injury. After all, the Kings success this year depends on how much of their young talent they can actually develop.