DH for every NL team.

NL Central:

Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

The argument can be made for a couple of different players on the Cardinals roster.  Tyler O’Neil seems to make a lot of sense as he has had a few problems in the field that were well documented.  But I think that Matt Carpenter makes a lot of sense being a DH.  Bro’Neil needs to be active in the game to keep his focus, he has shown he is not great coming off of the bench as a pinch hitter, while Carpenter is a type of player that can focus on film while the team is in the field.  Tommy Edman has shown he can play a great hot corner.  

Nicholas Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds

Castellanos is not a great defender anywhere on the field.  He was a terrible third baseman and a subpar corner outfielder.  Great American Small Park should hide some defensive inefficiencies but he is still not a great option in the field.  With the addition of 6-time gold glove winner in the Pacific League Shogo Akiyama controlling center along with youngster Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker and Aristedes Aquino the Reds have more than a couple great options in the outfield. 

Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs

Kyle Schwarber is the type of player that the DH is built for.  A great power bat that has never had an exact spot in the field to play.  With Albert Almora, Jason Heyward, Ian Happ and the addition of Steven Souza the Cubbies have enough options to handle the outfield and allow Schwarber to just mash. 

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

The addition of Avisail Garcia brought up a lot of questions about what was next for former MVP Ryan Braun.  The Brewers had talked about moving Braun over to first base but another addition Justin Smoak makes that an unlikely option.  Braun still brings impact to the lineup and can be protected from injury by just having a few at-bats per game. 

Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

Josh Bell became one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball, surprisingly Bell has ranked as one of the worst defensive players in all of baseball.  His -31 DRS (fangraphs) was the worst in the league by a first baseman.  With Jose Osuna on the bench the Pirates can have a better defensive first baseman that can actually bring more power to the lineup. 

NL East:

Howie Kendrick, Washington Nationals

Washinton has a litany of veteran players in the infield and they are set on giving prospect Carter Kieboom the job replacing Anthony Rendon.  Kendrick has shown his ability to hit and he has to find a way in the lineup.   DH seems like it was made for Kendrick. 

Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves

The former gold glove winner has seen a consistent decline in his defensive ability due to injuries and just extremely questionable decisions.  The Braves needed to replace the Josh Donaldson pop in the lineup and keeping Ozuna healthy could be as easy as keeping him out of left field.  Austin Riley, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis can round out an outfield centered around mega-star Ronald Acuna Jr. 

Jesus Aguilar, Miami Marlins

It seems like Jesus Aguilar’s breakout season of 2018 was actually a lifetime ago.  Aguilar couldn’t replicate his success during the 2019 season but he still brings the power that belongs in a lineup.  The Marlins picked up Aguilar in the offseason, he immediately becomes a threat in the Miami offense.  The Marlins actually have a solid option at first base in Garrett Cooper.  Cooper can handle the defense of first base while Aguilar slots in at the DH spot. 

Neil Walker, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies loaded up with veterans in the offseason. Neil Walker will enter the season in a utility bench spot but would make a lot of sense as the DH.  Walker brings a OBP of .344 which would put him right at the top of the Phillies lineup.  The return of Andrew McCutchen will help with a serious problem Philadelphia has.  They were one of the worst teams in the league at getting on base.  Putting Walker in the lineup provides the RBI chances for the big bats as well as a switch hitter for late inning matchup problems.  

Dominic Smith, New York Mets

Long time prospect Dominic Smith found himself overtaken as the future first baseman of the Mets by Pete Alonso.  Smith is still an impact bat that just needed consistent plate appearances.  Smith transitioned to the outfield where he did not excel defensively.  With a healthy Michael Conforto along with Brandon Nimmo, JD Davis and Jake Marisnick the outfield is too stacked for Smith to find a spot.  Smith can hit and he should be given a chance as a full time DH. 

NL West:

Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks

Injuries have completely derailed the production of Jake Lamb.  With no set spot in the field because of Eduardo Escobar and Christian Walker, DH should be a great spot for Jake Lamb. 

Sam Hilliard, Colorado Rockies

Colorado has to find a way to get consistent at bats for prospect Sam Hilliard.  Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl and Ramail Tapia currently man the massive outfield in Colorado. Putting Hilliard in the DH role gives him a chance to in the majors with consistent at-bats.  The Rockies had a lot of options with Daniel Murphy, Ian Desmond and Garret Hampson, but Hilliard needs to find a spot in the lineup. 

Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are going to play the matchup game as they always do, so naming one guy as the potential DH is trivial but I would go with Joc Pederson.  Pederson has shown his ability to play the corners as well as first base.  With the addition of Mookie Betts, the Dodgers now have two solid defenders in the outfield. Betts, Bellinger and former gold glove winner AJ Pollock would give the Dodgers their best defensive outfield.  Max Muncy is a better defender at first base so Pederson in the DH role makes the most sense. 

Josh Naylor, San Diego Padres

Josh Naylor mashed in triple-A slugging .573.  He has legit power that can be put right into the middle of the Padre lineup.  Naylor will have to find his way onto the roster.  Franchy Cordero, Will Myers and Juan Lagares are all candidates to take outfield spots from Naylor entering the season.  Despite the competition Naylor brings the most potential power and that is a need in San Diego to protect Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer.

Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants

Hunter Pence had a resurgence in 2019 with the Texas Rangers.  Injuries cut his season short, ending what was going to be a great comeback season.  He had a WRC+ of 128 along with a .910 OPS he became a great story about a career renaissance. 

The Giants have a set outfield with Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson and Billy Hamilton.  Pence would be able to get consistent at-bats as the DH and not have to man the large and interesting San Francisco outfield.  

Barkley > Draymond- Why is this even a conversation?

The Last Dance documentary has shined the light on a lot of under celebrated players from the 90’s.  Most notably in episode six they talked about the Phoenix Suns and Charles Barkley.  Today’s generation see Barkley as the outspoken analyst on TNT and other media outlets but it is very noticeably forgotten that the Round Mound of Rebound was actually one of the best NBA players not only of the 90’s but in the history of the game. 

Recently Barkley has been in a war of words with fellow outspoken power forward Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.  Green has cited that Barkley’s inability to win a championship puts him below the level of the Warriors star.  I am a believer in championships cementing the legacy of great players. It  is downright laughable for Green to believe that his legacy in the league will ever match Charles Barkley.  Green is a key cog in the machine the Golden State Warriors have built but by no means is he in the league of the Hall of Famer.  Barkley was a cornerstone of two different franchises.  The Sixers of the late 80’s and the Suns of the 90’s success was primarily built on the back of Barkley.    

Who had even heard of the Phoenix Suns before Barkley was traded there and led them to a losing effort against the prime Michael Jordan Bulls of the 90’s. The Suns had made it to one other finals in the 1975-1976 season and to this day haven’t made it since the time of Barkley and company.  It wasn’t until the Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire Suns of the mid 2000’s that Phoenix was able to make any impact in the league.  Barkley is unquestionably the face of the entire organization and unless Devin Booker gets some help he will be the face for years to come.  

I am not here to knock Draymond Green.  He is the perfect example of the progression of the point-forward position in today’s NBA.  Barkley however was carrying teams with lesser talent for years.  No matter who was on the court Barkley found success.  His career PER was 24.6 and destroyed Green who hasn’t had a season PER above 19.  We have seen what happens when Green becomes the focal point of a team.  He is not the scorer, rebounder or leader that Barkley was.  Draymond Green is an overachiever in the NBA.  He has done great things in the league, his defense is better than Barkleys.  That is the lone aspect about his game that you can argue is better.  That is it.  Someone tell me something that he does better.    It is actually very funny that Drayond believes that he is on the level of an NBA hall of famer.  Imagine if Green didn’t play along with some of the best players in the entire league. Would he even be talked about?  

Barkley played with some talent in his prime.  Kevin Johnson was very good for a small amount of time.  Dan Majerle was a three time all star, but he was never a premium level player.  Who did he play with on the level of  Steph Curry, Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant? Green could never take a team as far as Barkley did.  He could never be the #1 option. 

Ranking Rookie Fantasy Breakouts.

5) Ke-Shawn Vaughn, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vaughn is going to immediately push the underwhelming Ronald Jones in his first season in Tampa Bay. Despite playing for the often overlooked Vanderbilt Commodores Vaughn put together some great statistical years his final two seasons.  

An explosive back that can break away from any tacklers if given space to work one on one. He will most likely be looked at as a third down back at the very least to help in the pass game.  Early looks would put him in a spot similar to James White in New England. While Bruce Arians has openly said that Ronald Jones will start the season as the number one back but Vaughn has too much big play potential to not make a difference in the league. 

4) Michael Pittman Jr, WR, Indianapolis Colts

The Colt’s dealt with consistent wide receiver injuries during the 2019 season.  The addition of Michael Pittman Jr gives them insurance incase of another potential injury apocalypse.  Pittman has great hands and a great frame for impact in the red zone.  At 6’4” 223 pounds his frame is similar to Mike Williams.  Philip Rivers had an instant connection with Williams in Los Angeles leading to double digit touchdowns in 2018.  

Pittman Jr. is a physical receiver that fits in well with TY Hilton and Paris Campbell who will be able to stretch the field with their speed leaving the middle open.  Pittman Jr.’s size and ability to handle press coverage will make him an immediate producer.  

3) Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams spent their first pick of the draft on a running back.  The obvious is that they believe in the talent of the former Florida State star.  Despite having Malcom Brown and Darrell Henderson I see Cam Akers winning the starting spot.  Akers had great numbers in college behind a subpar offensive line and will now be behind a more improved offensive line heading into next season.  

Akers had 18 touchdowns (14 rush, 4 pass) in his final season as a Seminole, showing he has a nose for the end zone.  His pass catching ability is going to fit in nicely with Sean McVay’s offense.  The most telling part of the story of Akers is he was the first pick of the Rams, meaning they had little faith in their existing backs on the roster.  He will be given the chance to succeed.  Most rookies don’t get that chance right away. 

2) Jerry Juedy, WR, Denver Broncos

I literally jumped out of my seat when Jeudy dropped to the Broncos at 15.  Denver was in need of a second option behind Courtland Sutton.  Jeudy combines deadly deep ball speed with unique acceleration in and out of routes that allows him to keep opposing defenders on their heels at all times.  

While CeeDee Lamb is in a great spot Juedy has the potential to be the first option in Denver.  Jeudy will immediately be in the starting lineup.  He will immediately be given chances to make an impact.  The Broncos will be a much better offense in 2020 and Jeudy will have a chance to be an elite receiver.  I would still take Courtland Sutton before him in a fantasy draft but Juedy will be on my radar in early rounds. 

1) Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

A dynamic dual threat option in an RPO offense.  Kansas City had a running back carousel last season with injuries and lack of production.  They needed a guy that they could rely on.  Edwards-Helaire posted 1,414 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns for the defending National Champions.  He became the only player in SEC history to rush for over 1,000 yards and have 55 catches.  

Before the Patrick Mahomes days Andy Reid was money for fantasy running backs.  Before the release of Kareem Hunt, Reid had 12 straight seasons with a back in the top 10 in fantasy.  No matter who he put on the field they found ways to produce.  The Chiefs have obvious talent all over the field and will now have a serious threat in the backfield.  Edwards-Helaire should be the starting going into camp and if he stays healthy he should be a very high upside second or third round pick. 

My new favorite NFL team had a great draft.

The death of the XFL was close to the near death of my fandom for professional football.  As a St. Louis native I have now seen two professional teams disappear from my city over the last five years.  I had totally bought into the Battlehawks.  I was screaming KaKaw along with my fellow St. Louisans and dreaming of the future of football in my city and it was taken away again.  Now on the hunt for a new team to support once again, I have found myself on the outskirts of the band wagon the Kansas City Chiefs have been pushing around my city.  While the Chiefs may be a Missouri team my inability to connect with a fanbase that is underrated in their obnoxiousness will forever keep me from enjoying their greatness.  I went into the 2020 draft looking for a team and I may have found it.  Maybe…..

The Draft

First Round Pick: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Second Round Pick: WR KJ Hamler, Penn State

Third Round Pick: CB Michael Ojemudia, Iowa

Fourth Round Pick: TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

The Broncos look like they have found their franchise quarterback in 2nd year quarterback Drew Lock.  Lock started the season on the bench waiting for the franchise to realize that Joe Flacco was no longer a viable NFL quarterback.  When Lock was finally given the chance he ran with it, cementing himself as the new starting quarterback of the present and future. In his five starts the Broncos went 4-1, throwing for 1,020 yards along with a 64% completion rate.  Immediately a chemistry between Lock and new #1 receiver Courtland Sutton developed.  The offense was lacking further exterior threats other than Sutton leading into the draft.  They were able to find what they were looking for at the #15 pick, grabbing Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.  Jeudy was competing with CeeDee Lamb for the top rated player at their position.  Jeudy has the ability to get separation on the college level averaging 7.8 yards after the catch. His speed will transition to the NFL as well as his ability to make plays from anywhere on the field.  

The Broncos continued to be aggressive in filling needs on the offensive end grabbing KJ Hamler out of Penn State.  Another player with great speed that will fit into the slot receiver role.  He is a little further away from a completed project than the other recievers that were available in the draft.  If he can fit into the slot role he could be a sleeper that makes an impact in big ways during the season. He is an explosive potential playmaker.  

An underrated 4th round pick was the playmaker out of Mizzou,  tight-end Albert Okwuegbhunam.  A very raw prospect that will have time to develop behind Noah Fant.  Okuegbhunam averaged a touchdown every four catches in college, he is a future red zone threat if he can improve on his routes and speed off the line.  He was a high upside pick that won’t be forced into anything right away.  I loved that Denver was willing to take the talent in the later rounds.  

Defensively, Denver’s No. 2 corner position was a revolving door all season last year; it’s possible Michael Ojemudia was selected to be a potential starter sometime in the near future.  He will fit into Vic Fangio’s system which can hide deficiencies of the secondary allowing them to gain experience and progress in the NFL. 

Free Agency

Free Agent addition: RB Melvin Gordon, OL Graham Glasnow

The Broncos quietly had a great offseason before the draft. GM John Elway knew that he needed to protect his new franchise Quarterback.  Adding veteran Graham Glasnow on a 4-year deal from Detroit was a great way to help fill a hole in the line.  

After suring up the line the Broncos went out and made a surprising impact signing.  Adding former Charger Melvin Gordon in free agency has put Denver in the conversation for potentially the best runningback combination in the entire NFL. 

I loved everything Denver did in the draft.  They were clearly trying to build around their young quarterback.  Adding speed and athletes that are NFL ready. This team is a serious contender for a playoff spot in 2021.  John Elway has made some mistakes over the last few years but it is looking like he has found his groove as a GM.  

Three teams that could have beat the late 90’s Bulls.

“The Last Dance” documentary about the Chicago Bulls highlighted the final run of the great Bulls dynasty of the 90’s.  Winning six championships in eight seasons cemented the legacy of both the players, coaches and the city.  While watching I thought to myself who could really stop this team loaded with the best player and coach in NBA history. I felt like the second half of the three-peat the Bulls were the most dominant.  I wanted to look at which teams could have been able to stop their great run.  

I did not include the Orlando Magic team that eliminated the Bulls during Jordan initial return. 

Indiana Pacers 1995-1996

The 95-96 Indiana Pacers lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Atlanta Hawks.  An injury to superstar Reggie Miller forced him to miss most of the first round. The injury doomed the Pacers.  During the season the Pacers were a thorn in the side of the historic 72-10 Chicago Bulls.  Indiana actually beat the Bulls twice during the season.  They were responsible for 20% of the losses for arguably the greatest team in the history of the league. Unlike most of the rest of the league they seemed to have an idea of how to handle the juggernaut. 

The Pacer’s were able to utilize their size and toughness in the post.  Rik Smits and Dale Davis were able to control the paint against Chicago. They could handle the inside and they had skilled shotmakers to punish.  Indiana had tons of talent as well as a great leader in Larry Brown.  Indiana had everything it took to pull off the upset in the playoffs, but the injury to Miller ended any chance of being successful.  It would have been really fun to see the playoff trash talk between Miller and Jordan both in their prime. 

Miami Heat 1997-1998

Led by Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning and Coach Pat Riley the Miami Heat were serious contenders during the time of the Bulls second three-peat.   Injuries plagued Miami throughout the season.  The first 22 games of the season they played without Alonzo Mourning due to offseason knee surgery.  Despite the loss of Mourning the Heat still began the season 15-7. They were in the driver’s seat for the division even without their superstar. 

Miami was not just built around their superstars.  The secondary pieces the organization assembled were able to fit perfectly.  Guards Voshon Leonard and Dan Majerle provided sharpshooting.  PJ Brown provided defense and rebounding.  Jamal Mashburn was the athletic mutli-purpose up and coming star. They had plenty of talent to surround their stars along with a coach that knew exactly how to utilize the talent around him.  

Miami was ranked in the top ten in both offensive and defensive rating.  The Heat’s game plan was to slow down the pace and take advantage of their elite talent.  They ranked 26 of 29 in pace of play, which was exactly what Pat Riley wanted.  He was an old school coach that wanted to grind out the game.  

The Heat dominated their division finishing 12 games above the New York Knicks.  They were matched up with the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.  This Heated rivalry got out of hand in game four when Alonzo Mourning got into an altercation with the Knicks Larry Johnson.  The fight led to the suspension of Mourning in the deciding game.  Without Mourning the Heat were not able to overcome the Knicks.

The Heat had the experience and talent to match the Bulls.  Physically they could handle any team. Mentally they had problems that would have been tough to overcome the Jordan led Bulls. If you base it on talent alone the Heat would have been a great matchup with Chicago.  

Seattle Supersonics 1995–1996

The Supersonics were the only team on this list that actually had a chance to take down the infamous 90’s Bulls.The Supersonics were led by guard Gary Payton and forward Shawn Kemp.  Two players that were legendary figures in the game.  Payton was known for his great defense and leadership. Kemp was known for his ferocious dunks and rebounding skills.  They were the perfect compliment to each other and it showed on the court as they dominated the Western Conference with a 64-18 record.  

The rest of the Sonics lineup were not push-overs but actually seriously talented secondary players.  Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf, Hersey Hawkins, Vincent Askew and Nat McMillan rounded out a solid lineup of players that all filled in their roles perfectly. Each one of them fit in perfectly with the two stars. 

The Bulls and Sonics split the season series with both winning their respective home games. These teams’ statistics were nearly identical with the only real difference being the Bulls 40% 3-pt shooting compared to the Sonics 36%.  That was literally the only large statistical difference between the two teams.  

The series began with the Bulls jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the series before the Sonics were able to get themselves in gear.  The Sonics dominated game 4 and 5 before being finished off in game six in Chicago.  Injuries plagued Seattle from the start as defensive stud Gary Payton was dealing with a bad calf injury that forced him off of Michael Jordan.  Sonics second best defensive guard Nate McMillan was injured nearly the entire series.  The loss of their two best defensive guards had Jordan salivating at the idea of being guarded but the third choice. Jordan dominated a gimpy Seattle team averaging 30.7 ppg.  If Gary Payton was fully healthy the Sonics could have been the team that stopped the dynasty.

The next Patrick Ewing

Patrick Ewing was as dominant a force as there was in the NBA during the late 80’s and 90’s.  Joining the New York Knicks in the “rigged” NBA draft of 1985 the center from Georgetown was supposed to take over the league and return the franchise back to glory.  Ewing was joining a team that actually had made the playoffs in three of the previous five years. The rookie made an instant impact scoring 20 PPG and 9 RPG, winning the rookie of the year award.  Ewing continued to be a dominant player in the league becoming an 11-time All-Star, ending his career 13th all-time in his career. Ewing individually has a great career but he will forever be known as the one of the best center’s to never win a title. In today’s NBA game the traditional center has transitioned into a different type of player.  There is one player in particular that stands out as the next Ewing. His similarities are hard to ignore and his fate may be the same.

Patrick Ewing’s time in the NBA always had a shadowy overtone.  In that shadow was the greatest player of all time Michael Jordan and his dominant Bulls teams of the 90’s.  No matter what he did his team was not able to overcome the greatness of the Bulls. Even in the baseball years of Jordan, Ewing had to deal with the dominance for Hakeem and the Houston Rockets. Ewing was able to make it to one finals in 93-94 but Houston was a much better team. So, why did Ewing not win a title?  He was able to lead Georgetown to a national title. He was consistently winning games at both levels, but it seemed like when he entered the NBA his game changed. He came into the league as a defensive and rebounding force. The offensive game was supposed to develop over time and it did, but he lost what made himself dominant. His formation of his offensive game got the Knicks front office so excited that they decided to build around him.  They added one-dimensional players like John Starks, Anthony Mason, Rolando Blackman and Larry Johnson. In reality building around Ewing was not the wrong move but they should have added a premier scorer rather than players to work along with him.  

With the development of his offensive game, Ewing’s defense took a hit.  He was not the same player that was drafted for his interior force. The Knicks eventually added their premier scorer when they traded for Latrell Sprewell in 1998.  Ewing had begun his decline, which led to the Knicks adding big man Marcus Camby to eventually fill the shoes of the organization’s icon. The Knicks were able to transition very quickly without Ewing making an improbable run without him. New York was able to make it to the finals even though he had an achilles injury that forced him out of the playoffs. This would be the last chance for Ewing to win the big one with the team that drafted him.  His career would have a few more stops in Orlando and Seattle but the player that dominated the league was gone. Patrick Ewing is a case of a player with a team that didn’t understand how to utilize his skills and build around him correctly. He was extremely talented but the team and the player were not the right mix to win it all. Ewing should have been a franchise changer that was a part of a great dynasty. He never had a Kobe, a Clyde or Jerry West.  A big man should have a go to player to work with and he never had that.  

In the 2014 NBA Draft the Philadelphia 76ers were in the midst of their “Trust the Process” rebuild.  With the #3 overall pick they chose Kansas center Joel Embiid. Embiid had a prevalent knee injury that kept him out of the lineup until 2016.  Embiid immediately made a difference for the 76ers leading them out of the abyss. The comparison to Ewing is actually very interesting. Both players were born outside of the US, both players played for premier college programs, both players were rebuilding large city franchises.  In their first seasons in the league they both made the All-Rookie first team as well as averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds. The amount of similarities are impossible to ignore. 

Embiid has seen similar problems to Ewing during his short time in the NBA.  He has had to deal with all-world players Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard and now Giannis.  Each of the top players in the league have the talent and the correct organizational pieces to build around.  Embiid has had to deal with players that don’t fit with the skill set that he brings to the table. He should be an inside force that draws the defense and kicks out to athletic shooters.  If he does decide to play outside of the paint it should not be consistent. The Sixers have Ben Simmons, whose game does not fit with Embiid. Simmons inability to shoot forces him into the paint which allows the defense to clog up the middle of the lane.  The organization needs to develop the understanding of today’s game. They have to utilize the best assets of their star player. 

If Philadelphia doesn’t find a way to understand their player they will forever be the team that is known for wasting a great talent.  Ewing will go down as a historically great player that was never good enough and Embiid is on track to do the same.

Five Underrated Sports Moments

1) Joe Carter’s game winner 1993 World Series.

Five time All-Star Joe Carter had a near Hall of Fame career.  While his numbers don’t transition well to the analytics world that we know today, he still made an impact with his power and speed through his career. Carter spent a long time in the league making his impact most notably in the 1993 World Series where he not only sent home the Philadelphia Phillies but also gave Toronto their second straight World Series title. Carter’s homer literally won the World Series for the Blue Jays yet it seems to be ignored in history. The fact that this home run was in Toronto also makes it one of the craziest atmospheres in baseball.

2) Lance Berkman’s game tying single, game six 2011 World Series.

David Freese’s game winner will live on in baseball history.  We all tend to forget that it was actually Lance Berkman that saved the series for the Cardinals in game six. The Cardinals were down to their final out and final strike when Berkman shot a single up the middle that kept the game going for the Redbirds.  While Freese’s homer is obviously the moment that should be played over and over again, it was Berkman that made everything possible. Lance had a great career but this moment was by far the biggest of his career. 

https://www.mlb.com/video/berkman-s-game-tying-single-c19955467

3) Derek Fisher’s game winner with .4 seconds left 2004 Western Conference Semifinal.

The Lakers had plenty of guys that took the spotlight in 2004.  Shaq and Kobe were in their prime and dominating the league. Big shot Robert Horry was the guy known for hitting the game winners, hence the nickname.  However it was a shot in the 2004 Western Conference semi-final that stuck out to me. The Spurs and Lakers were battling for dominance in the Western Conference and this game was the swing that led to the win for Los Angeles.  The Lakers seemed done after the Spurs took the lead on a shot from Tim Duncan. This game was over and then out of nowhere the role player Derek Fisher launched a shot with .4 seconds on the clock and sent the fans home, giving the Lakers a 3-2 advantage in the series.  If this shot doesn’t happen we likely see the Spurs versus the Pistons in that year’s NBA Finals. 

4) DeWayne Wise saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. 

I watched this game live on WGN when I was in high school.  Soft tossing Mark Buehrle had a very underrated career that had a few highlight moments and one was on July 23rd 2009.  Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. That perfect game was nearly taken away by Gabe Kapler leading off the ninth driving a ball deep to center field.  Little known DeWayne Wise was playing shallow in center and immediately broke into a full sprint back to the wall jumping up off the wall knocking the ball back into play, juggling it before hauling it in. Wise never did anything else in his career that was noteworthy but this catch was awesome and will stay in my memory forever. 

5) Hatteberg’s walk-off for 20 straight. 

We all know the story of Moneyball.  The real world story of Scott Hatteberg is still hard to believe. The former Red Sox catcher seemed like his career was over after suffering an arm injury that forced him out of the position he had played his whole career.  Hatteberg only hit 106 homers in his entire 14-year career. By far his most memorable homer was on Sept 4th 2002 when he took the first pitcher from Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley over the right field wall and gave the A’s their (at the time) record 20th straight win.  While the story was made more famous by Hollywood years later, the actual game was as dramatic as it comes. Oakland had blown a massive lead and needed the former catcher to just get on base but he swung his way into history. If you haven’t seen Chris Pratt’s portrayal of the homer you have to watch Moneyball, he absolutely crushes the performance.

AL East Preview and Prediction

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees found themselves back on top in 2019.  Holding off the Tampa Bay Rays and winning the American League East for the first time since 2012.  I was shocked when I saw that up until last season the Yankees had gone six seasons without taking the division crown. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays had won the division more recently than New York.  

The Yankees have a great lineup.  The potential injuries of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are not going to be a problem with the delayed start to the season.  Resigning Brett Gardner will cover the injury of Aaron Hicks. New York has a loaded lineup. The move of Gleyber Torres should hurt defensively but the power that Torres brings should overshadow most defensive liabilities.  The Yankees will get the return of Miguel Andujar provides a problem that most teams would love to have. Last year’s emergence of Gio Urshela gives the Yankees two serious offensive threats at one position. Andujar has been working to potentially play multiple positions to allow another big bat into the lineup.  The Yankees have tons of talent in the lineup and should be ready to jump out as an offensive force.

The Yankees rotation took a big blow before the season started.  Injuries to James Paxton, Luis Severino and Domingo German have left the Yankees in a tough position.  Behind ace Gerrit Cole is Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ Jordan Montgomery and….. New York’s pickup of Cole will hide some of the injuries for a small time.  If Paxton is not able to recover New York will have to find some proven rotation arms to back up their freshly signed stud.  

The Yankees bullpen is loaded.  Chapman, Britton, Ottavino, Green and Kahnle are just some of the names that make up this ridiculous;y talented pen.  They have it all.

Verdict:

This is the Yankees division to win.  Their rotation scares me enough to see the possibility of Tampa making a run but the Yankees were able to figure things out last season when they didn’t have Gerrit Cole.  It will be tough to bet against them.

Boston Red Sox

Mookie Betts- traded.  Chris Sale- Tommy John Surgery.  This has not been a great start to the 2020 season for the Boston Red Sox. 

The offense is still very solid even without Betts. Boston was able to add Alex Verdugo, a long time prospect that will be given the chance to show whether or not he can live up to the hype.  Verdugo is going to join an offense that still has some serious talent. JD Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi will make up the core of the lineup that still make them a serious threat to the division.  The addition of Kevin Pillar will add a little more pop to the lineup coming off of a 21 homer season. Boston will need a repeat in production from infielder Michael Chavis who will get opportunities at both second base and first base.  The depth of the lineup continues with the addition of veteran Johnathon Lucroy to go along with Christian Vazquez who had a terrific 2019 season. The Red Sox may have lost their best player but this is still a lineup that has serious talent.  Martinez, Bogaerts and Devers are still All-Star level talent that can lead this team. 

The biggest issue for Boston will be the starting staff.  With Chris Sale missing the entire 2020 season an already weak rotation will have to hope veterans Martin Perez and Colin McHugh can step up and show the potential they both had many years ago.  Eduardo Rodriguez will have to step into the role of #1 starter coming off of a career season. Rodriguez’s 19 wins and 3.7 WAR headlined a huge 2019 season for the 27 year old. The Red Sox will have to value their veterans as there is no clear relief coming from the minor league system. The Red Sox top rated prospects are mainly positional players.  The highest rated pitcher in the system is Bryan Mata who had pitched in the future’s game in 2018. Mata is still just in Double-A and will not likely make the strides to get to the majors in 2020.  

The bullpen dug themselves out of a hole in the second half of 2019.  Brandon Workman worked his way into the closer role and will enter the season in that role.  Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez have all progressed into a strong set up man crew but they will need more arms to step up to make it through the whole season.  

Verdict:

Boston’s pitching is going to be a problem.  Losing Chris Sale and trading away David Price has put them in a tough situation.  They are in the process of rebuilding what was once a vaunted farm system. They have a strong lineup that doesn’t have a lot of depth but the starters are as good as any in the division. If Boston can get any sort of support from the rotation they have enough offense to be a threat in the division.  This is going to be a rebuild but the talent is still very young and should be competitive.  

Tampa Bay Rays

It is impossible to question the moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays. They have proven that they are ahead of the curve analytically.  The Rays were active in the offseason adding Jose Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to an already deep roster.  To try and have an idea of what the lineup is going to be is a waste of time. The Rays are built better than ever to utilize the platoon lineups.  Their mix of power, speed and on-base ability throughout the roster makes them unique and adaptable to any game. The Rays have the advantage of not leaning on a core of players so no injury should really determine the season.  If Austin Meadows, Joey Wendle, Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz can take the next step in their development this team is going to be tough to handle. The eventual call up of Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan will make another impact in the lineup if they need a jolt at any point.

The Rays rotation is highlighted by the top three.  Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow can match up with any team’s top three. If Snell and Glasnow can stay healthy in 2020 a team that is so well known for utilizing their bullpen may have one of the strongest rotations in all of baseball. Yonny Chirinos took steps in the right direction last season finding mixed success in the bullpen and the rotation. Tampa Bay has a few interesting prospects that could find their way into the rotation.  Two-way player Brendan McKay and prospect Brent Honeywell could both find themselves in the majors this season.  

The bullpen is similar to the rotation.  Nick Anderson stands out is the potential closer but there are multiple arms that are ready in any situation.  Jose Alavardo, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Colin Poche and Chaz Roe all have nasty stuff. This team is unpredictable and that makes them tough to handle.

Verdict:

My head says this is the Yankees division.  New York is more fragile than Tampa Bay. The Rays could easily win this division if the starting pitching stays healthy.

Baltimore Orioles

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s just a really long tunnel. The Orioles were able to rebuild what was a horrific farm system. They are currently ranked 13th overall by MLB.com heading into the season.  This ranking includes four players in the top 100 overall, headlined by the #4 overall prospect Adley Rutschmann. The future looks bright for the Orioles but the 2020 season will not be the first year of the turnaround.

Baltimore’s offense doesn’t have a particular player to build their lineup around. Veteran Trey Mancini is the closest thing to a star player with a 135 OPS+, but he may be trade bait for a contender as the year goes on. Anthony Santander was a nice surprise in 2019 blasting 20 homers in limited at bats.  He will be looked upon to garner more playing time in 2020. Another surprise was the play of Hanser Alberto. Alberto led the Orioles in BA (.305), adding some pop with 13 home runs. OF Austin Hays found his way to the majors last season and will be looked upon as the first hope of what’s to come. 

John Means came out of nowhere in 2020 making it to the All-Star game. Means will be looked upon to carry the load for a rotation full of journeyman veterans.  Tommy Milone, Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc are going to be holdovers as the organization waits for their young starters to take the next step. Grayson Rodriguez and DJ Hall headline the upcoming starters that will soon be mainstays in the rotation.  Both starters are still considered at least one year away from being ready for the majors.

The Orioles bullpen has rising star Hunter Harvey to go along with Mychal Givens, their most proven arm in the back end.  The pen will feature a litany of other young arms trying to establish themselves in the majors. 

Verdict:

The Baltimore Orioles are at least a few years away from any sort of contention but the work they have done on their farm system has been impressive.  Moving on from Trey Mancini and Mychal Givens in order to continue to bolster their farm system is the best choice for the organization. The problem Baltimore has is they are going to be very low balled by any team interested in Givens and Mancini. Another tough year is ahead for the Orioles and their fans. 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays believe in their young talent.  The second generation stars Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vlad Guerrero Jr make up a young core that will be the backbone of the organization.  These young stars are flanked by the power of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Rowdy Tellez and Teoscar Hernandez. The Blue Jays have built a lineup that will be nightmares for opposing pitchers for years to come. 

The Blue Jays needed the arms to compete with the elite in the American League and they worked hard to find those arms in the offseason adding Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark, Shun Yamaguchi and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Toronto added some veteran arms to give them stability as they await the incoming talent Nate Pearson and Anthony Kay.  Pearson ranks 7th overall prospect in all of baseball while Kay is 67th. They will soon be joined in the top 100 by another drafted arm Alek Monoah the former #11 overall pick is an imposing 6’6” 260lbs and he brings serious strikeout stuff. In his first 17 innings in low-A he Monoah struck out 27 hitters and dominated. He is still far from MLB ready but when he is it will be impactful. 

The Blue Jays have a very formidable closer in Ken Giles.  He propelled them to a mid-level ranked bullpen. He will be backed up in 2020 by AJ Cole, WIlmer Font and potentially Shun Yamaguchi if he doesn’t end up in the rotation.  If Toronto is able to get the innings they expect from their new veteran rotation the back end of the pen should be able to solidify victories.  

Verdict:

Toronto is still a few years away from being serious competitors but they have a lineup with very real potential for explosion.  If the rotation is able to provide them with any sort of support this team has the real ability to compete for third place in the division.  The playoffs are unlikely but watch out for Toronto they are making waves. 

     2020 Season Standings 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles

Bounce Back Players

Mike Foltynewciz, Pitcher, Atlanta Braves

Folty had a terrible start to his 2019 season. His first half of the season was a complete dumpster fire that was impossible to put out.  Foltynewciz was coming off of an All-Star appearance in 2018 where he had a 4.0 WAR. He was supposed to be the ace of a potential playoff team but that’s not how it went for him.  

Foltynewicz had a real problem with the long ball.  His HR/FB rate increased by 7% in 2019, giving up 16 homers in the first half of the season. He was sent to the minors in order to figure out what was causing the regression.  The send down was exactly what was needed for the potential ace. The second half of the season showed the pitcher that the Braves thought they would have in 2019. The second half of the season.

IPERATBFH2B3BRERHRBBIBBHBPSOAVGOBPSLGwOBA
1st Half59.16.372606494474216202250.275.336.554
2nd Half57.22.652314510018177170055.211.270.357.269

The Braves added a few veteran starters in Felix Hernandez and Cole Hamels.  The two veterans will help stabilize the rotation and give leadership to a young rotation.  Foltynewciz will now have two players to turn to if things begin to go wrong. Look for a bounce back season from the fireballer. 

Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians

The bar was set very high for Jose Ramirez.  Two straight seasons finishing third in the MVP voting. Ramirez was an offensive beast in 2017 and 2018 finishing both seasons with a WRC+ of 146. Ramirez was putting himself in elite categories of offensive players in all of baseball. Then a slump of epic proportion took place actually beginning for him in late August of 2018 continuing into June 0f 2019.

Ramirez was having problems hitting fastballs. 

Before August 18, 2018- BA .336

After August 18, 2018- BA. 190

Ramirez began facing more shifts.

Before August 18, 2020- Shift percentage 18%

After August 18, 2020- Shift percentage 60%

Ramirez BABIP plummeted.

Before August 18, 2018- .301

After August 18 208- .209

The slump to start the 2019 season put Ramirez in a hole that was tough to pull out of.  He began to make adjustments that turned his season around. His slash line in the second half showed the player that was a preseason MVP candidate .327/.365/.729.  The return of power for Ramirez was a huge factor in the turn around of his season. His .412 ISO and a .302 BABIP propelled him back to offensive relevancy. Heading into the 2020 season Ramirez has a chance to reestablish himself as a premier hitter in the league.  

Justin Upton, OF, Los Angeles Angels

A knee injury plagued Upton’s 2019 season, only playing in only 63 games.  Upton will have a chance to bounce back in 2020 if fully healthy. The Angels have loaded up talent around Upton with the addition of Anthony Rendon.  Upton will be battin being Mike Trout and Rendon giving him ample opportunity to drive in runs, something that he has done throughout his career. When fully healthy Upton has the ability to be a premium level producer.  His 2018 campaign was below his usual level of production but he still produced a wRC+ of 123 and hit thirty homers.  

A fully healthy Justin Upton will be a force in the middle of a potentially explosive offense in Los Angeles. 

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Atlanta Braves

Marcell was supposed to have a huge payday this offseason.  Unfortunately he was a by product of the new analytical world.  Ozuna’s ISO (.231) and OPS (.800) are both above league average but doesn’t warrant the nine digit contract he was looking for. The Braves took a chance on Ozuna signing him to a one-year “prove it” deal that has become popular among major league teams.  Ozuna’s 2019 team was not horrible but he has elite skills that will thrive in the steamy summers in Atlanta.  

Ozuna had a portion of bad luck in 2019 with a BABIP of just .257, the lowest of his career.  Despite the low batting average he actually had the best hard hit percentage of his career at 48.4%.  Ozuna has real power that will thrive in a more hitter friendly park in Atlanta. With the MLB season being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic Ozuna will have a chance to heal up heading into the season and should be able to show the potential we all saw when he was traded to St. Louis in 2017. 

Honorable Mention: 

Cory Knebel, Pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers

Yu Darvish, Pitcher, Chicago Cubs

Ian Happ, Utility, Chicago Cubs

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

Alex Wood, Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon Jones – The greatest that ruined it all.

We all make mistakes.  We have done things we regret, sometimes these mistakes follow you for the rest of your life.  Jon Jones is the greatest MMA fighter in UFC history but his mistakes have tarnished his legacy beyond repair.  He won’t be remembered for being a great fighter. The story will always be what he could have been if not for his mistakes.  He could have been a cultural icon like Chuck Liddell or even reached the pantheon of Muhammad Ali. Bold statements but that was the reality for him, extreme talent in the octagon, a great personality and a great look.  He had all the tools to be the man forever associated with mixed martial arts, but he blew it. 

Jon Jones made his MMA debut in 2008 at the age of 21.  He immediately made an impact starting his career 7-0 and finding himself with an opportunity to join the vaunted UFC just four months into his career. Jone dominated his first three appearances in the UFC leading to a new four fight contract with the UFC signed in September of 2009.  With the new contract came his biggest opportunity in the business taking on reality TV star Matt Hamil. Jones dominated Hamil throughout the fight but was disqualified for using 12-6 elbows on a downed Hamil. This disqualification loss is the only loss Jones has taken thus far in his career.  Just two years later Jones worked his way to the title, replacing an injured Rashad Evans, knocking out “Shogun” Rua in March of 2011. He was cemented as the youngest champion in UFC history and was ready to build himself into the face of the sport. 

Everything was in front of this 23-year old champion.  He had all the tools to dominate in the octagon while being a marketing dream.  He had it all. He began a torrid run through the top contenders Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Lyoto Machida, Chael Sonnen, Glover Teixeira, Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier. Jones had cleared out the division.  His dominance was similar to future stars Rhonda Rousey and Connor McGregor. Jones showed his ego leading into matchups with Cormier and Evans. He had a cockieness that accentuated his dominance. He could play the villain with the skills of the hero. To build him up as the unbeatable champion that would dominate the division and hold the belt forever would only make it sweeter when one day he would slip up and lose.  That moment would be a milestone that not only ended one great run but created a new superstar. 

Jon Jones never should have a chance to pass the light heavyweight torch.  There shouldn’t be a final fight for Jones, he has proven that he is not responsible enough to be in the forefront of an organization.  He was a complete disappointment to himself, the organization and the sport in general. While we can forgive mistakes we can not overlook them.  We can only give people chances so many times. I am a fan of MMA and supported Jones because I saw his potential. I saw a guy that was revolutionary in his style and ability.  It has been 12 years since his first MMA fight and he still is the best in his division. Imagine a major sports team that was dominant for that amount of time. Jordan’s Bulls only win six titles, the Yankees had gaps in between their dynasties, the Patriots couldn’t hold their grasp on #1 forever, even  Tiger Woods was overtaken by Vijay Singh at one point in his dominant run. What this man has done in a sport where you can lose in literally one second is revolutionary. His dominance should be his legacy. He should be the Jerry West logo of the UFC, but his ability will be an afterthought and his controversies will live on forever.  Jon Jones could have been the greatest of all time but he is now just Jon Jones the greatest runined it. 

Just some of the records Jon Jones has: 

Longest unbeaten streak in UFC history (18).

Most light heavyweight title defenses.

Youngest UFC Champion in history (23 years old).

Most submission victories in UFC light heavyweight history (5).

Most stoppage wins in UFC light heavyweight history (10).

Controversies:

May 2012 – DUI- Drove his car into a pole in Binghamton, New York.

Jan. 2015 – Failed drug test before UFC 182.

April 2015 – Fled the scene of a hit and run.

March 2016 – Jones is jailed in Albuquerque for violating probation. A week earlier, he was cited by police on five charges related to drag racing, and footage from a police body camera captured Jones calling the officer a “f—ing liar” and a “pig.”

July 2016 – Tested positive for two banned substances prior to UFC 200.

August 2017 – flagged for a potential doping violation by USADA, stemming from his test sample that was collected on July 28, one day before his rematch against Cormier at UFC 214.

December 2018 – Jones is drug tested on the day of weigh-ins, and a trace amount of Turinabol, the same steroid metabolite that earned him his ban, is again found in his system.

July 21, 2019Albuquerque TV station KRQE reports that Jones, facing a battery charge stemming from the April strip club complaint.

March 26, 2020 –  Jones is arrested in New Mexico for alleged aggravated DWI and negligent use of a firearm.