The Opening Series of the MLB season finished up on Thursday, and it saw the Seattle Mariners win 5-4 in 12 innings in Japan over the Oakland A’s. Domingo Santana once again came up clutch, despite a fielder’s choice to give the Mariners a 2-0 record to begin the season. However, the big story was Ichiro Suzuki taking his final bow to end his career in front of his faithful and adoring fans in Tokyo.
He went 0-4 in the game, but no one will soon forget just how good he was for so many years. Ten years of 200 hits or more, something no one can fathom. Even Pete Rose never had more than three in a row. It’s sad to see him go, but it’s definitely time for him to do so, and it was apropos that it happened in Tokyo.
Whether you like it or not, and whether you ever were aware of it happening or not, the MLB season began on Wednesday in Japan with the Opening Series between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics. Having resigned Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners started the 45 year old legend in Tokyo, much to the approval of his adoring fans. Ichiro didn’t have a banner night, apart from the ovation that he got, and he was pulled early, but his Mariners did win 9-7 in the end, coming from 0-2 down in the first couple of innings.
A grand slam by Domingo Santana gave them a 5-2 lead, and despite the best efforts of the A’s, who never totally went away, they never managed to tie the game up again. A’s slugger Khris Davis picked up right where he left off, hitting his first homer of the season in the loss. He had 48 last season to lead all players, and he’s looking like he could get 40+ yet again this go-around. The second game of the series takes place on Thursday in the wee morning hours for Americans.
Well, that didn’t last long. After Manny Machado got a $300 million deal and then Bryce Harper got $30 million more for it to break the record, Mike Trout went and broke the record in impressively quick time, just as you’d expect a man of his stature to do. The very definition of a five-tool player, Trout, according to sources, is very close to signing a new deal with the Los Angeles Angels that would be worth $430 million over 12 years.
Not only would the total amount of dollars be the most ever, but it would also surpass the $34.4 million per year that Zach Greinke got with Arizona, which was the highest value per year prior. Trout, who has been publicly courted by the aforementioned Harper to join him in Philadelphia, would have seen his current deal run out in 2020 had he not reached this agreement. But instead of taking that risk, the Angels have moved to lock down their potential all-time great until 2030 with this brand new, mind-boggling, record-breaking deal.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the New York Yankees this off season, you should start to do so now. Much of their winter has been ‘quiet’ to the casual observer, but in reality they have been stockpiling their bullpen.
On Monday, they announced that they had signed lefty Gio Gonzalez to a minor league deal. He is a starter, for now, at least, but this deal only further underlines how important pitching options is in modern baseball. Should the Yankees go deep, it could well be as a result of shrewd, small risk moves just like this one.
It looks like the MLB will be rolling out some changes over the next couple of seasons in an attempt to improve the pace of the game and to also spice up the attractiveness of it. One of the rules that will be added in 2019 will be a $1 million prize to the winner of the Home Run Derby, with the hopes of getting the biggest and brightest stars to do it this coming summer in order to make the All-Star Game super special.
Another idea that will take place are a single trade deadline (as opposed to years’ past with so many confusing dates). This will put more of an onus on teams to act in the offseason on signing players. In 2020, the ramifications will be greater. On the field, changes will be made in the form of a three-batter minimum for each pitcher, expanding the roster from 25 to 26, and there is also supposed to be a maximum pitcher total imposed on each team.
Harper Signs With Phillies in Landmark Deal, Murray Measures Up, Harden Scores 58
At last, the questions can stop. We know where Bryce Harper will be playing his baseball next season, and that will be with the Philadelphia Phillies. The outfielder, now officially a former National, will suit up for the Phillies after signing what is reported to be a 13 year deal worth $330 million. That is a record amount of compensation for any sport based in America, and it also includes a no-trade clause and also does not have any opt outs, either. It’s locking the two sides into a marriage that will take some doing to break apart, that much is for sure. The deal comes at just the right time, too. Spring training has just begun, and Harper can now get back to playing and will be able to adjust to his teammates. He’s expected to do well in Philly, a hitter’s ballpark. Vegas even has him as the favorite to win the MVP. We’ll see, especially after a particularly poor first half of 2018.
After making his decision to forgo an MLB career with the Oakland Athletics, a decision he called one of the hardest things he’s had to do, Kyler Murray has begun the process to become an NFL quarterback. Part of that whole process is going through measurement day, a ritual that used to be much more important than it is now. Murray ended up measuring up at 5 feet, 10 inches (and 1/8). He also weighed 207 pounds, somehow. The Heisman trophy winner out of Oklahoma has been questioned due to that size, but with the likes of Russell Wilson and Drew Brees (each progressively bigger) finding success there are many that feel it won’t matter. Only time will tell, but now the teams and the media know and can go on and speculate about where he will land when the NFL Draft commences.
James Harden might not have his 30+ point streak intact any longer, but that didn’t stop him from responding in due course on Thursday night with an epic 58 point performance against the Miami Heat in come-from-behind 121-118 home win. It’s the sixth time this season alone that he has scored at least 50 points, and this time he also added ten assists as well. When Harden is scoring and passing the ball like that, the Houston Rockets are going to be extremely tough to beat, even when they find themselves down 21 points. As a result of the win, they are now just a game and a half back of the third place slot in the Western Conference, something that was unfathomable back in the early days of the NBA season.
Finally, yes finally, the shoe has dropped and we have a big free agent signing confirmed in Major League Baseball. With all sorts of talk about which NBA star will end up where this summer and beyond, it was easy to forget that the likes of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were still, somehow, available to be signed. It’s incredible to think that Machado had been a free agent longer than he had been a Los Angeles Dodgers player, but that’s what had taken place. That’s no longer the case, however, after the news was announced on Tuesday that he had signed a long-term deal with the San Diego Padres. According to sources, the deal, which will forever have the word ‘mega’ attached to it, is worth $300 million and will run for ten, yes ten whole years. The last deal of this magnitude was the Albert Pujols deal, and look where that has gotten the Angels… nonetheless, he is much younger than Pujols was at the time he moved from St. Louis to the sunshine. At just 26, Machado has a lot time to grow in San Diego. It’ll be interesting to see if they sign Harper as well. One thing is almost certain. The Padres should have an All-Star next season, something they’ve not had since 2016, shockingly. For their last positional starter, you’ve got to go back two decades to Tony Gwynn in 1998. Machado has big, big shoes to fill. Can he lead them past the Dodgers?
The Alliance of American Football got a substantial boost on Tuesday when it was announced that an injection of $250 million would be pumped into the fledgling league by Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon. This comes on the back of sources alleging that the league was perilously close to not being able to make payroll last week. Whether or not that bit was true is relatively meaningless now. This is a big time investment that puts, or at least should put, the league on firm ground for years to come. With smart decisions from here, they can build a product that pays for itself and produces talent for the NFL. If they can figure out how to make money from that situation in a sustainable model, they’ll really be rocking and rolling.
Nats Signal Intent, Fultz Diagnosed With Thoracic Problem, Meyer Done After Bowl
After a dismal season in which the Washington Nationals fell well short of expectations and saw outfielder Bryce Harper decide to test the free agent waters, the team could have folded, tanked, and decided to pack it in and rebuild. But instead, they are looking to go for it yet again, and the acquisition of pitcher Patrick Corbin on Tuesday proves just that. According to sources, the deal is worth $140 million for six years, and it would see another stellar arm added to the likes of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the Nats’ rotation. Corbin, an All-Star in 2018, who logged over 200 innings in his best season to date will look to follow that up with another excellent showing as the Nationals attempt to battle back against the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves in what should be a tightly packed NL East.
In Philly, the news finally came down regarding Markelle Fultz and his inability to shoot the ball to begin the 2018/19 NBA season. According to sources, the 76ers guard has a thoracic outlet syndrome, which has impaired his ability to shoot the ball by causing him to have abnormal range of motion and a lack of functional movement. The nerves of the shoulders and neck are the problem, and it will require him to miss between three and six weeks as he goes to therapy to treat the condition.
In news that isn’t all that surprising yet still notable, Ohio State Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer has declared that he will finish the season with the team and then step aside from the sidelines. Meyer, who will lead the Buckeyes into a Rose Bowl meeting with Washington, claims that he is officially done with all coaching. But that has been said before, and it didn’t come to pass, so the voracity of that has to be doubted. The whole scenario stems from health problems which appeared to only worsen when he and his staff were questioned regarding the Zach Smith scandal. While we don’t know if he will ever return to coaching one day or not, we do know that Ryan Day will succeed him to be the next coach.
Ohtani and Acuna Win Rookie Honors, Durant and Green Argue, Beckham and Manning Win
Major League Baseball had one of the most exciting seasons in a long time in regards to young players. There has rarely been this much excitement around the game as we had this season, and it was with good reason. That’s because we had a pitcher that also hit! And we also had a player that played with incredibly high energy that would crack home runs on the first pitch repeatedly. It’s fitting, then, that Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna, Jr. were crowned the Rookies of the Year on Monday. Ohtani won the AL ROTY, earning 25 of the 30 votes, and he becomes the fourth Japanese player to win the award. He hit .285 and smashed 22 home runs as a DH, all in limited appearances due to a combination of injuries and being rested for his pitching stints. On the mound, he was 4-2 in ten starts and had an ERA of 3.31, showing real potential in both positions. Acuna, the NL ROTY, got 27 of the first-place votes to dominate the voting. The 20 year old from Venezuela had an infectious energy from the beginning for the Atlanta Braves that helped carry them throughout a season few saw coming. Acuna had done well prior to the All-Star break, but he hit his stride after it when he was put at the time of the order. In those 68 games he played, he hit .322 with 19 home runs. Eight of them were leadoff home runs, which gave him the second-most in MLB history for a rookie. At one point he hit five leadoff homers in a row. It’s a great day for baseball to see these two do so well, and the hope is that they will be around for a long while to do so!
In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors lost on Monday night in overtime to the Los Angeles Clippers 121-116. But that isn’t going to be the story the media talks about. Rather, it is the fact that Kevin Durant and Draymond Green- two of the key pieces of the puzzle- got into an argument with each other at the end of regulation when Green didn’t pass the ball. The team has quickly tried to downplay the argument, and it most likely wasn’t really a big deal. But that won’t stop the speculation. Some will opine that this indicates Durant will look to leave. Or maybe Green will try to leave. Who knows, but at first glance this just looks to be two competitive guys that just really wanted to win.
And finally, the New York Giants got a rare win on Monday Night Football by defeating the even-more woeful San Francisco 49ers 27-23 out west. The game was headlined by Odell Beckham, Jr, who caught two TD’s on four receptions, and then his subsequent celebration. But Eli Manning also had a big part in the game, leading a touchdown drive with less than three minutes left to give them a lead after Robbie Gould had put the Niners up 23-20. It’s just the second win of the season for the Giants, who remain essentially out of the playoff race barring a miracle.
Price, Pearce Win World Series for Boston, Rams Remain Unbeaten
Things could have been so different. David Price was up 2-0 when he strolled to the mound before giving up a home run to David Freese immediately. Price was in trouble having pitched in relief in Game 3 and having had to warm up in Game 4 twice. But somehow, someway, he found his groove, and in the end he and the Red Sox wouldn’t allow another ruin the entirety of Game 5. Price’s seven innings included just five hits, allowing Boston to wait a while to use what was a very tired bullpen. But for Boston, there was another hero as well.
That hero would go on to be named World Series MVP, and his name is Steve Pearce. After a tremendous showing in Game 4 on Saturday night, he continued his hot streak on Sunday night by hitting two home runs which drove in three runs. There is no other player that could realistically have taken the award due to just how big his bat was to them in this series. He effectively won them two games at the plate with great at-bats, and he will become the latest legend in an ever-expanding lexicon of New England favorites. The win made Alex Cora the fifth first-year manager to win the World Series, while the Dodgers are the first team since the 1930s to lose it on their home field two years in a row. The Red Sox now have nine World Series titles, moving them into a tie for third with the Oakland A’s.
The NFL got back to its normal slate of games on Sunday, and many did not disappoint. Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers, the biggest underdog he had ever been, went on the road to Los Angeles and held the Rams down. But in the end, the Rams were just too good, and they came away with a 29-27 win on the back of 195 total yards from Todd Gurley on 31 touches. The running back even helped run out the clock with a minute left when he chose to slow down instead of going into the end zone, a team move if there ever was one. Elsewhere, Drew Brees and the Saints won despite him only throwing for 120 yards against the Minnesota Vikings in a 30-20 win. They improved to 6-1, and will face their biggest test yet next week at home to the Rams.
The Chiefs won again, on the back of four more TD’s from Pat Mahomes, as they continue to light up the league. They ‘only’ scored 30 points this time, but the defense held Denver to just 23, so that is an improvement. And lastly, the Seattle Seahawks have moved themselves back into the mix after an 0-2 start by winning four of their last five games, including yesterday’s win 28-14 win over the seemingly always pathetic-looking Detroit Lions. A Wild Card slot could be open for them if their positive upturn continues in the coming weeks.