(Via AP Photo/Jae Hong)
So here I was, just trying to enjoy my Tuesday afternoon, when the bomb dropped. Manny Machado is now a member of the San Diego Padres. So, what does it mean for the Padres, the NL West, Major League Baseball as a whole, and the Red Sox?
Firstly, the Padres. At the major league level on the surface, it's a little troubling. The Padres gave out a monster contract to Eric Hosmer a year ago, and Hosmer only produced a WAR of 1.4 with a .720 OPS. They also gave a lot of money to Wil Myers, who has been injury-prone and positionless for a couple seasons. It echos the Padres of a few years back, where they signed guys like James Shields, Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, and BJ Upton, only to lose them all within a few seasons. Where it gets interesting though is their minor league system. The Padres have the consensus top farm system in the majors, and their crown jewel is infielder Fernando Tatis Jr, the #2 prospect in all of baseball. Other highlights include former third overall pick lefthander Mackenzie Gore, infielder Luis Urias, and catcher Francisco Mejia. They have ten prospects in the top 100. The real question mark is still the pitching staff, despite having Mackenzie Gore and maybe the return of Anderson Espinoza after two injured seasons.
For the NL West, the Padres may be the favorite in 2021, but they're not there yet. They're just too young. Mackenzie Gore turns 20 this month. Luis Urias is only 21. Fernando Tatis Jr just turned 20. And then there's Francisco Mejia, the “old man” of this group, and he's only 23. For the immediate future, the Dodgers are still likely the favorites in the division, being the team that represented the National League in back to back World Series and all that. They still have Clayton Kershaw, they're getting Corey Seager back from Tommy John Surgery, and that's not even mentioning guys like Cody Bellinger, Kenley Jansen, and recent free agent addition AJ Pollock. And knowing the Dodgers, they'll probably find some other team's major league flameout off the scrap heap and turn him into a productive player like they did with Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, and Max Muncy. Outside of them, there is still the Rockies, who may have lost DJ LeMahieu to the Yankees, but still return Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and of course Nolan Arenado. Pitching, they still have young stud Kyle Freeman, and in the pen, even though Adam Ottavino signed with the Yankees, they still have Scott Oberg. They also still have the best manager in the entire division in Bud Black. Fortunately for the Padres, the Diamondbacks (who traded the best position player they've ever had in Paul Goldschmidt) and Giants (who have made no significant improvements) are now behind them in the race for the division title.
Talking about how the majors as a whole is impacted, this move was really unexpected, at least to me. Machado signed the largest free agent contract in sports history (second-largest contract including extensions, behind Giancarlo Stanton's Marlins extension in 2014) at 10 years, $300 million. That part makes enough sense. The shocking aspect is that he did it with the Padres of all teams. All logic seemed to point towards Machado signing in Chicago with the White Sox, since they made the effort to sign his Miami buddies Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay. Another one of his Miami buddies, Albert Almora, plays crosstown for the Cubs. Allegedly, they offered even more for him than the Padres did. Barring that, it looked like the Yankees would be the best bet, since Machado is a shortstop/third baseman from Miami, so he was a huge fan of another shortstop/third baseman from Miami who happened to play for the Yankees while Machado was growing up. Outside of that, the discussion on how this impacts the entirety of Major League Baseball is about Bryce Harper. Harper is still unsigned. Unsurprisingly, this takes the Padres out of the running for him, and given that they went out and signed Machado, have to believe that they were serious. Harper now has his pick from the other 29 teams who are willing to pay him, but logically, it looks like the Phillies are the favorite. And now that Machado has $300 million, Harper will likely ask for at least that much, if not more. Harper's contract, when he signs, will almost certainly beat Machado's and possibly even Stanton's as well.
Now, for the Red Sox. They should be breathing a sigh of relief right now. The Yankees were a legitimate threat for a long time to sign Machado, and now they don't have to worry about that anymore. Remember, just two years ago the Yankees were a game away from the World Series. Just last year they won 100 games. They added Giancarlo Stanton, who is great at baseball, and if they added another player like him, maybe someone to take over for Didi Gregorius (who will miss roughly half the season with Tommy John Surgery) until he was back and healthy, it would put them ahead of the Red Sox, at least on paper. Even though Brian Cashman said he wouldn't pay Manny Machado more than he was paying Stanton, there's nothing saying Machado wouldn't have taken a discount so he could be their next Alex Rodriguez and win multiple World Series rings. Fortunately for the Red Sox, he won't be in the division. He won't even be in the same league anymore. They only have to play the Padres three times in 2019, all in San Diego, and all in late August, barring an unlikely matchup in the World Series.
Now, one of the big ones is off the market. We as a baseball community can now turn all of our attention towards Bryce Harper’s free agency, assuming he actually signs a contract before the regular season starts. This offseason really sucks, doesn't it?
(Via LAT Photographic/autoweek.com)
Finally, the 2019 NASCAR season is upon us. The Great American Race is this Sunday. Now, while the offseason is the shortest of any sport, that doesn't mean that we haven't had some intriguing storylines building for this season. Here are some narratives to watch out for in 2019.
Can the Big Three continue their dominance?
There's 36 races in every NASCAR season. In 2018, Kevin Harvick (8 wins), Kyle Busch (8 wins), and Martin Truex Jr (4 wins) combined to win 20 of them. The three of them, along with Joey Logano, made it to the Final Round of the Chase last season. When the new season begins, will the Big Three continue dominating?
Prediction: No. Busch and MTJ are teammates now, so it's hard to imagine they'll be going all out competing for wins. Except for Busch, he'll probably wreck every other driver on his team to move up to 3rd or something.
Will Jimmie Johnson bounce back?
Jimmie Johnson is one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history. Despite that, his 2018 season was (and it hurts me as a huge Johnson fan to say this) terrible. Firstly, he didn't win a single race, despite coming very close at the Roval. He barely snuck into the Chase. He set career lows in wins, laps led, top 5s, and top 10s. Not only that, he lost his Crew Chief, Chad Knaus, and the iconic Lowe's sponsorship, both after a historic run of seven Cup Series titles, including five in a row. Think of it like if Bill Belichick stopped coaching Tom Brady. It's that severe. Is there any hope for Jimmie, at all?
Prediction: Sadly, it looks like Jimmie’s best days are behind him. Am I saying he'll never win another race? No. But he's past his prime and going downhill. Unfortunately, we won't see #8. God, I hope I'm wrong.
How will drivers on new teams do?
Unlike other sports, the NASCAR offseason featured plenty of people changing teams. Just this offseason, we watched Martin Truex Jr go from Furniture Row Racing and the 78 (RIP) to Joe Gibbs Racing and the 19 due to Truex being unable to keep Furniture Row in business despite winning it all in 2017 and coming up just short of repeating in 2018. He replaced Daniel Suarez, leaving JGR and the 19 to instead go to Stewart-Haas Racing at the 41. Suarez replaced Kurt Busch, who finally got it in him to leave Stewart-Haas for the greener pastures of Ganassi and the 1. Outside of that, Daniel Hemric took over the 31 from Ryan Newman (how moved to the 6 for Roush Fenway Racing) and Richard Childress immediately repainted it to the 8. This means the 3 car and the 8 car will be teammates. Finally, Matt DiBenedetto gets the 95 for Leavine Family Racing to replace the retiring Kasey Kahne.
Prediction: MTJ and Kurt Busch will be doing good with their new teams because they're good drivers. DiBenedetto leaving the 32 and Go Fas Racing to the 95 probably won't help him because he just isn't that good. Newman is too old to do a lot with his new team after 17 years in the Cup Series full-time. Suarez has shown flashes but hasn't materialized in anything so far with JGR, so a change of scenery could help him out. Hemric is interesting. It brings me to my next narrative:
Who will win Rookie of the Year?
Hemric is one of five declared candidates for Cup Series Rookie of the Year. Over seven seasons in the Truck Series and Grand National Series, he's racked up 38 top 5s and 69 top 10s, as well as five poles, despite never recording a win. As mentioned, Hemric is driving the 8 car. Next is Tanner Berryhill. Unlike Hemric, Berryhill never raced Trucks. He did race in the Grand National series, last running full-time back in 2014. He recorded 0 top 5s, 0 top 10s, 0 poles, and never finished higher than 17. He didn't even qualify for four races that season. However, he's only 25, so he's still young enough to make his mark in the Cup. He'll be driving the 97 for Obaika Racing. After him is Quin Houff. Only 21 years old, Houff has yet to get a full-time ride in any Series. He has shown potential though. At only 19, he finished 12th at Iowa in the Grand National Series. He ran five races in the ARCA Series over two seasons and recorded tow top 10s, with a high finish of sixth at Charlotte. He'll be in the 77 for Spire Motorsports. Fourth is Ryan Preece. Preece ran part-time in the Grand National Series from 2014-15 and again from 2017-18. His 2016 season was a little underwhelming, recording one top 10 in 33 races, with his highest finish being 10th and six DNFs. In 2017 though? He showed he could be ready for the Cup. Running only four races, he recorded a win, a pole, four top fives, and four top tens. He didn't start lower than sixth. In the cup, he'll be in the 47 for JTG Daugherty Racing. Finally, there's Matt Tifft. Tifft spent two seasons part-time in the Grand National Series before spending two seasons full-time. In those races, he's won two poles, nine top 5s, and 38 top 10s, despite not winning any races. He also ran part-time Trucks for three seasons, recording a top 5 and nine top 10s, but also no wins. In the Cup Series, he'll be driving in the 36 car for Front Row Motorsports.
Prediction: I understand he'll likely be the popular pick, but I have to go with Daniel Hemric here. Yeah, he's older than everyone else in the running, being 28, but he has more experience than all of the other candidates. No, he doesn't have a win in any NASCAR-sanctioned series, but that doesn't detract from the otherwise sheer dominance he's had so far in his career.
And there are my predictions. I'll revisit them after the season to see how I did.
With the Trade Deadline coming and going, Anthony Davis is still in New Orleans. The star big man publicly asked for a trade from the team that he has spent his entire seven-year career with. Davis is having another all star season, averaging 29.4 points per game to go along with 13.2 rebounds per game. In short, Davis is one of the top players in the entire game and a bonafide franchise-changer. Danny Ainge has been infatuated with Davis since he came into the league prior to the 2012-2013 season. But, my guess is that you already knew that if you're reading this article.
The normal suitors are out for Davis, including the Lakers, Bucks, Clippers, and Celtics, just to name a few teams. But if we are being completely honest, we all know that it is more than likely going to come down to the Celtics and Lakers, battling it out for one of the top players in all of basketball. The Celtics have the best assets in the entire NBA. They have been gearing up to acquire a player like Davis since they decided to trade away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Again, everything has worked out perfectly for the Celtics up until this point. They were able to trade away essentially nothing for Kyrie Irving, and have drafted beautifully with the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown blossoming into budding stars. Even some role players like Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris have played key roles on this team. Furthermore, Irving publicly came out and said that he would sign an extension with the Celtics prior to the start of this season. He has wavered a bit, since this season has not exactly gone as planned, however.
Now, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this team. Irving may stay, he may not, the likes of Tatum and Brown have not gelled with some of the veterans on this team, and Gordon Hayward looks like a shell of himself. Speaking of Hayward, I think it is important to take a moment to talk about the former all star. Yes, he is the sixth highest paid player in the league. Yes, he is underperforming this season. Yes, he is not mixing well with the rest of the team. However, we have to give this guy some time. I know people talk about Paul George taking time to come back and I think we have to give Hayward the season. He has shown flashes of the player that was a mega star at Butler and changed the Utah Jazz's franchise forever. It would be a bad look to trade Hayward after everything that he has gone through. Whether people like it or not, he is going to be on this team for the foreseeable future.
So, what do the Celtics do now? To be perfectly honest, this is one of the worst positions to be in the NBA. As a Celtics fan, I don't see a clear-cut answer as to what this team should do. They are clearly better than most teams in the NBA, but they are not a true title contender. In order to get to that step, they need to trade for Davis. This is just my opinion, but I believe a team needs at least two top 10 players in the NBA in order to really contend for a title. The Celtics hoped Irving and Hayward would bring them to a championship and that may still happen. Unfortunately, right now, the Celtics cannot rely on Hayward to be anything more than a role player. Like I said before, give it the season. Now, the question arises as to whether or not Tatum and Brown can take the next steps to become top 10 players in the NBA. I do not think that Brown really deserves to be in this conversation. He is an above average player, but he is not in the same stratosphere as Tatum.
In an ideal world, you can get Davis without having to give up Tatum. With that being said, what separates the Celtics' potential offer for Davis is Tatum. No other team in the NBA can offer a player like him. When Ainge promised the Pelicans a monster offer in the offseason, we all know that it more than likely means Tatum.
I will be the first to say it, I really don't like giving up Tatum. He reminds me so much of a more athletic Paul Pierce that it is scary. However, this is all part of a much bigger storyline. If you keep Tatum and do not trade for Davis, then there is a chance that Irving leaves. You need to keep Irving happy and there have already been reports surfacing that if the Celtics were to land Davis, then that essentially assures Irving will sign the super max with Boston. According to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, not only would Irving sign an extension with Boston, but he would also heavily influence Davis' decision in the Summer of 2020.
Many have stated that the Celtics should not trade away half the team in a deal for Davis if he is not willing to sign here long-term. I think that is completely fair. But I also look at the landscape of the NBA. Look at the likes of Paul George and even Kawhi Leonard, who were 100% sold on going to Los Angeles, whether it be the Lakers or the Clippers. Teams like the Raptors and Thunder went out on a limb to trade for unhappy players and to try and sell them on the culture of their franchise. And it freaking worked. You know who has a pretty good culture? The Boston Celtics.
At this point, I say go for it. Trade for Davis, which locks up Irving in Boston. Try to sell Davis on Boston next season and make a legit run on a championship. I would rather go to the NBA Finals for one season and lose rather than being the #2 or #3 team in the Eastern Conference for the next 10 years. Ainge has been stockpiling assets for years and the time to use them is now.
There's no room for debate. Even though he put up the worst performance of any of his Super Bowl wins, Tom Brady won his sixth ring.
And he is the greatest athlete of all time.
Not just the greatest quarterback. Not just the greatest NFL player. But the greatest athlete to ever play a professional team sport in the United States of America. Not based on athletic ability, everyone knows that Brady has never been that athletic. But his legacy is unparalleled by any other player in any other sport. And I can prove it too.
Let's start with the man who was the consensus greatest quarterback of all time before Brady came along: Tom Brady's childhood idol, Joe Montana. Most people still put Montana at #2 when it comes to GOAT QB rankings, but there's still a few Bay Area diehards and old-timers that still claim Montana is better. Their argument centers around two points: that Montana was undefeated in the Super Bowl and that he never threw an interception in the Super Bowl. When it comes to being undefeated, yes, Montana went to four Super Bowls and won them all. It's very impressive and should be celebrated. Even with all the great quarterbacks to come into the NFL after his retirement, his four rings are still tied with Terry Bradshaw for the second most all time. But let's play the hypothetical game for a second. Let's assume a quarterback goes to four Super Bowls and wins them all. Then he's the greatest of all time. Then he goes to five more Super Bowls and goes 2-3. Is his legacy somehow worsened by more than doubling his career Super Bowl appearances and still maintaining a winning record? Of course not. So why is it any different when Brady goes to more Super Bowls than Montana, and has more wins? It isn't, but people think it is. Let's look at game-winning drives in the Super Bowl. Montana only had one: the iconic 92 yard drive against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. It is legendary, but Brady one ups him. In all six of his Super Bowl wins, Tom Brady has led the Patriots on a game-winning drive. True, some were higher pressure than others, but it still stands that he did it in all six wins. Not only that, but in all nine of his Super Bowl appearances, Tom Brady has either walked off the field victorious or given his defense a fourth quarter lead which they failed to protect. And that's not even mentioning the time Joe Montana got benched while down 49-3 against the Giants, after he threw for 98 yards and two interceptions in the 1986 NFC Divisional Round. Who'd he get benched for, by the way? Was it Steve Young? No, he wouldn't join the 49ers until 1987. Joe Montana played so bad in the playoffs he was benched for Jeff Kemp. Kemp's career stats look like this: 16-12-1 as a starter, 6,230 yards, 39 touchdowns, 40 interceptions. Let it be known that, in a playoff game, Joe Montana lost by 46 points and was benched for a backup who threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his career.
Now onto the no interception argument. Yes, it is impressive and it should be celebrated. But it can't realistically be used to put down Brady. Montana threw 122 passes in his four Super Bowls. Brady threw 156 in his first four, and still only had one interception. Since then, he's attempted 236 more passes in Super Bowls, and threw 5 interceptions. That's one roughly every 47 attempts. And when Brady throws 47 passes in the Super Bowl? Well, he's 3-2.
Okay, he's better than Montana. What about the greatest NFL player ever? That's a bit more complicated. There's no clear-cut, consensus #1 guy. Some may say Jerry Rice. Some may say Jim Brown. Some may say Lawrence Taylor. All football royalty, but Brady has one thing over any of them: the quarterback is the most important position on a football team. A quarterback is the only player (well, except the center if you want to be particular about it) to touch the ball every snap. Jerry Rice got the ball a lot, but sometimes the 49ers ran it or passed to another receiver. Jim Brown is similar. He played in a run-first era, so he got it a lot, but sometimes the Browns passed or handed it to a different back. Lawrence Taylor never got the ball on offense, but he does have one thing in common with Brady that Rice and Brown do not: he called plays. Calling defensive plays is important, but most of the scoring comes from the offense, so no matter how important LT's role is, he will never be as important as Brady.
So, he's the greatest NFL player ever. But is he really the greatest athlete ever? Yes. He's even better than Michael Jordan. Jordan is the consensus greatest athlete ever. He won six NBA championships as the centerpiece of the Chicago Bulls. That's not the most in any sport. Bill Russell won 11 with the Celtics. Yogi Berra won the World Series ten times with the Yankees. But Jordan is different. When Berra and Russell won their rings, they just had the best team in one league or conference play the best team in the other. When Jordan played, he had to go through four rounds of playoffs to win a title. And he did that six times. Brady had to go through three rounds of playoffs to win a title, which he also did six times. True, Jordan had another round to play, but there's one major difference: looking at all six of his NBA championship runs, Michael Jordan faced a do or die game twice. The first time was in the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Knicks, and the second was in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. He won them both, and has never faced a do or die game in the NBA Finals. In every playoff game Tom Brady has ever played, it's been a do or die game. And he's won an NFL record 30 of those games. If the Patriots put up a stinker in the playoffs, they don't have another game to bail them out. Michael Jordan’s Bulls always did.
The debate is over. Tom Brady is the greatest athlete in sports history. And we need to appreciate his legacy while he's still adding to it.
A report came out early this morning stating that New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis wants out of the “Big Easy”. This means that he will not sign a 5 year 240 million dollar super max extension with NOLA after the 2021 season. For a Pelicans franchise that is struggling to fill seats every night with Davis in the fold, they will look to rebuild their roster and start from scratch. Davis is a top 5 player in the NBA and has been a star since entering the league out of Kentucky back in 2012. For his career, Davis has averaged 24Pts, 10.6Reb, and 2.4BLKs, while shooting over 50% from the field. He is a monster on both sides of the ball and his impact is felt every single night he steps on the hardwood.
At this stage, it looks like a two team fight for the 25 year old. First off, don’t even tell me that the Knicks have any shot at a deal to land him. They have absolutely nothing to offer. Davis will not be attracted to a losing culture that seems to have locker room issues. A team that puts so much stock into being a free agent destination has only managed to real in a past his prime Amare Stoudemire over the last 20 years. The Nets have a much more realistic shot at landing AD. But, both of those teams are still long-shots. The two teams that are in front to land Davis are the Celtics and Lakers. Go figure! This is the third installment of the Celtics attempt to Beat LA. We saw the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in October and we will see the Rams and Patriots battle it out in Super Bowl 53 on Sunday. Both teams have a good shot at Davis, but for different reasons.
For Boston, they have the real assets to trade for Davis. Likely to hold 3 first round picks in this upcoming draft, along with young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Robert Williams, this seems to be the most enticing on paper. Al Horford would most likely be involved in a deal in order to match salaries. Ideally, the Celtics will try to hold onto Jayson Tatum at all costs and I do believe that this is possible. Since there is no other team that can offer much value, the Celtics can manage to give up less in a deal. I can see a deal that involves Brown, Rozier, Horford, and the 3 first round picks. With this deal done, the Celtics will have a staring lineup of Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Anthony Davis. Essentially, you are moving Horford for Davis, which is a tremendous upgrade. This team is lacking a “Kevin Garnett” presence and I believe Davis is that guy.
LA has a different method to land Davis. They have a certain guy that could make this work. No, I’m not talking about Lebron James. I am talking about Rich Paul, who both James and Davis share as an agent. Let’s face it, a package centered around Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball is not going to get it done from a value standpoint, but a way that this could work is by some Magic. No pun intended. I can see a scenario where Magic Johnson, Rich Paul, And Lebron James sneakily maneuver some sort of trickery to land Davis. I am not saying that the NBA is rigged, but I am saying that some men have more power than others and can get things that they want. In this case, Davis is the prized possession. Given the amount of moving parts, the Lakers would have a roster with Davis and Lebron. They would then target another star like Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard and add shooters all around, which would make them an instant threat.
It’ll be interesting to see what team does land Davis. I will be shocked if he is moved before this February’s Trade Deadline and if he is traded to and signs a long term deal with a team other than the Lakers or Celtics. Buckle up! We are in for a long ride.