All posts by michaelbrianwalker

Currently: math/economics teacher at Ramsey High School, commissioner of both a fantasy baseball league and a fantasy football league Past: Graduate of Midland Park High School Class of 2000 and Colgate University Class of 2004, pricing/yield analyst at AvisBudget from 2004 through 2007, member of MPHS baseball and cross-country teams Fan of: Mets, Devils, Giants Achievements: Named "World's Slowest Eater" by everyone who knows me, played on the 2003-4 Colgate intramural-championship ice-hockey team, two-time IceHouse Adult League Champion, have twice been hit by deer while driving, coached the league-tourney-champion 2008-9 Ramsey Rams JV ice-hockey team (universally regarded by me as the greatest JV hockey team of all time), once ran 6 miles listening to nothing but Lonely Island's "Jack Sparrow" on repeat, picked Gonzaga 10 times to win the championship (yes, I was that guy before it was fashionable to be that guy), stayed for all 17 innings of a 2000 Newark Bears/Somerset Patriots game (and caught my only career foul ball at a pro game during the 16th inning), and have not eaten breakfast regularly since 1996

Ranking All 32 NFL QB Situations

The New York Jets are terrible, epically terrible.  In fact, they are one of the worst teams in NFL history.  After 8 games, the team has a point differential of -144 (average of -18 per game).  As a basis of comparison, the second-worst point differential belongs to Dallas, whose point differential is -81.  That said, as awful as the Jets are, their franchise is not in a terrible position right now. 

You might say I am crazy, but hear me out on this one.  The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and the “experts” seem to agree that Clemson’s quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a generational, “can’t miss” NFL talent.  With the success that first- and second-year quarterbacks have enjoyed in the NFL in recent years, it is fair to assume that Trevor Lawrence should make his NFL team legitimate playoff contenders by Year 2, if not Year 1.  Additionally, it is a huge advantage for an NFL team to have a great quarterback on a rookie contract, as the team can save plenty of cap room for other positions.  (Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes are great examples of QBs who allowed their teams to make hay while said QBs were on rookie contracts.)  Thus, Trevor Lawrence figures to give his NFL 4 or 5 seasons of an incredible competitive advantage while he is on his rookie deal……and what team is looking like a sure bet to win that competitive advantage?  The New York Jets.

The Jets are 0-8, and we are down to three 1-win teams – the Jaguars, Texans, and Giants.  Next week, the Jaguars and Texans play against each other, which means that (barring a tie, which would actually be of even greater benefit to the Jets) one of those teams will earn a second win.  Is it possible that the Jags/Texans loser goes winless the rest of the way?  I would say it is possible with Jacksonville; however, Houston has enough talent to make it to 4 or 5 wins.  As for the Giants, I expect them to beat Washington and win at least one other game.  Then again, all of this discussion is probably moot.  Are the Jets, of the -18-per-game point differential, going to win ANY game this year?  Doubtful.  Their last 8 games are against the Patriots (twice), Dolphins, Chargers, Raiders, Browns, Rams, and Seahawks.  Given that all of those teams are NFL teams, the Jets are not winning any more games.  Thus, it looks like the Jets getting the gift of Trevor Lawrence.

College Football's Great Defender Has Covid-19 | The Nation

This begs a question.  Where does the Jets’ quarterback situation of the present and future rank among those of all NFL teams?  For example, if you were the Detroit Lions, would you trade your current QB situation of Matt Stafford and his contract for Sam Darnold and the highly likely prospect of having Trevor Lawrence next year.  Absolutely.  What if you were the Vikings with Kirk Cousins?  Um, yes please. 

Anyway, I have ranked all 32 NFL quarterback situations and determined that the Jets have the 10th-best scenario.  Not bad for a winless team!  Don’t worry; I am going to unveil my rankings, but let me first provide some disclaimers.  If a team is ranked higher than another team, I imply that more NFL teams would choose to take the higher-ranked option than the lower-ranked option.  Of course, teams’ rosters, records, salary-caps, and coaching situations can cause teams to rank differently from each other.  For example, I have the Bucs’ quarterback situation ranked as 7th, but I also know that the Jets (10th) and Jaguars (27th) are not talented enough right now to want to swap their situations for a 43-year-old Tom Brady.  That said, most teams below 7th would swap their QB situations with the Bucs’, while it is a safe bet that the six teams above the Bucs’ would not. 

One other disclaimer: In the rankings, I consider backup quarterbacks only where relevant.  If there is a situation with any type of QB controversy (like the Bears), an injury-prone QB (like with the Niners and Jimmy G), or a changing of the guard (like the Jets going from Darnold to Lawrence) I consider backup QBs in my discussion.  However, you will read plenty of cases where I do not discuss the backups.  That said, it is a given that, if any of the top-flight QBs get hurt, it will be very bad for the team….but that does not factor into my discussion with non-injury-prone guys.

Now, without further ado, the rankings!

1)      Kansas City Chiefs: You can’t go wrong with Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson, but tie goes to Mahomes because he is locked up for 10 years and is in Year 4 of his career.  Mahomes likely makes the Chiefs Super Bowl contenders for at least the next 10 years.  Plus, I consider Mahomes the best quarterback right now and Wilson the second-best right now, although the gap between the two is incredibly slim.  I cannot argue if someone would rather have Russell than Patrick.

2)      Seattle Seahawks: Of course, Wilson makes the Seahawks Super Bowl contenders for possibly the next 10 years too and at least the next 5.

3)      Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is ever-so slightly below Mahomes and Wilson when I consider current QB quality.  After a good but not great 2019 season (and yes I know Green Bay went 13-3), Rodgers stock dropped ever-so slightly for me.  However, for much of this year, he has resembled the guy who was scrambling and throwing Hail Mary TDs in 2015.  Green Bay is a legit Super Bowl contender this year, and he should keep the Packers in contention for another two or three years.  However, if Rodgers starts to “lose it” due to injury or simply Father Time, the Pack is grooming Jordan Love to be his replacement. 

4)      Arizona Cardinals: Yeah, Kyler Murray is really good, and Arizona could legitimately win the Super Bowl this year.  The guy is in Year 2, so the Cards have not yet had to tie up too much cap space in this guy.  In the modern NFL, the dominant QBs (other than Tom Brady) are fantastic runners and passers.  I know that Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP, but I trust Kyler Murray more than Jackson right now when it comes to completing a big-time pass.  That said…

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray cracks PFF's mid-year top 25 under 25

5)      Baltimore Ravens: …Jackson still makes the Ravens Super Bowl contenders, and most NFL teams would love to give up their QB situation to have him.

6)      Houston Texans: This is probably the first controversial entry on the list, in that great QBs should not lead teams to 1-6 records.  If you look at the top 9 guys on this list, most of them guarantee their teams at least 10 wins in healthy seasons.  At the same time, I have seen Watson lead the Texans to division titles in his first two full seasons as the starter.  The guy is the requisite rushing/passing threat, and I am going to chalk the 1-6 start up to the combination of a) Bill O’Brien’s coaching, b) Bill O’Brien trading away one of the best WRs in football, and c) a tough schedule to this point.  I expect the Texans to end up at 7-9 or such this year and to bounce back to have playoff seasons over the next several years, even though Watson has signed his big second contract.

7)      Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I have said probably 50 times over the past five years, “Brady is done”, and every time he proves me wrong.  The Bucs are legit Super Bowl contenders and might be the most complete team in the NFC.  I would rather have one of the Top-6 situations because the guys are mobile and will be around much longer, but Tom Brady is playing well enough to have a chance for his 7th Lombardi Trophy.

8)      Pittsburgh Steelers: We are in the middle of the “Last Kick at the Can for a Future Hall-of-Famer” section here.  When it comes to Brady, Big Ben, and Drew Brees; I rank the three guys in that very order in terms of how good I think they are now.  None of them will take their teams deep into the 2020s, but all can win titles this year.  Speaking of which…

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger's return means balanced attack?

9)      New Orleans Saints: Brees is an all-time great, but I feel like there are more moments where I think “Brees looks old” than where I think the analogous for Brady or Big Ben.

10)   New York Jets: Everyone higher on this list allows for the statement, “We are legit Super Bowl contenders because we have our current QB.”  Of course, a team can win a Super Bowl with a QB listed below, but there is much less certainty.  Thus, I will sign up for the Lawrence hype combined with the fact that I should get a few years of quality play before I have to break the bank.

11)   Cincinnati Bengals: I am using the same logic as with the Jets, except I have actually seen Joe Burrow play in the NFL, and the guy is excellent.  The Bengals are a work in progress, but, if they improve their defense, I can see Burrow leading them to the 2021 AFC North crown.

12)   Tennessee Titans: Over the past year, Ryan Tannehill has been one of the best quarterbacks in football.  I know that Derrick Henry did most of the offensive work in last year’s playoffs, but Ryan Tannehill has beaten Patrick Mahomes and other quality NFL teams.  Tannehill is not on the level of those first nine guys, with whom any team using said QB automatically becomes a Super Bowl contender….but the Titans can definitely win a title with Tannehill.

13)   San Francisco 49ers: We are now at the part of the rankings that are a bit of a cluster-you-know-what.  I feel like people would have much more disagreement about these next 14 teams than they would have about the earlier entries on this list.  Anyway, I like Jimmy G.  He was one overthrown pass in the Super Bowl away from having a Lombardi Trophy (as a starter).  When he has been healthy, he has looked good much more often than not.  He is too injury-prone, but Nick Mullens is one of the best backups in the league.  I know that he looked better against the Jets and Giants than he has against other teams, but, if you have a backup QB who looks dominant against any NFL teams, you will take it.

14)   Philadelphia Eagles: I…don’t…care what you think about Carson Wentz as long as it’s about him being an enigma.  (Yes, I like Fall Out Boy very much.)  His win over the Giants on TNF was proof of this.  He looked confused for much of the game and made a few wonderful throws with the game on the line to give Philly the win.  Anyway, the guy was a 2017 MVP candidate while leading the Eagles to the top seed before getting hurt and watching Nick Foles lead the Eagles to the championship.  I am fine taking my chances with a guy who has led a team to the #1 seed three years ago.

15)   New England Patriots: I am not ready to give up on Cam Newton yet.  He was a Top-10 QB for most of the 2010s and was a Top-5 QB part of the time.  I have a hunch that the Pats will go on a run in the second half of the season as Belichick and Newton start to jell.  However, if I am wrong, the Pats can cut bait with Newton and can draft a QB with their high draft pick.

What is the Patriots' future at quarterback? Look no further than Cam Newton  - Pats Pulpit

16)   Dallas Cowboys: As a Giants fan, I am not supposed to praise Dak Prescott, but I really think the guy is a great QB.  I have seen him make too many great throws, and, if it weren’t for some late Aaron Rodgers magic, we would remember Dak for a great playoff comeback against Green Bay four years ago.  Anyway, had Dak not been hurt, I would have put Dallas in Jets territory (around #10).  I should note though that I was wrong in predicting that Andy Dalton would be an excellent backup, and now Dallas has lost him to injury too.

17)   Denver Broncos: I really like Drew Lock.  I wanted the Giants to draft him and not Daniel Jones, but oh well.  Lock looked great in limited action last year.  He had disappointed this year but looked great in leading the Broncos back this Sunday against the Chargers.

18)   Los Angeles Chargers: I like Lock slightly more than Justin Herbert, but you could make a case either way, especially with Herbert being in his rookie year.

19)   Miami Dolphins: I cannot judge Tua on one game, but, if he is what he is cracked up to be, the Dolphins will be set at QB for a while.  Plus, if Tua gets hurt, Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown this year that he can still win games.

20)   Atlanta Falcons: Poor Matt Ryan.  How many times have we seen that sad look on his face as the Falcons fall apart at the end?  Anyway, we all saw him make a pass to Julio Jones that looked like a Super Bowl clincher.  It turned out to be for naught.  That said, Ryan was the 2016 MVP and still puts up strong numbers.  I think he could make another Super Bowl run before his career ends.

21)   Carolina Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater has looked rejuvenated this year, and he is great comeback story.  Carolina’s defense is terrible, but I can see Bridgewater and Carolina rising to the top of the NFC South over the next few years as the other QBs in the division age.

22)   Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff is what he is at this point.  He is good enough to reach a Super Bowl with a strong supporting cast, and all four of his teams under Sean McVay have been playoff or near-playoff teams (assuming this to be the case this year).  He is not going to make a ton of highlight-reel plays nor be an MVP candidate, but you can do worse than him.

23)   Las Vegas Raiders: Derek Carr doesn’t excite me.  Yes, he was great in the Raiders’ upset win in KC, but he is what he is at this point.  I can’t visualize him leading a team deep into the playoffs.

24)   Buffalo Bills: I just can’t get myself excited about Josh Allen either.  Yes, he makes big plays, but it’s Year 3, and he makes way too many head-scratching mistakes for my liking.

25)   Detroit Lions: Last year at midseason, I thought Matthew Stafford had a chance to lead the Lions on a deep playoff run and make a play for MVP.  Then, Stafford suffered a season-ending injury.  This year, Stafford is back to his normal self.  The Lions play many exciting games, but you know the team will end up annually with somewhere between 6-8 wins.  It is looking more and more like Stafford will finish his career with zero playoff wins.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford on track to return against the Vikings

26)   Cleveland Browns: Browns’ QB were terrible for so long that Baker Mayfield’s mediocre play sometimes fools people into thinking he is a great QB.  He isn’t. 

27)   Jacksonville Jaguars: Gardner Minshew II has been a nice story the past two years, but the Jags seem primed to finish with the #2 pick, with which they will likely pick their QB of the future.  The jury is out on how strong a QB that will be, but we know he will be a big step down from Trevor Lawrence; which is why I list the Jags so far below the Jets.

28)   New York Giants: I want to talk myself into Daniel Jones.  However, there are so many guys higher on this list who look(ed) so much better than Jones in their first and second seasons.  Everyone knows that Jones needs to decrease his number of turnovers, but the question is whether or not he can do it.

29)   Indianapolis Colts: I thought the Colts would finish 3-13 this season.  Watching the Chargers last year, I thought Philip Rivers was done.  He has proven me wrong, and he has the Colts at 5-2.  That said, I do think that Rivers is at the end of the line, and I expect the Colts to come back to Earth as their schedule toughens (includes Titans (twice), Ravens, Steelers, and Packers).

30)   Chicago Bears: When the Eagles won the Super Bowl, I was big on the “Nick Foles dominated for the 2013 Eagles.  This year’s performance is no fluke” train.  That said, the Nick Foles of Jacksonville and Chicago is an average quarterback.  Was the 2017-18 Philly Foles an average QB who found some good luck, or was he a great QB then?  I don’t know, but that doesn’t matter now.  The Bears are a solid team with two OK QBs (including Mitch Trubisky) and thus in no position to draft a better QB.

31)   Washington Football Team: I thought Washington might not win a game this year, but the Football Teamers have already won twice.  Ron Rivera might get them up to 3 or 4 wins, which hurts their chances of drafting a franchise QB.  Kyle Allen is a fine backup QB, but that is all he is.

32)   Minnesota Vikings: Ugh, Kirk Cousins.  The first all-guaranteed contract in NFL history, and Cousins has trouble breaking 100 passing yards per game.  The Vikings have so much money locked up in this guy but are also too good to be in the position to draft a solid replacement.

And there you have it!  I hope that you enjoyed my rankings!

MLB Rule changes: what stays & what goes?

The 2020 Major League Baseball season has been like no other – 60 games, no fans in the seats, 16 teams in the playoffs, and several other rule changes.  Though the bulk of these rule changes are temporary, the powers that be could ultimately decide to keep some of these rules for future seasons.  As a result, I would like to share my views of which rules I would like to keep and which I would like to toss.  I am going to list these in order from “most strongly want to keep” to “most strongly want to toss”.  Thus, without further ado, here are my thoughts.

MLB makes it official: The three-batter minimum rule is here
Picture via Yahoo! Sports
  1. If a reliever enters a game mid-inning, he must pitch to at least three batters or the end of the half-inning – DEFINITELY KEEP

OK, I know that MLB actually introduced this rule pre-Covid, but, since it officially debuted on the field in 2020, I am addressing it anyway.  Simply put, I love this rule.  I am a baseball purist, and most purists hate this rule.  However, the purist in me believes that starting pitchers should pitch until they are no longer effective, and relievers should do the same.  I do not love that the game has evolved to a point in which the standard is for teams to use six relievers per game.  Thus, I believe that anything that can trim that number is a good thing.  Plus, I think that relief pitchers are the biggest reason why games are longer than they were in previous generations.  Pitching changes lengthen games, and relievers tend to pitch at a slower pace than starters.  After all, starters want to find a rhythm, which is hard to accomplish at a slow pace (unless you are Steve Trachsel); whereas relievers pitch to so few batters that deliberation outweighs any need to find rhythm.  The 2020 “three-batter rule” does not address this second issue, but at least it does address the first in allowing for fewer pitching change.  I like this rule, even if it means an angry mob of situational lefties will be knocking down my door.  Sorry, Jerry Blevins.

Continue reading MLB Rule changes: what stays & what goes?

My Top-10 Sports Jingles of All Time

I love many TV jingles for sports. These are the instrumental pieces that open broadcasts and take us into commercials. To me, a good jingle can make an average game feel good and can make a good game feel great. Additionally, there is a symbiotic relationship between sporting events and their jingles. The more great moments with which I associate a jingle, the greater the jingle seems to me. I love jingles, and I have even been known to download some to put on my running playlists. There is great motivational power in a great jingle. Therefore, I have decided I would like to create a countdown of my 10 favorite sports jingles of all time.

Continue reading My Top-10 Sports Jingles of All Time

Has Any NFL Team Had a String of Three Playoff Losses as Devastating as the Saints’?

Two weeks ago, as most sports fans did, I watched the NFL Draft. Because I was so starved for sports, I actually watched much of Rounds 4 through 7, which I never do. I was desperate for sports. Anyway, at one point in the draft, some of the analysts referenced the New Orleans Saints’ three-consecutive devastating playoff losses. Yes, those losses must have been rough for Saints fans. To put this in perspective, this year’s Saints were legitimate Super Bowl contenders and lost a #3-#6 playoff matchup in overtime to the Minnesota Vikings….and that was probably the least painful loss of the Saints’ three consecutive playoff losses. That tells you something. Of course, when you can name a loss with something as simple as “Missed Passed Interference” or “Robey-Coleman” or something as momentous as “Minnesota Miracle”, you know the loss is bad. This year’s loss was merely “an overtime playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings”, which does not have quite the ring of the others.

You like dat? Vikings stun Saints 26-20 in OT | Brainerd Dispatch

Continue reading Has Any NFL Team Had a String of Three Playoff Losses as Devastating as the Saints’?

Billy/Brad, I Have Your New “Moneyball” Idea Right Here

On Wednesday night, Jacob deGrom pitched seven dominant shutout innings, striking out 14 Marlins, en route to a Mets victory.  When it was time for Mets manager Mickey Callaway to reach into the bullpen in the Bottom of the 8th Inning, New York held a 6-0 lead.  The first reliever on whom Callaway called was journeyman southpaw Luis Avilan.

Continue reading Billy/Brad, I Have Your New “Moneyball” Idea Right Here

Odell Beckham Jr.: The Second-Most Terrific New York Athlete Ever to Be Traded

Before I address the title of this article, please allow me a bit of preamble.

You might have seen the OBJ trade coming, but I did not.  Yes, there were trade rumors about Beckham at various times over the past two years, but, during this offseason, there was no considerable buzz about such a trade being a legitimate possibility.  Therefore, my brain is still processing the trade.  Do I like this trade or not?  I honestly do not know.

Continue reading Odell Beckham Jr.: The Second-Most Terrific New York Athlete Ever to Be Traded

I Could Not Care Less About February Baseball Injuries

I could not care less about February baseball injuries.  (Side note: I cannot stand when people say “I could care less” when they mean “I could not care less”.)  Allow me to repeat myself.  I could not care less about February baseball injuries.

I make this point because it is apparently a huge story that Mets’ infielder Jed Lowrie is heading for an MRI for soreness in the back of his knee.  Notice that today’s date is February 24.  The Mets’ first regular-season game takes place on March 28.  Thus, we are five weeks from the start of the regular season.  Do I care that Jed Lowrie might miss a few weeks of Spring Training?  Of course not.  As I have discussed in the past, I could not care less about preseason games in any sport.  My main goal for any preseason is to have all of my team’s players be healthy when the regular season starts.

Continue reading I Could Not Care Less About February Baseball Injuries

Coming to Grips with the Rams’ Win over the Saints

There is no worse feeling for the collective of sports fans than the feeling that the wrong team has advanced in the playoffs.  I don’t mean “wrong team” in the “Jaguars over Steelers last year” sense.  Sure, most of us were hoping for a Steelers/Pats AFC Championship game, featuring the two teams most of us thought to be the best in the AFC; but we were happy for the Jaguars for pulling off the upset fair and square.  No, when I say “wrong team”, I mean it in the sense that the wrong team has advanced as a result of something completely beyond the control of the teams in the game.

Unfortunately, this was the case with the Rams/Saints NFC Championship Game.  It is extremely rare for all sports fans to agree on an officiating call, but that is just what happened with Los Angeles and New Orleans.  Everyone knows that the officials should have called either pass interference or unnecessary roughness on Nickell Robey-Coleman, but the officiating crew somehow rendered no penalty.  Meanwhile, a penalty call would have given the Saints a 98% win probability.  In that case, the Saints would have been able to bleed the clock down to 23 seconds or so before giving Will Lutz the chance to kick a game-winning and tie-breaking 21-yard chip-shot field goal.

Of course, the officials missed the penalty call, so the aforementioned scenario did not occur.  The Rams are now heading to the Super Bowl.  As a result, I spent the first several days of last week trying not to think about the Super Bowl.  Just as I have tried to avoid football after devastating Giants playoff losses, I did the same for a few days here because of the Rams/Saints game.  Never in my life have I seen an official’s call so drastically affect a playoff result, and this happened to send essentially the wrong team to the Super Bowl.  Sitcoms and dramas are scripted.  Reality shows are REALLY scripted.  However, sports are not supposed to be scripted at all.  Sports serve as a meritocracy where each team must earn all of its success.  I did not feel that the Rams had earned its trip to the Super Bowl.

Image result for rams super bowl 2019

Fortunately though, as last week wore on, I started coming to grips with having the Rams in the Super Bowl.  I know you might be thinking, “Jesus, it’s just a game, Focker.”  However, if I actually had that type of attitude toward sports; chances are I would not spend hundreds of hours per year watching people I have never met compete against each other on the field.  I certainly would not spend multiple hours per week writing blog entries.  Therefore, I did truly need to come to grips with the Rams being in the Super Bowl, and I was somewhat successful.  My consolation has come from this simple fact: After the missed call, the Rams STILL had to do a whole lot to win the game.

We are all correct when we cite the “98% win probability” number as reason why this missed call should not be treated equally with the multitude of other missed calls in NFL games.  However, many people act like the missed call handed the Rams the win.  That is not the case.  With the non-call, the Saints’ win probability fell to 78%.  After the non-call, my thought was “Let’s hope the Saints hold on to win anyway, so that this call does not matter”, not “Oh my God, the refs just took the Saints’ win and gave it to the Rams!”

After the missed call and Will Lutz’s subsequent go-ahead field goal, the Rams still needed all of the following to happen:

  • Jared Goff needed to lead a last-minute drive into field-goal range in one of the toughest road venues in sports
  • Greg Zeurlein needed to kick a game-tying 48-yard field goal
  • The Rams needed to win the overtime coin toss, since we all know that, if a team has a Hall of Fame quarterback (like Drew Brees), that team will score a TD on the opening possession of OT.
  • Oops, the Rams lost the toss but forced that Hall of Fame QB to throw an interception.
  • The Rams needed to drive to at least the Saints’ 33-yard line so to minimize the risk of a missed FG giving the Saints great field position.
  • Oops, the Rams stalled, and Sean McVay showed enormous spheres by letting Zeurlein kick a 57-yard FG (as I implored McVay to punt), which was good by several yards.

 

I should also note that, if the officials had made the correct call on the disputed play, the Rams would have likely ended up with the ball at their own 25-yard line with 20 seconds to play.  They would have needed to gain 35 yards to set Zeurlein up for a 57-yard game-tying field goal, which he clearly could have made.  Could the Rams have gained those necessary 35 yards on consecutive sideline passes before letting Zeurlein tie the game?  It is not likely, but it is also not impossible.

Image result for nfc championship 2019
Image via The SoBros Network

Anyway, whether that last scenario works for you or not, the fact remains that the refs did not hand the Rams a win.  The refs merely upgraded the Rams’ chances from “long shot” to “unlikely”.  Kudos to the Rams for taking advantage of a slight opportunity.

Lastly, I should note that one could consider the missed penalty call a lucky moment for the Rams.  Whether we like to admit it or not, many of these nail-biting games come down to luck.  No, luck does not always involve a missed penalty call, but luck could be a bounce of a fumble, a made or missed FG, or a lucky catch.  Just look at the Chiefs/Pats game.  Dee Ford being offsides had nothing to do with what should have been a game-sealing Chiefs interception, but the penalty gave the Pats a second life.  Because of a guy lining up a few inches offsides, a different team is now heading to the Super Bowl.  It happens.  Actually, speaking of the Pats, look at the first Giants/Pats Super Bowl, and look at the Patriots/Seahawks Super Bowl.  In both games, the Patriots were victimized in the last minute by incredible catches with elements of luck (David Tyree’s Helmet Catch: combination of skill and luck, Jermaine Kearse having the ball fall in his lap: mainly luck).  In the former case, Eli Manning used Tyree’s catch and several other clutch throws to give the Giants the win over the Pats; in the latter, Malcolm Butler’s interception kept Kearse’s catch from leading the Patriots to defeat.  Of course, for another modern example of luck, we know that the Eagles beat the Bears this postseason by a fraction of an inch on a “double-doink”.

Over the years, we have had many, many NFL teams win playoff games by the slimmest of margins, and those games are always the most bitter of pills for the losers to swallow. Unfortunately for the Saints, they have been eliminated in consecutive seasons by those slim margins in as devastating fashions as possible.  The Saints are not the first deserving-to-be-there team in history to watch the Super Bowl from home, and they will not be the last.  They are not even the only current team feeling that way, as the Chiefs are in the same boat.

The closer the game, the more likely it is that a bad bounce or bad call will greatly swing the result.  Sports can be cruel.  In this case though, the Saints still had a 78% chance of winning after the bad call.  How much does this assuage my initial negative reaction to the game?  I do not know.  If the refs had made the right call, we are probably watching the Saints on Sunday, February 3.  However, I keep telling myself that the Rams did what they had to do to win the game.  I think I have come to grips with the Rams’ victory, and I hope you have too.

Mariano Rivera and the Rest of My Fictional 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Loyal BTB readers, I know that you have a burning question.  “Have the BTB editors been given official Hall of Fame ballots for 2019?”  Somehow, the answer to this question is “No”.  I would like to think that my ballot was lost in the mail.  I did move in August, so maybe the Hall of Fame has not been able to track me down at my new address.  Nevertheless, you readers all deserve to see my 2019 fictional ballot.

Last year, I wrote a post explaining how I view the “steroid guys”.  As a result, you probably know that I am voting again this year for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Manny Ramirez.  Last year, I also wrote a post detailing the rest of my Hall of Fame vote .  Because I do not believe in dropping people off my ballot from one year to the next, you know that I am also voting this year for Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina – all of whom were on my fictional 2018 ballot and are eligible for election this year as well.  Thus, you already know eight of the ten people for whom I am voting this year.

Fortunately, the voters did much good last year in electing Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Larry Wayne Jones to the Hall.  You know that I did not agree with Trevor Hoffman receiving the nod, but, given that he had earned 74% of the vote (75% is needed for election) two years ago, I knew that it was a foregone conclusion that “Hell’s Bells” would ring in Cooperstown in 2018.

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Image via Sports Illustrated

Last year, I lamented the fact that, because all of the “steroid” guys have been clogging up the ballot for so long, there have been many years in which more than 10 deserving players have appeared on the general ballot.  Given that voters may vote for no more than 10 players per year, voters have been forced to leave off people for whom they would actually like to vote.  In that vein; last year, I wanted to put 12 people on my ballot, so I had to keep two of them off the list.  Thus, I decided to leave Curt Schilling’s and Jim Thome’s boxes unchecked.  My logic with Thome was that; while he is a definite Hall of Famer; 1) I did not feel that he needed to be a first-ballot HOFer, and 2) Since it was his first year on the ballot, I would have many more opportunities to vote for him.  (To the contrary, I did vote for first-year Larry Wayne, as I felt he was a true first-ballot guy.)  As for Schilling, I simply felt that he was the least qualified of the non-first-ballot guys.

As a result of the Jones, Guerrero, and Thome elections; we traveled through 2018 with 9 remaining guys on the ballot whom I have thought deserve to enter the Hall.  Therefore, if 2019 were to have brought no more than one deserving candidate, my logjam would have disappeared.  Unfortunately, I missed this mark by one.

The 2019 ballot has brought us two people – Mariano Rivera and the late Roy Halladay – whom I consider clear Hall of Famers.  In last year’s anti-Hoffman explanation, I did note that Rivera is the only modern closer for whom I would ever vote.  Had Rivera had a ho-hum postseason career; I would not have voted for him, but his postseason career is legendary.  The guy had 42 postseason saves, many of which were of more than one inning (141 innings pitched in 96 appearances), and an 0.70 postseason ERA.  I repeat, “an 0.70 postseason ERA”….over 141 innings…..in the postseason.  You know, against the best teams in baseball on the biggest stages.  141 innings equates to 2/3 of a regular-season load for a reliable starting pitcher.  Can you imagine a starting pitcher posting an 0.70 ERA up through the trade deadline?  Think of how excited we were about Jacob deGrom’s 1.6 – 1.8 ERA at various times last year.  Rivera’s numbers are incredible.

Additionally, do these three names ring a bell?  “Sandy Alomar”, “Luis Gonzalez”, and “Roberts Steal”?  They represent three of Rivera’s four blown postseason saves, and they are so well-known because it was such a rarity for Mo to blow postseason saves.  (Note: Mo’s fourth postseason blown save was in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, where he entered with 1st and 3rd and nobody out and allowed only the inherited runner on third to score.  As I mentioned in my “Jeurys Familia” article, why this blown save is given to Rivera and not the guy who put the runner on base is beyond me.)  Additionally, Luis Gonzalez handed Rivera his only postseason loss.  Therefore, among all the times Rivera entered tie games, he did not lose any for the Yankees.  (Note: the Yanks did ultimately lose the other three games in which Rivera blew saves, but the Yanks lost each of those games after the book was closed on Rivera.)

For the Yankees’ run of dominance from 1995 through 2012, there was no psychological edge in baseball greater than the Yankees knowing they had Mariano for the 9th and maybe 8th innings of postseason games (actually Mo was working the 8th innings in 1995 and 1996, but this is not the best time to be bringing up the guy who was working those 9th innings).  The Hall of Fame is about more than just numbers.  It is about dominance, especially on the big stage; and it is also a home of legends.  Mariano Rivera fits those criteria to a “T”.

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Image via CBS Sports

Anyway, with Mo earning the 9th spot on my ballot, I find myself in a tough position for the final vote.  Do I check Curt Schilling’s name or Roy Halladay’s?  For that answer, I will use the same logic I used last year.  While Roy Halladay is a Hall of Famer to me, he does not need to be a first-ballot guy.  Therefore, I am going to vote for Schilling, whose ballot days are closer to expiration.  I explained Schilling’s candidacy last year, and I will save my Halladay explanation for next year, when I can hopefully make room for him on my ballot.

Additionally, this year’s ballot has four other new guys whom I do not consider definite “No”s: Todd Helton (More than likely a future “yes” for me), Andy Pettitte (Likely a “no” as per my “Tier III” steroid rules), Lance Berkman (Leaning toward “no” but need to examine more closely), and Roy Oswalt (Almost certainly “no” but also need to examine more closely).  Similarly, there are two viable holdovers from previous ballots whom I have never truly considered due to lack of available spots.  Because I did not previously vote for these guys, I likely still will not, but I do not want to rule out these two individuals, Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones.  I will go into deeper analyses on these players next year, when hopefully I am writing about my REAL ballot!

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Image via Talking Chop

Lastly, as a Yankees hater, it is fun for me to see Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, and Vernon Wells as first-timers on this year’s ballot.  First-timers on this year’s ballot are guys who last played in 2013, and would you look at who employed all three of those guys when they realized it was time to hang up their spikes?  The New York Yankees.  Too bad Lyle Overbay wasn’t even good enough to make it on the ballot.

That said, a much more prominent member of the 2013 Yankees did make it onto this year’s ballot, and he was the last player to wear #42 outside of April 15.  Mariano Rivera absolutely needs to be inducted into the Hall, and let’s hope that the voters elect several other guys on my list so that I can clear up this year’s logjam and avoid any in the future.