Dodgers, Red Sox Facing Elimination in LCS

Dodgers, Red Sox Facing Elimination in LCS

Will Atlanta and Houston enact sweet postseason revenge and meet in the World Series?

As the calendar turns toward winter, the remaining days of autumn are highlighted by the culmination of the MLB postseason.

In the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers spirited Game 3 comeback victory is the only thing saving their season. Heading into Game 5 at Dodger Stadium tonight, Dave Roberts’ depleted bullpen needs a heroic performance from midseason acquisition Max Scherzer.

The 3-time Cy Young Award winner’s impact on the Dodgers season is undeniable. The 36-year old currently in his 14th MLB season went undefeated (7-0) in his 11 starts with the defending champs, posting a career-best 0.86 WHIP and 2.46 ERA (0.82/1.98 with LAD). Scherzer provided relief for the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLDS, recording his first postseason save two days after suffering a hard-luck 1-0 loss in Game 3 (7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 10 K).

Max Scherzer closing Game 5 of the NLDS just two days after throwing 110 pitches in Game 3.

In the American League, the Red Sox power seems to have dissipated. In losing Games 4 and 5, the Sox offense has hit a wall after connecting for 18 HR, hitting .338, and averaging just under nine runs PG in their previous six games. The vaunted Red Sox offense combined for three runs while hitting .157 overall and going 0-13 with RISP.

Meanwhile, Dusty Baker’s unit finds themselves one win away from reaching the World Series for the third time in five seasons. If his team eliminates Boston, Baker receives another chance to win his first championship as a manager (currently owns the record for most games managed without winning a World Series).

Finally, in recognition of Max Scherzer’s start tonight, here are a few examples of pitchers providing super-human efforts facing elimination along with salvaging their team’s bullpen.

Josh Becket (Marlins) – Game 5, 2003 NLCS

Facing elimination, Beckett threw a 2-hit shutout, striking out 11 Cubs while inspiring Florida to rally and win the series.

Curt Schilling (Phillies) – Game 5, 1993 World Series

Without the former ESPN announcer efforts, one of the most memorable postseason moments in MLB would cease to exist.

Schilling’s 147-pitch, five-hit shutout came after Philadelphia used six pitchers, unable to hold a 14-9 lead in Game 4. Joe Carter would be just another Joe without Schilling’s spectacular performance.

Without multiple inspirational performances by Danny Jackson, the Royals would not have won their World Title in 1985.

Danny Jackson (Royals) – Game 5, 1985 ALCS; Game 5, 1985 World Series.

Jackson sent the ALCS back to Toronto with a brilliant, 8-hit shutout of the Blue Jays. Jackson’s performance came at the perfect moment, provided how poorly the Royals bullpen performed in Games 1-4. The left-hander delivered a repeat of his ALCS performance in Game 5 of the World Series. Jackson’s complete Game, five-hitter at St. Louis, sent the series back to Kansas City, where the Royals completed another series comeback.

Mickey Lolich (Tigers) – Game 5, 1968 World Series

The Tigers watched 30-game winner Denny McClain, and five relievers allowed ten runs on 13 hits in the Cardinals 10-1 win in Game 4.

Needing to save an extended bullpen, Lolich allowed nine hits and three runs but went the distance in the Tigers 5-3 victory.

Deathwish Confirmed

Deathwish Confirmed

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WHAT A FIGHT! To be completely honest though, did anyone see this outcome any different? Because I need to know what you’re smoking if you did. Tyson Fury completely embarrassed Deontay Wilder on Saturday night. Wilder was left bloody, disoriented, and had a broken eye socket the last time he went up against the Gypsy King and for some reason scheduled a trilogy fight to just compound what we already know; Fury is far superior. The fight was electric with both fighters trading punches, Wilder actually looked like he was up for the fight. At one point Fury even went down, but that was not for long. The Englishman picked himself up, dusted himself off, and took the game back to the American landing 150 punches to Wilder’s 72. Fury went down twice in the fourth round and it seemed as if the Bronze Bomber would have his way on the night, with most of the English fans, and from other nations worried that we may have been too relaxed. Then again, the sport proved to be a marathon and not a sprint, and Wilder was flat-lined in the 11th round to once again lose the WBC title. Honestly, we all know why the 35-year-old Wilder lost and it’s purely because he cannot box as good as he thinks.
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The American throws his punches so rapidly, wasting energy and not even doing it with direction. This disadvantages him as he loses stamina very quickly and weakens him for the latter rounds, as we saw on Saturday. His style of “fast and furious” does not work in the sport he plays. I would rather see Money Mayweather in the ring with Fury because that would’ve been a much better tactical fight. His accuracy is just atrocious; all-around inaccurate. The fight was intense from the off and never lost that intensity throughout the 11 rounds it lasted. I’m not going to claim to be a boxing aficionado, but if the divisions were based on technique and style, Wilder should not be a Heavy-weight boxer. Fury goes 31-0 in his career and looks unbeatable, but is he? There is one person who he must fight to eclipse that title: Anthony Joshua.
Record Breaker?

Record Breaker?

Dallas Cowboys Corner-back Trevon Diggs (Roger Steinman)
With the NFL Season approaching the midpoint of the season, we usually begin looking at awards such as MVP, Most Improved, and what we’re talking about, DPOY. I believe that if the season was to be halted today that Trevon Diggs would undoubtedly become Defensive Player of the Year. The former 2nd round draft pick in 2019, has been putting up numbers that have led many to believe he is the best Corner in the league right now.

Diggs has begun the season on fire as he has a league-leading five(5) interceptions in the opening four games of the season. Only Devin McCourty (2019), has done the same over the last 15 seasons. Only one team has more than Diggs and that is the New Orleans Saints (6). The 24-year-old is making waves on the more than impressive Dallas defense that is much improved than it was 12 months ago. The stats and all are good, but why is Trevon Diggs DPOY? Simply because the numbers he puts up, and the performances he puts in so far have been utterly ridiculous.

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To win this award as a CB then picks, forced fumbles, blitz’s, and air-tight coverage are what would guarantee that award to not go to a lineman, and right now Diggs has it all. The NFL Record for interceptions is 14 set in 1952 by Los Angeles Rams player Dick Lane. Trevon, currently with five, is on course to make record TWENTY-ONE interceptions. If that were to happen, or anything close to that, the historical impact of the second-year player would be tremendous for his career.

Gonna be watching that NFC East clash keenly to see the #7 against the Giants, and the upcoming fixtures (Patriots 10/17, and Vikings 10/31) to see if this is a fluke, or if he means business. Another intriguing thing this weekend is the Fury vs. Wilder Trilogy fight so look out for that article from me as well.

Struggles in The Bay

Struggles in The Bay

Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images
After losing 21-28 against the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers fall to 2-2, making them the 4th seed in the NFC West.

However, games aren’t the only thing they’re losing; with Josh Norman, Robbie Gould, Raheem Mostert, Jimmy Garapolo, among others on the injury reserve list, this is familiar territory for 49er fans who have witnessed not only the dreaded 2018-2019 but also the 2020-2021 season. Spoiler alert, they both ended badly because of injuries, and this season isn’t looking any better.

Screen Shot pulled from https://www.49ers.com/team/injury-report/
On top of Injuries, this team is struggling to close out games and score points. We saw a bit of this in week one, where the niner’s defense allowed 16 points despite putting in the second team DBs. Not to mention the 49ers only put up a measly 10 points to the Lion’s 23 points in the second half. In week two against the Eagles, the Niners put on the worst performance of this season, only scoring 7 in the first half and 10 in the second. Then in week three against the Packers, the Niner’s offense looked extremely flat again, leaving the defense tired and barely able to stop the Packers explosive offense. Although the Niner’s almost pulled off a remarkable comeback, terrible time management and defensive playcalling let this team’s performance down. Lastly, in week four against the Seahawks, in the first quarter, the 49er’s defense looked stunning, completely shutting down Seattle’s offense. This only lasted one quarter. After the offense scored 7 points in the first half due to mistakes and missed PAT attempts San Francisco’s offense began to struggle a lot even though they scored 14 in the second half, primarily because of the Seahawks subbing in their second team.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
This team has a lot of potential; however, both head coach Kyle Shannahan and defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans need to step up their playing calling and call better plays. Yes, it’s easy to blame coaches for terrible team performances, but in this case, it’s necessary. On offense, Shannahan is playing too passive and doesn’t seem like he trusts his offense to pull off plays that he has stored deep in his brain. Defensively, Ryans seem scared to throw blitzes at teams which is also the Niner’s greatest downfall against the packers to where they should’ve been blitzing a lot more since Aaron Rodgers isn’t the best scrambler.

In darkness, there is light; remember when I said there was potential? Well, the potential is in the youth, which you may ask? Trey Lance, Deebo Samuel, Trey Sermon, Brandon Aiyuk. The two main takeaways from these four are Trey Lance and Deebo Samuel. Analysts all over can all agree that the ceiling for Lance is extremely high, and it’s beginning to show. With three passing and one rushing touchdown, Lance has a chance this Sunday to prove how good he is against the Arizona Cardinals.

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Now on to Deebo Samuel; he’s currently leading the league in receiving yards and almost has the most receiving touchdowns. ESPN even has him projecting to have his first 1000 reception yard year. If he can stay healthy and consistent, Samuel can shape up to be a top 10 receiver and have his breakout year this year. Some call him a gadget receiver, but this is his year to prove the doubters wrong.
https://www.pff.com/news/nfl-deebo-samuel-aj-brown-why-yac-ability-is-valuable-but-limited

The 2021-2022 Islanders Season Preview, Preseason Edition

The 2021-2022 Islanders Season Preview, Preseason Edition

Islanders Season Preview, Preseason Edition

The Islanders are rolling though the preseason schedule in typical Barry Trotz team fashion. An enjoyable thrashing of the Rangers, then the usual games won or lost by a goal. Beating the Rangers always feels good, be it preseason, regular season, or post season.

I am thankful for Barry Trotz as our coach. For the past two seasons, Trotz has taken the Islanders to the Eastern Conference finals. People say the Islanders playing style is boring. They also said that about Lou Lamoriello’s teams in New Jersey, who bored their way into three Stanley Cup championships. And I firmly believe that if the Islanders had won either series against Tampa, they would have won that elusive 5th Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Additionally, I am glad that the Islanders added Erik Gustafsson on a PTO after the removal of Nick Leddy and his contract to the Detroit Red Wings. Anyone reading my tweets knows how I was endorsing that move weeks before the Islanders made it, and I’d think most Islander fans wouldn’t be aware that the last time the NHL played a full season, Gustafsson put up 17 goals and 60 points. He can not replicate that performance in a Trotz system, but also, the knock on Gustafsson is his defense, which is something a Trotz tutorial can fix. The job Trotz did with Scott Mayfield is amazing, and he absolutely transformed Sesame Street Count looking Adam Pelech into a Norris Trophy candidate, though probably not a Norris winner due to his lack of offense.

Lou did a very good job at keeping salaries tolerable. Palmieri at $5 million gives you Jordan Eberle production at a 10% discount. Sorokin’s deal is 20% lighter than the one for Varlamov, whose job he will take over the course of the Varlamov contract. Anthony Beauvilier is a tad of an overpay, but he is young, plays hard no both ends, and scores, so there’s that. Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise are signed at what’s expected to be NHL minimum wage. The Adam Pelech deal was $750,000 below the expected rate, and has shown to be an even better price with newer deals being signed. It will also force Ryan Pulock to take a similar deal, or become the next Tavares.

The Casey Cizikas deal maybe was the best of all of his deals. It was a steal in three ways. One, he got his player to take roughly HALF of what he was allegedly offered from other teams. Two, the savings on the Cizikas deal allowed the Islanders to add Zdeno Chara or Zach Parise with cap neutrality from the prior season. And three, it means Clutterbuck will take a pay cut next year, like Matt Martin did last year to set the precedent for the “Identity Line” to retire together as a group.

Getting Richard Panik in the Nick Leddy deal was an interesting call. Panik is a bottom 6 player that can sub in and provide a little bit of offense, but seems better at defense. That Detroit is keeoing half of the cap hit over two seasons makes Komarov even more tradable, especially since Komarov has a phantom cap hit backed up by a lower than cap salary.

That’s the praise section. Now here comes the unbuckling of the pants, the lowering of the trousers and underwear, the right angle knee bending squat, the unpuckering of the anus, and the delivery of a fiber laden, corn pocked SHITTING on the most obvious factors facing this team.

The Islanders ended their last season being shut out. Twice, actually, in a 7 game series. The Islanders had one offensively dynamic player on the roster. The Islanders ABSOLUTELY LARGEST NEED this past offseason was an offensively dynamic forward to pair with Mat Barzal.

The result? Keeping Kyle Palmieri, aka Smaller Anders Lee.

“But what was available?” #IslesKoolAid would say. Lets take a look.

Sam Reinhart was traded for a 1st round draft pick and a prospect. Reinhart had 25 goals and 40 points in 54 games on a horrible Buffalo Sabres team.

Did I mention that he’s 25?

Jakob Voracek was traded for Cam Atkinson. Atkinson had 41 goals the last time the NHL played a full season. Since 2012, Voracek has been close to a point a game player.

Seth Jones was acquired in a trade. Jones scores at the same pace as Kool Aid legend Josh Bailey, except Jones is a defenseman. Same holds true for Oliver Ekman Larsson. Or Rasmus Ristolainen.

We all know the St. Louis Blues have been dangling Vladimir Tarasenko all summer. Cup winner, 30+ goal scorer when healthy.

Project and 2nd overall pick Nolan Patrick was available. Not an elite player yet, but would have been nice to have that kind of potential in the organization.

Taylor Hall was an unrestricted free agent. Hall had 14 points in 16 games for a good team last year, after having 17 points in 37 games for a bad one. 31 points in 53 games is… close to the 35 points in 54 games of Islanders legend Josh Bailey playing for a cup competing team.

There’s also the usual disgruntled Patrik Laine rumors, and Pierre-Luc DuBois, in the last year of his deal and whom Hockey-Reference.com compares his career trajectory with Jerome Iginla. Like we need any of that, right?

That’s just what was traded, signed, or expiring. Shake a tree and even more things fall out.

There’s also the ABSURDITY of the rumors coming out of training camp saying Oliver Whalstrom will not make the team because he has waiver options. So we’re holding a spot for the expiring career and contract of Leo Komarov in the top 9 for him to get outskated all season? To repeat his performance of one goal over 52 regular season and playoff games?

There’s also the absurdity of the potential to lose Keifer Bellows from the organization. Bellows scores goals. He has 5 in 22 career games getting 3 and a half minutes per game. Bellows will be a 20 goal scorer in the NHL when players like Komarov or Ross Johnston aren’t eating his game minutes.  The current Islanders leadership seems to have no idea about how to handle an offensively talented forward, which will be compounded when Josh Ho Sang makes the Toronto Maple Leafs roster this season. The lack of scoring depth in the organization is problematic, to say the least.

As is the lack of youth on the roster. You think resigning Andy Greene was keeping too old of a player around? Welcome, Zdeno Chara! I’m not saying having experience on the blue line is entirely bad, but wouldn’t just Chara have been ideal? I totally wanted to add Chara and also Zach Parise to add experience, ability, and lower minutes role playing to the roster. But I’d be lying if I said I would have preferred that to instead seeing a Sam Reinhart in the top 6, moving a lesser player into the bottom 6 role. Or even better, Whalstrom in the top six. Also, Robin Salo and Sam Bolduc aren’t NHL ready? You have to break in rookies one a t a time. Having old players like Greene and Chara would be the time to add a kid to learn from their mentorship.

Did I mention the lack of goal depth in the organization? As we see a training camp with an ailing Seymon Varlamov, fans are surely glad that the goalie of the future is here in the form of Ilya Sorokin. But the first callup is Cory Schneider?  And there isn’t exactly a lot of free agent goalies to rush in to service, which really is a failure of drafting- something that has been an issue for the Islanders for about a consecutive decade. JF Berube was recently waived. The Islanders are one injury away from that being a real option. Maybe Lou can talk Brodeur into coming out of retirement?

To summarize, as the Islanders presently stand:

  • They’re old. They’re a win now team that used the offseason to get OLDER.
  • They have very little injury depth. A key injury- See Anders Lee- derails this season in a big way. imagine a Barzal injury? Lottery.
  • They don’t draft well. Taking Aatu Raty was a no brainer, but the system lacks young, promising offensive players. This again makes them a win now team.
  • They probably should add a kid on defense, if they aren’t going to sign Guftasson to a minimum wage deal.
  • Noah Dobson is the Nick Leddy replacement. He’s a smarter player. So you need to figure out who is the 6th defenseman.
  • This is a team that ABSOLUTELY needs to do the same thing they’ve done the past two seasons- make a fantastic trade deadline move.
  • This team will need maintenance days, especially on defense. There needs to be a taxi squad. As an aside, the Bridgeport Islanders screwed up by signing in Bridgeport for a decade and not moving to the Coliseum and be 6 miles away from the majors.
  • The 4th line is already showing the damage that injuries create. This will be the story of line 4 over the next 3-6 years, as the Clutterbuck, Martin, Cizzikas, and Johnston contracts expire. No one on line 4 will play 80 games this season. You can bank on that.
  • Line 3 needs to be as dynamic in scoring as the first two lines, and needs to play better defense than line 4. Tampa rolls 3 dangerous lines. We need to do the same.
  • If Anders Lee isn’t back to form, they should Tampa Bay his ass, claim his leg fell off, and LTIR $7 million to improve the team.

I get that this is a preseason, pre announced roster edition. But I also sense that the roster is already set in the minds of Islanders management. This team is a cup contender, and could be a champion with a tweak or two.

If so, the hopes of this team fall on two things. One is the cohesiveness that Coach Trotz can create with his system and his team, which need to regroup after a summer of trades, expansion drafting, signings, and time. The other is a trade deadline deal, which Lou has gone two for two in the last two seasons. Maybe that’s where the elite talent comes in, because we know it’s not presently here. And without that move? It will be what it always is, which is more of the same.