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.

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