NOTICE TO MY READERS 

Due to technical difficulties created by Hurricane Irma hitting South Florida,  my blog will be on hiatus. 

Myself and my family all made it through the storm without any major damage or difficulty. Unfortunately I am currently without wifi and I’m publishing this message from my cell phone. 

Hopefully I will resume next week.

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NFL PREVIEW PART 2-THE NFC

Before I begin, I would like to take this opportunity to tell my fellow Floridians and everyone else in the path of Hurricane Irma to please follow any directions given by local authorities.  Please make sure you have plenty of water and supplies on hand. Good luck to everyone who is  riding out this storm. Please take this storm seriously!  I pray we all stay safe!

When last I left you, we had previewed the American Football Conference, tonight we look at the National Football Conference.

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Will Dak Prescott continue his success after an amazing rookie campaign?

Let’s begin in the east.  Last year there was a changing of the guard in Dallas.  Rookie Dak Prescott took over the reins from future hall of famer Tony Romo.  Prescott, along with rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott shocked the NFL with a 13-3 record.  Will these wonder rookies carry their success into their sophomore year?  Elliott will play in the Cowboys opener on Sunday and then begin a six game suspension stemming from a domestic violence incident.

Meanwhile, the New York Giants have added Brandon Marshall to Odell Beckham, Jr. in Eli Manning’s arsenal of targets.  The Cowboys and Giants should be a touch and go battle beginning with their tilt on Sunday night.

The Northern Division could turnout to be a crap-shoot.  With the exception of the 3-13 Chicago Bears the “Black and Blue Division” was separated by a total of  2 games last year. Will Matthew Stafford’s record contract extension motivate him to lead the Detroit Lions to a division title?  Will Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers repeat as champs?  Can the Minnesota Vikings become the first team to play a Super Bowl at home?  Lots of questions in an interesting division.

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Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

 

In the Southern Division, the big question to this writer surrounds the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.  Will the second half implosion in last year’s Super Bowl result in a hangover?  Can Matt Ryan and Julio Jones reprise the magical seasons that they both had in 2016?

 

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Can Adrian Peterson revive the New Orleans Saints?

The New Orleans Saints signed future hall of famer Adrian Peterson during the off-season.  Can Peterson and Drew Brees revive the Saints and make them a playoff team again?  Speaking of Super Bowl hangovers, will the Carolina Panthers return to their dominant form from 2015?  Finally, due to Hurricane Irma, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opener in Miami has been moved to their bye week in November.  Will the Bucs run out of gas playing 16 games without a break?

The Western Division has a top tier and a bottom tier.  Will Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson lead the Seattle Seahawks to another division title?  Will Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals unseed them?  Who will hit a harder bottom, the Los Angeles Rams or the San Francisco 49ers?

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Can Richard Sherman lead the Seattle Seahawks defense to another division title?

 

So now it’s prediction time.

Eastern Division:

  1. NY Giants       12-4
  2. Dallas              12-4
  3. Philadelphia    7-9
  4. Washington    4–12

Northern Division:

  1. Green Bay    10-6
  2. Minnesota     9-7
  3. Detroit           9-7
  4. Chicago        4-12

Southern Division:

  1. Atlanta           11-5
  2. Carolina          9-7
  3. Tampa Bay     8-8
  4. New Orleans  5-11

Western Division:

  1. Seattle              11-5
  2. Arizona            10-6
  3. LA Rams          5-11
  4. San Francisco 2-14

Wild Card winners Dallas and Arizona

NFC Championship  Green Bay over Seattle

Super Bowl  Green Bay over New England

Yes, Aaron Rogers will defeat Brady & Company in Minnesota this February!

 

Program note.  I will be on hiatus this weekend.  Originally it was for a little R&R, but a lady named Irma had other ideas.  I will be surrounded by friends and family as we ride out this hurricane over the weekend.  I am hoping all will be well for me to resume Wednesday Night Baseball after the storm.  I will try to keep you, my readers, posted.

 

NFL PREVIEW-PART 1, THE AFC

Labor Day weekend is upon us!  Baseball teams have raised their rosters to 40 men, the fashion world tells us not to wear white anymore, and the summer is about to unofficially end.  That can mean only one thing….IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON!

Football began for real this weekend with a full slate of college games.  This coming Thursday night the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will open the NFL season by hosting the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots will open the NFL season on Thursday night.
This morning’s article will be the first of two parts.  I will give you my take on the American Football Conference today, on Wednesday night it’ll be the National Football Conference’s turn.

Let’s begin in the East.  Will the New England Patriots win this division for a ninth straight time?  The last team other than the Patriots to finish first in the AFC East was the Miami Dolphins in 2008.  That broke a five-year New England winning streak.

If anyone is going to interrupt the Patriots current domination of this division it could be a revamped Miami Dolphins.  Ryan Tannehill’s season ending injury might actually open the door for new blood running Miami’s offense.  The last time Jay Cutler teamed up with Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, the Dolphin’s fill-in starter had a career year.  Jay Ajayi proved last year that he could be the best runner on South Beach since Ricky Williams.  Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and a healthy Devante Parker will provide explosive targets for Cutler.

New England’s loss of Julian Edelman for the season might not slow Tom Brady and company down.  The Patriots seem to reinvent themselves when the injury bug strikes.  Last year the Pats shook off Rob Gronkowski’s injury riddled season to win the Super Bowl.  Yesterday New England acquired Phillip Dorsett from the Indianapolis Colts to fill in for Edelman.

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Le’Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers are the class of the AFC North.

 

In the Northern Division, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the odds-on favorites.  Will Ben Roethlisberger remain healthy this year?  Will featured back Le’Veon Bell continue to be one of the best runners in football?  If the Steelers can stay healthy it looks like this division is theirs to win.  The Ravens and Bengals seem to be a step behind Pittsburgh.  The Cleveland Browns could be flirting with a winless season.

The Southern Division could be the most interesting in the conference.  Can the Tennessee Titans pull off a division championship in a rather weak division?  Could the combination of Marcus Mariotta and Demarco Murray be enough to lead the charge in the South?

 

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Can J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans finish a Cinderella story in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey?

 

A storybook finish would favor the defending division champion Texans.  J.J. Watt has been in the news lately, because of the $13 million that he has raised for his neighbors in Houston as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  A Texans division championship would be an unbelievable ending to a season that is beginning amid a natural disaster.

Last time we saw the teams in the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders fan base watched their dream season go up in smoke when quarterback Derek Carr suffered an ankle injury. Carr showed up at camp completely healthy and ready to lead the Raiders to a division title  The Raiders were in the news during the off-season with two major stories.

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Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to join the Oakland Raiders.

 

Marshawn Lynch has come out of retirement to join the Raiders.  The Raiders also announced during the off-season they will move to Las Vegas in 2020.  Will the Raiders leave the Bay Area as Super Bowl Champions down the road?  This team is by far the class of the AFC West.  The Kansas City Chiefs have a shot at making the post-season as a wild card winner.

So here are my AFC predictions for 2017:

Eastern Division:

  1. New England    13-3
  2. Miami                10-6
  3. Buffalo               6-10
  4. NY Jets               2-14

Northern Division:

  1. Pittsburgh     11-5
  2. Baltimore        9-7
  3. Cincinnati       7-9
  4. Cleveland       1-15

Southern Division:

  1. Tennessee       10-6
  2. Houston            9-7
  3. Indianapolis   6-10
  4. Jacksonville    4-12

Western Division:

  1. Oakland         12-4
  2. Kansas City   10-6
  3. Denver           5-11
  4. LA Chargers  3-13

 

Wild Card winners:  Miami, Kansas City

Conference Championship: Oakland vs. New England

Conference Champion: New England

 

So, there you have it, do you agree??? Any thoughts???? On Wednesday night I tackle the NFC.

A program note, as a result of this double blog to kickoff the NFL season, Wednesday Night Baseball will not publish this week.  Additionally, I will be on hiatus next weekend to spend time with friends and family.  See you Wednesday!

 

 

A WEEK THAT BASEBALL WONT SOON FORGET

It’s been an interesting week to say the least.  From the last time I wrote about baseball, the Miami Marlins have won 4 out of 6 games. Miami now finds themselves five and a half games behind the Colorado Rockies for the second National League Wild Card spot.  The even bigger story coming out of South Beach these days is the torrid pace that Giancarlo Stanton is hitting home runs at.  Since we last spoke, Stanton has hit 5 round-trippers, and became the first player since Chris Davis in 2013 to hit 50 home runs in a season.  He is sitting on 51 as I write this, and it isn’t even Labor Day yet!

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Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton leads the Major Leagues with 51 home runs.

Last Wednesday night a rarity occurred at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.  Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Rich Hill pitched the game of his career.  Hill was perfect going into the ninth inning of a scoreless tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Jordy Mercer lead off the Pirates half of the ninth by hitting a ground ball to third base.  Dodgers’ third baseman Logan Forsythe booted the grounder to break up the perfect game.  Hill would get out of the inning without allowing a hit.  This would’ve put the finishing touches on the second no-hitter of this year, except the game was still scoreless!  Josh Harrison lead off the tenth inning with a home run.  His walk-off broke up the no-no and pinned Hill with a loss after nine innings of no-hit pitching.

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Rich Hill takes the loss after pitching nine innings without allowing a hit.

 

Last Friday night, life changed forever in Southeast Texas.  Hurricane Harvey battered the Texas Gulf Coast during the night and into the morning as a Category 4 storm, that was just the beginning.  It would stall over the Houston  metropolitan area as a Tropical Storm  and flood the city and surrounding areas until yesterday.  Over 50 inches of rain fell in some places.

As a result, fun and games came to a halt in Houston.  Over the weekend the Astros were out in Anaheim playing the Angels.  The NFL Texans were in New Orleans on Saturday night playing the Saints in a preseason game.

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Flooding from Hurricane Harvey outside Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The Astros and Texans were supposed to come home on Monday, neither of them did. Both teams arrived in Dallas on Sunday.  The Astros were scheduled to host their cross-state rival Texas Rangers this week at Minute Maid Park, while the Texans were scheduled to host their cross-state rivals from Dallas on Thursday.  It was to be the preseason finale for both teams.

The city of Houston was in no condition to host sporting events this week.  After moving the Texans-Cowboys preseason tilt to AT&T Stadium in Dallas, the NFL cancelled the game altogether so the Texans could return to Houston to tend to their families and neighbors.

The Astros and Rangers are also scheduled to play a three game series in late September in Arlington.  The Astros approached the Rangers about swapping the two series’ and play this week in Arlington and in Houston in September.  Much to the shock of most fans, the Rangers balked at the idea of going to Houston in September.  This writer is still floored by the decision of  Texas Rangers’ brain trust.  This is how you handle a crisis in YOUR state?? This situation was about real life, this wasn’t about a Wild Card race and the prospect of playing on the road late in the season!  Terrible decision, guys.

Hat’s off to the Tampa Bay Rays who opened their ballpark to host the three game series. And yes, the Rangers get to play host in September.  GO ASTROS!

 

I dedicate this article to everyone affected by the tragedy that has hit Southeast Texas.  I was made aware of two families that my friends are personally connected to that lost everything.  Thank God they are all alive and safe and able to rebuild their lives.  It hit me personally knowing that businesses that I work closely with suffered major damage in Port Aransas, and Fulton as well as in Port Arthur. Many were not as fortunate, the death toll will rise in the coming days.

The population of Houston, Galveston, Beaumont and the surrounding areas desperately need help.  In addition to financial donations, simple supplies are needed such as toiletries, towels, clothing, and diapers.  So many common items were washed away, so many lives are gone, or stripped.  Be strong Texas!

A NEW YEAR WITH THE SAME BAD CHAMPIONSHIP SYSTEM

I would like to begin today’s blog by wishing all of my friends and readers in the coastal regions of Texas, God Speed.  I also would like to offer prayers for all to ride out Hurricane Harvey safely.  Good luck to all!

Last night the College Football season opened in a limited capacity with fourteenth ranked Stanford and nineteenth ranked University of South Florida both seeing action.  The season will begin in earnest on Thursday night with #2 Ohio State playing Indiana and #10 Oklahoma State going up against the University of Tulsa.

As yet another season gets underway, I have a few questions regarding the ranking system.  First off, how are there rankings in place before any actual games are played?  I know this goes on in basketball too, but the National Championship in basketball is determined by a 68 school tournament!  Secondly, as the defending National Champions from Clemson defend their title, both the AP and USA Today have them ranked #5.  How does that happen? How did they come out on top in January and sink to #5 in August?  Was there a Spring League that was played in secret?  How does Alabama take the top spot?  Last I checked Alabama came out on the short end of a 35-31 score in the National Championship Game!

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Clemson Tigers celebrate the 2016 National Championship.

 

Let’s digest this for a moment, Alabama, who LOST last year’s championship game begins the season as the top team in the nation.  Clemson, who WON last year’s championship game needs to pass USC, Florida State, Ohio State, and Alabama to get back to where they ended last year.  Not only are the defending champions not ranked on top to start the season, they aren’t even in a semi-final position.  How did the Trojans, Buckeyes, and Seminoles cut in front of the defending national champs?  None of this makes sense to this writer!

Let’s also examine the meaning of slots 1 through 4.  In the current National Championship scheme, those are your four playoff positions.  These are also determined by the poles, not by competition.  How does Nick Saban and the boys have a leg up on everyone before the season starts?  Were there style points given out in Spring Mini-Camp?

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Coach Nick Saban leads the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide onto the field.

 

In looking at the opening weekend’s schedule, there is something else that is eye popping.  Clemson opens the season with an “exposure game” vs. Kent State, while Alabama opens on a national stage vs. Florida State.  So follow me on this one, if Florida State upsets Alabama, and Ohio State takes care of business on Thursday against Indiana, either Ohio State or Florida State will take the top spot.  The defending champion Tigers will most likely take care of Kent State and not move anywhere.

To me this is a recipe to remove Clemson from competition before the season even gets rolling.  College Football has been, is, and always will be a popularity contest based on performance and style points.

Some of you might remember a piece I wrote prior to last year’s Bowl Season.  In my opinion, there are way too many Bowl Games that are contested by schools with either .500 or worse records.  I am going to re-print my idea for a national tournament that I outlined last year.  Just like each bracket in the basketball tournament has 16 teams, I believe that football should have a sixteen team national bracket.  This would include the minor Bowl Games as part of the playoffs.  This was based on last year’s top 16 (ignore the dates since I copied and pasted it from the original blog):

 

December 17:

16 West Virginia vs 1 Alabama

15 Western Michigan vs 2 Clemson

14 Auburn vs 3 Ohio State

13 Louisville vs 4 Washington

12 Oklahoma St. vs 5 Penn State

11 Florida St. vs 6 Michigan

10 Colorado vs 7 Oklahoma

9 USC vs 8 Wisconsin

December 23 (since the NFL is playing on Christmas Eve this year):

National Quarterfinals (winners from December 17)

December 31:

National Semifinals

January 9

National Championship.

 

I also think we should scrap the preseason poles.  The Top 25 should begin based on the first weekend’s results.  I also think, just as the Super Bowl champion opens the following NFL season, the National Champion should be playing the marquis game on Opening Weekend.

Whether you like the system that’s in place or not, let’s root hard for our college boys! Good luck to all for a great 2017 season.

 

 

A ONCE IN A CENTURY OCCURRENCE

This past Monday afternoon, most of us here in the United States experienced the first total solar eclipse to occur on our soil in nearly 100 years.  I got to see glimpses of the partial celestial covering that happened here in South Florida, the closest total covering occurred in South Carolina.  I will say that it ranks as one of the most amazing sights my eyes have ever seen!

You may be wondering what a solar eclipse has to do with baseball, or sports in general for that matter.  The answer to that question is, the eclipse has nothing to do with the subject matter of this article.

Tuesday was the tenth anniversary of another rare feat.  On August 22, 2007 the Texas Rangers overcame an early 3-0 deficit to defeat the Baltimore Orioles by the score of 30-3. Yes folks, I didn’t just make a typo, the Rangers lit up Orioles pitching for 30 runs on 29 hits in that game.  To make things even more historic, this modern record-breaking offensive explosion took place during the first game of a doubleheader!  Texas would tack on 9 more runs in a 9-7 victory in the nightcap!

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The scoreboard at Oriole Park at Camden Yards shows the historic linescore.

 

As I mentioned at the top of this article, the Orioles actually lead this contest heading into the fourth inning.  After a five run rally in the fourth by the Rangers, the game was actually competitive, with Texas holding a 5-3 advantage.

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Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia ignited a 9 run rally in the sixth inning.

 

In the top of the sixth, Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia ignited a rally with a solo home run.  Texas would then load the bases and center fielder Marlon Byrd would clear the bases later  on in the inning with a grand slam!  Saltalamacchia drove in a total of seven runs in the game, including two home runs.

 

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Utility infielder, and ninth place hitter, Ramon Vazquez belted two home runs and drove in seven runs.

 

Utility infielder Ramon Vazquez also had a historic night.  The ninth place hitter in the Rangers lineup also belted two homers and also knocked in seven runs.  What’s even more amazing is the fact that Vazquez and Saltalamacchia combined for four homers and 14 RBI and that didn’t even account for half of the scoring!

Texas continued the pounding with a ten run eighth and six run ninth.

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Orioles reliever Paul Shuey allowed nine runs in two innings to finish the game.

Now back to the once in a century part.  The last time a Major League ball-club scored 30 runs in a game was on June 29, 1897 when the old Chicago Colts defeated the old Louisville Cardinals by the score of 36-7. Yes that second digit is an 8!  It was the ninth time in the entire history of Major League Baseball that a team scored over 30 runs in a ballgame.

I leave you with this closing question, what will happen first, a solar eclipse in the United States or a 30 run outburst on a Major League field?

 

 

 

WHO’S READY FOR MID-WEEK FOOTBALL?

Last week as the NFL preseason began in earnest, I was a little perplexed when I looked at the schedule.  Why in the name of Roger Godell are the Texans and Panthers playing on a Wednesday night?  I know it’s preseason, and most NFL games are played on Thursday and Saturday, this time of year, but Wednesday???

Unlike the other three major sports, football has always been a once a week occurrence. Pro football was always played on the weekend, primarily on Sunday.

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The first ever Monday night football game was played between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns on September, 21 1970.

 

For the beginning of the 1970 season, the NFL began a new era as a consolidated league. The American Football League and the National Football League began play as the new NFL.  With NBC maintaining a contract with the AFL and CBS doing the same with the NFL it left America’s third network at the time, without access to carrying NFL games on Sunday.  The league and the network came up with the idea of setting aside one game a week to be played in prime time on Monday.  On September 21, 1970 the Cleveland Browns hosted the New York Jets in a match-up in the newly formed American Football Conference.  The Monday night idea was an overwhelming success and continues to be an American icon today.

With a few “specials” carried by ABC, NFL games would be played on Thursday night and Sunday nights a couple of times a year during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  In 1987 ESPN began carrying games on Sunday nights.  Thanksgiving has always been a staple of games played in Detroit and Dallas, but that goes with the holiday.

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The first NFL Thursday Night Football game was played on Thanksgiving night in 2006 between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.

 

As part of the NFL Network’s “Race to the Playoffs”, Thursday Night Football premiered on Thanksgiving night in 2006. It turned out to be a great way to round out the NFL Thanksgiving schedule, however there continues to be pros and cons of staging games on Thursday on a regular basis.  In this writer’s opinion it’s way too soon to play and makes for  too a short of a  week.  Teams will play on Sunday, recover on Monday, and the road team has to travel on either Tuesday or Wednesday.  This really doesn’t leave much preparation time.

Since the debut of Thursday Night Football, it’s scheduling has been controversial.  Is it too high of an injury risk?  Does the home team have the distinct advantage of not having a travel day?  Are the ratings, which have run hot and cold over the years, really worth it?

The pros of the Thursday night game are the prime-time slot and the fact that it provides a kickoff to the NFL weekend.

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The Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers played a preseason game on Wednesday August 9th.  Is this a sign of things to come?

 

Now, back to the preseason schedule, Mr. Godell, does last week’s Wednesday night game mean there are feelers out there from the NFL to sink deeper into the midweek? Since Friday belongs to the high schools, and scheduling games Tuesday is just not feasible, is Wednesday now on the league’s radar?

In an era of concussion protocol, and players weary of suffering life long injury, is it really necessary to take a weekend icon deeper into the midweek?  Monday night actually adds a preparation day, since the road team can  travel on Sunday.  Thursday is way too soon, and Wednesday is pushing an already pushed envelope.

A RECORD SETTING YEAR IN HOLLYWOOD?

It’s been an interesting year in the National League West to say the least.

As of this writing, the surprising tandem of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies find themselves tied atop the National League Wild Card Race.  They currently hold a four-and-a-half game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, and a five game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.  Both have records of 66-53 going into play tonight.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that the Wild Card leaders from the west have no shot at a division title.  In fact , the Brewers and Cardinals have more a shot at winning the Central title.  Coming into play tonight Milwaukee trails the defending World Champion Cubs by one game, St. Louis trails their arch-rivals from Chicago by a game-and-a-half.

So why are two teams that have had such a stronghold on the National League Wild Card race so far back in their divisional race?  The answer resides in the Chavez Ravine section of Los Angeles.  The Dodgers currently hold an 18 1/2 game lead over the Diamondbacks and Rockies.  Yes, the same two teams that have led the Wild Card pack throughout the season trail the Dodgers by over 18 games.

On June 1st the Dodgers were actually in third place in the division with a record of 33-22.  Colorado and Arizona shared the top spot in the division at 34-22.  Since June 1st the Dodgers have gone 51-12, by far the hottest team in the Majors.  Currently Los Angeles is 50 games over .500 at 84-34.  The Dodgers are on pace to win 115 games.

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Cody Bellinger has hit 34 home runs and driven in 79 runs.

Perhaps the turning point of this unbelievable Hollywood script came in late April.  Due to an injury to Joc Pederson, the Dodgers brought up first baseman Cody Bellinger from AAA Oklahoma City.  Since his call-up, Bellinger has been one of baseball’s biggest stories. As of this writing Bellinger is hitting .275, has hit 34 home runs and has 79 RBI’s.  Keep in mind Bellinger didn’t get started with the big club until the end of April.

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Yu Darvish is 2-0 since being acquired from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline.

 

Another new cog in the machine that has taken baseball by storm is Yu Darvish.  The veteran starter was acquired from Texas at the trade deadline.  All Darvish has done in Dodger blue so far is compile a 2–0 record, and an ERA of 1.50.  He has allowed a total of 2 earned runs in 12 innings pitched, and has recorded 20 strikeouts.

The 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1906 Cubs are tied for the most wins in a single season.  The Mariners were a torrid 116-46 in 2001, the Cubs were 116-36 in 1906.

The Mariners record tying season ended with a five game loss to the eventual World Champion Yankees in the American League Championship Series.  The Cubs fell to the White Sox in the 1906 World Series.

Can the Dodgers keep up the pace?  Is this their year?  Can they carry this pace into the post-season unlike the Mariners and Cubs?  Stay tuned!

DESPERATE DAYS IN MIAMI

The fan base of the Miami Dolphins let out a collective gasp on the morning of August 3rd.  The news broke around mid morning that quarterback Ryan Tannehill had injured his left knee while running to the sidelines during a practice drill at the Dolphins training camp in Davie, Florida.  It was the same knee that Tannehill injured late last year when he was sacked by Arizona Cardinals’ defensive end Calais Campbell.

Tannehill will undergo surgery for a torn ACL and will miss the entire 2017 season.

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Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is attended to following a sack vs. Arizona Cardinals late last year.

 

Miami is coming off their first post-season appearance since 2008.  This year’s training camp was bubbling with optimism.  Tannehill was supposedly perfectly healthy. Featured back Jay Ajai was coming off a breakout year.  Ajai featured running savvy not seen in Miami since Ricky Williams.  The Dolphins, who had major problems at linebacker in 2016 drafted Raekwon McMillan out of Ohio State in the second round this past April.  Pieces were really coming together.

 

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Jay Ajai might be the best running back in Miami since Ricky Williams.

 

On July 31st things began to crack in Davie.  Ajai suffered a concussion in a training drill. He missed the Dolphins pre-season opener on Thursday night, but returned to individual drills on Tuesday.  Ajai should be ready for the September 10th opener vs. Tampa Bay, but he has missed two weeks of camp.

During Thursday night’s pre-season opener, McMillan tore his ACL on a punt play. McMillan joins Tannehill on the sidelines for the rest of the year.

Obviously the most glaring injury is to Tannehill.  For good, bad, or ugly (and there have been glimpses of all three) this has been Ryan Tannehill’s offense since he first suited up in 2012.  Where do the Dolphins go from here?

Matt Moore, who has been a Dolphin longer than Tannehill, filled in admirably last year. Moore stepped up, like he has most of his career, and took control of the offense.  He, along with the running of Ajai, put the finishing touches on a march to the playoffs. Moore has filled in admirably throughout his career, but he’s a backup for a reason. Many of the Dolphin faithful would like to see Moore become the starter.  Outside of Don Strock, career backups usually fall short when given the top job long-term.

The Colin Kaepernick sideshow kicked into gear as soon as Tannehill went down.  Here’s a fit for the controversial quarterback read many headlines.  Two observations on this, number one, who needs the media circus and sideshow?  This is a franchise that has been down virtually since Dan Marino retired.  The Dolphins are finally relevant again, why the distraction?

Secondly, here we are, basically a quarter of the way through pre-season, does Miami have time to bring someone in who isn’t familiar with the offense?  Normally that really wouldn’t be a problem, they’re all professionals, right?  Quarterbacks have come in at mid-season and learned offenses, right.  However, there is another, very recently retired quarterback in the mix by the name of Jay Cutler.

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Jay Cutler flourished working with Adam Gase during their days with the Chicago Bears.

 

Cutler was forced into retirement after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury.  He played in only five games and threw five interceptions before he lost his starting job with the Bears.  In 2014 and 2015 combined, Cutler played in 30 games, sported a 65% completion percentage, threw for 49 touchdowns. Cutler was picked off 29 times in the two years, however he was intercepted only 11 times in 2015.

In 2015 Adam Gase joined former Denver Broncos head coach John Fox in Chicago.  Gase was Fox’s offensive coordinator in Denver, and was part of Peyton Manning’s monster season in 2013.

In my opinion a Cutler-Gase reunion makes sense for one year.  Cutler is not only familiar with Gase’s offense, he flourished in it.  Cutler needs to just familiarize himself with new players.  The Dolphins have time for that.  Cutler signed a one year $10 million deal with Miami last week.

Can happy days be ahead in South Florida despite the rocky beginning?

 

 

THE DAY THAT BASEBALL DIED

“I met a girl who sang the blues, and I asked her for some happy news, but she just smiled and turned away”… Don McLean from the song “American Pie.  A song which depicted that awful night in February, 1959 when we lost Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper in a plane crash.

This past Sunday night into Monday morning we experienced baseball’s version of virtually the same thing.  On Sunday night the sad news broke, Darren Daulton, an icon in Philadelphia and a leading member of the Cast of Idiots Phillies team that shocked the baseball world in 1993 had passed away.  This bulletin reverberated all the way to South Florida, where Daulton, who was acquired by the Marlins at the trade deadline in 1997, became a force in their locker room as well.  That 1997 Marlins team would also shock the baseball world when they won the World Series that year.  Cancer took Daulton at the age of 55.

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Philllies icon Darren Daulton passed away at 55 on Sunday.

It was an atmosphere in my home in South Florida on Monday morning that began with my wife informing me of the news.  Those of you reading this via the Phillies Inphielder will remember that your administrator put out a post not too long ago, reporting that Daulton’s battle with cancer had reached round two.  Daulton seemingly had the disease beat in 2015.

In a year in which the Phillies Faithful began with the news that Dallas Green, the manager of the 1980 World Championship team had passed away, this is part 2 of a one two whammy.

Daulton’s field presence was fiery and dominating.  He was a major reason that the 1993 Philllies came out of nowhere to win the National League Pennant.  His role as a leader on a team that went from a last place finish in 1992 to National League Champs in 1993 will remain a legend in the City of Brotherly Love for many years to come.

Daulton was dealt to the Florida Marlins at the trade deadline in 1997.  His short time spent here in South Florida was very eventful.  Darren would play first base for the Marlins and would once again provide a huge leadership presence.  This was on a ball-club that included the likes of Jeff Conine, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Bobby Bonilla and Charles Johnson.  He was certainly a leader among leaders in the Marlins clubhouse.

Sadly, part 2 of this horrendous morning for all baseball fans was yet to come.

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1979 American League MVP, and original Colorado Rockies manager Don Baylor passed away at 68 on Monday morning.

 

While the baseball world was mourning the death of the man affectionately known as Dutch, more awful news broke.  I got a notification from my ESPN app on my phone in the middle of Monday morning that Don Baylor had also succumbed to cancer.

Baylor was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1979 while playing for the Western Division champion California Angels.  He also starred with the Baltimore Orioles and spent time with the Yankees, Athletics, and Red Sox.

After his playing days, Baylor pursued a career in managing.  He landed his first managerial job in the Majors with the Colorado Rockies.  He managed Colorado from their inaugural year of 1993 through 1998.  Baylor lead the Rockies to a Wild Card playoff berth in 1995 and was named National League Manager of the Year.  He also managed the Chicago Cubs from 2000-2002.

This past Sunday into Monday was clearly the day that baseball died.  Two of its leading figures from a time gone by were taken way too soon.

Rest well Dutch and Don.