LeBron James at Dodger Stadium No Longer A Dream

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On July 1, 2018 LeBron James signed a 4-year $154 million deal to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.

A monumental moment is sports history, indeed.

What follows for King James and the Lakers will only take the two brands to unprecedented heights. A dream come true for the purple and gold faithful. It all starts with the picture of LeBron holding up his Lakers jersey for the first time while standing next to legendary Magic Johnson at the introductory press conference. A jersey that will likely sell out faster than any other jersey ever before. Next will come LeBron’s first game, first point, first dunk, first win, fourth championship, and so on and so forth. All of it being captured as another chapter to the career of arguably the greatest player in NBA history.

But let’s make one thing clear.

Nothing will be more monumental than LeBron’s ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium in a Los Angeles Dodgers jersey.

LeBron will never feel more welcomed to Los Angeles until he gets the standing ovation at the Chavez Ravine. He will feel the pressure of winning a championship, sure, but the pressure of delivering a strike in front of 50,000-plus fans in one of the most iconic jerseys, in one of the most iconic stadiums, in American sports history is a different beast. LeBron will take pride in wearing Dodger Blue. The man knows the significance. One can only hope he throws from the mound but making that pitch in a Jackie Robinson No.42 jersey would be all kinds special.

That’s where I want to be. The first time LeBron gets his official welcome from Los Angeles, gets a picture taken with the current king of LA, Clayton Kershaw, and it better be on July, 13, 14, or 15, against the Angels so all their fans can once and for all realize there’s only one team in Southern California that people actually care about.

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Dodgers’ Wins Mean More Against Cubs

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The San Francisco Giants are the hated ones, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the irrelevant ones, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Chicago Cubs are public enemy No.1, no longer the lovable losers of baseball, sitting at the top of the list of teams you love to beat, for now, if you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

As good as its feels for a Cubs fan after a win over the St. Louis Cardinals, or as delightful as it may be for a Dodgers fan to pound the Giants on a night when Madison Bumgarner takes the mound, both fan bases know that deep down a win against one another feels just as good or better, because the path to the World Series in the National League will inevitably run through Los Angeles or Chicago.

The 103-win Cubs team in 2016 outclassed the Dodgers in route to their first World Series championship in 108 years. The 104-win 2017 Dodgers’ returned the favor with a gentleman’s sweep of Chicago on the way to their first World Series appearance since 1988. In the last three years, two of the highest winning percentages in all baseball belong to the Dodgers (.591) and Cubs (.601). Outside of a couple of new faces added into the mix, with a select few (Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow) deciding to trade in one hat for the other, a lot of the same faces from both sides look geared up for battle in 2018, once again.

On Tuesday night, 53,904 fans packed Dodger Stadium, to attend the second game of the four game set between the two National League powers. It was the largest MLB regular-season crowd for a game since Aug.30, 2012 (also at Dodger Stadium). The schedule makers decided to pack all seven regular-season games between them into a two-week span but how can you blame them. There’s a reason why ESPN has broadcasted three consecutive games in Los Angeles. The Dodgers and Cubs bring everything to the table for even the average fan, start power, flair, drama, and a mutual respect for each other.

Not surprisingly, none of the games have disappointed, thus far. Each one bringing a high intensity not usually seen until late September postseason pushes take full effect.

The first two games were played as a doubleheader at Wrigley Field, on Jun.19. The Dodgers needed a pinch-hit single from Kyle Farmer in the ninth inning to come away with a 2-1 win in the first game. The Cubs responded with an extra-inning walk-off single from Albert Almora Jr. in game two to split the doubleheader in a 4-3 win. On the following day, the Cubs shutout the Dodgers with a 4-0 win to take the first series.

The two heavyweights have continued to trade blows in the first three games of the series at Dodger Stadium this week. On Monday night, the Dodgers pulled out another 2-1 nail bitter, thanks to two solo home runs from Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor, respectively, on top of Kenta Maeda’s seven scoreless innings of work on the mound. The next night belonged to Javier Baez of the Cubs. He finished the night 4-for-5 with five RBIs, two home runs, including a grand slam in the 9-4 win.

The Dodgers countered on Wednesday night with a 7-5 win, backed by three home runs, Max Muncy’s solo shot in the first inning, Joc Pederson’s two-run blast in the second, and Cody Bellinger’s solo homer in the eighth inning for good measure. A game that began with Justin Turner and Willson Contreras having words with each other after a play at the plate in the first inning. Words was all it was. Otherwise it was just another day in the month of June where the Dodgers have now hit 51 home runs in 23 games, the most in franchise history since, well, they hit 53 in 28 games last season in June.

Six games, three wins a piece.

On Thursday afternoon, the final game of the regular-season between the familiar foes will feature the biggest star in games newest rivalry. Three-time Cy Young Award winner, 2014 NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw will make his second start since returning from the DL on Jun.23. He’ll be on a pitch count, and yes, everyone is aware that this is a game in June and not October. But every pitch, hit, run, steal, any advantage, disadvantage, one way or the other could be sealed away for when it matters most four months from now. These games do matter. Kershaw will face a lot of the same dudes he’s faced before, the result may be the same or likely different, but either way each guy wont skip over video of the last time he faced him and vise-versa across the board for every matchup that has occurred over these seven regular-season games.

So if you’re a Dodgers fan you should cheer a little louder when Javy Baez whiffs at a slider for the fifth time in a row, when Addison Russell can’t field a ground ball, or whenever Jon Lester attempts to make a pick-off throw to first base, because at the end of the day it should feel better to beat the team that you know you’re destined to face in October.

The Potential Rise of the Phillies is Scary

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game Six

Over the weekend, the Philadelphia Phillies inked free-agent starting pitcher Jake Arrieta to a three-year deal worth up to $75 million. The 2015 CY Young Award winner was the best arm available entering the off-season according to anyone that watched Yu Darvish spoil my life-long dream of missing work to witness a Los Angeles Dodgers World Series parade while enjoying an offseason-long celebratory bender. (I wasn’t making it into work the next day, regardless).

You should love this signing for a few different reasons.

  1. The NL East is sneaky interesting/fun and will have a say in the NL wild-card game.
  2. The Phillies will be a major play in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes this winter.
  3. Every competitive move made by an NL East team makes Derek Jeter’s tear down of the Miami Marlins that much worse.

Best believe either the New York Mets or Phillies will be one of the teams playing in the NL wild-card game. The Mets lineup will be dong happy with Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, and Jay Bruce in the middle of it. For whatever its worth, Noah Syndergaard is throwing 1000 MPH this spring and looking like a potential CY Young candidate. A healthy Jacob deGrom and Thor make for one of the best 1-2 combos in baseball. A lot has to go right but beating up on the young Atlanta Braves and mercy-rule Marlins will be an asset in September.

The Phillies now have a viable 1-2 punch in their own right. Aaron Nola is coming off a career-year in 2017 and now has a CY Young winner with a postseason pedigree to learn from. It’s baffling that this aspect of the signings of guys like Eric Hosmer and Arrieta don’t get nearly enough credit. This team is on the opposite end of the spectrum than the Mets. Philadelphia will be relying heavily on a youthful offense, although, the addition of Carlos Santana to the lineup will help. Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, and Odubel Herrera have shown flashes of carrying the load. If the Phillies are indeed in the hunt in late September and make a postseason run let’s not forget what advantage Citizens Bank Park could be.

It’s clearly the Nationals division to lose but it won’t be a cake walk.

Speaking of the Nats…they lost out on the Arrieta sweepstakes to a division rival. We don’t know how close the two parties came or if it was close at all. We do know that Washington’s superstar Bryce Harper mentioned how nice it would be to add a piece like Arrieta at the start spring training. The Nationals adding Arrieta would’ve made for an absurd postseason rotation but Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg is already one of the best. One could say that if you’ve underachieve as much as Washington has it doesn’t hurt to keep adding. Continue reading “The Potential Rise of the Phillies is Scary”

NL WEST > AL EAST

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JD Martinez to the Boston Red Sox is good for everyone involved, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and everyone not named Paul Goldschmidt.

Get that man as far away from the National League West as possible. I love all of the talk of the American League East is the “AL BEAST”, as if the Tampa Bay Rays aren’t bottoming out this past week to make you think maybe Derek Jeter might be running both Florida teams into the ground just for post-retirement fun. Give me the now Eric Hosmer led San Diego Padres and all of that “volcano full of hot talent lava” over the Tampa Swamp Rays, give me the San Francisco Giants and their aging stars of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria (added Madison Bumgarner to this list for my guilty pleasure) over the fire sale waiting to happen to the Baltimore Orioles, give me 100x gold glove winner Nolan Arenado’s Colorado Rockies and the thin air of Coors field over the other fire sale waiting to happen in Toronto, give me the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ace in Zack Greinke and stone faced Goldschmidt over ESPN’s favorite butt-buddies Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees, please give me the team that came within ONE WIN of the World Series in the Dodgers over the reigning and STILL AL East favorite Boston Red Sox.

The two-headed monster of the AL East does not compete with the competitive nature of the NL West. Put that shitty narrative to bed.

However, let me jump in the front seat of the narrative that the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry is back. And back for the long haul.

The Yankees became the evil empire once again this offseason when they were gifted Stanton from the Miami Marlins. The Red Sox countered this week by adding power-bat JD Martinez with an opt-out after two years (beautiful contract for Boston) to a stacked lineup of young stars Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. Throw in an ace like Chris Sale, and former CY Young award winners/big question marks in David Price and Rick Porcello to build a formidable rotation to get the ball to all-star closer Craig Kimbrel on the back end.

The Yankees have the best bullpen in the league, two guys who can hit the ball to Mars plus Gary Sanchez and a pitching staff with a potential ace in Luis Severino followed by similar question marks that might haunt the Red Sox. Both teams are equally easy to hate for no other reason than an obvious East Coast bias that irritates the best coast. They will play on national television every time they play, I’ll watch every single six-hour game  with zero complaints and keep finding reasons to hate all the players simply because they don’t play for the Dodgers.

I favor Boston because of a deeper lineup, a true ace, and JD, who will homer once on a fly ball to right field at Yankee Stadium and immediately become public enemy No.1 in New York for at least the next two years. That’s when the Rivalry will officially be back.

 

The Silent Induction

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The history of baseball cannot be told without Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, it’s the sad, ugly and unfortunate truth. The Baseball Hall of Fame is supposed to tell us the story with the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s an honor to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the pinnacle of the sport, the ultimate goal for anyone who has ever played between the lines and Bonds and Clemens don’t deserve that honor.

Call it the silent induction.

These guys shouldn’t be allowed to soak up the cheers or jeers one last time on a beautiful summer day in July, in Cooperstown. That’s what they want. It’s the sole reason why they chose to take the route they took during their careers. Bonds and Clemens wanted to be at the forefront of any conversation to do with baseball. To this day, its common knowledge that Bonds decided to take steroids because his ego couldn’t handle all the attention Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire received in 1998 during their infamous home run race. On the other hand, Clemens, who was mentioned repeatedly in the Mitchell report in 2007 found himself pitching into his 40’s and winning a suspicious 18 games in 2004 with the Houston Astros as a 41-year-old right hander. An athlete’s worst nightmare is to be forgotten. So we ignorantly cheered and revered them through it all, as they were rewriting history by shattering scared records that we once worshiped, all while the only numbers that really mattered to them were the millions in their bank accounts.

They won the battle but not the war.

It’s possible that Bonds and Clemens don’t mind being off in the corner room of the museum and that’s exactly where they belong. They could even name the room something clever like “Mitchell’s Room” or have a balcony setup and call it “BALCO” and before entering there’s a five-to-ten minute video about the steroid era in baseball. They don’t belong in any room that dawns the names Aaron, Ruth, Mantle, Koufax, Feller, Johnson or anyone else that came before them for that matter. The silent induction also keeps them off the same stage as the living hall of famers who return back to Cooperstown each year for induction weekend.

Bonds and Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame already, and that’s only because these egotistical a-holes are still garnering all of the attention every time they don’t get elected. On Wednesday, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman received phone calls that they’re getting inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018. However, all anyone could talk about was the percentage of votes Bonds and Clemens got this year and when and if they’ll ever make it. The conversation needs to be put to bed once and for all. It’s possible one of the main reasons the voters are reluctant to vote these guys in is because of the guilt they’ll face as their being honored, the silent induction is the easy fix.

Bonds and Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame but they are not Hall of Famers, on some cold winter day in December in Cooperstown their plaques can be hung up in that room in the corner of the museum, yeah, the same room that should have Commissioner Bud Selig’s plague on the door.

 

Don’t Bet against Judge…Lesson Learned

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Does betting on the Home Run Derby make you a degenerate gambler?

The answer is a hard NO. Betting on the Home Run Derby is one hell of a time even if you make the mistake of picking against the guy who’s the heavy favorite. The favorite weighing in at 280 pounds and every bit of six feet and seven inches tall by the name of Aaron Judge. Little did we know he was playing on a field 10x smaller than his counterparts or so it seemed.

Going against Judge didn’t seem as crazy as it does now. All it took was the thought that the big stage would possibly make the New York Yankees rookie tighten up because playing in the Big Apple isn’t already pressure in itself. Don’t forget about Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton the other obvious choice, defending HR derby champion, headlining the event in the ballpark he plays in 81 times a year. I passed on him as well. The odds were simply just too good to pass up when it came to picking one of the underdogs in this eight-man competition where you’d think anyone could catch fire.

Here’s five different (losing) bets from Monday night.

Winner: Miguel Sano +600

Winner: Justin Bour +1600

Longest HR of First Round: Cody Bellinger +1100

Exact Finals Matchup: Sano vs Bour +2000

Exact Finals Matchup: Sano vs Bellinger +1200

So these weren’t the worst bets but they clearly weren’t winners either. Marlins’ Justin Bour stole the show for at least five minutes in round one. He hit 22 homers overall, ate a doughnut before his 30 seconds of bonus time and played off the crowd as if he was competing for the WWE’s intercontinental championship belt. This all happen moments before his round one opponent Judge came out and played pepper with the Marlins hideous statue beyond the centerfield wall, ultimately, hitting 24 home runs to eliminate Bour from the competition and two of those bets from existence.

Los Angeles Dodgers’ rookie Cody Bellinger hit some bombs in his dramatic first round matchup win against the Colorado Rockies Charlie Blackmon (15-14) but none far enough to eclipse Judge’s 500-plus foot dingers. Another bet down the drain. My dude from the Minnesota Twins, Miguel Sano, was my only hope. He knocked out Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas in the first round (11-10) and then eliminated Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez (11-10) to advance to the finals.

Two of my final bets hung in the balance, Sano was in the finals, and a matchup with Bellinger would’ve salvaged the day. However, Judge stood in the way. ESPN announcer Karl Ravech didn’t make the Tiger Woods reference until the finals but he could’ve said it felt like the early 2000s Tiger where everyone else is playing for second in that matchup between Bellinger and Judge in the semis. The Yankees’ slugger wasn’t going to lose to anyone. He beat Bellinger with a score of (13-12). There was only one last bet to hold on to. It was a Sano vs. Judge final but I honestly had more confidence in Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian getting back together than Sano winning at this point. Judge won with a final of (11-10) and made it look as easy as he did the two previous rounds.

That big stage wasn’t big enough to hold down Judge, as most pitchers can’t hold him in the ballpark and most ballparks can’t hold him in the yard. It was a sight to see on Monday night. He made 500-foot homers look effortless while using every part of the stadium to add to his count. This might be remembered as the legitimate come out party for Judge on the national stage or the day that I look back on in 10 years from now, and say, that was the first home run derby I ever bet on as I bet again and lose another five bets in 2027.

 

Mets’ Flores Appoints Himself as Chief of Baseball Police

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The New York Mets have been outscored 30-8 through the first three games of a four game series at Dodger Stadium and currently sit 11.5 games out of first place in the NL East with a piss poor 31-40 record for the lack of a better word. It’s safe to say that this team, two years removed from a World Series appearance, has seen better days.

Mets’ infielder, Wilmer Flores, who was once known for breaking the most unwritten rule in all of baseball by crying on the field took exception to the way the Los Angeles Dodgers’ right fielder admired his work on Wednesday night.

In the fourth inning, Yasiel Puig was at the plate sitting dead red, when Mets’ starter Tyler Pill grooved a 91 MPH sinker in a 3-1 count that ultimately ended up halfway up the left field pavilion for a three-run homer. Puig watched with admiration as the ball took flight and then gracefully made his way around the bases angering a few Mets’ players in the process. Flores had a few words for Puig between first and second base and Mets’ catcher Travis d’Arnaud got in his two cents at home plate approximately 30 seconds later. Even fellow Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, a showboat in his own right, along with Jose Reyes were seen chatting up Puig between innings.

The Mets decided not to retaliate in Puig’s next two plate appearances but Flores let it be known afterward how upset he was by reverting back to his old ways.

By Flores’ logic, the Mets are playing horrible, so Puig or anyone for that matter is not allowed to play better because apparently you might hurt your opponents feelings by doing so. Flores is playing the worst card possible here. He’s acting like the girl who just got dumped and goes out her way to spend the rest of the night making sure none of her friends hookup with anyone. You know Flores is bitter about how much fun the Dodgers are having, especially at the Mets expense.

The Dodgers have now won 12 of their last 13 games and extended their winning streak to six in a row to take a 0.5 lead over the Colorado Rockies for first place in the NL West. The Mets sit on the opposite end of the spectrum and Flores is making it clear how miserable that entire situation is by trying to bring others down with him. Flores might want to take a look at a few of his teammates before calling someone else out for respecting the game or just take a look at the organization he plays for, the one that decided to sign Tim Tebow for every reason that doesn’t involve baseball.

Puig couldn’t have responded to the entire incident in a better way.

In years past Puig has had his fair share of these incidents but something stood out that made it seem different this time around. Puig kept a smile on his face in the dugout after the home run and seemed not at all bothered by the offense taken by the Mets’ players. Teammates Andre Either, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and hitting coach Turner Ward huddled around him breaking out in laughter, instead of a lecture. It seemed as if his actions finally might’ve been accepted, finally, or at least for the time being because winning makes everything better.

Someone just needs to pass that secret on to your newest Chief of Baseball Police, Wilmer Flores.