New York Sports is a Dumpster Fire

Yesterday was one of the worst days to be a New York sports fan, if you’re a Yankees/Giants/Knicks fan like me. Obviously OBJ got traded for a less-than-stellar package, which sucks. The Giants are the new Jets, I’ve been saying it for awhile now but we’re the circus football team in town. I really couldn’t tell you what the plan is, between trading OBJ, letting Landon Collins walk for nothing, and holding onto Eli until he’s probably 47. The Jets signing Le’Veon sucks to see too, but at least the one redeeming quality about this Giants team is that we still have the best running back to play his home games at MetLife in Saquon Barkley.

As infuriating as it is being a Giants fan right now, and as much as us fans want Dave Gettleman run out of town by an angry mob (see below), that was far from the only reason yesterday was frustrating.

If Dave Gettleman is public enemy number one in New York at the moment, I have a pretty good idea who’s second on the list. I was minding my own business, doing some homework (I’m still a college student, somehow blogging once every few months isn’t gonna pay the bills), and watching The Michael Kay Show on YES. To my surprise, none other than good ol’ Jimmy Dolan joins the show. The worst owner in all of professional sports proceeds to do nothing besides make more of a fool of himself, and I found myself shaking my head at nearly every word that came out of the guy’s mouth. I mean, he banned a fan for life for telling him to sell the team, which literally EVERY Knicks fan wants him to do. When Kay asked whether a ban was necessary, or if the billionaire who owns multiple pro sports franchises could maybe have thick enough skin to let the guy back in The Garden, Dolan responded by asking if a fan who beat the shit out of another fan would be allowed back. Yeah, cuz telling the most incompetent owner of pro sports to sell the team is the same thing as publicly assaulting someone. The guy is an absolute fucking clown, and I’m really scared that he’ll scare free agents out of signing with the Knicks this summer.

The Knicks finally seem to have some kind of forward momentum. I believe they have the right coach in David Fizdale. They have some young talented guys in Dennis Smith, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Alonzo Trier. They’ll have a top pick in the draft in June with the potential to take a guy like Zion, RJ Barrett, or Ja Morant. And they have enough cap space to sign two marquee free agents in a class that features KD, Kyrie, Kemba Walker, and more. But I just really have a hard time believing that despite everything we have going for us, and the chance to play in MSG, that any All-Star is coming to play for a James Dolan-run franchise. I can’t see it.

The Giants are a dumpster fire I don’t even wanna get into. They’ll be unwatchable for awhile. All we can do is hope whoever our next QB is (whenever that day may come) isn’t a bust. All I have right now is the Yankees, and that’s dependent on my prayers that Luis Severino’s shoulder is okay. Rutgers basketball plays in the Big Ten tournament tonight, and it’s actually wild that they’re the second-most competent team I root for right now. The Browns might be great next year, but at least I’m not from Cleveland.

P.S. There’s few things I love more than Yankees baseball, so if this ever happened I would be inconsolable, like Ron Burgundy crying in the phone booth after Baxter got punted-level crying.

 

Odell Beckham Jr.: The Second-Most Terrific New York Athlete Ever to Be Traded

Before I address the title of this article, please allow me a bit of preamble.

You might have seen the OBJ trade coming, but I did not.  Yes, there were trade rumors about Beckham at various times over the past two years, but, during this offseason, there was no considerable buzz about such a trade being a legitimate possibility.  Therefore, my brain is still processing the trade.  Do I like this trade or not?  I honestly do not know.

When I first heard about the Beckham trade, I was upset.  Odell Beckham Jr. is the most exciting player I have watched during my days as a Giants fan.  (I watched the tail end of LT’s career, so I did not truly get to experience his excitement.) OBJ is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and one of the few players who can regularly turn his team’s down offensive day into a great offensive day with one or two plays.  Additionally, few players in the league make his teammates better than Beckham does.  The likes of Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard have been much more effective when defenses have to worry about covering the dynamic Beckham than when they do not.  For proof, watch footage from Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2017 seasons.  In Week 1, the Giants’ offense looked abysmal in Dallas, as Beckham sat on the sideline.  In Week 2, Beckham played a few plays, and the offense was much more electric on those plays than on the plays when Beckham did not play.  Simply put, one cannot easily replace Beckham’s on-field production.

However, we know that Beckham has caused chemistry issues with the Giants.  While T.O. and Antonio Brown waited several years in their NFL careers before causing off-field problems, Beckham started in Year 2.  We experienced his freak-out against Josh Norman in Year 2; the boat trip, kicking net, and comment that he does not care about his personal fouls in Year 3; his trip to France in Year 4; and his “Li’l Wayne” interview in Year 5.  I have lived on this planet long enough to know that trends are much more likely to continue than to stop.  Plus, if we know about all of the problems I have mentioned, what else is happening behind the scenes?  Nevertheless, we know that these issues are going to continue and will likely grow.  The Giants clearly felt that we had reached the point where the benefit of keeping him (all the good stuff I listed before) had fallen below the cost (all the chemistry stuff).

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Image via New York Post

Therefore, I commend the Giants for picking up a first-round pick this year, a third-rounder next year, and a solid safety in Jabrill Peppers.  The only question that remains for the Giants is “Where do they go from here?”  Did the Beckham trade happen because Eli told Dave Gettleman that the QB cannot win with Beckham’s huge ego and personality hovering over the team?  Possibly.  Did Gettleman pull the trigger because he had decided that it is time for a rebuild and that the Giants should either trade for Josh Rosen or draft Dwayne Haskins?  Hopefully.  Time will tell.  That said, you can read a million analyses about this trade on other sites.  I want to pivot now to the tangential topic referenced in this article’s title.

The New York Giants have traded a top-flight wide receiver in the prime of his career.  This is not a common occurrence in New York.  Teams in this metropolitan are usually big spenders and rarely trade megastars in their primes.  As a result, I have spent the past few hours thinking about how many players better than Beckham or of bigger star power than his have been traded away from New York teams in the primes of their careers, and my unofficial research places Beckham firmly in the #2 position on this list.  For now, I will keep you in suspense as to whom I have selected for #1 on the list.

When coming up with this list, remember that I am focusing solely on players who were traded from New York teams.  Thus, though Darryl Strawberry was an elite outfielder in 1990 (37 homers, 108 RBI: huge numbers back then), the fact that the Dodgers then signed him to a free-agent contract makes him ineligible for this list.  Similarly, John Tavares racked up 621 points in 9 years with the Islanders and also had a big hand in the team’s first playoff-series win (over Florida in 2016) since 1993….but the Maple Leafs signed Tavares as a free agent.  Thus, he too is ineligible for the list.

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Image via Los Angeles Times

In 2011, the Mets traded Carlos Beltran to the Giants (for Zack Wheeler), but Beltran was past his prime.  Plus, even in his prime, was he ever a candidate for “Best Outfielder in the Game”, as Beckham has been considered the best wide receiver in the NFL?  I would say not.  The Knicks once traded Patrick Ewing, and the Nets once traded Jason Kidd.  Both are those are all-time great players for their respective franchises, and both led their teams to two NBA Finals appearances.  However, both of them were also in the twilights of their careers when they were traded.  Neither player was involved with any “Best current player at his position” discussions when they were traded.  You could also make the analogous comments about Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch. Many people like to cite the Mets’ trade of Nolan Ryan as “the worst trade ever”, and that is a fair argument in hindsight.  The Mets did give up a guy who would go on to strike out 5000 batters, pitch 7 no-hitters, and pitch at a high level for more than 20 years.  However, when the Mets traded Ryan (and two other players) for Fregosi, Ryan was a decent-at-best pitcher whose control kept him from being anything great.  Thus, at the time of the 1971 trade, people did not think something monumental had happened.

The way I see it, there are only two players in Beckham’s territory.  One of those players is Darrelle Revis.  When the Jets traded Revis to Tampa Bay in 2013 for a 2013 first-round pick, he was considered the premier cornerback in football.  “Revis Island” was still a “thing” at that time.  However, there are two reasons why I put Beckham above Revis on my list.  First, Revis missed almost all of the 2012 season due to a torn knee ligament.  When an excellent NFL player suffers a major injury in his fifth season, it is natural for us to wonder if that player’s days as a star have come to an end.  (In hindsight, this was the case with Revis.  Revis was a solid player the next two years with Tampa and New England, but he was not the elite player he had been.)  Secondly, even if we ignore the injury factor, tie goes to the wide receiver over the shutdown cornerback. The receiver who makes big play after big play has much more star power than the corner who prevents the ball from ever coming his way.  Therefore, I consider Beckham to be a slightly better player and bigger star than Revis was at the times of their respective trades.

As a result, we are left with only one player dealt from a New York team when a bigger star and better player than Beckham is.  That player is “The Franchise” or “Tom Terrific”.  That player is Tom Seaver.  Unfortunately, we have recently learned the news that the greatest Met of all time now suffers from dementia.  However, many who watched Seaver pitch say that he is the best pitcher they have ever seen.  The guy dominated for the Mets from 1967 through 1977, as he was regularly among the league leaders in wins, strikeouts, ERA, complete games, and shutouts.  He had been the face of the 1969 “Miracle Mets”, and he remained their biggest star through 1977, when the Mets had fallen on tough times.  Sure, Beckham is a mega-star now, but many people in this world are mega-stars.  In 1977, when most people had no more than 7 TV channels, no computers, and minimal telephone capabilities; there were fewer mega-stars.  In this area, Tom Seaver was a mega-star.

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Image via NBC Sports

You might be thinking, “Well, he had already pitched 10 years when the Mets traded him to the Reds in 1977.  Wasn’t he on the decline?”  Not at all.  Seaver was pitching at a high level, and stayed at that level until roughly the time when the Mets brought him back from Cincy in 1983.  From what I have heard from my parents and other huge Mets fans of that day, nothing compares to the Seaver trade.  Most Giants fans agree that OBJ is one of the best receivers in the league, but plenty of Giants fans can see why the Giants made the trade.  Agree with the trade or not; the transaction is defensible.  That was not the case with Seaver.  Seaver was the only guy for Mets fans to hang their hats on, and the Mets traded him.  Fans were devastated and saw no silver lining in the move.

Granted, a part of me does wonder how the trade would have been received today.  After all, the 1977 Mets were a bad team who traded a top-flight player for four prospects.  No, none of those prospects materialized into anything great, but it is a regular occurrence today for bad teams to trade stars for prospects.  In 1977, there were fewer entertainment options, so I think that fans were more passionate about having their teams put together the best teams possible – the future be damned.  I have to admit that, while I am a big-time Devils fan, I have not watched them too much over the last month as I know that this year’s disappointing team is better off tanking.  Fans of all sports now realize that bad teams are usually better off tanking, but it is easier for us to “trust the process” in 2019 when we can binge-watch “Schitt’s Creek” and Harlan Coben’s “Safe” to pass the time during a bad Devils season.  Yes, I highly recommend both of those shows.  Ideally, the Devils will land the top pick in the draft, bring in Jack Hughes, and play at a level next year that makes me want to watch all 82 games again.

However, in 1977, what were you going to do to pass the time during a bad Mets summer?  There is only so much “American Bandstand” one can handle.  Therefore, Mets fans were going to be much more loyal to a bad 1977 team than they were to bad 2017 and 2018 teams. Thus, Tom Seaver remained a huge star, albeit on a bad team.  In fact, I would argue that Seaver was a bigger star relative to the 1977 sports world than Beckham is to the modern sports world.  If we could calculate WAR for star power, Seaver’s 1977 star-power WAR would be well above Beckham’s.  Plus, Beckham is one of the best current wide receivers, but Tom Seaver is one of the best pitchers of all time.  Big difference there.

Therefore, I consider the OBJ trade to be the second-most monumental trade of a New York athlete.  The trade of Tom Terrific ranks #1 on the list.  Let us hope that the Giants make more out of their two acquired draft picks and Jabrill Peppers than the Mets made out of the four prospects they obtained.

I Could Not Care Less About February Baseball Injuries

I could not care less about February baseball injuries.  (Side note: I cannot stand when people say “I could care less” when they mean “I could not care less”.)  Allow me to repeat myself.  I could not care less about February baseball injuries.

I make this point because it is apparently a huge story that Mets’ infielder Jed Lowrie is heading for an MRI for soreness in the back of his knee.  Notice that today’s date is February 24.  The Mets’ first regular-season game takes place on March 28.  Thus, we are five weeks from the start of the regular season.  Do I care that Jed Lowrie might miss a few weeks of Spring Training?  Of course not.  As I have discussed in the past, I could not care less about preseason games in any sport.  My main goal for any preseason is to have all of my team’s players be healthy when the regular season starts.

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Therefore, if we ultimately find out that Jed Lowrie needs surgery and is going to miss several months of the season, then we can then make a big deal out of his injury.  However, assuming that a severe injury is not the case, I view any time that Lowrie misses in the spring as time during which he will not suffer a season-ending injury.  Additionally, the guy has been in the league for more than 10 years.  He does not need five weeks of Spring Training games.  He will probably actually benefit by having a shorter Spring Training, in that he will likely feel better rested during the season.  Therefore, to summarize, I am in no way worried that Lowrie’s knee issue will have a negative effect on the Mets’ season.

Anyway, you might be wondering why some people (mainly on New York sports radio) are making a mountain out of the molehill that is Jed Lowrie’s injury.  I believe there are two main reasons for this:

  • Some people are incredibly eager for baseball season and thus are willing to make anything baseball-related a big story. I am not one of these people.  I would say that older people (so I guess this is the second time I am being ageist in a post) hold “pitchers and catchers” and “the start of Spring Training” in higher regard than younger people do.  This regard likely stems from the days when the World Series ended in mid-October instead of early November and when there was not 24-hour baseball coverage all offseason long.  Therefore, in a bygone era; to have any baseball coverage in mid-February, after four months of zero baseball, was a big deal.  Nowadays, baseball fans can find baseball coverage all the time from early November through the start of the next season.  Therefore, it is no longer as big a deal (at least to me) that teams are primed to start playing five weeks of meaningless games featuring primarily people who will spend the regular season in the minors.  No, for me (and for many others who are 37 years old or younger), the end of February means that March Madness is right around the corner.  I am also pumped that the stretch run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs takes place in March.  Yes, I will be excited for MLB Opening Day when it arrives, but you can spare me the Spring Training games and obsessive discussion about minor preseason injuries.

 

  • There are many “Woe is me” Mets fans who LOVE to wallow in their own sorrow. As a Mets fan myself, I cannot stand these people.  These are the fans who are saying, “Same old Mets.  It is only February, and guys are getting hurt.”  To quote the venerable Don LaGreca, these fans are “in love with their own sadness”.  These fans would rather be miserable than have good things happen to the Mets.  These are the fans who will cite the 1992 Bobby Bonilla signing and 1996 Carlos Baerga trade as reasons why the 2018 Cano trade (which I happen to love) is a bad move.  These are the fans who blame the Mets’ disappointing 2018 season on injuries, even though the Mets did not suffer considerably more games lost to injury (to quality players) than the average team did.  These are the fans who view the 2015 season as a negative because the team lost the World Series.  These are the fans who rue the Mets’ “bad luck” of the past five years while casually ignoring the fact that the Mets rode impeccable health (especially among their pitching staff) to the 2015 World Series in the team’s only “real” (aka “beyond the Wild-Card Game) playoff appearance over that stretch.   OK, I will stop there, because I would someday like to write a full article on “Woe is me” Mets fans.  I do not want to steal too much of future Mike’s thunder.

 

Oh, one more thing I should mention.  While I am a big fan of the Jed Lowrie signing; if he were to miss the entire 2019 season, how much would his absence hurt the team?  If the answer is “a lot”, then the team is not very good as it is.  Fortunately, I would argue that the Mets can withstand a Lowrie injury.  With Cano, Rosario, Frazier, Alonso, d’Arnaud, Nimmo, Conforto, Lagares, McNeil, and TJ Rivera; the Mets have depth for their non-pitcher/catcher positions.  Lowrie is a nice player, but the Mets can afford to be without him for a while….but why am I wasting any time talking about this February injury?

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I could not care less about February baseball injuries.  It is February 21; let us focus on Zion, “Bracketology”, and what the Devils are going to do at the Trade Deadline.

Boston Sports’ Domination Must Be Stopped

As a Yankee fan, and New York sports fan in general, no fan base infuriates me more than Boston fans. The fact that I am growing up in an era they have absolutely dominated (12 collective championships since 2001) is sickening to say the least. I mean, how ridiculous is this billboard?

It hadn’t even been 100 days since Boston fans saw the Red Sox win it all before they saw Tom Brady win his SIXTH ring in probably the most boring Super Bowl of all-time. And don’t try and tell me it was a good game just because it was tied in the fourth, watching both teams fail to move the ball whatsoever just waiting for Brady to eventually lead a game-winning drive and rip everyone’s hearts out is pretty much the worst possible way to spend your Super Bowl Sunday. Anyone who says otherwise is either a Pats fan or a liar.

Seeing the Pats win and all these Massholes at yet another parade today just brought back bad memories of Yankees/Sox from October. I can’t believe kids like this are celebrating again today.

If that doesn’t make you wanna throw up, you don’t have a true hatred for Boston sports fans. Here’s the bottom line: it has to be stopped. There’s no real end in sight, either. The Red Sox are bringing back the entire core of their 108-win championship team (with a bit of a weakened bullpen but that was never their strength anyway.) The Celtics may be underperforming, but they still have the most talented roster in the Eastern Conference (Warriors in 4 regardless.) And Tom Brady was literally saying “we’ll be back” on the field on Sunday before he had even been handed his sixth Lombardi. It’s absolute madness and it has to be stopped.

There is some hope. If the Giants find a quarterback to pair with Saquon, they could become Super Bowl contenders within the near future. If the Knicks can draft Zion and actually sign superstars like KD and Kyrie (!!!) they would become one of the best teams in the NBA. But our one true hope in 2019 is the New York Yankees.

The Yankees were a great team in 2018. It may not have felt that way due to the fact that the Red Sox were a dominant team, but the Yankees won 100 games with many of their top players underperforming (Severino, Sanchez, even Stanton) and their best player missing two months (Judge).

After watching the Yankees do what they had to do and split the first two games of the ALDS at Fenway, only to come home and get absolutely EMBARRASSED by the Red Sox 16-1 at Yankee Stadium in Game 3, sucked the absolute life out of the season, Yankee fans, and the city. People forget this was a team that won 100 games, lost the regular season series to the Sox by just a game, and gave them their most competitive playoff series (aside from Game 3 of course). We need this team to come up big in 2019 and end Boston’s domination of the sporting world.

The Yankees had a nice offseason. They bolstered their pitching staff as well as making moves to offset the impact of not having Didi to start the year. Is it the offseason we expected following the Red Sox embarrassing us in the playoffs on their way to a World Series, as well as the Yankees getting under the luxury tax? No, I think we all expected Machado or Harper to be in Pinstripes by now. Regardless, the Yankees improved an 100-win team. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, this team gets as far as Luis Severino brings us. We need him to be the ace we know he can be.

I’m sick of watching Boston fans celebrate. 2018 was their year, and frankly the 21st century has been theirs. It needs to end. The Yankees need to get it done this year. Counting down the days to Opening Day, and I can’t wait.

McGon’s Picks: Super Bowl LIII w/Prop Bets

Boston. Los Angeles. They meet again.

 

And not just Boston and LA, but the Patriots and Rams as well.

When the Dodgers and Red Sox squared off in the World Series, I realized there was a strong chance these cities would see each other again in the Super Bowl. After both teams struggled the second half of the season, I didn’t think this would happen. However, both teams won their conference championship games on the road as the Patriots and Rams will meet 17 years later in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI.

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What an incredible Championship Sunday it was with both road teams winning in OT. I picked and was cheering for both home teams, so I was upset with the results, but both were amazing NFL games nonetheless.

Time for the best Sunday of the year.

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One of the greatest betting parts of the Super Bowl is the amount of Prop bets there are to choose from. I’ll start off with my picks for some of my favorite ones.

Coin Toss

Heads: -110

Tails: -110

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My Pick: Heads

  • This is obviously the most 50/50 bet in the entire world. Tails leads all time Super Bowl coin tosses 27-25, so over 52 year stretch, it’s been pretty 50/50. So if you stick with 1 choice forever, you’re likely to be close to even. I always choose heads, so that’s what I’m choosing here.

How Long Will The National Anthem Last?

Over 108.5 seconds (-140)

Under 108.5 seconds (EVEN)

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My Pick: Over 

  • Two key stats to consider here
    • Each of the last 6 national anthems have been over 105 seconds
    • 9 of the last 12 national anthems have went under the time total
  •  I think the first stat is more relevant here, so I’m taking the over

Which Team Will Score First?

Patriots: -120

Rams: -110

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My Pick: Rams 

  • Before last year, the Patriots have never scored in the first quarter of a Tom Brady Super Bowl (and the Eagles scored first last year). I could see this being much like the start Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl (not the 28-3 part) where everyone thinks the Pats will win, but the Rams go down and score an early TD to make a statement. My Bonus Pick for first TD is Robert Woods (odds for this pick greatly vary).

How Many Plays Will Tony Romo Correctly Predict Before the Snap?

Over 7.5 (-110)

Under 7.5 (-110)

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My Pick: Over 7.5

  • It’s a shame that Tony never made the Super Bowl as a player, but at least his first appearance comes while he’s currently sitting on the coolest throne of all time. I can’t wait to listen to Tony this Sunday, and you know I’m taking my man to correctly predict 8 plays or more.

How Many Times Will CBS Mention Sean McVay’s Age?

Over 1.5 (-190)

Under 1.5 (+145)

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My Pick: Over 1.5

  • At 33 years old, Sean McVay is 7 years younger than Patriots QB Tom Brady. It is incredible what he has accomplished at such a young age. It’s a lock that his age will be mentioned once, and if the Rams are close to wrapping up a win, I think it will definitely be mentioned again.

What Will Be The Color of the Drink Poured on the Winning Coach?

Green/yellow: +225

Orange: +400

Red: +600

Clear: +220

Blue: +400

Purple: +1000

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My Pick: Green/yellow

  • Factoring in my game pick which you can find below, my pick is that it will be the closest color to gold.

There are many more prop bets, so be sure to check out all your book has to offer. But most importantly, time for the big game.

Super Bowl LIII- Atlanta, GA

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Patriots vs. Rams (+2.5)

Rams 31, Patriots 27

  • In their 3rd season since returning to Los Angeles, the Rams beat the Cowboys at home and Saints on the road to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 17 years
  • The road wasn’t as easy as it usually is, but the Patriots beat the Chargers at home and Chiefs on the road to go to their 3rd consecutive Super Bowl, and 9th in the last 18 seasons
  • The Patriots and their fans are trying to play some card like they are underdogs/disrespected- not only are they morons for thinking this, but Vegas has them as favorites over a team who won 2 more games than them during the regular season
  • That being said- you must think long and hard before betting against this Patriots team- don’t bet the Rams just cause you hate the Pats
  • The stat that is point me the most in the direction of the Rams is the public’s thinking- 76% of the public is on the Pats as of Saturday
    • If 76% of the public is on a team during the regular season, the best bettors almost always fade the public
  • The underdog has won 6 of the last 7 Super Bowls. The only underdog that didn’t win? They led 28-3 at one point
  • The Rams are extremely well balanced right now, as we have soon strong performances on both sides of the ball this postseason
  • The biggest reason many people have doubted the Patriots is cause this roster is arguably the weakest of recent Patriots team. The Rams meanwhile, are the closest we may ever have to an NFL All-Star team- Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp (out for this game), Aaron Donald, Suh, Aqib Talib
    • Having star names isn’t nearly as important in the NFL as it is in the NBA, but this is for sure a deep roster
  • That being said, why are the Patriots favorites and why does the public love them? Cause they are the Patriots, with the most experienced QB/Coach combo of all time
  • At the end of the day, I think this spread should be closer to Even. The Rams have been a better team this season, and they definitely have the better roster, plus the coaching staff the may not be as good as the Pats, but is still among the best in the league.
  • The Rams will come out strong in this game and lead by a TD or more at halftime. The score won’t be 28-3, but I could see the Rams with the better roster coming out strong like the Falcons did. But the greatest QB/Coach combo in NFL history will not go down without a fight and will make this a very close game in the 4th quarter. The difference this time will be the strength of the Rams coaching staff, who will put the game away the way the Falcons could not 2 seasons ago. This will not be the end of Brady and Belichick, but maybe the start of Goff and McVay. The Rams will win an exciting, high scoring Super Bowl 31-27 over the Patriots

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  • These teams last met in 2016, with the Pats defeating the then-lowly Rams 26-10 (highlights)

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  • This is the 7th Super Bowl matchup which has been played more than once. The Patriots defeated the Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI as 14 point underdogs, the first of 5 Super Bowl wins to this date for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (highlights)

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That’s all for 2018. Hopefully I’ll be back to my winning ways next season. Will the Rams win their 2nd Super Bowl, or will the Patriots tie the Steelers for their record 6th Super Bowl win?

Coming to Grips with the Rams’ Win over the Saints

There is no worse feeling for the collective of sports fans than the feeling that the wrong team has advanced in the playoffs.  I don’t mean “wrong team” in the “Jaguars over Steelers last year” sense.  Sure, most of us were hoping for a Steelers/Pats AFC Championship game, featuring the two teams most of us thought to be the best in the AFC; but we were happy for the Jaguars for pulling off the upset fair and square.  No, when I say “wrong team”, I mean it in the sense that the wrong team has advanced as a result of something completely beyond the control of the teams in the game.

Unfortunately, this was the case with the Rams/Saints NFC Championship Game.  It is extremely rare for all sports fans to agree on an officiating call, but that is just what happened with Los Angeles and New Orleans.  Everyone knows that the officials should have called either pass interference or unnecessary roughness on Nickell Robey-Coleman, but the officiating crew somehow rendered no penalty.  Meanwhile, a penalty call would have given the Saints a 98% win probability.  In that case, the Saints would have been able to bleed the clock down to 23 seconds or so before giving Will Lutz the chance to kick a game-winning and tie-breaking 21-yard chip-shot field goal.

Of course, the officials missed the penalty call, so the aforementioned scenario did not occur.  The Rams are now heading to the Super Bowl.  As a result, I spent the first several days of last week trying not to think about the Super Bowl.  Just as I have tried to avoid football after devastating Giants playoff losses, I did the same for a few days here because of the Rams/Saints game.  Never in my life have I seen an official’s call so drastically affect a playoff result, and this happened to send essentially the wrong team to the Super Bowl.  Sitcoms and dramas are scripted.  Reality shows are REALLY scripted.  However, sports are not supposed to be scripted at all.  Sports serve as a meritocracy where each team must earn all of its success.  I did not feel that the Rams had earned its trip to the Super Bowl.

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Fortunately though, as last week wore on, I started coming to grips with having the Rams in the Super Bowl.  I know you might be thinking, “Jesus, it’s just a game, Focker.”  However, if I actually had that type of attitude toward sports; chances are I would not spend hundreds of hours per year watching people I have never met compete against each other on the field.  I certainly would not spend multiple hours per week writing blog entries.  Therefore, I did truly need to come to grips with the Rams being in the Super Bowl, and I was somewhat successful.  My consolation has come from this simple fact: After the missed call, the Rams STILL had to do a whole lot to win the game.

We are all correct when we cite the “98% win probability” number as reason why this missed call should not be treated equally with the multitude of other missed calls in NFL games.  However, many people act like the missed call handed the Rams the win.  That is not the case.  With the non-call, the Saints’ win probability fell to 78%.  After the non-call, my thought was “Let’s hope the Saints hold on to win anyway, so that this call does not matter”, not “Oh my God, the refs just took the Saints’ win and gave it to the Rams!”

After the missed call and Will Lutz’s subsequent go-ahead field goal, the Rams still needed all of the following to happen:

  • Jared Goff needed to lead a last-minute drive into field-goal range in one of the toughest road venues in sports
  • Greg Zeurlein needed to kick a game-tying 48-yard field goal
  • The Rams needed to win the overtime coin toss, since we all know that, if a team has a Hall of Fame quarterback (like Drew Brees), that team will score a TD on the opening possession of OT.
  • Oops, the Rams lost the toss but forced that Hall of Fame QB to throw an interception.
  • The Rams needed to drive to at least the Saints’ 33-yard line so to minimize the risk of a missed FG giving the Saints great field position.
  • Oops, the Rams stalled, and Sean McVay showed enormous spheres by letting Zeurlein kick a 57-yard FG (as I implored McVay to punt), which was good by several yards.

 

I should also note that, if the officials had made the correct call on the disputed play, the Rams would have likely ended up with the ball at their own 25-yard line with 20 seconds to play.  They would have needed to gain 35 yards to set Zeurlein up for a 57-yard game-tying field goal, which he clearly could have made.  Could the Rams have gained those necessary 35 yards on consecutive sideline passes before letting Zeurlein tie the game?  It is not likely, but it is also not impossible.

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Image via The SoBros Network

Anyway, whether that last scenario works for you or not, the fact remains that the refs did not hand the Rams a win.  The refs merely upgraded the Rams’ chances from “long shot” to “unlikely”.  Kudos to the Rams for taking advantage of a slight opportunity.

Lastly, I should note that one could consider the missed penalty call a lucky moment for the Rams.  Whether we like to admit it or not, many of these nail-biting games come down to luck.  No, luck does not always involve a missed penalty call, but luck could be a bounce of a fumble, a made or missed FG, or a lucky catch.  Just look at the Chiefs/Pats game.  Dee Ford being offsides had nothing to do with what should have been a game-sealing Chiefs interception, but the penalty gave the Pats a second life.  Because of a guy lining up a few inches offsides, a different team is now heading to the Super Bowl.  It happens.  Actually, speaking of the Pats, look at the first Giants/Pats Super Bowl, and look at the Patriots/Seahawks Super Bowl.  In both games, the Patriots were victimized in the last minute by incredible catches with elements of luck (David Tyree’s Helmet Catch: combination of skill and luck, Jermaine Kearse having the ball fall in his lap: mainly luck).  In the former case, Eli Manning used Tyree’s catch and several other clutch throws to give the Giants the win over the Pats; in the latter, Malcolm Butler’s interception kept Kearse’s catch from leading the Patriots to defeat.  Of course, for another modern example of luck, we know that the Eagles beat the Bears this postseason by a fraction of an inch on a “double-doink”.

Over the years, we have had many, many NFL teams win playoff games by the slimmest of margins, and those games are always the most bitter of pills for the losers to swallow. Unfortunately for the Saints, they have been eliminated in consecutive seasons by those slim margins in as devastating fashions as possible.  The Saints are not the first deserving-to-be-there team in history to watch the Super Bowl from home, and they will not be the last.  They are not even the only current team feeling that way, as the Chiefs are in the same boat.

The closer the game, the more likely it is that a bad bounce or bad call will greatly swing the result.  Sports can be cruel.  In this case though, the Saints still had a 78% chance of winning after the bad call.  How much does this assuage my initial negative reaction to the game?  I do not know.  If the refs had made the right call, we are probably watching the Saints on Sunday, February 3.  However, I keep telling myself that the Rams did what they had to do to win the game.  I think I have come to grips with the Rams’ victory, and I hope you have too.

Mariano Rivera and the Rest of My Fictional 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Loyal BTB readers, I know that you have a burning question.  “Have the BTB editors been given official Hall of Fame ballots for 2019?”  Somehow, the answer to this question is “No”.  I would like to think that my ballot was lost in the mail.  I did move in August, so maybe the Hall of Fame has not been able to track me down at my new address.  Nevertheless, you readers all deserve to see my 2019 fictional ballot.

Last year, I wrote a post explaining how I view the “steroid guys”.  As a result, you probably know that I am voting again this year for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Manny Ramirez.  Last year, I also wrote a post detailing the rest of my Hall of Fame vote .  Because I do not believe in dropping people off my ballot from one year to the next, you know that I am also voting this year for Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina – all of whom were on my fictional 2018 ballot and are eligible for election this year as well.  Thus, you already know eight of the ten people for whom I am voting this year.

Fortunately, the voters did much good last year in electing Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Larry Wayne Jones to the Hall.  You know that I did not agree with Trevor Hoffman receiving the nod, but, given that he had earned 74% of the vote (75% is needed for election) two years ago, I knew that it was a foregone conclusion that “Hell’s Bells” would ring in Cooperstown in 2018.

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Image via Sports Illustrated

Last year, I lamented the fact that, because all of the “steroid” guys have been clogging up the ballot for so long, there have been many years in which more than 10 deserving players have appeared on the general ballot.  Given that voters may vote for no more than 10 players per year, voters have been forced to leave off people for whom they would actually like to vote.  In that vein; last year, I wanted to put 12 people on my ballot, so I had to keep two of them off the list.  Thus, I decided to leave Curt Schilling’s and Jim Thome’s boxes unchecked.  My logic with Thome was that; while he is a definite Hall of Famer; 1) I did not feel that he needed to be a first-ballot HOFer, and 2) Since it was his first year on the ballot, I would have many more opportunities to vote for him.  (To the contrary, I did vote for first-year Larry Wayne, as I felt he was a true first-ballot guy.)  As for Schilling, I simply felt that he was the least qualified of the non-first-ballot guys.

As a result of the Jones, Guerrero, and Thome elections; we traveled through 2018 with 9 remaining guys on the ballot whom I have thought deserve to enter the Hall.  Therefore, if 2019 were to have brought no more than one deserving candidate, my logjam would have disappeared.  Unfortunately, I missed this mark by one.

The 2019 ballot has brought us two people – Mariano Rivera and the late Roy Halladay – whom I consider clear Hall of Famers.  In last year’s anti-Hoffman explanation, I did note that Rivera is the only modern closer for whom I would ever vote.  Had Rivera had a ho-hum postseason career; I would not have voted for him, but his postseason career is legendary.  The guy had 42 postseason saves, many of which were of more than one inning (141 innings pitched in 96 appearances), and an 0.70 postseason ERA.  I repeat, “an 0.70 postseason ERA”….over 141 innings…..in the postseason.  You know, against the best teams in baseball on the biggest stages.  141 innings equates to 2/3 of a regular-season load for a reliable starting pitcher.  Can you imagine a starting pitcher posting an 0.70 ERA up through the trade deadline?  Think of how excited we were about Jacob deGrom’s 1.6 – 1.8 ERA at various times last year.  Rivera’s numbers are incredible.

Additionally, do these three names ring a bell?  “Sandy Alomar”, “Luis Gonzalez”, and “Roberts Steal”?  They represent three of Rivera’s four blown postseason saves, and they are so well-known because it was such a rarity for Mo to blow postseason saves.  (Note: Mo’s fourth postseason blown save was in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, where he entered with 1st and 3rd and nobody out and allowed only the inherited runner on third to score.  As I mentioned in my “Jeurys Familia” article, why this blown save is given to Rivera and not the guy who put the runner on base is beyond me.)  Additionally, Luis Gonzalez handed Rivera his only postseason loss.  Therefore, among all the times Rivera entered tie games, he did not lose any for the Yankees.  (Note: the Yanks did ultimately lose the other three games in which Rivera blew saves, but the Yanks lost each of those games after the book was closed on Rivera.)

For the Yankees’ run of dominance from 1995 through 2012, there was no psychological edge in baseball greater than the Yankees knowing they had Mariano for the 9th and maybe 8th innings of postseason games (actually Mo was working the 8th innings in 1995 and 1996, but this is not the best time to be bringing up the guy who was working those 9th innings).  The Hall of Fame is about more than just numbers.  It is about dominance, especially on the big stage; and it is also a home of legends.  Mariano Rivera fits those criteria to a “T”.

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Image via CBS Sports

Anyway, with Mo earning the 9th spot on my ballot, I find myself in a tough position for the final vote.  Do I check Curt Schilling’s name or Roy Halladay’s?  For that answer, I will use the same logic I used last year.  While Roy Halladay is a Hall of Famer to me, he does not need to be a first-ballot guy.  Therefore, I am going to vote for Schilling, whose ballot days are closer to expiration.  I explained Schilling’s candidacy last year, and I will save my Halladay explanation for next year, when I can hopefully make room for him on my ballot.

Additionally, this year’s ballot has four other new guys whom I do not consider definite “No”s: Todd Helton (More than likely a future “yes” for me), Andy Pettitte (Likely a “no” as per my “Tier III” steroid rules), Lance Berkman (Leaning toward “no” but need to examine more closely), and Roy Oswalt (Almost certainly “no” but also need to examine more closely).  Similarly, there are two viable holdovers from previous ballots whom I have never truly considered due to lack of available spots.  Because I did not previously vote for these guys, I likely still will not, but I do not want to rule out these two individuals, Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones.  I will go into deeper analyses on these players next year, when hopefully I am writing about my REAL ballot!

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Image via Talking Chop

Lastly, as a Yankees hater, it is fun for me to see Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, and Vernon Wells as first-timers on this year’s ballot.  First-timers on this year’s ballot are guys who last played in 2013, and would you look at who employed all three of those guys when they realized it was time to hang up their spikes?  The New York Yankees.  Too bad Lyle Overbay wasn’t even good enough to make it on the ballot.

That said, a much more prominent member of the 2013 Yankees did make it onto this year’s ballot, and he was the last player to wear #42 outside of April 15.  Mariano Rivera absolutely needs to be inducted into the Hall, and let’s hope that the voters elect several other guys on my list so that I can clear up this year’s logjam and avoid any in the future.