Max Scherzer’s deal looks crazy – is it?

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At the beginning of November, if you looked any Nats fan in the eye and told them with a straight face that Max Scherzer was going to sign a 7-year deal worth $210 million with the Nationals, they would’ve laughed at you. They would’ve laughed so hard, that they cried. They would’ve told you to break the news while you were flying to the moon on your unicorn.

While nobody has flown to the moon on a unicorn, the Max Scherzer deal shocked the world. Not only was it from a team nobody expected, but the deal’s value went beyond expectations.

The Nationals now have an ace – a Cy Young Award winner – a 20 game winner for the next seven years. They have a pitcher with playoff experience, a pitcher that is tested and proven. They also have a pitcher who they owe $210 million.  The deal goes against almost everything Mike Rizzo stands for and everything the Nationals have done in the offseason since 2010. And yet, it still happened.

The 14-year plan

Scott Boras, Scherzer’s agent, does not leave money on the table. Ever. But Scherzer’s deal had an interesting little caveat, deferring half of the deal, meaning the Nationals are holding off on $105 million dollars for the next seven years and are instead paying the righty $15 million a year for the next fourteen years. The money never went back onto the table – its just a slower process.

This frees up $105 million dollars for the Nationals. $105 million dollars could extend Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond or Doug Fister, the three hot-button issues for the Nats this offseason. Also, with $105 million off the payroll, every executive can breath a little easier when they sign other free agents.

But what about the kids?

While the deal does free up space to extend one of the three players on contract years that will command more than $100 million, it’s assumed that one pitcher will be leaving. Unfortunately, one of those pitchers will be Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister or maybe even Stephen Strasburg, all vital pieces to the ball club. But the time to freak out is most certainly not now.

Jordan Zimmermann and/or Doug Fister and/or Stephen Strasburg won’t be on the Nationals come 2016, which is fine for multiple reasons. It gives the Nationals first round draft picks, a commodity they haven’t enjoyed since 2012. Even so, extensions shouldn’t be a huge issue considering that the Nationals have two of the best pitching prospects in the minors in Lucas Giolito (ranked as the 8th overall prospect in the league by MLB.com) and A.J. Cole, who are expected to be in the Majors by 2017 and 2016 respectively.

But, Giolito and Cole may not be ready by 2016 or 2017. So, who’ll help fill the void? That’s where Scherzer comes in – he would take over the lost spot. The Nats are deep enough to still have an outstanding rotation, even without Strasburg, Fister or Zimmermann.

The question has been thrown around all offseason – “Mike Rizzo has built a winner, but can he maintain it?” $210 million and seven years for Max Scherzer may look like the craziest thing the Nats have ever done and the opposite of trying to maintain a winner. But in reality, it might just end up being the smartest.

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A Silent Killer on the D.L.

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No Nationals fan even blinks an eye when it’s mentioned a player has gone to the D.L. this year. After seeing names like Harper, Zimmerman, Gonzalez and Span fall out for fifteen days or more, it’s just not a surprise. However, this latest trip to the D.L. by a player, despite his lack of star-power, may be more important than Harper or Zimmerman. Continue reading

Don’t Press The Panic Button on Doug Fister

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From the get-go, it didn’t look all too great last night. Even with a half full O.Co colliseum, a low stakes game and a huge ballpark, Doug Fister just did not have it last night. He gave up three home runs and took the loss for the Nats. But don’t, repeat, don’t, press the panic button just yet.

Even though the Nationals’ 4th starter has been traditionally bad these past two years, Fister should be different. One bad game happened for a couple of reasons.

The biggest reason is that it was basically his Opening Day, he was amped, and didn’t have his A stuff, since he was focused on things too mentally. Basic plays like the throw to first in the first inning would get done during the rest of the year – it’s quite literally jitters.

This is also an Oakland team that has studied Detroit and their pitchers for the past two years, as they’ve played each other in two ALDS series since 2012. Doug, being traded from the Tigers, had seen them many times. This team was not unfamiliar with him from those experiences, or just seeing him as a Mariner or Tiger.

Another large reason here is the injury. The arm and all looked fine last night – but he hasn’t faced real batters all year. He missed the end of Spring Training, which is actually crucial for pitchers to see batters that are going to be in the big leagues and actually trying. The last team he faced was a AA team.

So, please. History repeats itself, but it’s highly unlikely it will in this case of Doug Fister.

2014 MLB Preview: AL

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A field worker prepares for day one of many. (GETTY)

A field worker prepares for day one of many to follow. (GETTY)

The time of year is once again upon us. The trees are budding, the weather is getting nicer, and ballparks are once again being filled with tens of thousands of fans, eager to see their home team for the first time since the fall, all believing that their chances are promising, no matter how abysmal the team was the last year or how terrible it looks on paper. Spring is a time of hope, but also a time to look forward – to the countless home runs, the stars, the fights, the miracles, the comebacks and the surprise teams.

And at the beginning of every year, I attempt to guess what team will do what, who will win where, and how it will happen. I never get it right. In fact, the team predicted to finish last in their division by many actually took home a World Series trophy. So don’t blame me for getting it wrong. But there’s no point in not trying. So today, I will give you your

2014 AL PREVIEW:

AL WEST

Can the Angels finally make the playoffs?

Can the Angels finally make the playoffs?

For the first time in a very long time, the

 Rangers are not a threat. Not like they were in 2010, 2011 and 2012, when they were dominant throughout the season, with the exception of the September of 2012. So for the first time in a while, it’s really an open slot. The A’s seem very promising, with young Sonny Gray and Yoenis Cespedes, so they should get their three-peat. The Astros, while they have a promising future, do not have a promising today. The first real young talent shouldn’t start to flourish until 2015, although some predict we’ll see Correa and Appel by August or September, depending on injuries and how they do in the Minors. The Mariners made the biggest splash of the offseason, signing Cano to a megadeal. However, their lack of bullpen, rotation and really everywhere-else depth should come back to bite them. Which leaves one sleeper team. The Angels had gone through two years of making big free agent purchases and then not even coming close to winning their division, let alone even a playoff spot. For the first time since those years though, everybody is healthy. Mike Trout is now in season three of an already legendary career. But the question is: Can the Angels can pull it out this year? I’m pretty torn on this. The chances of them getting a wild card spot are about fifty-fifty. But even though I can’t see the Rangers finishing second, the AL East and Central are just too strong for the Angels.

PROJECTED RECORDS: (x indicates division champions, y indicates playoff berth)

W  L

xOakland:  94-68

L.A.           87-75

Texas       84-78

Seattle     79-83

Houston   72-90

AL CENTRAL:

Verlander is looking for another dominant year.

Verlander is looking for another dominant year.

Without a doubt, this is a three team division. Cleveland is one of those three. Cleveland finished hot last year, and even though they did lose the one-game wild card, they showed a lot of promise. With Kipnis finally breaking out, and the squad really meshing together, it looks to be another promising year for Cleveland, unless the Royals can pull something off. However, the one team that will beat them in their own division this year is Detroit. Detroit, while losing 1B Prince Fielder, Starting Pitcher Doug Fister and SS Jose Iglesias until July, has proven they can win. With the one-two punch of Verlander-Scherzer, then more depth in the rotation, the pitching isn’t a worry, except for the bullpen. The lineup includes back-to-back MVP Miguel Cabrera, who has gone back to his native first base after a hysterical stint at third, 2B Ian Kinsler, a nice speedy guy with some pop and V-Mart at catcher, arguably still the best switch hitter in the game. Expect to see another division championship from them. The Royals are a legit threat now, but the question remains if they can jump past the Indians, and any other team in Wild-Card contention. While they are projected to have a great season with Hosmer and Infante dominating, they are just too far down the totem pole to really have a chance, unless the Indians or a couple other wild-card possibilities fall out of it, but expect them to fight until the end. However, the future is very bright, with one of baseball’s best farm systems – next year could be very big, or if anyone speeds through, there may be some new hope. The White Sox, while signing Abreu, didn’t do much of anything else this offseason, which will bite them. A weak farm system doesn’t give them much hope for the future – don’t expect much of anything from these guys this year. The Twins, while boasting the best farm system in the game, can’t boast about anything else. But with Brian Buxton and Miguel Sano both rising very quickly through the minors, happy times may come soon for fans of the Twinkies.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

xDetroit  91-71

yCleveland  88-74

Kansas City  86-76

Minnesota  73-89

Chicago  71-91

AL EAST 

If all goes to plan, the Rays should be doing this in September.

If all goes to plan, the Rays should be doing this in September.

If there was ever a doubt in your mind, I’d like to place this in there. This is the toughest division in all of baseball. Not the NL Central, not the AL West – this is it, right here. The reigning champions are a good place to start. The Red Sox only lost one major piece of the 2013 World Series puzzle, Jacoby Elisbury, who will be easily replaced by Jackie Bradley Jr. The rest of the team is still there, so the only remaining question is if they can keep the momentum from 2013 going, and keep the clubhouse meshed like it was. Watch out for Xander Bogarts to have a breakout season. The Rays are always a threat. They have great talent all around the diamond, and should be expected to fight it out, and probably win the division. I can’t say much more, because I honestly don’t know all that much about the Rays. The Orioles are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2013. While they did lose Reynolds and McClouth, and Machado may be out for a while, expect them to contend. The pitching is the only thing I can see falling apart, but with some great prospects, that’s going to be pretty hard to mess up. The Yankees brought in three big names, McCann, Tanaka and Beltran. Two of the three are very proven. However, the pitching staff and lack of offense elsewhere, unless Jeter figures things out, could be pretty hard to fix. But expect them to contend. The only non-contending team is the Blue Jays, who took everything from the Marlins, and somehow made it even worse. The combination obviously doesn’t work with Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson and the others. It’s time for the Jays to get some prospects and admit it’s time for a fresh start.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

xTampa Bay  93-69

yBoston  91-71

Baltimore  88-74

New York   85-71

Toronto  69-93

PLAYOFFS:

Wild Card Game: CLEVELAND over Boston

ALDS: OAKLAND over Cleveland, TAMPA over Detroit

ALCS: OAKLAND over Tampa

Stay tuned for the NL later in the week!

A-Rod’s ban needs to be the final warning

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If you can find a baseball fan who actually likes A-Rod, revoke their fan membership card for me. Otherwise, you should be celebrating like me.

Today, MLB announced that A-Rod will be suspended for 1 whole season, and if by a long shot, the Yankees make the playoffs, the playoffs too.

Now, it’s time for the rest of the league to understand. While, for the most part, steroids are not as big of a problem as they used to be, there still have been some violators, and these are big names, like Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and of course, A-Rod.

MLB has been amping up the punishments, and even though they’ve been giving them out, they need to amp it up more. No more appealing. A-Rod knows he cheated. The world knows he cheated. He needs to take the punishment. But this needs to serve as a message to the players of the MLB – fans have stopped forgiving players for the use of P.E.D.S. And now, the odds of being caught are a lot higher than they were before.

Steroids nearly ruined this league. And if the players truly love the game like they always say, they’ll get that it’s no longer acceptable.

 

Why Bill Belichick is Coach of the Year

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Since the theme as of lately has seemed to be 2001, let’s have another flashback to then. That was the year the Patriots won their first Super Bowl with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm of the ship. Thirteen years later, the dynasty has remained.

But how have they remained at the top for so long if they have been around for so long? New tends to eventually wipe out the old in sports, and in life. However, this hasn’t happened yet. For the past two years, people have said that the reason the Pats were succeeding so late in time was because of Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and Aaron Hernandez.

This offseason, Welker signed with the Broncos, Hernandez was arrested on murder charges, Vince Wilfork was injured early on, Shane Vereen played half the season, and Gronkowski played for 7 games with an injury, then promptly tore his ACL. This, was the end, surely, right? But no. It worked, and New England got the two seed this year.

So, how then? To fully understand, you have to go back to Bill Walsh’s creation of the West Coast offense, which was a system in which you can put anybody anywhere, and as long as they understood what to do, it consistently worked. And even though that’s been around since the eighties, nobody except Bill Walsh has truly used it any better.

But that’s a hard task for a coach. It really is. So to do what he does, even with the system, with what he has – a quarterback and an offensive line – he deserves that award more than anybody does.

The (Not-so) big three

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Flashback to July 8, 2010. A small boys and girls club hosted one of the most controversial TV specials of all time, the second LeBron said “I’m taking my talents to South Beach and joining the Miami Heat”. That led to a Vegas-Caliber unveiling of Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all on the same team. Predictions, (Not one, not two) magazine covers, interviews, fanfare, merchandise, and much more were created and embraced.

Flash forward to June 12, 2011. The Dallas Mavericks took an NBA Finals right in front of all of Miami to see. Bust? It was looking like 2012 was the year instead. The big 3 would prevail, as always.

Flash forward to December 25th, 2011. The NBA was back. Lockout shortened, but back. But this time, it wasn’t around the Heat. It was lob city, New York and other teams sharing the spotlight, and sometimes stealing it from the big three. They were fine, and expected huge seasons from everyone.

Flash forward to June 21, 2012. Turns out, they didn’t need a big three. They just needed a big one, as LeBron led them to a title. But this title didn’t feel too real. The season was a good two months short, and it didn’t seem like domination in the regular season. Some people wouldn’t accept Miami’s championship until they one won in a full season with some domination.

Skip forward exactly one year to today, and we can say this season was dominated by the Miami Heat. Owned by them. But it wasn’t a big three effort. It was LeBron and co. Bosh had a mediocre-at-best season, and Wade was very on and off. Mike Miller and “Birdman” stepped up, along with Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers showing more of an on court presence.

So now, it’s all over. The next NBA game isn’t until October. Which gives us some time to ponder a couple things. First things first, as I said before, this was not a big three performance. It was LeBron and Co. LeBron led the entire team in points, steals, rebounds and assists. His 596 points in the playoffs were second to none anywhere. Bosh performed mediocre, and his point average is steadily decreasing. Wade is seeming older and more injury prone by the day.

This finals has lead people to believe the Heat are the next dynasty. However, I don’t believe that. Why? Because a team simply cannot revolve around a single player. Unless the big three play like they did when they were hired to become the big three, it simply doesn’t work that way. LeBron can’t hold this team up forever, and a huge reason they won was because the supporting cast all stepped up big time. The big three are not being big enough right now for the Heat to become something Jordan-like.

Many people are asking if this team can be compared to the Bulls of the Jordan era. I don’t know if it can. While this team is performing, so much question surrounds them. Will LeBron stay? Will D-Wade retire? Will Bosh step up again? Will Ray Allen leave? Was Miller just a fluke? Is there too much centered around James? Can Birdman play better in the regular season? Is Chalmers good enough? I can think of many more. This team was so dominant this season, but it just doesn’t seem comparable yet. 2 titles. While that’s good, they’re still under the Spurs. LeBron isn’t Jordan yet. He very well can be. But there are simply too many questions around this team.

This team was a guarantee in 2011. They are no longer like that. The only player who is playing like their contract is paying them is LeBron. It’s no longer a matter of dominance. Now, it’s a matter of keeping them at the same level. If somebody slips, that affects everything.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Heat will be sighted in the playoffs many years following this one. LeBron could pass Jordan, but he needs help. Celebrate now Miami about your title. But if you don’t get the people you paid to be big to play like it, watch out. Because I can see Oklahoma City in the horizon.