Tiger Woods Inks Equipment Deal with TaylorMade Golf

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Nike Golf made one of the biggest headlines in 2016 when they announced that they would no longer make golf clubs and balls, therefore making two of the game’s biggest stars free agents.

After Rory Mcilroy announced last week he was going to play Callaway woods and irons at the start of 2017, Tiger Woods has also changed equipment, signing a deal with TaylorMade Golf.

Woods has not purchased a majority stake in the company, as was initially reported. Woods has instead inked a deal to play TaylorMade woods, irons, and wedges.

Woods will make his 2017 PGA Tour debut in the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday alongside Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. Pretty good for TaylorMade to have their top three athletes playing together.

The equipment contract is not for the full bag. Woods will continue using the Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS putter that won 13 majors and Bridgestone B330S golf ball. His bag will feature Monster Energy logos while his apparel will remain branded with Nike and his TW brand.

While Woods has a 13 club contract, he will not use TaylorMade irons and wedges this week.

“For irons and wedges, I’m going to work closely with the team at TaylorMade,” Tiger said in an email distributed by TaylorMade. “For my irons, we will be developing a new custom set. Over the coming months, we will take you along the development journey, from the initial design concepts all the way through the process until they make it into my bag. Finally, the new MG Wedge is absolutely beautiful, and we’re working to dial in the exact grind for me. There’s no doubt it’s fun to have some new weapons, and the confidence I have in my new TaylorMade equipment makes me excited for the season.” (quote taken from Golfwrx.com)

Full specs on Tiger’s new woods (also from golfwrx.com):

Driver: TaylorMade 2016 M2 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Tensei CK Pro White 70TX
Specs: 44.5 inches, D4 swing weight

3 Wood: TaylorMade 2017 M2 Tour (13 degrees)

Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Tensei CK Pro White 90TX
Specs: 42.5 inches, D4 swing weight

5 Wood: TaylorMade 2017 M1 Tour (19 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Tensei CK Pro White 90TX
Specs: 41.5 inches, D4 swing weight

Australian Open Madness: Federer Survives, Kerber and Murray Exit

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The middle weekend is typically one of the most exciting parts of grand slams, and day 7 of the 2017 Australian Open was no different.

Roger Federer’s round of 16 match against Kei Nishikori marked the Swiss’ second straight huge test. The 35 year old followed up a straight set romp of No. 10 Tomas Berdych by winning a five set battle over No. 5 Nishikori 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

Entering the tournament as the number 17 seed following a long layoff due to a knee injury, Federer was going to face a much tougher draw this year. But the greatest player of all time didn’t let it faze him, turning in a vintage performance to reach the quarterfinals.

Up next for Federer will be Mischa Zverev, who advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating No. 1 seed Andy Murray. Zverev set tennis back about 30 years in his victory, controlling the net by playing a whopping 119 serve and volley points.

Coming forward is the way to beat a baseliner like Murray, who will outlast everyone from the back of the court. But in modern tennis, not a lot of players had the confidence to keep coming forward. Zverev did, and it paid huge dividends.

Serve and volley is never taught anymore, modern players very rarely approach the net. Zverev brought back serve and volley as a viable strategy, and got the biggest win of his career.

The United States is continually searching for the heir to the Williams’ sisters throne. There is certainly no shortage of promising young players, but no one has emerged as the next Williams.

Saturday night it was big hitting Coco Vandeweghe who took center stage, using her massive groundstrokes to essentially blow Angelique Kerber off the court. Kerber has used finesse and precision to rise to number one in the world, but it was pure power that knocked her out of the Australian Open.

The exit of the top seeds on both the men’s and women’s sides certainly opens up the draw for the field, and time will tell if an aging great like Federer or Nadal or Serena will emerge, or possibly an upstart like Zverev.

The Red Sox Traded Clay Buchholz for Nothing

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The Red Sox traded Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies today in exchange for second base prospect Josh Tobias, so basically nothing.

I understand why the Red Sox made this deal, it was essentially a salary dump to avoid luxury tax penalties. With the addition of Chris Sale, Buchholz and his $13.5 million salary became expendable. Sox fans were hoping that Buchholz’s excellent second half would help net something in return, but in the end this was just a salary dump.

Though I understand it, I don’t love this deal, you’re the Red Sox, you’re supposed to have one of the highest payrolls, you’re trying to win games, I don’t care if you have to go into the luxury tax to win, that’s what it takes sometimes.

Buchholz has proven over the years that he can be at least an average starter when healthy, and has shown flashes of brilliance plenty of times. I know he was essentially your sixth or even seventh starter, but every year someone gets hurt and you need another starter. Sean O’Sullivan started games last year for Boston, I’d rather have Buchholz pitching then Sean O’Sullivan.

Additionally, Buchholz was excellent out of the bullpen last season, and could’ve contributed out of the pen again in 2017.

I know everyone in Boston hates Buchholz, he never lived up to his potential and was considered soft, which we hate. But I don’t hate Buchholz, sure he aggravates me at times, but him and Jon Lester were two of the Red Sox’ best homegrown pitchers in the last 15 years.

Clay was injury prone, but never soft. In fact, in the 2013 World Series he took the mound on the road with a dead arm, he couldn’t even hit 90 on the gun, and gave you 4 innings of one run ball in a game you had to have down 2-1 to St. Louis. He even set he would’ve taken the mound in a potential game 7 if called upon. That’s not soft, that takes guts.

I knew this would happen once the Red Sox landed Chris Sale, that Buchholz would be traded to a National League team for nothing. Buchholz will be in a good situation in Philadelphia, he will be the veteran in a very young up and coming pitching staff and will go against weaker lineups in the NL.

I predict Buchholz wins at least 12 games for the Phillies next season. I think this could be a move the Red Sox later regret.

Farewell, Claydro.

Sorry Washington, Kirk Cousins is a Mediocre Quarterback

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The Washington Redskins thought they had found their QB of the future when they drafted Robert Griffin III 2nd overall in 2012, little did they know their actual future quarterback, Kirk Cousins, would be drafted three rounds later.

Cousins is a decent NFL quarterback, he would be a starter on a lot of teams, but he’s going to get a Brock Osweiler type deal (probably more honestly) from someone, probably the Redskins, this offseason. He’s just not worth it, and last night showed why.

Cousins is one of the highest paid quarterbacks in football this season by virtue of his $19.9 million franchise tag, and contract negotiations have begun with figures around the $24 million mark. That would make Cousins the third highest paid quarterback in football behind Andrew Luck and Drew Brees. Does anyone think Cousins is the third best quarterback in football?

It’s pretty simple, good quarterbacks put up numbers, great quarterbacks win games. Cousins has put up great numbers this season, he’s thrown for 4,350 yards (Second in NFL) with 23 touchdowns compared to just 10 interceptions.

But when his team needed him most, he couldn’t even beat the lowly Carolina Panthers. This was Kirk Cousin’s chance to prove himself, a must win home game in primetime against a bad team, and he couldn’t do it. Cam Newton wasn’t spectacular, but he did enough to win the game, that’s what great quarterbacks do.

The numbers were decent last night for Cousins, as they usually are, 32-47 for 315 yards, but he failed to throw a touchdown pass and the Redskins lost 26-15.

A loss to the 6-8 mess that is the 2016 Carolina Panthers is just unacceptable for a team in the thick of the playoff race, and unacceptable for a quarterback trying to take that next step.

Cousins is going to get paid, there simply isn’t a better option, but he hasn’t showed me anything to make him deserving, he’s going to get paid by default. Cousins strikes me as another Matt Stafford, a good quarterback with a big arm who has no chance to win anything ever.

Lions fans will argue about all the comebacks Stafford has made in his career, how he’s an excellent fourth quarter quarterback, but Stafford couldn’t even win a playoff game with the best wide receiver of this generation.

Cousins has weapons, DeSean Jackson can still get it done and Jordan Reed is an excellent tight end when healthy, but you need intangibles to win in the NFL Playoffs, and Cousins just doesn’t have it.

Redskins fans go ahead and argue with me, but Kirk Cousins is simply mediocre, and he proved it last night.

Patriots Survive a Wild One in Primetime

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Well a win is a win I guess. The Patriots defeated the Ravens 30-23 on Monday night, but this one should’ve been a blowout. New England came out firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball, special teams and defense led to an early safety, and Tom Brady and the offense was rolling.

Mr. Checkdown Joe Flacco refused to throw the ball more than ten yards downfield in the first half as the Patriots cruised to a 16-3 halftime lead. It should’ve been about 30-3 at halftime, but referee Ed Hochuli took away a Trey Flowers strip sack and a Devin McCourty INT return.

But it all came unraveled for New England when Cyrus Jones muffed a punt which led to a Ravens’ score, followed by Matthew Slater fumbling the ensuing kickoff leading to yet another Baltimore touchdown.

Just when it looked like it was going to be a New England blowout, Flacco had his troops ready to upset Brady and Belichick again.

But that’s why Tom Brady has four Super Bowl rings and Flacco has been stuck on neutral ever since his one Super Bowl. Brady looked off one of the best safeties in the league in Eric Weddle and found Chris Hogan down the seam for the dagger touchdown, putting the Patriots up 30-20 with 6 minutes left.

This was a big win for the Patriots, you expect Brady and Belichick to win games at home against decent quarterbacks in December, and that’s what they did. They’ve yet to show me that this team is Super Bowl caliber, there are lots of issues to address, but there’s still time.

There were lots of positives from this game, Brady was flawless apart from one play. When Brady found Martellus Bennett on a fade route in the end zone on the first possession of the second half the game appeared over at 23-3. The Patriots were blowing out a good team in primetime.

But the special teams issues were paramount, and for New England it starts with Cyrus Jones. Jones had a rough night, not just returning punts, but he also let up a long pass to Breshad Perriman. He was replaced in coverage by Jonathan Jones, an undrafted rookie out of Auburn, and Jones looked better in limited action.

There were people on Twitter calling for Cyrus Jones to be cut last night, and that’s crazy. The Patriots aren’t going to give up on their second round pick just yet. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve probably seen the last of Cyrus Jones returning punts this season, but Belichick can still use him in coverage.

It was a big win, but this team still has a long way to go.

 

 

 

Is the Sale Trade Part of a Troubling Trend?

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Dave Dombrowski is the most aggressive executive in Major League Baseball that is for certain. When Dombrowski became the Red Sox President of Baseball Operations on August 18, 2015 he inherited a last place team, but one with a budding farm system thanks to 15 years of building by former GMs Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington.

Now here we are on December 8, 2016, and almost all of that farm system has been torn down. 15 years of drafting and building traded away in less than 18 months.

Red Sox fans, myself included, will love the Chris Sale trade, as they should. Sale has been the best pitcher in baseball not named Clayton Kershaw over the past five seasons. He’s a stud.

But there’s another side to this equation, to get Sale the Red Sox had to part ways with their two best prospects, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech.

In the last 18 months, Dombrowski has traded Moncada, Kopech, Anderson Espinoza, Travis Shaw, Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen, Pat Light, Mauricio Dubon, the Basabe brothers, Victor Diaz, Wendell Rijo, and others I’m probably forgetting to acquire Sale, Kimbrel, Brad Ziegler, Aaron Hill, Drew Pomeranz, and Fernando Abad.

I can defend the Sale deal, I have to defend the Sale deal. You got a stud pitcher who’s pitching for about a third of what he’s worth salary wise. Additionally, Moncada looked lost in his brief stint in the Big Leagues in 2016, he was terrible in the field and couldn’t hit a curveball to save his life. No problem moving him.

But trading Anderson Espinoza, a guy the best pitcher in Red Sox history Pedro Martinez compared to himself, for Drew Pomeranz. I can’t defend that one. Even the Padres knew they were stealing Espinoza or they wouldn’t have hid Pomeranz’s medical records and gotten their GM suspended. I don’t know what’s worse, Dombrowski making the trade or Dombrowski not reversing the trade when he had the chance.

You traded one of your best pitching prospects for a guy who had a fluke three months who is now likely on his way to the bullpen or out of town. Dombrowski certainly won’t be getting Espinoza back for Pomeranz now.

I even have a hard time defending the Kimbrel trade. Kimbrel was one of the best closers in the game when he was traded from San Diego to Boston in exchange for four minor leaguers. Given how frequently stud closers emerge from out of nowhere (see Koji Uehara), did you really need to give up four of your best prospects for Kimbrel? Let’s hope that Kimbrel’s poor performance in 2016 was due to that knee injury and that a healthy Kimbrel will mean a dominant Kimbrel in 2017.

It’s okay to trade prospects for proven stars, that’s part of the reason you develop prospects in the first place. One can argue the Cherington regime went too far the other way, refusing to trade Blake Swihart for Cole Hamels for example.

But trading solid prospects for guys like Brad Ziegler, Aaron Hill, and Fernando Abad. Fernando is abad pitcher. That move was ridiculous.

Of course everything I’m saying will be rendered moot if you win a World Series before Dombrowski inevitably leaves in the next five years or so. But if you don’t, guess what, then you’re the Tigers, and you don’t want to be the Tigers.

Dombrowski did the same thing when he arrived in Detroit. He took one of the worst teams baseball had ever seen in 2004, a team that lost 119 (!!!) games, and had them in the World Series two years later.

Just like his Red Sox tenure so far, there were highlights. The lopsided trades for Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer stick out. They went for it every single year, reaching the ALCS three straight years from 2011-13, but never won a championship. But what looked like a team poised to make a run each and every year is a shell of its former self now. Scherzer left as a free agent and Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and Victor Martinez are now in their mid 30s and declining.

By the time Dombrowski left the Tigers had one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Dombrowski decimated the farm system in the hope of building a dynasty in Detroit, and he failed miserably. With Verlander and Cabrera aging quickly, and the Tigers trying to get rid of Martinez, things will get worse before they get better in Detroit.

It’s clear Dombrowski didn’t learn anything from his time in the Motor City, as he’s doing the exact same thing in Boston. If Dombrowki had been in charge three years ago, Mookie Betts would’ve had his MVP caliber 2016 season somewhere else. Maybe the Sox would’ve had Max Scherzer or Cole Hamels, but I’ll take the young outfielder.

Cherington and Epstein built a Red Sox team that could win now and combined it with a farm system that would’ve allowed the Sox to compete for the next decade. In just 18 months Dombrowski has turned that 10 year window into a 3-4 year window.

This is why Epstein is the greatest GM of all time and Dombrowski is simply mediocre. Epstein had a five year plan with the Cubs, and in five years he ended a 108 year World Series drought and built a team that can win championships for the next 15 years.

Dombrowski better hope his team delivers quickly, or he better call and ask Epstein if he can borrow his gorilla costume.

 

Late Night Baseball News: Yankees Land Chapman, Cubs Snag Wade Davis

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Aroldis Chapman has had quite a year in 2016. It all began last offseason when the flame throwing lefty was traded to the New York Yankees from the Cincinnati Reds. Chapman was then suspended for the first 30 games of the regular season before pitching for the Yankees for a few months. Then he was traded to the Chicago Cubs where he helped them win a World Series for the first time in 108 years. Now, with the Cubs out of the market for his services, he’s headed back to New York on a five year, $86 million deal.

The contract shatters the record for a closer that was set by Mark Melancon when he signed with the San Francisco Giants just a few days ago. It’s not quite the big three of Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Chapman that the Yankees had at the start of last season, but having two of the three is still pretty great.

I can’t get over the contract however. We all saw how important relievers are in the postseason, so you knew someone was going to overpay for a closer, but this is insane. The Yankees are paying $86 million for a guy who pitched 58 innings last year, and 66 in 2015.

Meanwhile the Red Sox are paying $38 million for Chris Sale, who pitched 208 and 226 innings the past two seasons. It’s a ton of money for a guy who doesn’t see the field all that often.

Well with Chapman gone, you’re probably wondering who the Cubs will replace him with. And if you’re Theo Epstein, it only makes sense to go get one of the few guys who was better than Chapman in 2016. The Cubs traded fourth outfielder Jorge Soler to the Royals in exchange for closer Wade Davis.

This trade makes a lot of sense for both teams, the Royals have a lot of veteran players who will be free agents next offseason and will likely sign for big money, so they needed a guy under team control. Soler is signed through 2020 at just $3 million per year, a bargain considering his potential.

The Cubs meanwhile, they needed a closer, and they got a good one. Davis has been flat out filthy the past three seasons, posting a 1.00, 0.94, and 1.87 ERA respectively, while adding 47 saves in that span.

The Cubs are going to be the favorites to win the World Series again in 2017, and the trade for Davis only solidifies that status.

The White Sox Got a Haul for Adam Eaton

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Well that was a win now move if I’ve ever seen one. It was just announced that the Nationals have acquired outfielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox in exchange for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning.

This is pretty much the same package the Nats were offering the White Sox for Chris Sale and the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen.

Sale is a Cy Young caliber pitcher, McCutchen is a superstar coming off a down year. Adam Eaton is neither of those things, he hit .284 with 14 home runs and 59 RBIs last season for the White Sox.

Don’t get me wrong, Eaton is an excellent outfielder with some pop, and he’s pretty fast, but this package of prospects is insane. Giolito is the number one pitching prospect in all of baseball, and the Nationals had touted him as untouchable for a long time. He struggled in his six starts last season, going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA, but give the guy some time.

Lopez had an up and down year for the Nationals last season. He showed flashes of brilliance, including a 7 IP 1 ER 11 K performance on August 18th where he was downright filthy. But overall he had a 4.91 ERA in six starts. He’s just 22 years old, and was also a lot to give up.

As if two top pitching prospects weren’t enough to land Adam Eaton (still shocked by this), the Nationals also traded Dane Dunning, their 2016 first round pick.

If you were wondering if the Nationals were in win now mode, there’s your answer. With Bryce Harper likely leaving in free agency following the 2018 season, the Nats are going championship or bust the next two years. Eaton gives them another dynamic outfielder to pair with Harper and Jayson Werth.

After getting what I thought was a sub-par package of prospects from the Red Sox for Chris Sale, Rich Hahn really outdid himself with this one. Chicago’s farm system has immediately gone from one of the worst to one of the best in baseball in the span of two days.

And there’s no telling where Hahn will stop, it appears the White Sox are in full rebuild mode now, and they have plenty more pieces they can move. Expect Hahn to continue to field calls on Jose Quintana and Todd Frazier as well as possibly David Robertson and Jose Abreu. The Atlanta Braves have emerged as a potential landing spot for Quintana while the Dodgers have shown interest in Frazier.

Stay tuned, I’m sure these MLB GMs aren’t done dealing just yet.

Red Sox Don’t Stop: Sign Mitch Moreland to One Year Contract

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Dave Dombrowski just doesn’t stop, this time signing free agent Mitch Moreland to a one year contract worth just over $5 million.

After trading away the Mayor of Ding Dong City Travis Shaw earlier in the day, the Red Sox needed a 1B/DH hybrid, and they found their guy in Moreland. Moreland hit .233 with 22 home runs and 60 RBI last season for the Texas Rangers. It is also worth noting that he won a gold glove for his defense at first base.

I like this move for the Red Sox, it’s similar to the signing of Chris Young last offseason, it’s a low risk move with the potential for huge upside. His numbers are basically identical to those of Travis Shaw, the guy the Red Sox traded earlier in the day. Shaw hit .242 with 16 home runs and 71 RBI in 2016.

The issue with Moreland is he struggles mightily to hit right handed pitching, he hit just .221 against righties last year compared to .277 against lefties. So the Red Sox may adjust their lineup when facing right handed pitchers, meaning Moreland may not play everyday. John Farrell has said the Red Sox would use multiple players at DH this upcoming season.

If Moreland sits against righties, Hanley Ramirez would likely slide in at first base while Chris Young would DH.

It’s certainly not Edwin Encarnacion, but a solid low risk move for the Sox.

More Breaking News: Red Sox acquire Chris Sale from White Sox

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The hot stove is really heating up now. After beginning the offseason saying the Red Sox were likely to mostly stand pat this offseason, Dave Dombrowski pulled off a blockbuster, acquiring Chris Sale from the White Sox in exchange for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and two other minor leaguers.

Well the Red Sox got their guy, and they got him for the right price. It hurts to lose Moncada, he’s become one of the best prospects in baseball over the past two years, but when you have an opportunity to get the best left-hander in the American League without giving up any major league ready talent, you do it.

The fact that the Red Sox got this deal done without giving up Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, or Xander Bogaerts is shocking, but I’ll take it. They didn’t even have to give up Eduardo Rodriguez.

The main question Red Sox fans will have is if this was the price for Sale, why didn’t Dombrowski do this deal six months ago when the Sox still had David Ortiz. I think the answer is simple, the asking price was higher in the summer. I think the Nationals balked at what the White Sox were asking for, and I think Chicago was almost desperate to move Sale.

Well the Red Sox took advantage of the White Sox desperation, and flat out stole one of the best pitchers in the league from them. A rotation now featuring Sale, Price, Porcello, Rodriguez, and Wright is going to be very tough for opposing hitters.

The Sox only remaining need is now a power bat, preferably a left handed one. With Boston looking to stay under the luxury tax, look for Dombrowski to try and flip Clay Buchholz and his $13.5 million salary for a bat.

Breaking: Red Sox Acquire Tyler Thornburg from Brewers

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

I wrote yesterday that the Red Sox needed bullpen help, and Dave Dombrowski wasted no time in adding another bullpen arm this morning, acquiring Tyler Thornburg from the Milwaukee Brewers. In exchange, Travis Shaw (aka the Mayor of Ding Dong City) is headed to Milwaukee along with prospects Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington.

While it’s not surprising the Red Sox made a trade for a relief pitcher, Thornburg wasn’t exactly on anyone’s radar as far as possible trade chips go. But what’s clear is that Thornburg is an elite reliever who is under club control for the next three seasons.

Thornburg had a breakout season with the Brewers in 2016, pitching to a 2.15 ERA with 12.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 32.4 percent ground-ball rate in 67 innings. Those are elite numbers for sure. He can also be dominant against both righties and lefties, something the Red Sox definitely need.

Late inning relief help has been a priority for the Red Sox this offseason, last year’s eighth inning options Brad Ziegler and Koji Uehara both hit free agency this offseason and last offseason’s main trade acquisition Carson Smith is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery.

Thornburg will most likely slide alongside converted starters Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes in the bullpen, though there is still room for another arm to slide in.

If all goes according to plan, a bullpen featuring Kelly, Kimbrel, Thornburg and eventually Smith in the late innings would be formidable. This trade is essentially Carson Smith 2.0.

An elite bullpen arm did not come without a hefty price tag, and the Sox gave up a lot. Travis Shaw began last season as the everyday third baseman, he had a very up and down season, but did club 16 home runs. He figures to slot in as Milwaukee’s starting third baseman and has shown 20 homer potential.

This trade continues the mass exodus of former Boston third baseman headed to Milwaukee. Shaw will join Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini.

Trading Shaw likely signals that Pablo Sandoval (gulp) or Brock Holt will likely begin the season as the third baseman until Yoan Moncada is deemed ready to take over.

Dubon is a prospect who was gaining stature as a top prospect in Boston. It was just a question of where he would fit in a crowded Boston infield that features stars like Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia. He was seen as someone who could’ve been a super utility man a la Brock Holt in Boston. But Dubon will likely start as a middle infielder in another organization.

Pennington has a big arm and potential but he’s far from big league ready. He spent last season in single A Lowell. He’s simply a guy a team like the Red Sox trades and a team like the Brewers acquire.

 

Ridiculous NBA Highlights

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The Celtics may have lost in Houston tonight, but we were still treated to some incredible highlights.

First, Victor Oladipo may have destroyed Dwight Howard’s will to live after this dunk. I mean he double-clutched and still dunked over the 7 foot Howard.

In Golden State, Klay scored 40 in the first half, and the Golden State Warriors are just out here doing Golden State Warrior things, this is just ridiculous.

 

WATCH: David Pastrnak Wins it with a Beauty, Is turning into an All-Star before our Eyes

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Bruins fans were getting worried when Jason Demers tied the game for Florida in the final minute of the third. But David Pastrnak put our worries to rest with a beautiful game winner in OT. The 20 year old now has 15 goals in 21 games and looks poised to make his first All-Star appearance.

Is he the scorer the Black and Gold have needed for years? Early returns have been good so far.

 

Help Wanted: Red Sox Seeking Bullpen Arm and Power Bat

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The Winter Meetings are finally upon us, and the biggest news to come out of the Red Sox camp today didn’t even involve a player. The news of the day for Red Sox fans was that Dave Dombrowski elected to exercise John Farrell’s option for 2018.

Now that we know who the manager is going to be, let’s focus on the players who will help the Sox compete for a title in 2017.

The world was watching as the Indians and Cubs staged a World Series battle for the ages this past season. Coincidentally, those teams had the two best relief pitchers in baseball, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

The Red Sox have an excellent reliever of their own anchoring the back end of the bullpen in Craig Kimbrel, but they need other pieces if they expect to repeat as AL East champs next season.

The Red Sox could go the incumbent route, but that would mean guys like Joe Kelly, Robbie Ross Jr., and Carson Smith (who’s coming off Tommy John Surgery) logging significant innings. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

While Kelly and his 95-100 MPH fastball have potential in the bullpen, Ross is mediocre at best and who knows what we’ll see from Smith once he’s healthy.

The Red Sox have options here, they could break the bank for Chapman or Jansen, but with Mark  Melancon setting the market with his $60 million+ deal with the Giants, I’m not sure Dombrowski wants to shell out $75 million for a reliever. Additionally, doing so might anger Kimbrel, which we want to avoid.

They could also look for some cheaper options. Brad Ziegler and Koji Uehara could be re-signed on short term deals for little money, but both are past their prime at ages 37 and 41 respectively. Other options in this range include JP Howell and Greg Holland.

Dombrowski could pull of a deal similar to the one involving Wade Miley last offseason. In this scenario it would be Clay Buchholz who would be dealt. Would a package of Buchholz and a couple prospects be enough to land Royals closer Wade Davis?

The other glaring need for the Red Sox is that of a middle of the order bat. In case you haven’t noticed, David Ortiz retired, so the Sox have a .315, 38 HR, 127 RBI season to replace. That’s no easy task.

Boston was reportedly linked to Carlos Beltran and Matt Holiday, but both have signed elsewhere. With the Astros and Yankees signing Beltran and Holiday respectively, along with the Blue Jays signing Kendrys Morales and Steven Pearce, the market appears to be dwindling for Edwin Encarnacion.

The Red Sox were rumored as a player early on in the Encarnacion sweepstakes, but reportedly backed off when Encarnacion asked for a five-year $125 million deal.

However if you can get Encarnacion for around say three years, $75 million, I think that’s a deal worth doing if you’re Dombrowski. Cheaper options would include old friend Mike Napoli, who underwent a resurgence last year with the Indians, and former Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez.

However the big blockbuster is always in play when talking about the Red Sox, so giving up the entire farm system for Chris Sale, Nate Jones and Jose Abreu isn’t out of the question. A similar deal with the Tigers for Justin Verlander, Francisco Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera is also possible.

Look for the Sox to stick with cheap options this time around after ponying up $200 million for David Price last offseason. Heck Rich Hill just got $48 million after pitching for the Long Island Ducks less than two years ago. The top free agents just aren’t there this offseason, everyone is being overpaid, hopefully Dombrowski doesn’t fall into that trap.

 

Well the CFP Matchups are Set, and the Committee Clearly just Looks at Records

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Conference championship weekend is in the books, and the College Football Playoff matchups for year three are set. It will be Alabama vs Washington and Clemson vs Ohio State in the National Semifinals.

In the college ranks, Alabama dominated Florida to win the SEC title. At the moment the Tide are the clear cut number one team, and their defense is outstanding, however I think they are far from unbeatable. Florida isn’t exactly very good, no one in the SEC East was very good this year, so we’ll see how the Tide fare when they play a real team (Washington isn’t a real team either). I also think Jalen Hurts could make a huge freshman mistake in a big game down the stretch.

The ACC champion Clemson Tigers enter the playoff as the number two team in the country after defeating the much improved Virginia Tech Hokies to earn their second straight ACC title. Star quarterback Deshaun Watson was fabulous, scoring five total touchdowns and willing his team to victory. Not too many people are giving the Tigers a chance against Ohio State, but I think they are underestimating Clemson, who open as a three point underdog. Look for the Tigers to give the Buckeyes a hell of a game.

Ohio State didn’t even play in their conference title game on Saturday, which is the reason they dropped to number 3 in the final CFP rankings behind number two Clemson. There was controversy over whether or not the Buckeyes should be in the playoff without winning their conference, but I believe the Buckeyes are a top two team in the country. I think the real debate was between Penn State and Washington.

Now on to the controversial number four team, the Washington Huskies. I have to give the Huskies credit, they played the schedule that was handed to them and they played well, finishing with just one loss. They stormed through the Pac 12, steamrolling Colorado in the championship game, and their only loss to USC looks better by the day.

I just don’t think the Huskies passed the eye test, they got beat badly by USC at home in their one primetime game on a big stage. If you had to put a Pac 12 team in, I would’ve put USC, but the committee has shown they just look at records and don’t care which teams are actually good.

The case for Penn State: They won their conference title and won the head to head matchup with Ohio State. They peaked at the right time.

The case against Penn State: They lost to Pitt and lost to Michigan by a million. They were outplayed for most of the game against Ohio State and won on a fluke special teams play.

The case for Michigan: They lost to Iowa in Iowa’s super bowl on the road in the rain at night, and they lost to Ohio State (who I think is the best team in the country) on a tough fourth down call. And they crushed Penn St.

The case against Michigan: That Iowa loss puts them in a tough spot. Tough to put in a two loss team that didn’t win their conference.

I would’ve had:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio St
  4. Michigan

I used the eye test more than looking at records, I’ve watched all these teams play and I think these are the four best teams in the country. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

Hear Me Out: Odell Beckham Jr. is the Best Player in the NFL

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

We all know the NFL is a quarterback league, you can’t win without a top-tier quarterback in today’s game, just ask the Cleveland Browns. The last ten Super Bowl winning quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Peyton Manning. All competent quarterbacks.

However a quarterback’s success is often determined by his weapons, today’s crop of top receivers is largely better than it has ever been. However there’s one talent that stands above the rest, Odell Beckham Jr.

Ever since the moment he first stepped on an NFL field as a rookie, he has been the best player in the league. In just 38 games, Beckham has 252 catches, 3,670 yards and 33 touchdowns. That is simply unheard of. He caught 91 balls for over 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 12 games as a rookie in 2014.

I would consider Julio Jones and Antonio Brown to be the second and third best receivers in the league (in no particular order). Jones is having an excellent season this year and has eclipsed 1500 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. Brown meanwhile is also coming off back to back 1500 yard seasons and had 1,499 receiving yards in 2013.

On paper the stat comparisons between Jones, Brown, and Beckham are largely comparable, however when you dig a bit deeper into the teams they play for, and how other teams gameplan against them, you see a much larger discrepancy.

The Steelers defense is mediocre at best, but they have weapons all over the field on offense. Ben Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer and is still one of the best quarterbacks in football at age 34. Former Auburn receiver Sammie Coates has proven to be a legitimate number two receiver this season, and is a threat to go deep on any play. And LeVeon Bell has been a monster in the backfield since he came out of Michigan State.

The Atlanta Falcons’ offense more closely resembles that of the New York Giants, but there are still weapons around Julio Jones. Matt Ryan may struggle in big games, and he may not be the most flashy QB, but you know exactly what you are going to get from Matt Ryan. He’s a low ceiling, high floor type guy, and is a top ten quarterback in the NFL.

Unlike the Giants, the Falcons have talent on defense, Vic Beasley has taken a step forward in his second season out of Clemson and Desmond Trufant has been excellent in coverage. Meanwhile Devonta Freeman rushed for over 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

When you gameplan to face the New York Giants, you have one job, stop number 13. That has been the case since the day Odell first stepped on the field, and yet the Giants are 8-3. Eli Manning is likely headed to the Hall of Fame thanks to his two Super Bowl victories, but those were thanks to historically good defenses and answered prayers by David Tyree and Mario Manningham.

Apart from two big games against the Patriots, Eli Manning is nothing more than an average NFL quarterback. Sterling Shephard has started to emerge as a number two wideout, but I need to see more from him. Landon Collins has been excellent on defense, but he plays safety, not exactly a game changing position. To make matters worse, the Giants have no running game.

Does anyone think the Giants are actually any good? I certainly don’t think so. The Giants are 8-3 thanks to the best player in the NFL, Odell Beckham Jr.

What I Saw: Tiger’s Return

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf on Thursday in his first round since finishing T10 in the 2015 Wyndham Championship and in what was by far the most publicized December round in the history of professional golf.

It was a perfect venue for his return, a wide open course at an event where he is the host. The crowds are also significantly smaller than typical Tiger crowds due to the event’s location in the Bahamas. Woods hit the ball better than I expected, distance control on his irons was very solid, and he hit some great shots. However his score was about what you’d expect for his first competitive round in 15 months, a one-over par 73.

While the score leaves Woods in 17th place out of 18 players (one ahead of Justin Rose who shot 74), there were a lot of positives to take from the round. The main question coming into the day centered around Woods’ touch around the greens. While Woods’ highly publicized chipping struggles don’t seem to be gone completely, he hit some excellent pitch shots on Thursday.

However Woods also struggled around the greens, he hit a pitch shot well past the hole on the 16th, leading to a double bogey.

Another thing we were all wondering coming in was how would Woods fare with the driver. Woods surprised me by hitting almost exclusively draws on Thursday. I can’t remember the last time I saw Woods’ path so far in to out on the downswing. It looked to me like he was having trouble controlling the club face, he was closing the club face too much, causing him to pull the ball to the left.

Before the long layoff, I had grown accustomed to seeing Woods aim very far to the right and hit a big cut in order to keep the ball in play. It looked as if Woods switched to more of a draw shape in an effort to gain more distance.

Woods missed the fairway to the left on numerous occasions on Thursday, including on the 18th hole where he found the water, which led to yet another double bogey.

Many of us including myself were wondering what Tiger would say about a round that had a lot of positives, but was a mixed bag in many ways.

“I hit the ball in three bushes and a water ball today. It could’ve been something really good today. I made some mistakes, I didn’t play the par 5s well in the middle of the round and got it going the wrong way,” Woods told Golf Channel’s Damon Hack after the round.

“All in all I feel pretty good and I’m looking forward to three more days,” Woods said.

We are too Tiger, we are too. Tiger will be back at it tomorrow at 11:12 AM alongside Justin Rose, we’ll all be watching.

Weekend Roundup: Patriots Survive, Ohio State Wins a Wild One, Iron Bowl Disappointment

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Well it was quite the weekend in both College and Professional football. We got a better idea of the four best teams in college football, while the NFL playoff picture didn’t really get any clearer with the Patriots and Raiders both barely beating mediocre teams.

No. 1 Alabama 30, No. 13 Auburn 12

We’ll start with the biggest SEC rivalry game, the Iron Bowl. The outcome of this one was largely predetermined, the Tide came in as the clear cut number one team and would be playing at home against a depleted Auburn squad.

With starting quarterback Sean White and top corner Josh Holsey both out due to injury, and with SEC leading rusher Kamryn Pettway running on one leg, the Tigers didn’t stand much of a chance in this one.

The defense kept them in it for a half, and John Franklin III provided a bit of a spark in the second half, but it was an excellent win for the Tide in a game that was closer than the score would indicate.

The Tigers will likely finish their season in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans while the Crimson Tide looked to have locked up a spot in the College Football Playoff.

No. 2 Ohio State 30, No. 5 Michigan 27 (Final/2OT)

Well when two top five teams go at it this late in the season, you’re bound to have some fireworks. Combine that with one of the biggest rivalries in the sport, and you’ve got controversy just waiting to happen.

The Buckeyes survived a double overtime thriller to knock off their arch-rivals and likely clinch their spot in the College Football Playoff.

I still think JT Barrett was stopped short on that fourth down play in OT, but the Buckeyes got it done when it mattered most.

That play showed what an advantage having Urban Meyer on the sideline gives the Buckeyes. A lesser coach trots his kicker out there in that situation to try and tie the game. But Meyer used his head, he said I’m going to put the ball in my hands of my star QB rather than my struggling kicker and play to win this game.

I think the Buckeyes are a top four team in the country, I think Michigan is as well but they won’t be in the playoff, Michigan can keep blaming the officials, but the turnovers cost them that game, not the refs.

Patriots 22, Jets 17

Tom Brady was playing on one leg, Rob Gronkowski left the game in the first quarter with a back injury (shocker), the Jets played what was by far their best game of the season in what was their Super Bowl, and the Jets still couldn’t find a way to beat the Patriots.

Great teams win these types of games, great teams go on the road with all your star players injured and beat teams that have nothing to lose. Brady struggled mightily yesterday, but he willed his teammates to steal that game on the road.

It’s crazy how far Darrelle Revis has fallen, two years ago he was the difference maker for a Patriots team that won a Super Bowl title. However Revis struggled in Super Bowl XLIX, he got torched by Doug Baldwin and had to be bailed out by an undrafted rookie from West Alabama named Malcolm Butler.

He then signed with the Jets for huge money, and has been a shell of himself ever since. Revis is headed to Canton one day, but yesterday was not his best game. Brady went straight at Revis with rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, and Mitchell flat out beat Revis one-on-one twice for touchdowns.

Not the best day for the Patriots, but a win is a win, especially on the road in the NFL. Now they’ve got a date with the Rams and rookie QB Jared Goff at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, a good chance to get everyone healthy.

Raiders 35, Panthers 32

I never thought I’d say this, and I picked the Raiders to win the AFC West this season, but the Raiders reminded me a lot of the New England Patriots yesterday.

Derek Carr is becoming more of a superstar with every passing week, and playing through a dislocated finger and getting a win over a Panthers team that isn’t as bad as everyone thinks was his best performance to date.

I know the Panthers’ record isn’t good, but they have an excellent quarterback, a competent coach, and two superstar linebackers. They are better than their record suggests.

I only watched one possession of this game yesterday, the last one, and it looked like Cam was going to throw it back to his days on the Plains at Auburn before Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack took over.

The Raiders are an excellent football team, they have a stellar offense led by Carr and Amari Cooper, and the sight of Mack and Irvin rushing the passer could have Brady shaking in his boots.

As long as they don’t beat themselves, the Raiders are the Patriots biggest road block between here and Super Bowl LI in Houston.

 

Iron Bowl Hype

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Well the Iron Bowl goes down in T-Town today. Let’s relive the best Iron Bowl moment in recent history, the kick six.

You all know the story by now, Nick Marshall finds Sammie Coates with a 39 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 28 with just enough time for Alabama to have one final drive. The Tide run a series of draw plays and TJ Yeldon gets pushed out of bounds at the Auburn 40 yard line with one second on the clock.

Nick Saban sends out a redshirt freshman for a 57 yard field goal, it comes up short, and Chris Davis returns it 109 yards for the winning score, and all hell breaks loose at Jordan-Hare, they weren’t going to keep them off the field that night.

“AUBURN’S GONNA WIN THE FOOTBALL GAME!!!”

 

 

College Football Chaos: What Now?

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Chaos ensued in college football on Saturday, with four top ten teams going down, including Nos. 2, 3, and 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Let’s recap the games, starting with the one game that went as planned.

Alabama 51, Mississippi State 3

I’m including this one because it involved the number one team in the country and because I had the chance to attend this game, and I find I learn much more about a team by watching them play live.

Here’s what I learned. Alabama is very, very good, they deserve to be the number one team in the nation, their defense is incredible. I had some hope for a close contest after Mississippi State beat Texas A&M last week,  but it was hard to believe they’re in the SEC watching that squad. Nick Fitzgerald was downright dreadful at QB for the Bulldogs, but he was running for his life all afternoon.

Anyways, back to the Crimson Tide. Their defense is unbelievably fast, and their defense and running game could be enough to carry them to another national title. But they’re certainly beatable. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is a true freshman and basically plays running back. He sprinkles in a few passes here and there, but he’s out there for his legs.

The key to defending Alabama’s offense is to make Hurts throw the ball downfield. He can complete the short passes, but his lack of downfield accuracy could come back to haunt the Tide in a big game. Hurts threw an awful interception trying to throw downfield over the middle on Saturday, and while it didn’t matter then, watch for that when the Tide play a meaningful game.

Georgia 13, Auburn 7

This one was a heart breaker, as most Auburn fans already had their sights set on Tuscaloosa for a winner take all Iron Bowl. All the Tigers had to do was go into Sanford Stadium and beat the Georgia Bulldogs. We all overlooked Georgia and their true freshman quarterback.

We should’ve seen this coming, Sean White was clearly less than 100 percent, star Running Back Kamryn Pettway was out with a hamstring injury, and the Tigers hadn’t won at Georgia since 2005.

Jacob Eason may be a true freshman, but he’s also the best quarterback to roll into Athens since Matthew Stafford. He played safe, let his running game do most of the work, and made just enough plays to earn the victory.

The Georgia defense did its job, Auburn didn’t record a first down in the second half, and Nick Chubb simply tired out the Auburn defensive line. We could’ve gone to Franklin at QB, but like Hurts at Alabama, he’s basically a running back. This was the perfect storm for an upset. Let’s hope everyone can get healthy so we can have a competitive Iron Bowl.

Pittsburgh 43, Clemson 42

I’ll be honest here, the thought of Pittsburgh going into Death Valley and defeating DeShaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers never once crossed my mind. Clemson was throwing it all over the field, and had its offense clicking for the most part, but the defense couldn’t stop the Panthers.

DeShaun Watson threw the ball an unheard of 70 times, he did throw for an ACC record 580 yards and three touchdowns, but his three interceptions allowed Pitt to stay in the game.

Pittsburgh just hung in there the entire game, and when their offense got their chance after Wayne Gallman was stopped twice on third and fourth down with 58 seconds left, they capitalized.

Kicker Chris Blewitt then drilled a 48 yard field goal with six seconds left to end Clemson’s 21 game home winning streak, the longest in the nation. It was Clemson’s first loss to an unranked opponent in 46 games, and just like that the College Football Playoff had received its first shakeup of the day.

USC 26, Washington 13

Washington was just humming along in the Pac 12, content to remain undefeated, content to play their games out west away from the watchful eye of the East Coast. For many, this would be their first look at Heisman contender Jake Browning and the Huskies.

We were all wondering just how good the Huskies were, whether they were deserving of their number four ranking. It quickly became apparent that the Huskies looked like a pretender.

Jake Browning struggled mightily and the Trojans were in control all night, the game didn’t appear nearly as close as the 13 point margin indicated.

Iowa 14, Michigan 13

This was another upset we maybe should’ve seen coming, as Michigan has now lost its last four games at Iowa. But come on, Michigan was dominant coming in while Iowa had struggled to a 5-4 record.

The Hawkeyes played an excellent game on both sides of the ball, holding the Wolverines to their lowest point total of the season and rushing for 164 yards. The Michigan offense struggled mightily on a cold and windy night in Iowa, and while their defense kept them in it, it wasn’t enough.

Some notable facts about Iowa, quarterback CJ Beathard isn’t even the most famous guy in his own family, his brother Tucker is a country music star, and their kicker is a walk-on freshman. However that walk on freshman kicker made a 33 yarder to down the Wolverines.

The Wolverines are definitely not out of the playoff picture thanks to losses by Clemson and Washington, but their road certainly just got much tougher. Meanwhile Iowa will probably give Kirk Ferentz a 20 year contract extension.

What Now?

Despite all these upsets, it’s possible not a lot will change in the rankings. The AP poll has:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Louisville
  4. Michigan
  5. Clemson
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Washington

Now this could very well be the rankings the committee decides to go with, however I think there will be one major difference.

Michigan drops to 4, and most notably they are 0-1 on the road against teams with a pulse. Ohio State moves up to number 2, however despite a Michigan loss and better ranking, this was a bad weekend for the Buckeyes, their chances of winning the Big Ten dropped dramatically. Clemson brought back the “Clemsoning” for a week, but I think they only fall to number 3 because of their head to head win over Louisville. Washington only has one loss but falls below two loss Wisconsin due to the strength of schedule gap.

Who’s ready for more college football chaos? I know I am. Let’s just hope the next upset is Auburn over Alabama.

Election Recap 2016: How It All Went Down

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

I’d like to preface this piece by saying that my goal here is to recap the election and how the events of last night and this morning occurred, I will try to keep my stance as objective as possible. Also, as this is a sports blog, I’m going to draw as much of a connection between sports and politics as I can.

Well American politics had their Super Bowl last night, just as they do every four years. Coming into the election, Hillary Clinton was heavily favored to defeat Donald Trump in the race for the White House. However, as every sports fan knows, it’s never over until it’s officially over.

Trump was a heavy underdog coming in, and needed pretty much every swing state to go his way. One by one the dominoes began to fall, and while it took until the early hours of Wednesday morning and finished as one of the closest elections in history, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America. The final tally had Trump defeating Hillary Clinton 279-228 in electoral votes.

This election was always going to come down to Trump’s ability to crack what experts called “The big blue wall.” In other words, Trump was going to need to win states that traditionally voted Blue.

The Trump camp first gained hope when word came out that Trump had won the swing state of Florida and its 29 electoral votes. The first must-win swing state had gone Trump’s way. And as the night went on, more and more states swung in favor of Trump.

When things were all set and done, Trump had emerged victorious in the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. We knew that Trump was likely going to need a clean sweep of these states to have any chance of winning the White House, except no one thought he would actually do it.

This will go down as one of the biggest upsets in American history. Think Giants over Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, or Villanova over Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA basketball National Championship.

Let’s stick with this Patriots-Giants comparison, I thought long and hard of how I was going to compare this election to sports, and this is what I’ve come up with. This scenario won’t match perfectly with history, as Brady comes out victorious in 2016, but bear with me on this one.

Trump and Clinton could be considered very similar to the two quarterbacks in this analogy.

In one corner you’ve got Hillary Clinton, who has stepped out of the shadow of Bill Clinton and is now hoping for her own time in the spotlight. This is just like Eli Manning, Eli was hoping to step out of his brother Peyton’s shadow and make a name for himself.

In the other corner you’ve got Donald Trump, beloved by some, but hated by many. Just like Tom Brady, Brady is largely hated outside New England, but inside he is one of the most cherished figures in history. Trump is beloved in rural America, but in big cities, his appeal falls well short of that of Clinton.

It seems like no matter what happens on or off the field, Tom Brady just finds a way to win, and that’s exactly what Donald Trump did in this election. When everyone was hating on Tom Brady for Deflategate, he found a way to defeat Seattle and win Super Bowl XLIX. When everyone was hating on Donald Trump, he found a way to break down the big blue wall and win the Presidency.

The reaction on social media to Trump’s victory was one largely filled with hatred and disgust. If this election doesn’t prove what a small sample social media represents than I don’t know what will. If you only saw the reaction on Facebook and Twitter, you would’ve thought that Clinton won in a landslide.

The reality is that America wanted change, and they were going to get it no matter what. I have to give Trump credit here, he knew exactly what he was doing. He cast himself not as a Republican or a Democrat, but as an American, and as an American who would change the current state of America.

When we first think of America we think of the white collar major cities. We think of New York, Boston, Chicago, LA. But where Trump won this election is with blue collar rural America, places like Wisconsin, Iowa, Alabama, and rural Pennsylvania.

Time will tell how Donald Trump goes down in history, but for one night Trump won over America. He did what all good quarterbacks and presidential candidates do, he found a way to win when it mattered most.

 

 

 

NFL Sunday Recap: Raiders Proving They Belong, Chiefs Continue Surge, No One Wants to Win the AFC North

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

With the Patriots on a bye, Sunday was a good day to remind ourselves of just how mediocre the rest of the NFL is.

Ravens (4-4) 21, Steelers (4-4) 14

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Does anyone want to win the AFC North? The Steelers were hoping to get a boost with Big Ben returning from a knee injury, but instead they took a tough loss to the lowly Ravens. With Roethlisberger at less than 100 percent, Pittsburgh needed star Running Back LeVeon Bell to step up, but he had just 32 yards on 14 carries.

Mike Wallace had himself a nice day for the Ravens with 124 yards and a touchdown on four catches.

The Ravens’ win means Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati are all within a half game of each other in the AFC North, setting up what should be a good battle down the stretch.

Cowboys (7-1) 35, Browns (0-7) 10

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Not much to say here, the Cowboys are looking more and more like a true Super Bowl contender every week and are tied with the Patriots for the best record in football at 7-1.

Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Browns are unable to take advantage of the good vibes coming their way from the Indians and Cavs, as they fall to 0-7.

Chiefs (6-2) 19, Jaguars (2-6) 14

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford (55)

Former Auburn Linebacker Dee Ford is making a huge impact with the Chiefs

While all the talk in the AFC West has been about the battle between the Broncos and Raiders, the Chiefs have quietly kept themselves squarely in the mix.

Backup QB Nick Foles led the Chiefs to their fourth straight win, and with Alex Smith set to return next week, don’t sleep on Kansas City.

I know the Jags did okay last year, but changes need to be made. They’re wasting the talent of Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson. Gus Bradley needs to be fired yesterday.

Dolphins (4-4) 27, Jets (3-6) 23

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The battle for second place in the AFC East is on, and just when you want to say the Dolphins are terrible, they miraculously come up with a win just to keep your hopes up. But come on, they barely beat a Jets team that’s on its third quarterback.

The Dolphins still believe in Ryan Tannehill, and he’s keeping them somewhat competitive at 4-4, but .500 isn’t good enough when Tom Brady is in your division, it might be time to move on. Then again, there isn’t exactly a better option out there.

The Jets have the makings of a good team, we saw that last season, but you’re not going to win with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, or Bryce Petty. Look for the Jets to go hard after Tony Romo or Jay Cutler, should they be available in a potential trade.

Giants (5-3) 28, Eagles (4-4) 23

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In what turned into a battle of talent and potential vs experience, Eli Manning and the veteran New York Giants came out on top. Odell Beckham Jr. scored two more touchdowns, and Eli Manning did just enough to keep the Giants within reach of the Cowboys in the NFC East.

The Carson Wentz pandemonium was fun while it lasted, but let’s not forget he’s still a rookie quarterback fresh out of North Dakota State. He certainly has potential, but he’s been reliant on the Eagles’ excellent defense so far, and might just be a year or two away.

Lions (5-4) 22, Vikings (5-3) 16 (OT)

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The Lions are the most confusing team in the NFL, one week Stafford looks like an MVP candidate, the next week they lose to a Houston that isn’t nearly as good as their 5-3 record suggests. But this was a big win for a team in a mediocre division.

While the Vikings hot start was fun while it lasted, Xavier Rhodes and Eric Kendricks had that defense flying off to a 5-1 start. But two straight losses to the Bears and Lions have reminded us that you can only go so far with Sam Bradford as your quarterback and with your all-pro running back out with a knee injury.

Much like the AFC North, the NFC North is proving to be a mediocre division. We thought the Vikings would run away with it, but two straight losses have put the North very much up for grabs.

Panthers (3-5) 13, Rams (3-5) 10 

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No team can start 1-5 and still make the playoffs right? After an abysmal start that saw Cam Newton get clobbered and a defense that looked nothing like last year’s NFC champions, the Panthers have begun to turn things around.

After a convincing win over the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Panthers found a way to win this week. This was the type of game you expect good times to grind out and win, and Carolina did that. With Cam Newton healthy, and Atlanta seemingly destined to fall apart, look out for Carolina down the stretch.

The Rams looked to have found their identity last year with powerful running back Todd Gurley turning in a huge rookie year and a bruising defense that drew comparisons to their counterparts in Seattle. But they’ve taken a step back this year. Lackluster quarterback play has fans booing Case Keenum and calling for Jared Goff, and Gurley’s steep decline proves that you can’t rely on a Running Back in today’s NFL.

Saints (4-4) 41, 49ers (1-7) 23

NFL: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers

Drew Brees is well past his prime, but he’s still putting up huge numbers, and a solid running game and two young stud receivers in Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas is keeping the Saints competitive at 4-4.

Man how San Francisco has fallen since Harbaugh left, their quarterback gets more attention for his National Anthem protests than his play, and their coach is still answering to rumors about returning to coach Oregon. I told you they never should’ve traded Alex Smith.

Chargers (4-5) 43, Titans (4-5) 35

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This game was a battle between two mediocre teams, but there was interesting young talent all over the field.

They lost a shootout yesterday, but Marcus Mariota is proving that he should be the Titans’ QB of the future, and with Demarco Murray returning to form and a solid defense, the Titans are very much in the AFC South race at 4-5.

While San Diego is well behind the other three teams in their division, Melvin Gordon has cemented himself as the top running back from the 2015 class, and future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers (that’s right, look at the numbers) is still putting up big numbers. Hopefully they can get themselves a defense before Rivers retires.

Colts (4-5) 31, Packers (4-4) 26

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We all know how bad the Colts are, but sometimes a good quarterback is all you need, and when he’s protected, Andrew Luck is a once in a generation talent. Going into Lambeau is always an excellent win, and Luck got that done by himself. Luck is doing just enough to keep the Colts competitive in the AFC South.

I can’t quite place exactly what’s wrong with the Green Bay Packers. They have all the talent they need to compete for a Super Bowl berth, and with the Vikings missing players left and right this should be Green Bay’s division to lose.

But close losses to Atlanta last week and Indy this week have me thinking a little something is off in the land of the Cheeseheads.

Raiders (7-2) 30, Broncos (6-3) 20

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Derek Carr is looking more like an MVP candidate by the week, and is setting himself up to make a lot of money was Oakland signs him to a contract extension.

With Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray as Carr’s primary weapons on offense, and Khalil Mack leading a solid defense, the Raiders are a forced to be reckoned with in the AFC. We knew the Raiders were a solid team this year, but a statement win over Denver on Sunday Night Football is the boost of confidence this team needed.

We know defense wins championships, and Denver has a historically good defense, but how long can they keep winning with Trevor Siemian is their quarterback. Is Siemian and that defense good enough to beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady? I doubted them last year and I’m doubting them again, it’s time for Siemian to step up.

 

 

SEC Roundup: Auburn Survives, Aggies Upset, Alabama Earns Another Tough Win

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Auburn 23, Vanderbilt 16

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It was supposed to be an easy Saturday on The Plains, a week to settle in and get an easy win before heading back on the road for another tough SEC matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs.

Instead it was anything but, as the Tigers were forced to turn to backup QB John Franklin III after Sean White was ruled out with an undisclosed injury. With typical SEC pushover Vanderbilt in town, the Tigers should have been able to cruise to an easy win. Instead, just as they have done all year, the Commodores took a solid SEC team down to the wire. This time they fell just short, as Auburn survived 23-16.

It was clear that Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee didn’t have very much confidence in Franklin, as the backup QB threw just four passes in the first half. While he had success on the ground, the Tigers struggled on offense, and trailed 13-10 at halftime.

With his team needing a comeback victory, Sean White showed his toughness when his team needed him the most, starting the second half at clearly less than 100 percent and leading his team to the win.

The Tiger offense did just enough, White threw for 109 yards and a touchdown in the second half, while Kamryn Pettway added 175 yards on the ground in another huge game.

The defense also came up big when needed, with Vanderbilt driving looking to tie the game late, Josh Holsey came up with a game-sealing interception for the second straight week.

It’s on to Georgia, and the Tigers will need to bring their A game to earn another tough SEC road win.

 

Mississippi State 35, Texas A&M 28

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The Aggies came into this game controversially ranked fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings, and were looking to roll into Starksville and make a statement.

However it was the host Bulldogs who made a statement on their home turf, knocking off the fourth ranked Aggies for their best win of the season.

The Bulldogs’ rushing attack was huge as Nick Fitzgerald rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns while Aeris Williams added 140 rushing yards and a touchdown of his own.

Mississippi State put up 35 points on a vaunted Aggie defense led by potential number one pick Myles Garrett and all put knocked A&M out of consideration for the College Football Playoff.

 

Alabama 10, LSU 0

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Another low-scoring installment in one of the best rivalries in college football took place on Saturday night in Baton Rouge. The Tide were looking to cement their place at number one while LSU was looking to earn a statement win for Interim Head Coach Ed Orgeron.

The Tide simply have Leonard Fournette’s number, as he could not get the ground game going for the Tigers. The game was scoreless through three quarters, and someone was going to have to make a play and earn their team a clutch win.

That clutch performer turned out to be Alabama QB Jalen Hurts, whose running ability gives Nick Saban an offensive dimension he’s never had at Alabama.

Hurts took over the game in the fourth quarter, leading the Tide down the field for the game’s only touchdown and converting key third downs with his feet to milk the clock down and keep LSU from coming back. He finished with 114 yards on the ground and the game’s only touchdown.

The difference in the game however was coaching, and Ed Orgeron is simply not on the level of Nick Saban. Orgeron was forced to burn multiple second half timeouts when his team could not line up in time to get the snap off, and was very questionable with his play-calling in the second half.

Orgeron’s offense could barely move the ball the whole game, but coach O decides to go deep, and his quarterback gets hit and throws a backbreaking interception. Why would you go deep when you have the best running back in the country and can barely move the ball as it is.

Another example of why coaching matters big time in college football. This win should allow the Tide to enter the Iron Bowl undefeated. Alabama hosts Mississippi State next week.

Best Photos from Cubs World Series Win

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Go Cubs go.

Patriots Trade Jamie Collins to Browns

The NFL is not a league that is typically associated with blockbuster trades. However with Tuesday’s trade deadline looming, the Patriots dropped a bombshell, trading star LB Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns.

In return, the Patriots receive a compensatory third round draft pick, which in reality could be a fourth round pick as compensatory picks come at the end of the round.

This is yet another move that will be greeted harshly by Patriots Nation. And while it can certainly be questioned, the logic makes sense.

I know Collins is an incredible talent, he’s made plays we’ve never seen a New England player make. I’m sure the Patriots would’ve loved to keep him around, at the right price.

Collins is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season and was reportedly not even close to agreeing to a contract extension with the Patriots.

Given what the Patriots received in return, it would’ve made sense to let Collins play out the season and then leave in free agency.

However it was clear Collins was beginning to fall out of favor with Bill Belichick. There were too many times where Collins was freelancing on defense and getting beat.

After playing every snap of the Patriots’ first four games, Collins’ snaps have dropped in every game sense. Collins played just 62 percent of New England’s defensive snaps in yesterday’s win over Buffalo.

According to Adam Schefter, Collins was asking for Von Miller money from the Patriots, and Bill Belichick was never going to pay that.

Collins, Donta Hightower, Chandler Jones, and Malcolm Butler were all set to become free agents after this season. Given their salary cap situation, the patriots could only sign two of them to extensions.

There were going to be hard decisions to make, but I believe New England made the right choice. By trading Jones and Collins, the door is open for Belichick to sign Malcolm butler and Dont’a Hightower.

There is no question Hightower is the more important piece on defense. He’s the captain of the defense, wears the green dot to communicate with the sideline, he does it all.

Collins is an excellent talent, but he’s not a leader like Hightower.

We’ve seen Belichick do this before, this is the same guy who traded Randy Moss, Richard Seymour and Logan Mankins. And time will tell if he’s right on this one.

In the meantime, Barkevious Mingo and Kyle Van Noy, you guys are the next men up, time to do your jobs. Let’s go win a Super Bowl.

Mcilroy Switches to TaylorMade Woods at HSBC Champions

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Photos from PGA Tour equipment insider Jonathan Wall confirm that Rory Mcilroy is beginning to change out of his Nike clubs after Nike chose to discontinue its golf equipment lines.

The world number 3 was spotted with a TaylorMade M2 driver, 3 wood, and 5 wood at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai this week.

Mcilroy’s driver is an M2 head at 9.5 degrees of loft (set to lower) with a Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage Silver 70XTS prototype shaft.

Mcilroy was previously gaming a Nike Vapor Fly Pro with a Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ 70 X-flex shaft at 45.5 inches. However multiple skeptics suggest he was using the Kuro Kage shaft all along, and that Nike had painted the shaft to look like its stock offering for consumers.

Mcilroy had gamed the Kuro Kage shaft previously when he used Nike’s VRS Covert line of drivers and many suggest he simply never switched shafts.

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Mcilroy has also put in play two M2 fairway woods at 15 and 18 degrees. The shafts are MRC’s Kuro Kage Silver 90XTS prototypes. McIlroy had previously used Fujikura’s Rombax Pro 95X shaft in his 15-degree Nike Vapor Speed fairway wood.

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The rest of Mcilroy’s clubs remain the same, he is sticking with the same Nike Vr Pro blades, Nike Engage Wedges, and Scotty Cameron M1 Protoptype that he used to win the 2016 FedEx Cup. However, Mcilroy is debuting a sweet new pair of Nike Golf shoes this week.

Weekend Roundup: Cubs Make World Series, Wild College Football Saturday, Patriots Earn Tough Road Win, Thomas Defends in Malaysia

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

What a wild weekend of sports, instead of writing multiple pieces let’s just combine it all into one.

Cubs Make First World Series Appearance Since 1945

Well Chicago, it finally might be your year. The Cubs have a stacked roster, a manager willing to do whatever it takes to win, and possible destiny on their side.

The only team standing between the Cubs and their first title in 108 years is the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland comes into the series as the underdogs for the third series in a row, but that hasn’t stopped them so far and it won’t stop them now. They’ve gotten hot at the right time, have an otherworldly bullpen, one of the best managers in the game, and LeBron James on their side. Don’t count the Indians out, they definitely have a chance.

For the third series in a row, I’m going to pick against the Cleveland Indians, we’ll see how this goes. Cubs in 6.

Auburn Crushes Arkansas, Puts SEC and the Nation on Notice

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I told everyone to bet the house on Auburn this week, playing at home against an Arkansas team that everyone knew was mediocre.

This game was over even before the opening kickoff. The Razorbacks decided to hold their pregame pump-up huddle on the AU logo at midfield, and everyone knows you don’t step on the logo.

I thought Auburn would beat Arkansas, but I didn’t think they would win by 53 points. The Tigers racked up an SEC record 543 rushing yards on Saturday. Both the offense and defense are firing on all cylinders, as Auburn has made its way into the top 15 in the polls.

Alabama better start worrying, the Iron Bowl should be one hell of a game. WDE.

Alabama Wins Another Statement Game

Unfortunately, there’s no questioning who the best team in the country is right now, its the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Tide faced a top ten ranked SEC opponent for the second straight week, and both weeks came away with statement victories.

After going on the road and laying a shellacking on the Tennessee Vols last week in Knoxville, the Tide returned home to face the Texas A&M Aggies.

The Aggies were in it for three quarters, but Bama dominated the fourth quarter to pull away.

Don’t look now, but the Tide found themselves a QB, Jalen Hurts is looking pretty damn good so far.

Penn State Upsets Ohio State, Causes Potential CFP Chaos

I don’t care how good you are, going into Happy Valley and beating the Penn State Nittany Lions is always a difficult task, and Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes found this out first hand Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions played an excellent game top to bottom, returned a fourth quarter blocked field goal for a touchdown that was the difference in the game, and held on at the end.

The season certainly isn’t over for the Buckeyes, but things just got a lot more interesting, this loss definitely makes the Michigan game now a must win.

Thomas Defends CIMB Classic Title

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Well I picked Justin Thomas to win the CIMB Classic for the second straight year after he took the 36 hole lead.

After shooting a mediocre 71 on Saturday to fall three shots behind, Thomas came out firing on all cylinders Sunday.

Motivated by his Alabama Crimson Tide after waking up at 4 AM Malaysia time to watch the Tide beat the Aggies, Thomas fired an 8 under par 64 to secure his second PGA Tour title.

The victory makes Thomas the first player since Matt Every at the 2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational to defend a title on TOUR, and vaults him to a career high in the OWGR at 21.

Patriots Find a Way to Win

Despite the Steelers being decimated with injuries, going into Heinz Field and winning is always a tough task for opposing teams.

The Patriots relied heavily on their run game to help them earn a road victory, and LeGarrette Blount more than did the job, turning in a career day to lead his team to a much needed road win.

It certainly wasn’t pretty, but for the second straight week the Patriots struggled, and still found a way to not just win, but win by double digits.

Watch out NFL, because this team isn’t playing anywhere close to their best, and they’re still dominating.

It’s on to Buffalo, who no matter how good we think they are, somehow find a way to be mediocre. It looked like the Bills could contend for a playoff spot this year, then they somehow found a way to give up over 200 yards to Jay Ajayi and lose to the lowly Miami Dolphins. Do they still think Rex Ryan can lead them?

The Patriots should bring in a new kicker for a workout this week, show Gostkowski he’s replaceable. He’s not doing his job well enough.

Bills Mafia better watch out this week, TB12 is coming out for revenge.

 

Thomas Leads, Huge Snake Invades Green at CIMB Classic

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The PGA Tour began its fall Asian swing this week with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. The idea of these events is to grow the game in golf’s fastest growing market, and apparently to screw up player travel and mess up everyone’s golf-clock as much as possible.

The rounds are being played a day behind due to the time change (third round being played on Friday night in the US) and its driving me insane. Anyway… On to the actual golf.

Justin Thomas comes in as the defending champion, and through two rounds looks poised to do something no one in the 2015-16 season was able to do, defend a title on the PGA Tour.

The University of Alabama grad jumped out to a two shot lead through two rounds with rounds of 64 and 66 respectively on Thursday and Friday. India’s Anirban Lahiri is in second after two straight 66s while Russell Knox moved up to third place after a Friday 63.

Many Asian golf fans have been eager to watch the best in the world duke it out in their home country, perhaps none more so than this Python.

WordPress wouldn’t let me put the photo directly on the blog, so here’s a link. 

There should be some riveting golf this weekend, and most of it will happen while we’re sleeping. But here’s hoping JT can net himself another victory. He had the longest drive on Tour last year and certainly has the talent to get it done. Plus, maybe if he wins more we’ll get more awesome Spring Break photos like these.

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I can’t believe I’m rooting for an Alabama guy to win, but I am. Bring it home JT!

 

 

Bet the House on Auburn to Beat Arkansas

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Number 21 Auburn is currently a 10 point favorite to defeat number 17 Arkansas at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night. On the surface, that seems a bit crazy, you seldom see a lower ranked team favored by more than a touchdown, even at home.

However the advanced metrics currently have Auburn as a top ten team in the nation, and while I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, the Tigers are certainly a team on the rise. They clobbered Mississippi State in their last outing two weeks ago, and are looking for more of the same on Saturday.

Auburn has one of the best defenses in the country, with their excellent defensive line leading the way, and will look to stop the Razorback offense in its tracks.

On offense, Sean White has looked much more comfortable in the pocket as of late,  and the rushing attack of Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway is averaging more than five yards per carry. The offense looks as good as ever with Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee assuming play-calling duties from Gus Malzahn.

People are pretty high on Arkansas after they defeated Ole Miss last week in a down to the wire thriller. But let’s be real here, they beat an Ole Miss team who’s quarterback makes more headlines for getting owned by Mia Khalifa after sliding into her DMs and getting in a fight at his brother’s high school game than he does for his play. They are in for a rude awakening when they invade the Loveliest Village on the Plains Saturday night.

Additionally, we are undefeated when Gus Malzahn wears a hat on the sideline, in Gus we trust. We also have the best kicker in the country so that’s just game over right there.

Prediction: Auburn 34, Arkansas 17. WDE!

Cleveland Indians Advance to World Series

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Maybe it is time to believe in Cleveland. After not winning a championship for 52 years, the city of Cleveland could be on the verge of their second championship of 2016.

Indians’ pitching was unstoppable once again in game five, pitching another shutout en route to a 3-0 victory. Yet another unheralded pitcher got it done for Cleveland in game five, this time it was rookie Ryan Merritt.

Making just his second major league start, Merritt delivered 4.1 innings of shutout baseball in the biggest moment of his life, opening the door for Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to do what they do best, shut it down out of the pen.

Once again the Indians’ lineup did just enough to lead their team to victory. For the second straight series, former Red Sox were all over the box score as they led the Indians to their first World Series appearance since 1997.

Mike Napoli delivered an RBI double and Coco Crisp delivered yet another clutch home run. Add in a Carlos Santana bomb, and the Indians had more than enough offense to close out Toronto.

Bryan Shaw delivered another scoreless inning which allowed Tito Francona to go to his dynamic duo out of the bullpen in the sixth inning.

Series MVP Andrew Miller pitched 2.2 scoreless innings while Cody Allen added another scoreless inning to secure Clevelands’ birth in the Fall Classic.

Cleveland will host a World Series game for the first time in team history when the series kicks off against either the Dodgers or the Cubs, and you better believe Believeland will be rocking.

On another note, if the Tribe win it all, this could be the first time a single athlete leads a team to a title in two different sports. LeBron James is proving to be a very good motivator for this ballclub.

Steele Steals Safeway Open

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

While a vulnerable golfer named Tiger Woods bailed on the event at the last minute, there was certainly plenty of talent gathered in Napa, California for the season-opening Safeway Open.

And while all of America was watching football, there was an excellent battle down the stretch between Patton Kizzire and Brendan Steele to keep us golf fans entertained.

Kizzire lit the Web.com Tour on fire two years ago, bagging multiple wins and finishing first on the money list to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour. After a rookie year in which he played well enough to make the Deutsche Bank Championship and keep his card, it appeared Kizzire was ready to make his move on the game’s biggest stage.

Playing with a new hat after giving his to me at the Deutsche Bank, the Auburn alum lit it up at Silverado, making 19 birdies thru 54 holes. The way Patton was playing, it appeared as if his first win would come on Sunday.

However there were two things we didn’t account for, a guy named Brendan Steele, and the realization of just how difficult it is to win for the first time on Tour.

Steele made all the birdies Kizzire needed on Sunday, including birdies on 16, 17, and 18 en route to a Sunday 65 and the victory. When Kizzire’s chip shot at the 72nd hole didn’t fall, Steele had bagged his second PGA Tour win, and his first since the 2011 Valero Texas Open.

While Steele definitely went out and won this golf tournament, Kizzire could’ve put him away on the back nine. While Steele was birdieing the easy holes on the back side, Kizzire was struggling to make par. This kept him from playing the aggressive golf he needed to play in order to win.

Even though he didn’t get it done this time around, there is plenty to learn from and we can all see that Kizzire has plenty of upside, there is no question he has what it takes to win on the PGA Tour. WDE!!!

As for Brendan Steele, good for him for finally getting it done on Sunday, the guy deserved this win.

Red Sox 2016 Wrap-Up

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The Boston Red Sox gathered one last time at Fenway Park today for exit interviews following a disappointing and shocking three game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.

It was mostly typical end of season press conferences with Dave Dombrowski and John Farrell giving the same answers we’ve heard all season.

What did we learn this time around? Well, for one, John Farrell and all coaches will return to the team in 2017. This is going to be a highly scrutinized move, one that many will question going into next season.

I understand the criticism, if a Farrell-led team with the best offense in baseball couldn’t win a playoff game against a team missing two of its three best starting pitchers, how can you expect more in 2017.

I don’t necessarily agree with this move, especially after the Sox mailed it in the last week of the regular season to give David Ortiz a retirement ceremony and cost themselves home field advantage.

However we can’t ignore the previous 162 games because the Sox played three bad games. Farrell got this team to win 93 games and win a division that sent three of its five teams to the postseason. If someone said in April the Sox were going to win 93 games and win the division, you would’ve taken it for sure.

Dave Dombrowski said today that he considers the manger’s motivational abilities to be far more important than his in-game strategy, which is a good thing for Farrell after what we saw this season.

Dombrowski also said today that he thought David Price had a “strong season.” While I thought Price didn’t fall off a cliff like some have said, he had a strong season for someone making about a third of his 30 million dollar salary. However I’m not ready to write off Price just yet.

I know he gave up about a million home runs and didn’t come up big when we needed him most in the postseason, but let’s not write him off as another Carl Crawford quite yet.

Look at other former and current Red Sox pitchers who struggled to handle Boston in year one but rebounded to have more success and become leaders in the rotation.

John Lackey struggled initially after the Sox gave him a big contract, but he bounced back to become one of the leaders of the 2013 World Series team, and there was no questioning that guy’s guts.

And even more recently, Rick Porcello struggled mightily last season before rebounding and winning 22 games in 2016. Don’t let one tough postseason outing take away from what was an excellent season for Porcello.

As far as needs go for Boston, there doesn’t appear to be too many holes on an offense that was the best in baseball and had three MVPs in 2016. There is the obvious need of replacing David Ortiz, which is pretty much impossible, but Hanley Ramirez should do as well a job as anyone as he looks to build off a career-resurrecting 2016.

Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi and the other young guns should only get better in 2017, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the American League.

The obvious need for Boston is pitching, particularly in the back end of the bullpen. The starting rotation is solid, with Rick Porcello and Steven Wright (before getting injured) putting together Cy Young caliber seasons, and Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, and even Clay Buchholz putting together solid seasons behind them.

However the bullpen, which was supposed to feature a lockdown 9th inning with Craig Kimbrel, struggled mightily. Kimbrel wasn’t the flame-throwing shutdown closer we all expected, and Koji Uehara may retire as he is getting up there in age.

That leaves two huge question marks at the back end of the bullpen. The Indians proved that a shutdown bullpen can be the key to postseason success.

Possible internal options include Joe Kelly, the hard throwing right-hander proved he could be a successful bullpen arm after making the move from the starting rotation, as well as Drew Pomeranz, who was effective out of the pen in the postseason.

As far as free agent options go, Aroldis Chapman, who the Red Sox tried to trade for last offseason before landing Kimbrel, will be the most sought after, and look for the Red Sox to be in on him again.

Behind him are solid closers Kenley Jansen and old friend Mark Melancon, who since leaving Boston has been one of the best bullpen arms in baseball. The Red Sox also could entertain the idea of bringing back Brad Ziegler, who was solid after being dealt from Arizona at the trade deadline.

If you’re wondering who could be this year’s David Price, the top free-agent to be pitcher is likely Dodgers lefty Rich Hill, who will likely be grossly overpaid. On the bright side, you won’t see Dombrowski throw another 200 million at a potential ace.

Red Sox Nation. Please look at more than just these three games against the Indians. You have the best offense in baseball, a solid pitching staff, and a core of young talent that will be around for years to come. This team has been through a lot of turmoil since the collapse of 2011, and they’ve done remarkably well for themselves.

Expect a solid Red Sox club to contend once again in 2017.

Tiger Woods Withdraws from Safeway Open

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Well as if mondays weren’t hard enough, the golf world was greeted with some tough news this morning. Tiger Wood’s return to the PGA Tour would have to wait, as a few days of practice in California determined that he wasn’t quite ready to return to golf’s biggest stage.

The news was first reported by Tim Rosaforte and later confirmed by Wood’s close friend and Golf Channel commentator Notah Begay III.

Begay said that he had spoken to Woods by phone this morning and they talked about why he was withdrawing. What was surprising to most is that Wood’s reason for withdrawing was reported as “performance based” as opposed to injury based. It was quickly determined that Woods indeed is healthy enough to tee it up, and that he is forgoing the opportunity because he believes his game simply isn’t ready.

Some are viewing this as a smart move, as Tiger himself has said that he has rushed back from injuries in the past and that has hurt his career. This step makes it appear at least that he definitely won’t make that mistake again.

However others are viewing this as nothing more than an ego trip for TW, suggesting he thinks that since he knows he won’t be as dominant he is choosing not to play.

Another thing that was alarming about this report was that Wood’s struggles with his game and the reason he isn’t playing this week is related to his short game. This is a worrisome sign after the terrible chip yips Woods showed last season.

Whatever your opinion, there is no question he is good for the game of golf and that as a sport we need him. As of right now, the plan is for Woods to return at his Hero World Challenge event in December. Here’s hoping the Big Cat returns soon.

Blue Jays Beat Rangers to Advance To ALCS

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Well Toronto, I was wrong. I didn’t give your Blue Jays much of a chance in this series. All the analysis I did and every statistic I looked at suggested that the Rangers were the better team. I acknowledged that you guys had the offensive firepower to steal a game or two, but I thought Texas’ depth would be too much.

I expected much more from Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, who both wilted under the spotlight of the postseason and put the Rangers’ backs against the wall after struggling in games 1 and 2.

Hamels and Darvish were hammered by the Jays’ big bats, giving up 15 runs in the first two games. Colby Lewis didn’t fare much better in game 3, as the Blue Jays walked off with a wild 7-6 victory.

The one place where I suggested Toronto had an edge was on defense, and low and behold that was how game 3 was decided, with Josh Donaldson scoring on a mad dash for the plate after the ball got away from Mitch Moreland.

The Blue Jays offense showed they are a force to be reckoned with as they chase the AL pennant and they looked as if they had enough pitching to possibly return to the World Series.

Congratulations Toronto, here’s hoping you get to face the division rival Red Sox with a trip to the World Series on the line.

Indians Ride Bullpen to Game One Win

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

“Nobody ever said you had to be conventional to win,” said Indians Manager Terry Francona after his Tribe defeated the Red Sox 5-4 in game one of the ALDS at Progressive Field.

The Kansas City Royals showed last season that bullpens can win championships, and that a couple flamethrowers in the back end of the bullpen can mean the difference between winning and losing a playoff series.

Playoff baseball brings with it a sense of urgency that is not seen in any other sport. Pitchers often have as short a leash as ever in the postseason, and that certainly was the case Thursday night.

In the postseason, managers must use their best relievers whenever the situation calls for it, though apparently no one told that to Buck Showalter, even if that means using them much earlier than usual. It was a bit of a surprise when Andrew Miller trotted out of the pen to face Brock Holt in the fifth inning.

Tasked with protecting a one-run lead against the heart of the best lineup in baseball, Miller was “a bit overamped,” as Mookie Betts put it, giving up a walk to Betts followed by a double by Brock Holt. Just like that, it brought up the matchup we’d all been waiting for, David Ortiz looking to extend the lead, Miller looking to end the rally.

Ortiz got ahead in the count 2-1, before Miller uncorked a 97 MPH fastball followed by an 86 MPH slider, and just like that Big Papi had gone down swinging, and the rally had ended.

After the walk and the double, Miller would go on to retire the next seven batters, four on strikeouts,  beginning with Ortiz. He threw 40 pitches, a season-high. He deflated the highest-scoring offense in baseball during the regular season.

“The playoffs are a different animal,” Miller said. “It’s something that whenever Tito asks anybody to pitch we’re all ready to go.”

Miller is a rare breed, he’s arguably the best reliever in baseball, but unlike most top relievers, he doesn’t pitch exclusively in the ninth inning. In fact, Miller isn’t even the Indians’ closer, that role belongs to Cody Allen, who certainly proved that he belonged in game one.

After Brock Holt homered off Bryan Shaw to bring the Red Sox within a run, Cody Allen was brought on for the five out save.

Ortiz led off with a double to right center, and it looked like the decision to use Miller early might backfire on the Indians. However Allen wasn’t going to let that happen, with a little help from the Red Sox of course.

After Marco Hernandez pinch ran for Ortiz, Allen got Hanley Ramirez to ground out to second. That brought up Xander Bogaerts with a chance to tie things up, but that’s when the Red Sox began helping Allen out.

Allen began throwing curveball after curveball, burying them in the dirt, and the Red Sox kept chasing them… and chasing them… and chasing them. Even with a runner on third, Allen simply trusted catcher Roberto Perez to block the pitches. And block them he did, every single one of them, it was a tremendous defensive performance by the Indians’ catcher, who also added a solo home run, one of three hit by the Indians in the fourth inning.

Bogaerts struck out swinging to end the eighth, and after Koji Uehara pitched a scoreless bottom half of the eighth, we went to the top of the ninth, with Allen looking to close out game one.

By this point the Sox had to know the curveball was coming, but even so, they still couldn’t hit it. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sandy Leon struck out swinging, on curveballs of course, to begin the ninth.

After Andrew Benintendi singled, it looked like Dustin Pedroia had worked a walk, as he was halfway to first base before the first base umpire decided he did indeed swing at the 3-2 curveball. Just like that, the ballgame was over, and Cleveland had drawn first blood in this ALDS.

Terry Francona and the Indians went all in to win game one, which potentially could leave them shorthanded for game two. But with his ace Corey Kluber scheduled to pitch in a rematch of Opening Day on Friday, Francona was as confident as ever.

“I was joking with Kluber and told him he’s on a tight 165-to-170 [pitch count in Game 2],” Francona said.

 

Blue Jays Rout Rangers in Game One

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Well that was interesting. Less than 24 hours after I wrote an extensive preview on the Rangers-Jays ALDS series, one where I gave Toronto very little chance of winning, the Blue Jays jumped on Cole Hamels, and rode their offense to a 10-1 victory.

Everything appeared to be favoring Texas entering game one, they had home field advantage, their ace Cole Hamels on the mound, and a deep lineup that looked prime for a deep October run.

It looked like we could be in for a classic playoff pitcher’s duel through two innings, with Marco Estrada and Cole Hamels both throwing scoreless innings in the first and second. But man did things change quickly.

After retiring Melvin Upton Jr. to begin the top of the 3rd, Hamels walked Ezequiel Carerra before getting Devon Travis to pop out to third. Man on 1st, two outs, should be a harmless situation right?

But a wild pitch by Hamels meant there was now a runner in scoring position for MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, and the former Auburn Tiger roped a double to left, driving in the game’s first run. From there the heart of the Blue Jays lineup went to work.

Edwin Encarnacion reached on an infield single, Jose Bautista singled to center driving in Donaldson, and Russell Martin walked to load the bases. What looked like it was going to be a scoreless top of the 3rd inning all of a sudden had the potential to end this game before it really even began.

Troy Tulowitzki then stepped to the plate and promptly unloaded the bases with a triple to right. And just like that it was 5-0 Toronto.

Fast forward to the top of the 4th, the spiral continued, Melvin Upton Jr. added to the lead with a solo shot, and Donaldson had an RBI single after Devon Travis reached on an error.

Rangers fans were shocked, and with good reason. In the span of two innings, their ace had given up seven runs, and their team trailed 7-0.

The line for Hamels: 3.1 IP, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 K, 3 BB. Safe to say he’s had better nights.

The Jays would add three more runs off Rangers’ lefty Jake Diekman en route to a 10-1 game one victory.

Marco Estrada was dominant for Toronto, turning in the kind of performance Rangers fans expected from Hamels, going 8.1 innings giving up just 1 ER on 4 hits and striking out 6.

Texas will send Yu Darvish to the mound Friday as they look to even the series, while the Jays will counter with left-hander JA Happ. First pitch is at 1:00 PM.

 

Rangers vs Blue Jays ALDS Preview

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Well baseball fans, you got what you wished for, the match-up everybody wanted, Blue Jays vs Rangers for the right to go to the ALCS.

This series is a rematch of the 2015 ALDS, a back and forth series that saw the Blue Jays advance in five games. That series had it all, angry and disrespectful Blue Jays fans, Jose Bautista bat flips, and two teams that just didn’t care for each other. You could tell it was a rivalry in the making.

The rivalry carried over into the 2016 regular season, with Rougned Odor and Jose Bautista going at it throughout the season.

The Rangers come into the ALDS well rested after cruising to the AL West title, while the Jays come in off a wild 5-2 win over the Orioles in the Wild Card Game. Edwin Encarnacion hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning for the Jays while Orioles manager Buck Showalter was ruthlessly criticized for failing to use his best pitcher, closer Zach Britton, in a critical situation in extra innings.

The Rangers and Blue Jays concluded their season series all the way back in May, and a lot has changed since then. The Rangers’ pitching staff is improved thanks to the return to health of Tanner Scheppers and Yu Darvish. Additionally, the offense has benefited from deadline acquisitions Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran as well as a very welcome return to form by Carlos Gomez.

Meanwhile north of the border, the Jays rode a lineup full of home runs and swagger and a pitching staff of surprising quality to the postseason.

Offense:

The middle of the Jays’ lineup is no joke, as their best hitters can bash home runs with the best of em. Led by 2015 AL MVP and former Auburn Tiger (WDE) Josh Donaldson, plus the presence of bat-flip connoisseur Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays lineup is solid, but top heavy.

Meanwhile the Rangers boast a solid lineup top to bottom, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gomez, Mitch Moreland, Jonathan Lucroy and others are all more than competent at the dish, and it is that depth that I think gives the Rangers the edge with the bats.

Edge: Rangers

Starting Pitching: 

Toronto has a solid rotation, albeit an inexperienced one. There simply isn’t a pitcher you look at and think, that guy is a gamer, an ace, a playoff performer.

JA Happ, Aaron Sanchez, and Marco Estrada all posted ERAs under 3.50 this season, however none of them jump out as an ace. The Rangers meanwhile boast two such pitchers in Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.

Hamels was his typical ace self in 2016, going 15-5 with a 3.32 ERA while pitching over 200 innings yet again. Hamels is exactly the guy you look for in an ace, in a guy you know can get it done in October. He won a World Series in 2008 with Philadelphia, and he appears poised to win another with the Rangers.

Darvish meanwhile was solid in 17 starts since returning from Tommy John Surgery, going 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA. If he can return to pre-surgery form, the Rangers have as good a 1-2 punch as any team in baseball.

While the Jays rotation is solid, their top end simply does not compare to the Rangers.

Edge: Rangers

Bullpen:

The bullpen is arguably where postseason series are won and lost.

For the Blue Jays, Roberto Ozuna appears to be a future star in this league. After making his postseason debut at age 20 in 2015, Ozuna followed it up in 2016. At the ripe old age of 21, Ozuna had 36 saves and posted a 2.68 ERA. He is as much a sure thing in the ninth inning as any in the game.

But bullpens are more than just one guy, and that’s where Toronto has holes. Brett Cecil, Jesse Chavez, and Joe Biagini were solid but not spectacular out of the pen this season, while Jason Grilli has experienced somewhat of a resurgence at age 39. Look for Francisco Liriano, who was solid in 10 games down the stretch, to be a potential difference maker for Toronto.

Like Toronto, the Rangers also boast a shutdown closer in the ninth inning. As good as Roberto Ozuna has been for the Jays, Sam Dyson has been even better for Texas, posting 38 saves to go with a 2.43 ERA.

The difference however lies in the rest of the bullpen, while Toronto has struggled in that category, the Rangers boast a quartet similar to what we saw from the world champion Royals in 2015.

Matt Bush, Tony Barnette, Jake Diekman and Alex Claudio all had ERAs under 3.50 in the regular season while Bush, Barnette and Claudio all had ERAs under 3.00.

While the Jays have the type of bullpen that can cost you playoff games, the Rangers have one that can steal you a couple.

Edge: Rangers.

Defense: 

To measure defense, we will use the statistic Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), DRS measures the amount of runs a certain player is worth compared to the average, average is measured as zero.

If we take the Blue Jays’ lineup for the Wild Card game against the Orioles (not including DH Michael Saunders) and calculate the Jays’ average DRS, it comes out to about 5.38, definitely above average.

A closer look at that metric reveals that the average is being helped most by Kevin Pillar (19 DRS), Ezequiel Carrera (13 DRS), Troy Tulowitzki (11 DRS), and Russell Martin (7 DRS).

However that average is being hurt by Josh Donaldson (2 DRS), Edwin Encarnacion (0 DRS), and Jose Bautista (-12 DRS).

For the Rangers, if we take rotochamp’s projected Rangers lineup and take out DH Carlos Beltran, the average DRS comes out to 0.375. That number is just ever so slightly above average, and much less than the Blue Jays’ 5.38.

When we take a second look, it quickly becomes apparent that the Rangers just don’t have enough above average defenders to bring up the average. Carlos Gomez (0 DRS), Shin Soo Choo (-13 DRS), Nomar Mazara (-5 DRS), and Elvis Andrus (-3 DRS) all rank at or below average DRS. The only Ranger ranking significantly above average is future HOFer Adrian Beltre, an excellent defensive third baseman with 15 DRS. It is worth noting that Carlos Beltran and his 17 DRS were not included due to Beltran being the Designated Hitter.

Edge: Blue Jays

While the Blue Jays have a significant edge on defense, this isn’t football, defense doesn’t necessarily win championships. While defense can certainly play a significant role in the postseason, and is often extremely undervalued in today’s MLB, it is not enough to offset the other edges the Rangers possess. I think Toronto’s heavy hitters might be enough to steal a game or two, but Texas is too good top to bottom.

Prediction: Rangers in four.

Red Sox vs Indians ALDS Preview

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

I was one of the few people who picked the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East this season. The Red Sox pulled away from the pack with a stellar stretch of September baseball that included an 11 game win streak to take the AL East crown.

The Sox played steadily all season long, riding their superb offense on their way to winning the toughest division in baseball. There’s no question this team can hit with the best of em, they sport the best offense we’ve seen in the league since the 2013 Red Sox slugged their way to a world championship.

Their lineup consists of two MVP candidates in Mookie Betts and David Ortiz and numerous other supporting players who are very solid in their own right. There is simply no weakness, everyone in this lineup 1-9 is a force to be reckoned with at the plate.

We knew coming into this season that the Sox’ lineup was going to be solid, the question was could the pitching hold up enough to allow them to contend into October. Dave Dombrowski and company added the ace they needed in David Price, and while Price hasn’t had his best stuff this year, he hasn’t been nearly as bad as some suggest.

The surprise of the season in Boston has been Rick Porcello, who has rebounded from a downright awful 2015 campaign into a Cy Young candidate in 2016. His 22 wins are the most in the majors while ranking fifth in the AL with a 3.15 ERA.He undoubtedly deserves to start game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday.

For winning the AL East in 2016 the Red Sox have earned themselves a date with the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.

The Indians are looking to end a 68 year championship drought dating back to their last championship in 1948. That championship win also came against a Boston team, but it was so long ago that the Red Sox were then called the Braves. The Indians are no stranger to playoff heartbreak, especially against the Red Sox.

Cleveland jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 1999 ALDS before being outscored 32-10 in the next two games as the Red Sox forced a deciding game 5. The Indians thought they would avoid facing Pedro Martinez, who was coming off one of the best regular seasons by any pitcher in league history, as Pedro had hurt his shoulder in game 1.

Things were looking good for the Indians as they jumped on Derek Lowe early, but Martinez was summoned from the bullpen in the fourth inning and pitched six no hit innings as the Sox came back to win 12-8.

These teams would meet again eight years later in the 2007 ALDS. In that series the Indians jumped out to a 3-1 series lead behind co-aces CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona (who we later found out is really named Roberto Hernandez) and looked to be in control with Sabathia on the mound at home in game 5.

However the Sox had other plans. Josh Beckett, who was possibly given extra motivation when the Indians called his country singer ex-girlfriend to sing the national anthem after Taylor Swift cancelled last minute, pitched one of the best games of his career in game 5 to send the series back to Boston. JD Drew hit the 70 million dollar grand slam in game 6 (I vividly 9 year old me being very sad when my dad went to this game without me), and the Red Sox got the bats going to win game 7 and advance to their second world series in four years.

A lot has changed since that series nine years ago. The Red Sox manager in 2007 was Terry Francona, he now manages the Cleveland Indians. Not a single player remains from that Indians team that came from one game of reaching the World Series in 2007, and only Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz remain from that Red Sox team.

This year’s Indians rode a rotation that finally lived up to the billing of being one of the best in the league. Corey Kluber is in the conversation for another Cy Young award, while Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar had career years behind him. In addition to the stellar pitching, Tyler Naquin, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor all turned in superb seasons and all are 25 or younger, while Mike Napoli underwent a resurgence slugging 34 home runs and driving in 101 runs.

Throw in deadline acquisition Andrew Miller spearheading the back end of the bullpen and you’ve got a team that stacks up very nicely with Boston at least on paper. The main worry for the Indians is their health.

If the Indians were fully healthy you would certainly give Cleveland’s rotation the edge over Boston’s quintet, however health is a major question mark. Just one of the Cleveland’s top three starters will pitch in the rotation in this ALDS, raising the question of do the Red Sox have the edge on the mound.

The Indians will lead with Trevor Bauer in game one, Bauer has been decidedly average his entire career, and 2016 was no different. Definitely give the edge to Rick Porcello in that one. Cleveland will follow with Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber against 200 million dollar man David Price in game two. I’ll give the slight edge to Kluber in that one. Game three features Clay Buchholz vs Josh Tomlin, given Buchholz’s resurgence in the second half of 2016 and Tomlin’s history of being mediocre on the mound, I’ll go with Clay in that one.

An Indians rotation of Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar would have been very scary in a best of five series. Salazar will pitch out of the bullpen, if he even pitches at all, while Carrasco’s season ended in September when he took a line drive off his hand.

While the Red Sox have the edge in the rotation, the bullpen is where things get interesting. Cleveland’s bullpen is anchored by former Red Sox flamethrower Andrew Miller, who has been nothing short of dominant since being traded by Boston in 2014. Craig Kimbrel, Junichi Tazawa, and Brad Ziegler are very hit or miss. All three can be excellent when on, but all three have the ability to cost the Red Sox some games this postseason.

While these teams appear to be relatively even on paper, there is no question that Boston has much more experience in October. I expect the Red Sox to ride that experience to the ALCS.

Prediction: Red Sox in 4.

Best Photos from 2016 Ryder Cup

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

I could go on all day about the stellar play by Team USA, the great decisions by Captain Davis Love III, and how much this win means to the Americans. But all that matters is, the Ryder Cup is back where it belongs, in American hands. I’ll let the photos tell the story. GettyImages-612074690.0.0.0.jpgGettyImages-612063272.jpgGettyImages-612072080.0.0.jpgusa-today-9586763.jpg612075914.jpg16_RYC_11779_KKppp.jpgGettyImages-611971122_masterp.jpgGettyImages-612085304_masterp.jpgRyderFinalGallery2-847-DCKK.jpgGettyImages-611977814_masterp.jpgGettyImages-612072484_masterp.jpgGettyImages-612076366_masterp.jpgGettyImages-612072584_masterp.jpg

Sam Saunders Remembers His Grandfather Arnold Palmer

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The golf world lost a true hero last week when Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. While Palmer is no longer with us, his spirit and impact of the game live on, partly through Sam Saunders.

Saunders, Palmer’s grandson, has bounced around the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour the past few years, looking to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. This week Saunders is looking to earn back his PGA Tour card via the Web.com Tour Championship, but took a break in his preparation to remember his late grandfather.

http://www.pgatour.com/video/2016/10/04/sam-saunders–remembrance-of-his-grandfather-arnold-palmer.html

In the eulogy Saunders touched on his many phone calls with Palmer, including how Palmer would always ask where he was, Saunders thanked his grandfather for always making the time to speak to him.

Palmer one time even answered a call from Saunders while he was in the Oval Office with the President.

Watch out for Sam Saunders this week, he will likely be playing some inspired golf.

Shots Fired on Live From the Ryder Cup

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Ah the Ryder Cup, the most heated week in all of golf, and since it only comes once every two years things can get pretty crazy.

Much of the talk this week is centered around why Team USA has struggled so mightily in the Ryder Cup for the past twenty or so years.

Everyone has their own opinion, some think it’s the lack of passion on the US side, some (like Brandel Chamblee) think the Euros have superior leadership, while others think it’s simply lack of execution. I for one think it is a combination of the three.

Brandel Chamblee and David Duval clearly disagree on why the Americans have struggled so much in the Ryder Cup, and neither was afraid to let the other know their opinion. They went at it pretty heavily on Golf Channel’s Live From the Ryder Cup. Because what’s a major golf event without Brandel Chamblee talking nonsense about Tiger Woods and making a fool of himself on air.

Poor Frank Nobilo in the middle, and having spoken to Nobilo in the past about on-air debates such as these I can attest that absolutely none of this is scripted. “None of what I do is scripted. My job is an analyst, not a presenter. I have to adjust and ad-lib on the fly. We have a rundown and that provides the structure,” said Nobilo.

Without further ado, here’s David Duval putting Chamblee in his place on live TV:

http://www.golfchannel.com/media/chamblee-and-duval-debate-leadership

It’s time for the USA to win a home game and bring home the Cup. #WeAre13

Auburn Football Roundup: Sticking with Sean White, Malzahn Coaching For His Job

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The Auburn Tigers began the 2016 season with tempered expectations and high hopes. They knew they faced a tough SEC schedule but that they could have a big year if everything were to click. So far, nothing has clicked for the Tigers.

Beginning the season with four straight games at Jordan Hare Stadium, it was paramount that the Tigers start the season at least 3-1 if they hoped to compete for an SEC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

After nearly pulling off another miracle at Jordan Hare against the Clemson Tigers in the season opener, Auburn recovered to put together an excellent showing against a weak Arkansas St club.

There was reason for optimism on the Plains after successfully earning a split in the season’s first two games.

After the three quarterback chaos caused the offense to sputter for most of the season opener, Head Coach Gus Malzahn stuck with Sean White for Weeks Two and Three, and after an excellent showing against Arkansas State, everything fell apart for the Tigers in Week Three against Texas A&M.

Now Texas A&M is a solid ballclub, they came into the game ranked number 17 in the polls, but Auburn was favored, and you expect the Tigers to get the victory in front of their home fans.

Instead, the Tigers were simply outplayed from the word go, as they were handed a 29-16 lost that appeared more lopsided than the score indicates. While he didn’t turn the ball over, Sean White just simply didn’t do enough to lead his team to the win. The defense, which was excellent in the season’s first two games, allowed a simply average quarterback in Trevor Knight to beat them. They also gave up an 89 yard touchdown run that was the dagger in the heart.

Now sitting at 1-2, after losing a game you expect them to win, you would think changes would need to be made should the Tigers still hope to compete in the SEC.

The most obvious candidate for change would be the quarterback position. While White hasn’t turn the ball over, he simply does not have the upside of his backup, John Franklin III. Simply put, playing White at quarterback is playing not to lose.

Franklin is much more athletic, can make plays with his feet, and has an ability to take over the game that White just does not possess. Malzahn says the offense is a work in progress. Auburn’s offense has been a work in progress since Nick Marshall left following the 2014 season. The Tigers are searching for the next Nick Marshall at quarterback, Franklin has the chance to become Nick Marshall, White does not.

Franklin gave the offense a much needed shot in the arm when he was inserted into the game in the second half against Texas A&M. However Malzahn elected to stick with White as his starter for Saturday’s home tilt against LSU and refused to place any blame on his quarterback. “We need to be better around him,” said Malzahn.

A second and much more drastic change would be firing Head Coach Gus Malzahn. Athletic Director Jay Jacobs rewarded Malzahn with a contract extension in June after a mediocre season that saw the Tigers finish 7-6 (2-6 in SEC).

But this is Auburn, we aren’t exactly patient with our head coaches. Gene Chizik was fired less than two years after winning a national title. Tommy Tuberville was forced out with one down year after four-straight Top 15 finishes. Terry Bowden was run out mid-season after a bad start. He had finished Top 25 every year previously, had not had a below .500 season in the conference, and had a winning record against Bama.

While Malzahn’s $9 million buyout could keep Jacobs from making a move, there’s no denying this season has the potential to fall off a cliff and that the A&M game was one the Tigers desperately needed.

The Tigers already have two losses, and they still have road games against number 1 Alabama, number 12 Georgia, and number 23 Ole Miss to come. That’s not to mention they must play number 17 LSU and number 18 Arkansas at home. They must win one of those and sweep the rest of their games, including road trips to Starkville (Mississippi State) and Nashville (Vanderbilt), just to become bowl eligible.

Even if they are able to reach a bowl game this season Malzahn’s seat wouldn’t necessarily get any cooler.

Making changes at head coach and quarterback come with significant risk, but at this point, Auburn has nothing to lose.

Patriots defeat Dolphins, Garoppolo Goes Down

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Everything was perfect for the first quarter and a half on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots had a 24-0 lead on a Dolphins team that simply cannot figure out how to win in Foxborough. Jimmy Garoppolo was on fire, throwing three first half touchdowns, two to Danny Amendola and one to new Tight End Martellus Bennett.

Although they eventually held on for a 31-24 victory, everything changed for the Patriots with four minutes remaining in the second quarter. Facing 3rd and 9 at the Miami 36 yard line, Garoppolo rolled out, escaping the rush before throwing a dart to rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell for the first down. Garoppolo immediately went down holding his shoulder after taking a hard hit, and was immediately taken to the locker room.

Rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett was quickly and unexpectedly thrown into the fire and was tasked with nailing down the Patriots’ second win of the young season. After two incompletions at the end 0f the first half, Brissett warmed up with emergency third string QB Julian Edelman before taking the field with a 24-3 lead.

Brissett looked excellent after settling in, leading the Patriots down the field to open up a 31-3 lead. From there he looked shaky at best, failing to lead the offense to a scoring drive for the remainder of the second half.

New England’s defense, which looked excellent through two quarters, also struggled in the second half, surrendering 21 second half points and allowing the Dolphins to at least make the game competitive.

With news surfacing following Sunday’s contest that Jimmy Garoppolo had a strained the AC joint and would at least miss Thursday’s game against the Houston Texans, the Patriots suddenly faced a pressing need at the game’s most important position.

With just four days to prepare for the Texans, it can be assumed that Jacoby Brissett will be the starter. However it would not be a surprise to see Bill Belichick look into other options at quarterback should Garoppolo not be ready to return for week four against the Buffalo Bills. Potential outside options would include Ryan Lindley, who spent last preseason with the team, Josh Freeman, and Matt Flynn.

It’s onto Houston in what should be an excellent test for the third round pick out of NC State.

 

Rose Captures Gold and Makes Everyone Jealous

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Most of the top players in the world, Rory Mcilroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, just to name a few, didn’t go, and they’re probably wishing they did. Olympic golf in the Rio Olympics was largely a test run, to see if golf could succeed as an Olympic sport, and in my mind there’s no question it can.

This year’s Olympic golf tournament had everything you could ask for, two top ten players battling it out for the gold medal, a championship caliber golf course, and a rowdy Sunday crowd making things feel like the final round of a major championship.

What started off as a question mark for the world of golf quickly turned into the experience of a lifetime, getting to watch and hang out with other athletes, and just taking in the Olympic games. It only got better once the actual tournament started.

Some were questioning exactly how much this would mean to the players. Would it mean as much as the majors? As much as a regular Tour event? I think Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, and Matt Kuchar answered those questions and then some.

Kuchar started the day on the fringes of contention but put together a flawless round of 8 under 63, one of the best rounds of his career to earn the bronze medal. After the round there was no question what it meant to him, “I’ve never been so happy to finish in third place before,” said Kuchar.

GOLF-OLY-2016-RIO

(L to R) Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (silver), Britain’s Justin Rose (Gold) and USA’s Matt Kuchar (Bronze) pose with their medals in the men’s individual stroke play final day at the Olympic Golf course during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. / AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images ORG XMIT: Golf – Ol

The battle for the gold medal came down to two of the game’s best, and it came down to the 72nd hole, a long par 5. Stenson and Rose were both in position to make birdie after excellent second shots, but Stenson left his third shot some 20 feet short, leaving the door open for Rose. Rose meanwhile played one of the best shots of his career, an exquisite pitch shot to two feet, setting up a tap in for the win. Stenson got aggressive with his putt, had it slide by, and that was that.

Rose’s reaction to his victory is what the Olympics are all about, the huge fist pump, smiles and hugs all around, just a jubilant celebration. All in all it was a tournament that likely made those who chose not to participate wishing they had.

Golf will be one of the sports the IOC will vote on whether to keep it as part of the Games long term, I was on the fence before about whether golf belonged in the Olympics, but I saw all I needed to see. Golf can succeed as an Olympic sport, and thank you to Justin Rose for saving Olympic golf.

2016 College Football Preview

College football is almost here, we are only about a month away now, and I don’t know about you but I am definitely ready for the new season. In 2015, Alabama defeated Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game to take home the title.

This season there will be plenty of battles for conference championships and for spots in the College Football Playoff, and the competition will be fierce, so without further ado, here are my picks for the 2016 college football season.

Big Ten

Last year Michigan State took down Iowa for the Big Ten title to advance to the College Football Playoff. The Big Ten will be deep as usual, and I expect Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan to battle to the end for the Big Ten title.

While Ohio State fell short last season, they return starting quarterback JT Barrett, who I think will compete for the Heisman Trophy, and lead the Buckeyes back to Big Ten glory. Ohio State has a relatively easy schedule, and while I expect them to lose at Oklahoma early in the season, I think they will bounce back very well, defeat Michigan at home, and make another appearance in the Big Ten title game.

The Iowa Hawkeyes made a surprise appearance in the Big Ten title game last season, and turned that into an appearance in the Rose Bowl. I expect the Hawkeyes to turn that into more success this season, they return their starting QB CJ Beathard, and have one of the best defensive players in Desmond King. Their schedule is also relatively easy, they get Michigan at home in one of their only tough games.

I expect Michigan to be much improved from last season, but I think they are one year away.

Big Ten Championship Game: Iowa vs Ohio State

Big Ten Champion: Ohio State

ACC

The ACC is probably the weakest top to bottom of the power five conferences, but there is certainly no shortage of talent, after all they did have a participant in the 2015 national title game.

The Clemson Tigers return as the defending ACC champions after defeating North Carolina in the ACC title game. They return superstars like QB Deshaun Watson and Linebacker Ben Boulware. The Tigers are loaded as usual, they have a pretty easy schedule, they do have to go to Auburn for the season opener and play at Florida State, but I expect them to win both those games and to return to the ACC title game.

While the ACC Atlantic will likely have Clemson and Florida State battling it out at the top, the ACC Coastal is much more up for grabs. The North Carolina Tar Heels took the Coastal last season, and I expect them to compete for another title this season, but I think another much improved team to take the Coastal this season. The Pittsburgh Panthers went 6-2 in conference last season, and they return 7 starters on both sides of the ball. I expect them to improve on that win total this season and make an appearance in the ACC title game. Unfortunately once they get there, I expect them to be no match for Deshaun Watson and the Tigers.

ACC Championship Game: Clemson vs Pittsburgh

ACC Champion: Clemson

Big 12

Oklahoma took the Big 12 title in 2015, going 8-1 in conference. They return star quarterback Baker Mayfield and while they have a tough early schedule, I expect a loaded Oklahoma squad to win the Big 12 once again. They must face both Ohio State and Texas early, but I expect them to win both games on the strength of their quarterback play. TCU and Baylor will be solid once again, but neither of them are on the Sooners level. Expect the Sooners to return to the College Football Playoff this season.

Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma

Pac 12

This is the start of my upset picks. Stanford won the Rose Bowl in 2015 and return star running back Christian McCaffrey, they will be a solid team once again, but I do not think they will win the Pac 12.

The Utah Utes have improved three seasons running now, they took down Oregon and Michigan in 2015, and are set to challenge for a Pac 12 title again this season. The Utes have a solid front 7, a JUCO four star transfer at QB, a stable coaching staff, they will compete for a title once again. That’s right, Utah will win the Pac 12.

Pac 12 Championship Game: Utah vs Stanford

Pac 12 Champion: Utah

SEC

We’ve arrived at the deepest, best top to bottom conference in the country. Last year, Alabama won the SEC en route to winning the national title. But I expect them to struggle a bit this season. This is Nick Saban’s ninth year as head coach of the Crimson Tide, but has his team started to unravel? Many players have had legal troubles this offseason and have been suspended, and they have a brutal schedule. They play many of their difficult games on the road, they play at Ole Miss, at Tennessee, at Arkansas, at LSU. They do host Texas A&M and play USC in Dallas, but I think their schedule will prove too tough. I do expect Alabama to win the SEC West, but I expect them to fall short of another SEC title.

The SEC East is loaded is usual, Florida and Georgia are both improved, but I’ve picked a team that I don’t think anyone expects to win the SEC. The Tennessee Vols are much improved, they return starting quarterback Josh Dobbs, get to play Alabama, a team they gave fits last season, at home and have a rabid fan base that will lead the team to victory.

SEC Championship Game: Tennessee vs Alabama

SEC Champion: Tennessee

I’ve now picked my champions for each of the power five conferences in 2016, now it’s time to pick the participants in the third College Football Playoff.

  1. Clemson
  2. Ohio State
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Tennessee

National Semifinal: Clemson vs Tennessee

National Semifinal: Ohio St vs Oklahoma

National Championship Game: Clemson vs Ohio State

National Champion: Clemson

Well there you have it, Clemson gets revenge for last season, Deshaun Watson wins the Heisman, and Dabo Swinney cements his legacy at Clemson with a national title.

SantoSports PGA Championship Preview

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

Well Olympic golf is good for one thing, just two weeks after Henrik Stenson’s victory in The Open at Royal Troon, the world’s best players must get back in the saddle for another major championship this week. This year’s championship returns to historic Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ.

This week could turn some player’s years from decent to great, and others from great to historic. A win for Jordan Spieth or Rory Mcilroy would salvage what has otherwise been a down year for two of the world’s best. In comparison, a win by Dustin Johnson would turn a break through season into one of the best in recent memory.

Major championships are always hard to predict, this year we have had three first time major winners in Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, and Henrik Stenson. While those victories may come as a surprise to some, they are all in the top 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking, which makes me hesitant to pick someone outside the top 20.

Baltusrol is a long golf course, with many holes favoring the big hitter. One must be long off the tee, and deadly around the greens to have a chance, although you could say that about any PGA Tour event. While the first three majors have featured breakthrough winners, mental fortitude always matters in major championships, so I think the winner will be an experienced champion.

In my mind that narrows it down to three players, and they are three top players in the world of golf, Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcilroy, and Phil Mickelson. You can make a case for all three, and that’s what I’ll do before revealing my winner.

Spieth is the world’s best putter, which always comes in handy in major championships, and he has a strong mental game which helps him tackle difficult golf courses. The question is, and has always been his ball striking. He has struggled at times this season, the clinic he put on at Kapalua seems like a lifetime ago, but he did win at Colonial not too long ago. Form is important coming into major championships, and Spieth simply has not had his A game most of this season. Spieth will putt the lights out as usual to get himself into contention, but I think his ball striking keeps him from capturing another major title. this week.

Rory Mcilroy has had an interesting season. He faces criticism every week despite his play not being that bad. In fact his play has been quite good this season, just not up to Mcilroy standards. Save for a missed cut at the US Open, he has finished no worse than 12th in a start since March. He has been the opposite of Spieth, his ball striking has been solid, but his putter has let him down. You need to putt to win major championships, and I don’t think Rory will make enough putts to get it done.

Mcilroy and Spieth out means one thing, I’m picking Phil Mickelson to win the PGA Championship. I know Mickelson hasn’t one since the 2013 Open at Muirfield, but he comes in with fantastic form having finished second at The Open. In addition, he won the event the last time it was held at Baltusrol in 2005. His game has been as good as it can get lately. In his own words, Phil is playing the best golf of his life. It’s time he gets rewarded with a victory, and I think that comes this week.

 

The Open Championship: Mcilroy breaks 3 wood, Stenson leads

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

The Open Championship 2016 has sure been a good one so far. There have been lots of stories off the course and some great play on it as well. With a 100 yard par 3 wreaking havoc on the field at Royal Troon, most of the pros have been humbled this week.

Rory Mcilroy has had a tough week, it started off with his questionable comments about how it is not his job to grow the game of golf. When asked about the decision not to play in the Olympic games in Rio, Mcilroy responded “I’ll watch the stuff that matters,” citing track and field and swimming as sports that matter. He also said he did not get into golf to grow the game, so that was not important to him.

Mcilroy briefly worked his way into contention on Friday before falling back on Saturday, and was clearly frustrated with his play. Unfortunately for Rory’s Vapor Speed two dot three wood, he let out his frustration by snapping the club in half. 

Meanwhile up at the top of the leaderboard, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson appear to be in a two man race for the Claret Jug. Stenson holds a one shot lead heading into Sunday and is looking to become the third first time major champion this season, joining Danny Willett and Dustin Johnson.

Mickelson meanwhile is looking for his first victory in three years, although he seems to have found a liking for links golf, as his last victory also came at The Open in 2013.

I don’t really have much of a rooting interest in this one, just looking forward to watching some great golf down the stretch on Sunday. That said, I’m picking Henrik to win his first major.

 

Red Sox Trade for Drew Pomeranz

By Peter Santo

Editor-In-Chief

This offseason the Red Sox needed arms, and Dave Dombrowski brought in David Price. Despite finally having their ace, the Sox still needed pitching help, Steven Wright was an amazing first half surprise for Sox fans, but even that wasn’t enough.

After it was announced that Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez would be rejoining the rotation after the All-Star break, it was clear the Sox needed to make a move. I’m not sure if this was the right move, but Dombrowski had no choice.

Late last night news broke that the Red Sox had traded for Drew Pomeranz, sending Anderson Espinoza to San Diego in return. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a bad move, but dig a little deeper, and that’s where things get hairy.

Pomeranz is an all star left-hander who is under team control through 2018. However this is where the good news ends. To acquire the services of Pomeranz, Dombrowski was forced to part with pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza. Espinoza is an 18 year old pitcher who is already ranked the number 15 prospect in baseball according to ESPN’s Keith Law.

You have to go back to 2005 to find the last time the Sox dealt a prospect of Espinoza’s caliber, when Theo Epstein traded Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez to the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.

Espinoza is viewed a cut above what Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo, yes that Anthony Rizzo who is now a Cubs’ superstar :/ , when they were dealt to San Diego in 2010 in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez.

Those trades were different however, in those deals you traded prospects for sure-fire great players. Pomeranz is largely unproven as a starter, he was used mainly in relief before this season and this is the first season in which he has eclipsed 100 innings pitched.

Despite the negatives, the Red Sox had no choice but to pull off this trade, they had to show they are in win now mode. They acquired a pitcher they needed who is under team control the next two years, while also protecting some of the key pieces of their farm system.

I was nervous Dombrowski was going to overpay for a starting pitcher, and my fears proved true, but at least Dombrowski didn’t sell the whole future in an attempt to get the Red Sox over the top this season.

I was nervous he was going to trade Yoan Moncada or Andrew Benintendi for a guy like Julio Teheran, a solid starter for sure, but not worth the Braves’ asking price. The only time I would accept seeing those two on the transaction wire are if Jose Fernandez or Chris Sale were on the other end, but with that not happening, we needed to protect those prospects.

The Red Sox have a chance to return to the postseason this year, but relying on Drew Pomeranz to put them over the top is not something I would be banking on Sox fans.

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