My 2015 Sports Wish List

Rather than a bunch of NHappy New Year 2015ew Year’s resolutions I’ll never keep, I decided to make a sports wish list for the coming year. They are in no particular order, just a stream of consciousness I wrote down over the last several days. While many of them have a snowball’s chance in hell of happening, I think several are very possible.

 

  • Tiger Woods wins a couple of tournaments to shut up all the naysayers.
  • The Boston Red Sox acquire Cole Hamels.
  • Major League Baseball allows Pete Rose to be included on the Hall of Fame ballot. I know he went off the rails with gambling, but that has zero to do with his 4,256 hits.
  • The Sacred Heart University men’s basketball team returns to the Northeast Conference playoffs, and head coach Anthony Latina (one of the good guys) is named Coach of the Year.
  • Golfer Patrick Reed gets his foot stuck so deeply in his mouth he can’t talk for the next twelve months.
  • Joey Logano wins his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
  • The NFL stops playing football games in London – it’s just stupid.
  • Boston College finds a new kicker that can actually make extra points.
  • The MLB Network starts broadcasting selected winter league baseball games. I’m tired of watching the Home Run Derby from 1879 and the 27th rerun of Mr. Baseball.
  • College football expands the playoff system to eight teams – even if it means eliminating one regular season game against the Sisters of the Poor.
  • The owners of the Angels realize how ridiculous “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” sounds.
  • Will Middlebrooks has a big year for the Padres. If he had stayed healthy there’d be no Panda mania in Boston.
  • The Wesleyan University baseball team wins another NESCAC title and returns to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Jim Harbaugh wins a Big Ten title at Michigan, and the San Francisco 49ers miss the playoffs again – only fair thing for a franchise that ran off a coach that did nothing but win for it.
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wakes up one morning and realizes what a bonehead move he made taking hockey out of Hartford. Has anyone noticed that Carolina is averaging just 12,000 a game (second worst in the league)? Hartford did that – in fact, often exceeded it. Great move there, Gary. And of course, they’re packing them in in Florida to the tune of 9,500 a game. Perfect.
  • The San Diego Chargers find a way to make it to the Super Bowl.
  • Tom Watson gets apologies from everyone who blamed him for losing the Ryder Cup. The decision to shuffle the lineup and bench a couple of golfers aside, Watson did not have anything to do with the fact that the American players just didn’t play well enough. The classless comments thrown at a classy man like Watson were hard to see, and made me more than a little sad.
  • Vin Scully announces that he’ll be coming back to broadcast the 2016 Dodgers. With apologies to some of my broadcasting friends, Vin Scully is the best baseball broadcaster ever.

Chargers Playoff Hopes Sacked

chargers logoIt was a simple scenario for the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Win a game on the road against a team starting its backup quarterback and you’re in the playoffs. Granted, winning on the road in the NFL is a difficult proposition – and the Chiefs had already beaten San Diego once this season – but after the dramatic rally against San Francisco last week I was certain this one was in the bag. Somebody forgot to tell the Chiefs. The KC defense forced three Chargers turnovers, and the Chief offense under second-stringer Chase Daniel didn’t turn it over once.

With this season in the books two things have become very clear – the Chargers need to draft a running back and offensive lineman in the upcoming draft.

Look, I love Ryan Mathews, but the guy played only six games this season because of injuries. He did play all 16 last year, but missed four the year before that, two in 2011, and four more in 2010. Brendan Oliver did his best to fill in the hole left by Mathews, but averaging 3.5 a carry isn’t going to cut it. It puts way too much pressure on Phillip Rivers.

I know there were a lot of injuries on the offensive line, but I think the staff has to take a hard look at the quality of the depth chart and make some improvements. Rivers got sacked seven times on Sunday, making it 36 for the season – the third highest total in his career.

I’m sad I won’t have a dog in the fight as the playoffs start. The good news is that baseball spring training starts in less than two months!

 

Betts Should Not Be Untouchable

Fenway Park from press boxIn an excellent article on his website yesterday, Peter Gammons ran down quite a laundry list of previous trades for ace pitchers to show that the Phillies may not be able to get the value they hope for in return for Cole Hamels. He also (quite correctly) points out that there are only a handful of teams that can afford to take on the $100-120 million left on Hamels’ contract.

One of those teams that can afford it is the Boston Red Sox, but it appears that GM Ben Cherington is unwilling to part with Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart, two of the players the Phillies covet the most. I can’t say that I blame the Sox for wanting to hang on to Swihart. Good catching is at a premium these days, and Swihart appears to have a solid bat and has developed into an excellent defensive catcher. He threw out nearly 46 percent (31 of 68) of the runners trying to steal last season in stops in Portland and Pawtucket! He threw out 42 percent the year before in the Carolina League.

The Red Sox have not had a commodity like that in many moons. Heck, everyone loved Jason Varitek, but he never threw out more than 28 percent in any single season. I am also not counting Christian Vazquez, who threw out 50 percent in a very small sample size last season, not to mention the fact he is not going to scare anyone at the plate. He may be the real deal, but I have to see a full year of him before I get too excited. Even then, I don’t believe he has the tools to be a solid two-way player in the mold of a Yadier Molina – Swihart does.

You have to go all the way back to 1998 to find a Sox starting catcher that threw out as many as 33 percent. Scott Hatteberg threw out 39 of 120 would-be basestealers, and hit a respectable .276 with 12 homers and 43 RBI in 112 games. Before that, it was Mike MacFarlane at 35 percent in 1995 – but he only hit .225/15/51.

The last time a Sox catcher threw out as many as 40 percent in a season? Rich Gedman in 1986 threw out 54 of 109 (49.5%) while hitting .258 with 16 homers and 65 RBI in 135 games. If Swihart can put up numbers like that the Sox should lock him up and throw away the key. In my mind, his potential makes him one of the few prospects the Sox should consider untouchable.

Now, on to the subject of the headline of this blog – Mookie Betts. Frankly, I don’t care what Bill James projects Mookie’s future to be (he says a .400 OBP and .500 slugging in 2015). I realize he’s only 22, but I think we’re getting a little carried away on a guy who had just over 200 plate appearances last year. Don’t get me wrong – I think Betts is going to be a very good player. However, the Red Sox currently have more outfielders than they know what to do with and Dustin Pedroia at second base. So where is he going to play?

Boston just shelled out a ton of cash for Cuban defector Rusney Castillo who plays center field. Newly acquired Hanley Ramirez has been ticketed for left field (because, God knows, they don’t want to put him at short!), and you’ve got Shane Victorino in right field, providing he’s healthy. Add to that Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, fan favorite Brock Holt, and Jackie Bradley and you’ve got a major logjam.

You can make a case that Victorino is going to break down again, that Craig is not going to regain the form he had in St. Louis from 2011-13, and that Betts is better than Nava, Holt, and Bradley. I can’t argue with any of that. However, the old adage in business says you have to spend money to make money. In this case, you have to spend a prospect or two to get quality in return. I think Betts is the perfect player to use as the key in a package to get Hamels in return, because the Red Sox can afford to roll the dice and trade a solid prospect who plays a position where the team has a surplus.

Perhaps Betts becomes an All-Star in Philadelphia. I hope he does. But the Red Sox need another arm in their rotation – badly. The best career WHIP in the projected rotation belongs to Clay Buchholz at 1.31. That’s not good. Wade Miley (1.32), Rick Porcello (1.36), Joe Kelly (1.36) and Justin Masterson (1.39) are going to allow way too many baserunners and put an awful lot of pressure on Vazquez. Cole Hamels’ career WHIP? How about 1.14.

I rest my case.