Top Albums of 2017

Welp, this took a lot longer than I anticipated.  But that’s what college will do to you.  Oh well.  Better late than never!  What I present to you now is a list of my favorite albums from the past year.  Followed by each title is a little description of what I liked about the record.  Each is quite short because I wanted to save time and space, but perhaps I will put out a more in-depth review of a single project.  Also, the albums are not in any particular order until you get to the last 5 or so.  Hope you enjoy and find some cool music!

 

Good For You-Aminégoodforyouamine

Top Songs: Yellow, Spice Girls, Wedding Crashers, Slide, Heebiejeebies

Good For You is the debut studio album from Aminé, a 23 year old rapper hailing from Portland, Oregon.  Aminé is most known for his viral hit, “Caroline” , which saw great commercial success by peaking at number 11 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and the music video being viewed over 200 million times on YouTube.  I was anticipating this release greatly and had good expectations for the project.  Aminé really impressed me with the singles he released, and did not disappoint with this project.  Aminé utilizes a very interesting and unique sound, mixing rap and pop elements together into a very distinct mood that also matches up with the album cover, which I always find entertaining in a project.  Aminé’s unique voice really allows him to incorporate rap and singing in a very original manner.  He shows off his versatility in both exploring paths not often taken in music, as well as in creating commercial hits.  This album is a very cohesive piece that I find myself coming back to when I need a taste of summer.

 

Forced Witness-Alex Camerona2635762742_10

Top Songs: Candy May, Runnin’ Outta Luck, Stranger’s Kiss, Politics of Love

Alex Cameron is an Australian singer who made his debut initially back in 2013 with his album, Jumping the Shark, where Cameron embodies this persona of a washed-up, struggling entertainer.  I was a big fan of the record when I came across it and looked forward to what more Alex Cameron had in store.  This past September, Cameron released his second album, Forced Witness, a record that I found to be better, and more polished than the first.  Cameron’s voice comes with such power on this tape and incorporates some great, quirky lyrics that keep me wanting more.  The production and instrumentals on all these tracks are very polished and composed beautifully, incorporating both pop and alternative elements that remind me a lot of music from the 80’s.  There are a few stand out tracks that I listen to quite frequently, but this record works really well as a complete unit, each song building off the next.  

 

Bravado-Kirin J Callinana3636876474_10

Top Songs:  S.A.D., Big Enough, Bravado

Another artist out of Australia, Kirn J Callinan brings quite the unique pop record to the table.  A lot of the material on this record is pretty out there, but comes together beautifully as a cohesive unit.  The production on this record was superb and really polished.  Mix the crisp production with Kirin’s powerful vocals and you’ve got yourself one of the best pop records I have heard this past year.

 

Process-SamphaProcess_-_Sampha_album

Top Songs: Blood On Me, (No One Knows Me) Like My Piano

British singer Sampha made his debut this past year with his 10 track album, Process.  This is a record that I love solely based on the vocals and the lyrics.  Sampha has such a powerful, melodic voice that really takes over the song.  And he plays off of the simple instrumentals so well.  I feel as though I can get completely lost in his music when I am listening to his singing.  Sampha really blew me away ever since the first time I heard his voice on “(No One Knows Me) Like My Piano”, and he has made me very interested in what else he has to bring to the table.

 

Antisocialites-Alvvaysa2895102279_10

Top Songs: Dreams Tonite, Your Type

Indie pop group Alvvays released their second studio album this past September, three years after their debut.  I enjoyed quite a few tracks off of their first record, most notably “Archie, Marry Me”, so I was excited to check out Antisocialites.  As always, I was very drawn by lead singer Molly Rankin’s vocals, which is so infectiously beautiful.  The record was also able to accomplish something that I always appreciate, which is to emit a certain, consistent vibe or mood.  This record has such a late summer feel to it and always take me back to being outside on a nice August night when I listen to it.

 

Dedicated to Bobby Jameson-Ariel Pinkarielpink_dedicatedtobobbyjameson

Top Songs: Time to Meet Your God, Santa’s in the Closet

Named in honor of 60’s singer Bobby Jameson, an artist who left the music industry and did not resurface until the mid-21st century, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is the 11th studio album of Ariel Pink’s career.  Ariel Pink chose to dedicate the album to Bobby Jameson because, according to Ariel, his “life resonated with me to such a degree that I felt a need to dedicate my latest record to him.”  Like Antisocialites, this album has a great late summer feel to it.  As usual, I couldn’t get enough of Ariel Pink’s unique voice and old-school, 60’s style of music.  Ariel Pink has a certain niche that I find myself coming back to frequently.

 

The WeatherPondb5d8662d

Top Songs: Sweep Me Off My Feet, Paint Me Silver

This record was a bit out there.  There were only a few songs on the album that had replay value, yet I felt the album, as a whole, was quite good.  The production was intense, yet odd, but not in a bad way.  The album had a very epic feel because of it.  I wish I had better headphones to really enjoy the production and instrumentals a bit more.  I wasn’t really familiar with their work, aside from “Sweep Me Off My Feet”, but the more and more I grew to like the track, the more I wanted to check out The Weather and the rest of their discography.  And I was not disappointed.  Michael Gira’s vocals are out of this world.  I will be certainly diving into more of their work in the future.

 

Sleep Well Beast-The NationalSleep_Well_Beast

Top Songs: The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness, Born to Beg, I’ll Still Destroy You

Quite the moody album, Sleep Well Beast is another solid project from The National.  The entire record is filled with dark, dreary instrumentals paired with lyrics to match the tone.  As usual, Matt Berninger provides great vocals that allows you to practically feel his somberness.  And what ties this entire record together is the fact that the album cover perfectly reflects what is heard on the record; a lovely touch that I appreciate on any record.

 

A Crow Looked at Me-Mount Eeriea0249360790_10

Top Songs: My Chasm

Phil Elverum really delivered on this record.  So much of his heart and emotions are vividly expressed throughout this album.  Inspired by the passing of his wife, Geneviève Castrée in July 2016, Elverum crafted a record filled to the brim with his own personal thoughts and emotions intertwined with music of such dreariness and emptiness.  I really commend Elverum for what he has created.  I cannot fathom the emotions that he has felt throughout this entire experience and to use his music as an outlet and to show the world “this is how I feel” is quite inspiring.  This album is really something meant to be listened to altogether, so it was difficult to pick out my tops songs, but I highlighted “My Chasm” because I think it really embodies the core of the album’s content and the last line always gets to me:

“Look at me, Death is real”

 

Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood-Sun Kil Moon539a2fef

Top Songs: Philadelphia Cop, Sarah Lawrence College Song

This album is one of the most interesting records I’ve listened to.  I’ve listened to a bit of Sun Kil Moon’s previous work, so I was familiar with what sort of style Mark Kozelek goes for.  Sitting at just over two hours of content, this album is quite the piece to sit through.  Personally, I could not get through it in one sitting, not because of boredom or lack of interest, but simply because it is such a dense piece of music.  Much of the lyrics are quite self-reflective and express Kozelek’s beliefs and outlook on the society we live in.  Kozelak delivers lyrics in a seemingly bothered, apathetic attitude where he does not care about what people think about his opinions or whether they are hurt by his words or not.  And although many of these tracks start off taking jabs at certain aspects of life, he seems to come around and become more open or sympathetic.  

 

Lovers-Anna of the North2ada9c2ebed2af6c8d343f475d1956d1.1000x1000x1

Top Songs: Moving On, Someone, Lovers, Fire, All I Want

I first came across Anna of the North when she was featured on Tyler, The Creator’s album, Flowerboy, on the track “Boredom”.  I absolutely adored her soft, melodic voice and was intrigued to see what her own music was like.  Lovers is a beautiful little pop record with great production and harmonious, beautiful vocals.  The tracks are very catchy and feature great hooks that aid in the catchiness of the tracks.  The album has a very wintery feel, in my opinion and really sticks to the same sort of mood throughout, allowing it to be a nice cohesive record.  I can see Anna of the North having a more widespread appeal and experiencing great success in the coming years.

 

Heartworms-The Shinsshins-heartworms-1489162339-640x640

Top Songs: Name for You, Mildenhall, Half a Million

I had never really listened to an entire Shins record before, but my brother highly recommended this one to me and I certainly was not disappointed.  James Mercer’s story leading up to this record is an interesting one. I had no idea that at this point in time, The Shins has really been a one person show when it came to the actual crafting of the record.  Mercer wanted to take The Shins back to their roots on this record and I think he accomplished something great.  The melody’s are soft and fun, the lyrics are introspective at times, and Mercer’s vocal performance was some of my favorite of his.  There was nothing crazy or experimental about the album, but I still thought it was a great.  Not every record needs to do something completely out there to be a great album.  Sometimes the simpler, the better.  But that actually isn’t necessarily the case with this record because on January 19th, The Shins released The Worm’s Heart, which is Heartworms, but the tracklisting flipped and each song re recorded in a tone opposite the original.  So fast songs are played slow, slow songs played fast, quiet songs played loud, loud songs played quiet, etc.  I really enjoyed this idea because I always wondered what certain songs across all genres would sound if they were done differently.  I would love if other artists did something like this with their music.

 

At What Cost-GoldlinkGoldlink-at-what-cost-album-

Top Songs: Crew, Some Girl, Pray Everyday (Survivor’s Guilt)

Goldlink has been one of my favorite artists over the past couple years and At What Cost was a great listen for me.  I loved the hooks on this record, especially on Crew, and found Goldlink’s style of rap to be quite pleasing.  Goldlink has always had a bit of a unique sound, making his music really stand out among the rest.  At first glance, this album seems a bit odd due to the cover alone (I personally wasn’t a fan of it, but it has grown on me).  But this album is so much better than what the album cover displays. Goldlink’s soulful mix of rap, pop, and R&B on At What Cost is a lot of fun to listen to and displays Goldlink’s growth as an artist.  Goldlink’s flows were great and his style switches on different tracks were fantastic.  I thought Goldink’s lyricism was some of his best, especially towards the back-end of the record.  Also I enjoyed the choice of features, especially Shy Glizzy (His verse entrance is one of my favorites in recent memory) and Steve Lacy.  I really hope Goldlink can keep this up.

 

4:44-Jay-Z4-44_album_cover

Top Songs: Kill Jay-Z, The Story of O.J., Family Feud, Bam

I was really glad Jay-Z came through with this record.  After Magna Carta Holy Grail, I was left a bit disappointed with Jay-Z.  And far too often, rappers passed their peak popularity years have difficulty in making a solid record, but Jay-Z did that and then some.  4:44 has some of Jay-Z’s best lyricism, involving very personal and introspective thoughts on his whole life.  And the production is out of this world, No I.D. really outdid himself on this one and Jay-Z has always had a great ear for beats.  It was really hard for me to find any faults with this record because it’s just so clean and smooth.  Jay-Z’s flow is so infectious I could listen to it for hours.  And this album is the perfect length.  Not too long, not too short.  Goldilocks would be all over this record.

 

Ctrl-SZASZA_-_Ctrl_cover

Top Songs: Love Galore, Doves in the Wind, Drew Barrymore, The Weekend, Pretty Little Birds

SZA has to have one of my favorite voices in music right now.  I can’t get enough of it.  It so smooth and infectious.  I enjoyed Ctrl much more than I did Z and think it really established and showcased what SZA is capable of and can bring to the world of music.  With such smooth production and vocals, this record really works well with itself.  The production doesn’t drown out the vocals like on some records, but instead helps the vocals stand out, which is definitely SZA’s strength.  I really enjoyed SZA’s lyricism on this record, as well.  I thought a lot of the lyrics were passionate and very reflective on who SZA is as a person.  Ctrl had a perfect summer mood that was great to listen to while relaxing out in the sun this past summer.

 

4eva is a Mighty Long Time- Big K.R.I.T.81pKy2d2OxL._SY355_

Top Songs: Big Bank, Subenstein, Get Away, Keep The devil Off

I feel this is one of the most slept-on projects released this year.  Big K.R.I.T. really came through on this record.  His flows were crazy, his lyricism was impressive, and this project kicked ass.  I had a lot of fun the entire time I listened to this album.  I really liked his use of the two-discs, as well.  It was one of the few times where I feel like it actually worked.  Sometimes an artist will split the project into two discs, but there will really be no distinction between the two discs, so splitting seems unnecessary.  But on 4eva, there was a clear beginning and end to each disc.  This album had some great bangers like “Big Bank” and “Subenstein”, as well as some slower tracks like “Mixed Messages” and “Higher Calling”.  And it seemed like the first disc was focused on more upbeat songs, while the second half focused more on touching, lyrical tracks.  I thought this created a nice parallel between the two halves of the album.

 

ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$-JOEY BADA$$418458081939_500

Top Songs: TEMPTATION, LAND OF THE FREE, ROCKABYE BABY, RING THE ALARM

One of many politically driven projects released this past year, AABA, was up there on my list of favorites.  Despite being at times rather surface-level in terms of introspection, an aspect many did not feel was effective, I found the record to do a very good job of tackling issues society faces today.  Sometimes being deep and “woke” is not what needs to be heard.  In terms of wanting to change the mindset of the people of America, sometimes those who are the most blatant or simplistic in delivering their messages, are the ones who are listened to because their message is one that all can understand clearly.  And I feel that’s exactly what this album accomplished.  Diving deeper into the record, I found Joey’s flow and delivery to be some of his most gritty and powerful performances, yet he still found room for some more commercial hits like “TEMPTATION”.  This album was another drift away from his early styles like on his mixtape 1999, a style that I wish he would go back to at times, but all artists need to progress and move forward, and I am a fan of the direction he is going in.  The features on this record were some of the best in the past year (especially on the song “RING THE ALARM”) and I thought fit in perfectly on the record.  Overall, I found myself very happy with this album.

 

Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe-The Cool Kidsthe-cool-kids-special-edition-grand-master-deluxe-album

Top Songs: The Moonlanding, Break Your Legs, On The Set, T.D.A, Too Smooth

My god this is a fun album.  This was one of the few albums this past year where I was hooked from the beginning.  Chuck Inglish’s production is superb as always and this project really reminded me just how talented he is as a producer.  The beats were so catchy and bouncy.  You can’t help but nod your head when listening to a lot of these tracks.  Mikey Rocks was great on this record.  I really came to appreciate his flow and talent on the mic after listening to this.  My favorite verse on the entire album had to have been his on “The Moonlanding”.  It was so infectious and smooth.  Really helped create a dope intro to a dope album.  If you ever want to hear what dope flows with great production sounds like, check out this album.

 

IWASVERYBAD-IDK1507906726_c22d13af78e210a0a4a4350420e6831e

Top Songs: Pizza Shop Extended, Windows Up, 17 Wit a 38

IWASVERYBAD has been another step in the right direction for IDK.  My first experience with IDK was back on the Subtrap project and I was very impressed, so I was excited when IWASVERYBAD was released.  What I liked most about the project was definitely IDK’s skill at rapping.  His flow was outstanding, his ability to switch up styles was great, and his voice is very raw and powerful.  Almost has a bit of this evil, menacing vibe to it.  A lot of the lines on this record are delivered with such fierce force paired with great lyrics to back them up.  I thought the production was solid on this album as well and I really enjoyed some of the features, “Pizza Shop Extended” being the one that stands out the most.  Not done by IDK himself, but the callback to “Clint Eastwood” by Del the Funky Homosapien was awesome.  IDK definitely has the ability to blow up and become a force to be reckoned with in the rap community.  Not sure how I feel about the name change though.  Not very unique if you ask me and a questionable choice from a marketing standpoint.

 

DAMN.-Kendrick Lamar413ce2e1200981ad7114c3b04836378a.1000x1000x1

Top Songs: DNA. ELEMENT. HUMBLE. LOVE.

I’d be silly to not include Kendrick on this list, but I will admit that I was a bit disappointed with this project.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a great album, but I was hoping for something a bit different from Kendrick.  This album wasn’t as in-depth or introspective as I was expecting, especially after an album like To Pimp a Butterfly.  DAMN. definitely felt more commercial as evident by its widespread appeal and radio play.  You didn’t see many people bumping songs off TPAB, but it’s hard to go to any party or sporting event without hearing “DNA.”, “HUMBLE.” or “LOYALTY.” played.  But like I said, I did still enjoy this record, I thought it had a lot of very good hype tracks, with great production to go along with it.  There was still some emotion, as seen on tracks like “LUST.” or “DUCKWORTH.” And what I like a lot about Kendrick, as a whole, is that he seems to have a different voice on every record.  It really highlights how Kendrick strives to try new things and go down different paths with his music instead of cranking out the same thing every time.

 

The Never Story-J.I.D.Dreamville-J.I.D-The-Never-Story-album-cover-art-640x640

Top Songs: NEVER, EdEddnEddy, D/Vision, Hereditary, 8701

Oh man I loved this project.  I have never been so quickly blown away by a new artist like I have J.I.D.  His flow is one of the best out of any of the new rappers emerging these days, and is a breath of fresh air from the typical trap artists that are popping up all over the place.  The same goes for the production, which I must say, is stellar.  When I first heard that beat switch on NEVER…fucking forget about it.  His voice and style of rapping I find very unique which is always a plus when so many new artists try to sound like whatever is hot at the time.  His lyrics were fun, clever, and filled with creativity.  There weren’t many features on this record, which I really like to see for a new artist because it allows them to show the listeners right off the bat, “This is what I can do”.  But the EARTHGANG feature was great, I think J.I.D. works really well with them, both on and off this album.  And even the 6LACK feature was good.  I’m really excited to see what J.I.D. does next and how his music progresses as time goes on.

 

Humanz-GorillazHumanzGorillaz

Top Songs: Ascension, Saturnz Barz, Andromeda, Busted and Blue, She’s My Collar, Let Me Out

Unlike many, I felt that Humanz was still a great record.  But then again, I’m a huge Gorillaz stan and will love just about anything they put out.  This record had great production and was super catchy, especially on the first half.  It was a real danceable record, which fit in nicely with their “end of the world dance party” theme that they were sort of going for.  This album had some relevant themes to this day and age, especially in a political sense.  Some of the messages were rather surface-level, or underdeveloped, such as censoring out “Trump” and “Obama” on “Let Me Out”, but other tracks like “Ascension” and “Hallelujah Money” had some clever, creative political messages.  I thought the features on this record were great and really suited Gorillaz’s style, but they were a bit overpowering.  I, like many others, could’ve used a lot more 2D on this album and I feel Damon and Jamie realize this grievance from the fans.  I understand and agree with a lot of the criticisms that people have about this record, especially the lack of 2D, but I still really enjoyed the album and thought it was great to hear new Gorillaz after being gone for so long.  I cannot wait to see what more Damon and Jamie have in store for the future of Gorillaz.

 

SATURATION-BROCKHAMPTONbrockhampton-unveils-saturation-iii

Top Songs: HEAT, GOLD, GUMMY, SWEET BOOGIE, ZIPPER, BLEACH, HOTTIE

If I’m going to talk about BROCKHAMPTON and, I cannot talk about one without the others, so I’m going to talk about all three projects as a whole.  Also it’s difficult for me to pick a favorite because they’re all so damn good.  For an independent group that met over the internet, these guys already have great skills and production value.  This entire project was so smooth it was hard to believe it didn’t have some major label production.  Q3 and Romil are so talented, as well as the rest of the members of this boy band.  Their work ethic and dedication to their craft is something that is not seen often and I admire greatly.  To release three great projects in the span of one year is unbelievable.  And the energy they bring is completely unmatched. Their chemistry and the way they seem to feed off each other is so much fun to listen to.   Their sound is unique and every member brings something different to the table, whether it be a different flow or different style.  And Kevin’s hooks are so damn catchy.  They get stuck in your head after one listen.  It’s incredible.  These guys all have potential to do great things and I look forward to seeing what they all can do.  

 

Flowerboy-Tyler, The Creator268x0w

Top Songs: See You Again, Who Dat Boy, Boredom, 911/Mr. Lonely, November, Glitter

Holy fuck this album is great.  Tyler has been progressing, evolving, and experimenting for years and I think he’s found a sound that he executes to a T.  His mix of rap, jazz, and R&B is something that very few have ever done with such flawlessness.  His usage of singing and features were outstanding.  His ability to weave the harmonies in with the leading vocals were so smooth and beautiful. Tyler seems to be able to bring out the best in the artists he works with and help play to their strengths.  Tyler has been able to turn me onto artists I hadn’t heard before, but eventually fell in love with.  Anna of the North was the artist that I fell in love with this time around.  This record’s instrumentals and production are so pretty.  Flowerboy also has shown a more mature Tyler.  He’s completely gone away from his more obscene lyrics and subject matter, which has definitely improved his music and his widespread appeal.  At times on his older albums, I felt a bit uncomfortable listening to some of the lyrics.  But on Flowerboy, there’s just so many great lyrical moments.  This album definitely had a lot more emotion in it and more truthful, honest reflections on his own life.  Tyler Discusses and touches on topics such as love, sexuality, and friendship with such honesty and eloquence.   This entire album had a serene, lovely summer evening vibe, which perfectly ties into the album cover (which is actually one of my favorite covers of all time).  I was blown away by this record and there’s not doubt in my mind that this is one of the best albums I have heard this year.  Definitely Tyler’s best, as well.

 

Pure Comedy-Father John Misty220px-Pure_Comedy

Top Songs: Pure Comedy, Total Entertainment Forever, Leaving LA, So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain

Pure Comedy is out of this world.  It’s clearly not an album for everyone, and many might find it boring, but you can’t help but admire what Josh Tillman has done here.  The dreary, honest mood that this entire album encapsulates is quite thought-provoking and emotionally triggering.  Pure Comedy is a record that takes a hard look at society and reflects on the world with brutal honesty.  Tillman is clearly upset with the what is happening and the way things seem to be heading.  Most of the problems or grievances that he discusses on this record have to do with entertainment and how much society craves it.  We want to be entertained at all times and don’t really care to see the problems that surround us.  We just plug in and drown the noise out.  I could go on for hours about all that Tillman talks about on this record.  This is one of those albums where it can be enjoyed even more if you sit down with the lyrics in front of you and follow along as you listen.  What I like most about this record is how empty the instrumentals feel.  By making the instrumentals very light and simple, it allows the listener to focus more on the lyrics.  But with Pure Comedy, the instrumentals aren’t used to just support the lyrics, they also help build and tie in the overarching mood of the album.  This album is meant to feel cold and empty.  Pure Comedy is truly a masterpiece and I find myself coming back to it all the time, still to discover new things that make this album work so well.

 

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What Would You Like For Christmas?: MLB Edition

It’s time for the MLB edition of “What Would You Like For Christmas” where I take a look at what Saint Nick will be asked to bring people around the league for Christmas.  Fingers crossed they get what they want!

 

Cleveland Indians-LeBron To Play BaseballUSP MLB: ALDS-BOSTON RED SOX AT CLEVELAND INDIANS S [BBA OR BBN] USA OH

The Cleveland Indians have gotten a bit envious of their basketball brother for having such a generational talent on their team who helped lead the Cavaliers to the city’s first championship in sports since 1964.  After having two straight years of great teams yet coming up short in the playoffs both times, I’m sure the Indians will be wishing for LeBron to head next door to Progressive field and help the Indians secure a World Series title in 2018.

 

Seattle Mariners-A Playoff Berth

It’s been 16 years since the Seattle Mariners have made the playoffs and a lot’s happened since that Mariners team tied the record for most wins in the regular season, but nothing good in the eyes of the Mariners.  They’ve come close, sure, but close means nothing in sports.  Each and everybody wants to win, not sit around being soggy while the rest of the league has fun in the playoffs.  The Mariners got great talent and sure don’t want to waste it, so it might be wise for them to institute the help of Santa to get the job done.

 

San Francisco Giants-That Voodoo Lady Who Granted Them Their Even Year Power

I don’t know what the Giants did to piss her off in the first place, but they need her back desperately.  She was the heart and soul of those Giants teams from 2010 to 2014, bringing the Giants their first three championships since moving to San Francisco.  Since then, it’s been nothing but bad luck and poor performance.  I’m sure if they could just sit her down in a room and apologize they could get her back, but the real problem lies in finding her.  However no one is as good at tracking down old friends and lovers like Santa Claus.  If the Giants ask, they will receive.  And who knows, maybe Voodoo Lady will bring some power to Tim Lincecum and kickstart his comeback as well.

 

Baltimore Orioles-A Starting Rotation That Doesn’t Collapse Easier Than A House of Cards in a Hurricane

For the past few years the Baltimore Orioles have had nothing but bad luck when it came to starting pitching.  Whether it be the collapse of Ubaldo Jimenez, the underperformance of Kevin Gausman, or giving up on a guy named Jake Arrieta.  Year in and year out the Orioles have suffered on the diamond due to their starting pitching woes.  Their offense has been there, with the help of guys like Machado, Jones, and Davis, but they were never able to win ball games when their pitchers would give up dinger after dinger like it was batting practice.  Let’s just hope Santa’s got some golden pitching prospects in that bag of his.Ubaldo Jimenez

 

Rob Manfred-A sub-one hour game

Rob Manfred has been actively trying to change the game of baseball into a quicker, more action-packed game to get the younger generation more interested (stupid, but let’s not talk about that here).  Perhaps it’s time he enlists the help of Jolly Old Saint Nick to get the job done.  I mean the man can speed around the world delivering toys to children in one night.  I’m sure he could give some pointers on how to speed the game up a bit.  Idealistically, Manfred is probably looking to make baseball look like MLB The Show where each game takes a half an hour to play or better yet, just simulate the entire season so it only takes a minute!  Won’t that just be great Robby?!!?  A minute long season?!!? Won’t that be fun?!!?

 

Manny Machado-To Go to the Yankees Already

Machado’s name has been thrown around on the trade block the past couple years, including in a more heightened manner this offseason, but nothing has ever come to fruition.  Reasons vary from the Orioles hoping he sticks around to there not being a good enough deal for the star 3rd baseman, but one reason has always been lurking in the shadows and that has been the inevitability he goes to the Yankees.  Yankee fans for years have had wet dreams about Machado in pinstripes and the closer and closer we get to Machado’s free agency after the 2018 season, the more it makes sense.  The Yankees have been freeing up more and more money each year, they just traded their third baseman, Chase Headley, back to the Padres, and most importantly, the Orioles have openly said that they do not want to deal with the Yankees nor trade Machado to a team that will just flip him to the Yankees.  But since Machado doesn’t seem keen on returning and there’s been so many signs pointing to Machado heading to New York, perhaps Machado would simply ask Santa to pick him up on his roof and give him a ride to the Bronx.new-york-yankees-want-to-add-manny-machado-in-trade-with-orioles-670x321

 

Kyle Schwarber-The DH

Kyle Schwarber is a great baseball player if you ignore the fielding and running aspect of the game.  Schwarber was originally a catcher, but didn’t really pan out at that position for the Cubs. Since his bat is so great, they stuck him in the outfield so he could get some at-bats.  Schwarber in the outfield, from a defensive standpoint, however, is not ideal.  Schwarber is too slow for the position and creates a big gap out there for the Cubs.  I’m sure Schwarber doesn’t prefer being out there, either.  He’d probably much rather focus on hitting, which means he’ll be wishing for the DH to come to the Cubs for Christmas.

 

The Entire League-For the Yankees to Just Stop

The Yankees have always been known as a team that “buys their championships” meaning they just go and buy the best players on the market and build their teams that way.  This has led to some sticky situations in recent years when it comes to aging players and shitty, cumbersome contracts.  Over the past two seasons, however, the Yankees have evolved.  They learned to build from the inside with prospects.  With guys like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gary Sánchez, and Greg Bird as the future foundation for the team, the Yankees were looking scary, especially coming off an ALCS run this past postseason.  But then this offseason they go out and get Giancarlo Stanton (Thanks Jeets) for a bag of peanuts?  Then they shed large contracts by trading Chase Headley and resign CC for only $10 mil?  The Yankees are positioning themselves for a terrifying run for next season and beyond.  The AL East is currently on DEFCON 1 and along with the rest of the MLB, they’ll be asking Santa for the Yankees to just stop stockpiling like it’s the Cold War.

 

What Would You Like For Christmas?: NBA Edition

It’s that wonderful time of year!  A time of giving and spreading joy to the ones you love.  Santa’s currently taking requests, so let’s see what’s on some Christmas lists across the NBA.

Cleveland Cavaliers-A point Guard636463752897756434-usp-nba-cleveland-cavaliers-at-charlotte-hornets-95357169

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been on a tear as of late, winning 18 of their last 19.  LeBron is playing like the LeKing he is and Dwyane Wade is proving to be a nice piece of the bench.  Only problem is they’re currently running with Jose Calderon as their starting PG.  This isn’t too big of a problem with a team consisting of LeBron James because he can fill the role of PG beautifully, but one can’t help but feel they’d be better with a solid PG at the helm to take some of the load off of LBJ.  Luckily Isaiah Thomas is on his way back and potentially Derrick Rose (whom I still have faith in) to give the team some more depth at the point.

 

Orlando Magic-The Beginning of the Season

The Orlando Magic were doing beautifully at the start of the season and were even at the top of the Eastern Conference for a moment.  They’d beaten teams like the Cavs and the Spurs, all while Vucevic and Gordon were playing like All-Stars.  But their magic (pun possibly intended) ran out and the Magic quickly fell to the bottom of the league where they now sit.  I’m sure everyone on that roster wishes they could go back to the hey days of the early season when they were on top of the world.

 

Los Angeles Clippers-A Health Potion

The Clippers, like the Magic, were looking great at the beginning of the season, but suffered injuries to a multitude of their key players.  Gallinari, Beverley, Teodosic, and Griffin have all experienced injuries that have put them out for a good deal of time.  Luckily for them, Teodosic and Gallinari are on their way back, but Beverley is out for the year with a knee injury and Griffin could be out for two months with a sprained MCL.  If only the Clippers could obtain a health potion to regenerate their injured players and then preserve those that are not hurt, perhaps then they could make another run.  However obtaining such a potion may prove to be difficult with the pieces their quest party currently possesses, or lacks, I should say.  They may be able to find a low-powered potion and simply use it only for whoever they deemed most valuable (Blake), but it most likely wouldn’t be enough.

 

City of Chicago-An NBA team

It’s really too bad the City of Chicago does not have an NBA team, especially with their historic history.  I mean they did have the greatest player to ever play the game and I’m sure Horace Grant agrees with me when I say he wishes they had an NBA team to continue his legacy.  But sadly, Chicago is left with a lowly G-League team that can hardly handle playing 48 straight minutes of basketball.  Although they have beaten some decent NBA teams in a couple of scrimmage games they played this season.

 

Russell Westbrook-The Team to Himself AgainOklahoma City Thunder v Orlando Magic

Last season Russell Westbrook was the talk of the town for putting up the numbers he did.  Averaging a triple-double for the season is quite a feat, but he really didn’t have anyone else to back him up and help boost the team to a playoff berth.  This offseason the Thunder changed that and gave Westbrook the help he needed by acquiring both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.  A scary big three to say the least, but so far this trio has yet to prove themselves.  Much of the blame is going towards Westbrook because people are beginning to realize that Westbrook is a black hole that absorbs everything in sight, leading to a real logjam on the court.  The team’s failures can no longer be shifted off of Westbrook.  There is no scapegoat with that team and I’m sure Westbrook wishes he could go back to the days where he was the only source of production and he could do as he pleased with no worry about the team’s failures.  Westbrook could stat-pad all he wanted last season, but now that there’s two other stars with him in OKC, there’s no room for selfishness.  There’s no doubt Westbrook will be asking Santa for a team of his own this Christmas.  Maybe Santa could trade Paul George for him…

 

Lonzo Ball-A Jump Shot

Lonzo Ball has been off to a shaky start from a shooting standpoint.  His shooting percentages have been abysmal across the board and he’s beginning to take heat from the media because of it.  Ball will be looking to upgrade his shot from a medieval catapult to something more like Reggie Miller this Christmas.  Hell, he’d probably even take something like Shawn Marion at this point.  At least he could score.Los Angeles Lakers v Washington Wizards

 

Dirk Nowitzki-The 2010-2011 Season

Dirk’s team this season is…not ideal and he’s sure not playing like himself either.  We can call this a fluke or lack of support around him, but perhaps it is simply Dirk getting old.  Let’s call it for what it most likely is, which is both.  Dirk’s got nothing around him and he’s 39 this season.  Those two factors do not play nicely.  Dirk this Christmas will be asking Santa for nothing but to go back to that lovely 2011 season where he not only played great basketball, but was able to take down LeBron and the Heat to capture his one and only NBA championship.

 

Nerlens Noel-A Place to Call Home

(Fitting that Noel is in a Christmas piece)usa_today_9910709-0

I can’t remember the last time Noel started a game and logged over 25 minutes in a game.  It honestly might’ve been back when he was with Philly (just checked, it was the second game of this season, so still not great).  Clearly Noel is not valued in Dallas and he does not feel motivated to try his best for an organization that clearly does not care about him.  The Hot Dog Incident is a perfect summary of the Noel situation.  Noel will be asking Santa to send him to someplace where he can feel needed and motivated to help his team win.  I’m thinking Cleveland.

Problem with the Skipper

This past Wednesday, the Yankees officially introduced Aaron Boone as their new manager.  Boone signed a three-year deal to coach the Yankees and is inheriting quite the team.  It’s very rare that a new manager is given a team fresh off a run to the ALCS, but here Aaron Boone stands.  Before I dive into Boone as a manager, I’d like to take a moment to look back on how the Yankees got to this moment.

The Yankees this past season, led by Joe Girardi, greatly outperformed expectations.  Going into the season, everyone, including the Yankees, viewed this season as a rebuilding year.  A year to give their new core of youngsters time to get at-bats, appearances and gel together as a unit.  I was fully expecting and ready for the Yankees first losing season since 1992 (an absurd run by the way).  But right out of the starting gates, the Yankees were firing on all cylinders.  I kept expecting them to fall back to earth, which they eventually did in a sense, but they still continued to perform and succeed all the way up until their loss in game seven of the ALCS.  Like other Yankee fans, I was heartbroken by the loss, but I was wildly excited by our performance and was looking forward to next season.  

Then the news broke…26-joe-girardi-w710-h473

Joe Girardi would not be returning for the 2018 season.  I was shocked.  I assumed that it was a personal decision on his part due to a desire to spend more time with his family, but quite quickly it was revealed that it was the Yankee’s decision not to bring him back.  Their claim was that they desired a manager who was better at communicating and was more of an analytical-type.  What can really be deduced from all of this is that the Yankees Front Office wants to be more in control and they are looking for a yes man.

It’s very mind-boggling for me that an organization would let their manager walk after not only coming within one game of the World Series, but also with a team that was not even expected to make the playoffs.  Yes, there were some questions about his decision-making during the ALDS against the Indians, but the Yankees still ended up on top.  Also, it’s not like every manager is perfect, everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and I do not even consider the choices he made to have been that detrimental.  There are various factors that play into every decision a manager makes and they always have more information than we do.  That’s why they are in the position they are in.  There’s a reason that I am not a manager and he is.  Far too often fans act as if they know best, but they do not know what is going on in that dugout.

To try and better understand this situation, let’s back up a bit.  Joe Girardi was hired before the 2008 season by the New York Yankees after having managed the Florida Marlins for one season in 2006, a year in which he won manager of the year, mind you.  Girardi led the youngest and lowest paid team in the league at the time to a 78-84 record that year after starting out the year 11-31.  But in the end, Girardi’s great performance was not enough to keep him around.  Due to conflict with Jeffrey Loria, the team owner, and the rest of the front office, Girardi was fired and quickly replaced by Fredi Gonzalez, a minor league manager in the system at the time.  In his first season as Yankee manager after taking a year off, Girardi led the team to a 89-73 record, which sounds great, but was only good enough for third place in the tough AL-East.  Girardi then took a huge leap and led the team the following year to a 103-59 record and a World Series title to go along with it.  Over the course of the Girardi’s tenure with the Yankees, Girardi had a 910-710 record along with a World Series win.  Not only is this record great, but Girardi did it with some less than ideal teams.  Gotta give the man credit for leading the 2013 Yankee team to an 85-77 record.  A team that featured the likes of Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells.

Girardi led his teams to the playoffs six out of the ten years he was with the Yankees and never had a losing record (probably should’ve in 2013).  Girardi was far from being a garbage manager and was showing even more promise with this new Yankee team.  He appeared to be well-respected among the young guys as well as the veterans.  Many looked up to him and he seemed to have a great impression on the entire clubhouse.  Girardi was always ready to stand up for his players whether it be in a post-game interview or out on the field defending his player in an argument with the umpires.  And he was never afraid to get tossed for the cause.  I will never forget when A-Rod got plunked by Ryan Dempster (bitchass) and Girardi came charging out to defend his player and ended up getting ejected in less than 20 seconds.  That type of fire is what I loved most about Girardi and is a trait that not many managers have, and I believe to be a trait that is vital in managers.  Managers need to stick up for their players and Girardi never shied away from that. He had passion like no other and yet the Yankees did not feel it was what the team needed.

So what went wrong?  What led the Yankees to letting Girardi go?  Well this is something that no one but Girardi and the FO will truly know.  What is stated as the reason is hardly ever the full reality.  All we can do at this point is speculate.  Over the past few seasons, Girardi had been criticized about his pitching decisions, especially when it came to bullpen decisions.  Many felt he brought pitchers in when he shouldn’t have and even overworked pitchers.  One case I remember in particular was with Dellin Betances a couple years ago.  Betances was lights out in the first half of the season, but then as the year went on, he got lit up quite frequently, which led Betances to finishing the year on a bit of a low note.  Many felt that Girardi had overused Betances, thus burning him out for the back-end of the season.  Now of course this one instance or flaw should not be enough to fire someone, especially with a guy like Girardi who has had such a great deal of success with the organization.  What I think ultimately led to the demise of Girardi in pinstripes was his relationship with the front office.  I think Girardi was unwilling to let the FO get as involved as they wished to be.  Cashman seems to want more control over what goes on with the team and Girardi wasn’t willing to roll over, so Cashman gave him the boot and sought out more of a yes man.  This theory could be backed up by Girardi’s fallout with the Florida Marlins.  Despite winning manager of the year, Girardi was fired due to conflict with upper management, leading him to going to New York and becoming the Yankee manager.887057786

Did Cashman get his yes man?  We’ll get to that.  To replace Girardi, Cashman went out and brought in Aaron Boone, a former player who has had no managerial experience, for a three-year deal.  Boone is most famously remembered for his game 7 walk-off home run in the 2003 ALCS against the rival Red Sox.  Because of this moment, many associate Boone with the Yankees, but in reality, Boone only spent 54 games in pinstripes, 71 if you count the postseason.  Boone was never a earth-shaking player, minus that one moment, but he was still a solid player with a good amount of experience.  After his playing career, Boone spent his time as a commentator and analyst for ESPN.  

It’s tough to gauge what exactly Boone will bring to the table, but so far Boone seems to have a passion for the game and a passion for winning that I believe will translate well into his managing.  Since he isn’t too far removed from his playing days, Boone should be able to have a good relation with the players, being able to relate and understand where they are coming from. Most importantly for the Yankees’ FO, Boone is a new face.  Being a new face allows Cashman to have more say in what goes on with the team because he will be able to guise it as helping Boone get accustomed to the team and the league.  This then gives the Yankees the yes man I believe Cashman desired.  The FO will be able to use more analytics and numbers like they’ve been hoping for.  If a fresh face is what the Yankees wanted, though, I personally would have gone with Carlos Beltrán, although he was probably deemed too recently removed.  I feel Beltrán would’ve had a great relationship with the players, especially the young guys, which is vitally what this team needs moving forward.  Plus he would be able to communicate greatly with the international players with him being from outside the United States as well, which is a trait I think goes overlooked sometimes.

Overall, I feel Boone will see success with the organization.  He’s inheriting a hell of a team that has all the potential in the world.  The Yankees will win based on skill alone.  I doubt who is at the helm will really play that big of a factor until the playoffs come, which the team I wholeheartedly believe will see in each of the three years that Boone is so far signed on for.  Do I think he’s better than Girardi though?  No.  Not at all.  But I will be rooting for him to succeed in this league like I would with any other man chosen to lead this new age Yankee team.

The NBA Heads to Hogwarts

I just finished Harry Potter, so I’ve been on a bit of a bender the past couple weeks.  But like every good bender, it leads you to some great thought sequences.  This one in particular led me to imagining NBA players, both past and present, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  I could’ve probably done the whole league at the rate I was going, but I decided to keep it to four players per house.

 

 

Gryffindor

LeBron James

LeBron belongs here because he’s the Harry Potter of the league in my eyes.  LeBron is The Boy Who Lived (in Akron).  He’s one of the greatest and most famous players who has ever lived, like his counterpart, and has had his temptation of the other house, Miami (Slytherin).  Now I’m not saying Miami is the Slytherin of the NBA, all I’m saying is that, like Harry was with Slytherin, LeBron was tempted to take his talents elsewhere, perhaps believing he belonged somewhere else.  But LeBron knew his destiny and where he belonged and thus made the return to Cleveland.GTY 859942948 S BKN SPO USA OH

Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade is like Ron Weasley in this scenario.  He’s viewed as LeBron’s sidekick in a sense, but is a tremendous player on his own, like how Ron is in the novels.  Dwyane Wade has also displayed great skill and bravery on the court, earning him a spot with Gryffindor.

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook earns a spot on Gryffindor due to his heart, loyalty, and bravery.  Westbrook didn’t leave OKC when the road ahead looked bleak.  He persevered and carved his own path of greatness, showing no fear no matter who he went up against.

Wilt Chamberlainwilt-chamberlain-1

Wilt Chamberlain is like Godric Gryffindor.  He’s an absolute legend whose skill and achievements are shrouded in legend and mystique.  He was a world-class talent whose name will live on forever.

 

 

Hufflepuff

Steph Curry

Steph Curry is like that dude Ernie Macmillan.  A tad arrogant and jealous of Harry (LeBron in this case).  But at the end of the day, Curry is a kind person who is willing to fight and show off his tremendous skill.

Kevin Loveusp-nba_-cleveland-cavaliers-at-phoenix-suns_001-e1463690815452

He just looks like he belongs in Hufflepuff.

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq is known for being easy-going and getting along with everyone (except Kobe).  Shaq has been around the league and back, seeming to be on every team towards the end of his career, leading him to being a kind, accepting person, like a Hufflepuff.

John Stockton

John Stockton is an unassuming character, not really known for having much of a personality (or at least one that I know of), but he is filled to the brim with dedication, hard-work, and loyalty.  Christ the man spent his entire career in Utah.  That takes a lot of dedication in itself.

 

 

Ravenclaw

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown is one of the smartest players in the league and was an exceptional academic and basketball talent at Cal.  He even took grad-level classes as a freshman.  His talent and brain make him perfect for Ravenclaw.

Jabari Parker, Kawhi Leonard, & Tim Duncankawhi-leonard-tim-duncan

These next three guys, Jabari Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan  I’m grouping them together to avoid repeating myself three times in a row. Each are quiet, unassuming players who are world-class talents and known for their extensive basketball knowledge.  Although Parker has not played much due to injury, I feel he belongs here along with Kawhi who is quiet and a bit odd, but no doubt one of the best players in the league.   As well as Tim Duncan, one of the greatest players of all time, but also one of the smartest, most unassuming players of all time.  Fun fact: Duncan only got ejected in one game his entire NBA career and it was for laughing on the bench… If that doesn’t just perfectly describe Tim Duncan as a person.

 

 

Slytherin

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant is like Draco Malfoy.  He wishes to be the one looked upon as the greatest of all time and as a bit of a villain so badly that he gave himself his own nickname, Black Mamba, which is a type of snake so that works out perfectly too.  This is like how Draco in The Chamber of Secrets (SPOILERS) wished that he was the one who was the heir to Slytherin and could speak parseltongue.

Kevin Durant

“Kevin Durant is a snake”.  But in all seriousness, the reason I put KD here is because he would totally be the wizard to join the Dark Lord once he sees the going get tough.  My Next Chapter…KD DEATH EATER

Reggie Miller

Reggie Miller makes such a perfect villain.  Not to say that all members of Slytherin are villains, but every villain is from Slytherin usually, making Miller a perfect fit here.  Miller is a master at taunting and messing with his opponents, like any great villain is.101323-famous-choke-sign-by-reggie-miller

Isiah Thomas & Bill Laimbeer

Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer are grouped together here because that’s just the way I think.  I can’t take one here without the other, so we’ll just group them together, pretend they’re one person and call it a day, shall we?  Anyways, Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer are perfect for Slytherin because they’re the bad boys.  They played rough, tough basketball that pissed off anyone they faced.  What member of Slytherin didn’t piss you off as you were reading?

 

My Favorite Versions of Players

Everyone has a favorite player, but does everyone have a favorite version of a player?  Probably not.  People probably don’t even think in this way, but I do.  I don’t just see players, I see different types of that same player, almost as if they were bipolar, or schizophrenic, or whatever.  For example, there’s a difference between Klay Thompson, and 3rd quarter Klay Thompson or Lonzo Ball and versus Eric Bledsoe Lonzo Ball.  Get the idea?  Good.  Let’s take a look at some of my favorites.

 

First and foremost…

 

Like I Give a Fuck (LIGAF) Joel Embiid

 

Joel Embiid is one of the rising stars in the NBA, face of The Process, and arguably the best center in the East (He is the best, but I gotta say arguably to not piss off people).  But over the years, we’ve seen multiple versions of Embiid.  There’s been Draft Embiid, who looked like he was about to put his head into a wall after being drafted by the Sixers.  There’s been injured Embiid, who many worried would never see the NBA floor in his lifetime.  Then briefly at the beginning of this season there was Cornrow Embiid, but that didn’t really work out.  Sixers actually won their first game after he got rid of the cornrows, so doubt we’ll see Cornrow Embiid any time in the future.  But finally, we have Like I Give A Fuck Embiid, or LIGAF Embiid, for short.  LIGAF Embiid is a version of Joel who really could care less how he acts or what people think of him. dmernj-waaedjw0 This Embiid is a master of trash talk and messing with people on social media.  Famous examples being when he made fun of Kevin Durant’s 2nd Twitter account, asking Ben Simmons to dunk so hard on Lonzo Ball that his daddy comes to save him, and one of my personal favorites, making fun of Willie Reed so much it carried from on the court to off the court on Instagram, pretending he had no idea who Willie Reed even was (He honestly might not have actually known).  The great thing about this Embiid is quite often LIGAF Embiid is not only a fiend off the court, but on the court as well.  In order to measure LIGAF Embiid’s stats, let me first introduce a stat to you: a Don’t Give a Fuck (DGF) game.  A DGF game is one in which the player has messed with his opponents either before, during, or after the games in a manner that seems as though the player does not care what happens as a result.  Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant have a multitude of these games.  This season, Joel Embiid has played in about 5 DGF games, surprisingly all coming in a row besides the Detroit game.  In these five games, Joel Embiid and the Sixers are 3-2, with Embiid averaging 28.2 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg, all on 56% shooting, including a career game vs. the Clippers, scoring 46 points, grabbing 15 boards, 7 assists, and 7 blocks (Note: These stats were calculated before Embiid Processed Donovan Mitchell when they played the Jazz on Monday).  LIGAF Embiid is not to be fucked with.

 

Utah RubioSydney Kings v Utah Jazz

I feel like no one appreciates Ricky Rubio more than my dad.  My father has supported Ricky Rubio since the beginning.  Never has his allegiance to the Spaniard wavered.  When he heard that Rubio had gotten traded for a broken washing machine, he was a bit disappointed in the Timberwolves, and so was I.  Rubio seemed like a great PG to have working alongside Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl Anthony-Towns.  But alas, the Timberwolves did not agree with me.  They figured Jeff Teague would be their guy, which is a sentence I’m pretty sure hasn’t been said since 2014.  Now don’t get me wrong, Teague ain’t bad, but he ain’t Ricky Rubio.  Like my father, I have come to have a man-crush on Ricky Rubio.  And can you blame me?  Have you seen what Utah has done to him?  He’s a golden god.  The man’s got flowing locks, a glorious beard, and even got tatted up.  The man’s a bad boy now.  Those Mormons really know how to do makeovers.  Now to be quite honest, Utah Rubio isn’t as good as he is in my mind.  In fact, I don’t even think he’s improved since he got to Utah, but he just looks better, not only physically, but in his play.  Sure, he’s shooting 37% from the field and averaging barely over 13 a game, but it just looks like he’s scoring so much more.  He’s also not passing as much as he used to.  In fact, he actually finished with 3 or less assists in a game six times this season already.  Not a good stat coming from your starting point guard.  But I’m loyal.  I’m not gonna let some stats keep me from loving my Ricky.  I’m Lucy for God’s sake!

 

Hoodie Melocarmelo-anthony-hoodie

Oh boy.  This one’s intense.  If you’re familiar with basketball, then you’ve probably heard Hoodie Melo be referenced before.  If you haven’t, it’s basically offseason and practice Carmelo Anthony wearing a hoodie.  There are infamous clips of Melo going absolutely berserk on people during scrimmages in the offseason.  It’s videos like that that keep me up at night.  I’ve just thanked my lucky stars Hoodie Melo never materialized in a regulation game when Melo was with the Knicks.  I’ve seen Melo go off on my Sixers, so I can only imagine what he’d do if he were allowed to wear a hoodie in a game.  But now that he’s out West, I pray to god Adam Silver comes to his senses one day.  Melo would be putting up 50 night in and night out.  And I feel like we were so close to getting Hoodie Melo too.  Over the years, Carmelo Anthony had evolved to being more and more clothed.  He started off his career in Denver wearing just an arm sleeve and a headband.  Then he got to New York and added a second arm sleeve.  Then he added compression pants, and then he added an undershirt, which made him practically fully clothed by the time he left New York.  Who knows, maybe in a year or two we would’ve seen him wearing a hoodie if he had stayed in New York.  Just another thought to keep me up at night.

 

Neon Dion

Ah, Neon Dion.  He may not be the original, but I still love him.  Born in 2016 and going strong ever since.  Dion Waiters is one of those players that people expected to break out.  Experts originally thought it would happen Cleveland, the place he was drafted, but that didn’t ever pan out, leading him to be shipped out to OKC, where people then thought “Okay, maybe it’ll happen now.”  But alas, that hope washed away quicker than a baby down a greased up slide.  People began to give on Dion.  They no longer thought Dion had it in him to be a star.  But then he was off to Miami, and boy did he shine.  Miami was looking rough at the beginning of last season.  They were looking bad.  Real bad.  Then Dion decided “Fuck it.  Imma make a playoff run,” and a playoff run commenced.  The Miami Heat won 13 in a row in January and February, and thus Neon Dion was born.  Miami was looking like they were gonna make the playoffs, then Dion comes down with a sprained ankle, sidelining him for a while.  Miami’s streak stopped dead in its tracks.  They thought they could persevere without Waiters, but he proved more valuable than they realized.  Miami could not break the .500 threshold and ended up missing out on the playoffs.  This season, Waiters is putting up pretty average numbers, but it’s the mentality that he holds and the crazy shots he makes every now and then.  Dion once quoted Kobe Bryant stating “I’d rather go 0 for 30 than 0 for 9 because you go 0 for 9 that means you stopped shooting.”  It’s that type of thinking that makes me love and appreciate Neon Dion.usa-dion-waiters

 

Chinese Jimmer

 

Jimmer Fredette was a college phenom in BYU, and performed at a high enough level to earn him the 10th overall selection in the 2011 NBA draft.  I have always been a huge fan of Jimmer because of his crazy confidence from behind the three-point line, sometimes pulling up from just after half-court, and because he comes from Upstate New York, like myself.  I had high hopes for Jimmer.  I thought he was going to be the next J.J. Redick, and boy was I wrong.  I don’t know what it was, but Jimmer could not find playing time as he bounced around the league, and didn’t play too well when he did find floor time.  Jimmer just could not find his spot, even going down to the D-League (now G-League) for a bit.  When Jimmer got cut by the Spurs, I knew it was over for him.  If Popovich couldn’t save him,  no one could.  So Jimmer now found himself out of the league, so he turned to the place all outcasts turn: China.fredette  Jimmer joined the Shanghai Sharks in 2016 and took off like a bullet.  Jimmer ended up winning MVP for the season, averaging a whopping 37.5 ppg.  He then signed back with the Shanghai Sharks for 2 years on a deal worth $1.8 million and hasn’t looked back.  So far this season Jimmer is averaging 40 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 5.6 apg, 2.1 spg and a fight with Stephon Marbury in nine games so far this season.  Jimmer is a beast over in China and I absolutely love it.  If he continues to prosper, the man is going to be a legend in China and in my heart.

 

And last but certainly not least…

 

Angry LeBrongettyimages-874698670

I saved this one for last simply because he’s the most terrifying.  If any of the player versions listed above went toe to toe with Angry LeBron, they’d be dead before they hit the ground.  Angry LeBron is a beast that is not awoken too often, but when it is…look out.  I’m not sure why people continue to piss off LeBron, but they clearly have not gotten the message or seen the body count.  I don’t know how stupid a person can be, but clearly players still think they can poke the dragon and not get scorched to a piece of toast.  This season’s victims are Enes Kanter and the New York Knicks, and the Charlotte Hornets.  The Murder of the New York Knicks was a grand and epic one.  It was also one in which LeBron may have arguably started the conflict.  Usually people go after LeBron simply because he’s LeBron, but in this case, LeBron made a statement about drafting choices by the Knicks and Enes Kanter and others responded after being offended by LeBron’s remarks.  This tension between the two sides carried over into their game in New York and the conflict became visible in the 1st quarter of the game.  LeBron dunked it and as he was going upcourt, him and Frank Ntilikina bumped into each other, and LeBron continued to stand and get in Ntilikina’s way as the rookie tried to get the ball.  Ntilikina then shoved LeBron causing a bit of an argument with neither side backing down, and Enes Kanter then getting involved.  Kanter and LeBron exchanged words before the two sides were separated.  Afterwards, the Knicks took control of the game and began to dominate.  Everyone thought the Knicks had won this one, but Angry LeBron wasn’t having it.  LeBron went on to slash 23/9/12 for the game, including a LeFuckyou 3 in the face of Kristaps Porzingis late in the 4th quarter to cap off a hell of a comeback.  Afterwards, LeBron posted on Instagram, referring to himself as the king of New York, which made Enes Kanter mad again, but the damage was done.  Angry LeBron had triumphed once again.  Then, not two days later, the city of Charlotte itself tried messing with LeBron, with this tweet.Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 1.39.13 PM.pngI don’t get why they think that taunting LeBron is a good idea at all.  I really don’t.  LeBron proceeded to drop 31 on Charlotte including this emphatic dunk to seal the win.  Angry LeBron is just too good to be taken lightly.  If I was an NBA player I would treat LeBron like the king he is when he comes to town and pray to god that he treats you with mercy.

 

Why Aaron Judge’s Strikeout Numbers Are and Aren’t A Problem

Last Saturday’s Game 7 loss to the Astros was a tough one for the Yankees.  A team that has battled all year and exceeded expectations at every turn.  Considered to be in a rebuilding year at the beginning of the season, the Yankees surprised many by having a very successful season and even making the playoffs.  They then continued to surprise by coming back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.  862906558-0

In the ALCS, the Yankees went quickly down 0-2 in the series to the Astros, but then worked their magic once again and won the next three at home to give themselves a 3-2 lead in the series.  Despite this wonderful effort, however, the Yankees would eventually fall to the AL West Champs in seven.

Many Yankee fans were disappointed in coming up short of a World Series appearance, myself included, but only for a brief moment.  I quickly realized that we weren’t even supposed to be there.  We worked ahead of schedule and had a good run.  And since this was technically a rebuilding year, the team still has much room to improve and will only get better from this moment on.  In talking about rebuilding and improving as a team, let’s discuss a key figure in this organization: Aaron Judge.

Aaron Judge has had quite possibly the greatest rookie season in MLB history.  Finishing the year with 52 home runs, 114 RBIs and slashing .284/.422/.627.  A statline that will certainly win him the AL Rookie of the Year award and possibly MVP.  But this incredible season comes with a tiny little blemish; Judge struck out 208 times.  A number that not only led the league, but also broke the rookie record for strikeouts in a season.  It is also worth mentioning Aaron Judge set the record for most consecutive games with a strikeout by a player (pitchers included) at 37, a record none would wish to hold.  aaron-judge-consecutive-games-strikeout-record

Now of course this is all no secret.  With all the hype surrounding Aaron Judge this season, it was hard not to hear about anything Aaron Judge-related.  Hell, ESPN practically had only three topics of discussion on their channel:  Aaron Judge, football, and LeBron James.  And anytime anything baseball-related happened, they had to relate it somehow to Judge, making their baseball broadcasts nearly insufferable (there’s other reasons, but let’s not get into that).  

So everyone knows he strikes out and everyone watched it happen over the course of the season.  And we continued to watch it into the playoffs.  The Yankees had a great playoff run, but Aaron Judge was not as effective as everyone perceived or expected him to be.  He came up big here and there, but it was quite honestly more often for his defense as opposed to his offense.  He only had one hit in the entire Cleveland series, and batted a decent .250 against the Astros.  He had four home runs paired with 11 RBIs in the playoffs and reached base a solid amount, but like in the regular season, his strikeout numbers continued to rise.  Judge struck out a whopping 27 times in the postseason, passing Alfonso Soriano for the most strikeouts in a single postseason.  Stats like this are less than ideal for a player the Yankees consider to be one of their main producers.

All of these ugly strikeout numbers paint Judge as being a pretty poor hitter at the plate, and it may sound like I’m trying to put down Aaron Judge, but I’m not.  In fact, quite the opposite.  What I am trying to (and will) explain is that Aaron Judge could simply be the leader of this new generation of hitters that is emerging in the league.  A generation that does not care much about strikeout numbers and is willing to sacrifice a few more strikeouts for more long balls.

If one were to look around the league right now, you would see a lot of free-swinging youngsters with high home run numbers, with Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger leading the way.  One can see this new trend forming just by the total number of home runs hit this season.  6105 home runs were hit this past year, absolutely shattering the previous record of 5693 in 2000.  The ball is flying out of the park left and right and it’s only going to increase from here on out.

The new generation of hitters love the home run and are very anti-small ball.  They’d rather beat the shift by bombing it 450ft over center as opposed to bunting it the other way.  You won’t be seeing guys like Kyle Schwarber or Joey Gallo bunting any time soon. joeygalloIn fact, they’d rather strike out trying than even attempt to hit it the other way.  And you can forget about fighting to get a piece on a breaking pitch.  These guys sit and wait on fastballs they can drive out of the yard.  If they’re thrown anything that moves, they’re either not going for it or swinging out of their shoes thinking it’s a fastball.  On the rare occasion they get a hanging breaking pitch, that’s when you see these guys driving the ball into a parking lot five blocks down the road.  These guys don’t care for contact hitting.  If it happens, great, but they’re more preoccupied with their launch angle; a new statistic that has been introduced in recent years with the help of Statcast.  Players will work on developing their swing to reach their desired launch angle, an angle ideal for driving the ball over the fence.  The problem is, hitters will then stick to this angle and not waver from it, meaning that they will quite often swing right through pitches they could otherwise put into play on the ground or at least foul off.  One argument for this philosophy of hitting, of course, is that a strikeout is simply another form of an out, no different than grounding out or flying out, to them, an out is an out.

But are strikeouts simply that?  Just an out?  Of course on the scoreboard it is, but does it always have the same effect on the game as every other type of out?  Short answer, no, it doesn’t.  Every out is unique and poses a different scenario, but let’s dive a bit deeper.  Let’s look at three players who are known for having high launch angles.  Let’s look at the stats of Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, and Joey Gallo.  All three of these players hit a lot of home runs this year, and all have had their fair share of strikeouts.  What happens most often when a batter attempts to fight off a strike two pitch, they roll over and bounce it into the ground, leading sometimes to double plays that kill a rally, so let’s check out these three’s ground ball and double play stats.

Key:

GO-Ground Out

GDP-Grounded into Double Play

GO_AO-Groundout to Flyout Ratio

NAME GO GDP GO_AO
BELLINGER 89 5 0.71
GALLO 65 3 0.67
JUDGE 100 15 1.01

 

As you can see, their ground out and double play numbers are quite low.  To put it in perspective, the rest of the league hovered around the mid-to upper 100s for ground outs and around the mid-to upper 10s for double plays.  Judge was right around there in terms of double play numbers, but in comparison to the rest of the league, his ground out numbers are quite low.  And Judge has the most “normal” stats out of these three players, yet still is more on the low-end in retrospect to the rest of the league.  These guys don’t ground out very often, and are able to produce with the long ball, so what’s the problem?  Is there a problem?  Well, maybe.

For the sake of this article, let’s stick to Judge.  I mean, he is the reason for this article in the first place and the one who has seen the most success and publicity.  Aaron Judge is what is known as a true outcome hitter, meaning he really only produces the three true outcomes: A walk, strikeout, or home run.  Evidence of this being the case for Judge can easily be seen in his OBP, home run, and strikeout numbers.  His home run and walk numbers are absurd no doubt, but that strikeout number is a bit of a problem.  Now I’m sure Yankee fans don’t mind Aaron Judge striking out a lot because they really only care whether he’s hitting home runs, which he is.  Quite honestly, they may even be too distracted by the home run numbers to realize the ugliness of his inability to put the ball in play when he reaches two strikes.  The fans might not care, but the organization should be a bit worried.image  This guy is supposed to be your future.  Him and Gary Sanchez are supposed to be your biggest two producers for the team and if Judge is struggling to put anything in play, especially with men on base, you’re going to struggle as a team.  “But Zach, like you said, he’s producing, just look at the numbers.”  Yes I understand that, and I do not mean to invalidate this season for him, but in all likelihood, he is not going to produce at this high of a level year in and year out.  If he does, then everything I say in this article means nothing.  But pitchers are going to learn how to pitch to him.  In fact, many already have.  Just look at his post all-star break stats (minus September) and his postseason stats; very low average and high strikeout percentage.  Pitchers know his weakness and will continue to learn how to pitch to him.  This will only lead to more strikeouts for Judge, which in turn will lead to less and less production from Judge.

This past season when Judge was on, he was on.  There’s no doubt about that.  But when he slumped, he slumped hard.  And that’s where we saw most of his strikeouts.  It wasn’t like he was striking out and producing at the same time.  When he got into his spells of continuously striking out, he stopped producing altogether.  This is where the problem truly arises.  If he were producing, but striking out for his outs (like he did in the first half), then there wouldn’t be much of a problem, but it’s because he is slumping and basically only striking out that the problem comes about.  When you are slumping, you still hope to put the ball in play and at least try to make something happen, especially with men on base, but Judge instead would strike out, ending any possible chance of helping his team out even when he’s not at his best.  

Aaron Judge’s season can be broken up basically into four parts.  First Half Judge, Post All-Star Break Judge, September Judge, and Postseason Judge.  Each version of Judge different from the rest.   First Half Judge was an absolute beast.  Slashing .329/.448/.691 with 30 home runs and 66 RBIs, earning him a starting spot in the All Star Game.  Post All Star Break Judge was disappointing at the least.  Judge’s batting average plummeted like my GPA during finals week and he only hit 7 home runs from the end of the All Star Break to September.  Production was down in nearly every category, except for walks.  Walks were the only thing keeping him afloat.  September Judge was arguably best Judge.  For the month he slashed .311/.463/.889 with 15 home runs and 32 RBIs.  September really boosted his stats back to being complete absurdity and helped solidify his historic rookie year.  And lastly, Postseason Judge.  Judge’s dominance was nonexistent throughout the postseason, causing him to come up short in key situations.  In total, Judge left 20 men on base during the postseason, which is not what you like to see from your top hitter.

These postseason numbers bring up an interesting question that I’ve seen discussed a bit about Aaron Judge.  Is he clutch?  Because being “clutch” is a trait that many teams hope for in their players especially come playoff time.  This question of clutchness, of course, is proposed about nearly every star player across all sports and it’s a bit of a tricky one.  Clutch is not something that can be really measured. kris-bryant-cubs It’s not a stat that can be calculated like batting average or slugging percentage.  A few have tried to calculate “clutch” in the past and have even attempted to calculate Judge’s “clutchness.”  Fangraphs.com published an article last month claiming that Aaron Judge has been “the least clutch player on record.”  A list that also includes greats like Joe Carter, Alex Rodriguez, and Kris Bryant. Their definition of clutch is this, by the way (More info on their website).

 

“…[H]ow much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations

than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” It also

compares a player against himself, so a player who hits .300 in high

leverage situations when he’s an overall .300 hitter is not considered

clutch. Clutch does a good job of describing the past, but it does very

little towards predicting the future.”

It’s a bit of an odd way if you ask me and attempts to mathematically explain a phenomenon that cannot be really explain because much of it is mental and random at times.  Much like the hot hand in basketball, clutchness is not something that can really be calculated or explained scientifically.  To me, it just happens.  But I guess that’s why I’m writing this article and not doing science experiments.  Clutchness is so difficult also because a big moment can happen at any point in a game.  The biggest play of the game could be a solo home run in the 3rd inning that helps the team win 1-0.  That’s generally not considered clutch, but is in fact a huge play.

Do I think Judge is clutch?  Would I trust him in a big spot?  I’m not sure.  But I would probably lean closer to no.  But that is only because I would trust a veteran player who has more experience in tight spots.  Judge is still a rookie.  And I think a lot of people still forget that.  He may have come up short in a few situations in the playoffs, but you have to remember he’s never been there before.  The more experience he gets in situations like that, the better he will get.

I’ve said a lot in this piece and have touched on a bunch of topics, but what does it all mean?  Are Judge’s strikeout numbers a big deal?  Yes and no.  It all depends on how Judge moves forward and develops as a player.  Again, he’s only a rookie.  He’s got time to adjust and improve.  He’s only played one full season at the big-league level.  There is still a lot that he has to learn690271066.  Having guys like Matt Holliday and Brett Gardner around this past year have had a great impact on his development and they will continue to guide him.  If Aaron Judge truly wishes to become an elite player for years to come, however, then he’s going to have to cut down the strikeouts a bit.  He doesn’t have to reach Tony Gwynn levels of patience and contact, but Judge does have to make a bit of an adjustment.  208 is far too many for a player in the meat of your order.  If he can learn to put the ball in play more and make things happen, not even get hits, then I feel he will see more improvement.  If he doesn’t, then he risks becoming a Chris Davis-type player who’s only usage is for the long ball, which I do not think the Yankees or Judge want.  

Judge doesn’t have to make too many adjustments on his eye at the plate, his OBP shows that he has an excellent one up there, but he has to be more mindful of the breaking ball.  The amount of times I’ve watched Judge swing and miss on the breaking ball low and away is far too many to count.  If he can learn to either recognize the spin a bit better or to step into the pitch and spoil it off, then he will drag out the at-bat longer and hopefully get a fastball he can crush.  

I have full faith Aaron Judge will adapt.  He’s a smart kid and want to succeed in this league.  He struggled last year during his September call up and was able to learn and grow as evident by this year’s performance.  Judge is going to have a long career in pinstripes.  Let’s just hope he can lay off some of those breaking pitches.

 

NBA 2017-2018 Season Preview: Winners, Losers, and Sleepers

With the NBA season upon us once again, it is time to make early predictions on how the season is going to turn out.  Instead of simply picking who I think is going to make the playoffs and win it all, I thought I’d share my thoughts on not only who is going to win, but who is going to surprise us, and who is going to fall flat on their face.  And let’s not forget highlighting the top rookies and players of the league.  So without further ado, I present another round of Percy’s Predictions!

 

To organize this all pretty-like, I’m going to take things conference by conference.

 

First, the West!

 

Winners: Golden State Warriors22846785-mmmain

No explanation is really needed for why the Warriors are, once again, going to be the Winners of the West.  Any team with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green is going to be a lock to win their conference (and most likely the championship).  Barring any serious injuries to the four players stated above, there is very little chance of the Warriors not winning the West.  However, I will not say they are invincible.  Despite their star power, depth, and chemistry, I think the Warriors are still beatable, but only by two teams: The Spurs and the Rockets.  The Spurs and the Rockets are the only two teams that stand a chance against the Warriors in a 7-game series due to their depth, leadership, and play styles.  Both teams have improved this offseason (especially the Rockets) and are both seeking to take down the beast.  The Thunder have improved as well, but their bench is not much compared to the other three teams and I am weary of how three stars who need the ball in their hands will go over.  I could easily see problems arising down the line.  But if they can figure it out, then who knows?  All in all, the Warriors will finish first in the conference, however they will not win 70 games like some are predicting.  They will suffer losses to the other powerhouses of the league, and their annual loss to the Lakers will prevent them from reaching the 70 win mark.

 

Losers: Phoenix SunsPhoenix Suns v Miami Heat

I use the term ‘Losers’ a bit loosely in this scenario.  Yes, the Suns will most likely be the worst team in the West this year, but it will be nothing compared to the dumpster fire at the bottom of the East.  With players like Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Tyson Chandler returning, they will have some talent and experience to lead the team.  They’re a young team with potential, with guys like Dragan Bender, Marquese Chris, Tyler Ulis and others filling out their roster.  By the way, I firmly believe Tyler Ulis has the potential to become an Isaiah Thomas-esque player and will eventually reach that status.  His play at Kentucky impressed me from the first time I watched him.  He has shown development since his freshman year and I fully believe will become a solid starter at some point in his career.  Also worth mentioning is the addition of 4th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Josh Jackson. Phoenix will be a fun team to watch.  They will lose and get pummeled, but will be fun to watch nonetheless and will develop as the season goes on.  They will especially lose if they decide to deal Eric Bledsoe for draft picks like some are predicting and theorizing.  But Phoenix has a bright future ahead, no matter what direction they choose to go in.

 

Sleepers: Minnesota Timberwolves

Pretty much everyone knows The Minnesota Timberwolves have improved greatly with their acquisition of Jimmy Butler.   But the acquisition of Jimmy Butler was not the only good move of the offseason for Minnesota.  Minnesota also added veteran talent to their lineup by the likes of Jeff Teague, a solid point-guard, Jamal Crawford, a useful veteran shooter, and Taj Gibson, a solid body in the front court that adds depth to their team.  But that’s not all.  This past week, they signed Andrew Wiggins to a max extension, keeping the talented young stud in Minnesota for five more years. Their upcoming season is now filled with hype and expectations of great improvement, and I, like the others, expect great things from them.  I expect this team to make the playoffs this year with their improvement, however I see the Timberwolves doing more than that.  I believe that Jimmy Butler will have a larger impact on the team than people realize.  And in the same vein, so will Jamal Crawford.  Before these two guys got to Minnesota, the team lacked true shooting, especially from 3-pt range.  Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins were solid shooters, but LaVine is gone and Wiggins relies on driving to the hoop for scoring.  Butler and Crawford will provide firepower from beyond the arc that will help stretch the floor, which will also help a fastly improving Karl Anthony-Towns who is bound to go on a tear this year and become a top ten player.San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves

 

Top Rookie: De’Aaron Fox2017 Las Vegas Summer League - Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

Yes De’Aaron Fox.  Most people predict Lonzo Ball will be the best rookie in the entire class, but I don’t think he’ll even be the best rookie in his own conference.  Going back to last year, I was more impressed by De’Aaron’s talent as opposed to Lonzo.  Yes Lonzo is a great prospect with all the potential in the world, but I do not feel he has the explosiveness and drive to reach that next level.  Ball will probably start the season off really hot, play well on national T.V., but then trail off and plateau as the season goes on.  Lonzo has a lot of pressure being in L.A. and having LaVar as his father.  If he slips up, everyone will be on him in a heartbeat.  And not to mention a lot of players are going to be gunning to punish him and shut him down for all the hype surrounding him.  De’Aaron, meanwhile, has no pressure at all on him.  He’s in Sacramento where no one will be paying attention, his team isn’t expected to go anywhere.  He’s got all the time in the world to develop and work on his game.  De’Aaron will probably start off rough, but only get better as the season goes on.  He’ll get used to the system, he’ll get used to the physicality, and he’ll improve his shooting. De’Aaron will develop into a solid player and consistently put up solid numbers night in and night out over the course of the season.  Lonzo will make some headlines every now and then, but De’Aaron will have the consistency.

 

Top Player: Kawhi LeonardHouston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five

Golden State may have four of the best players in the West, but Kawhi Leonard will be number one.  Kawhi Leonard is one of the most well-rounded, versatile players in the league and works phenomenally in Pop’s system.  He’s a star player with his own team.  Kawhi doesn’t have to worry about other star players getting touches and shots like the Warriors, Rockets, or Thunder do.  Kawhi is able to control the game and be whatever type of player his team needs at the moment.  He can facilitate the ball and spread the floor, he can keep the ball and shoot the lights out of the place, or he can step back and shut down the opposing offense.  Kawhi is as far from one-dimensional as you can get, allowing him to have great games every night even if his shot isn’t falling.  I believe the best and most valuable player to a team is one who doesn’t have to rely on shooting to help his team win games.

 

Now, the East!

 

Winners: Cleveland Cavalierscavsnation-comderrick-rose-via-fearthes-d44be77ff8a160f0ed552574a25cf175c96f0f7a-1

Again, no surprise here.  The Cavaliers are going to be the top team in the East and there’s really no one who can stop them.  And mind you, this is even after losing a star player like Kyrie.  To be perfectly honest, I think it’s very possible that this team is even better than they were last year.  Yeah they lost Kyrie, but because of that, they gained Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn pick, which is going to be very valuable to Cleveland because they’re going to gain promising young talent while maintaining their success.  And although Isaiah is hurt right now, he’s going to be back around midway through the season with a chip larger than the sun on his shoulder.  He’s going to play his heart out and absolutely tear it up.  But until then, the Cavs are still going to be phenomenal.  LeBron will be LeBron.  Dwyane Wade will provide some solid shooting, along with JR Smith.  Kevin Love will continue to be an underrated third option, and Jae Crowder will provide solid production on the offensive end, while being very tough and intimidating on the other end.  But hhe player who I think will have the largest, under-the-radar impact on the Cavs is Derrick Rose and I believe he is more important than most realize.  If Derrick Rose is able to play solid, fearless basketball, then he will be a great asset to the Cavs.  Rose does not have to return to his MVP form, and I feel he realizes that, which takes a load of pressure off of him.  Derrick Rose seems to have adapted to becoming a role player, which will help him become more useful to a team that does not need an MVP with LeBron there.  Rose has shown intensity and explosiveness that was really lacking from his game when he was with the Knicks.  Rose seems to want to be there and make a difference and I have full confidence that he will be a great starter while Thomas is out and then become a dangerous player coming off the bench going up against the 2nd string guard of the opposing team.

 

Losers: Chicago Bullshi-res-d6c867c13dde18b3a1e6c4ce1360728c_crop_north

To understand this pick, all you need to see are images from the Bull’s media day.  They had guys in strollers, guys you’ve never seen before, and guys without last names.  The Bulls are a mess and have hardly made any improvements to their roster.  The only “gains” they really made were adding Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.  But those acquisitions will only be viewed as solid if a few certain factors come to fruition.  The success of this trade and the improvement of the team relies largely on if Zach LaVine is able to come back and perform at the level he was at prior to his torn ACL and if Kris Dunn lives up to his expectations.  Now there’s still time for both of these players to become who they were projected to be, but it won’t necessarily happen this year.  And even if it did, they wouldn’t be nearly enough to help the Bulls climb out of that dumpster fire.  Their roster is one of the weakest I’ve seen in recent memory.  Up there with the 2015-2016 Sixers.  But at least the Sixers had promise.  I find it hard to find many positives about the 2017-2018 Bulls outside of LaVine, Dunn, and their future top pick.  Hell, they even lost Mirotic due to Bobby Portis punching him in the face, which is a black-eye (pun intended) on the organization as it is, but also reflects potentially poor chemistry amongst the entire team.  If you’re a Bulls fan, there is not much for you to look forward to this year.  Also, quick reminder, GarPax essentially turned Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, and a 2nd rounder into Cameron Payne.  So as you can see, the Bulls at least have great leadership steering them in the right direction and not into an even larger dumpster fire!

 

Sleepers: Philadelphia 76ers1508268289_431c8a49cb203ab892a5d7e43a8acfa7

I almost picked Miami for this one, but decided against it at the last moment.  It honestly could go either way.  Miami showed a lot of growth last year and nearly made the playoffs with their insane run.  They’ve got players like Waiters and Whiteside that could really make a difference in a game and along with the rest of the Miami roster, have a team that could potentially play spoiler in the playoffs.  The reason I chose the Sixers over the Heat for the choice of sleeper is because I feel the Sixers’ roster as a unit has more potential to be great this season.  They’ve got young studs like Simmons and Fultz.  They’ve got great role players like Covington and Saric.  They’ve got the veteran presence in Reddick, Johnson, and Bayless.  And, they’ve got the face in Embiid.  This team has all the potential in the world to be a great team down the road, but I believe they have the ability to be effective right now.  I feel that the Sixers have the potential to play ahead of schedule much like the New York Yankees have this year.  Better outside scoring will benefit the team, making them more well-rounded.  Veteran presence will help guide and teach the younger players.  And a (hopefully) full season from Embiid will give the team a huge boost all-around.  The only problem with this team, but is also a bit of a plus is that they’re so young.  It’s good in the sense that they have great potential down the road, but it’s a problem when looking at the success of the team this year.  Since the Sixers are made up of mainly young guys, they don’t have the experience yet and still have much to learn.  Not to mention not being at their prime like the superstars of the league they’d be going up against.  They may be able to surprise people and develop ahead of schedule, they may not.  The Sixers’ entire season is made up of what-ifs, and that may prove to be the deciding factor of the Sixers’ success this season.  With their star players having histories with injuries, their seasons rest in the hands of the basketball gods.  If they all can stay healthy, then the Sixers will see great success.

 

Top Rookie: Ben Simmons

I think a lot of people have forgotten that Ben Simmons is a rookie this year.  Everyone has been so caught up with this year’s rookie class, especially with Lonzo Ball.  Why I’ve chosen Simmons over his other highly touted teammate, Markelle Fultz, is because I feel Ben Simmons is a better athlete and all-around player than Fultz.  Also, Markelle is the type of player who will need a few years to fully develop and get used to things.  Fultz is a great shooter and passer no doubt, but Simmons is simply a freak of nature.  Simmons is the size of a power forward, but has the skill set of a point guard.  He’s able to handle the ball, dish the ball, shoot the ball, and defend the ball.  It was merely two years ago, but I feel many have forgotten just how good Ben Simmons was at LSU.  He could seriously do it all.  And not only can he do it all, but he can guard them all, which I believe is a very underrated asset for a player to have in this league.  Now combine all of this with a year’s worth of NBA knowledge that Simmons has absorbed from being out for the season last year, but still being around the game.  Simmons already has a leg up on all these rookies in that regard, making him a force to be reckoned with.dixon-201061-f-wp-content-uploads-2017-10-101317_ben-simmons_1200-1200x800

 

Top Player: LeBron JamesCleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

With an East really lacking in stars, it’s no question LeBron gets this spot.  He would get it even if the likes of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were still in the Eastern Conference.  It is simply impossible to be better than LeBron.   I mean, what more is there to say about the guy that hasn’t been said before?  He can score, he can pass, he can rebound, and he can play defense.  The guy is one of the greatest of all time and his career isn’t even over yet.  And with a bit of a chip on his shoulder from losing in the finals last season and the ‘drama’ between Kyrie and the Cavs, LeBron is going to absolutely destroy anyone who stands in his way.  And look at the first game he’s already played this year.  He slashed 29/16/9.  The man had nearly a triple-double, yet after the game he said he was out of shape and wasn’t joking.  LeBron hasn’t even reached his final form and that’s how he’s playing?  God Damn…

 

Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmonsusa_today_10338309-0

Without reiterating myself too much, I chose Ben Simmons over De’Aaron Fox and the rest of the rookies because I believe Ben Simmons is the best athlete and the best talent of this rookie class.  Simmons also has a better supporting cast to help him play even better and help him win games.  I believe a Simmons playing at the level I expect him to plus his team winning will ultimately lead the voters to choose him over any other rookie.

 

MVP: LeBron James

Again do not want to repeat myself too much here, but LeBron is going to be a player that impacts his team the most this season due to what he’s playing for.  LeBron will want to show this league that a loss will not set him back, but only make him stronger.  LeBron is out to prove and remind everyone that he is the best player in the league and there is no one that can touch him.Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One

 

So there are my predictions.  Look forward to seeing how wrong I am in the end.  Here’s to a great season of basketball!

Current MLB players I Wish To See In a Revitalized Backyard Baseball

Like many people my age, I spent most of my childhood huddled around my family computer playing Backyard Baseball ‘til my eyes bled.  Swinging for the fences with baseball prodigy Pablo Sanchez, and striking out batter after batter with Tim Hudson using the fireball powerup.  With my busy schedule nowadays, being in college and all, quite often I find myself longing to go back to the days of carelessly clicking away on Backyard Baseball.  But with Backyard Baseball not being published on a true platform since 2010, my dreams have been shattered.  All I can do now is hope and dream.  And that’s exactly what I did.  I present to you my dream list of MLB stars I’d like to see in a revitalized Backyard Baseball.

 

First let’s start with the hitters…

 

Mike TroutAP APTOPIX REDS ANGELS BASEBALL S BBO USA CA

Mike Trout is basically a given in this case due to his current level of stardom.  Mike Trout is arguably the face of baseball and no Backyard Baseball reboot would be right without the Millville Meteor.  Seeing his five-tool abilities flourish in the sandlot would be quite the spectacle.  A spectacle only matched possibly by the stunning skills of a certain Pablo Sanchez.

 

Aaron Judge

Rookie Sensation Aaron Judge has torn up this league and every baseball in sight.  Launching bombs to the back walls of the stadium, to the left, to the right, and everywhere in between.  It’d certainly be a sight to see just how far kid Aaron could launch one when placed into someone’s backyard.  And with such a large stature, it’d be interesting to see how he would stack up against the rest of the kids.  A Baby Bomber is a must have when creating a game that turns back the clock.AP BREWERS YANKEES BASEBALL S BBO USA NY

 

Cody Bellinger

The other rookie star to blast his way into the league would be another player that would be a great fit for this game.  Pairing his power with his love of the game, he’d be quite the thrill to have.  Bellinger brings a flare of fun to the game that puts a smile on all our faces whether it be launching bombs over the fences or cracking jokes about the game.  The Dodger stud would be a perfect fit with the Backyard Baseball gang.dodgers-cody-bellinger-home-run-record-gary-sanchez

 

Francisco Lindorfrancisco-lindor-102616-getty-ftrjpg_4t6bwvqv7vom179yhe9imwism

I could easily explain this pick with two words: His Smile.  Who could ever resist that big grin of his?  And now picture that coming from a little version of Lindor.  I would just have to see that big grin looked like on the tiny head of a kid.  And Lindor is another player who gives his all on the field and is also able to take it easy and have fun every once in a while.  He reminds us all that baseball is a game and it meant to be enjoyed.

 

Kris Bryantkris

Another instance where I could explain myself with two words: Those Eyes.  Everyone knows Kris Bryant has some of the most beautiful eyes in the league (see also, Kevin Kiermaier), so one could only easily imagine how cute little kid Kris would look in a Backyard Baseball game then. MVP and World Series champ Kris Bryant’s bat and glove would be a great addition to any sandlot team.

 

Jean Segurar220924_1296x518_5-2

Jean Segura has been one of my favorite players over the past couple years.  I’ve loved watching him flourish and come into his own as a player after bouncing from Milwaukee, to Arizona, and now finally to Seattle.  Segura is great hitter and great player, but what makes him stand out and perfect for this game is his ability to have fun.  Whether it be his reactions, or his walk-off celebrations, Segura is always able to put a smile on my face.  And it also helps a bit that he reminds me of a kid at times.

 

Bryce Harper

Another player, like Mike Trout, that would leave this game incomplete if he were left off the list.  Bryce Harper’s fierce competitiveness and drive to be the best would be a real spectacle to see translated into little league.  Then pair that with his skill, style, and last, but certainly not least, his hair, you’ve got quite the player.  A player who would be awesome to play with out in the backyard.  Having him and Pablo Sanchez go back-to-back would be enough to make me faint.636303015750650205-2017-05-13-bryce-harper2

 

Buster Posey

Had to throw a catcher in here and Posey is the perfect candidate for this spot.  Posey’s leadership on the diamond is something every little league team needs if they’re looking to succeed against the likes of Kenny Kawaguchi and Achmed Khan.  He’s got a passion for the game that’s hardly matched by anyone and has served as one of the faces of the MLB for the past few years now.  It’d be a crime to leave him out.buster-posey-andy-hayt-getty2

 

Jose Altuve

Okay…I’ll just get this out of the way now…”He’s the size of a kid!”  Alright done with that.  Now for a bit more of an analysis of this choice, all you really need to know about Altuve to understand why he’s a perfect fit is his fun, upbeat attitude.  He’s always got a smile on his face when he’s out on the field.  Probably because he knows he can outhit and outrun practically anyone out there.  Since we’re dealing with video games here, a great comparison for Jose Altuve would be Monty Mole from Mario Super Sluggers, except with more power.  So one can only imagine how great Altuve would be out there on the field.astros-jose-altuve-stats-season

 

And Finally the Pitchers…

 

Corey Kluberkluber

This pick is more of a personal desire than any of the rest simply because I would just have to know what kid Kluber would look like.  Would he ever smile?  Would he be a robot?  Would the developer use a similar algorithm for him and Kawhi Leonard if they were to make a Backyard Basketball game?  Who knows?  Which is why it is driving me crazy that there’s no Backyard Baseball game for him to be.  I want to pitch a perfect game with kid Kluber never smiling.  Is that too much to ask???

 

Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez is another one of my favorite players of the past few years.  He’s got an air about him that is just so entertaining to me.  He’s got skill and a great personality to go with it.  His antics on the field or in the dugout, like his pyramid that he protected with his life, always bring a smile to my face.  And not to mention all the crazy colors he likes to dye his hair. Maybe it could be programmed that Martinez’s hair changes color as the game goes on.  That could be something.  Either way, he would have to be in the game, regardless of what color they make his hair.gettyimages-576527982-0

 

Sonny Graysonny-gray-6fd26c8c7cc701f0

I feel like any player with the nickname “Pickles” has to be in this game.  There’s gotta be some law about it somewhere.  Sonny Gray is one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball and always fun to watch.  He may not be as known or dominant as other pitchers in the league, but I feel that Sonny Gray fits the Backyard Baseball vibe perfectly.  Plus he still looks like a kid too. He’d fit right in amongst the best of them.

 

Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman is another player, like Gray, who fits the Backyard Baseball vibe perfectly.  He’s got the skill, the passion, and the style that would translate flawlessly.  With his whole HDMH (Height Doesn’t Measure Heart) campaign, he embodies exactly what Backyard Baseball is about.  It would be a crying shame if Marcus Stroman was left out of the game.  Just look at that hair and that smile and tell me he doesn’t deserve to be characterized.Marcus Stroman

 

So that’s my list.  And yes, this is what I do when I put off studying.

How To Survive Your Family BBQ

For many folks around the world, at some point or another this summer, you will be invited to a family BBQ.  For those especially shy ones out there, or ones who just want to coast through events like these, I have compiled a guide to help you all get through the trying time of going to a BBQ.  To make it easy for everyone at home, I have organized it hour-by-hour, to make it easier to follow.  So rest and read up!  You’ve got a big day ahead.IMG_3836

 

1:00-Well, you’ve put this off long enough.  Party started at 12 and you haven’t even left yet. Guess now’s good as time as ever to get in the car, cooler in hand, and head off to your uncle’s house.

 

1:30-Great!  You made it!  Time to awkwardly circle around the house mingling until you find someone you can talk to.

 

1:33-Uh oh!  Looks like your aunt caught you before you could make your way over to the one cousin you can stand.  Better give her some rehearsed answers.  If you don’t already have your own rehearsed answers, use the ones provided below! Remember to add your own personal flair to make them more believable.

  • Yes I did just get here
  • School was great!  My favorite class was (insert class here)
  • My friends are doing well.  One actually lives around here.  He’s from (insert town name here)
  • No I don’t know her.  I must’ve missed her when I was introducing myself to the other thousand kids at my school
  • No, I’m not playing sports.  I’m too focused on school
  • I know I have gotten taller
    • No there aren’t steroids in the food
  • No I’m not dating anyone, but thanks for reminding me!
  • No I haven’t gotten anything to eat yet.  I just got here, remember?

And then to make a quick dash out of the conversation, grab the nearest relative and bring them into the conversation.

  • No I haven’t heard about (insert name here).  That’s a tragedy.  What do you think about all this, (insert name here)

 

1:45-Whew!  Got out of that conversation.  Now time to go talk to your cous- oh no!  Your cousin’s brought their girlfriend!  Quick!  Take evasive maneuvers!

 

1:46-Shit!  They saw you.  Looks like you’re stuck with them for a while.  Oh well, he’s your favorite cousin, and his girlfriend seems nice.  Just gotta avoid thinking about how he has a girlfriend and you don’t.

 

1:47-Oops…Now you’re feeling lonely and depressed.  Better think of an activity to suggest to get your mind off of your crippling depression.  Choose from any of the options below.

  • Kan Jam
  • Cornhole
  • Debating the direction our nation should be going in
  • Horseshoes
  • Swimming
  • Tanning
  • Discuss the Syrian crisis
  • Volleyball

 

1:50-Swimming?  Good choice!  That’ll eat some time off the clock and get your mind off of things.

 

2:00-You make your way down to the dock.  Oh look!  It’s your older brother.  Uh oh, his wife is there.  Better steer clear of that!  Walk right off the dock and into the water without hesitation. That way no one can engage in a conversation with you.

 

2:45-After doing some basic swimming, more people will have joined you.  There will be about seven of you, and you all decide to play a game of Oreo.  For those who do not know what Oreo is, it is a game where one player is on one side and the other players are on the other.  The player alone on the one side says the initials to a movie and the other players have to swim over and try to guess it before the other players.  The winner then chooses the next initials.

 

3:30-Wow! That game lasted for a while!  Only ended because your dumbass cousins couldn’t come up with the movie E.N.G. after giving them three blatantly obvious clues.  I mean how could they not get it after saying that it’s a Disney cartoon, it stars a llama, and is the only cartoon to take place during the Incan civilization?!

 

3:30-Someone got a bottle cap and now you all play a game of Bibble.  For those who are unfamiliar with Bibble as well, Bibble is a game where the players stand on the dock and one player dives into the water with the bottle cap.  The first person to jump in, get the bottle cap, and yell “Bibble” wins and is the one to dive in next turn.

 

3:50-The games going well-Oh No!  Your uncle with the weird nipples has jumped in to swim!  Time to bail!  You and your cousins make a dart for your towels before your uncle can engage.

 

3:55-Dodged a bullet there.  But sadly, three did not make it.  They got stuck out there and are locked into a long discussion on how beautiful of a day it is.  Still wanting to continue the fun, you and the remaining cousins go up to the front yard to play some cornhole.  You smartly pair yourself with the cousin who pitches for varsity softball.  She’s got that good underhand motion.

 

4:45-You sweep your cousins in a 3-0 series victory and even beat some of your uncles.  Your confidence has reached its high for the day, despite your varsity softball cousin being the one to carry the team.  Either way, you decide it’s best to quit while on top.

 

4:46-Mmm.  Something smells good!

 

5:00-  Oh no!  You’ve found yourself next to your uncle at the grill!  How could you have been so foolish to follow the smell?  You try and back out, but there’s no stopping your uncle.  He’s got you locked in a conversation about sports; the most controversial topics amongst uncles.  It’s best not to give any hot takes about how good those damn “Steph Currys” and LeBron James” characters are.  Instead, you best just feed your uncle some BS about how much “better” the past generations.  Now, it is Vitally important here to mention that you think Larry Bird is the best player of all time.  Older folks love Larry Bird.  With your uncle now drooling over Larry Bird in those short shorts, you can make your move.  He’ll be too distracted to notice you dip out and into the house.

 

5:15-You’ve run into your brother.  Guess there was no avoiding this.  Just play nice and ask him how work is going, how their house is, and make sure to tell his wife that she is looking “lovely” today.  “Lovely” only.  Do not use any other terms.  Any other terms lead to too many unpredictable scenarios.  It’s best to stick with “Lovely.” You cannot get hurt with “Lovely.”

 

5:25-Somewhere along the way a rumor emerged that your cousins found some old fireworks from the Fourth of July and are planning on busting them out later tonight.  Let’s hope that rumor turns out to be false.  Otherwise you’ll be stuck here for an hour more than you had hoped.

 

5:30-Time for the best part of the day: The “free” meal.  I say free in quotation marks because the hell you have to endure on this day is hardly worth a couple of burnt hot dogs and a crusty burger.

 

6:00-You enjoy your food anyways because it’s free, monetarily speaking.  After you’ve finished, you head down to the dock to catch up with your Dad and his best friend from high school  These are probably the only two level-headed people at this party that you can actually stand talking to.  You three talk about a variety of topics as your baby cousins take a swim in the lake before you.

 

7:00-The conversation is going great.  In fact, you’re starting to really enjoy yourself.  You’re feeling relaxed for the first time all day.  Your dad is making some remarks on Donald Trump when BAM! Your drunk right-wing uncle joins you guys on the dock.  Shouldn’t have let your guard down, buddy.  You could’ve seen this coming and slipped out before he reached you three. Well it’s too late to back out now.  Drunk uncles’ vision is based on movement.  If you try and slip out,  your uncle will see you, engage in a conversation with you, call you a fairy for going to a “liberal” college, then trash your major for not helping you find a “real” job.  So instead, you sit back as you listen to your uncle make comments on Hillary Clinton and how she’s crooked, despite the fact that she does not even matter anymore.

 

7:30-Looks like you’ve made it out alive.  Your uncle has left to go get another beer.  Your dad and his friend begin to make fun of your uncle, so you decide it’s time to regroup with people your own age.  You head out to the backyard where you meet up with your cousins.  Best to stick with that pack for the rest of the night.  There in the same boat as you today, so it’s best you all stick together.

 

8:05-Welp.  Turns out the rumors true.  You see your cousins carry the boxes of fireworks out of the house and down towards the dock.  You follow behind, closely, but also from a safe distance to avoid being asked to help.  And whatever you do, DO NOT OFFER TO HELP.  If you offer to help, then you’ll be peer-pressured into going out on the boat with them and helping them light off the fireworks, and you’d like to keep all 10 fingers.

 

8:10-You and your cousins take your places on the dock to get a good view of your cousins as they venture out to the middle of the lake to fire those baby’s off.  Let’s just hope none fall and shoot towards you.  No one needs to have a PTSD episode now.

 

8:30-The fireworks start.  All the couples snuggle together to watch the “romantic” display.  While you sit there twiddling your thumbs waiting for the grand finale.

 

9:00-The finale starts, (which is just a perfectly random stream of explosions) signalling the end of the day.  Thank god that’s over.  You find your aunt, thank her for having you over, say goodbye to your family, and make a break for your car.  Luckily you get there before anyone else and are able to peel out without having to say another awkward goodbye.

 

Congrats!  You made it through the day!  Can’t wait to do it all over again at Christmas!  Only this time instead of burgers and beer, it’s ham and eggnog!