Monday Morning Coffee

August 21, 2023

I think it’s safe to say that the race for the NL West is over. The Dodger lead has ballooned to 11.5 games over the Giants. On one hand, that sounds great because the Dodgers can relax a little bit in September. On the other hand, there are 5 teams within 1.5 games of the last two Wild Card spots. That means as we’ve seen before, two of those teams are going to go into October with a hell of a lot of momentum, and could be extremely dangerous to teams that don’t need to play with urgency, like the Dodgers and Braves. We’ve only seen it tons of times the past few years. It’s like the 5th installment of a bad horror movie. It’s also a shame to see Tony Gonsolin going down with another arm injury, and likely done for the season. The man clearly has not been himself since getting injured in the 2nd half of last season, where he pitched more innings than he’s ever had. It’s going to be a long way back for The Cat Man. I was happy to see the Dodgers win with some small ball over the weekend, with Austin Barnes with a perfectly executed suicide squeeze. The Dodgers will need more of that in the postseason, against elite pitching, rather than sitting back and waiting for the 3-run homer. That is the approach the Dodgers need to think about to be more successful in the postseason than they have been over the last decade.

As for the Angels, they got beaten up by the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend. They are now 11.5 games back in the West, and 8.5 games back of the Wild Card. There’s also 3 teams to jump over to get that last playoff spot. I’m not sure what’s left for this bunch. It’s gotten so bad, the Halos are now the punching bag of jokes for other teams. On the Diamondbacks broadcast over the weekend, the Angels were described as “an annual joke”. The D’Backs have won fewer division titles and have the same number of playoff appearances as the Angels in the past decade, and even they are talking smack. The Rays broadcast teams also violated the Halos this weekend when they said “it never really feels like you are out of the game when you’re playing the Angels”. The LA Times even piled on with an article about how the Halos are one of only two franchises that don’t send their radio team on the road to broadcast their games, and instead they have them call the games from a studio. Does Arte Moreno even have any pride anymore? The man is truly the laughing stock of MLB owners at this point, and even more so among Southern California sports fans. I’m not sure what the Angels have left this season, other than trying to pretend like they can put a decent franchise around Shohei Ohtani to get him to stay beyond this year.

The NBA schedule is out. For any team in the West, the schedule is just going to look tough because the conference is stacked. However, I don’t expect the Lakers to start 2-10 next season, and I certainly don’t expect them to scramble to get into the playoffs like last season. That’s because they have a huge advantage in the middle of the season. From January 1 to January 24 the Lakers will only leave California once (to Utah). From February 22 (post All-Star Break) to March 24, the Lakers will only leave California once (to Phoenix). That is 55 days of the 2023-24 season where the Lakers will do minimal travel. They will have to endure 15 back-to-back games, but don’t be fooled, the Lakers are a young team. Lebron James is their only older player, and even Anthony Davis is just 30 years old. That stretch at home in the dog days of the season should really benefit them. Also, savvy move by Adam Silver to schedule the Lakers against the Nuggets on opening night. Nobody would give a crap about the Nuggets raising the banner otherwise.

Why is this James Harden noise such a story? The dude is about to be on his 4th team in 3 years. He’s 34, and he’s simply not that guy anymore. He thinks he is though. With that being said, Daryl Morey still knows that he gave up a lot for Harden, and that his best move to stay in contention is to keep him. For those of you that keep thinking it’s inevitable he’s going to be a Clipper, don’t count on it. The Clippers want him, but they aren’t going to open the vault to get him at all costs. This isn’t prime James Harden. He comes with baggage and risk. No matter how much Harden stomps his feet and cries about it, he knows that he has to report to training camp, or else the Sixers can prevent him from becoming a free agent next summer. Still, nobody knows how to cost himself money like James Harden.

I have no idea what to make of the Rams in the preseason so far. Cam Akers is throwing punches at opposing players, Matt Stafford looks sharp in practice, Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee are getting healthy, and Aaron Donald hasn’t done much. I refuse to put any stock in the loss over the weekend to the Raiders in the preseason, or the week before against the Chargers. Most of these guys will not be playing in week 1. I think it is fair to say however, that Stetson Bennett is looking like he will be the backup QB.

Meanwhile, the NFL doesn’t care about hurricanes, earthquakes, and potential tornadoes. Instead they are making the Chargers and Saints play a preseason game under those conditions. In all seriousness though, Hurricane Hillary is just a bunch of media hype, and nothing more than 24-48 hours of light rain that the media can manufacture a story out of.

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