Joey Logano's Last Lap Move on Martin Truex Jr. at Martinsville is Far From Dirty Given Circumstances
by Julian Spivey
Almost proving you can’t have anything nice in the sport of NASCAR, the final lap at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 28 was one of the most epic final laps in the entire history of the sport but left many within the sport and its fans torn as to whether it was fair or dirty.
In the final laps of the race 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. was racing leader Joey Logano for the race win and as both are in the final eight of the playoffs a win would give each driver an automatic bid to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in mid-November.
Truex Jr. raced Logano hard, but rarely contacted the No. 22 Ford driver in the waning laps of the race before finally making the pass for the lead. There’s no doubt that Truex Jr. raced Logano cleanly, but on the final lap of a race, particularly a short-track race where it’s hard to pass without making contact, and in a race whether the winner makes it to the championship race drivers should and most would do almost anything for the win. Even if a championship bid wasn’t on the line, most would do whatever it took to see Victory Lane.
Knowing he would have to get a little physical with Truex Jr. if he wanted to win the race and make it to Miami, Logano gave Truex Jr. the customary bump out of the way and then as the two were coming to the finish line they made contact at the door with both losing control of their cars. Logano had just enough control to reach the finish line before a hard charging Denny Hamlin in third place could take advantage of the contact between Logano and Truex Jr. and steal a win.
The final lap was epic. But, Truex Jr. felt it was a dirty move by Logano stating in an interview after the race: “[He] may have won the battle, but he ain’t going to win the damn war.” And, “What goes around comes around.” Maybe, NASCAR drivers need to learn some new clichés. Also, Truex Jr. needs to get more physical if he wants to win some of these hard fought races on skill and ability instead of relying simply on fast speed. These were the quotes of someone who doesn’t like the old “rubbing is racing” adage that’s been acceptable in NASCAR almost as long as there has been a sport. It could also be proof as to why Truex Jr. has the most wins of any NASCAR driver who has never won a short track race.
Logano didn’t dump Truex Jr. on the final lap of the race, as we have seen from drivers in the past like Hamlin on Chase Elliott just last year, but rather raced him in the manner that has come to define great short track races within the history of the sport. The last lap of Martinsville on Sunday is why fans and people within the sport are both begging for more short tracks on the Cup Series schedule. Logano’s move was physical, it was aggressive, but it was far from “dirty.”
But, because Logano is likely one of the two most hated drivers within the sport (along with the perpetually booed Kyle Busch) there were a lot of fans, both at the track yesterday and on social media, that didn’t like the move. If it had been a move made by Kyle Larson, as we saw at Chicagoland back in July, the stands and social media wouldn’t exploded into uproarious applause and cheers.
Today we should be talking about how great the finish of Martinsville was for the sport of NASCAR, but instead we’re split on whether or not it was a “dirty” final lap of racing. Sometimes with this sport we just need to enjoy the moments that made many of us love it in the first place.
by Julian Spivey
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger struck out in his lone at-bat in game five of the 2018 World Series on Sunday, Oct. 28 in a pinch hit appearance in the eighth inning when the Dodgers desperately needed to mount a comeback to extend the series. The K dropped his series batting average to .063 and was a predictable ending to Bellinger’s World Series.
Cody Bellinger is the worst postseason player I’ve ever seen in over 20 years of watching baseball. He’s probably one of the worst, if not the worst, postseason players in baseball history.
Bellinger, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, has appeared in the World Series in both of his MLB seasons and in his first last year he set a record by striking out 17 times (59 percent of his time at bat) in a seven game series and hit just .143 against the Houston Astros. This year he only struck out six times in his 16 at-bats, as he’s been turned into a platoon player in Dave Roberts’ splits heavy offense, but that’s still 38 percent of his time at the plate. Even when he wasn’t striking out against the Boston Red Sox he wasn’t getting on base, with just one hit and no walks in the series. He also made a huge baserunning blunder in the marathon game three that the Dodgers would end up winning anyway.
Bellinger’s postseason batting average through two seasons (30 games) is .174 and it’s mostly that high because of a good 2017 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. In three series this postseason he hit a measly .118, but somehow managed to be named the NLCS MVP against the Milwaukee Brewers pretty much solely for a big three-run homer, despite being right at the Mendoza line for that series.
Watching Bellinger perform in the postseason and especially the World Series was infuriating and this is from an objective party who just wanted to see good baseball. I can’t imagine how Dodgers fans feel about him right now.
The most annoying factor is that Bellinger has been a very solid player for the Dodgers in his first two seasons, being named to an All Star team and winning Rookie of the Year in 2017 and hitting 64 homers and driving in 173 runs in his first 294 games of his career. In those two seasons he hit a solid .263.
The only thing I can think of for Bellinger’s postseason struggles is he’s just in his head with baseball’s version of the yips. Maybe he’s trying too hard? But, it’s been very painful to watch over these last two postseasons.
Can you think of a postseason player who’s ever been this bad?
by Julian Spivey
The Boston Red Sox were the class of the American League all season winning 108 games. The high-powered offense led by Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez was the biggest factor in the Red Sox success and both are deserving of Most Valuable Player votes.
This would be my A.L. MVP ballot if I got a vote …
5. Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Indians)
The Cleveland Indians have the luxury of having two of the best infielders in all of baseball in third baseman Jose Ramirez and shortstop Francisco Lindor and either could be interchangeable on this ballot. Ramirez and Lindor’s number were almost identical this season, but I’m giving the edge to Ramirez because he drove in 14 more runs and had a higher on-base percentage. Ramirez was tied with Lindor for the fourth best WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in the A.L. at 7.9. He also was fourth in the A.L. in RBI with 105 and fourth in total bases.
4. Alex Bregman (Houston Astros)
Over the last few years, including during their championship run last year, Jose Altuve was the spark plug for the Houston Astros, but he suffered from some injuries this year. Third baseman Alex Bregman stepped right in as the spark plug for this dynamic offense hitting .286, with 31 homers, 103 RBI (fifth in the league, 170 hits (eighth in the league) and led the A.L. with 51 doubles.
3. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
Typically, I don’t really like to see players whose teams weren’t even in playoff contention toward the top of a Most Valuable Player ballot, but the fact is Mike Trout is so damn good you just can’t leave him off. It was somewhat of a down year for Trout and he still hit .312 (fourth in the league), 39 homers (fourth in the league), led the league in on-base percentage and walks and was second in WAR at 10.2, behind only Mookie Betts.
2. J.D. Martinez (Boston Red Sox)
There are some out there who think it’s near impossible for a designated hitter to win a Most Valuable Player award, but when they have the type of offensive numbers that J.D. Martinez did for the Boston Red Sox this year I really don’t think they should be excluded just because they only play one facet of the game. Martinez was an RBI machine this year with a league leading 130. Martinez was also second in baseball with 43 home runs, he led the A.L. in total bases, was second in hits, second in hitting and third in on-base percentage. It just so happens he was only the second best player on his own team.
1. Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox)
Mookie Betts was hot right out of the gates for the Boston Red Sox in 2018 and he never really slowed down, even with a disabled list stint. Betts led all of baseball this season in WAR at 10.9. He was also the leading hitter in the game with a .346 average. Betts hit 32 homers, drove in 80 and was in the top 10 in the A.L. in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, total bases, doubles, walks, runs scored and stolen bases. Betts also plays a gold glove outfield.
by Julian Spivey
For the majority of the season there wasn't a clear front runner for National League Most Valuable Player, but that pretty much changed over the last month of the season with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich powering his team to the N.L. Central Division title.
While Yelich is pretty much a shoo-in at this point for N.L. MVP this is how my top five would look if I had an MVP vote …
5. Jacob deGrom (New York Mets)
Jacob deGrom had one of the most dominant seasons of any pitcher in baseball history, though you wouldn’t really know it simply by looking at his won/loss record of 10-9. But, in today’s game of matchups the win/loss doesn’t mean as much as it once did. deGrom’s 1.70 earned run average is the lowest since Zack Greinke’s 1.66 ERA for the Dodgers in 2015 and the second lowest in more than two decades. He should be a lock for N.L. Cy Young with his 269 strikeouts (second to Max Scherzer) added in.
4. Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs)
Chicago Cubs middle infielder Javier Baez might be the most exciting player in all of baseball to watch play the game, especially defensively, but he became the all-around superstar the Cubs had hoped for this season with 34 homers, a league leading 111 RBI, a .291 batting average and a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 6.3 (third in the league).
3. Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
The biggest surprise in the National League this year was the N.L. East Division winning Atlanta Braves. The Braves had a handful of guys step up this year who could potentially garner MVP votes like rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. and Nick Markakis, but as always, the team was led by veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman, who lead the league with 191 hits, was fourth with a 6.1 WAR and third in the league with a .309 average. Freeman also hit 23 homers and drove in 98 runs.
2. Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies)
It seems annually now that Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado comes up just short of winning National League MVP and I see it happening again this season. He’s one of the biggest offensive threats in baseball (though likely aided some by home games at Coors Field) and some say he could be the greatest defender ever seen at the hot corner. Arenado led the NL in home runs this season with 38. Arenado was fifth in WAR, 10th in average, second in RBI and top 10 in hits, doubles, total bases and runs scored.
1. Christian Yelich (Milwaukee Brewers)
Christian Yelich proved to be the biggest acquisition of the last offseason when the Brewers acquired him from the Miami Marlins, as he led the upstart Brewers offense to a division title. Yelich’s second half was so fantastic that he came just one RBI and two homers shy of winning the National League’s first Triple Crown since before WWII. Yelich ran away with the N.L. batting title, hitting .326. He also led the N.L. in WAR at 7.4, led the league in slugging percentage, total bases and was only one run behind leading the league in runs scored. He should enjoy his first MVP at season’s end.
by Julian Spivey
The moment that many NASCAR fans have been waiting nearly three years for finally happened on Sunday afternoon (August 5) at Watkins Glen International when 22-year old Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott broke through to win his first NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race after coming so close in previous years.
The milestone first win was something most of us figured would’ve happened much sooner in the 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion’s Cup Series career, with the talent he showed at an early age (he was the first rookie to ever win the Xfinity title), taking over great equipment at Hendrick with the team relinquished by the retired Jeff Gordon and having great runs with his eight second place finishes over his first two-and-half full seasons being the fourth most all-time before winning a race.
But, as those second place finishes piled up, and he saw things like Denny Hamlin wrecking him out of a first win at Martinsville in the playoffs last season and his own multiple mistakes while leading races late costing him the young gun, who’s last name being NASCAR royalty surely didn’t help things, started to get hard on himself. Many of us who’ve watched this sport for multiple decades had never seen a driver look so defeated and talk so poorly of himself when not ending up in Victory Lane.
But, we knew the talent was there and the equipment was too (although for much of this season Hendrick Motorsports had noticeably lagged behind competitors) and Elliott’s shining day would come sooner rather than later.
Chase thoroughly dominated the race at Watkins Glen on Sunday, leading 52 of the race’s 90 laps, and winning a stage for his third consecutive race (shockingly the only three stage wins for Hendrick all season) and had some good luck with his closest competitor Kyle Busch, who led 31 laps, having a pit problem that sent him to the back of the pack during the last stage (he remarkably rebounded all the way to third place by the day’s end). But, it still seemed at times toward the final laps of the race on Sunday like Elliott’s late race woes may show up again as defending champion Martin Truex Jr. was dogging him late. When Truex got into the “Bus Stop” poorly on the penultimate lap of the race it seemed like Elliott’s first career win was a cinch but going into turn one on the final lap Chase’s car wheel-hopped and he almost spun his No. 9 Chevrolet out allowing Truex to reach his bumper once again. The luck would be on Chase’s side today, however, as Truex’s No. 78 Toyota would soon run out of gas and Chase would just have enough to take the checkered flag (running out after the finish line).
One of the greatest things about seeing Chase’s first win on Sunday was how excited the crowd was for him. Being the son of 16-time Most Popular Driver winner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and taking over for all-time NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon it seems Chase had already had a large built-in fan-base, that has no doubt grown over his three seasons due to his own talent and personality. He could easily follow in his father’s footsteps by being named the sport’s Most Popular Driver this year, but he’s always seemed to follow in his father’s footsteps – even more so than some might believe. It’s truly interesting how the beginning of Chase and Bill’s careers have mirrored each other.
Chase’s eight second-place finishes before his first win are the fourth most all-time (the recently passed James Hylton had the most runners-up ever before winning a race with 12), as previously mentioned, but he’s tied with another driver on that list and that driver was his father. Bill also had eight second place finishes in his career before breaking through in the season finale of 1983.
It came somewhat as a surprise to see Chase’s first win come at a road course race at Watkins Glen in New York, but once again he mirrors his father’s first career victory which came at the now defunct Riverside International Raceway road course in California.
The one place where Chase has his father beat is that Chase’s first career win came in his 99th career Cup Series start. But, Bill wasn’t too far behind his boy winning in his 115th career start. Unlike Chase though, Bill’s first win did come in his first full-time season where he ran every race on the circuit, having run seven part-time seasons prior to 1983.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Elliotts continue this “like-father-like-son” aspect with Chase’s career. Just two seasons after Bill’s first career win at the end of 1983 he won a career high 11 races in the 1985 season and within five years was a NASCAR Cup champion. There’s the mile marker Chase. Now go get it.
Sports Round-Up: Tiger at The Open, Brewers Fans Embarrass Themselves, NFL Controversy That Won't Go Away
by Julian Spivey
Tiger Takes Sunday Lead & Molinari Plays Perfect Golf
Man was it good to see Tiger Woods soar to the top of the leaderboard during the final round of The British Open at Carnoustie on Sunday morning. It felt like the old days, the glory days. It felt like he was going to come through and win his first major tournament in more than a decade. Then he double bogeyed the 11th hole and it all immediately seemed over with the perfect game Francesco Molinari, playing along with Tiger on Sunday, was playing. You just sensed that Molinari, even after only 11 holes, was going to par his way to victory and he pretty much did – with two birdies thrown in for good measure. Molinari is the hottest golfer on the planet right now winning three of his last six tournaments, with two runner-up positions thrown in the mix. It’s nice to see him at the top of his game as a 35-year old, after he and his brother Edoardo both came upon the scene around 2010 and seemed like they’d be the next big names in European golf without either really entering the upper-echelon. But, now it’s Francesco’s time and he will always have the honor of being Italy’s first major golf champion.
NFL Controversy That Won't Die
We are heading into the third NFL season in which it seems the biggest story of the season is yet again going to be the National Anthem and athletes protesting brutality against African-Americans, which has become one of the nation’s biggest debates and a hot topic for President Donald Trump. It’s a topic that the NFL should’ve squashed immediately in backing its player for having opinions and expressing them. But, instead the league cowered down to the President and its right-wing fans and made the whole ordeal a much bigger mess than it ever should’ve been. That mess became a major story again last week when the Miami Dolphins franchise announced plans to suspend any players protesting during the National Anthem for four games (one-fourth of the season). The NFL and the NFL Players Association quickly tabled any punishment when it comes to players protesting on the fields, which is where I hope the story ends. When it comes to an organization threatening to suspend players for one-fourth of the season for having opinions and showing them when the NFL has only suspended players who’ve physically or abused their spouses or girlfriends for lesser time you know the league is officially out of control.
Brewers Fans Embarrass Themselves
During last week’s Major League Baseball All Star game the big story toward the end of the game wasn’t the close competition that saw an extra innings finish or the record-breaking number of home runs hit during the game, but rather some seven year old tweets dug up from the annals of Twitter from Milwaukee Brewers All Star reliever Josh Hader that exposed viewpoints of racism, homophobia and misogyny. They were the disturbing thoughts and bad jokes of a 17-year old high schooler at the time who forgot to scrub his idiocy before becoming a baseball superstar. Baseball didn’t exactly punish Hader in the way that I would’ve liked choosing not to suspend him, but rather make him go to sensitivity training. It was at least an understandable form of punishment with the sport not wanting to suspend an adult for mistakes made as a teen, though I will say that what most believe at 17 they likely still will at 24. The most disturbing part of the Hader story was when he made his second-half debut on Saturday night at his home ballpark in Milwaukee and received a standing ovation from a mostly white Brewers crowd. This is not a good look for Major League Baseball, it’s not a good look for the Brewers fan base and it’s not a good look for the city of Milwaukee. It makes it seem like the fans are condoning racism, homophobia and misogyny and that’s not something we need in baseball.
Tim Tebow Injury Keeps Mets From Publicity Stunt
I hate to wish injury on any athlete, but New York Mets Double-A minor league attraction Tim Tebow breaking his hamate bone in his right hand over the weekend and likely being out for the remainder of the season is at least somewhat good news for baseball traditionalists. If you’re a hardcore baseball fan like me, you want to see players make it to the major leagues on merit and not superstardom and celebrity gained somewhere other than on the baseball diamond. You want this because you know just how hard it is to make “The Show” and you’d hate to see someone truly deserving passed over for what amounts to a publicity stunt. That’s exactly what it seemed the Mets, well out of playoff contention, were going to do in September with minor league call-ups. It seemed set that Tebow would make his major league debut for nothing more than to drive late season ticket sales for a struggling baseball team. That would’ve been the Mets prerogative, but as someone who wants to see the game played the right way it just wouldn’t have sat right with me. Tebow’s injury takes away any chance of that happening.
NASCAR Has a 'Big 3' and Nobody Else Stands a Chance
It’s been quite the unusual NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series with three drivers dominating the sport in a manner we haven’t seen in quite some time. Kevin Harvick (6 wins), Kyle Busch (5 wins) and Martin Truex Jr. (4 wins) have combined to win 15 of the series’ 20 races this season leaving many complaining about a lack of parity in the sport. I must admit I’d like to see some of the other superstars within NASCAR win a bit this season, but the longer this dominance by Harvick, Busch and Truex goes on the more impressive and interesting it gets. And, let’s be honest if you’re not a fan of one of these three drivers this season could seem incredibly boring (and unfortunately a good number of the races have been – but not as of late), but regardless it’s going to be a fun final few months of the NASCAR season to see just how many races these guys can win and watch the playoff battle between the three of them go down to the wire.
by Julian Spivey
Every year when the Major League Baseball All Star rosters are picked there are going to be a handful of snubs. That’s just the way it goes in a sport featuring 750 players on any given day and only round 60 all star spots. However, every year there seems to be a few egregious snubs and I’ve selected nine changes I would make if I could to the All Star rosters that were announced on Sunday.
Blake Snell (Rays) for Jose Berrios (Twins)
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell leads the American League in Earned Run Average, which should be an automatic selection for any All Star team regardless of other stats, but Snell is also second in the A.L. with 12 wins. He should’ve been a no-brainer, but due to every team most have a representative in the All Star game rule (which I like) he gets snubbed in favorite of Jose Berrios of the Twins who almost a run and a half worse ERA, fewer strikeouts and a much worse winning percentage.
Eddie Rosario (Twins) for George Springer (Astros)
Part of the reason why Snell got snubbed by the A.L. All Star roster is because the players made the egregious selection of Houston Astros outfielder George Springer, who’s only hitting .251 this year, when Minnesota Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario would’ve been a much better pick with a .300 average, more hits, homers, RBI and a better WAR (Wins Above Replacement). If Rosario were the Twins representative, as he should’ve been, there would’ve been no need for the Berrios selection. Rosario is part of the A.L.’s Final Vote nominees and hopefully will get into the All Star game that way. That selection will be announced on Wednesday afternoon (July 11).
Jed Lowrie (A’s) for Gleyber Torres (Yankees)
The players vote screwed this one up too giving New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres the reserve two-bagger spot in the Midsummer Classic when Oakland A’s veteran Jed Lowrie, who’s never made an All Star squad, has nearly 40 more hits, 20 more RBI and a WAR more than a point higher.
Nick Castellanos (Tigers) for Michael Brantley (Indians)
Michael Brantley is a good story coming back after playing in only about 100 games over the last two seasons (though he was an All Star last year before he got hurt) and the players voted him into the game as a reserve outfielder. But, Detroit Tigers outfielder Nick Castellanos would’ve been a better pick with a WAR more than a point higher, more homers, RBI, hits and a higher on-base percentage. Castellanos also would’ve ensured that the commissioner’s office would’ve have to name reliever Joe Jimenez as the Tigers representative allowing for a more deserving pitcher making the team.
Collin McHugh (Astros) for Joe Jimenez (Tigers)
If Nick Castellanos was the Detroit Tigers All Star representative, as he should’ve been, then maybe Houston Astros reliever Collin McHugh, who’s having a far superior year to Jimenez with an ERA more than two runs lower.
Jesus Aguilar (Brewers) for Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks)
There was no player in baseball I felt worse for on Sunday when the All Star game rosters were announced than Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who’s having an MVP-like season through the first half. In his second full MLB season Aguilar has become the slugger the N.L. leading Brewers need with a league high 23 homers, 64 RBI and a .305 average. He is part of the N.L.’s Final Five vote and hopefully makes the team, but he should’ve been there already and likely as the designated hitter in the starting lineup. Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has been one of baseball’s hottest hitters since May but had an incredibly slow start to the season. Goldschmidt has fewer homers, more than 10 fewer RBI and an average 15 points behind Aguilar and yet got the players’ vote over him.
Ross Stripling (Dodgers) for Patrick Corbin (Diamondbacks)
This one isn’t the biggest of deals, but Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling does have an ERA almost a full run lower than Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin. Stripling also has a better winning percentage this year. Corbin has more strikeouts than Stripling, but Stripling didn’t begin the year in the Dodgers rotation. He’s certainly helped to keep them afloat though.
David Peralta (Diamondbacks) for Bryce Harper (Nationals)
I’ve taken both Arizona Diamondbacks All Star representatives out of the game and by rule they must have a rep, so I’m giving that spot to outfielder David Peralta who’s hitting .291 with 15 homers and 49 RBI. He’s going to replace Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who was the only one of 17 selections made by the voting fans of Major League Baseball that was bad – yes, the fans did a better job at picking All Stars this year than the actual players. I understand it’s important to have one of the game’s biggest names at the All Star game, especially with it being played in his home ballpark this season, but his numbers just aren’t up to his standards.
Albert Almora (Cubs) for Charlie Blackmon (Rockies)
Charlie Blackmon was a National League MVP finalist last season and I believe the players voting for N.L. reserves remembered that more than researching his numbers this year because he’s not near the same guy he was. Blackmon has a negative WAR this season meaning a replacement player would likely put up better numbers than he has. He takes a spot that could be better served going to a first timer like Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, who’s hitting .323 this season. If you don’t like Almora in his place how about Pittsburgh Pirates Corey Dickerson or Philadelphia Phillies Odubel Herrera?
by Julian Spivey
If you heard a collective groan on Monday afternoon from NBA fans all around the world it’s because free agent center DeMarcus Cousins, arguably the second-best center in the NBA behind his former New Orleans Pelicans teammate Anthony Davis, signed a one-year, $5.3 million deal with the two-time reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
The deal in which Cousins took considerably less money than what he could’ve gotten to win a championship with the Warriors makes the best team in the NBA even better and gives the team an All Star player at every starting position and has led to discussions of whether it’ll be the greatest starting five in NBA history.
I understand why NBA fans everywhere are pissed. The best thing for any sport is parity and the NBA doesn’t have that right now. The NBA doesn’t even seem to have a team in the same stratosphere as the Warriors after this deal with the team being the overwhelming favorite to win a third consecutive NBA title and its fourth in five years. It’s not good for a sport to essentially have its next championship locked up less than a month after its last one ended. Of course, the games still must be played, and anything can happen, but that’s the way it seems right now.
It’s doubly irritating for fans of the league who were hoping this offseason’s free agent crop including LeBron James could jump start some action into the league with him going to a location like the Houston Rockets, who damn near beat the Warriors without LeBron, or the Philadelphia 76ers. Instead LeBron chose the Los Angeles Lakers, which sparked renewed interest in the game’s most popular franchise, but there wasn’t too much else the team could do financially to build a team that could compete with the Warriors. LeBron to the Lakers seems like a move that might take two years to pan out.
I can certainly understand fans of the game being upset about the lack of competition in the game, but what do you really expect the NBA to do about it? The Warriors have built their championship team the right way, no matter what some might think. The original three stars on the team: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all came out of the NBA Draft and none of them were even top five picks. Green, in fact, wasn’t even a first round pick. The additions of Kevin Durant two offseasons ago and Cousins today are just the team playing by free agency and salary cap rules, but the way some fans are reacting to the creation of this “superteam” you would think the team was doing something illegal. Some people even want the NBA to step in, but the NBA simply can’t dictate where players go via free agency. If players like Cousins are selflessly willing to play for less in pursuit of a championship there isn’t much that can be done. So, if you don’t want to watch I completely understand, but the whining is pointless. If other teams want to stop the Warriors they’re simply going to have to get better on the court and better in the front office. Something that should truly concern NBA fans is the lack of trying for a player of Cousins’ stature via free agency. Free agency began at midnight on July 1 and up until the moment he signed his deal with the Warriors he hadn’t been contacted by a single other team in the league, according to ESPN’s Marc Spears. If your phone isn’t ringing and suddenly, the reigning champs come calling you might jump at that chance too.
by Julian Spivey
On Friday after he stormed to a multiple stroke lead at The Masters I went to social media to gripe that “Patrick Reed was going to ruin The Masters for me.” Now to be honest I likely would’ve said the same had any golfer taken a commanding lead. I hate to see dominance from anyone in a golf major because I want to see a half dozen or more guys have a shot on Sunday. But, there was a little more vitriol with Reed in the lead. He’s my least favorite golfer on the PGA Tour. I thought I was alone in that sentiment.
On Sunday, when Reed sank his Green Jacket clinching par on the 18th hole of Augusta the crowd reaction was weaker than it would’ve been if John Doe had won the Puerto Rico Open. It was basically a “meh.” Making the reaction even more surprising is the fact that Reed lived for a while in Augusta, Ga. and even led Augusta State University to two consecutive NCAA Division I championships in the early part of this decade. That didn’t matter to the gallery.
I wasn’t alone in my dislike of Reed. In fact, it appears he’s “the most hated man in golf.” After The Masters on Sunday evening I saw a bunch of articles pop up ranging from “Why you shouldn’t dislike Patrick Reed” to “Why do golf fans hate Patrick Reed?” to “Would golf fans like Patrick Reed if they knew him?” The most interesting piece I read was Alan Shipnuck’s piece for Golf.com about how Patrick Reed’s estranged parents watched their son win The Masters from their home just three miles away with mixed emotions.
Reed hasn’t spoken to his parents or younger sister since 2012 and his parents have never even met their granddaughter. They once attended the U.S. Open to follow his group in hopes of rebuilding their relationship and were escorted off the premises at the behest of Reed’s wife, Justine.
Of course, this is only one side of the story, but the piece just made me dislike Reed even more. Before I had disliked him for his use of a homophobic slur at a tournament in 2014, which I thought the PGA Tour should’ve suspended him for even though it was aimed at himself. I also grew to dislike Reed quite a bit during the 2014 Ryder Cup when his celebrating because he was playing well during the Europeans ass-stomping of the United States made him come off as an ass. I don’t believe in celebrating when you’re losing, especially losing badly.
There are evidently numerous reasons for others to dislike him from getting kicked off the University of Georgia golf team for multiple arrests, cheating allegations (which golf fans take very seriously) and abrasive cockiness (he once claimed he was a top 5 player in the world when he was far from it). Reed has also never done anything to seemingly make fans want to change their opinion of him. He seems to enjoy being disliked. He also seems to have zero report with his fellow professionals, almost always keeping to himself.
When reporters asked him after his Masters win on Sunday if it was “bittersweet not to be able to share the most triumphant moment of his life with his parents” Reed simply responded, “I’m just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments.”
He literally doesn’t seem to care about much else. That leaves the impression of a cold-hearted individual. One that even people who tend to like or find villains in sports interesting have trouble finding something redeeming in. That explains the “meh” response to him winning the biggest tournament in American golf. A career defining moment that would’ve had most golf crowds applauding with joy simply didn’t matter much to them. They say sports need villains. But, golf fans responded with emphatic quietness that they don’t need Patrick Reed.
by Julian Spivey
On Friday (March 16) we saw some major sports history and the biggest bracket buster in the history of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament when 16 seeded University of Maryland Baltimore County knocked off overall top seed Virginia in the first round of the tourney becoming the first 16-seed to ever do so in the tournament. It was great seeing something that had never been done in sports before – which doesn’t happen often these days. However, there have been quite a few upsets already in this tournament and it got me thinking that March Madness is the only time of year in any sport where people seemingly turn on the underdog. Many people don’t want to see Cinderellas find their slipper in the tournament because it busts their bracket and don’t we all want to be the one to win bragging rights and potentially money? I think most of us can probably agree that the Retrievers of UMBC over Virginia was quite worth it though because honestly that busted everybody’s bracket.
Tiger Woods Masters Favorite
Tiger Woods has been looking more and more like the Tiger of old lately. He finished second at the Valspar Championship last week and is playing well this weekend in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. His recovery from back surgery last year has been both remarkable and highly surprising and that has Vegas thinking he’s the favorite to win the Masters next month. Woods is considered an 8-1 favorite to win the Masters, something he hasn’t done since 2005 when he captured his fourth green jacket. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Woods in contention because I know he knows Augusta like the back of his hand but come on guys it’s way too soon to consider Woods the favorite of any golf tournament, let alone potentially the biggest in the world. Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner, has 9-1 odds to win (tied with Dustin Johnson for second) and I believe he should be the favorite.
Cavaliers Title Chances
I’ve gotten to where I don’t like to see many prediction percentages for sports, especially in-game, because it takes a lot of the excitement and interest away from sports. You want to feel like each team has a shot. Sometimes these predictions also just seem flat out laughable. Recently I saw that the Basketball Power Index has given the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that has made the last three consecutive NBA Finals, a 0.01 percent chance at winning the NBA title. The BPI gives six other teams a higher chance at winning the championship (including the Philadelphia 76ers who have a worse record than the Cavs). I believe that counting out the Cavaliers, and honestly mostly LeBron James, is foolish and by the BPI saying they only have a miniscule chance at winning the title is doing that. I don’t believe the Cavaliers have a great shot at winning the championship – I’d be shocked if any team that isn’t either the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets wins it this year – but I do believe they should still be considered the favorite in the Eastern Conference despite being behind the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers in the standings.
Joe Thomas Retires
Sports hall of fames are places for the best of the best to be honored and have always been individual honors, but when Cleveland Browns All-Pro offensive lineman Joe Thomas announced his retirement this week after 11 seasons in the NFL the thing that instantly popped into my head was: “should a player essentially be penalized for playing on an all-time bad team?” If I had a vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame I’d likely have to eventually vote for Thomas as one of the greatest O-lineman to ever play the game, but many experts think he’s a first ballot lock. Keep in mind Terrell Owens, a top five all-time wide receiver, had to wait multiple years before he was voted in. I think it’s fair to at least consider the Browns all-time bad run of football when considering Thomas for the hall of fame. Thomas only had one winning season with the Browns, in his rookie year, and only won a measly 27 percent of the NFL games he played in. That has to be the worst winning percentage for any hall of fame type player ever and probably by a lot.
Jose Altuve's Contract Extension
If you’re a baseball fan, but don’t have a favorite player I suggest watching Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve very closely. The 2017 American League MVP is likely the most exciting player in today’s game and the Astros awarded his excellence with a five-year, $151 million contract extension on Friday (March 16). It’s nice to see one of the game’s top players finally get paid and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer and more hard-working player. ESPN’s Darren Rovell tweeted on Friday that Altuve, a Venezuelan native, attended an Astros tryout camp in Venezuela at 16, was told “don’t come back” because he was too short (he’s 5’6 if he can be trusted), came back anyway, was given a $15,000 deal, worked his way to the big leagues, almost instantly became a perennial all-star, led the Astros to winning their first ever World Series last year and won the MVP. He’s a great example for people to never give up on their dreams.
IndyCar Excitement to Simmer By Second Race
The beginning of the 2018 IndyCar Series season at St. Petersburg, Fla. last weekend (March 11) had many within the motorsports community talking and raving about the excitement of a potential “instant classic” that saw Canadian rookie Robert Wickens dominate and nearly win his debut until 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi got into and wrecked him on the final restart of the race. Sebastien Bourdais, who was lucky to survive a devastating wreck in Indy 500 practice last year, snuck by to win the opener. It had been a long time since I’ve seen this many people rave about the IndyCar Series, especially at a race other than the Indy 500, which is something the series could really use. But, will that excitement even be remembered by the time the series drops the green flag at its second race in Phoenix on April 7. There should never be a gap almost a month long in the schedule for any sport, especially between the first and second races of a season. IndyCar really needs to fix this seemingly annual scheduling issue.