Monday Morning Coffee

Freddie Freeman connects on a two-run home run in the fourth inning of the Dodgers' 16-3 win over the Texas Rangers.

July 24, 2023

Remember when I said let’s talk about where the Dodgers are in a month? It didn’t even take a month. The Boys in Blue have reeled off 7 wins in their last 10 games, which included a challenging road trip against the Rangers and Orioles. They’ve opened up a 4-game lead in the NL West. However, they are going to have to hit elite pitching, and get elite pitching come playoff time, and the latter of which I’m not so confident they are going to get anytime soon. Although the bullpen is looking better, giving up just three runs in the last 7 games. the starting pitching is still highly questionable. Julio Urias is still wildly inconsistent, and Clayton Kershaw is still on the injured list. We’ve heard all the trade rumors about Shohei Ohtani, but the Dodgers should be focused on Lucas Giolito, Marcus Stroman, and David Robertson for help. Those are much more realistic trade targets that can stabilize their rotation, and fortify their pen for the postseason.

Then there’s the Angels who beat up the Yankees, then took two out of three from the Pirates. They are still 4 games out of a playoff spot with three teams to climb over to get there. However, my gut says they probably did enough to foolishly convince themselves they are still in the hunt, so they won’t trade Shohei Ohtani. With that being said, the next 6 games against the Tigers are Blue Jays will probably be the final deciding point if they have any motivation to be buyers at the deadline on August 1st. Anthony Rendon however, will not be playing by then, as he is still recovering from a bruised shin. Don’t worry though, his party planning skills are still on point, as he and his wife threw an Alphabet party on the teams off day last Thursday. Of course every day is an off day for this bum, doing nothing on the field, off the field, and just making stupid ass comments, while costing the team a whopping $38 million for the next three seasons.

In case you have not heard, Southern Californians are up in arms over the fact that the LA Times is making some cuts. Those cuts in staffing mean they will not be producing box scores, game stories, or showing TV schedules anymore, while also raising the costs of their subscription. Look people, I get that some of you still like your printed newspaper, your box scores and TV listings, but this is 2023. There are plenty of other ways in this day and age to get the info you’re looking for. I don’t remember the last time I looked at the LA Times for that kind of info. I still enjoy their sports columns, but the reality of it is they are still a business that needs to not only make money, but evolve with the way media is done in 2023. Those of you readers complaining about this have clearly never run a business, or don’t have much of an understanding of how it needs to continuously evolve.

So nobody wants to pay NFL Running Backs anymore. It’s ironic isn’t it? Everybody needs a running game to put them over the top, but they don’t want to pay for it. I can understand this to some degree, but not when you’re paying Quarterbacks like Daniel Jones $44 million. Jones can’t function without Saquon Barkley, who is a huge part of the Giants offense. The same can be said for the likes of Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, and free agents like Dalvin Cook and Zeke Elliott. One guy to blame? Todd Gurley. The Rams gave him all that money, they went to a Super Bowl with him, and he was a shell of himself since he was injured. They cut him, and a few years later they went back to the Super Bowl and won it. Running backs have become replaceable in the minds of most NFL GM’s. Still, $10 million on a one year franchise tag deal still isn’t something they should turn down.

Who has interest in the women’s World Cup? This team is wildly successful, but I’ll be honest, I won’t until we get into at least the quarterfinal. Don’t be shocked because to be honest, my interest in the men’s World Cup isn’t that much higher. I realize that world wide soccer is a tremendous sport, and it’s even growing to an extent in the US. However, the MLS is still probably no better than the 3rd best league in the world, and if the men won the World Cup tomorrow, most people in the US would probably celebrate for a day or two and then forget about it. There’s just too many other sports that command our attention in the US, and namely American football.

Finally, James Harden says he’s about to make things really uncomfortable with the 76ers. He is essentially demanding a trade to the Clippers, and only the Clippers. He should ask Dame Lillard how his demand is going, when Lillard has for more trade value than Harden right now. Harden has now demanded a trade from three different teams in the last three years. He also disappears like Hodini in the playoffs, a tradition unlike any other. Somehow, he believes there is a market for him, but even the Clippers don’t even want to give up a lot for him. Nor should they. They are smart for waiting this out to see if Daryl Morey gets sick of him and unloads him, but if not, nothing changes for the Clips. It still comes down to the health of Kawhi and PG13.

Monday Morning Coffee

July 17, 2023

The Angels managed to salvage an exciting comeback win on Saturday against the Astros, but they still lost 2 of 3 and their season is spiraling downward. Their schedule over the next few weeks is like trying to make it through a field of land mines. More importantly, the obnoxious question that keeps getting asked on a daily basis is whether or not they will trade Shohei Ohtani. We’ve exhausted the fact that they should trade him and despite the fact that they will now reportedly listen to offers, Arte Moreno isn’t going to allow it to happen. I don’t understand the mentality though. Moreno is worried that trading him will impact his legacy. You mean he’s worried about his legacy NOW, and not with how he’s handled this franchise over the last decade plus? That’s like being wanted for murder, but concerned you’re gonna get busted for smoking pot. Plus the reality of it is by trading Ohtani, the Angels could still bring back some high quality talent in their farm system, which they desperately need. There is a financial component though to this that Arte might not want to give up. Even if he only has Ohtani for two more months, that is revenue he’s not getting back if he’s traded. They also desperately need to send Anthony Rendon and his contract to another planet. The only thing worse than his contract is all the stupid comments he makes and complete lack of self-awareness that makes you think he just doesn’t give a crap and is only here to collect a paycheck. That has easily become the worst contract in team history.

As for the Dodgers, they took 2 of 3 from the lowly Mets over the weekend, and have taken control of 1st place in the NL West. Can we just take a moment though to appreciate the likes of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and JD Martinez? I have no idea how the Dodgers were lucky enough to end up with Mookie and Freddie. They easily should have finished their careers with their respective franchises. Instead, they now have two franchise cornerstones that are not just amazing players, but amazing leaders, that are going to be anchoring their team for the next decade. Then there’s JD Martinez, who was a great get by Andrew Friedman, and has produced at a level that I did not think was possible for his age and injury history. Nevertheless, he’s been wildly productive, and a huge force behind the Dodgers with the 2nd best record in the big leagues. For all the flaws this team has with bullpen, starting pitching, and bench depth, it’s really not all that bad.

To to NBA, where the Lakers wrapped up summer league with a win over the Clippers yesterday. While I don’t think we should draw any ridiculous over the top conclusions about Summer League, I will say the the Lakers have some really nice young players they can develop. Max Christie is very capable of being an excellent rotation player this season. But beyond that, Jalen Hood-Shifino can be productive if he improves his shooting, and Collin Castleton and Maxwell Lewis can also turn into something with some time in the G-League. If you aren’t convinced of that, perhaps I should introduce you to Austin Reaves, who is now the third best player on the Lakers after just two years in the league. However, the Lakers will have an interesting decision to make in August: should they give Anthony Davis a contract extension? On one hand, it will be cheaper than giving him a max when he’s potentially a free agent next summer, and you don’t run the risk of losing him for nothing. On the other hand though, do you want to tie yourself to an injury prone player who may not be the best player on a championship team, well into his mid-30’s when Lebron James will likely have moved on? My initial feeling is they should extend him, but something that gives them protection if he misses games, or higher bonuses if he’s All-NBA, MVP, etc. When AD is healthy, there probably aren’t many players in the league better than him. That’s value that should be retained one way or the other.

I’m sure you all saw Lebron stand up at the ESPY’s last week and clarify that he’s not retiring and coming back to play next year. Of course this led to a ton of criticism from the likes of Dan Patrick and others, who thought this was a “look at me” and unnecessary moment. However, I think he was probably over-criticized for his comments. When we last heard from Lebron, he told us he had a lot of thinking to do about his future. So if he just showed up a training camp and said nothing about it, wouldn’t he be criticized for that as well? Yes none of us truly expected him to retire and the moment might have been a bit over the top. However, it’s Lebron James and he’s a big enough star to warrant that.

Speaking of extension decisions, the Clippers will have a couple of difficult ones to make coming up. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. These dudes have each missed even more time than Anthony Davis has with the Lakers. Plus, the real issue is that Kawhi’s people protect him and want him to be load managed even more than most players. Unfortunately, in the NBA, historically, teams have just rolled over and given max extensions or max contracts without much hardball negotiations, especially for players who have been All-NBA caliber. However, If I were the Clippers, I wouldn’t roll over that easily. In fact, the Knicks, Blazers, and Raptors all reportedly turned down a trade for Paul George this off-season, and a big part of that is that he was seeking an extension. Even for Kawhi Leonard, as great as he was when he’s healthy, he’s not available enough to command a longer commitment from the team. How you go about negotiations with stars like this without offending them is tricky. Just ask the 76ers who have an unhappy James Harden on their team, with nobody that wants to trade anything of value for him. Even the Clippers, who he really wants to play for. Steve Ballmer is definitely a forward thinker, so how he handles this situation with his stars is one to keep a very close eye on.

It was interesting to learn last week that the Rams actually spent a good portion of the off-season shopping Matt Stafford. It’s not surprising though that there weren’t any takers for his massive contract, especially coming off the injuries he had, as well as the rumors that he may be closer than we think to retirement. The fact that actually happened though tells you that the Rams are already looking to rebuild their team, if it wasn’t obvious already. Yes they still have Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald, but they will also have 40 new players on their team. More than anything though, they need to find a way to acquire more draft capital so they can figure out who their QB of the future is going to be. Stetson Bennett is an interesting name to watch, but the expectations are low for him. Something tells me that QB of the future is still a couple of year away from even being on the roster.

Monday Morning Coffee

July 10, 2023

We’ve reached the all-star break and the Dodgers are looking a bit better than a few weeks ago. They hit the break winners of 4 straight and 5 of their last 6 games. They are tied with the D’Backs for 1st place in the NL West. This is definitely a playoff team, but does it have a realistic chance to win a World Series? If there’s anything we’ve learned over the last few postseasons it’s that October is a crapshoot, and it’s about peaking at the right time. However, peaking at the right time usually means being able to plug the holes on your team, and I’m not sure how the Dodgers will be able to do this between now and the postseason. They desperately need a #3 starter, and that’s assuming Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw get healthy and in good form again. They also need another high leverage bullpen arm, and a reliable bat off the bench that can play the infield. That’s a lot of holes to fill, and if you look at who could be available at the trade deadline, that kind of help just isn’t out there. Instead, the Dodgers will have to hope for health from the likes of Walker Buehler as a reliever, Ryan Pepiot, Chris Taylor, and Trayce Thompson to plug their holes. That doesn’t sound promising to think that group could suddenly peak, but stranger things have happened.

As for the Angels, they have had an absolutely miserable last two weeks. They’ve lost 5 straight and 9 of their last 10 games. They are 7 games out of 1st place in the AL West, and they’ve slipped to 5 games out of the AL Wild Card with 5 teams to jump over. The worst part about it is the injuries. Mike Trout is down for the next 8 weeks with a broken hand, Taylor Ward pulled his groin, Jo Adell strained his oblique, Anthony Rendon bruised his shin even though he stinks anyway, and Brandon Drury has shoulder issues. Right now, the Halos look like they would rather be in Cancun than playing baseball, and most of them probably will this week. However, the dark cloud is rearing it’s ugly head as we approach the trade deadline: should the Angels trade Shohei Ohtani? It’s clear even the average fan is more sensible than Arte Moreno and knows he should be traded to get something of value. Instead, Arte Moreno is caught up in public perception. He doesn’t want to be the owner that traded Ohtani. This is really about lack of self-awarness. He’s never thought of himself as a small market, but in reality he is. He’s never thought he needed to rebuild because he had Trout and Ohtani. But his team has been mediocre with them because he refuses to rebuild. He thinks he doesn’t need to invest in scouting and development, because that’s what a small market would do. This is such a small minded way of operating a baseball team. Unfortunately, nobody around him will tell him otherwise, and he has a bunch of “yes men” surrounding him. Sadly, the Ohtani situation is the only reason people are talking about the Angels. Even Stephen A Smith was right.

I found it interesting that Facebook decided to launch Threads, and everybody on Instagram just opened an account. One-third of Instagram users are college students, 48% of them are female. Nearly 60% of Twitter users are between 25-49 years old, and 68% of them are male. In other words, the user base is completely different. Mark Zuckerberg did a great job of creating short-term hype, especially at a time when he knew Twitter users were frustrated with Elon Musk. I’m one of them, and I probably will never forgive Elon for the limitations he put on the platform right in the middle of NBA Free Agency. Ultimately, it remains to be seen if the major Twitter base will carry over to Instagram, and become real users. I have my doubts. Nevertheless, this at least gets us closer to a cage match between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.

It sure didn’t take long for Victor Wembenyamba to have his first controversy. Can’t say I thought it would be with Britney Spears. The situation is so ridiculous though. She tried to chase him down to congratulate him, and his security team pushed her away. The kid has absolutely no idea who she is, being that he’s a teenager and hasn’t been in the country that long. However, the situation could be resolved in 5 minutes if he had smart people advising him. Call her and apologize, then offer to take her and her husband to dinner, and even create and Instagrammable moment around it. Also, for those of you saying “Britney Spears is crazy”, that really has nothing to do with this situation. I did really enjoy all the Britney stans trolling Wemby’s summer league performance on Twitter.

Speaking of Summer League, I don’t like to overanalyze these games as many people do, but there’s definitely a few things to take note of. Max Christie has absolutely been putting the work in, and is clearly dominating Summer League. He looks like he can be an excellent rotation player for the Lakers this coming season, and provide them with the 3-D presence they really need. Jalen Hood-Schifino has some potential, but will need to work on his shooting. Colin Castelton also looks like he could be an effective big man after he puts on some weight and spends some time in the G-League. However, speaking of bigs, the Lakers will probably need to sign one more with some girth, and ability to defend and rebound. Bismack Biyombo, Tristan Thompson, or even Dwight Howard come to mind as reasonable fits, and good locker room fits as well. Dwight even said the Lakers are like “the girl that got away” recently. Look Dwight we get it, you want to come back, but why do you have to get personal?

NFL Training Camps are just around the corner and the talk around the Rams is interesting. Jason McIntyre from Fox Sports threw out some bold predictions, which caused a stir. He thinks the Rams will be bad, and a 1-5 start will prompt them to trade Aaron Donald. That of course, resulted in lots of talk on who could trade for him on Twitter. This is how trade rumors in sports get started these days, when many times there is nothing to them. McIntyre was asked to give “bold predictions”. If they are bold they are actually not likely to happen. I realize the Rams weren’t great last year, but that’s also because they were injured. They do have 40 1st year players on their team, but they also still have Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, and Matt Stafford. Other than the Eagles, the NFC really doesn’t have any sure fire great teams. We think San Francisco might be good, but they don’t even know who will be playing quarterback for them. My point is, as long as the Rams have those three stars, they will be in the mix for a playoff spot in an NFC with a lot of parity. Aaron Donald is going nowhere.

Monday Morning Coffee

July 3,2023

Sometimes the best moves are the simplest and most straight forward. This past weekend, the Lakers completed a fast, efficient, and smart off-season. Rob Pelinka re-signed Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, and D’Angelo Russell, while adding Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish and Jaxton Hayes. Not only are the Lakers running it back and keeping the continuity of a roster that made it to the West Finals, they are arguably younger, more athletic, with even better shooting. With the exception of that disastrous Russell Westbrook trade, Rob Pelinka has done an exceptional job of building out a balanced roster in almost every year he’s been here. That’s also remarkable when the entire league hates you because they wanted your job. NBA GM’s are that petty and are like that high school girl that hates the popular girl because she’s so pretty. I will say that it was a bummer to lose Dennis Schroeder, but Gabe Vincent is a pretty good point guard to have alongside Lebron, assuming he performs at the level he did in the playoffs. As for the final roster spots, I’d really like to see Malik Beasley back for the minimum. Law of averages tells you he should shoot better like he has his whole career, and maybe even Mo Bamba or Christian Wood for the other spot. In any case, this team should be right back in the mix to contend for an NBA Championship next season, and that’s all you can ask for.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have made a couple of moves but the rumors surrounding them are much bigger than those. They brought back Russell Westbrook on a deal that is so cheap, he might as well be on NBA welfare. They also traded a couple of 2nd round picks to Houston for Kenyan Martin Jr, which is a nice move. However, the big question is if they can and should acquire James Harden. Let’s be honest, the market for Harden is not great. He’s about to be 34 years old, and although he can still ball, he spends more time in the strip club than on the basketball court these days. The Clippers realize this, so they seem to be interested, but only for their expiring contracts like Marcus Morris, Nic Batum, and Robert Covington. I’m sure the 76ers would much rather have the likes of Terrance Mann, Norman Powell, or Ivica Zubac. However, James Harden probably isn’t worth that much at this point, and even Daryl Morey knows this, after he gave up a ton to get him from the Nets. The big question is what exactly the Clipper front office is thinking. They went into the off-season seemingly just trying to run it back and hope for better health. Then there were some Paul George trade rumors, suggesting they might be willing to blow it up, and now they look like they want to double down on their star players and try to add another. For all James Harden’s flaws, if you can get him for your expiring contracts and a pick, it’s probably worth it. If not, the Clippers should just move on. The Clips may also be feeling pressure to do something seeing that the Lakers and Suns fortified their roster, while they haven’t done much. We may find out soon.

Elsewhere around the association’s offseason, Dame Lillard finally requested a trade from the Blazers. He probably should have done this two seasons ago. The market for him is probably going to be very limited though since he seems to be focused only on the Miami Heat. Savvy move by the Rockets to outbid all those Chinese teams for the services of Dillon Brooks. 4 years and $80 million? I haven’t seen anything that ridiculous since they decided to pay Fred VanVleet over $40 million a year hours early. The Warriors have Steph Curry and Klay Thompson: the Splash Brothers. The Wizards now have Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma: the Cash Brothers. The Bulls have clearly decided their goal is to be a mediocre as possible after extending Nikola Vucevic for three more years. Where was I when these teams were handing out money?

I feel bad for all the big names at ESPN who were let go last week. These are incredible superstar talents in the sports broadcasting industry. However, it just goes to show you how far ESPN has fallen. They overspent on broadcasting rights to all their major sports leagues, at a time when subscribers were cutting the cord left and right. The good news for most of these folks though, especially the NBA folks, is that there will likely be jobs opening up for them if NBC wins the NBA broadcasting contract in another year. I’ve been waiting 20 years for this, just so we can bring back the classic NBA on NBC themed music from John Tesh!

To the ice, where the LA Kings didn’t listen to most of us. General Manager, Rob Blake decided to pull the trigger on that stupid Pierre Luc-Dubois trade, completely trashing his forward depth, while not upgrading his defense or goaltending. The Kings are now going to be relying on a 35-year old Cam Talbot, and a very average Phoenix Copley to help them achieve their Stanley Cup aspirations. This is one case where I hope I’m wrong, but Ijust don’t see it. The Kings are at best a playoff team, and certainly no more equipped to advance past the 1st or 2nd round than they were before. I will say this though: the only positive is that it potentially gives the Kings three most important prospects the opportunity to develop much faster. Those three are Quintin Byfield, Brandt Clark, and Arthur Kaliyev. If those three turn into the stars we expect, we are probably having a different conversation. In any case though, they still need a goalie that can stop the puck!

In baseball, the Dodger pitching is still in rough shape. They lost 2 of 3 over the weekend to the lowly Kansas City Royals, and Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias struggled on the mound. I can give Urias a little slack because he’s coming of the injured list, but what’s Gonsolin’s excuse? I also think that the smart thing to do right now is put Clayton Kershaw on the injured list, and have him sit out the all-star game. Yes, I realize that Kershaw is a strong candidate for the Cy Young right now, but he’s already got three of them an an MVP. Would you rather have him healthy in October, or would you rather see him win a Cy Young and flame out in the post season? I’m sure even Kershaw would tell you he’d rather be healthy and successful in October. Unfortunately though, there appears to be too many problems in the rotation and bullpen though for this team to do much damage come October. On a brighter note, congratulations to Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Will Smith, and Kershaw, on being named NL All-Stars.

Then there’s the Angels, who had a rough weekend against the D’Backs, losing 2 of 3. They are now 2 games back of a Wild Card playoff spot, and 6 games out of 1st place in the division. The Halos depth is definitely being test in the past couple of weeks, and when guys have gone down, you would expect things to remain stable. However, the depth just isn’t what we thought it was. One guy goes down, and another guy replaces him that will be delivering pizza in 2024. As you would expect, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout were named to the All-Star team. Other than that, not much to be optimistic about for the middling Halos.

Monday Morning Coffee

June 26, 2023

The Lakers had an interesting but uneventful draft night last week.  I think Jessie and Joey Buss have earned the right to be given the benefit of the doubt on their picks because they have been so good for years.  I never want to hear the names Myles Turner and Buddy Hield again.  If the Pacers haven’t traded them to LA yet they aren’t going to.  I think the Lakers should strongly consider picking up the option for Malik Beasley.  They need his shooting, and he’s an expiring contract that could still have value later.  The Lakers should have a good chance at retaining most of their team from last season once free agency starts, but any upgrades from last season aren’t likely to come in free agency.  Brook Lopez would be a great fit next to AD, but he will probably be out of their price range, especially when you consider what Naz Reid got.

As for the Clippers, I was somewhat shocked to hear that they were shopping Paul George around the league to gauge his value.  Not because Steve Ballmer hasn’t been bold before, but because of the timing.  The Clippers are going into a new arena after next season, and selling seats is what matters.  They can’t risk putting anything on the floor that suggests they aren’t trying to compete for titles.  This tells you though that the Clippers front office is getting tired of the “we’re a championship team if Kawhi and Paul stay healthy” narrative.   It also explains the rumors of Ty Lue being uninterested in an extension.  Unfortunately for them, as they probably learned last week, Paul George isn’t going to get them Pascal Siakam, Damian Lillard, or even the #3 pick in this years draft.  What will be more interesting through is how the Clippers handle potential extension talks later this summer with Kawhi and PG because they may play hard ball and include incentive clauses based on number of games played.  For the time being though, my expectation is they will keep the Kawhi and PG duo together, because it seems like their best alternative.

If there’s one dude I feel bad for it’s Chris Paul.  He’s gets traded to Washington in a salary dump, then instead of getting bought out to choose his own team, he gets traded to the Warriors in another salary dump.   The good news for him is that he’s closer to his family and he’s going to be guaranteed nearly $30 million this season.  The bad news is his fit with the Warriors is like a square peg in a round hole.  They play fast and he plays slow.  They need size, depth, and youth.  He’s small, eats up their depth with his contract and old.  This also goes to show you how crazy the new CBA is.  Paying more than two stars is going to be very difficult.  If you’re one of those two, you better be producing at an elite level.  If not, you will always be trade bait.  Just ask Marcus Smart who is one of the best defenders in the NBA, and he got traded to Memphis, with Kristaps Porzingas going to Boston.  I thought the Wizards committed basketball malpractice when they traded Bradley Beal, but now it’s even worse after this trade.  They’ve traded their two best players and not a single first round pick to show for it.

It was a very big week for UCLA basketball players, so congratulations to all of them, and to the Bruins program for having three players drafted and two more signed as free agents.  Jaime Jaquez was drafted in the 1st round, #18 overall by the Houston Rockets.  Amari Bailey was drafted at #41 by the Charlotte Hornets in the 2nd round.  Jaylen Clark was drafted at #53 by the Timberwolves, not just in the 2nd round, but during a commercial about shaving your pubes.   Then Tyger Campbell was signed by the Magic as an undrafted free agent summer league deal, and David Singleton was signed by the Atlanta Hawks.   That’s some massive turnover for the Bruins basketball team, but something tells me Mick Cronin will find a way to re-tool in another year.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. greets NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

In baseball, I know everybody wants to talk about Shohei Ohtani and the Dodgers after they played the Angels last week, but I’m more focused on how the team is playing now.  The Dodgers have slid down the standings quite a bit the last few weeks, but in the past 7 days they’ve found the win column more frequently.  They took 2 of 3 from the Astros over the weekend.  I hope they beat the Astros on a controversial call every time they play each other for the rest of time, which would at least be some justice.  They are also creeping back up the NL West standings and getting healthier.  Julio Urias and Max Muncy should be back from the IL this week.  In about 5 weeks from now, I expect this team to look closer to one of the best in the NL like they did a few weeks ago.  I don’t expect their bullpen issues to be fixed by then, so that is what I’m expecting Andrew Friedman to fix at the deadline, including having a real closer by then too.

Then there’s the conundrum that is the Angels.  Is the glass half empty or half full?  They got swept by the Dodgers, then lost 2 of 3 to the Rockies.  There’s nothing like scoring 25 runs on one night, then the next day, not being able to hit a pitcher with an era of 7.  Good thing they played Luis Rengifo over red hot newly acquired Mike Moustakas.  Rengifo couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat right now.  Other than Saturday, the offense was abysmal all week.  Is this a playoff team? Well they are certainly in the hunt, but it’s weeks like last week that make you think you are really just watching the same poorly run Angels baseball team.

Finally, Memo to Kings GM Rob Blake.  There is still time to pull out of this stupid trade you are about to make! You do not need to another forward that can score.  You need goaltending, grit, and defense.  If the Kings end up acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois, it’s going to cost you two very good young forwards, one of whom is younger, arguably better, and probably cheaper for the next 3 years than Dubois.  This is about to be one massive mistake that is going to take years to overcome, and will cost you the resources you need to get the improvements you really need.  When this happens, and Wikipedia already jumped the gun and said it has, it will be like buying a Ferrari when you need to fix the leak in your kitchen sink and the roof over your head.

Monday Morning Coffee

June 19, 2023

Don’t freak out Laker fans.  The Suns didn’t build a super team.  Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker can score, but they defend as well as a parked car.  The Suns will also have nothing but Uber drivers to fill out the rest of their team.  The three star model is outdated.  It no longer works in today’s NBA where players are less durable, and depth is important with a more restrictive CBA.  The point is, don’t over think this.  The Lakers should just try to re-sign as many dudes as possible and try to run it back.  If they can add CP3 for the minimum along with all that then even better. You can’t overestimate the value of having continuity, and as long as the Lakers think that way, they will be in good shape heading into next year.

You’ve gotta feel bad for the Wizards and their new front office. They weren’t the ones that gave Bradley Beal that no-trade clause and that horrible contract. You can argue that Beal is expensive, injury-prone, and in decline somewhat, but the return was still awful. Were it not for the no-trade clause the Department of Justice would probably be filing a suit for Basketball Malpractice against the Wizards. When you really think about it though, the return was so bad, what was the point of really trading him now? Maybe further down the road he might have further expanded his list of teams or increased his trade value.

As for the Clippers, there’s more news around Ty Lue that broke last week. Lue and the Clippers will reportedly be unlikely to agree on a contract extension before the season. That means he is likely to be a free agent coach next off-season. This tells you that Lue wants to see if his stars are going to be committed to playing more games and not load managing games like they are 1099 employees. He may also not want to get stuck in a rebuilding situation if Kawhi or PG leave the Clippers next off-season. The Athletic is also reporting that the Clippers are trying acquire Raptors forward Pascal Siakam. While they don’t have much draft capital to give up, it did make me wonder if the Clippers would be willing to deal Paul George for Siakam, since he may be a slightly better fit and miss fewer games.

To baseball, where it’s been nothing but trouble for the Dodgers the past two weeks, especially after getting swept by the Giants at home. The pitching is stunningly 25th out of 30 teams in the MLB this season, owning a 4.66 mark that would be the highest in franchise history since 1944. The rotation has struggled with injuries and depth, and the bullpen is a complete tire fire. That’s not the only problem either. They need a productive middle infielder and more consistency from their outfield outside of Mookie. There’s no way all of this can be fixed by the trade deadline. Their best hope is that the starting rotation gets healthier come July, they find a reliver or two for cheap at the deadline, and they convert either Dustin May or Julio Urias to a high leverage or closer for the remainder of the season. The latter seems like the most unlikely, with Urias ticketed for free agency, and May with health concerns that could prevent him from making a transition. Everyone wants to talk about Ohtani and all this isn’t a big deal if the Dodgers get him. However, do you really want to spend $600 million or more on one guy? How has that approach worked for the Angels the past decade? That’s 2-4 really good players you could get for that price, and in baseball, one guy can only move the needle so far.

Dodgers reliever Alex Vesia walks to the dugout during a loss to the Washington Nationals on May 31.

Speaking of Ohtani and the Angels, they took 2 of 3 from the Royals over the weekend, and are right in the thick of the AL playoff race. Ohtani has been spectacular, and Mike Trout even came out of his slump over the weekend, going back-to-back with Ohtani yesterday. It’s actually somewhat remarkable the Angels are where they are because Trout has struggled a bit, Anthony Rendon stinks, and the starting pitching has been middle of the road. However, the bullpen has been a strong point, and the Halos have gotten hot the past few weeks. They’ve got 17 games before the All-Star Break. If they can just go 11-6 before the break and get to 50-52 wins by then, they’ll be sitting pretty. I still think the responsible thing to do if Ohtani doesn’t commit to coming back next season is to trade him, but we know Arte Moreno will never do this.

Last week USC announced long-awaited plans to build a three-level, football-only performance center that includes a second, full-length practice field alongside its current practice field, a new locker room, new weight and training rooms, multiple player lounges and a rooftop hospitality deck, among other amenities meant to garner the attention of recruits and set USC apart from other blue blood programs. Lincoln Riley is correct, you can’t underestimate the value of these type of facilities in College Football recruiting today. This was actually brought up by a former Notre Dame assistant coach that is now at LSU, who said the facilities at LSU and the SEC are on another level compared to others, and that matters to kids selecting schools today.

A conceptual artist sketch of the planned USC football performance center.

Memo to Rams Executive Kevim Demoff: chill out on the Nuggets gear. I get that your boss, Stan Kronke owns the NBA Champion Denver Nuggets, but you know this is a Laker town. The public doesn’t need to see you in Nuggets gear, especially after they beat the Lakers, and you know the fan bases overlap. You can wear your Nuggets gear when you go to your bosses house, not in public!

Finally, the Chargers schedule is a problem. They have the earliest bye week, week 5. For a team that has been hit with the injury bug annually, it would have been far better for them to have the bye much later in the season. The Bolts will also have to play 6 games in primetime, but oddly enough none of them are against Kansas City. Since Justin Herbert took over as the starter, his five games against Patrick Mahomes have been decided by three, six, six, three and three points. The Chargers are 1-4 in those contests. That is literally the difference between the Bolts getting much better playoff positioning than previous years, or even winning the division.

Monday Morning Coffee

June 12, 2023

Can we just get to the off-season already? The NBA rumors are heating up.  The latest of course is around Chris Paul, and him signing with the Lakers if the Suns waive him.  I like CP3 personally, and having him on the team would be fun, but I don’t want to rely on him given his age and health.  If he wants to sign for the minimum and be a guard in a rotation with D-Lo, Austin, and Dennis, then he could be a nice veteran presence with upside.  However, if I’m signing him to for more money than that, and asking him to play 30 minutes a game, I’m asking for trouble. I know he’s friends with Lebron and I know his dream has always been to play for the Lakers, but this isn’t Disneyland; the Lakers aren’t in the business of making dreams comes true. If it’s not on the Lakers terms, move on. Keep it simple Rob Pelinka.  Bring back as many pieces of the team from last season as you can.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to envision the Clippers off-season being very eventful.  Trent Redon is now their new GM, which nobody knows anything about or cares, because it’s the Clippers.  The core of their team is under contract next year, so for better or worse they don’t have many questions.  Only whether or not they will bring back Russell Westbrook.  He looks like a guy who doesn’t want to leave LA because of his family, and I think the Clips would be willing to keep him at a reasonable price.  I personally would not bring back the Kawhi-PG duo if there was a way to move on, but I think the Clips are too afraid to do so. They are afraid all 6 of their fans won’t pay any attention to them anymore.

To baseball, where the Dodger pitching has been falling apart.  The Boys in Blue have lost 6 of their last 8, and what is usually the strength of their team is far from it this year.  Clayton Kershaw and rookie Bobby Miller are the only reliable starters, but after that it’s just a bunch of dudes with baseball gloves.  Julio Urias, Dustin May, and Walker Buehler are injured, Tony Gonsolin is a shell of last years version, and Noah Syndergaard is a total disaster and at this point needs to be DFA’d. The bullpen is also a complete dumpster fire, and not having a true closer has caught up with them in the past week. There’s probably not just one trade that can fix all this at the deadline, but their starting pitching will probably get healthier, and their offense is good enough. Andrew Friedman and his computer should do what they can to try and re-tool their bullpen and even find a closer. Only three teams have a worse bullpen than the Dodgers in all of baseball, which is a sure fire recipe for post season disaster.

As for the Angels, they are staying afloat, winners of 6 of the last 7 games. Shohei Ohtani has been on fire lately, and Zach Neto hit a pair of homers yesterday. In the bigger picture though, every success with this team has been offset by a disappointment. Ohtani’s brilliance is offset by Mike Trout’s inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Zach Neto’s emergence as a solid shortstop is offset by the loss of Logan O’Hoppe to injury. Their bullpen has been solid, but Anthony Rendon still isn’t earning his paycheck, and making stupid statements. Yes Anthony, we know the Angels haven’t been very good and neither have you, but sometimes you have to have the self awareness to know it’s not you that should be saying this. I still think if the Halos really think they have a shot at keeping Ohtani, they need to be buyers at the deadline and do everything to make the playoffs. Otherwise, it would be foolish not to trade him and get something for him.

Has anyone looked at the UCLA and USC Football Big Ten schedule in 2024? UCLA and USC will each travel more than 15,000 miles roundtrip in conference play during their inaugural Big Ten season. In 2024 alone, the Bruins will travel to Rutgers, which is more than 4,800 miles roundtrip, while USC travels to Maryland and Penn State, each of which are more than 4,400 miles roundtrip.  If having to adjust to a cross-country schedule for conference play wasn’t bad enough, UCLA also plays nonconference road games at Hawaii and LSU. USC has a brutal travel schedule, having to go visit the East Coast twice for matchups with Penn State and Maryland. All this travel better earn them lots of frequent flier miles with whatever crummy domestic airline they choose. It’s insanity, but all they can hope for is that there are more teams that make a super conference shortly that will reduce the travel over time. Otherwise, they will be at a significant disadvantage in all their sports, not just football.

Also notable in College Football is the news that Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbick is going to be retiring in 2024, and that he will be replaced by NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua. Bevacqua’s background is very interesting that he’s a TV executive, which tells you how important sports media rights are for Notre Dame. The timing is also very interesting, given all the talk about Notre Dame joining a conference. Swarbick has always insisted that it’s been important for the Irish to maintain their Independence from both a competitive and media perspective. I can only assume before Swarbick steps down, Bevacqua will be aligned, especially if he’s coming from NBC.

The LA Kings are making moves. The just traded goalie Cal Peterson, opening up $5 million of cap space, which gives them $13 million to spend. Moving Cal was important because anyone named “Cal” should be running an auto dealership rather than playing goaltender in the NHL. Of course after re-signing some of their own free agents, they badly need a solid goaltender. The most sensible thing for them to do would be to do this through the trade market, because the free agent market doesn’t have any elite goalies. Actually, Connor Hellebucyck is available, and is one of the best goalies in hockey. The Kings need goaltending and defense badly. They got so used to Jonathan Quick being dominant for a decade, they didn’t have to worry about the position. Now they do, and it’s time to address it in a meaningful way if they intend to compete for Stanley Cups again, and Hellebuyck would be the guy to get them there.

Finally, the LIV Tour announced it will be merging with the PGA last week. That lasted shorter than the career of Vanilla Ice. I can’t begrudge any of those golfers that took those fat paydays from the Saudi’s. Money is money, and most of us would take it if we had the chance. With that being said, it’s probably a good idea that all these golfers who took the money shut their mouth and don’t try to explain anything related to 9/11 or justify it. It was the worst day in American history and always will be. There’s overwhelming evidence that the Saudi’s were involved in funding 9/11 and that fact can’t take away how some Americans feel about them, especially those families directly affected. I’m mostly talking to you Bryson DeChambeau, since you are completely insensitive and have no idea what you are talking about to just tell people to “move on”. Just say you don’t know much about it to comment and move on.

Monday Morning Coffee

June 5, 2023

How adorable. Kyrie Irving thinks he can convince Lebron James to join the Mavericks. Even more adorable is the idea that the Mavericks would actually have pieces the Lakers want in a trade. I mean if they want to send the Lakers Luka, I’m sure that would be fine. What a ridiculous story that broke this morning, and even more ridiculous that NBA writers spent time covering and analyzing this nonsense. Had the Nuggets actually won last night, Mike Malone would probably be livid that people were taking attention away from the Nuggets. The more fascinating question is whether or not the Mavericks will offer Kyrie a full max deal. This is really Kyrie saying “Well Lebron, I really want to play with you, but I’m not going to take less money to do so”. Well Kyrie, you might actually not play with Lebron, and take less money as well! This means nothing for the Lakers. They will most likely be bringing back the same team, and maybe even a better one with the assets and options they have.

I don’t know how the Miami Heat are doing it, but they are. They somehow took home court advantage away from the Denver Nuggets and are headed back to Miami tied 1-1. This made way more sense when Jimmy Butler was playing out of his mind. Now Butler looks exhausted, sometimes Bam Adebayo looks like nothing more than Robert Sacre with cajun seasoning, yet their role players are balling. I assure you if Jamal Murray were playing against the Lakers, his final shot to tie the game yesterday probably would have gone down, just because it was against the Lakers.

The Dodgers lost 2 of 3 to the Yankees over the weekend, but that’s not really the big story going on with them. They made the mistake that every big company is making: publicly supporting something that people view as political. The Dodgers invited Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to the Ravine to honor them. Of course by doing this they pissed off Clayton Kershaw, among other MLB players who are conservative Christians, or people of faith. The bottom line is that whenever you engage in anything remotely political these days, you are guaranteed to piss off somebody. It’s also probably best to not piss of your franchise player if you’re going to piss anybody off.

As for the Angels, it’s their fans that should be pissed off. They lost 2 of 3 over the weekend to the Astros, but when you watch that series it was much worse than it seemed. The gap in talent between these two clubs isn’t that wide. In fact, one could argue the Halos have more talent. But when they step on the field, you can see that something is terribly wrong. The Halos did not make sound fundamental baseball players, they did not look like they believed they could win, and their leadership looked non-existent. That’s just a further extension of the lack of scouting and player development we know already exists for them. The problem is their appears to be no end in sight to this as long as Arte Moreno owns the team. It was also such a tease to hear the Warriors ownership say they are interested in buying the Angels. If they end up buying the A’s, you’ll be even more pissed off.

To the College Hoops where UCLA got some good news, which is that Adem Bona is coming back for his Sophomore year. Bona was a beast this season, and will only build upon that next year. It was a smart move. I only wish that Amari Bailey would have stayed, and that might have taken the team to another level. Instead, it’s going to be Bona and a bunch of Euros. I truly have no idea what that means in terms of how good they will be. The only thing I can assure you is that with all the Euros on the UCLA and Arizona basketball teams, they’ll probably need to take smoking breaks at halftime.

Finally, the LA Kings have announced that they are parting ways with TV Play-By-Play Announcer Alex Faust. Faust was the heir apparent to Hall of Famer Bob Miller. He actually did a phenomenal job, and has a very bright future as a National play-by-play announcer. Unfortunately, he is a casualty of two things. The first of which is being a victim of Bally Sports bankruptcy, and some consolidation of broadcasting platforms to control costs. The Kings are now having Jim Fox, Nick Nickson, and Daryl Evans take over with a simulcast. That’s a great team and all, but it is not a reflection on Faust’s skill as a broadcaster. Faust is also victim to the fact that he came after a Hall of Famer. You never want to be that guy, as usually it doesn’t end well. There’s too much to live up to. The same thing happened when Paul Sunderland came after Chick Hearn of the Lakers. Faust will land on his feet because of his talent, but unfortunate the Kings had to lose him.

Monday Morning Coffee

May 29, 2023

As a Laker fan, you wouldn’t normally say this after a season without a championship. However, it’s true: this season was actually a success. They completely re-invented their team with 20 games left in the season, and made the conference finals. Yes, the Nuggets were simply a better team, the Joker is the best player in the world, and Jamal Murray was video game good. There’s nothing to be ashamed about though. I don’t actually believe Lebron will retire, and I don’t actually believe that when he alluded to retiring that it was some kind of a passive aggressive ploy to make the team better. I think he was just emotionally exhausted from a long year and felt like he and AD gave it their best but ran into a red hot Nuggets team, which will probably win the NBA Championship. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but even though it was four close games, ultimately, I think Lebron and AD have to be better in the biggest moments. There’s no need to overthink the off-season though. The Lakers should do their best to run it back and try to re-sign as many guys as possible. Forget any stupid ideas of signing Kyrie Irving, trading for Trae Young, Damian Lillard, or some other expensive start that will gut the team. The Lakers should re-sign their young core, and they can still make the team better with some other attractive assets like Malik Beasley, Mo Bamba, Max Christie, and their 1st round pick. That’s a pretty good situation to be in heading into what I think will probably be Lebron’s final year with the Lakers.

Elsewhere around the NBA Playoffs, if the Celtics actually beat the Heat tonight and become the first NBA team to come back from an 0-3 deficit, I won’t be speaking to anyone for at least 3-5 business days. The Celtics will probably win tonight because they are playing game 7 at home. However, given all their inconsistencies at home, it would be the most Celtics thing to do to lose that game.

In the madness of all the Laker talk, nobody is talking about USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn stepping down. Bohn allegedly made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female colleagues, which made staff members feel uncomfortable. Reports also surfaced the Bohn was under investigation while he was with Cincinnati as well. It is now apparent that after all the scandals that USC had been dealing with, which Carol Folt was brought in to clean up, absolutely nothing has changed. So Folt had no idea that Bohn had a history of this in his previous job? She’s either an idiot, or integrity means nothing to her. One or the other, and nothing in between. Clearly at some point USC had a hunch this was going on, because they hired an investigator to look into what Bohn was doing. Ultimately, nobody should be surprised. If you make money for USC, they will look the other way until they are forced to do something about it. That’s what happened here when the Times started inquiring about the situation, so Bohn was forced to resign, or he would have been fired. Now Folt is probably going to pretend like she’s really woke to combat the public perception against her. USC Football may be back, but their integrity as a program remains in shambles.

USC athletic director Mike Bohn stands inside the Coliseum

To baseball, where the Dodgers are doing it. Despite most people thinking they would take some massive step back this year, they are in 1st place in the NL West, and have the 2nd best record in the NL. More importantly, they are doing a great job of trying to win now, while letting their young players develop in the big leagues. Miguel Vargas and James Outman have had their moments, but we need to be patient. It was one month of red hot baseball for them, and one down month for them. However, the Dodgers lead the NL in runs scored, are 2nd in homers and slugging percentage. The team is hitting. Ironically, it’s the pitching that’s been the issue, and that’s largely because of injuries to the starters. Dustin May and Julio Urias are down, Clayton Kershaw has had to deal with bereavement and body fatigue, and Tony Gonsolin has been injured and not the same as last year. I know everyone is waiting for the Dodgers to win the bidding war for Shohei Ohtani this winter, but there’s still a lot of other ways for this team to improve and win a World Series. If the Dodgers want to win now without mortgaging the future, they should call the White Sox about pitcher Lucas Giolito, shortstop Tim Anderson, or the Royals about closer Aroldis Chapman.

As for the Angels, it was a rough weekend after getting swept by the Marlins. They slipped to 4th in the division, and 6 games out of 1st place. Still, they are only 3.5 games out of the Wild Card spot. If the Halos are so determined to keep Shohei Ohtani and not trade him under any circumstances, they should really be doing everything possible to make the playoffs. That means they should be feverishly calling teams to try and make a trade to improve their club. They are in the top 5 of the AL in most offensive categories, but the pitching is in the bottom 3rd of the league. They should be scouring the league for starting pitching and bullpen help. Their farm system isn’t amazing, but they’ve had some young players featured in the lineup lately, that might help them improve their team in a trade.

To the NFL, where the Cardinals released DeAndre Hopkins. I bring this up because there is relevancy for the Rams. First of all, it means one less team that is competing in the NFC West. This looks like the Cardinals are giving up on both Kyler Murray, and competing in the division next year. It also gives the Rams an outside chance at signing the talent receiver and adding him to their talented and underrated offense. However, I think the priority for them would be adding a veteran running back.

Then there’s the Chargers who finally worked something out with Austin Ekeler. Ekeler is one of the best running backs in the league, yet is somehow only making $8 million next year. By NFL running back standards, Ekeler might as well be on food stamps. It also goes to show you how much the running back position has been de-valued in the league. Ekeler tried hard to try and find someone to pay him but he couldn’t. That’s good news for the Chargers, because they need all the help they can get to overtake the Chiefs.

Monday Morning Coffee

May 15, 2023

The Lakers are going to the Western Conference Finals. If you predicted this was going to happen in Mid February, at the time everyone would have thought you should be locked up in an insane asylum. Their defense against the Warriors was elite, Lebron and AD delivered when they were called upon, and the role players stepped up. They may not be favored, but this team has a reasonable chance to not just beat the Nuggets, but to win an NBA Championship this year. Those of you that wanted to trade Lebron James, Anthony Davis, fire Rob Pelinka, and have Jeanie sell the team, can send your apology letters to the El Segundo headquarters. Don’t forget about Darvin Ham, and all the right adjustments and buttons he’s pushed thus far. The Nuggets have arguably the best player in the world right in Nikola Jokic. However, Anthony Davis seems to get the better of him when they play. Howver, this version of Jokic is peak Joker. Plus the Nuggets have a great pick and roll challenge with Jamal Murray, and way more depth than when they last played LA in the postseason in 2020. If the Lakers execute at the top of their game, they can win this series. If not, they’ll get dismantled. As for the outside chatter, everyone wants to beat up the TNT guys and Stephen A Smith for laughing at Anthony Davis, but go easy on them. Their job is to entertain, and they do a damn good job. With that being said, I don’t think they treat the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Chris Paul the same way they treat AD, which isn’t fair, but that’s what comes with being a Laker.

Elsewhere around the NBA, the Celtics took down the Sixers to advance to the East Finals. Doc Rivers has now coached seven teams that have blown a 3-1 or 3-2 series lead. It’s a tradition unlike any other. Then there’s the Suns, who got destroyed in another elimination game, this time with KD. If The Suns get eliminated in a blowout by a team with another Euro, Joe Biden might start sending them money. Speaking of Euros, how did Mark Jackson not even have Jokic on his MVP ballot? Don’t ever let that guy assemble any IKEA furniture because you know he doesn’t read any instructions.

What’s the deal with Ty Lue? Dude is under contract with the Clippers, but his name keeps coming up with other jobs. The Bucks, Raptors, and Suns are all in the market for a new coach, and his name has come up as a candidate for two of those jobs. If these teams didn’t really think he could be had, why would his name be out there? It’s an interesting situation to keep an eye on and understand just how sold both sides are on each other. It’s possible Lue is frustrated with the injuries and lack of availability of his stars. He may feel like it won’t get any better if Kawhi’s people insist on continuing to load manage. From the Clippers standpoint, if they can get a 1st round pick for Lue, and solid coaches like Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, and Nick Nurse are out there, then how married are you to Ty Lue? Stay tuned Clipper fans.

The Dodgers swept the Padres over the weekend, and don’t look now, but the Boys in Blue have the best record in the National League. I was told that the Padres were going to run the NL West and that the Dodgers are made up of a bunch of scrubs this year. Turns out none of that was true. The Dodgers have won 13 of their last 15 games, have a 3 game lead in the NL West, and 7 game lead over the Padres, who aren’t even in the NL playoff picture at the moment. Mookie Betts is also crushing it, with 6 homers in his last `5 games, and Freedie Freeman is cooking too. It’s certainly a long season and it’s always about October with the Dodgers, but right now, there’s a lot to feel good about.

As for the Angels, they lost 2 of 3 to the Guardians over the weekend, so are now 4.5 games out of 1st place in the AL West. They won for the first time in forever in Cleveland on Friday, but the pitching and bullpen in particular let them down on Saturday and Sunday. The Angels schedule won’t get any easier this week with a four game set at the Orioles, followed by three at home with the Twins. Both teams have been playing well.