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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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.

 

 

 

 

Do I Suffer from Patriots Stockholm Syndrome?

The date was February 1, 2004, and the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots were facing off in the Super Bowl.  I sat with 4 friends who were Patriots fans, and I was the sole person rooting for the Panthers.  The Pats had already won the Super Bowl two years prior, and the Panthers had never won one.  The game was exciting, but the Pats won on a last-second Adam Vinatieri field goal.

Fast forward a year…

The date was February 6, 2005, and the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots were facing off in the Super Bowl.  Although I strongly dislike the Eagles, I was pulling for them that day.  After all, they had never won a Super Bowl, while the Pats had won two of the past three Super Bowls.  After that day, the Pats had won three of four Super Bowls, and the Eagles had still never won one.

Anyway, most of you readers are probably thinking, “Big effing deal.  Anyone who isn’t a Patriots fan always roots against the Patriots.”

Well, allow me to explain the big deal.  After that Patriots/Eagles Super Bowl, things started to change for me.

The following year, Jake Plummer’s Denver Broncos took care of business against the Patriots in the Divisional Round, and it did not sit well with me.  By that point, I had begun to feel that the Patriots were “supposed” to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl every year.  All of a sudden, I actually found myself feeling bad for Patriots fans who had to experience losing a playoff game for the first time in 7 years.

The year after that; as the Patriots took on the #1-seed 14-2 Chargers in the Divisional Round, I began the game rooting for the Chargers.  However, as the game wore on, I found myself changing to root for the Pats.  When the Pats ultimately pulled off the upset, I was happy.  The next week, when the Pats traveled to Indy for the AFC Championship, I knew that I wanted Peyton Manning to advance to his first Super Bowl….yet, lo and behold, as the Patriots were coughing up a 21-3 lead, I found myself unhappy.  When the Colts won the game, and the Pats walked glumly off the field; I was very disappointed.

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Then, the next year, the you-know-what hit the fan for non-Patriots fans.  Week 1 brought Spygate, and the Pats – armed with new acquisitions Randy Moss and Wes Welker – went on a rampage through their schedule.  Most fans treated the Pats as Public Enemy #1 as the team stormed to an undefeated regular season and set the single-season scoring record.  I, on the other hand, loved everything the Pats did.  I rooted for them all season long, with a few very notable exceptions.  I obviously pulled for the Giants in their thrilling Week 17 loss to the Pats and in their legendary win in Super Bowl XLII, one of the greatest moments of my life.  For most people, the thought of shattering Brady’s and Belichick’s hearts was a dream come true.  For me, I was thrilled to win an incredible Super Bowl, and I loved and still love that the Giants are the team that knocked off the only 18-0 team in league history.  However, I did not get satisfaction from Brady’s and Belichick’s pain.  My joy came completely from the Giants’ amazing accomplishments.

Back to the Pats now…Since that glorious day 11 years ago when David Tyree pressed a football against his helmet, there have been only three games – all against the Giants (including the Giants’ wondrous second Super Bowl win over the Pats) – when I have rooted against the Pats.  While Spygate and then Deflategate have led many to believe that the Pats are the ultimate cheaters, I always find myself saying, “What they are doing worse is no worse than what other teams are doing.”  I have had multiple people bring up the fact that BenJarvus Green-Ellis never ever fumbled with the Pats but fumbled a bunch when he went to Cincinnati.  Obviously the Pats are up to no good, these other people think.  However, I never think the Pats do anything wrong.  Heck, I wrote a really long post last January as I became waaaay too excited about the Patriots’ greatness over the years.  I never think the Pats do anything wrong.

Am I thinking logically?  I have no idea.  It is as if the Patriots kidnapped me during their 2001 Championship season (the one time when most of America was actually rooting for the Pats), and, by 2005, the team had convinced me that everything with the Patriots is a good thing.  By 2007 with Spygate, the Pats had convinced me to defend them at any cost.  As I look back, I wonder, “Do I suffer from Patriots Stockholm Syndrome?”  I rooted against the Pats in consecutive Super Bowls 14 and 15 years ago, but I have defended them and sympathized with them every step of the way – through wins, losses, and scandal after scandal – since then.  I think that is textbook Stockholm Syndrome.

Let us now evaluate whether or not I have fallen prey to this syndrome.  There are three main reasons why I think I have developed such an affinity for the Pats – Routine, Nostalgia, and Respect.  Perhaps I have followed these reasons rationally, or perhaps the Pats have brainwashed me into it.  Here we go…

  • Routine: I do not like change. I am not OCD about scheduling, but I do like to have some consistency in my days and weeks.  I like to run at 5PM; I like to eat Moe’s on Tuesday nights (and sometimes Thursday nights….and sometimes Friday nights too); I like to start listening to Christmas music on November 18; and I like to eat Thin Mints and listen to The Road to El Dorado soundtrack (Elton John) during the first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.   Normal stuff.  Therefore, I like to have the Patriots involved with the Divisional Round, AFC Championship, and Super Bowl.  After all, this weekend will be the Pats’ 13th AFC Championship game in 18 seasons, and the team has played in 8 of the past 17 Super Bowls. Seeing Kraft, Belichick, and Brady on those January and February weekends feels just as right as Moe’s and Thin Mints do at their respective times.

 

  • Nostalgia: Maybe it is because I have a good memory, but I am a very nostalgic person. I can get nostalgic about a week ago, so you can imagine how much nostalgia I have for the entirety of the Pats’ run since 2001.  I have discussed the “Routine” issue, and the Pats have been part of my routine for that long.  I watched them win their first Super Bowl while I was a sophomore in college; I watched them go 18-1 and lose to the Giants in my first year as a teacher; I watched a Pats team with Kenbrell Tompkins as its main receiving threat come within one win of the Super Bowl in the year when I first met the venerable BTB editors; and I listened to Bill Belichick’s “Mona Lisa Vito” press conference before going to see American Sniper (and being enamored by both Sienna Miller’s attractiveness and the fact that Todd and Sack from Wedding Crashers were reunited) in the theater.  Therefore, when I watch a Patriots game, I am flooded with nostalgia from my last three years of college, three years working for AvisBudget, and 12 years teaching at Ramsey High School.

 

  • Respect: I cut my teeth as a sports fan while watching the dominant Devils teams from 1993 forward. The cornerstone of those Devils teams’ successes was that nobody was bigger than the team.  GM Lou Lamoriello had no qualms with letting talented players go if those players were to act selfishly or do anything against team protocol.  Those teams had three Hall of Famers (Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer) and possibly a fourth (Patrik Elias), and all of those players put the team above individual goals.

 

It was a delight to watch the Devils ride this disciplined approach to 20 years of dominance, and the 2001-2018 Patriots are the football equivalent of the Devils.  Actually, to be fair, the Pats have outdone the Devils, considering that the Devils 1993-2012 Devils won 3 championships, appeared in 5 Stanley Cup Finals, and appeared in 6 Conference Finals; all numbers that the Patriots have comfortably beaten (using the hockey equivalents).  That said, Brady and Belichick have made an art form out of bringing me-first players to New England and turning them into team players.

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Also, just as the Devils received large championship contributions from unheralded players like Jay Pandolfo and Randy McKay, the Pats always make the most of players who are slightly less talented than their peers around the league.  Look back over the past 18 years, and you will see huge contributions from James White, Jabar Gaffney, David Patten, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Legarrette Blount, and (of course) Julian Edelman.  I have always surmised that Belichick’s theory is to use guys who are 5% less talented than most of their peers around the league, because these less-talented players will work 10 times harder on and off the field than the more talented guys without rendering any of the headaches.  (See “Brown Antonio” and “Beckham Jr. Odell”.)

Additionally, while a team can win a Super Bowl in a season in which its players do many choreographed touchdown dances (see “Eagles, Philadelphia”), it remains noteworthy that the Patriots do not take part in such elaborate numbers.  Think of James White and Julian Edelman dominating in the comeback win over Atlanta two years ago, and you do not recall eccentric touchdown celebrations.  I am not anti-celebration, but it is nevertheless refreshing to watch a team whose players direct all of their on-field effort toward winning.

I also have great respect that, in so many years, we wonder if the Pats are done.  We wonder if Brady is too old or if is supporting cast is too weak….but the Pats always find their way to 11 wins.  It is incredibly impressive.  Perhaps I also have a soft spot for Belichick, because his defense was so dominant in the Giants’ Super Bowl XXV win over Buffalo, my first thrilling moment as a sports fan.

Anyway, I have now officially finished detailing the three reasons – routine, nostalgia, and respect – why I pull for the Pats.  I had hoped that this self-evaluation would give me insight into whether I am still rational or am suffering from Patriots Stockholm Syndrome.  Unfortunately, I still do not have an answer, so you will have to judge for yourselves.

All I do know is this: I love Patrick Mahomes.  I loved watching his father pitch for the 1999-2000 Mets; I put $20 on the KC QB to win MVP (at 80:1 odds in August); and watching Mahomes play quarterback is a beautiful, Heavenly experience.  I want the Chiefs to win their first Super Bowl in 49 years, and I want Andy Reid finally to earn his first ring.  This all sounds rational to me now, but why do I sense that I will probably still end up rooting for the Patriots on Sunday?

Do I suffer from “Patriots Stockholm Syndrome”?

McGon’s Picks: 2018 NFL Conference Championships

The results of the Divisional Round were tough for fans like myself…

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…but great for the average NFL fan.

While everyone loves a Cinderella story, it’s a treat to NFL fans that the final four teams alive are pretty undisputedly the four best teams in the league. Many people were high on the Colts, but the Chiefs took care of them easily and reminded everyone how good they are. The Cowboys loss was tough, as the Rams showed why they went 13-3 and ran all over the Cowboys defense which had just shut down the team with the most rushing yards this season. The home team proving they were the better team was the theme of the weekend, as the Pats smacked the Chargers early Sunday. The week concluded with the Eagles incredible run coming to an end at the hands of the Saints. While I would love more than anything for the Cowboys to be playing, I’m still very excited for the weekend upcoming.

Just like the regular season, the playoffs have been a struggle for me. I went 2-2 outright, and 1-3 against the spread. Here’s a look back at the picks I made (correct pick in blue, incorrect pick in red):

Colts at Chiefs (-4.5)

My Pick: Chiefs 27, Colts 20

  • Chiefs 31, Colts 13– Switched this pick once the spread got closer and the weather appeared like it was going to be a factor. Good thing I did or I would have laid a goose egg ATS.

Cowboys (+7) at Rams

My Pick: Cowboys 27, Rams 24

  • Rams 30, Cowboys 22– Not only do the Boys lose, but I miss the cover/push by a point.

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Chargers (+4) at Patriots

My Pick: Chargers 24, Patriots 21

  • Patriots 41, Chargers 28– I still don’t know how this happened. Why can the Pats beat everyone in the playoffs except NFC East teams?

Eagles at Saints (-8.5)

My Pick: Saints 31, Eagles 17

  • Saints 20, Eagles 14– When the Saints missed that late field goal, not only did we lose the cover, but I was sure the Eagles were gonna win too. Thank god for Alshon Jeffrey.

3 games to go.

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Rams at Saints (-3)

Saints 28, Rams 24

  • Just like the Chiefs and Pats, the Rams reminded us just how good they were last weekend by defeating the Cowboys pretty easily
  • The Saints started slow, but dominated the final 3 quarters and held on to knock off the defending champion Eagles
  • The Saints are now 6-0 in home playoff games in the Brees/Payton era
  • This spread indicates they are as even of teams as it gets
  • They did win and cover last week, but I once again note the Rams are 3-3 outright and 1-5 ATS this season against the other NFC playoff teams, including a loss at the Saints earlier this season
  • Saints have felt like a team of destiny since the start of the season
  • These teams are extremely evenly matched, I think it comes down to one possession and the home team in a dome has a big advantage here. The Saints edge out a close win to head to their second Super Bowl

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  • These teams last met in Week 9, with the Saints defeating the then 8-0 Rams 45-35 (highlights)

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  • These teams last met in the postseason in the 2000 Wild Card round, with the Saints defeating the defending champion St. Louis Rams 31-28 (highlights)

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Patriots at Chiefs (-3)

Chiefs 27, Patriots 20

  • The Patriots were doubted a lot heading into last week going up against a team almost everyone agreed was better. But to no surprise, they then kicked the Chargers asses to head to their 8th consecutive AFC Championship Game
  • The Chiefs had a very similar week, as they dominated the high flying Colts with their defense, something we haven’t seen much of this season
  • The Chiefs have put up 40+ points against the Patriots each of the last two seasons, and both of those games were in New England, where visitors rarely find success
  • Last week was proof that the Pats “disappointing” regular season may mean nothing, but they are on the road this time and I think the Chiefs are definitely better than the Chargers
  • Tom Brady is 8-4 in AFC Championship games, but 2-3 on the road, including 3 straight losses (2006 @Colts, 2013 and 2015 @Broncos)
  • Don’t know if they Chiefs can duplicate last week’s defense performance, but if they can even get half of that, I don’t think they lose this game
  • This may not be the end of the Pats run, but may be the beginning of a Chiefs run. The Chiefs will win by a score to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time in 49 years

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  • These teams last met in Week 6, with the Patriots defeating the then 5-0 Chiefs in a thriller, 43-40 (highlights)

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  • The last time these teams met in the playoffs was the 2015 Divisional Round, with the Patriots winning 27-20 (highlights)

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That’s it for the Conference Championships, be back for Super Bowl LIII with prop bet picks included. Which two teams will win and earn a chance to repeat what they have all done at least once?

Why Barry Bonds Did Not Need Steroids To Get Into the Hall of Fame

In wake of Barry Bonds missing out on the Hall of Fame for yet another season, I decided to put this piece together that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Barry Bonds is arguably the most polarizing figure in the history of professional sports. His historic stats paired with his shameful steroid allegations make for heated arguments between baseball purists and analytical feens. With the exception of Brady/Belichick multiple cheating scandals and Pete Rose’s gambling problem, Bonds is the most notable disgrace to sports due to the magnitude of his records.

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Image via barrybonds.com

First let’s go over what Bonds HAS done, in case anyone forgot. The iconic numbers we are all familiar with are:

2,935 hits, 601 2B, 762 HR, 1996 RBI, 514 SB, 2558 BB, .298 BA, .444 OBP, .607 SLG, 1.051 OPS, and 688 intentional walks. If you want to really dive into all these stats and see where they all rank, head here:

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Bonds played his final game in 2007 at the age of 42. That year he was an All-Star and also broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. Milestones and accomplishments aside he was relatively productive that year, playing in 126 games while batting .276, hitting 28 home runs and bringing in 66 RBI. He also led the MLB in OBP at .480 as well in walks with 132.

He finished with crazy numbers, but if it wasn’t for a little backroom drama, he would have finished with even better ones. Bonds, and many others, believe there was heavy collusion after that 2007 season to not sign him to any team because he was such a toxic distraction anywhere he went. Not only was he a bad teammate (he needed four lockers to himself and didn’t talk to anyone), but his perjury and steroid investigation was becoming too much for any team to handle or be associated with. With his play slowly declining, his worth no longer outweighed the risk.

But, let’s say somebody had taken a chance on him, thrown him in a comfortable DH role in the American League, and he rode out 1 year contracts until he couldn’t do it anymore. We would probably have seen the first, and only, 800 home run career. He would continue to Gretzky his intentional walk record (second is Pujols and it is not even a little close). He is behind Aaron in RBI by 301, and while I’m not sure he would’ve caught up to that I think it would’ve been close.

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Image via New York Times

My point is that like Tom Brady, there was really no end in sight for Bonds. He is already statistically one of the greatest player of all-time, but if baseball hadn’t turned a cold shoulder to him in 2007 then it would not even be a question.

Yet, he remains in the likes of players like Tony Womack, Eric Gagne, Jorge Posado, Fred McGriff, and the other 99% of professional players that never made it to the Hall of Fame. That’s the way it should be, in my opinion, for anyone who used steroids. You cheated, therefore your stats are simply not what they would be were you playing at everybody else’s level. It’s like when the 12 year old in Little League hit a growth spurt and was 6 ft 4 batting against little Timmy who didn’t reach puberty until sophomore year of high school. Like the 12 year old giant, Bonds and all the other players had an incredible STRENGTH advantage. Yes I get hitting a baseball is hard, but everybody else is playing the same exact game so don’t give me that argument.

I would like to raise the question of what if Barry Bonds never took steroids? Would he have been enshrined already in Cooperstown? Would he be locked into baseball immortality? I think yes.

I am basing that statement off this ESPN article which gives an in-depth timeline of Bonds’ steroid usage. In it, it suggests nothing started being fishy with him until 1998. Ironically, that is also the exact year you saw his stolen base numbers start to dip dramatically. People forget Bonds was a 40/40 player at one point, and even stole 52 bases one year. In 1997 he stole 37 bases, in 1998 he stole 28, and then in 1999 he stole 15. Every following year it went lower and lower. This drop off could certainly be attributed to old age, but I have a feeling that ESPN article and his decrease in speed is not a coincidence.

So, for the sake of argument, we are cutting Barry Bonds’ non-steroid career off after the 1997 season. That would put his statline after 12 seasons at the below:

374 HR, 1094 RBI, .288 BA, 417 SB, .406 OBP, and THREE MVP awards.

For reference, here are Hank Aaron’s numbers after 12 years:

398 HR, 1305 RBI, .319 BA, 149 SB, .375 OBP, and ONE MVP (He only won once)

Following the 1997 season, Bonds was 32. As stated above, he finished when he was 42. Let’s say the steroids not only let him hit the ball farther, but also gave him an extra year or two down the line in terms of career longevity. We will halt his steroid-less career at 40 then.

In order to predict his stats, I’ll take his annual career averages and add them onto 8 more seasons. Therefore:

HR: 31, RBI: 91, AVG: .288, OBP: .406, SB: I will not be counting because this is something that would decrease with age regardless of steroids, so I don’t think there’s a fair way for me to measure it.

Taking those averages and making 8 extra seasons out of those numbers, Bonds would finish with:

595 HR, 1822 RBI, .288 BA, .406 OBP and we’ll say one more MVP award, considering A-Rod was nasty and Griffey was dominating.

That would place Bonds in the TOP 10 in home runs. THE TOP 10! He would also be 21st on the RBI list, only 14 simple RBI behind Ken Griffey, Jr, who by the way received 99.32% of the Hall of Fame vote his first time around.

Bonds was a Hall of Fame caliber player his entire career, well before the steroids (again, presumably). He was headed to a first-ballot Hall of Fame ending, a member of Cooperstown forever. But, he got caught up with the wrong people, and probably got greedy.

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Image via Juice Heads

Would he be considered the greatest home run hitter of all-time? No, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth would hold that honor still, the way it should be. Would our jaws be dropping at the sight of his 2001 stats? No, I doubt it. But would we be talking about how Barry Bonds, the man with the video game numbers, might be a forgotten member of the Mt. Rushmore of baseball? Nope.

Barry Bonds was going to be a Hall of Famer without steroids. 

Bonds went big when he chose to do steroids. It was a time when nobody thought anything would happen. Everybody was doing it, so what’s one more. But a lot of other players did not have the incredible gifts Bonds was given, that he was already putting on display on a daily basis. Look at his numbers with Pittsburgh and you’ll see. So when Bonds decided to start juicing, it almost made him TOO good that it became suspicious. He was already miles ahead of the rest of the MLB, and this put him well out of reach. That’s why he hit 73 HR, knocked in 137 RBI, batted .328, and got on base over half the time. That is not supposed to happen.

That is also why I firmly believe Bonds should never touch the Hall of Fame. He had a talent level people can only dream about, but he tainted it. He got too hungry. He went too big. People could know his name now like they know somebody like Jim Thome or Albert Pujols. Respectable legends of the game. But instead they look at his name and they instantly think cheater.

I personally think what a shame it is that a Hall of Fame career was blown because his ego got in the way. Even though he is the “Home Run King”, he’ll be chasing Hank Aaron’s legacy for the rest of his life.