So About Last Night…

The Athletics do something that they usually don’t do and gave up a couple of cheap players for some expensive ones. The pick up pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel (former Oriole…) for the best SS prospect in baseball in Addison Russell, Billy McKinney (2013 1st rounder) Dan Straily, and a player to be named later/cash.

I personally think they Cubs made out great in this deal. First, they get a young pitcher with talent who has struggled in the American League. This is the perfect pitcher for the Cubs. They STOLE Jake Arrieta from the Orioles last season. The Cubs basically have given him permission to use his cutter (Something the Orioles refused to let him throw), and now he is pitching like a stud with a no-no into the 7th in Boston last week.

Addison Russell (Photo Cred: Bill Mitchell/Baseball America)

Addison Russell (Photo Cred: Bill Mitchell/Baseball America)

The Cubs also pick up Addison Russell and Billy McKinney. Russell is a great defensive shortstop that turned out to have a great bat too. He has had an average around .300 at every level with an OPS above .800, including .939 this year. Billy McKinney is a corner outfielder that is projected to have a great bat but be a slow baserunner and a below-average defender.

Since the Cubs have too many infielders after this trade (Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara, Starlin Castro, and Anthony Rizzo), do they deal Baez for a pitching prospect?

Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara for Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Gonzalez Germen.

Who says no?

Jeff Samardzija playing for Notre Dame against Stanford. (Photo Cred: Getty Images)

Jeff Samardzija playing for Notre Dame against Stanford. (Photo Cred: Getty Images)

Now for the Athletics, they pick up the Major League talent in this deal. Samardzija becomes their best pitcher and Hammel slots in as a back of the rotation guy who is over-achieving this year. Samardzija has been brilliant this year even though he only has 2 wins. He has increased groundballs, decreased the flyballs, decreased his home run to fly ball rate, and decreased the amount walks. He has been superb. The reason for the lack of wins is his league slow run support of 2.41 runs per game… TERRIBLE! The Cubs probably just hate him because they can’t spell his name. Who knows…

Coming of an injury-filled year with the Orioles last year, the Cubs were able to sign Hammel to a 1-year deal for $6 million. For that price, he is  having a career year with his highest strikeout percentage and lowest walk percentage in his career. It will be tough for him to keep those numbers up with the move the AL, but the A’s believe he can do it so you know what? So do I!

I think that his deal was very fair, but the Athletics will need to make a World Series and see Samardzija and Hammel be big pieces for this type of deal to be worth it. They do not have the kind of money to sign Samardzija long-term so they have to win this year or next with him, or they will have wasted a top prospect, also known as a cheap star, for no title.

This is not the type of deal that the Athletics can make every year and sustain a winning team because they purely do not have the money for it. However, the Athletics must have decided this is the one deal that they can make that will push them over the top, and with one of the top front offices in baseball (along with the Astros, Cardinals, Cubs,  and Red Sox), I have to believe this is the right move, and I now think the Athletics are clear favorites to win the AL Pennant and a top 3 favorite for the World Series title.

In a football note…

Josh Gordon gets arrested in North Carolina. If he never plays in the NFL again, is he the greatest one-hit wonder in sports ever?

Lemme know what you think

Greg Danchik

Twitter: @gregdanchik

Email: gregdanchik@gmail.com

Buehrle Surprises the MLB

I haven’t been writing a lot lately, but plenty has been going on the world of sports. Obviously, the Heat and Spurs are playing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and the Rangers and Kings are playing for the Stanley Cup. If these series are as good as their Game 1’s, then they will be great.

While all of this has been going on, the MLB season keeps chugging along. I have been watching and seeing a ton of surprises. Over the next week, I am going to be posting about these surprises and trying to explain them, if I can. I will also be giving you the best free agency signings this season. They will be in no particular order.

Mark Buehrle pitching against the Astros (Photo Cred: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Mark Buehrle pitching against the Astros (Photo Cred: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

The first surprise I am going to talk about is Mark Buehrle. You know, that guy who was consistently average/mediocre in the AL Central and NL East.  Thats the same guy that is 10-1 this year with a 2.10 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. His statistics are unreal, and the Blue Jays win almost every game he pitches. But why is this happening?

The biggest reason he keeps winning is his run support. The Blue Jays are a great offensive team and score roughly 5 runs a game, which is second in all of baseball (Oakland is first). However, the Blue Jays are scoring, on average, 6.08 runs during his starts. He is getting a little bit more than a run of extra support from the team over the other pitchers (1.22 runs per game). With that type of support, it is no wonder he is 10-1.

However, the reason Buehrle’s numbers, excluding record,  look spectacular is his ridiculously low HR/FB%. It is 2.4%, which is 7.3% less than his career mark. He cannot keep this up, and he will start to give up some dingers especially in his home ballpark. Rogers Centre is 3rd in home runs allowed and runs allowed. While this will probably be his career year, he will most likely regress some. Expect his ERA and FIP to rise, and it could all happen at once, which would be bad for fantasy owners and the Blue Jays.

The first free agent signing I will talk about is Michael Morse. Morse is a pretty decent outfielder with a .282 batting average, .818 OPS, and HR/FB% just below 20%. However, the big knock on him is that he is very injury prone. He could never stay healthy, but when he did, he performed.

Well, he is healthy this year for the Giants and out playing his career numbers. He already has 13 homers, a .286 average, and an OPS of .916. His HR/FB% is 27.1% so that will likely regress towards 20%, but he should still end up with at least 25 homers. This is a great season for any player, but the Giants got away with signing him for just $10.5 million over 2 years. For a comparison of how good of a deal this is, I will use Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter will eventually make $45 million from 2012-2014.

Including his good 2012 season where he had 200  hits, Jeter has had a combined fWAR from 2012-2014 of 2.6. That is definitely not living up to his contract considering this offseason teams payed only $6 million dollars per win above replacement. Morse is actually outperforming the price point for fWAR as he already has a fWAR of 1.1 this season.

The Giants got a great deal even if Morse gets hurt, but if he doesn’t get hurt, the deal will look even better for the MLB-best San Francisco Giants.

Greg Danchik

NBA Finals Preview

It is finally here. The rematch that everyone wanted to see all season long between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. Before we get into the Finals, let’s quickly discuss how these teams got here.

For Miami it was an anticlimactic series win against the Indiana Pacers, but you won’t hear LeBron and company complaining. The Pacers simply couldn’t handle the Heat in Game 6; evident by the 117 to 92 final score. A big inconsistency for the Pacers was Roy Hibbert. He managed to score 0 points once in each series (He actually accomplished this feat 4 times in total: 2 times against ATL in back to back games, 1 – WSH, 1 – MIA). On top of dealing with the necessary improvement of Hibbert, the Pacers have to figure out what to do with Lance Stephenson in the off-season.

10354308_303029809860667_864222756_nFor the 2014/2015 season, the Pacers have locked up Hibbert ($14.8 mil), David West ($12.0 mil), George Hill ($8.0 mil), and Paul George ($16.9 mil) to big money. That’s $51 million for four players, when the salary cap for this current season is $58.6 (but expect that to increase by $5 million). So now say the cap is raised to $63.2 million for next season with those four players locked up for $51 mil, not to mention you have Evan Turner’s obnoxious $8.7 million, Luis Scola’s $4.5 million, and CJ Watson and Chris Copeland’s combined $5 million. All in all, I expected some different faces in Indiana outside of the core four. Lance Stephenson is going to want close to double figures in salary and it will make it tough on Larry Bird and other executives to keep him. The Pacers are considering themselves lucky he only cost $981,349 this past season.

On the other side of the draw, the San Antonio Spurs escaped from the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games. Here’s a question: if Serge Ibaka played in those first two games, does this series have a different outcome? There’s a good chance it could have been. Ibaka’s play was the reason the series was tied 2-2 going into Game 5. Game 5 was probably the worst game Ibaka played, posting 6 PTS, 2 REB, 1 AST, 2 BLK, while shooting 3/10 from the field. Ibaka’s performance was not the reason why the Thunder lost. They had stretches during each game where the ball was in the hands of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook way too much. Scott Brooks, OKC’s coach, basically told the team to give the ball to Durant or Westbrook and let them figure it out for themselves. You can’t do things like this against the San Antonio Spurs. As my roommate Dan says, “They’re just so god damn fundamental”.

So what is next for the Thunder? The only contracts that are expiring are Thabo Sefolosha’s and Derek Fisher’s. Other than that, you’re going to see the same Thunder team that went against the Spurs in the Western Conference finals given some unusual off-season trade. The Thunder have $67 mil locked up for next year so I’m not expecting much action from them this off-season.

Let’s start talking about the Finals now.

In the 2013/2014 NBA preview I wrote that the Heat would lose to the Pacers, but the Pacers simply weren’t the same team during the series with the Heat compared with the team that ended 2013 at 25-5. My new prediction is San Antonio Spurs in 7 games. Here is why:

Reason 1: Supporting Cast

If you don’t know by now, it’s a rematch of last year’s thrilling finals, but there are some differences. One difference is the Rosters.

For the Heat, they lost a valuable three-point shooter in Mike Miller. Who left this past offseason to join the Memphis Grizzlies. Two other additions to the roster for this season were Michael Beasley and Greg Oden. Neither of this two acquisitions have developed into what coach Erik Spoelstra would have liked. They have combined for two points the entire post season (Yes, you read that right).

For the Spurs, Gary Neal and Stephen Jackson are no longer with them. Marco Belinelli joined the team from Chicago and has provided the Spurs with quality bench minutes and consistent outside shooting. Gregg Popovich has creatively used his deep bench to help take minutes off of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Patty Mills, and even Cory Joseph have played huge minutes in the playoffs to help the Spurs reach the finals. Tony Parker’s status will be monitored due to his ailing ankle, but I don’t expect him to miss a game on this type of stage. I give the edge to the Spurs in terms of their supporting cast.

Reason 2: Home Court Advantage

Even though the Heat are perfect at home this post season. Having home court in a seven game series is always good to have. The Heat beat Charlotte in 4, Brooklyn in 5, and Indiana in 6. It’s only fitting that the finals go 7 games again, just like last year, but I don’t think the Heat will have enough in the tank. Dwyane Wade needs to keep shooting 52% from the field and 40% from 3. LeBron needs support from Wade and also Chris Bosh, who has proven his outside shooting ability lately. Coming into this postseason, Bosh had only made 24 3-PT shots. Coming into the finals, he already has 25. If LeBron does his thing with Wade and Bosh shooting at a high level, the home court advantage may not matter. Regardless, having home court will help especially in the new 2-2-1-1-1 format, as opposed to the old finals format of 2-3-2.

We can go on and on, but ultimately it will come down to defense, timely shooting (I swear to god if Ray Allen does something like he did in Game 6 last year, I’ll lose it), and a little bit of luck (I swear to god if Ray Allen gets another shot to go in like the one in Game 6 last year, I’ll lose it).

Here is an interesting fun fact to leave you with.

In 1984, the Celtics and Lakers faced off in that year’s NBA Finals. The Celtics were 62-20 during the regular season while the Lakers were 54-28. The NBA welcomed a new commissioner in David Stern, replacing Larry O’Brien on April 1, 1984. The Finals that season was also the last time the Finals used the 2-2-1-1-1 format before going to the 2-3-2 format the next year (1985). This season (2014) the Spurs and Heat have their rematch in the Finals. The Spurs were 62-20 during the regular season and the Heat were 54-28. The NBA welcomed a new commissioner in Adam Silver on February 1, replacing David Stern. This Finals will be, for the first time since 1984, using the 2-2-1-1-1 format.

And who won the championship in 1984? The Boston Celtics.

And who happened to be coaching the Lakers that year? Pat Riley.

And who happens to be the General Manager of the Heat right now? Pat Riley.

Hopefully LeBron has something in store for us.

Get ready this month for a couple of NBA related articles. Last year you may remember a Point Guard article I did around the time of the Finals. This time expect a different position to be covered. In addition, expect a new article comparing LeBron James and Kevin Durant and why Kevin Durant WILL win the MVP and NBA Championship next season.

As always, continue to enjoy.

-Twitter: @brosephmeola

E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

 

The Sports Dojo’s NFL Mock Draft

This mock is a little bit of me being the GMs and a little bit of me guessing what is actually going to happen. I just hope I am relatively close to what actually happens. Hope you enjoy.

Browns trade #4 and #26 to Rams for #2
Rams trade #13 and #26 to Vikings for #8
Bears trade #14 and #51 to Titans for #11
Chargers trade #25 and 2015 1st rounder to Titans for #14
Chiefs trade #23 #87 and #163 for #17 and #194
Patriots #29 for Rams #44 and Rams’ 2015 2nd rounder

Texans
Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina

The best player by far. He would have been the top pick last year had he been allowed to come out. JJ Watt and Clowney on the same defensive line is SCARY! Texans are on their way to a great draft.

Browns (From Redskins via Rams)
Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M

Rams flirtations with Johnny scare the Browns. The Browns get scared and hop up two spots to take Manziel and sacrifice their other first round pick. Manziel turns into a bust, just as Trent Richardson did, and their reign of mediocrity continues! Rams get a great haul and will be an NFC Wild Card in 2014-15.

**DISCLAIMER* – I think Manziel will be a star, but Cleveland has a history of taking potential superstars and turning them into busts*

Jaguars
Greg Robinson, OT Auburn

Greg Robinson and Luke Jockel! Thats the base for a great offensive line. All they need is a quarterback, but they’ll pick that up in the second round. They think Chad Henne is okay for another year apparently. Sorry that you have to be a fan of this organization Jimbo…

Rams (From Browns)
Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson

Rams were hoping for Greg Robinson, but they get Watkins instead. Not a bad trade off. Better prospect than AJ Green and Julio Jones. He is fast with great hands and stands 6’1”. Sam Bradford gets some help, but maybe the Rams best bet would be to replace Bradford.

Raiders
Khalil Mack, OLB Buffalo

Raiders need some pass rushers, along with every other position on an NFL roster. Khalil Mack could have gone number 1 overall in a different year, like last year.

Falcons
Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M

Falcons have huge needs in the trenches. Grabbing the second-best tackle in the draft to help Matt Ryan is not a bad idea. Falcons need a big rebuild. Look for them to draft offensive lineman and defensive lineman the whole draft.

Buccaneers
Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M

Big, strong hands, and power forward-like boxing out skills. He will be a young Anquan Boldin. Bucs will wait another year to get their quarterback of the future.

Rams (from Vikings)
Taylor Lewan, OT Michigan

Rams decide they want Taylor before the Bills can grab him. Trade the 1st round pick that the Browns traded them for #2 to the Vikings to hop over 4 teams. The second biggest piece that they need to help Sam Bradford out. Again, Sam Bradford might not even be the guy they are helping out… (foreshadowing)

Bills
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S Alabama

Jarius Byrd is gone so they need a safety. The Bills get another great one, and I am now pissed because the Ravens lose out on the top safety in the draft.

Lions
Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan St.

Lions need some help in the back 7 of their defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took a wide receiver, but it is just too early to grab one. I do think that they will look to trade down to draft a wide receiver because they LOVE to draft wide receivers.

Bears (From Titans)
Aaron Donald, DT Pitt

Bears sacrifice their 2nd round pick with the fear that the Giants are going to take Aaron Donald at 12. The Bears take Donald to fill the need in the interior of their defensive line. Should help with their NFL worst run defense… 5.3 rushing yard per attempt. Embarassing.

Giants
Eric Ebron, TE UNC

AGAIN! A player the Ravens could use goes ahead of their pick again. Eric Ebron will be the perfect possession receiver the Giants need, and Victor Cruz and Rueban Randle will continue to be playmakers down the field.

Vikings (From Rams)
Odell Beckham Jr., WR LSU

Vikings continue to wait on a quarterback. Beckham Jr. ran a 4.43 40-yard dash and has bigger hands than Sammy Watkins. He will be a great traditional wide receiver next to the a great overall playmaker in Cordorelle Patterson

Chargers (From Bears via Titans)
Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma St.

Chargers need a defensive player, and Gilbert is great cornerback that will help solidify their defense. They also prevent the Steelers from taking him with the next pick. Unfortunately, the Chargers sacrificed their 2015 1st rounder to make this deal happen.

Steelers
Kelvin Benjamin, WR FSU

Pissed off that they just lost out on the only cornerback that makes sense at this point in the draft, the Steelers select Benjamin to be the big receiver in the middle of the field, and this gives Antonio Brown free range to run all over the field wherever he wants. Scary thought for defenses.

Cowboys
Calvin Pryor, S Louisville

I might jump off a cliff now. A free-safety that can ball hawk like Ed Reed. Not as good as Ed Reed, but will be the center fielder that prevents all the big plays down the field for the Cowboys. Cowboys will need him to help limit the big plays the Eagles can create.

Chiefs (From Ravens)
Bradin Cooks, WR Oregon St.

Ravens will have the biggest For Sale sign that you will ever see after losing out on Clinton-Dix, Ebron, and Pryor. They trade it to Chiefs, who want to grab Cooks before the Jets do.Chiefs get a legit wide receiver for Alex Smith. Dwayne Bowe finally has someone to draw coverage off of him.

Jets
Marquise Lee, WR USC

They probably should have taken Cody Latimer, but Lee is a good fit for them. If he was able to come out last year, he would have been a top 5 pick. His last year in college hurt him, but hopefully, this receiver works out for the Jets. They need playmakers.

Dolphins
Zack Martin, OT Notre Dame

They need a tackle, and he continues to fall. Dolphins get great value here and get an instant starter to take over for Jonathan Martin.

Cardinals
Blake Bortles, QB UCF

Wut… The Cardinals get a quarterback that could have gone in the top 10 picks. Unfortunately, Bortles will be running for his life in the first year as a pro. Good luck to you Mr. Bortles.

Packers
CJ Mosely, ILB Alabama

Packers luck out with this pick. They need a replacement for AJ Hawk and they get him here.

Eagles
Anthony Barr, OLB UCLA

Pure pass rusher from UCLA will be great for the Eagles. They really need secondary help, but a better pass rush makes the secondary’s job a lot easier.

Ravens (From Chiefs)
Morgan Moses, OT Virginia

They get some picks and a tackle that they need. He’ll replace Michael Oher at right tackle and help keep Joe Flacco protected.

Bengals
Stephon Tuitt, DE Notre Dame

Versatility along the defensive line will go a long way to help the Bengals after losing some of their fierce pass rush to free agency.

Titans (From Chargers)
Ryan Shazier, OLB OSU

Titans need an outside linebacker to help rush the passer and seal the edges. He’ll help the Titans pressure Andrew Luck. The Titans wait until next year for their quarterback of the future.

Vikings (From Colts via Browns via Rams)
Derek Carr, QB Fresno St.

Vikings get their wish. They get a quarterback that they can sit for half a year or a year, and then he can come in an dominate. They’ll be able to spend their high first round pick in 2015 on an offensive lineman to help alleviate the pressure that’ll be coming at Carr.

Saints
Cody Latimer, WR Indiana

A new favorite among experts to sneak into the first round. The Saints get another receiving threat, hopefully this one can stay healthy.

Panthers
Jason Verrett, CB TCU

They need some secondary help and they get it. Small corner, which might not play against the stud wide receivers, but he will get a great slot corner.

Rams (From Patriots)
Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville

Texans lose out on Bridgewater’s fall and the Rams manage to trade back into the first round to get their guy. A quarterback, wide receiver, and left tackle in the same first round. I have to say that this is a great draft for the Rams.

49ers
Timmy Jernigan, DT FSU

Big defensive tackle that will be able to learn under Justin Smith and will be able to take over once Smith’s body completely fails him.

Broncos
Bradley Roby, CB OSU

They need some secondary help with Bailey gone, and Chris Harris recovering from ACL surgery from the injury he suffered in the 2013 playoffs.

Seahawks
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT Minnesota

Seahawks get another defensive lineman to fill out their rotation. Huge man that’ll help in the run.

Where QB’s will go
Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) to Jaguars at #39
Tom Savage (Pitt) to Texans at #65
Zach Mettenberger (LSU) to Bengals at #88
Logan Thomas (Va. Tech) to Jaguars at #114 (QB competition with Thomas eventually becoming a tight end)
AJ McCarron (Alabama) to Patriots at #140 (QB to groom until Timmy Brady retires)
Aaron Murray (Georgia)  to Bears at #156
Tajh Boyd (Clemson) to Ravens at #194

The draft will obviously not go this way, but it was pretty fun to make a mock. Hope you thought it was even remotely possible.

Greg Danchik

The Harper Situation

A lot of interesting stuff happened over Easter weekend in the world of baseball. The one thing that peaked my interest the most was the Bryce Harper benching incident. My interest was truely peaked when I was listening to Jonathan Coachman on Coach and Company on ESPN Radio while driving down to my Aunt April and Uncle Ed’s house. My mom had to calm me down because I almost screamed in frustration.

If you haven’t heard the story yet, I’ll let you know what happened. In the 6th inning of the Nationals’ game against the Cardinals, Bryce Harper grounded out to the pitcher for the first out of the inning; in Matt Williams’ eyes, he did not hustle. Here’s the play so you can make the call. But remember that Harper has a quad injury right now as well, so he is not at 100%.

I have a couple of thoughts on the issue.

The first one is how fast does Williams think Harper is? He clearly was not walking, but he was not jogging either. He was not at a full sprint, but he did not lack hustle in the way that should cause a benching. I understand that he is a star player and has been in the public eye since he hit the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16. However, if Williams’ did nothing, his players would still have respect for him and wouldn’t have even thought twice about the incident especially with Harper’s injury.

The other issue I have with it is something that stems back to last season, but my intruige was reignited by Coachman. It came specifically from this statement, which I am going to paraphrase. Coachman said that he would be surprised if Mike Trout did what Harper did, but he was not surprised by Harper.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

I love Mike Trout, but I think I’d be more surprised if Harper didn’t hustle.

He was dead serious too. My mouth dropped, and I almost dropped an F-bomb in front of my mother. Luckily, I did not.

You know the type of person Coachman probably was last year after Harper got his concussion from running into a wall when he did not need to? He was probably the guy that was preaching Harper should tone it back a notch because he will get hurt too often otherwise. Sports talk show hosts cannot have it both ways! If he decides to tone it back a notch when he is hurt and you have been preaching he needs to tone it down otherwise he will continue to get hurt, YOU CANNOT SAY HE DID NOT HUSTLE HARD ENOUGH!

Harper plays baseball with more hustle than anyone I have ever watched. It is incredible. I still remember his baserunning against Cole Hamels that got him hit. It was one of the best moments of the 2012 season. Harper is one of the best athletes in the game and gives it his all in every single instance, even if it puts him in harms way. I wouldn’t have thought anything of the play had Williams not pulled him, so I think Williams overreacted and created a story for desperate sports’ reporters. Harper will be one of the best baseball players in the league soon and will most likely win an MVP within 5 years. People should lay off him for less than average effort by Harper’s standards when he is hurt. Overall, I think this should have never happened in the first place, and I would be willing to bet that this will never happen to Harper again.

Greg Danchik