MLB Free Agent Pool Drying Up

Justin Upton

Justin Upton in 2015. (photo by Johnmaxmena2 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Upton_sd_2015.jpg#/media/File:Upton_sd_2015.jpg)

They haven’t turned the hot stove off yet, but the gas (read: money) supply may be running out. With the majority of the cash being spent on pitching this off season, the market and cash for the remaining MLB free agent position players on the market may be limited. In the first podcast of 2016, host Gene Gumbs looks at the latest MLB moves and the biggest names still left out there.

Free agent outfielders Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and Dexter Fowler are still sitting out there wondering when they are going to get some love and money. First baseman Chris Davis turned down a lot of money from the Orioles and has yet to get another. (He’d be a great sign in Boston with the impending David Ortiz retirement and Hanley Ramirez experiment at first. Just sayin’.}

There are still a couple of starting pitchers left out there, but only a couple of those would seem to be of the caliber that could make them difference makers. Wei-Yin Chen, late of the Orioles, and Yovani Gallardo, who turned down a qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers, could both step into the #3 slot of a team’s rotation. Gallardo, 29, obviously believes he is worth more than the 15.8 million Texas offered. Chen, 30, is reportedly looking for a five-year deal in the 80 million dollar range.

Other notable arms still on the market are Doug Fister, Mat Latos, Tim Lincecum, Ian Kennedy. Of that list, the one that might command the most is Fister. He had a sub-par 2015, but this is a guy with a career 3.42 ERA and a WHIP of 1.2. He’d make a great middle-of-the-rotation acquisition.

Also in this MLB Free Agent Episode:

  • Dodgers have signed a couple of pitchers, but they have big problems
  • Gonna be a looooong year in Cincinnati
  • San Francisco Giants may be top Hot Stove chefs
  • Marshawn Lynch is a disgrace
  • Road warriors rule in NFL playoffs
  • My pick for team of the week

I appreciate you listening and following me every week. You can listen to the latest podcast here, or subscribe to it on iTunes to have it automatically downloaded to your iOS devices.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions here or at ggumbs@sbcglobal.net. Please let me know what you think!

MLB Free Agent Contracts Reaching New Heights

David Price

(Photo by Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

The monopoly-money carousel turned a little faster this week when David Price (31 million/year) and Zack Greinke (34 million/year) signed new MLB free agent contracts. Add to that a flurry of trades, and the recent general manager meetings in Nashville have been the busiest in years. In his latest podcast, Sports Microscope host Gene Gumbs breaks down all the recent activity.

Heck, compared to the numbers that Price and Greinke got, the 16 million a year for John Lackey seems like chump change. Johnny Cueto recently turned down 20 million a year from Arizona. As one of the last big free agent pitchers yet to sign, some desperate team is liable to step up and offer him 25 million. It’s down right ridiculous.

To be sure, the Price signing, and the other moves they Red Sox made, moves Boston right to the top of the class in the American League – at least on paper. Ask the San Diego Padres how their paper championship worked out last year. In addition to Price, the Red Sox got one of the best closers in the game in 27-year-old Craig Kimbrel, and then traded Wade Miley to get another great bullpen arm in Carson Smith, as well as Roenis Elias. Hell, the trade of Miley alone is addition by subtraction!

Likewise, the signing of Greinke, and then the trade for Shelby Miller with the Atlanta Braves, puts the Arizona Diamondbacks in the mix for the NL West title. They still probably need to add a bat or two, but a rotation that starts with Greinke, Miller, and a healthy Patrick Corbin ain’t bad.

Also in this MLB Free Agent Episode:

  • Are the Chicago Cubs overvaluing Ben Zobrist?
  • Jon Jay headed to San Diego
  • Starlin Castro traded to the Yankees
  • Steve Sarkisian is suing USC because he’s a drunk
  • My pick for team of the week

I appreciate you listening and following me every week. You can listen to the latest podcast here, or subscribe to it on iTunes to have it automatically downloaded to your iOS devices.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions here or at ggumbs@sbcglobal.net.

 

 

 

Women’s World Cup Title Nice End to Holiday Weekend

uswnt logoPerhaps the only thing better than the US Women’s World Cup team beating Japan 5-2 in the final today, would have been if an own goal hadn’t sunk the English team and it could have been a Fourth of July rematch 239 years in the making.

Having said that, Carli Lloyd’s 15-minute hat trick was something to watch as the US blitzed the Japanese and made the rest of the game rather anti-climactic. What was even more amazing was watching her third sail in after being launched from just inside midfield. The stunned look on the face of Japanese goalie Ayumi Kahori told you all you needed to know.

Japan did try to make a game of it – helped by yet another own goal, this one from America’s Julie Johnston in the 52nd minute – but Tobin Heath quickly dispelled any thoughts of a Japanese miracle comeback with (as my fiancee put it) an F-you goal two minutes later on a pass from Morgan Brian. (Her words not mine, folks!)

While the first 15 minutes or so were exciting to watch, the majority of the rest of the match was simply a case of watching the Americans try not to make a glaring mistakes. With the exception of the own goal, mission accomplished.

One my other favorite things was the inclusion of Connecticut native and former USWNT coach Tony DiCicco on the broadcast team. In my mind, the best women’s national soccer coach ever in this country, he guided the US to an Olympic championship in 1996 and the 1999 women’s World Cup. DiCicco was professional in his commentary, though you could hear the pride in his voice that he had helped build the program. In fact, he made comment that he believed his 1999 team would be proud of what the 2015 team accomplished.

With the 2016 Olympic Summer Games coming up in Rio, perhaps head coach Jill Ellis can duplicate DiCicco’s accomplishment and bring home a gold medal and a World Cup title. Here’s hoping so.

 

 

Podcast #12 Puts Wrap on US Open

Sports Microscope PodcastNo matter what you thought of the Chambers Bay course, there’s no denying that that 115th edition of the US Open Golf Tournament was compelling. From the unusual layout, to the controversial setup, to the Jason Day drama, there was a little bit for everyone. The finish also cemented Jordan Spieth’s spot as the new face of American golf. We’ll be talking about the Jordan-Rory battle for years, the same way we talked about Tiger and Phil, and Arnie and Jack.

Fox Sports also had an up-and-down run during the tournament. I talk about some of the highs and lows of their coverage.

Also in this episode:

  • The Boston Red Sox do-or-die week
  • The Darryl Hamilton tragedy
  • The latest revelations about Pete Rose
  • The All-Star Game voting mess
  • I wonder why the Cardinals hack isn’t getting the play deflategate did
  • My pick for team of the week

You can listen to the latest episode here or subscribe to it on iTunes to have it automatically downloaded to your iOS devices. Enjoy, and I look forward to your feedback!

Aaron Hernandez Verdict A Cautionary Tale

cautionThere is an old saying that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Along those lines, after the conclusion of the Aaron Hernandez trial yesterday I was left with this – fame and money do not suddenly make someone a better person who is worthy of being a role model, it reveals their true character.

I don’t make this statement to try and run down Hernandez – lord knows there’s been plenty of that already. I say it because  we need to be very careful of who we put on a pedestal. There were many people in my home state of Connecticut crowing about how great it was that Hernandez was one of “ours” and a great example of how someone from a tough town can make good and become a star. Good luck finding those people now.

Troubled people do not change when suddenly given millions of dollars and an abundance of fame. In fact, if you look closer, the opposite is often the case. The only thing that changes is their ability to hide their transgressions or buy their way out of them.

Unfortunately the NFL is loaded with examples like this. Look at all the cases of domestic violence, the bullying case of Richie Incognito with the Dolphins (and I guarantee that is just the one that came to light), or the downfall of Lawrence Phillips in jail for assaulting is girlfriend, and who is now suspected of killing his cellmate in prison. Adrian Peterson was arrested for whipping his son, several players have been jailed for dealing drugs, and several others for fraud. Then there are the more extreme examples of Hernandez and OJ Simpson.

There are numerous examples of musicians and actors jailed for a wide range of crimes. Rappers seem to lead the way these days, though it is not an exclusive club. Bobby Brown has gone to jail more than once. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary did time for having sex with a 14-year old back in 1970 (he received a pardon from President Carter in 1981). Chuck Berry did time for armed robbery and sex with an underage girl. Steve Earle did time for drugs. Producer Phil Spector is doing life for murder.

Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, look at all the incredible charity work done by many celebrities who find themselves in the position of being able to afford to help. What Drew Brees has done for the children of New Orleans is amazing. Peyton Manning has his own foundation to help children, and donated millions of dollars to a hospital in Indianapolis. London Fletcher’s foundation, London’s Bridge, has helped numerous children from underprivileged backgrounds. Albert Pujols of the Angels runs a foundation designed to help families and children who live with Down’s Syndrome. Bill Gates donates more money than the GDP of some small countries.

To be sure, there are far more people doing good works than committing crimes like Hernandez, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be very careful in choosing who we hold up as role models. Fame does not necessarily equal good.

Finally, why is it that we are more likely to forgive a sports star, musician, or actor who makes a mistake, but we don’t extend the courtesy to people from everyday walks of life who run into trouble. There is something very wrong with that.

 

Christian Vazquez Injury a Setback for Sox

Red Cross logoAs Dean Martin once sang, “Ain’t that a kick in the head!”

With the news that Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez will be out for the season after it was determined he needed Tommy John surgery, it has thrown the prospects for the coming season into doubt. It’s not that Vazquez was going to be a force at the plate – heck, the Sox of plenty of offensive pop. It’s the loss of his defense, his ability to frame pitches, and the comfort the pitching staff had with him that is going to hurt.

Yes, the Sox did sign veteran backup Ryan Hanigan, and recently traded for Sandy Leon with the Washington Nationals, but neither of those guys can come close to matching Vazquez’s skills. Heck, newly acquired hurler Rick Porcello said Vazquez was the best backstop he’d ever thrown to. The Sox also have 35 year old Humberto Quintero in camp, though the trade for Leon makes it appear that he is the odd man out.

Hanigan, who will turn 35 this year, has only been in as many as 100 games in a season once in his eight-year career. He has thrown out a respectable 38 percent of the runners trying to steal against him, but the question remains whether he can handle a regular workload.

Leon is a young option at just 25, but he’s played a total of 34 big league games in three years. He also has a cannon for an arm, which definitely makes him attractive. He’s out of minor league options, so the Sox almost have to keep him on the 25-man roster of expose him to the waiver wire. It also doesn’t hurt that he and Vazquez know each other pretty and Vazquez has been helping him get up to speed quickly.

And what about Blake Swihart, you ask? He’ll start the season in AAA Pawtucket – as he should. Yes, he appears to be the catcher of the future (at least offensively),  but the kid has just 69 at bats at AAA and definitely needs more time honing his skills. That’s not to say we won’t see him during the year (providing the Sox don’t decide to put him in a package for Cole Hamels), but there is no reason to rush him to Boston before he’s properly seasoned.

Sox fans are right to be concerned about the loss of Vazquez. The starting rotation is shaky at best. I don’t care what management wants to say about not needing an ace. The guys they on the staff allow base runners like nobody’s business, so a solid defensive catcher is even more important. The scouts say Leon could be it. Hanigan has been solid, if not spectacular, as a backup, and the biggest chip in their trade bank (Swihart) isn’t ready and may not even finish the season in the organization.

Every team faces injuries during the course of the year, but the dearth of quality catching in the majors, and the fact that the Sox had one of the rising stars at the position, makes this one a little harder to swallow. Ah well… what’s a Red Sox season without a little drama?

 

My Kingdom for a Cole Hamels!

blob-pulling-hair-out-in-desperation-clipartWhile the headline is a blatant ripoff of Shakespeare’s Richard III, with just about ten days left until the start of the regular season, I’m still having a hard time getting a read on just how good the 2015 Boston Red Sox will be. It certainly looks like the offense is much improved – hell, it would be hard for it not to be. On the other hand, the starting pitching looks like it has the makings of a train wreck – the optimistic headlines of the Red Sox spin doctors aside.

As the spring winds down, Clay Buchholz took the mound Friday and gave up four runs and twelve hits in five innings of work. The headline on the Red Sox website? “Buchholz fans six over five innings.” The quite the optimistic viewpoint considering Boston’s “ace” had a WHIP of darn near three for his five innings of work. Granted, his previous three appearances (spanning a total of ten innings) had been pretty good. Of course, I’d like to see my pitchers getting better with each appearance. But that’s just me.

I know you’re not supposed to make a lot of pitcher stats in spring training, but when your potential five starters have worked a total of 60 innings, given up 73 hits, walked 20 (a 1.55 WHIP), and pitched to a 4.80 ERA, don’t you have a little reason to be concerned?

I wrote earlier that I believe the Red Sox need to make the trade for Cole Hamels. I stick by that. Hamels has had an ERA of 3.06 or lower in four of the last five years. The one year it was higher it was an “astronomical” 3.60.

Look, I like Buchholz and think he’s a decent second or third starter. I think Rick Porcello is very good and would be a great number two. Wade Miley is a number three or four in my book. He eats innings, which is a good thing, but he also allows more runners than the starting line at the Boston Marathon. Justin Masterson is not turning a lot of heads in camp, and Joe Kelly looks like he might be hurt again.

Sox management is singing the company line of “We Don’t Need No Stinking Ace.” I disagree. If you don’t have a pitcher you can look to every fifth day that has the ability to get your team out of a losing streak, you run the risk of having a very long season indeed. I get that you don’t want to trade Mookie Betts. Every day that goes by he’s making that look like an excellent strategy. However, there is more than one way to skin a cat. If it takes Blake Swihart (as much as I’d hate to lose him) and Henry Owens to get it done – get it done. I’m begging you.

 

Curt Schilling and Bloomsburg U. Set Fine Example

Angry_faceIn this day of online nastiness and mob mentality, it has been refreshing in the last month or so to see people fighting back and companies holding people accountable for their thoughtless, hurtful comments.

When Curt Schilling’s daughter was the target of some vulgar tweets after her father announced her decision to play softball at Salve Regina University, he immediately fired back and outed the offenders. One of them fired from their job, another suspended from school, two suspended from their college hockey team, and received letters of apology from several other student-athletes who joined in the “fun”.

He continues to search for the others so that they can be held accountable. The young man fired worked in the ticket office for the New York Yankees. Another was a disc jockey for a community college on Long Island. Schilling named names in some of the cases. He also said he is considering legal options in some cases because many of the tweets were of a sexual nature and his daughter is underage.

“These boys have yet to understand one of life’s most important lessons,” Schilling wrote in his blog. “In the real world you get held accountable for the things you say and if you are not careful that can mean some different things.”

As a father of two daughters (who are now adults), I know exactly how he feels. When my girls were that age, if they had been subjected to that kind of harassment I would go to the ends of the earth to see that those responsible were punished. Frankly, with my temper, it would have been hard for me not to throttle them personally. I am sure it crossed Schilling’s mind too.

I liked Curt Schilling before. I like him even more now.

Just a couple of days ago, a bullet-headed baseball player at Bloomsburg University baseball player posted an offensive tweet when he found out that Disney was considering a movie about Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitcher who took the country by storm in 2014. This rocket scientist actually called her a “slut.” She’s thirteen, for God’s sake! Not that anyone should be called that, but good heaven’s, does this kid’s elevator actually go all the way to the top?

Bloomsburg immediately bounced the offender from the baseball team. Frankly, bouncing him from school would have been more appropriate. Sometimes extreme measures are necessary for people to learn a lesson.

To Davis’s credit, she and her coach actually contacted Bloomsburg President David Soltz to ask him to reconsider and reinstate the miscreant. How’s that for maturity? A 13 year old trying to help out the 20-year-old idiot. Good for her. But what’s wrong with that picture?

Granted, these Mensa candidates mostly did their dirty deeds under their actual names with their pictures attached. That was helpful, but not strictly necessary. Despite what people think, you’re not truly anonymous on the Internet. Even if you create a screen name, you can be traced – and there are plenty of people out there who know how to do it.

I would love to see examples like this become the norm rather than the exception. If more people start to fight back and hold people accountable for these attacks, perhaps we’ll start to see a swing in the other direction.

I’m not holding my breath, but it has to start somewhere.

MLB NL West Predictions

BaseballWith James Shields finally signed, most of the major free agent moves have been done. Since Shields landed in San Diego, this is the perfect time to break down the National League West. In reverse order, this is how I see the division shaking out in 2015:

5. Arizona Diamondbacks – The one big move Arizona made in the off season likely made the team worse. The worst pitching staff in the NL West got worse when it shipped Wade Miley to the Red Sox for Allen Webster Rubby De La Rosa. Miley averaged 200 innings a year for the Diamondbacks over the last three years, and while he won’t make anyone forget Randy Johnson, I submit he was far better than the two players they got in return. With Bronson Arroyo on the shelf after Tommy John surgery, it’s Josh Collmenter and four guys that combined for ten wins last season in the rotation. Of course, there’s always the chance that new acquisition Jeremy Hellickson returns to the form he displayed in 2011 and 2012. New manager Chip Hale better hope so.

Offensively, there’s not a lot of pop in the lineup outside of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Mark Trumbo has displayed some power in right field, but he’s going to need to improve on his .235 batting average. The other big questions in Arizona revolve around Cuban third baseman Yasmany Tomas and who the heck is going to catch. The Diamondbacks appear ready to hand the hot corner over to Tomas, despite the fact he’s learning the position after primarily playing the outfield in Cuba. Tuffy Gosewisch is the only catcher on the 40-man roster with MLB experience – a whole 174 at bats. The Diamondbacks did sign career backup Gerald Laird to a minor league contract.

Bottom line: The forecast in the desert is for pain.

4. Colorado – There is no question about one thing with the Rockies – the boys can hit. If Carlos Gonzalez bounces back to form after undergoing both finger and knee surgery last season, the outfield of CarGo, Charlie Blackmon, and Corey Dickerson will be formidable. If Troy Tulowitzki is healthy, the Rockie infield is equally as potent. Justin Morneau showed he still had plenty in the tank last season with his .319 average, 17 homers, and 82 RBI. In fact, is newly acquired Nick Hundley is indeed the teams primary catcher, the .238 career hitter may be the only weak link. Of course, the Rockies also still have catcher Wilin Rosario on the roster, though it appears manager Walt Weiss plans to move him around (outfield and first base).

As is always the case in Coors Field, the question is who is going to pitch effectively. No question Jorge De La Rosa had solid, in unspectacular, numbers last season (14-11, 4.10). Jhoulys Chacin is trying to comeback from a shoulder injury. Free agent Kyle Kendrick logged 200 innings for Philadelphia last year and should help, but overall it looks like team owners may have to issue whiplash collars to fans who hurt themselves trying to follow the parade of balls roped into the outfield.

Bottom line is that if they can win enough 10-8 games, the Rockies could climb up one spot in the standings, but no higher.

3. San Diego – People have been falling all over themselves praising the work AJ Preller and ownership have done this off season. There is no doubt they have been bold and increased their payroll. But will it translate into a rise in the standings? I don’t think so. Why? Well, the infield offense is anemic at best, their catcher has never had 400 at bats in a season, and their bullpen is anchored by Joaquin Benoit, who will be 38 this year and has never had more than 24 saves in a season (Detroit 2013).

You can make a case that the young Padre rotation of James Shields, Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, and Odrisamer Despaigne has a chance to be one of the best in the division. Shields and Kennedy are the grizzled vets of the group at just 31. That, along with pitcher-friendly stadiums in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, gives the Padres a chance to be in every game.

The Padre outfield of Matt Kemp, Will Myers, and Justin Upton is legit and capable of putting up some numbers. However, I don’t think manager Bud Black is going to get the same warm fuzzies when looks at the infield. Second baseman Jedd Gyrko hit .200 last year. Will Middlebrooks .191 in 215 at bats for Boston. Shortstop Alexi Amarista hit .239, and first baseman Yonder Alonzo .240. Free agent signee Derek Norris has pop behind the plate, but how will he handle a heavier workload?

Yes, they’ve been busy, but the mountain in the NL West is just too high to climb.

2. San Francisco – The fate of the Giants in 2015 is going to rest on the starting pitching. Madison Bumgarner is as solid as they come, and Jake Peavy (6-4, 2.17 with SF last year) should be reliable as well. The Giants need Matt Cain to be healthy and return to form. Forty year old Tim Hudson just had ankle surgery and likely won’t be ready for the start of the season, and who knows what that means for his durability this year. Then there is the number five slot – 37 year old Ryan Vogelson (8-13, 4.00, 1.28 WHIP) or 31 year old Tim Lincecum (12-9, 4.74, 1.39 WHIP)? Neither strikes fear into the hearts of men.

Catcher Buster Posey and right fielder Hunter Pence anchor a so-so offense. If first baseman Brandon Belt is healthy and resurrects the 2013 version of himself, that will certainly help. The Panda is in Boston and the Giants traded with Miami for Casey McGehee to replace him. I think he was a solid choice. He was named the Comeback Player of the Year last season. After playing for a year in Japan, he came back and hit .287 while driving in 76 runs for the Marlins. He showed decent power while playing for Milwaukee from 2009-2011, hitting as many as 23 homers in a season (2010).

The best part of this teams resides in the bullpen, a fact that will likely win them a lot of games. The Giants actually have two closers in Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo. Casilla assumed the role midway through the year, but the two combined for 42 saves in 51 tries. Then there’s Jean Machi (2.58, 0.95 WHIP, 71 appearances) and Jeremy Affeldt (2.28, 1.10 WHIP, 62 appearances), and Yusmeiro Petit (1.02 WHIP, 12 starts, 27 relief appearances). While Petit was great out of the pen, he might more valuable as a starter if Vogelson and Lincecum remain inconsistent.

1. Los Angeles – The Dodgers were nearly as active as the Padres and shipped a couple of big names away in Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp. In doing so, I actually think the Dodgers might have made themselves a better team. I say that with two provisos: Yasil Puig has got to behave himself and not become a huge distraction, and Joc Pederson better be as good as everyone seems to think he is.

There’s no denying that the top three in the Dodger rotation – Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu are as good as the come. The free agent signing of Brandon McCarthy from the Yankees will give them a solid fourth starter. If Brett Anderson can stay healthy and return to the form he showed in Oakland prior to Tommy John surgery in 2011, the Dodgers will be thrilled. The top three arms in the bullpen in Kenley Jansen, Brandon League, JP Howell are as good as they come and should be able to hold leads on a consistent basis.

The Dodgers traded Dee Gordon and then traded Andrew Heaney to the Angels to get his replacement in Howie Kendrick. Kendrick doesn’t have Gordon’s speed, but otherwise he is an upgrade offensively. Jimmy Rollins takes over at short for Hanley Ramirez – a downgrade on offense but a serious defensive upgrade. Adrian Gonzalez (.276, 27 homers, 116 RBI) is as solid as they come, and there’s no doubt Puig is talented, despite his antics. Carl Crawford showed signs of life last season, and if he stays healthy this year will be a valuable person to have beside Pederson in the outfield.

They were the best team in the NL last season, but gagged in the playoffs. No reason to think they won’t be the class of the league again – hopefully, for Don Mattingly, with a different outcome this time.

 

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.