Around The World* In 80** Days (*=world of sports)(**=5 hour flight)

Life has gotten in the way of priorities once again, and as a result SportsAttic has fallen badly behind in the important comings and goings of the world of sports.

Other than the NFL Six Picks segment (which if you’ve been following, you’ll know is wheezing to the NFL’s regular season conclusion barely above .500), there’s hardly been time to come up for air and keep SportsAttic relevant. And with a lot going on in the other major sports, we are long overdue to dive back in.

Speaking of air, I decided to capitalize on the air time of a cross country flight to play some catch up this afternoon. Rather than nap, read Sports Illustrated or stream Mad Men on my iPhone (yeah, it’s an exciting life the AtticBro leads), I decided to hit all the major sports (that matter to me, anyway) in a quick “around the world” post that will get us all back to current.

BASEBALL: We will start with a fly-by of the major headlines this past month-plus, and  then follow with an emphasis on the future, as the Hot Stove season begins to heat up and big moves and signings are on the horizon:

 -Jacob deGrom wins the Cy Young — resounding congrats to the Mets right-hander and the writers who made it possible despite his 10-9 record. And leave the poor guy in San Diego alone who put Jake second behind Scherzer. Wins do still matter, but not as much as over the top, world class excellence, start after start. Now let’s sign Cy deGrom long-term, BVW (new, hip nickname for Mets baseball boss Brodie Van Wagenen)!

-The Red Sox. Okay, okay, I dismissed them for most of the season as overrated and likely to be exposed in October, only to watch them absolutely tear through the playoffs and World Series en route to their fourth title of the 21st Century. The Curse of A-Rod is alive and well, Yankees fans — you’ve seen your last World Series win for quite awhile, but maybe your grandkids will catch the next one around the year 2104.

 -Clayton Kershaw resigned with the Dodgers. Right move for both sides, who were dealt impossible situations. Kershaw is clearly on the back nine (maybe the 17th green?), and could have gotten more money elsewhere, but then would have had to justify it to new fans and teammates with diminished stuff and that whole playoff failure albatross to contend with. The Dodgers, on the other hand, couldn’t let their most recognizable star bolt, even if he has disappointed annually in the postseason. So a re-sign with a couple of extra years tacked on worked for both team and player. Still, if Dave Roberts returns (I’m hearing they are in extension talks??) the Dodgers title drought will go on for at least one more year despite loads of young talent on that roster.

 -Robinson Cano a Met? One of my least favorite players will don the blue and orange this spring. Excuse me if I can’t help but believe this is Robbie Alomar 2.0. And yes, I know we got the closer who throws gas and has four years of contract control. And yes, I know the Mariners (who may rival the Mets for front office ineptitude) will kick in $20 million of the $120 million owed to Cano. But really, BVW? Your first move? A 36-year-old with a well earned reputation for never hustling, coming off an 80 game steroid suspension? Just the role model Amed Rosario needs in the Mets clubhouse this spring. That’s not to say that if Cano puts up a .310/22/110 stat line this year and the Mets make the playoffs I won’t applaud the signing, but I’m sure as heck not feeling it right now.

That about exhausts the big, recent, news that matters category, so what about the MLB future? Here’s a few thoughts (disclaimer once again, as anyone who’s been paying attention to the success rate of my recent predictions may want to take these and go the other way):

*Free agent most likely to be awful in 2019 — Patrick Corbin, by a long shot. There is certainly an element of wishful thinking involved here, as I do believe he will become a Yankee in the near future, but who is this guy? A couple of games over .500 for his career, he put up a decent year in 2018, but not a $120 million kind of year. A guy who openly lobbied the Yankees to sign him last spring while still pitching for Arizona. I smell bad teammate, one who will wilt under the bright lights of having to make good on the number one starter money he’s about to receive. And if he doesn’t blow up in the Bronx, here’s hoping he does so in Philly.

*Where’s Bryce Harper going? Well, no one seems to be biting on my Angels call, and the Phils seem to be everybody’s front runner, but I’m still thinking Yankees here, too. This is the sort of premier free agent signing that’s too hard for the Yanks (see young Hal Steinbrenner, who despite his maturity and understated nature, is still his father’s son after all, and has watched his hated rivals to the north eat his lunch too many times since the Bombers last  parade) to resist. Where would you play Harper? Who cares what position he plays when you plan on scoring 10 runs a game. Shoe horn him into first base and hope for a lot of K’s and fly balls. If Harper doesn’t end up in the Bronx, then I see him resigning in D.C., which I would tip my hat to him for, even if it will make things miserable for the Mets.

*Machado? I saw him as a Brave when the offseason began, but with the Josh Donaldson signing (still don’t understand that one), Atlanta seems out. Philly has to sign someone big, so let’s send Johnny Hustle there, where he can contribute to Gabe Kapler’s firing when he gets off to a slow start, flips the bird to the booing fans (still bitter over the Eagles 7-9 finish), and becomes the negative influence in the Phillies clubhouse we all expect him to be.

*Will Cleveland trade a starter? I guess… I’m still annoyed with the Indians for making my World Series prediction for them look so foolish after they barely bothered to show up in the ALDS against Houston. But they are loaded with starting pitching, will probably still win the lame AL Central even with only 87-90 wins, and they’ve got the Brantley hole to fill if they can get some major league-ready prospects back in a deal. Lately a rumor circulated that the Mets were sniffing around Corey Kluber. Based on what we saw from Kluber in the postseason, he’d be the wrong guy to go get, which probably means we’ll see him in a Mets uni come February. Just please don’t put Syndegaard in the deal, BVW, please (problem is that after the Cano/Diaz deal, there isn’t much else left to trade). And shouldn’t a team built on their starting pitching be looking to add elsewhere to a lineup that finished below .500 last year and had a hard time scoring runs? Oh, right, this is the Mets we’re talking about.

*Where are all the catchers going to go? Realmuto, Ramos, Grandal, Lucroy?  It is safe to say Miami has to move J.T. Realmuto, and should they add a few more solid prospects for their lone remaining asset, the Marlins could possibly eye contention by 2020. And since they won’t send Realmuto to an NL East rival, how about to the Dodgers, who will need to replace the soon to be departed Yasmani Grandal? That would be an uptick for Los Angeles in an area that was exposed as a weakness when Grandal stopped catching the ball in October. Plus the Dodgers always have prospects, and will be ready to deal with their desperation ratcheted up following their latest near miss. Hopefully one of the other available backstops becomes a Met (I’d personally prefer Wilson Ramos, but he’s getting the “bad glove” rap, which is a show stopper when you are emphasizing pitching — which I think the Mets are, right?), because the thought of going through all of 2019 having to watch Kevin Plawecki flail at curveballs out of the zone and wondering when Travis d’Arnaud gets hurt next is already giving me a migraine.

*Were the A’s a one hit wonder? I hope not, as what the A’s accomplished in 2018 is incredibly healthy for baseball. However, I’m not sure yet what we should expect from the Athletics in 2019. But don’t despair, as I will personally be able to provide the world an answer in due time. As my flight this morning was preparing for take off I answered my cell phone with an unidentified Oakland number flashing on the screen. A friendly young lady was gauging my interest in A’s tickets for the upcoming year (apparently they have several exciting ways for fans like me to join in the fun — the A’s are coming off an outstanding year, she reminded me). I didn’t commit (yet), because I do like the A’s, and am reluctant to torpedo their chances by investing in their 2019 season (I attribute much of the A’s 2018 magic to the fact that I hadn’t renewed my seats following their desultory 2017 finish). The fair thing to do to the loyal fans of Oakland would be to pass on the 20-ticket package, and keep ours a television relationship. Decisions, decisions…

BASKETBALL: The season has begun, and the real season kickoff (the dawn to dusk  Christmas Day slate of games) is now only weeks away. Already several of my most exciting scenarios are playing out before my very eyes, with the Dubs showing maybe it isn’t that easy to three-peat, the Rockets staggering out of the starting gate, the LeBrons proving to be the most interesting and entertaining team in the league, and the Knicks continuing to stink up the joint (but with a much more enthusiastic and media-friendly  coach this time). But an NBA look-back can truly only start in one place:

-He’s gone. Bye bye, Melo. We miss ya. Okay, that may be taking things a bit far, as I fully expected Mr. Anthony to be part of the detonation that would take place down in Houston, but did he have to go so soon? I mean, c’mon! Even in exiting the league, Melo found a way to do it that would suck joy from my life and that of the rest of the NBA faithful. Couldn’t we get at least one towel thrown in anger at Mike D’Antonio as Melo skulked his way to the end of the Rockets bench after another failed defensive rotation? Or maybe a shoving match with The Beard on the way to the locker room following another missed three against a double-team, while Harden stood by helpless and wide open for the game winner? Yup, I do miss Carmelo Anthony. In that odd way you miss a sadistic ex-girlfriend who made your life a living hell for a couple of years, yet now you find yourself bored to tears once she’s taken her leave. Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll latch on with the Clippers and ruin their early season positive mojo. One can only hope…

And other thoughts on The Association:

*I thought the Celtics were supposed to go 80-2 this year (the two losses coming to the LeBrons, of course)? Hmmm… Yes, they’ll be there at the end in all likelihood, they just have so much talent. But I like the fact that they are struggling right now, while the Raptors race out to a big lead in the East and the Sixers look equally strong after adding Jimmy Butler into that uber-talented lineup. Maybe the East isn’t quite as far behind the West as everyone thought over the summer?

*Will every team in the West remain in the playoff mix all season? It really is unprecedented what’s going on out west. We are more than a quarter way through the campaign, and with the exception of Phoenix (who will win it all in 2023-24), every team can stake their claim on the playoffs right now, assuming you believe the Spurs will eventually figure out how to get above .500. Now you also have to think Memphis, Sacramento, Dallas and the Clips will remember they are Memphis, Sacramento, Dallas and the Clips at some point, and resume their place in ping pong ball purgatory, but for now parity is the word and everybody has a shot. And that’s a good thing.

*Are the problems for real in Golden State? Nah. Settle down everyone. I think if you were to ask Steve Kerr, he’d admit that some travails and adversity early on could help his club get their act together in time for their third straight, and fourth title in five years (all together now — it would be going on a five-peat if the league didn’t gift wrap LeBron and the city of Cleveland that title with the farcical Draymon Green suspension three years ago). Injuries and egos were the most likely road blocks to another Warriors title this season, and it’s the first week of December and the Warriors have already encountered both in meaningful ways. Yet, even though they sit in second place (behind the Clippers??), they are still tracking for 50+ wins. Let’s ratchet that up to 55 by year’s end, and they’ll still probably lock down the 1 or 2 seed. Doesn’t mean they’ll win it all, but despite the daily Bay Area hand wringing going on, they’ll be fine. Plus they still have the debut of Boogie Cousins to look forward to!

*If Kristaps Porzingis gets healthy should the Knicks play him this year? Absolutely not. And yes, they will. Because they are the Knicks. Crap shoot here for Steve Mills, Scott Perry and the Knickerbocker brain trust (cue the laugh track). Do you put the Latvian wonder boy in to foster future chemistry with the other youngsters on the roster, or play it safe and keep him out, and go full on tank for the chance to watch some other club pick Zion Williamson (the Knicks forfeited the right to ever pick first again back in ’85, when they dealt with the Devil to allow them the chance to draft Patrick Ewing). Not to mention there’s the high likelihood of KP getting hurt again if he does return to the court. Yup, it is the Knicks we are talking about here — the team with three lottery pick point guards who are all terrible. The team who’s best player is Tim Hardaway, Jr. The team that will trade it’s actual best player, Enes Kanter, for a second-round draft pick at some point in January. I’m going to pencil in a February return and a March injury for KP, but we Knicks fans already know that whatever door Mills/Perry select, the prize won’t be the BMW Convertible, it will be the year’s supply of Eskimo Pies.

BOXING: I couldn’t remember the last time I was genuinely interested in a heavyweight fight. Nothing against the Klitschko Brothers, but I could never remember which was which (one was the champ forever, and one became Governor of the Ukraine or something like that?), and the lack of interesting American challengers rendered that title reign meaningless to me. So now we have two heavies worth paying attention to, it would appear. I even looked into purchasing tickets for Wilder-Fury down at Staples Center when the recent fight was first announced.

Such a purchase is wrought with peril, as anyone who’s ever laid down significant cash for good seats to a big fight, only to see a first-round knockout, can attest. But I tested the waters anyway, and nearly pulled the trigger before the fates intervened. I was locked and loaded, third-row center, when the venue tried to change my perfect seat selection to another area that was “virtually the same.” Except for the fact that my new seat would be squarely facing the corner of the ring. You only fall for that one once as a boxing fan (watching the back of an HBO camera man’s head for 12 rounds on a Vegas night long ago, desperately craning my neck to catch snippets of action while screaming myself hoarse at no one in particular over my dilemma), so I decided to bail on ringside and instead pay the $90 pay per view ransom and watch the action from home.

Then as fight night approached, AtticBride informed me that the one Holiday Party we always make a point of attending was scheduled for the same night as the fight (never fails). Back east this isn’t a problem, since it is usually nearing midnight before the main event participants enter the ring, but on the west coast the bell rings right as the egg nog is in full swig mode. So to the party we went, me secretly rooting for that one-round knockout that would allow me to lament my decision just a little bit less.

Nope. Twelve rounds of action between two behemoths who actually seem to know how to box and punch. Knockdowns (including one that looked like it should have sent Tyson Fury into next week, before the mountainous Brit somehow got to his feet), back stories, controversy (how the hell did one judge see it 115-111??), and certainty of a rematch following that most unsatisfactory of outcomes in all of organized sports — the draw.

The rematch — Wilder/Fury II — will likely sell out much more quickly than this one did. Great to see a little life breathed back into the Sweet Science. Nothing stirs the imagination of fight fans more than a competitive heavyweight division with a couple of interesting and menacing headliners. Schedule it — I’m going.

FOOTBALL: The SportsAttic weekly NFL Six Picks segment forces me to stay somewhat current with the league, and in spite of my ridiculously poor prognostications of late, the predictions will continue until being officially put out of their misery at the conclusion of Week 17. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some meaningful thoughts to take note of following what’s begun as a 1-4 Week 13 for me (I need the Washington Football Club to deliver me a little respectability and preserve my above-.500 ledger tonight):

*Let’s all applaud the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. And not for their sterling record and all those TD passes. I applaud the Chiefs this morning for not trying to snow us with some half-baked “we are going to wait for the league to conclude its investigation and due process to be delivered” bullshit regarding their star running back, who was caught on film kicking a woman in the hallway of a hotel in Ohio. Immediate termination was the right (only!) decision, but when the “right decision” may deliver “wrong on field results,” it’s amazing how conflicted franchises with title dreams can become. Not the Chiefs, and bravo for their swift and decisive action. And props to Mahomes for unequivocally stating that such behavior isn’t allowed in the Chief locker room. Mahomes may be the starting QB, but he is also still just a second-year guy, and undoubtedly Hunt has lots of friends on the team. But instead of saying “no comment” or “I only want to talk about what happened on the field today,” Mahomes called out his ex-teammate’s unacceptable behavior. That’s hard for anyone, let alone a guy in his early-twenties in his second year in the league. Way to go, Patrick.

*Is something starting to smell bad in Pittsburgh? Going to Denver and losing at high altitude can happen to any team, even if it is against a subpar Broncos team, but following that up at home by blowing a big lead to the Chargers? Yes, the Chargers are a legit contender in the AFC, but something sure does look awry to me in western PA. Big Ben’s smirk as the Steelers repeatedly jumped offsides in a futile attempt to block the game-winning FG attempt seemed to tell a bigger story than simply frustration at blowing this one game. The Steelers still own the division lead, but for how long?

*Could Seattle make some noise in the NFC playoffs? I know, they still have to get there, but at 7-5 if the season were to end today, they’d be the NFC’s 5-seed, and getting ready to travel to Dallas for the Wild Card round. And yes, that’s a game I’d pick them to win, even if the Seattle record is aided by the lame NFC West competition.

*Did Mike McCarthy deserve to get fired immediately after losing to the Cardinals at home? I’m not sure, but give credit to the Packers organization for making a statement to the players and their fans about expectations as a franchise. No backsliding without a fight in Green Bay. McCarthy had a great run, brought Green Bay a Lombardi Trophy, and will surely get another crack at it elsewhere. Let’s hope it’s in New Jersey, where the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS could really use an offensive mind to develop Sam the Man. Are you listening, Mike Maccagnan?

Okay, that’ll do it for now. I’m sure I’ve missed a few dozen important items worth analyzing, but at least we’re back on the board with a blog post that didn’t include a single prediction against a point spread.

Have a great week everybody!

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