2018/2019 SF Forty Niners 53 Man Roster Projections

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Here are my projections for the Niner roster which will be determined by Saturday 1:00 pm, September 1, 2018.

Most are straight forward but a few will be hard decisions that Shanahan and Lynch have to make.

The 6 WR’s: The hard decision is whether to keep Burbridge or Bourne. Burbridge has the edge as he is an excellent Special Teams player. Bourne developed a great connection with Garoppolo last year and is still in his second year. He has the length (6-4) and the speed that Shanahan likes. Stay tuned…

The 4 OG’s: The Niners signed Jonathan Cooper during the off season and they were hopeful that he would be one of the starting guards. But he has been slow to recover from various injuries and both Person and Garnett have played well so Cooper is behind both. Thus, the choice boils down to Cooper or Magnuson who can play both OG and OT so I give the edge to him.

The 6 LB’s: Reuben Foster is suspended for the first 2 games. When he returns, either Watson or Taumoepenu will be released. I give the edge to Taumoepenu as he was drafted by Lynch and Shanahan last year. Plus, he looked really good in pre-season games.

The 6 CB’s: The tough choice here is between Mabin and Reed. Again, I give the edge to Reed as he was drafted by Lynch and Shanahan this year.

The 4 S’s: Marcell Harris is recovering from a torn Achilles but Lynch and Shanahan still thought highly of him so drafted him this year. He is currently on the Niner’s IR list but has made good progress. When he is fully recovered and ready to join the team, Exum will be cut.

This-n-That’s:

I am so glad that the Niners signed Alfred Morris. He is an established pro running back who had his best years at Washington under Shanahan. He will be a great complimentary power runner to the speedier McKinnon, Breida and Mosterdt.

The addition of Richard Sherman was genius. He still has the speed and skills to compete at a high level. More importantly, he is a great teacher and will make the entire defensive backfield play “together”.

Richie James has been a stand-out WR since being drafted in the 7th round this year. His play is very similar to Trent Taylor’s style of play so one could question why they need two similar players. But James played so well during pre-season, he’ll make the team.

Jullian Taylor has also been a stand-out DL since being drafted in the 7th round this year. He, along with the stellar play of D. J. Jones and Sheldon Day are the reasons that make Arik Armstead expendable (although I still do have Armstead on the roster, I look for him to be traded).

Joshua Garnett has gone from being on the brink of being cut to fighting for a starting job at Right Guard. Mike Person will be the starter but Garnett’s solid showing gives Shanahan the luxury of turning to him if either Tomlinson or Person get hurt.

Watch for Jerick McKinnon to pile up a lot of yardage on screen and flare-out passes this year.

Look for Lynch and Shanahan to scour the league’s cut list for a Safety. Other than Tartt and Colbert, this position looks weak.

Also look for Lynch and Shanahan to look for trade partners for Arik Armstead and Jimmy Ward. They were both #1 draft picks from the Baalke era and are serviceable players but not as #1 pick players. A dream trade would be trading Armstead, Ward, and the Niner’s #1 draft pick next year for Khalil Mack.

With this roster, the only players remaining from the Baalke era are Joe Staley, Arik Armstead, Jimmy Ward, Ronald Blair, and Bradley Pinion. I think Lynch and Shanahan have done a truly remarkable job in turning this franchise around in 2 years.

QB (2)Jimmy GaroppoloC.J. Beathard
RB (4)Jerick McKinnonMatt BreidaRaheem MostertAlfred Morris
FB (1)Kyle Juszczyk
WR (6): Pierre Garçon, Marquise GoodwinTrent TaylorDante PettisAaron Burbridge/Kendrick Bourne, Richie James
TE (3)George KittleGarrett CelekCole Wick
OT (3)Joe StaleyMike McGlincheyGarry Gilliam
OG (4)Joshua GarnettLaken TomlinsonMike PersonErik Magnuson/Jonathan Cooper
C (1)Weston Richburg

DL (10)DeForest BucknerSolomon ThomasArik ArmsteadCassius MarshEarl MitchellD.J. JonesSheldon DayRonald BlairJeremiah AttaochuJullian Taylor
LB (6)Malcolm SmithMark NzeochaFred WarnerDekoda Watson/Pita Taumoepenu, Brock Coyle, Reuben Foster
CB (6)Richard ShermanAhkello WitherspoonJimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore, K’Waun Williams, Greg Mabin/D.J. Reed
S (4)Jaquiski TarttAdrian Colbert, Tyvis Powell, Antone Exum Jr./Marcell Harris

K (1)Robbie Gould
P (1)Bradley Pinion
LS (1)Kyle Nelson

2018 SF Giants Multi-Year Payroll Woes

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The 2018 San Francisco Giants have the second highest payroll in the league and hopelessly out of playoff contention. In 2016, they had the worst record in baseball after the All-Star game. In 2017, they lost 98 games. In 2018, as of August 24, their record is 63-66, three games below .500 and heading closer to San Diego instead of chasing Colorado, Los Angeles and Arizona.

This week, they finally realized their plight and put Andrew McCutchen on waivers but no team claimed him. The next move that they need to make is to put Buster Posey on IR and perform surgery on his injured hip so he can be ready for the beginning of the 2019 season. This is an example of poor management decisions made since they promoted Bobby Evans to run baseball operations in 2015. After last year’s dismal 98 loss season, Brian Sabean re-inserted himself to again be the top dog running operations but kept Evans on their payroll. Therein lies the biggest problem that the Giants have… they hang onto losers much too long simply because they have done a good job for them in the past.

In my previous article, I lauded the Oakland A’s, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Atlanta Braves. All four of these teams have payrolls in the lower half of the league and they are all Playoff contenders. These teams have outstanding management in terms of scouting, drafting, and trading for players who don’t command top salaries but who play as well as the top salaried players in the league.

The mindset of the SF Giants management is that they have the need to compete against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers to go after the most expensive players in the league. Even in 2010 when they won their first of three World Series since coming to San Francisco, they made some horrendous financial decisions by giving Aaron Rowand a $60 million five year contract and Barry Zito a $126 million seven year contract. While I do have to say that Zito came through and helped win the 2012 World Series, his overall performance as a Giant was dismal. And Rowand never played in any of our World Series playoff games because he was so bad.

Let us not forget that in 2010, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner were both in their second year and making rookie money and Sergio Romo was in is his third year. In 2012, when the Giants won their second World Series, both Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford were in their second year and were paid rookie salaries and Pablo Sandoval was in his third year making a rookie salary.

In terms of pitchers, while both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain were in their prime, the Giants rewarded Cain with a $112.5 million contract over five years in 2012 when he had already pitched for 8 years. They gifted Tim Linecum with a $32 million contract over two years when he had already pitched for 7 years. Tim actually took a pay cut as he was earning $18 million per year on one year contracts. I must confess that both of these contracts were well deserved as both Lincecum and Cain meant so much to this organization and they grew up as Giants. Having said that, I would have preferred that they paid Cain more per year for 2 or 3 years like they did for Lincecum. And the Barry Zito story is a classic example of what not to do. A seven year contract for any pitcher is about four years too long as all pitchers are prone to arm injury.

Our good position players came up through our draft and farm system during our winning years. And other than the Rowand and Zito disasters, the Giants brought in players that “fit” and had reasonable salaries. Jeremy Affeldt, Pat Burrell, Aubry Huff, Javier Lopez, Edgar Renteria, Cody Ross, Juan Uribe, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, and Marco Scutaro were all great contributors during our World Series years and they didn’t break the bank.

Before the 2019 season starts, what should the Giants do with their payroll and player woes? Here is my humble opinion. In looking at the player and salary chart below, the situation is fairly bleak.

The “buried” salaries list shows how much the Giants are paying to players no longer on the team. Matt Cain’s $7.5 million will go away next year. Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin were both traded to the Texas Rangers on July 8 as salary dump moves. I never understood why they signed Jackson as he has never been a good player. It was a desperation move as they couldn’t sign anyone else. Cory Gearrin is simply a minor league pitcher who was a disaster in the majors. As approximately $10 million comes off of the buried salary list due to these players next year, I recommend that list grow next year as the Giants need to part ways with some expensive players.

Brandon Belt is being paid $17.2 million per year through 2021. The Giants had plenty of opportunities to trade him as some teams like the NY Yankees were in need of a good first baseman. Belt is a great defensive player but very inconsistent at the plate. He can go on a hitting streak of 10-15 games, then fall into a .200 hitter for the next month. I would try real hard to trade him and hope that his new team picks up some of his Giant contract. The rest would go into the Giants buried salary list. Another key reason to move Belt is that Buster Posey’s days as a catcher is now numbered and he must be moved to first base. The catcher position has taken a toll on his body to the point where Buster can no longer use his lower body to hit the ball. Thus, his home run total is at an all-time career low. The Giants made a wise drafting move by picking Joey Bart as their #1 pick. I’m hoping that the Giants bring Bart up to the majors in September when the roster size expands to give him some major league experience with the hope that he can become our every day catcher in 2019.

Madison Bumgarner deserves a big payday even though he may be approaching the age where his pitching skills start to decline. He has been the Giants best pitcher and is the acknowledged G.O.A.T of World Series pitching. MadBum has been extremely underpaid and now needs to be rewarded. Clayton Kershaw is being paid $30 million per year for seven years. The Giants should pay MadBum $25-30 per year for a maximum of three years. If he demands a five or more year contract, the Giants should listen to trade offers.

Major mistake by signing Evan Longoria for $81 million through 2022. He is batting .250 at age 33. The Giants won’t be able to trade him without paying for most of the remainder of this huge contract.

The signing of Johnny Cueto was not necessarily a bad move but the amount and length of the contract was a huge mistake ($150 million for seven years). Apparently the Giants did not learn from the Barry Zito fiasco. He is out indefinitely as he just had Tommy John surgery. The only choice that the Giants have is to keep him and hope that he comes back next year with almost the same stuff that he had as a winning pitcher.

The most atrocious signing was that of Jeff Samardziya to a $90 million five year contract. The Oakland A’s in 2014 had a very weak pitching rotation and Samardziya was still cut by them. The Giants picked him up, gave him a huge contract and his pitching didn’t improve… surprise surprise… The Giants need to cut their losses and simply cut him and eat his contract. They won’t be able to trade him as his trade value is zero.

Finally, the signing of Mark Melancon to a $62 million contract for four years is beyond atrocious. He has ONE save this year. So, that one save has cost the Giants $20 million this year. The Giants need to eat his contract as well since he no longer adds value and no other team will want his services.

If they release Longoria, Samardziya and Melancon and eat their salaries, their buried salary will total $146 million.

To get themselves out of this salary hole, their seemingly only option is to rely on their top prospects. Next year, they should:

  • Bring up Helios Ramos to play Center Field and rotate with Steven Duggar.
  • Bring up Chris Shaw to play Left Field and rotate with Buster Posey at First Base. Move Austin Slater to Right Field.
  • Bring up Tyler Beede to replace Jeff Samardziya.

The Giants MUST avoid chasing big contract players for the next several years at all cost. They have made some noise about going after Bryce Harper. He will command a salary over $300 million. That is simply NUTS !!! He is batting .249 this year and like Giancarlo Stanton who is batting .276  and making over $325 million, he either hits a home run or strikes out.

They need to get back to the 2010-2012 years and build their core from within and add complementary players as needed.

GO GIANTS !!! (I hope)…

CATCHERS POS. 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Buster Posey C $22,177,777  $22,177,777  $22,177,777  $22,177,777  $22,000,000 
Nick Hundley C $2,500,000 UFA
1ST BASE POS. 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Brandon Belt 1B $17,200,000  $17,200,000  $17,200,000  $17,200,000  UFA
2ND BASE POS. 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Joe Panik 2B $3,450,000 ARB 2 ARB 3 UFA
Kelby Tomlinson 2B $560,000 ARB 1 ARB 2 ARB 3 UFA
Alen Hanson 2B $545,000 TC ARB 1 ARB 2 ARB 3
3RD BASE POS. 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Evan Longoria 3B $13,500,000 $14,500,000 $15,000,000 $18,500,000 $19,500,000
Pablo Sandoval  3B $545,000 UFA
Chase d’Arnaud 3B $545,000 ARB 2 ARB 3 UFA
Miguel Gomez 3B $545,000 TC TC ARB 1 ARB 2
Ryder Jones 3B $545,000 TC TC ARB 1 ARB 2
SHORTSTOP POS. 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Brandon Crawford SS $15,200,000  $15,200,000  $15,200,000  $15,200,000  UFA
OUTFIELD POS. 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Hunter Pence RF $18,500,000  UFA
Andrew McCutchen RF $14,750,000 UFA
Gregor Blanco RF $1,000,000 UFA
Gorkys Hernandez LF $561,500 ARB 1 ARB 2 ARB 3 UFA
Austin Slater LF $545,000 TC TC ARB 1 ARB 2
Steven Duggar CF $545,000
Mac Williamson RF $545,000 TC ARB 1 ARB 2 ARB 3
STARTING PITCHERS POS. 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Johnny Cueto  SP $21,000,000 $21,000,000 $21,000,000 $21,000,000 $22,000,000
Jeff Samardzija  SP $19,800,000  $19,800,000  $19,800,000  UFA
Madison Bumgarner SP $12,000,000 $12,000,000 UFA
Chris Stratton SP $552,500 TC TC ARB 1 ARB 2
Andrew Suarez SP $545,000
Dereck Rodriguez  SP $545,000
Casey Kelly SP $545,000 ARB 2 ARB 3 UFA
Tyler Beede SP $545,000
RELIEF PITCHERS POS. 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Mark Melancon RP/CL $20,000,000  $19,000,000  $19,000,000  UFA $1,000,000
Matt Cain RP $7,500,000
Sam Dyson RP $4,425,000 ARB 3 ARB 4 UFA
Tony Watson RP $3,000,000 $3,500,000 $2,500,000 UFA
Will Smith RP $2,500,000 ARB 4 UFA
Derek Holland RP $1,750,000 UFA
Hunter Strickland RP/CL $1,550,000 ARB 2 ARB 3 ARB 4 UFA
Ty Blach RP $565,000 TC ARB 1 ARB 2 ARB 3
Josh Osich RP $558,000 ARB 1 ARB 2 ARB 3 UFA
Julian Fernández  RP $545,000
Reyes Moronta RP $545,000 TC TC ARB 1 ARB 2
Pierce Johnson RP $545,000 TC TC ARB 1 ARB 2
Ray Black RP $545,000
Jose Valdez  RP $545,000 TC ARB 1 ARB 2 ARB 3
Derek Law RP $545,000 TC ARB 1 ARB 2 ARB 3
Steven Okert RP $545,000 TC ARB 1 ARB 2 ARB 3
Retained/Buried Payroll Figures
POS. 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Matt Cain RP $7,500,000
Austin Jackson CF $1,629,035
Cory Gearrin RP $909,575
Roberto Gomez RP $47,312
D.J. Snelten RP $29,300

MLB Teams With Best Cost-to-Win Ratios

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Typically, small market teams in any professional sport are at a huge disadvantage as they simply do not have the financial power to compete with the “Big Boys” who seemingly do not have a payroll ceiling as they have the willingness to pay high luxury taxes. In 2018, there are some astounding exceptions to this rule and as a sports fan, you simply have to root for these “David” teams against the “Goliath’s”.

Four teams stand apart from the rest of the league in terms of having the best cost-to-win ratio in 2018… These teams are in the top 10 in the cost-to-win ratio and equally as important, they are in Playoff contention. The Oakland A’s have the best ratio by far while having the third lowest payroll in MLB. The other standout teams are the Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Atlanta Braves. All four of these teams have payrolls in the lower half of the league and they are all Playoff contenders. These teams have outstanding management in terms of scouting, drafting, and trading for players who don’t command top salaries but who play as well as the top salaried players in the league.

Of course, there are the “Goliath’s” who have very high payrolls but who are also Playoff contenders. The difference is that these teams are expected to win the World Series and anything short of that would be a failure. Teams with the 10 highest payrolls who are Playoff contenders are the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, and Seattle Mariners. The management for these teams are second tier as they spend top dollars for the MLB super-stars. In other words, they don’t have to worry about being frugal to trade for the best players in baseball. But they also do a good job of scouting and drafting as their minor league teams are filled with good future MLB players.

Lastly, there are the teams with poor management who have the highest salaries who are not in Playoff contention. These teams are the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Mets. These teams are in the top 12 in having the highest payrolls but who have no hope to make the Playoffs. Of these teams, the SF Giants are in the poorest position going forward. They have the 2nd highest payroll and their roster is filled with old, high salaried players who do not command any trade value. In essence, the SF management have been overly loyal to players who brought home three World Series titles since 2010. At this point, there are no good options over the next few years except to hope that their minor league players come of age soon and can be effective major league players.

As an avid SF Giants fan since they moved here from New York, I am worried that they won’t be a competitive team again for years. But, I am amazed and thrilled that I was able to celebrate three World Series titles in seven years. And, since my motto is to simply relax and enjoy my favorite sports teams, I will forever be a Giants fan regardless of how they perform.

I am also a Bay Area sports fan in general so am thrilled to see how well the Oakland A’s are performing this year. As amazing as they are playing, they simply don’t get the press that they deserve. The press focuses all of their accolades to the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros. For this reason, I would dearly love to see the A’s conquer these “Goliath’s” !!!

 

Go A’s !!!

 

Team Total Payroll Rank # of Wins as of 8/21/2018 Cost per Win Rank (Cost per Win Playoff Contention
Oakland Athletics $79,105,049 28 75 $1,054,733.99 1 Y
Tampa Bay Rays $70,973,984 30 64 $1,108,968.50 2
Pittsburgh Pirates $91,842,537 26 63 $1,457,818.05 3
Milwaukee Brewers $105,550,229 22 70 $1,507,860.41 4 Y
Chicago White Sox $71,168,615 29 47 $1,514,225.85 5
Philadelphia Phillies $103,424,036 23 68 $1,520,941.71 6 Y
Cincinnati Reds $98,923,352 25 55 $1,798,606.40 7
Miami Marlins $91,038,480 27 50 $1,820,769.60 8
Atlanta Braves $128,573,847 19 69 $1,863,389.09 9 Y
Minnesota Twins $114,689,120 21 59 $1,943,883.39 10
Cleveland Indians $141,133,243 14 72 $1,960,183.93 11 Y
San Diego Padres $99,474,315 24 49 $2,030,088.06 12
Arizona Diamondbacks $140,597,981 15 69 $2,037,651.90 13 Y
Colorado Rockies $142,828,448 13 68 $2,100,418.35 14 Y
Houston Astros $161,093,262 9 75 $2,147,910.16 15 Y
Seattle Mariners $159,985,757 10 72 $2,222,024.40 16 Y
New York Yankees $177,530,798 6 78 $2,276,035.87 17 Y
St. Louis Cardinals $162,540,882 8 69 $2,355,664.96 18 Y
Texas Rangers $138,989,968 16 56 $2,481,963.71 19
Detroit Tigers $129,892,009 17 51 $2,546,902.14 20
Boston Red Sox $227,835,760 1 88 $2,589,042.73 21 Y
Chicago Cubs $188,649,397 4 71 $2,657,033.76 22 Y
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim $173,543,411 7 63 $2,754,657.32 23
New York Mets $149,728,579 12 54 $2,772,751.46 24
Toronto Blue Jays $156,766,332 11 56 $2,799,398.79 25
Los Angeles Dodgers $194,197,232 3 67 $2,898,466.15 26 Y
Washington Nationals $186,810,505 5 62 $3,013,072.66 27
San Francisco Giants $207,025,940 2 62 $3,339,128.06 28
Baltimore Orioles $124,161,594 20 37 $3,355,718.76 29
Kansas City Royals $129,537,133 18 38 $3,408,871.92 30

 

2018 Golden State Warriors Boogie Thru NBA Free Agency

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As expected, LeBron James stole the free agency show by signing with the LA Lakers, a 4 year $154 million contract at age 33. The other key free agent signings were reported with very little fanfare although, in my opinion, had much more of an impact on the NBA landscape:

Chris Paul, age 33, signed a 4 year $160 million contract to remain a Houston Rocket

Paul George, age 28, signed a 4 year $137 million contract to remain an OKC Thunder

DeAndre Jordan, age 29, signed a 1 year $24 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks

Trevor Ariza, age 33, signed a 1 year $15 million contract with the Phoenix Suns

To me, the real headline is that none of LeBron’s buddies followed him to Hollywood. Magic Johnson losing Paul George (PG-13) to the Thunder is indeed very surprising and even shocking on many levels. PG-13 is still in his prime and he would have legitimized the Lakers. He grew up in LA and made comments about wanting to go home. Very curious why he chose to stay in OKC. Yes, I agree that the Lakers will be much better with LeBron but without PG-13, their roster now looks much like the Cavs roster that LeBron just left.

Also, in looking at the 4 year contracts for both LeBron and Chris Paul, both are age 33 and on the downhill slope of their careers. While both are still playing at a high level, father time always has a way of catching up. After losing PG-13 to the Thunder, I’m surprised that Magic Johnson didn’t offer a max contract to Uncle Drew. He got game, is from Hollywood, and looks younger than LeBron.

LeBron’s signing with the Lakers immediately became the headline. Then, two days later, the Warriors shocked the NBA world by signing DeMarcus (Boogie) Cousins to a mid-level 1 year contract for $5.3 million. This, in fact, will cost the Warriors more than $20 million due to the NBA luxury tax for going beyond the allowable salary maximum. The World Champions just filled their only weakness with the most dominant Center in the league. Last year, Boogie averaged 25 point, 13 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game and is still only 27 years of age. JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia combined averaged 9 points, 5 rebounds and 0.4 assists per game.

Boogie is an All-NBA Center meaning that the Warriors now have all five starting positions filled with All-Stars (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant). How in the world could this have happened? The short answer is that when an organization develops a winning culture, treats their employees with class, and treats all of their opponents with respect, great players will want to migrate to that organization.

Boogie has a torn Achilles tendon which most likely had a lot to do with him signing with the Warriors for much less than his worth. He said that he is working very hard to be ready for the start of the 2018-2019 season. Knowing the Warriors, they will be very cautious and won’t play him until they are absolutely certain that he is fully recovered.

So here are the events that lead to Boogie’s decision to sign with the Warriors. He couldn’t sleep Sunday night as he had zero offers on the table including nothing from his current team, the New Orleans Pelicans. Boogie called his agent and told them that he is going to call Bob Myers, the GM for the Warriors, to express his interest in joining the team.  He then called Kevin Durant, Draymond Green who is vacationing in Greece, and Steph Curry to make sure that they were comfortable with him coming on-board. They all greeted his interest with shock and awe. Boogie said that Steph was especially thrilled thus sealing the deal for Boogie to join the team. Boogie also said that he played his Ace of Spades with the Warriors this year hoping that his role in another successful year will lead him to a lucrative contract next year.

Why the Pelicans didn’t offer him a contract is beyond my comprehension. They had their best season in their franchise history last year and really had the inside track to make some real noise this year. They, instead decided to go in another direction for unknown reasons. The Lakers also had plenty of salary cap space to offer Boogie a good contract. After losing PG-13, you would have thought that the Lakers would go after Cousins. Very curious why they didn’t. Instead, the Lakers signed Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo and got rid of one their young stars, Julius Randle. I’m not sure that these are LeBron’s kind of guys and I’m fairly certain that they will supply Shaqitin with some good Tweeting materials next year.

These are the kinds of decisions that make teams like the Pelicans and Lakers just average teams. I can say that about most teams who are desperately trying to catch the Warriors. They start on the right path but if they don’t win immediately, they make desperate decisions. Take, for example, the Toronto Raptors. They had the 2nd best record in the league next to the Rockets last year. Their coach, Dwayne Casey, won the NBA Coach of the Year award but they lost to the Cavs in the playoffs so they fired Casey. Another example is the Houston Rockets who had the best record last year but bought players putting them at their max salary. This year, they were forced to give Chris Paul a max deal for 4 years at $160 million even though he is 33 years old and has a history of leg injuries. Because they are at the salary cap, they couldn’t afford to bring another star to their team and instead lost one of their stars, Trevor Ariza. This is a big blow to them as Ariza was their best defender.

For Warrior haters who dislike their “Super Team” image, of the 5 super-stars, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were all draft picks. Kevin Durant, is the only super-star who signed from another team whom the Warriors recruited. The Boogie signing was initiated by him and not by the Warriors. I am also very curious if these Warrior haters also hated the Celtics, Bulls, Spurs, and Lakers in their dominant years. Or, are most of these haters just millennials who never saw those other dynasties play? The NBA has survived all of these dynasties and will also survive the current Warrior dynasty. After all, they are the model of greatness and plain fun to watch.

All of the other “Super Team” pretenders have spent millions (up to their salary cap) to sign the next level stars in their attempt to beat the Warriors. If these teams would draft better and/or sign complimentary “team” players instead of signing individuals who play for themselves, they would have a better chance to catch up to the Warriors. They would also be better off to stick with their plans instead of blowing it up if they don’t win immediately. The Warriors won their first title in 1975 and took another 40 long years to win another championship in 2015. So Warrior fans have suffered through many lackluster years prior to the current organization putting together this dynastic team.

NBA fans may hate the Warriors now but they will continue to spend money on their teams in the hope that their team will one day become champions themselves. Everything is cyclical so Warrior fans are enjoying their time to shine while it lasts.

2018 NBA Finals – Cavs vs Warriors – Sweet Sweep

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The Golden State Warriors are the 2018 NBA Champions and have now won 2 titles in succession and 3 trophies in 4 years. They have made their statement by playing TEAM ball without caring what the rest of the basketball world have said about this current dynasty. If Warrior haters are tired of seeing the same team in the Finals year-after-year, then some other team has to beat them before they get to the Finals…. Period.  The same can be said about the Cleveland Cavs who have also reached the Finals in the last 4 years. The difference is that the Cavs have lost to the Warriors in 3 of the 4 Finals. In head-to-head games between the Warriors and Cavs since the beginning of 2017, the Warriors are 3-0 during the regular season and 8-1 in the Finals for a combined 11-1 in the last two years. This is called DOMINATION !!!

As for the pundits who say that the Houston Rockets would have beaten the Warriors if Chris Paul hadn’t hurt his leg at the end of Game 5 of their 7 game series.  Why don’t these pundits look at what the Rockets didn’t do in Games 6 and 7. In Game 7, from the middle of the 2nd quarter to the middle of the 4th, the Rockets missed an NBA record 27 straight 3-point shot attempts and finished making 1 of their last 30 three point shots. James Harden was 2 for 13, Trevor Ariza 0 for 9, and Eric Gordon 2 for 12. In the 2nd half of Game 7, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 58-38. In the 2nd half of Game 6, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 64-25. Thus, for the 2 games that mattered most, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets in the 2nd half for a combined 122-63. Can anyone convince me that Chris Paul would have made up a 59 point difference in the 2nd half of Games 6 and 7? Also, one can easily say that the Warriors would have won that series in 5 games if Andre Iguodala hadn’t hurt his knee. The point is that teams have to play with the players available to them. It just so happens that the Warriors have more depth than any other team in the league… This is the reason that their motto, “Strength in Numbers” fits the team so well.

Let’s take a look at the Warriors Strength in Numbers during the Finals:

Shaun Livingston – made 13 out of 15 shots

JaVale McGee – made 16 out of 20 shots

Jordan Bell – made 10 out of 14 shots

Andre Iguodala – made 7 out of 12 shots

Kevon Looney – made 5 out of 7 shots

So these 5 players shot a cool 75% from the field during the Finals. This, my friends, is called Strength in Numbers !!!

Now, let’s take a look at the age of the core of the Warriors Team:

Kevin Durant (29), Steph Curry (30), Klay Thompson (27), Draymond Green (27), JaVale McGee (30), Shaun Livingston (32), Jordan Bell (23), Andre Iguodala (34), Kevon Looney (21), Zaza Pachulia (33), David West (37), Nick Young (32), Quinn Cook (24), and Patrick McCaw (22).

With the exception of Pachulia and West (and perhaps Iguodala), the rest of the guys on the World Champion team are all in their prime with their better years ahead of them. This is called current and ongoing DYNASTY !!!

For Warrior haters who dislike their “Super Team” image, of the 4 super-stars, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were all draft picks. Kevin Durant, is the only super-star who signed from another team. All of the other “Super Team” pretenders have spent millions (up to their salary cap) to sign the next level stars in their attempt to beat the Warriors. If these teams would draft better and/or sign complimentary “team” players instead of signing individuals who play for themselves, they would have a better chance to catch up to the Warriors.

Kevin Durant won his 2nd consecutive MVP award for the Finals but on this team, individual awards take a back seat to the team goal of Team World Championships. If I were to pick an MVP, my most valuable individual in this injury ridden year is Chelsea Lane, the team’s Head Performance Therapist. She worked diligently on Steph Curry on his 3 ankle sprains and the severe knee contusion, on Andre Iguodala on his knee bone bruise, and performed a miracle on Klay Thompson’s ankle which he injured in Game 1 of the Finals. Due to Chelsea’s great work, Klay didn’t miss any games.

We can talk at length about the drama in Game 1 of the Finals when LeBron’s drive to the bucket with less than a minute was initially called a blocking foul on Durant, then changed (correctly) to a charge. Or the George Hill missed free throw with 4 seconds left which would have given the Cavs a lead. Or the JR Smith empty brain decision when he rebounded the missed free throw and dribbled the clock out because he thought the Cavs were ahead. He received the loudest standing ovation at Roaracle Arena in Game 2 when his name was announced and also received a chant of MVP MVP MVP when he went to the free throw line during the game. If the Cavs had won Game 1, then the series would have been over in 5 games instead of a 4 game sweep. We later learned that LeBron took his frustration out on a white-board after the Game 1 loss. But, apparently, this white-board took it out on Lebron’s hand and won that battle, too. Here is another example of the difference between the Cavs and Warriors. Steve Kerr can shatter a white-board during the game and his players get the message and responds in a positive way. LeBron breaks a white-board and also breaks his hand and his team doesn’t respond. Steve used a magic marker to break the white-board. There was no magic in LeBron’s hand when the Cavs needed a lot of magic.

In the 2018 NBA season, there were 3 teams in contention for the Title… The Warriors, Rockets, and Cavs… In a seven game series, the cream always rises to the top and the Warriors have been the cream of the crop for the last two years.

This year’s Finals sweep was indeed very sweet !!!

2018 NBA Finals – Warriors & LeBron show the world why they are winners

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The cream has risen to the top both in the East and the West once again. LeBron single-handedly willed the Cavs to win the East and the Warriors’ Strength in Numbers proved that there still are no equals in the NBA.

The stage is set for the Cavs vs the Warriors for the 4th consecutive year to determine the 2018 NBA Champion. Two teams meeting for a championship four years in a row has never happened in any professional sports until now. LeBron’s teams have reached the NBA Finals 8 years in a row, a feat that may never be replicated. Despite critics who say they are bored with watching the same teams battle it out again, both teams deserve to be in the Finals… Because they happen to be the best teams in their respective conferences… period…

I also believe that the Celtics and the Rockets were the 2nd best teams in the East and West. Both teams showed their grit by taking the Cavs and Warriors to a seventh game showdown. Both the Celtics and Rockets hosted the seventh game and both started the game strong. In the end, the Cavs and Warriors had the will and the heart and the stamina to finish the job to achieve their goal.

In the East Finals, the Cavs won Game Seven 87-79 after the Celtics got off to a 12 point lead. The Celtics finished the game shooting 34% (29 for 85) while shooting 18% from the 3-point line (7 for 39). Their two hottest 3 point shooters Terry Rozier (0 for 10) and Jaylen Brown (3 for 12) went ice cold. The Cavs shooting wasn’t much better but LeBron carried them to the East Title. The Cavs shot 45% (30 for 66) while shooting 26% (9 for 35) from the 3-point line.

In the West Finals, the Warriors won Game Seven 101-92 after the Rockets started red hot and quickly built a 15 point lead. The Rockets finished the game shooting 40% (36 for 90) while shooting 16% from the 3-point line (7 for 44). This after beginning the game shooting 6 for 14 from the three. From the middle of the 2nd quarter to the middle of the 4th, the Rockets missed an NBA record 27 straight 3-point shot attempts and finished making 1 of their last 30 three point shots. James Harden was 2 for 13, Trevor Ariza 0 for 9, and Eric Gordon 2 for 12. On the other hand, the Warriors shot 49% (39 for 80) and 41% (16 for 39) from the 3-point line.

In the 2nd half of Game 7, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 58-38. In the 2nd half of Game 6, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 64-25. Thus, for the 2 games that mattered most, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets in the 2nd half for a combined 122-63. This is an astounding stat but not totally surprising as the Warriors have repeatedly performed like champions in must-win situations.

Some negative comments that I have regarding the Rockets… They are a bunch of sore losers, from Morey down to their top players. I didn’t see any congratulatory messages from Morey to Lacob. Also, Harden, CP3, and Ariza walked off the court after losing without congratulating the Warrior players. And, when Draymond tried to help Harden off the floor after a fall, Harden shoved him away. Instead of congratulatory messages, the Rockets said that they would have won if CP3 had played. It doesn’t register with them that if Andre Iguodala had played, the Warriors would have won the series in 5 games. In sports, you play with the players that are available to play and may the best team win. In this case, the best team won.

In the Finals, the Warriors are heavy favorites. Having said that, one can never count out a LeBron lead team. May the best team win !!!

Already looking forward to 2019, what will the title pretenders do?

Houston Rockets: Chris Paul (CP3) is 33 years old. He is a premier point guard but will be a free agent. GM Daryl Morey (in his obsession to unseat the Warriors) did a great job this year to build a team capable of competing with the Warriors. The Rockets are at the salary cap and have no draft picks. It’ll be very interesting to see if they offer CP3 a max contract at his age. Additionally, he has a long history of leg injuries proving once again that he can’t endure the rigors of a long season. If they commit to CP3, it will limit what they can do to sign another super-star like LeBron or Paul George. My take on the Rockets is that they will remain as a top competitor in the West but don’t appear likely to unseat the Warriors anytime soon. Also, their philosophy of ISO and live-or-die-by-the-3 makes them an exciting team to watch but in a long series, the better team will figure them out.

Boston Celtics: The Celtics may have over-achieved this year in the playoffs by making it to the East Finals. They did so without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. With the return of Kyrie and Hayward and the other young studs that they have (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum) they have the inside track to win the East next year.

There are other good teams who will continue to make the playoffs and make some noise but still aren’t at the same level as the Warriors…

The Cleveland Cavs will literally fall apart if LeBron leaves. They may not even make the playoffs in the weaker East Conference.

The Philly Sixers are an up-and-coming team and will compete against the Celtics for the East Title. This can become a reality if LeBron decides to sign with them. Note: It will not be wise for LeBron to join a team in the West Conference. It’ll break his streak of 8 consecutive years in the Finals.

The NOLA Pelicans can make some noise next year when DeMarcus Cousins returns. He with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday are an awesome trio but they have little else.

The OKC Thunder struck out trying to build a super-team with the signings of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Good individual players but sucky team players.

Finally, you know that the Warriors will not stand pat. They will keep their core four together (Steph, KD, Klay, and Draymond) but everyone else (including Andre) may not be on the team next year. Do not be surprised if they go after free agent DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers. They need a dominant Center and Jordan is a great fit for the Warriors’ pick-and-roll style of play. DeAndre and KD are best friends so I’m sure there are some player recruiting going on. Zaza, JaVale and David West likely will not return next year. To make room for DeAndre, the Warriors may have to sadly say good-bye to Andre and Shaun. The three young players that the Warriors will likely retain are Quinn Cook, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell. I would love to see the Warriors do something to keep Kevon Looney, but he may have played so well, he’ll command a good payday from another team. Back in October of 2017, they decided not to pick up Looney’s 4th year option for 2.2 million but did pick up Damien Jones’ 3rd year option for 1.5 million. The 700k financial decision may come back to haunt the Warriors but at that time, they had no idea that Looney would have such a positive impact. Regardless, the Warriors are the team that all other teams will be chasing for years to come.

2018 SF 49ers Pre-Draft Edition

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Going into this year’s NFL Draft, my philosophy is “In Lynch and Shanahan I Trust”. In other words, no matter what they do in the draft, the team will be improved. In one year, they have turned this franchise from worst to fun-to-watch-respectable. To reach “first”, they still have some work to do but the arrow is clearly pointing in the right direction.

While they are drafting in the #9 position, there are 4 and maybe 5 teams ahead of them who are likely to pick a QB. This benefits the Niners tremendously as they already have their franchise QB in Jimmy Garoppolo. Thus, they will have their choice of the top 4 or 5 non-QB players in the draft.

The Niners need to address these weaknesses on their roster: Pass Rusher, Interior Offensive Line, Line Backer, Corner Back, and Wide Receiver in that order. They have already made some off-season moves to improve on these weaknesses.

 

Pass Rusher:

The Niners re-signed Cassius Marsh to a 2 year contract as he had a good year and showed flashes of brilliance as a pass rusher.

Jeremiah Attaochu (San Diego Chargers): 6-3, 243 lbs: Attaochu was a 2nd round 2013 draft pick by the Chargers and had 2 sacks in his rookie season. He then broke out and had 6 sacks in his second year. Injuries limited him the last two years. The Niners signed him to a 1 year contract for $2.5 million making this a low risk deal. The Niners are still hopeful that Arik Armstead can develop into an Edge Rusher but injuries have also plagued his career.

Bradley Chubb (NC State): 6-4, 275 lbs: Chubb is the premier pass rusher in this year’s college draft. He will not be available by the time the Niners pick at #9. If, by a miracle, Chubb is still on the board at #9, Lynch should not hesitate to draft him.

Harold Landry (Boston College): 6-3, 250 lbs: Landry is a pure speed rusher who racked up 158 tackles, 48 for losses with 25 sacks.

Marcus Davenport (Texas-San Antonio): 6-6, 264 lbs: Davenport is a legitimate pass rushing threat and could turn out to be a home run.

Both Landry and Davenport will be available at #9 and one or both will be available at #12. If either one of these two prospects are at the top of Lynch and Shanahan’s board, they should try to trade down with Buffalo who have 2 picks in the first round… #12 and #22. They also have 2 picks in the second round… #53 and #56. Buffalo needs a QB. Lynch should ask for #12 and #22 along with another draft pick or another player like Kelvin Benjamin who is the big young WR that the Niners are looking for (6-5, 243 lbs). This works only if one of the top QB that Buffalo likes is available at #9 and they are worried that their QB may be taken before #12.

Interior Offensive Line:

Weston Richburg (Center for NY Giants): 6-4, 300 lbs: The Niners signed Richburg during the off season to a 5 year contract. He was at the top of Lynch’s free agent list and fills a major weakness. Richburg is only 26 so his prime years are still ahead of him. By far, the most valuable signing for the Niners during this off season.

Jonathan Cooper (OG for Dallas): 6-2, 312 lbs: Cooper was a first round (7th overall) pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and played 13 games for the Dallas Cowboys last year on a very good offensive line.  The Niners signed him to a one year low risk deal. He will be competing for a starting job at Right Guard along with Joshua Garnett and Erik Magnuson. Laken Tomlinson appears to have the Left Guard starting job locked up for now.

Joshua Garnett (Niners): Age 23, 6-3, 315 lbs: Can’t dismiss Garnett as a possible starting Guard in 2018. He was a 1st round pick in the 2016 draft and was placed on IR for the entire 2017 season. Apparently, he has transformed his body to better fit the zone blocking technique used by Shanahan’s offense. He stated that he is ready for a “monster” comeback in 2018.

Quenton Nelson (Nortre Dame): 6-5, 329 lbs: The top rated Guard in this year’s draft. He may be off the boards by the time the Niners pick at #9. If Nelson is available, Lynch should draft him without considering trading down.

Line Backer:

With the unfortunate situation with Reuben Foster, a position of strength is now a position that the Niners must address. They did re-sign Brock Coyle to a 3 year deal as he had a great season with the Niners last year. Also, we can’t forget that the Niners still have Malcolm Smith who missed last year with a torn pectoral. He was a valuable member of the World Champion Seattle Seahawks team and won the Super Bowl MVP that year. Since our Defensive Coordinator, Robert Saleh, came from Seattle, Smith fits in perfectly with his scheme.

We also have Pita Taumoepenu who the Niners drafted in the 6th round last year. According to Saleh, he has the smarts, speed and instincts. He needs to improve his strength, then he’ll be hard to keep off the field. Pita has had an entire off season to get stronger.

Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech): 6-5, 253 lbs: Exceptionally athletic and is still only 19 years old.

Roquan Smith (Georgia): 6-1, 236 lbs: Has great instincts and has quickness to get to the runner. Also has good pass coverage skills.

Both of these top rated LB’s should be available at #9. In my mind, it’ll depend on whether Lynch values Edge Rushers higher than LB’s in this year’s draft.

Corner Backs:

Richard Sherman (Seattle): 6-3, 195 lbs: The Niners snatched Sherman after he couldn’t come to an agreement with the Seahawks management over his contract extension. While he is recovering from an achilles tear, Sherman says he will be ready in time for training camp.

Sherman, along with Ahkello Witherspoon are earmarked as CB starters.

The Niners have also said that they will work very hard with Jimmy Ward at the CB position this year. This raises an interesting question about what the Niners intend to do with Ward’s Free Safety position. When Ward suffered a broken arm to end his season, the Niner’s 7th round pick, Adrian Colbert, played fantastically well at that position. This either means that the Niners have seen enough of Colbert to make him their starting Free Safety, or they will be looking at the Draft for another FS. The best Free Safety in this year’s draft is Derwin James, 6-3, 212 lbs. James is being compared to Jalen Ramsey of the Jaguars. He will likely be available at #9 so the Niners would turn some eyes if they drafted James instead of an Edge Rusher, Interior Lineman, Line Backer, or Corner Back.

In terms of CB’s in this year’s draft, all the talk is about Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), Denzel Ward (Ohio State), and Josh Jackson (Iowa). I’m thinking that the Niners will not draft a CB in the first round and instead go after either Isaiah Oliver (Colorado) in the 2nd round or Quenton Meeks (Stanford) in the 3rd or 4th round. Both have the size and speed that the Niners like. Oliver played with Witherspoon at Colorado so they’ll have an instant connection if the Niners go after him.

Lastly, the unsung value of Richard Sherman will be his teaching skills with this young group of CB’s. He did it in Seattle and there is no doubt in my mind that he can turn this group into one of the better defensive backfields in the NFL.

Wide Receiver and Running Back:

There is so much talk about the lack of good receivers on the Niners squad. I dispute that notion and think that the Niners have a solid set of receivers on their team already. Additionally, I grouped the RB position together with the WR’s because the Shanahan offensive uses the RB as a WR in a large percentage of their plays.

The Niner receivers (Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle and Garrett Celek) all had career years with most of their catches coming in the last 5 games with Jimmy G at QB.

Do the Patriots have any All-Pro WR’s? They don’t need any as they have Tom Brady.

Pierre Garcon (Niners): Age 31, 6-1, 211 lbs: Can’t forget about Garcon who went on IR in November. He’ll be back in 2018. If Garoppolo can make Niner receivers have career years in 5 games, can you imagine what kind of year Garcon can have this year? Also, Garcon happens to be very good in the Red Zone.

Jerrick McKinnon (Minnesota): Age 25, 5-9, 216 lbs: With the signing of McKinnon, the Niner RB position went from being respectable to being great. Carlos Hyde ran with power but McKinnon runs with power, shiftiness, and speed. McKinnon also has great hands and runs great routes which makes him doubly dangerous. With the defense having to worry about McKinnon coming out of the backfield, this alone will make the receivers that much better.

There is a WR in this year’s draft that I feel can be had in the 3rd or 4th round.

Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame): 6-5, 203 lbs: St. Brown comes off the line of scrimmage well, showing good, quick feet in his release. Despite his size, St. Brown played regularly both in the slot and out wide with the Fighting Irish. Although his long-term projection should be as an outside wide receiver, St. Brown repeatedly displayed the feel for space and comfort in traffic to succeed inside. He finds space underneath really well. On vertical routes and over the middle of the field, St. Brown sets up his breaks with false steps and creates separation that way. Lastly, he has the size that the Niners are lacking in the Red Zone.

The top rated RB’s will be long gone by the end of the 2nd round (Saquan Barkely (Penn St), Derrious Guice(LSU), Ronald Jones II (USC), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Sony Michel (Georgia). With the acquisition of McKinnon, spending a high draft pick on a RB would be unwise. There is a RB that I like in the draft that could be available in the 4th or 5th round.

Rashaad Penny (San Diego St): 5-11, 220 lbs:   Penny is a well built back and runs with exceptional balance and strength. Penny also has great athleticism for the next level and is impressive in the way he runs with speed, burst, and power.

It’ll be interesting to see what value that Lynch and Shanahan places on Corner Backs vs Wide Receivers in the middle rounds of the draft. Will they value CB’s like Oliver and Meeks higher than a WR like St. Brown? This is why I would prefer that they trade down from their #9 position to gather more draft picks.

 

To summarize, I trust Lynch and Shanahan to do the right things to improve the team. In one year, they have already made dramatic improvements to the point that they will be competing for the NFC West title with the Rams in 2018. With the free agent acquisitions and confidence that they will add quality players in this year’s draft, Niner fans will be treated to some exciting years ahead.

The G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s

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Every time a championship comes around whether it be a Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, or an NBA Championship, the sports media hypes up who is the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T.). Even though trying to identify a G.O.A.T. for any sport is in impossible task, they go beyond a particular sport and try to pick the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s across all sports. This is lunacy.

During this year’s Super Bowl week, there was much discussion about Tom Brady vs Michael Jordan as being the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s. Further, after the Patriots lost, most sports media reporters stated that Jordan has sealed the title of the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s. Although, in my opinion, this is laughable, these kinds of discussions stir up more conversations and “sells newspapers”.

Every major sport has the Hall of Fame (H.O.F.). Players are selected into the H.O.F. based on some established criteria and for the most part, those elected are very much deserving. The H.O.F. players were the best of the best during the period and era that they played the game. The basic fallacy of trying to identify a G.O.A.T. is that as father time passes, many things change. Players are paid more and more over time thus their training becomes a year-around requirement. Diets and drugs (some legal and some illegal) have had a profound impact on the players’ conditioning along with their training regimen. Major rule changes make it impossible to compare players across eras. In the NBA, the game was much more physical in the 70’s and 80’s. The 3 point line was adopted in 1979 which revolutionized the game. Like the NBA, the NFL was much more lenient on physical and dirty play in the 60’s through the 80’s. Today, the QB’s are treated like girls and are now protected against both low and high hits. With the implementation of camera replays, nobody now knows what a “catch” is. In the MLB, how baseballs were made was changed in the 1920’s and ended the “dead ball era”. In the same era, rules are put in place to disallow “doctored” balls. Prior to this, it was common to use the same ball for a full game. Foul balls were routinely retrieved from the stands and re-used. Babe Ruth hit 54 HR’s in 1920 and 59 in 1922 thus ending the dead ball era. In 1973, the American League adopted the Designated Hitter to improve the offensive output.

Performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) ran rampant across all professional sports but MLB has taken center stage as baseball records are held sacred with the HR record at the top of the list. PED’s were not available until the 90’s, but the use of other drugs have been documented throughout MLB history. Babe Ruth injected himself with sheep testicle extracts. Mickey Mantle used amphetamine injections and other steroids available at that time. Hank Aaron was known to have tried amphetamine pills for a short period of time as he was frustrated by his lack of HR’s but he quit as it made him ill. Mike Schmidt and Goose Gossage also admitted to using amphetamines. To top things off, Bud Selig was the commissioner of the MLB from 1992 through 2014 which has been best known as the PED era. MLB revenues soared to new highs as over 50% of the players were juiced and offensive output were at all-time highs. Interestingly enough, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Goose Gossage, and Bud Selig are all in the H.O.F. Additionally, Gossage has consistently said that PED users should NOT be elected in the H.O.F. under any circumstances. It was not until 2005, after the congressional investigations of the use of PED’s did the MLB institute stricter rules and penalties for the use of PED’s. After these rules were put in place, players shunned these new rules and continued to use PED’s with the most notable player being Alex Rodriguez. He is doing everything he can to make himself visible to the public and to the MLB H.O.F. voters in a positive light. Time will tell if he does enough to get voted into the H.O.F. My fundamental question in all sports is “how many cheating players have made the H.O.F. and how many deserving players will never get in because they choose not to kiss the voters’ asses?”.

Getting back to the G.O.A.T.s…

In the NFL, the undisputed G.O.A.T. appears to be Tom Brady. Even though his team lost to the Eagles this year, his performance was outstanding as he threw for 505 yards, threw 3 TD’s and had a QB rating of 115.4. Having said that, the media pays most of their attention on Wins and Losses. With this SB loss, Brady now has a record of 5 wins and 3 losses in SB’s. In 2001, the Patriots were given a gift when Brady fumbled with a few minutes left in the game and trailing against the Raiders. But, the referees ruled that the play was not a fumble which lead to the infamous “tuck” rule. Thus, Brady’s first SB win should not have even happened as the Raiders should have won that game. In 2015, if the Seahawks would have given the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the 1 yards line with a minute left in the game, Brady would have lost. In 2016, if the Falcons would have run the ball 3 times from the 25 yard line with less than 3 minutes left and kicked a field goal, Brady would have lost. Thus, instead of having a 5-3 Super Bowl record, Brady could very easily have a 2-5 SB record. I’m not saying that Brady doesn’t deserve the title of the NFL G.O.A.T., I’m just stating that there are more than win/loss records in identifying truly great players. Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills was a truly great QB but since his SB record is 0-4, he’ll never be mentioned as a G.O.A.T.

If I follow the sheep and try to name G.O.A.T.s instead of my belief that H.O.F’ers are the standard, following are my picks.

In the NBA, Michael Jordan is the undisputed G.O.A.T. No more needs to be said about that.

In the MLB, Willie Mays is the undisputed G.O.A.T. No more needs to be said about that.

In the NHL, Wayne Gretzky is the undisputed G.O.A.T. No more needs to be said about that.

In the NFL, Tom Brady is the acknowledged G.O.A.T. Brady has 5 SB wins but also has 3 SB losses. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw both have 4 SB wins with zero SB losses, but Montana is heads and shoulders better than Bradshaw. Lively discussion… lol

However, if I were asked to name a G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T’s, it is a simple choice… It would be Roger Federer. His career spans from 2001 to the present and at age 37, he is playing his best tennis. He has won an astounding 20 Grand Slam Tournament titles and 3 in the last year against much younger opponents. My second choice would be Serena Williams. She has 23 Grand Slam Tournament titles and is the same age as Federer. Serena is one slam victory away from Margaret Court and currently on maternity leave. Her goal is to come back and win at least 25 Majors. I give the nod to Serena over Court as Serena is playing much stronger competition as current Men and Women tennis players are living and breathing tennis all year long.

At the end of the day, G.O.A.T. discussions breed lively conversation, but the H.O.F. tells me everything I need to know about the greatest players in sports throughout history.

2017 Niners – Year in Review

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In 2017, Niner fans enjoyed a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year, but it was also the best ever Halloween. Lynch went trick or treating and brought home Jimmy Garoppolo that day.

The Niners started the season with a dismal 0-9 record but finished the season strong winning 6 of the last 7 games for a respectable 6-10 season record. Garoppolo started the last 5 games and won every game. Interestingly enough, before the season started, I predicted that the Niners would win 6 games.

How can one player make the entire team better? Jimmy G has leadership skills both in the locker room and on the field. He makes everyone else better and play with much more confidence. He has the rare ability to scan the entire field quickly, make fast decisions, release the ball quicker than any QB in the NFL, and deliver the ball with precise accuracy.

This link provides some insight into Garoppolo’s talents both off and on the field: John Lynch conversation with Bill Belichick.

The Niner receivers (Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Juszczyk, and George Kittle) all had career years with most of their catches coming in the last 5 games with Jimmy G at QB. Additionally, the O-line gave up much fewer sacks with Jimmy G at QB as he released the ball much quicker.

The biggest signing priority during this off-season is to sign Garoppolo to a long term deal so Lynch and Shanahan can focus on building the team around him.

The Niners will address the 4 major weaknesses on the roster: Pass Rusher, Corner Back, Wide Receiver, and Interior Offensive Line during this off-season. I have every confidence that these gaps will be filled with either high caliber free agents or through the college draft. Let’s look at some options at each position:

Pass Rusher:

Ezekiel Ansal (Lions): Age 28, 6-6, 275 lbs: Ansal has 207 tackles, 44 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries in 5 years.

Melvin Ingram (Chargers): Age 28, 6-2, 248 lbs: A force off the edge, Ingram had another strong season for the Bolts. The outside linebacker finished with 66 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, 42 pressures, 23 QB hits, four forced fumbles and four passes defensed in his fifth season.

Demarcus Lawrence (Cowboys): Is very good but has back issues and will cost a fortune. Look for the Cowboys to re-sign him.

Bradley Chubb (NC State): 6-4, 275 lbs: Chubb is the premier pass rusher in this year’s college draft. He will not be available by the time the Niners pick at either #9 or #10 (tbd via coin flip with the Raiders). Their best bet to get a bona fide pass rusher is through free agency.

Harold Landry (Boston College): 6-3, 250 lbs: Landry is a pure speed rusher who racked up 158 tackles, 48 for losses with 25 sacks.

Wide Receiver:

Allen Robinson (Jaguars): Age 24, 6-3, 209 lbs: Tore his ACL in the first game of 2017 and is expected to be fully recovered before the 2018 training camp starts. He lead the league in 2015 with 80 catches, 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns with Blake Bortles at QB. Can you imagine what his stats can be with Garoppolo?

Other free agent receivers include Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams and Sammy Watkins. I feel that Robinson fits the Niner needs best due to his height and speed. He can plug the role of an effective red-zone receiver.

DeAndre Hopkins (Texans): In my opinion, the best WR is the NFL. There is no way that the Texans will let him leave.

Courtland Sutton (SMU): 6-4, 215 lbs: Sutton is the top rated WR in this year’s draft. He may be available to the Niners with their first pick.

Pierre Garcon (Niners): Age 31, 6-1, 211 lbs: Can’t forget about Garcon who went on IR in November. He’ll be back in 2018. If Garoppolo can make Niner receivers have career years in 5 games, can you imagine what kind of year Garcon can have next year?

 

Interior Offensive Line:

Andrew Norwell (Panthers): Age 26, 6-6, 325 lbs: He isn’t a household name, but there isn’t a player with a better blend of physicality and detail in pass protection in the league. Norwell’s improvements in these areas have been key to his jumping into the elite guard ranks this year.

Justin Pugh (Giants): Age 27, 6-5, 311 lbs: Experience at Left Guard and Right Tackle. Versatility to play multiple positions is a plus in Shanahan’s eyes.

Quenton Nelson (Nortre Dame): 6-5, 329 lbs: The top rated Guard in this year’s draft. He may be off the boards by the time the Niners pick. If both Nelson and/or Courtland Sutton (WR) are available, it’ll be interesting on which guy Shanahan values more. It’ll be heavily dependent upon who they can get in free agency.

Frank Ragnow (Arkansas): 6-5, 319 lbs: The top rated Center in this year’s draft and the #33 overall prospect. He may be an option with the Niner’s 2nd pick.

Joshua Garnett (Niners): Age 23, 6-3, 315 lbs: Can’t dismiss Garnett as a possible starting Guard in 2018. He was a 1st round pick in the 2016 draft and was placed on IR for the entire 2017 season. Apparently, he has transformed his body to better fit the zone blocking technique used by Shanahan’s offense. He stated that he is ready for a “monster” comeback in 2018.

Corner Backs:

Malcom Butler (Patriots) and Trumaine Johnson (Rams) are free agents this year but I feel that they aren’t elite and their asking price will be prohibitive.

Patrick Robinson (Eagles): Age 30, 5-11, 192 lbs: Robinson is tied for the most interceptions on the team with three. He has the most passes defensed, with 15. He has tackled extremely well and given the secondary a gigantic boost with his ability to play in the nickel inside and on the island on the outside.

Rashaan Melvin (Colts): Age 28, 6-2, 194 lbs: He had a breakout season and is the Colts’ number one CB. He is being compared to AJ Bouye of the Jags, an elite CB. The likelihood is the Colts will re-sign him but Lynch may be able to offer a contract that he can’t say “no” to.

E.J. Gaines (Bills): Age 25, 5-11, 190 lbs: In his career, he has 175 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 3 recovered fumbles, 27 pass deflections and 3 interceptions. He may not be a shut-down corner but is very solid.

Joshua Jackson (Iowa), Denzel Ward (Ohio State), and Isaiah Oliver (Colorado) are the top three CB’s in this year’s draft. Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) is the true #1 rated CB but he is projected to play FS in the NFL. Fitzpatrick will be a top 5 pick so won’t be available to the Niners anyway. I would wait until the 2nd or 3rd round and pick the best available CB still on the board.

With both Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold declaring to enter this year’s draft, this gives the Niners a better chance to draft one of their top players.

The Draft order is:

  • Browns – Needs QB, RB, CB – Pick Baker Mayfield (QB) Oklahoma… A clone of Johnny Manziel so a perfect fit for the Browns.
  • NY Giants – Needs OT, QB, RB – Pick Josh Rosen (QB) UCLA
  • Colts – Needs ILB, OL, Edge – Pick Orlando Brown (OT) Oklahoma
  • Browns – Needs QB, RB, CB – Pick Saquon Barkley (RB) Penn State
  • Broncos – Needs OG, QB, OT – Pick Josh Allen (QB) Wyoming
  • Jets – Needs QB, RB, OT – Pick Sam Darnold (QB) USC
  • Bucaneers – Needs DE, RB, CB – Pick Bradley Chubb (DE) NC State
  • Bears – Needs WR, OL, CB – Pick Minkah Fitzpatrick (S) Alabama
  • (tie) Niners – Needs WR, OL, CB – Pick Quenton Nelson (G) Notre Dame or Courtland Sutton (WR) SMU
  • (tie) Raiders – Needs CB, ILB, OT – Pick Derwin James (S) Florida State

As for the Niners notable free agents:

Carlos Hyde is a solid running back but in all likelihood, he has played his last game as a Niner. Hyde runs hard but he doesn’t have the ability to break tacklers thus is limited in yardage after the first hit. He also has below-average hands as a receiver. Hyde had his best run of the year against the Rams in the final game where he took the entire Rams defense into the end zone from 7 yards out. For that, I am giving him and Eric Reid both game balls. The Niners would be wise to re-sign him at their price. If Hyde finds a better offer, the Niners will not match any offers higher than what they are willing to pay. Matt Breida has been a pleasant surprise. Also, Shanahan drafted Joe Williams from Utah this year but he was placed on IR for the entire year with a bad ankle. He has a history of fumbling so I’m sure they worked with him all year on the practice squad to correct this issue. We’ll have to wait and see how he develops next year.

Eric Reid was also a good Niner but he is almost certain to be released. The Niners’ 7th round pick this year, Adrian Colbert, is the long term solution at Strong Safety and Jaquiski Tartt will be the starter at Free Safety. For the last 4 games, the Niners have been playing Reid at a pseudo-Linebacker. His tackling skills are outstanding and he does have a keen nose sniffing out run plays. He had an outstanding game against the Rams in the final game with a game high 6 solo tackles and also deserves a game ball. At his stage in his career, he is a fast linebacker but a slow safety. I’ve heard that he doesn’t like playing linebacker. The Niners should bring him back only on their terms and their price.

Aaron Lynch is a goner. He never got into shape and wound up on the inactive list for the last three games of the year.

Tank Carradine played really well in the 2nd half of this year as a solid Defensive Tackle. The Niners should re-sign him.

Brock Coyle also played really well at jinebacker playing next to Rueben Foster. The Niners should also re-sign him. With Malcolm Smith returning next year, the Niners should have a very solid set of linebackers. Smith was on IR for the entire year after he tore his pectoral muscle in training camp. If you recall, Malcolm Smith was the Super Bowl MVP when the Seahawks won in 2013. Smith was also the player who intercepted the pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the last seconds of the 2013 NFC Championship game after Richard Sherman tipped the ball. As a side-bar, Kaepernick had his mind made up to throw to Crabtree regardless of whether he was open or not. A good QB would have seen that he was covered like a blanket and go through his progressions. Anquan Boldin was wide open by 10 yards on the left side of the end-zone but Kaepernick didn’t even look that way. The transfer of power from the Niners to the Seahawks was completed on that single play.

Depending on who the Niners can add via free agency or the draft will affect anyone on the current roster whether they are free agents or not, especially if they came to the team under Baalke.

Three Baalke players picked in the 1st round fit into the “keep or let go” category.

Arik Armstead (DT) hasn’t shown growth and appears to be let go. I believe the Niners will give him a final chance and see how he does in training camp. It’ll be a critical off-season for Armstead.

Joshua Garnett (OG) didn’t have a good freshman year and last year, he had knee surgery. But, it appears that he has worked really hard at transforming his body to take the rigors of the NFL. Training camp will tell the real story of his progression.

Jimmie Ward (CB/S) is a very skilled athlete but has been injured every year since being drafted in the 1st round in 2014. He is in his 5th year so if the Niners keep him, his salary will quadruple to over $8.5 million. The Niners like him as a Safety so if they keep him, they’ll have Colbert, Tartt, and Ward which may be a wise decision (Strength in Numbers… where have you heard that before???). He also has the versatility to play either CB or S (Versatility… where have you heard that before???). I believe the Niners will bring him back but sign him to a 1 year deal (2 at the most).

No matter what, it’ll be an exciting off-season so see who Lynch and Shanahan want to keep and who they will bring in via free agency and the draft. With all of the positive energy going into the off-season, free agents will be much more interested in looking at the Niners as a serious contender for their services.

Niner fans must trust Lynch and Shanahan to do the right things to improve the team. In one year, they have already made dramatic improvements to the point that they will be competing for the NFC West title with the Rams in 2018.

 

Final season ending This-n-That’s:

  • The Harbaughs didn’t enjoy their New Years.
  • Niner fans who wanted them to tank to get a higher draft pick aren’t fans. As it turns out, they will get their guy drafting at either #9 or #10 anyway. And because they finished strong, the likelihood that free agents will consider coming to SF improved dramatically.
  • Even though the Eagles finished with the #1 seed in the playoffs, their fans are extremely nervous. Exemplifies how important the QB is to a team.
  • The Patriots keep rolling with Brady at the helm. This year, they traded QB Jacoby Brissett to the Colts and he has been their starting QB all year. They also traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the Niners and he will be their long term QB. Exemplifies how important the GM and HC is to a team especially if they are kept for the long haul.
  • Can’t wait to go see the Niners vs Chucky Gruden and the Raiders at Levi Stadium next year.

2017-2018 GS Warriors – Strength and Length in Numbers

posted in: Basketball | 0

In this 2017 year-end assessment of the Dubs, this team is a much better team than the one that won the World Championship last year. Steve Kerr made this statement before the season started. Thirty five games into the season, the Dubs hold a 28-7 record which is the best in the NBA but their record is simply a by-product of the real reasons why they are the best.

The Dubs re-signed all of their key players from last year’s championship team. In addition, they aggressively upgraded their only weakness by improving their supporting team. The signings of Omri Casspi and Nick Young improved the second team scoring power which was missing from last year. An added bonus is that Casspi fit into the Warriors scheme immediately and he has been a rock on both ends of the court. Omri runs the court like a deer and cuts like a knife getting many easy hoops in the paint. His shots have so much arc on them that the fans in the upper bowl of the coliseum get a close-up view of the basketball prior to descending toward the hoop. Omri’s 6-9 length doesn’t hurt either. Nick Young has worked hard and is now playing the kind of Dubs ball that Kerr was hoping. At the beginning of the year, Nick looked lost, especially on defense. He also had issues running and passing on offense. In the early stages, it looked like a rare mistake bringing Swaggy P to a smooth running team like the Warriors. He found his shooting range 10 games into the season so I started calling him Swaggy 3, but his defense was still suspect. In the last 10 games, all of the coaching and his hard work started paying off as Nick is now playing like a Warrior at both ends of the floor. Nick’s Swaggy references are now history.

In addition to Omri and Nick, the Dubs “bought” Jordan Bell from the Chicago Bulls who drafted Bell in the 2nd round of this year’s college draft. Jordan (6-9 with a 6-11 and ¾ wingspan) was a defensive gem at Oregon blocking 2.2 shots per game while scoring 10.9 points per game and lead the Ducks into the Final Four. The Warriors didn’t have any draft picks this year or last and wound up buying Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell in consecutive years. I’m thinking that the Dubs front office knows talent. And that is not the end of the talent story. Jordan Bell was NOT the best player on the Oregon Ducks team. Chris Boucher (6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan) was the MAN for the Ducks until he tore his ACL in the Pac-12 tournament against Cal. He wasn’t drafted so the Warriors signed him and he is now ahead of schedule in his recovery with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Lastly, the Dubs also signed Quinn Cook who played 4 years under Coach K. at Duke and is one of seven players who scored over 1,000 points with 500 assists.  He also ranks 4th best all time at Duke with a .853 free throw percentage. Quinn was cut by Atlanta, Dallas and New Orleans prior to being signed by the Warriors. Cook started 2 games and had some significant minutes during Steph’s absence with an ankle injury.

Andre Iguodala has taken McCaw under his wings, Draymond Green has taken Bell under his wings, and although a bit odd, Kevin Durant has taken Cook under his wings. These are examples of why the Warriors are the best team in the league. They genuinely like each other and will go to great lengths to keep the team close and “preach the process”. On the floor, one can easily see how McCaw’s, Bell’s, and Cook’s game have improved due to the presence of the team veterans.

The unsung heroes of this year’s team are David West, Shaun Livingston, ZaZa Pachulia, and Kevon Looney. West is the enforcer, Shaun is the calming influence, Zaza is the hulk, and Kevon is the hustler. Much credit goes to Kevon as his first two years were injury ridden with hip issues. He lost 25 pounds and now looks leaner and faster than ever. His offense rebounding skills are “off the boards” and he hustles like crazy to keep balls alive on the offensive end.

As for the big 4 All-Stars, Klay is the solid rock who hasn’t missed any games this year. He is by far the best 2-way guard in the league. Steph is the captain and the leader but he has missed 12 games due to a sprained ankle. Displaying their strength in numbers, the Warriors went 11-1 during his absence. This in a nutshell shows the depth of this team and the strength in their numbers. Last year, Kevin Durant hurt his knee and missed the last 22 games of the regular season. The Warriors went 17-5 without him with a 14 game winning streak after adjusting to playing without him. Draymond is the Defensive Player of the year but does so much more on offense. He is one of the team’s assist leaders and best passers. Lastly, Kevin Durant is no longer KD. He has become K-D with emphasis on the D. Kevin is never satisfied with his game even though he is acknowledged to be the league’s offensive MVP and the MVP of the Championship series. He worked long and hard on his defensive skills during the off season. He is averaging 6.5 defensive rebounds per game which leads the team and 7.1 overall rebounds which is second to Draymond’s 7.5. He is also averaging 2.33 blocks per games which second in the league next to Miles Turner of Indiana who is averaging 2.36 blocks per game. In the Christmas day game with the Cavs, he had 7 rebounds and 5 huge blocks in addition to his 25 points. K-D is on course to win this year’s Defensive Player of the Year and he has the full support of last year’s winner, Draymond Green.

The Strength and Length of the Warriors are real and built under the leadership of Steve Kerr who won the Coach of the Year in 2015-2016 and by Bob Myers who won Executive of the Year in 2016-2017. The NBA is a copycat league and the top teams have made some dramatic trades to compete with the Warriors. The Rockets appear to have done the best job but they traded away much of their depth. The others are all pretenders. Also, look for other teams who don’t have any 2nd round draft picks to try to “buy” drafted players like the Warriors did.

For now, the Warriors look hard to beat with Myers, Kerr, and their supporting cast…