Sunday, March 1, 2015

Beers and Baseball Cards 04

Mike and Brett return for the new baseball season and sort through a few packs of cards, including 1999 Topps, 1990 Topps Traded, and ProSet Super Stars MusiCards. Check out Dennis Eckersley's arm, Vance Law's four balls, and Victor Rosario's hair.







Wednesday, February 25, 2015

If you want to storm the court, beat Kentucky

I was very glad to find out recently that I'm not the only one who is against all this "court storming" that takes place in college basketball. I mean, actual important people are speaking out against it now. I suppose it's more of an issue now that Kansas coach Bill Self was nearly crushed when Kansas State students rushed onto the court after the unranked Wildcats upset the no. 8 Jayhawks on Monday night.

So naturally, now that it's become a safety concern, people are wondering how we can stop it. And I'm fine with that, because storming the court is becoming one of the most annoying things in sports.

So your team won a game on its home court. Congratulations. You should be proud of the players and all of the hard work they've done. Scream really loudly about it, sing some funny songs telling the other team to leave, do some trash talking on the internet. There are a million ways to celebrate the win while also showing that you believed in your team the whole time.

To me, when you storm the court, it's like you are so surprised by the outcome of this game that you have lost control of yourself and have no choice but to run down there and be a part of it all. It's all just that unbelievable and shocking. So, at the same time, you're also saying you never expected your team to win. And that's kind of pathetic in most cases.

Just last night, no. 14 Maryland upset no. 5 Wisconsin, and of course, a court storming took place. Guys, your team is ranked 14th in the nation. At this point in the season, you should believe that your team can (and will) compete with anyone on its home court. You should be saying and thinking something like this: "We might not win it all. We may have our problems on the road sometimes. But come to our house, and see what happens."

When your team wins on its home court, please act like you expected this outcome. Respect your team's players that much.

So now Bill Self and others are trying to put an end to this, and I'd like to help out. Here are some thoughts to use when arguing against storming the court.

1. I'm not saying it should never happen. I understand it's a safety issue, but I think for the most part, people are aware enough to not trample over a human being. But let's make it something special at least, right? Once every five years? Once every 10 years? I don't know the appropriate rate, but I think it shouldn't really happen multiple times during someone's college career. It should be a unique and memorable moment. If you ask your college buddy if he remembers that time you stormed the court, he shouldn't be able to ask, "Which one?"

2. You should only consider storming the court if no one gave your team a chance to win. It should be something of a huge surprise, even to you. Of course, you shouldn't spend your four years of college thinking this way.

3. You should only storm the court if this momentum can launch you to bigger and better things this year. Maybe this is the boost you needed. This is the turning point that no one saw coming. And honestly, December and January are way too early for any of that.

4. Following this logic, it should be rare for the opportunity to even arise. It may never happen, in fact. Which is how it kind of should be. This year, for example, from this point forward, I could understand storming the court for one reason only. BEAT KENTUCKY. That's it. If you're a ranked team, and you're hoping to have a successful postseason, no other wins should surprise you right now. If your team isn't having a good year, and you knock off no. 19 Eastern Tech State, then who cares? Big deal. You caught a team on an off night. No one wants to watch highlights to see fans of some 8-21 team rushing onto the court.

I wonder why we don't see this in many other sports, aside from college football occasionally. No one rushes onto the baseball field, do they? The race track? The hockey ice? I guess that would be pretty funny, actually.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Checking in on Darren Sproles

When the New Orleans Saints allowed Darren Sproles to walk and join the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2013 season, it sparked a debate between our horror podcast and our friends at Fearshop.com (also a horror podcast, but they talk about sports more than horror, angering many of their fans in the process). As Saints fans, we put our trust in the team's front office to make the right decision about an aging running back. In hindsight, this was the least of our worries, obviously. But still, it looks like the Sproles decision was the right move.

As we discussed on our show and as I highlighted in this GBS post from last March, the production just wasn't there for Sproles in 2013. He'd scored only four times and even his special teams contributions were becoming minimal. The argument against us was basically: "Watch what Chip Kelly does with Sproles."

So what did Sproles do last year with the Eagles?

He did score more touchdowns, with all six of his scores coming as a rusher, and he did average 5.8 yards per carry, his highest since 2011. On the other hand, his receiving numbers were far lower than any of us expected. His 62 targets, 40 catches, and 387 yards were his lowest totals since 2008.

One of our main points was that Sproles had lost his touch in the return game. While the Eagles didn't use him on kick returns, he did have his best year as a punt returner in 2014. Although he spent much of 2013 calling for fair catches when it seemed he didn't always have to, Sproles averaged 13 yards per return and scored twice on punts last year.

My biggest concern after 2013 was the lack of impact games, as he topped 100 rushing/receiving yards only twice that year. Sure enough, this held true in Philadelphia as well. Whether Kelly used him "correctly" or not, Sproles kicked off the season with 85 yards in Week 1 and had 178 yards in Week 2, but he never reached 100 yards again. In fact, his 67 yards in Week 16 were the best he could do after that.

I'll say it again: I like Darren Sproles. But I think the Saints made the right call. In my opinion, Sproles contributed positively to two of the 10 wins the Saints claimed in 2013. I'd put that number somewhere around 3.5 out of 10 for Philadelphia last season. He's just not enough of an impact player these days. Maybe I'll be proven wrong in 2015.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fun Notes From This Week

As I drowned in my sorrow following LSU's loss to Kentucky, I did catch a few fun stories this week that I wanted to mention.

First, did you know that GBS semi-favorite Julio Franco is still playing baseball?! Although he hasn't seen MLB action since 2007, Franco is now serving as a player-manager in Japan. We're told he is 56 years old, but remember, his age has been questioned in the past. So who knows. As a manager in Mexico last season, his team finished 58-47. I'd love to see him coaching in the majors soon. And maybe pinch hitting!

Speaking of old dudes playing baseball, in case you missed it, this 88-year-old totally tried to charge the mound in a fantasy camp. I mean, he looked out in that direction and took a few steps before being "contained" by the ump, but the rage and intent were there! I just hope that I can still play baseball when I'm 88. Or at least stand up. Honestly, if I'm 88 and the best I can do is wake up and watch old People's Court and Love Connection episodes, that'll be OK too.




Finally, this week I learned about a new sport called sepak takraw. It's kind of like volleyball mixed with soccer, and (I think) you have to be a ninja to play it. Basically, I plan to become the resident sepak takraw expert here at GBS as soon as I can. Give me some time to figure this stuff out, and soon you'll be able to come here for all of the latest sepak takraw news and analysis you could ever want. Why didn't we have this as an intramural sport in school?


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

RBI Baseball: Top 3 Teams

RBI Baseball recently announced that Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will be featured on the cover of the 2015 version. This is great, mainly because at least it's an actual guy, unlike the original NES games, where it was just randomly uniformed gentlemen.

However, I played a little bit of the new RBI last year, and it just wasn't quite as fun to me. I rank the original RBI very highly on my list of favorite video games and still play it on my phone every now and then.

In fact, here are my top three teams to use in the original NES RBI game. (Note: I have to throw out the All-Star teams, so that only leaves eight to choose from.)

3. Detroit Tigers - This is a newer favorite, since I don't remember liking them so much as a kid. But I've recently leaned toward the Detroit lineup, which starts off great with Trammel and then keeps going, with Gibson, Evans, and Nokes following. This is one of the only two non-All-Star lineups that I don't feel the need to adjust, although I do like to get Madlock some at-bats and will sub him in for Brookens sometimes. I recently had a 15-run inning in a 24-1 victory (using my phone, which I find to be more difficult than the NES). Strong offense.

2. St. Louis Cardinals - This is other lineup that you don't mess with. If someone is slumping, you can throw Oquendo in there to switch things up, but he isn't really any better than any of the starters. You know you aren't hitting home runs with this team, you can "small ball" the crap out of your opponent, especially the computer. If I were playing a season and trying to set my high mark for triples, this is easily my team.

1. Boston Red Sox - When you plug in Ellis Burks at the leadoff spot and Tony Armas in the eight-hole, this team is as good as the All-Star teams. Then you have Roger Clemens pitching. It's unfair, actually, and I rarely use Boston these days. But I know I used them a lot back in the day. Today, if I play with the Red Sox, I usually only use Bob Stanley to pitch, and I leave him planted in the middle of the mound.

I'm sure every RBI fan has a different Top 3. Feel free to tell me who I missed here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chicago Cubs: Non-Roster Invitees Announced

As soon as I posted my James Shields wish last week, things got pretty crazy, with the Cubs actually seeming to make a good run at signing him. But with reports that he has now chosen to sign with San Diego, it looks like the Cubs roster that will begin spring training is fairly settled. The major question at this point is whether or not the team will move Welington Castillo and/or Travis Wood before pitchers and catchers report next week.

In the middle of the Shields drama, the Cubs did announce the 19 non-roster players who received spring training invites. I believe the Opening Day roster is not exactly set in stone, but outside of pitching, I think there are only a couple of spots up for grabs. There is so much to be sorted out, but I am assuming a few things that could obviously change or end up being incorrect:

  • 1. The team will keep 13 pitchers.
  • 2. If Castillo is traded, the team will keep two catchers.
  • 3. This leaves 10 position spots, and I believe the following eight are solid: Alcantara, Castro, La Stella, Rizzo, Coghlan, Denorfia, Fowler, and Soler. This leaves two spots and assumes Baez would start at AAA (based on his recent contact struggles). Of course, a solid (and possibly just a half way decent) spring training will put him in. Then there are players like Olt, Lake, and Sweeney who would have the upper hand heading into camp.


So the odds are against the non-roster invitees, as far as making the team is concerned, especially for the position players. The pitching situation will be equally as competitive, with maybe one or two spots "open," but so much depends on who earns the 5th starting slot.

Then again, some of the players invited are simply being given a chance to get some experience and aren't even expecting to compete for a spot. Yet.

Below are some of the players on the non-roster invite list that we'll be watching closely.


  • Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora - Part of the "core" offensive future of the organization, none of these players will be on the roster at the end of camp. But it won't be long for some of them. Bryant should be up by June 1, and the rest could all end up in Chicago this year, at least when the rosters expand. More likely, it will be 2016 for Schwarber and Almora, but it will be nice to watch them play a few games this spring.
  • Jonathan Herrera - The team would obviously prefer Baez, with Olt being somewhat of a temporary backup plan while Baez gets things going in the minors. But if both of these players continue to strike out at high rates this spring, Herrera likely has the best chance of all the non-roster players to make the team. His career .263 average and .324 OBP would make him valuable in the infield behind La Stella and Alcantara. (Note: I hope Baez makes all of this unnecessary by having a great spring.)
  • Logan Watkins, Chris Valaika - Both are decent infielders and have contributed innings the past couple of years, but I honestly hope it doesn't come to this. (Edit - It looks like Watkins is currently injured.)
  • Corey Black, Pierce Johnson - Like the young offensive players invited, Johnson and Black don't really have a chance to make the team and will be there for experience. Both players pitched well for AA Tennessee last year, and it will be fun to see them with the team for a little while. Of course, missing out on Shields leaves that 5th spot open, but it would quite a reach to expect one of these guys to earn it right now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Chicago Cubs: Forget the Options, Sign James Shields

This may not be realistic, but it also isn't very realistic for James Shields to still sitting here as a free agent in February, possibly days away from settling for about half of the money everyone thought he'd get.

The Chicago Cubs have a strong pitching unit heading into the season. New ace Jon Lester and returning veteran Jason Hammel will combine with Jake Arrieta to form a powerful trio at the top of the starting rotation. Further, Kyle Hendricks looked as "Maddux" as possible in his 13 starts at the end of last season, going 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA. Many assume he has the 4th spot locked up.

After that, the Cubs have so many potential options for a 5th starter that this could turn out to be the best rotation the team has had in a long time. And, of course, the team is likely done making major additions following the great deal that brought Dexter Fowler over last month. Combine all of this with the fact that Chicago is probably planning to land another top starter through trade (Cole Hamels?) or free agency next year (Jeff Samardzija?), and sure, signing James Shields sounds crazy.

But is it?

Shields has averaged 14 wins over the last four years, maintaining a 3.17 ERA in the American League during that time. We saw projections in the $100 million range a couple of months ago. Yet today, that number may be somewhere around $50-70 million.

I'd like to see the team jump on this opportunity right now. The 5th-spot possibilities are all exciting, but signing Shields would blow all of that up and make it irrelevant. There would no longer be a need to trade away prospects for a player like Hamels or spend twice as much money for someone like Samardzija.

But coming back to reality, it looks like the Cubs will have a tough decision to make based on players who are currently on the roster. So here is a quick look at some of the candidates to fill the final rotation spot along with my brief comments.


  • Edwin Jackson - It should be Jackson's spot to lose heading into spring training. He is only halfway through a $50 million dollar contract, and yes, it's painful to know that his wasted salary could be applied directly to a Shields offer. But it is what it is right now, and if he can show any value on the field whatsoever, he needs to be out there, preferably as a starter. I understand this, and I will celebrate the day the team receives any kind of return for Jackson. But I hate that he takes away opportunities from everyone else on this list.
  • Travis Wood - I honestly wish that this wasn't even a discussion that we need to have right now. If Wood hadn't taken such a huge step back last season, his spot would be secure. Unfortunately, he quickly went from an All-Star with a 3.11 ERA in 2013 to one of the worst regulars in the NL at 5.03. Still his previous success should put him next in line if Jackson were to fail and if Wood isn't dealt away. Of course his .227 average and six home runs over the past two years have also helped the offense.
  • Tsuyoshi Wada - Wada winning this spot would probably provide the best outcome for the team. He was a pleasant surprise last season, posting a 2.77 ERA with 10 wins at Iowa before arriving in Chicago and closing out the year at 3.25 through 13 starts. The Cubs gave him $4 million to return in 2015, and I'm hoping he is given a chance to contribute. Wada could also be a valuable trading chip at some point this year.
  • Jacob Turner - Who wouldn't love to see Turner become the great pitcher everyone once thought he'd be before falling all the way to the "low risk/high reward" guy the Cubs grabbed last year. Over the past few years, I would've been fine with throwing someone like Turner out there every fifth day to figure out if this is going to work or not. But I guess the odds are currently against him at this point, right? Still, you never know...
  • Felix Doubront - The team obviously likes Doubront, and he looked good enough in his few Chicago starts last year. Luckily his versatility as a reliever should keep him on the roster, but a lot would have to happen for him to start the season in the rotation.
  • Wild Cards - I think both Eric Jokisch and Dallas Beeler are MLB starters, although this year they will likely serve as insurance at Iowa. But I'm not counting them out.
  • Prospects - Finally, how long will it be until we start hearing serious talks about guys like CJ Edwards, Pierce Johnson, and Corey Black, who have all had success at AA. A solid spring training from any of them could throw their names in the mix earlier than expected.


Outcome: Assuming Hendricks holds on at #4, and Jackson and Wood fail to impress in spring training, I would love to see Wada join the rotation. It's easier for me, the person not on the hook for $20+ million, to say, but at some point Jackson may need to be let loose. The Cubs are very close to approaching possible "win now" territory, and they just can't compete if Jackson pitches the way he has since arriving in Chicago.

Wood should have some type of trade value, even if only in the low prospect range, and he should be moved. I think he will spend his career fighting for spots in the back ends of rotations, and the Cubs have better options, both for now and for the future. If he were packaged with Welington Castillo, for example, it would likely be worth whatever the team can get.

If Turner and Doubront can get bullpen roles initially, that keeps two potential starters nearby and seems ideal to me.

Of course, signing James Shields makes all of this unnecessary.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX: Prop Bets

If you missed our official Tecmo Super Bowl prediction, we expect a 21-3 Seattle win in tonight's game. Additionally, we will help you make some last-minute wagers by offering predictions for some of the wacky prop bets that are available.

What color hoodie will Bill Belichick wear for Super Bowl XLIX (main color)? Gray

Hoodie style for Bill Belichick in Super Bowl XLIX: Sleeves

How long will it take Idina Menzel to sing the national anthem (from time first singing note starts until she completes singing "brave")? Under 122.5 seconds

What will Katy Perry be wearing during her first song performance for Super Bowl XLIX halftime? Dress/skirt

What color will Katy Perry's hair be when she begins the halftime show? Pink/red (My 5-year-old took over here. I was going to go with purple.)

Will Russell Wilson's passing yard total be higher than the national average regular gas price on Monday, February 2? It looks like today's average is $2.05, and I'm going with no. I predict Wilson will end up with fewer than 205 passing yards.

Groundhog Day Parlay: Seahawks win, Phil sees his shadow

(Disclaimer: Don't ever take anything that I say seriously enough to bet actual money! I'm kind of dumb!)

Super Bowl XLIX: The Tecmo Super Bowl Prediction

This is the seventh year that I have predicted the outcome of the Super Bowl by playing a game of Tecmo Super Bowl. However, this year's prediction will be slightly different. In the past, I have always chosen the team I thought would win and used that team against the computer, and for the first five years, I was correct. Then last year, I chose the Denver Broncos, who were obviously destroyed by the Seattle Seahawks. So now that my winning streak is over, we will move to having a true impartial prediction by having both teams controlled by the computer.

So who will win Super Bowl XLIX? The Seattle Seahawks will defeat the New England Patriots! And here's why...

1st Quarter

New England's Jason Staurovsky kicked off to Seattle's Chris Warren to start the game, and Warren brought the ball to his team's 35. Quarterback Dave Krieg failed to move the ball on the opening drive, throwing two incomplete passes before having to punt.

The Patriots' Steve Grogan had an even worse starting drive, throwing a quick interception to safety Eugene Robinson at midfield. The Seahawks running game took over, with John Williams and Derrick Fenner leading the first scoring drive. Fenner carried the ball in for a seven-yard score. Seahawks led 7-0.


Grogan started his second drive by overthrowing his target by a full 20 yards, before handing off to John Stephens, who ran for 22 yards as the quarter expired.

2nd Quarter


The Patriots drive quickly stalled, as Dave Wyman grabbed a sack, and the Seahawks forced another punt to take over at their nine. Seattle's offense then took only three plays to drive 91 yards. Krieg connected with Brian Blades for 56 yards, and Fenner followed with a 34-yard run. He ran it in from the goal line for his second score. Seahawks led 14-0.

New England burned the rest of the half on its next drive, which mostly featured runs by Grogan, Stephens, and Marvin Allen. Stephens ran over every Seahawk defender before being dragged down at the two. But with the clock expiring, the Patriots elected to kick a field goal, scoring their only points of the game. Seahawks led 14-3 at the half.

3rd Quarter

The Patriots failed to get a first down, and the Seahawks took over at their 20 after a touchback on a punt. The Seahawks then drove 80 yards for the game's final score. Williams rushed for 28 yards on three carries, and Krieg completed a pass to Tommy Kane for 28 yards. The score came on a 12-yard screen pass to Fenner, who ended up scoring all three of the game's touchdowns. Seahawks led 21-3.

Stephens tried to get some late momentum for the Patriots, breaking off a 22-yard run. But Grogan was intercepted by Robinson again as the quarter ended, this time in the endzone on a terrible Hail Mary attempt.

4th Quarter

Krieg, Williams, and Fenner proceeded to run all over the Patriots. Williams broke away for more than 35 yards and looked like he would score, until the New England defense caught him and forced a fumble near their 10-yard line. Maurice Hurst recovered and gave the Pats one last chance at a comeback.


Stephens gained 23 yards on the first play, and Grogan hit Irving Fryar on a long pass. After two incomplete passes, though, Tony Woods sacked Grogan on third down. One last incomplete pass gave the ball back to Seattle with 53 seconds remaining.


The Seahawks completed two long passes, both to Kane, but were stopped at the five to end the game.

Outcome

It wasn't always pretty, but the Seahawks clearly dominated the Patriots, winning 21-3 and earning the official Grab Bag Sports prediction for tonight's Super Bowl.



Monday, January 26, 2015

Stop Changing the Rules, Guys

Rob Manfred, baseball's new commissioner, is ready to get going, and he's looking to fix some problems. In fact, there is one issue that he is already discussing, saying he's going to try to make a change. Is it the awkward Pete Rose situation? No. Is it the unfortunate occurrence of steroid era that is now keeping some of the game's greatest stars out of the Hall of Fame and alienating them from their former teams, even without proof of guilt? Nope.

Manfred is determined to eliminate defensive shifts.

Now, I don't really like defensive shifts, and I would never use them if I were a coach. I'll also say, though, that I'm obviously not a coach, nor have I carefully studied numbers and statistics based on shifts against certain players. So if/when my team happens to shift, I trust that there is statistical evidence supporting it. But ultimately, I'd rather not see it.

Still, just because I do not like it, that doesn't mean I want it banned. This is one of those very slippery slopes. Could you ban a 4-3 defense in football? Nickel or dime packages? What about a wildcat or option offense? When did the leagues start telling teams what kind of defensive alignment they were allowed to use?

Let's try some baseball comparisons. Can the third baseman or first baseman still play in closer during a bunt situation? Can a center fielder or middle infielder shade to one side or the other? These are technically "shifts" of some kind.

I don't like the shift, but it is within a coach's rights, just like batting the pitcher 8th or using the DH position to replace a fielder's bat instead of a pitcher's. (I actually argued for this during interleague play last year, when the Cubs would DH for Travis Wood while allowing Darwin Barney to waste another four at-bats. Wood finished 2014 with a .700 OPS, compared to Barney's .594 during his final Cubs season.)

Sometimes the manager needs to be able to do something quirky in order to give his team a better chance to win.

But the main argument I offer to the people who want to actually ban the act of shifting is to have players learn to hit against it! And maybe they never will, like a basketball player who just can't shoot free throws well. But we don't find ways to help them avoid shooting free throws, do we? Maybe Ryan Howard just needs to practice hitting the other way more.

It's never good when these commissioners start making drastic changes. Another example of this occurred in the NFL Pro Bowl last night, when the kickers faced longer extra points (35 yards) into goalposts that were only 14 feet wide instead of 18. Of course, Adam Vinatieri missed two extra points, something that should never happen to a Pro Bowl kicker. The extra point is fine how it is. Just leave it alone.

With all this talk about pitch clocks and now banning defensive shifts, I'm kind of starting to worry. I believe the big issues need to be addressed, while the game of baseball itself is fine as it is.

Chicago Cubs