Saturday, July 19, 2014

No Love for Wiggins?

Trading Andrew is a Bad Move for the Cavs

Would you trade Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love?

That is the question you’ve probably heard if you’ve so much as been within earshot of a SportsCenter episode in the past week. (Don’t worry, the NFL season is right around the corner.)

Side rant: the new SC studio is an eye-sore and quite cavernous. So monstrous, in fact, that Stephen A. Smith has been forced to use the former set in light of the echoes he produced while screaming during his segments.

“Would you trade Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love?” is also the question that the real (not to be confused with the shameless, rip-off version: this website) posed in a recent “staff shootaround” article.

Mr. Editor-In-Chief himself, Bill Simmons, took the first shot, so to speak. He made some great points (he always does) with his usual witty and scintillating style. (Sorry, did I over-slob his knob just then?) His best point was this:

“What if sending Wiggins to Playing With LeBron Camp turned out to be the greatest thing that ever happened to Andrew Wiggins? What if this single-handedly altered his professional destiny? What if LeBron turned him into his basketball clone, much like Jordan brainwashed Pippen into evolving into his perfect sidekick?

For this reason alone, the Cavs would have to be crazy not to take a chance on Wiggins becoming the Pippen to LeBron’s Jordan.

Yes, it’s absurdly unrealistic and speculative to believe that some goofy Canadian, with a voice like Urkel, will become the next Scottie Pippen.

In fact, it’s unrealistic to believe that any draft pick is going to become a Hall of Famer. The statistics laugh in that believer’s face.

But Andrew Wiggins doesn’t have to be the next Scottie Pippen (just as much as King James is never going to be the next Michael Jordan). Wiggins just has to be a better fit for the Cavs in the long run than Kevin Love. (Let’s get real, LeBron isn’t coming home for only two years.)

Yeah, Kevin Love is one of the top-10 players in the league right now. He’s an all-world power forward/center who averaged 26.1 ppg and 12.5 rebounds last season.

No other big man can hit the three like Love and he’s Hack-a-Shaq proof—a career 82 % shooter from the line. And, like any native SoCal’er, he’s thinking, “What the hell am I doing in Minnesota?”

Love immediately turns the Cavs from Eastern-Conference favorite to a near-championship lock.

I mean, can you imagine a Kyrie/Love/LeBron trio? Fans in San Antonio are shitting their pants right now thinking about that scenario.

BUT… (there’s always a big ‘ol but)

Kevin Love is never going to be anyone’s Scottie Pippen. He’s going to want the ball—but it’s not his ball to have. It’s LeBron’s.

And after having to do just about everything except mop the court in Miami this past season, don’t you think Lebron would benefit from a pair of young legs to help him on defense? Those are Andrew Wiggins’ legs. Not Kevin Love’s.

Don’t get me wrong. Love is a better player than Wiggins will ever be—he just may not be a better player for LeBron.

If you want to believe that this year’s draft class is the deepest since the LeBron/Bosh/Melo/Wade class of ’03 (and many people do), then how in the name of Dan Gilbert do the Cavs give up on what could possibly be their “next LeBron”? (Metaphorically speaking, of course. There is no “next Lebron.”)

What are they going to do to? Wait another decade for a chance at the number one overall pick in an incredibly deep draft class?

Hell no, they aren’t.

Give Wiggins a chance to play with LeBron, and if he proves to be the next Anthony Bennett, then ship him off for Love to Minnesota in February (the cruelest of punishments).

The Cleveland Cavaliers should play wait-and-see with Wiggins—even if Love is in the air.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chomping at the Bit

Why America Suddenly Loves Soccer

On June 24, Luis Suárez took the expression “Eat or Be Eaten” to an entirely new level. And instantly, America’s appetite for the World Cup increased.

Soccer has always been America’s least favorite child. Not enough action. Not enough offense. Not enough physical contact. Not enough steroids.

Well, one psycho from Uruguay saw America’s “not enough physical contact” excuse and raised us a blood-sucking bite that made Dracula’s chomp look like a kitten’s.

That got our attention. 

Twitter exploded. Facebook nearly burned down. And within mere minutes, there were more memes about the incident than Mayweather has millions.  

I mean, this nut job fuckin’ bit a guy. The dude sunk his vampire teeth into another player's shoulder.  

Sure, we watch basketball players tear their ACL’s, pitchers get hit in the face by a ball traveling 120mph, and football players get knocked backed to the 3rd grade.

But this? No, this was something really juicy (pun intended).

Not only did there seem to be no provocation from the Italian player, but, after the match, Suárez added insult to incisor by completely denying that the bite happened.

Oh, and to top it all off, this wasn’t even his first offense. It was the third time Suárez has done this.

I guess you don’t earn the nickname “Cannibal” for nothing.

In light of the incident, FIFA banned Suarez for 9 matches with Uruguay, 4 months from all soccer activities and stadiums, fined him $112,000, and are requiring all future opponents of Suárez to wear garlic around their necks while they play. (Only one of those punishments isn’t real.)

All of America thanks you, Suárez—because now we have one more reason to enjoy watching soccer.

Let’s take a look at some other reasons why America’s interest in soccer has suddenly peaked:

1. The USMNT is Finally a Contender

I believe! I believe that! I believe that we...okay, you know the rest.

But it’s true.

The team that America sent to this year’s World Cup was one that the country could believe in.
They beat a tough squad from Ghana, nearly defeated Portugal (the 4th-ranked team in the world), managed not to get man-handled by the Germans (more than Brazil can say), and made their way out of the “Group of Death” very much alive.

And even in a devastating, hard-fought loss to the red devils of Belgium, Tim Howard showed that we have one of, if not the best keeper on the entire planet, saving 16 shots, the most by any player in a World Cup match over the last 50 years.

Four years ago, watching parties didn’t exist.

And four years from now, we’ll believe even more that the USMNT will win.

2. The FIFA Generation

If you’ve ever been to a college dorm room, you’ve probably played a game of FIFA.

You know, that utterly-addicting video game with the entertaining, imitable, British play-by-play?

It’s a great game, an even better drinking game, and the biggest reason why my generation knows anything about soccer and its players. (Yes, I refuse to call it fùtbol.)

3. Because Baseball is Boring

What else do we have to keep our collective sports attention occupied by during the month of July?

Oh yeah, our “national pastime”, baseball.

But besides myself, I don’t know a single soul who enjoys watching a baseball game from start to finish.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball more than anything in the world, but even I can admit that it’s boring.

I mean, seriously, who wants to watch 30 seconds of nothing in between pitches?

Furthermore, without steroids, scoring is down, home runs are down; just about everything is down—besides strikeouts. And this bodes badly for baseball.

And now that the LeBronathon is over (isn’t it great that he’s going back to the Cavs?), what else is there to watch?

The World Cup, that’s what.

Championship Prediction
Ze Germans handle Messi and the Argentines in extra time, 2-1. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Five Yankees That Don't Deserve to Don the Pinstripes

The 2014 New York Yankees (41-42) are a bad team.
They’re not a mediocre team, not a below-average team, nor are they a struggling-for-the-time-being team. They are a cringe-worthy, head-shaking, throw-your-remote-at-the-television, reeking-pile-of-garbage bad team. 

And the only consolation is that the Boston Red Sox are even worse.

Okay, maybe I shouldn't have started writing this immediately after the Yankees lost their fifth straight game, a 6-3 defeat by the Tampa Bay Rays, but the hell with it, I'm going to keep fuming. 

The Yankees have one starter who knows how to pitch, the most miserable, range-less infield in the league, and a lineup so anemic and un-clutch that I have come to expect failure from them, and any bit of offensive success has come as more of a surprise than Aaron Hernandez winning Sportsman of the Year. (Fine, that last one may have been an overstatement.)

It doesn’t matter that the American League East is the weakest division in baseball this year. It doesn’t matter that the Yankees are only 4 ½ games out with half the season left to play. It is far enough into the schedule to feel that this Yankees team isn’t going to have what it takes to make the playoffs.

In fact, this “team” isn’t even worthy of that noun as a description.

The 2014 Yankees have shown to be no more than a collection of overpaid, over-aged, fireless individuals who seem more than happy to collect their paychecks and offer the same tiresome answers game after game about their struggles—something along the lines of “We’ve done it before. We believe we can still do it. Look at the back of our baseball cards.”

Well, it’s more than halfway through the season, and when the new baseball cards are printed by Topps this winter, there’s a strong chance many Yankees will no longer be able to say “look at the back of my baseball card” because the numbers next to the 2014 line won’t be something to fall back on. 

I would love for the Yanks to prove me wrong, but this season seems beyond repair, and all I have to say is: thank God for Masahiro Tanaka. Without this guy, most Yankee fans wouldn’t have a reason to watch this sorry excuse of a New York Yankees “team.”

Of course, none of these words apply to Derek Jeter. He’s a living legend who has worn the pinstripes impeccably and deserves better than this for his for final season. (2015 is going to be something bizarre.)

Being a New York Yankee and donning those pinstripes comes with a certain level of expected performance.

But somehow, there are players that don’t even deserve to be in the Major Leagues putting on the most sacred uniform in all of baseball on a daily basis.

Somewhere, at some Starbucks in Seattle, Robinson Cano is laughing. 

Here are five players that don’t deserve to don the pinstripes:

1. Kelly Johnson (.218, 5 HR, 19 RBI)

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but after watching Johnson blunder his way through the first half of the season, it makes me long for the days of the A-Rod circus. 

We knew Johnson wouldn’t come close to replicating A-Rod’s numbers (diminished as they were). And we knew he would be making a transition to a position (3B/1B) that he had never played before. 

But the power numbers everyone thought he would put up with the short-porch in right field at Yankee Stadium simply aren’t there, and watching this guy field has been downright painful at times.

My Little League first baseman would have made this pick at firstbut not Johnson.

I didn’t expect much from a man named Kelly, but watching him play has been utterly brutal. 

2.  Alfonso Soriano (.225, 6 HR, 23 RBI)

At 38 years of age, you expected a drop in production, but not this much. After jolting the Yankees at the trade deadline in 2013, Soriano’s bat looks slow, his swing looks long, and his pitch recognition has been completely nonexistent. 

The whole world knows a two-strike slider is coming his way—except for Soriano. Alfonso has had some of the ugliest strikeouts in the league this season. This pie chart breaks it down pretty accurately.

3.  Vidal Nuno (2-5, 5.42 ERA)

You know things are bad with the Yankees’ rotation when a guy who was pitching in the Frontier League (the Frontier League?) for the Washington Wild Things as recently as 2011 is getting the ball every five days. 

And every five days, I feel like I’m watching a home run derby. Nuno has given up 15 home runs. His numbers speak for themselves: 2-5 with a 5.42 ERA with only 3 quality starts out of 14.

If and when CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda finally return, or the Yankees make a trade for an arm, you can be sure Nuno will be the first to go. His days donning the Yankee pinstripes are limited. 

4. Yangervis Solarte (.260, 6 HR, 30 RBI)

This career minor-leaguer shot out of the gate with a bang and essentially carried the Yankees offense for most of April and May batting .299 with 6 homers and 26 RBI.

But then he showed why he has been a career minor-leaguer, going through a 10-for-61 (.164) slump in June with no homers and only 4 RBI. 

The Yankees must have read this post, because after writing it, sure enough, Solarte was sent back down to the minors and is no longer wearing the pinstripes. 

You’re energy and awesome name will be missed, Solo. 

5. Brian Roberts (.237, 4 HR, 17 RBI)

Everyone knew that Roberts would be no Robby Cano, but I expected more than what Brian has brought with the bat thus far.

His batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position (the situation which has haunted the Yankees all season long) is the worst on the team at a pathetic .148. 

Like his stature, his range at second base is miniscule. If I have to watch one more ball go just over his leaping try, I’m going to personally send him a pair of shoe lifts myself. 

Let’s hope another Rob (ascending Yankees’ Triple-A prospect Rob Refsnyder) takes Roberts place soon enough. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The End of an Era

Captain Clutch's Final Chapter

Being a New York Yankees fan isn’t easy.
And now that every Kansas City Royals fan has stopped reading this post, let me explain why.

I get it. You’re laughing at me. How can a fan of a team with 27 World Series trophies make such a ludicrous assertion?

But you see, winning breeds jealously and hate.

This explains why, generally, if you don’t like the Yankees, you hate the Yankees. There is no middle ground. And why? Money. The Yankees have a lot of it—and that makes many fans of other teams upset.

I was seven years old the first time I heard the question.

“A Yankees fan? What the hell do you like them for?” asked a hardened, decrepit Phillies fan.

The answer was easy.

“Because they win,” I retorted.

But then came the response that would soon become all too familiar. 

“But the Yankees buy all their championships!”

And at that moment, I discovered the quintessential comeback to that claim:

“But the Yankees have Derek Jeter.”

15 years later, those words are still my saving grace as a Yankees fan. Derek Jeter has made it easy. But after this season, I’m not sure what my comeback will be...

The captain will be no more. The last of my childhood Yankees will be gone. Never again will we see number 2 roaming the area between second and third base. 

No more beautiful inside-out swings. No more patented jump throws. No more spine-chilling memories from Mr. November.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Lesson in Premature Celebration

How the Worst Loss in Fantasy Football History Unfolded

Premature celebration happens to the best of us. We’ve all been there. 

Your team blows a five-run ninth-inning lead, the dreaded yellow flags fly onto the field, or some crazy shit like this happens (sorry Spurs fans), and then all that euphoria previously enjoyed in those magical seconds in which your brain has convinced you that something glorious has happened, is taken away with a soul-crushing reversal of fortune.

Yes, premature celebration has devastating consequences. Worst of all, no known cure for premature celebration exists. 

And in my experience as a sports fan, I’ve realized that I’m highly predisposed to this condition (the jury is still out on if genetics is a factor).

I’ve suffered many episodes of premature celebration in my lifetime, but none more painful and embarrassing than this past Sunday, Week 17 in the NFL.

This tragic tale involves fantasy football, and if you’re looking for a reason to quit this evil enterprise, then you should keep reading.

If you’ve won your league championship this season (or ever for that matter) and think you’re better than the rest of us, you’re not. It could have happened to you.

Because for ten triumphant, breathtaking seconds at the end of the Eagles-Cowboys Sunday night season finale I was one of you. I was a fantasy football champion. 

I let it wash over me. As I was on the verge of passing out, I felt a strange sensation with my tongue. I could literally taste victory, and it was fucking delicious.

I couldn’t believe it. It was a fantasy miracle. I had just seemingly won by half a point when the fantasy football Gods smited me in the form of Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.

A great man once said, “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” Truer words have never been uttered. Here’s the saga of the worst loss in fantasy football history:

Episode I:

The Week Before
My fantasy league held a two-week scoring period. So after my team pulled out a huge win in Week 15, I snuck into the championship. 

I put all my stock on a high scoring Monday night affair between the Bears and Eagles in Week 16 with Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, and Zach Ertz. And it was a high scoring affair (on the Eagles end at least), just not by any of the dudes I just mentioned. 

My opponent had Foles and McCoy. Heading into the game our scores were reasonably close, with the projection slightly in my favor. And what happens? Naturally Foles and McCoy light up the fantasy scoreboard to the tune of 48 points. 

Meanwhile Cutler, Forte (and the rest of the Bears team for that matter) looked like they forgot how to play football. It’s almost as if the Bears forgot you had to do a little more than just show up to the game. 

The Eagles put up 55 points and neither Jackson or Ertz accounted for any of them. So, I headed into the last week of my fantasy season trailing 73-112.5 (our league had a 0.5 PPR scoring system).

Needless to say, my team completely choked when it mattered most. An almost 40-point deficit? Fuck it. I was pretty much eliminated already. Sure, it stung, but I was the underdog in this matchup anyway. 

I had no chance. There was no hope. It was beautiful.

Hope Meter (0-10): 0

The Injury Report
In Week 16, my number one overall pick Adrian Peterson finally shut it down for the season. I was going to have a big gap to fill for the upcoming week. 

I decided to take Zac Stacy (my best waiver pickup of the season and a consistent producer all year) out of my flex and plug him into the hole left by AP. 

Sure, Stacy was facing the 5th ranked defense against the run in the Seattle Seahawks, but he rushed for 134 against the very same Seahawks in Week 8. And the waiver wire for running backs was a complete scrub fest by this point in the season, so I figured Stacy was my only option.

The Waiver Wire/Rosterbation
I had lost my all-star tight end Rob Gronkowski to a torn ACL a couple weeks earlier. And ever since, my tight end situation had been a complete nightmare. 

This week, I picked up some dude I never heard of on the Houston Texans (Ryan Griffin) partly because he had the highest projection of available tight ends on the wire and partly because he may or may not be related to Peter Griffin (RIP Brian the Dog). 

I took a quick peak at running backs for the hell of it. Nothing.

I chose not to start my best receiver, DeSean Jackson, with the theory that the only way to overcome a 40-point deficit is by Nick Foles having an awful game. And if he has an awful game, Desean Jackson would have an awful game. 

So, I decided to start Jordy Nelson instead after I found out Aaron Rodgers was finally going to return to the Packers. Julian Edeleman on the Patriots was my WR2 and in a desperation move, I decided to move the highly unreliable Marques Colston into my flex.

By Saturday night, I had finally come to peace with the lineup in front of me (sadly it was not rosterbating material) and decided that I wouldn’t even look at it again until the games started. 

Quick tip: Don’t ever do what I just said I did in that last sentence.

Never come to peace, always tinker. Lineups can always be better.

Drive your self crazy contemplating which kicker your going to start until 1:04 pm on Sunday. Because if you don’t, it might just haunt you for the rest of your life. (Maybe I’m exaggerating?)

Hope Meter: 3 (The Foles-Jackson Theory got me a little excited.)

Episode II:

Game Day
I woke up early so I could catch the 1pm games. It wasn’t easy, but I somehow rolled out of bed at 12:45. Just enough time to grab a fat bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and wander up to my resting place for the rest of the day: the couch in front of the TV. 

I put 16 weeks of blood, sweat, and tears into meticulously setting my lineup, and judgment day was finally here: the last Sunday of fantasy football. And I needed a miracle.

The Early Games
In the 1pm games, I had Andrew Luck as my QB, Ryan Griffin as my TE, the Panthers D/ST, and fantasy-stud kicker Justin Tucker.

Luck had an average game with 15 fantasy points. The Griffin dude apparently got me 5.5 points. (I don’t know how, because there was no way I was watching the worst team in the league attempt to play football.) The second-ranked Panthers defense came up huge as usual with a 17-point showing, and Tucker rebounded from the goose egg he put up the week before with a respectable 9-point performance. 

Four of my players put up a combined 46.5 points, while my opponent had three players (Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon, and Coby Fleener) put up a combined 21 points. It was a decent start, but I still needed that fantasy miracle.

Hope Meter: 5

The Late Games
My fantasy miracle came in a combination form of Jordy Nelson and Matt Forte. 

Nelson reaped the benefits of a returning Rodgers and rewarded fantasy owners smart enough to start them (remember the Foles-Jackson theory?) with 21 points. His highest fantasy total in nine weeks! 

In the same game, Matt Forte decides to have his highest fantasy output of the season scoring three touchdowns and an unworldly 35 fantasy points.

Meanwhile, Edelman comes up clutch with 12.5 points and Colston puts up enough points (9) for me not to hate myself for starting him. 

I remember doing something like this. Until, I checked to see how Zac Stacy did.

About Zac Stacy...
It turned out that this week, Stacy was my lineup’s Anna Kournikova: looked great, didn’t play well. 

I mean, this guy had been an absolute horse for me since my stroke-of-genius waiver wire addition in Week 7. He had averaged 17.5 fantasy points for me the past two weeks. There was no way I wasn’t sticking with him. I mean who on the waiver wire could do better anyway? 

Knile Davis could. 

Wait, who the fuck is Knile Davis? 

Well, it turns out the Chiefs decided early Sunday morning (the one time I didn’t bother doing a last minute lineup check) that the man who would be replacing fantasy MVP RB Jamaal Charles that day would be none other than never-heard-of-him-in-my-life Knile Davis. 

And as it turns out, it doesn’t matter who the Chiefs throw out there at running back, their dude is going to put up fantasy points. Knile Davis went off for 21 points. 

And my horse Zac Stacy? Five miserable, traumatizing points. Really man, really?

Zac Stacy aside, I was still miraculously in this thing. I went into the Eagles-Cowboys season finale with a 43 and a half point lead. My team scored 129 points for the week to push my two-week total to 202. 

My thinking was as long as Nick Foles throws for three interceptions (he had one all season) and DeMarco Murray tears his ACL (ideally in the first quarter), then Shady McCoy could put up a Shady-like game and I could still squeak out a win. 

But the odds of all that happening most likely weren’t in my favor, so I tempered my expectations. I wasn’t going to win, but it might be close.

Hope Meter: 7 (approaching the danger zone)

Episode III:

Philadelphia @ Dallas
I could bore you with the details of me nervously sitting on the edge of my couch rooting for fantasy favorable outcomes for the first 3 ½ quarters, but I won’t. Lets just skip straight to the madness. 

Foles had underperformed, Murray had fumbled, and McCoy was having an average game (below average for him). 

The Cowboys had the ball with 1:49 left in what certainly looked like would be the final drive of the game. 

As my heart was threatening to explode inside my chest, I held onto the slimmest of leads: a half point. As long as Murray didn’t catch a ball on this drive, I would win. 

The drive was short lived, however, as Kyle Orton did his best Tony Romo impression and threw an interception on the very first play from scrimmage. 

I held my breath. My hope meter was approaching eleven. There was 1:43 remaining and the Cowboys only had one timeout remaining. For all intents and purposes, this thing was fuckin’ over.

I collapsed on the ground and that’s when the whole taste-of-victory-on-my-tongue thing went down. Was I really about to become a fantasy champion?

All the Eagles had to do was take a few knees and this puppy was over. 

But then, when the cameras finally switched from a dejected Jerry Jones in his owners box back to the seemingly irrelevant action on the field, the Eagles weren’t lined up in kneel formation.

Instead, there was LeSean McCoy (who needed only 10 more yards for one more point) lined up in the backfield. 

Holy fuck, is Chip Kelly out of his damn mind? Doesn’t he know that there are fantasy championships at stake here?! There’s no way LeSean McCoy is getting 10 yards, even if I have to teleport to Dallas to tackle him myself. 

What happened next is the reason why hope is dangerous and premature celebration is a serious affliction. 

Two handoffs, both to McCoy, 11 total yards, and one crucial fantasy point. Foles finally took a knee and the game was over. 

So was my fantasy season.

The final score? Me: 202, Fantasy Champion (not me): 202.5
Yes, it really happened. Maybe it was karma for my team's name?

This is why you shouldn’t play fantasy football. 

It takes up hours of your time, depletes you of an unreasonable amount of mental and physical health, and ruins great games like Eagles-Cowboys for the NFC East title.

Oh, and did I mention I’m an Eagles fan?

*Freak Stat Correction Update

The day after I posted this, I checked my league box score in one last desperate hope that there had been a stat correction (I had checked every day since Monday—it was Friday now). 

There were only two players that had stat corrections for Week 17.

One of them was Demarco Murray. 

The stat correction? A loss of three yards rushing to bring his game total from 51 yards to 48. In our league, that meant a one point deduction.

I stared at my computer screen in disbelief. I had done it. I had won, and then I had lost, and now I had won again?

I let out a roar that went down a little something like this

You really can't make this shit up. The final final score? 

Fantasy Champion (me): 202, Other guy: 201.5