In case you were out getting the oil change you need every 30,000 miles followed by a stern lecture from your mechanic about decimal places, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
In a stunning start to the Stanley Cup final, the Chicago Blackhawks turned around a two-goal third-period deficit before Andrew Shaw scored on a deflection 12 minutes into a third overtime, as the Blackhawks took Game 1 at home, 4-3, over the Boston Bruins. "Dude, did you see that game?" asked your work friend Kevin, whom you blew off when he told you to meet him at Coyle's Pub to watch the game yesterday. "Oh my god, incredible." You nodded silently as you tried to keep walking past his cubicle as he said in a slightly too loud voice, "That was what playoff hockey is all about. Crawford, man, those stops! And a lot of questions for Boston going forward, especially if they're down Horton for any length of — you didn't see it did you? I can tell by the dead stare in your eyes. Best game of the year and you didn't even know what channel it was on, did you? Admit it. Admit you didn't know it was on. Don't give me that 'I need my coffee before we rap about hockey' bullshit. You missed the game, and it was awesome, and you betrayed me." After a long awkward moment passed, Kevin laughed and said, "Nah man, it's all right. Just Game 1. But you'll be at Coyle's for Game 2, yeah? Gotta come to Coyle's man. Gotta."
Former New Jersey Nets superstar Jason Kidd has been named the head coach of the now Brooklyn Nets, as they attempt to improve after a disappointing playoff campaign. Kidd is the best point guard to become a head coach since Isiah Thomas took over the New York Knicks head coaching job while also serving as president of basketball operations. Before Thomas came Magic Johnson's brief stint in charge of the Lakers in 1994. When asked about his reaction to the news, current top point guard Chris Paul said, "I'm excited to see how Kidd makes the transition from an idol to a cautionary tale I'll really be able to relate to in about 10 years."
And we are BACK, with your all-purpose* guide to the weekend in MLB action.
*Single-purpose, really. It's super limited in function. You can only read it.
10. no. 2 UNC vs. no. 3 Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. and Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN3)
Whoa! Super controversial start! Who is this guy? He must think way outside the box to be including a college baseball game in a post specifically dedicated to MLB. What a challenging artistic choice! I imagine people will have split reactions, but it'll definitely get them talking!
OK, this is here because college baseball gets zero attention, and this is a great series. UNC is 46-7 and UVA is 44-8. Both teams have gaudy statistics; the lowest batting average among UNC's top nine hitters is .278, while the Cavs aren't far behind. But the real attraction here is Carolina's pitching staff, which boasts a 2.50 ERA. Benton Moss and Hobbs Johnson are the starters for the weekend, and we could see both in the bigs someday soon. Anyway, if you're ever going to watch a college baseball game before the College World Series, this is a good start. And I swear, the fact that I'll be at one or both games has nothing to do with why I included it here. (Lies.)
Twitter has got fantasy questions, we've got answers. Hot starts, cold starts, bullpens in flux, trade scenarios, a top 10 that'll start 30,000 fights, and much more, all covered in this edition of the Roster Doctor.
Stick with Wade Davis and Jon Niese? Or ditch ’em for likes of Vance Worley, Ryan Vogelsong, Joe Blanton?
What the hell do I do with Jarrod Parker (10-team mixed league)?
The answer to these two questions is none of the above. In standard mixed leagues, there's no reason to stick with any these guys. Parker might've had a nice year in 2012, Vogelsong might've had a couple of good years, and Niese might've come into 2013 as a trendy sleeper. But these are all pitchers you should stream, and nothing more. Even in 14- or 16-team mixed leagues, I'd feel no obligation to own Parker, for instance. Sure he's been marginally better in his past three starts than he was at the beginning of the year. But even if Parker bounces back, you'd have a shot at comparable production by slotting the right Scott Feldman types into the right matchups on a weekly basis. It's more work to study schedules every weekend, scan the waiver wire, and find the perfect plug-and-plays. But fantasy baseball isn't an idle pursuit based almost entirely on luck the way, say, fantasy football is. You want to win your league? Gotta work for it.
A couple weeks ago, I posted a starting lineup of the most entertaining players in baseball, and Jonah Keri objected to my including only one pitcher, Yu Darvish. Of course, you can have only one pitcher in a starting lineup at a time. That’s how baseball works. But because I crave Jonah’s approval as if he were an aloof and uninterested father figure, I put together what would be the most entertaining pitching staff in baseball: Yu Darvish, plus …
Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Please, Hernandez’s elbow, don’t blow up. Just please don’t blow up. I’m a sucker for a good sinker. Back in the day, one of my favorite things about baseball was that, once a week, it gave me the opportunity to watch Brandon Webb dive-bomb hitters for seven or eight innings. After the tragic passing of Roy Halladay, King Felix might now be the archetypal no. 1 starter — an enormous dude with a strong fastball, great command, and a long and distinguished list of off-speed and breaking pitches. Not only does the archetypal no. 1 starter have to throw good innings, he has to throw lots of them, consistently. It’s hard to just go out there and carpet-bomb hitters start after start for 220 innings a year. At the moment, it might be down to Hernandez and the next guy.
Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers
I’ve been writing about baseball for five seasons now. Whenever preseason prediction time comes around, I pick Justin Verlander to win the Cy Young every time. I have literally never picked another pitcher. I almost didn’t add him because his brilliance is really perfunctory at this point. On Sunday, Verlander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and I even didn’t turn the game on because it seems like he does that twice a month. “Oh, did Verlander just throw eight innings, strike out 10, walk one, and give up four hits and one earned run? Fascinating. Let me do the Aubrey Plaza eye roll.”
In case you were out avoiding any Coachella spoilers before the second weekend of the music festival, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
The NFL schedule was released on Thursday, and wow, WOW, wow, what a schedule it is! Not only will every team currently in the NFL play 16 games, but each of these teams will have a strategically placed bye added to their schedule. Additionally, some teams will be playing one or more games on non-Sunday days such as Mondays and Thursdays. Interestingly, no games this year are scheduled for Tuesdays. Marquee matchups include games between last year's division winners, last year's Super Bowl participants, teams that have quarterbacks people have heard of, and members of the NFC East. Early analysis suggests that the NFL schedule favors those teams that play mostly inferior teams, with the caveat that those favored teams might themselves prove inferior in the future. More NFL schedule–related analysis later in About Last Night, including a prediction you're not going to believe!
Eric Chavez got revenge on his former teammates with a three-run double to key the Arizona Diamondbacks' 12-inning 6-2 win over the New York Yankees. The Yankees also got more bad news on the injury front, as shortstop Derek Jeter has been ruled out until the All-Star break with complications related to his injured ankle. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said after the game, "Tonight's loss was tough, as was the news on Derek, but we'll persevere." Cashman then kept repeating the word persevere, as he stripped down to his underwear before asking the gathered media, "Does anyone have that Swedish House Mafia song on their phone? Cause I could really go for getting weird right now." Cashman then had assistant general manager Jean Afterman flick the lights in the room on and off while he danced arrhythmically before collapsing in a heap of tears.
Justin Verlander and Buster Posey both signed gigantic contract extensions, underscoring a growing trend in baseball: the death of free agency.
Already signed through 2014, Verlander's extension with the Tigers will last five years and pay him $140 million. At $28 million a year, Verlander becomes the third pitcher to break the record for highest average annual contract value in the past four months, eclipsing Zack Greinke ($24.5 million) and Felix Hernandez ($25 million). The deal also includes a vesting option for the 2020 season, which could bump Verlander's earnings over the next eight years to $202 million.
Meanwhile, Posey just inked the second-largest deal ever given to a catcher, which is wild, given he doesn't even have three years of service time under his belt. The Giants will pay Posey $167 million over the next nine years, trailing only Joe Mauer's $184 million pact among catchers and nearly doubling the third-largest catcher deal, the $91 million contract the Mets gave Mike Piazza in the late '90s.
Verlander wouldn't have hit the open market until after the 2014 season, Posey until after 2016. But you can now scratch two more names off future shopping lists, as free agency continues its march toward irrelevance.
Hernandez would've made $39.5 million over the final two years of his existing contract, effectively making the new deal a five-year, $135.5 million extension. It's a huge gamble for a Mariners team that now figures to pay one pitcher about 30 percent of its total payroll this season. It's also a huge win for Mariners fans tired of seeing superstars leave for greener pastures.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Pablo Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda, became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a World Series game, and the Giants roughed up Justin Verlander to take Game 1 8-3. Tigers manager Jim Leyland was upset at his ace. "We told Justin that even though he may look soft and cuddly — especially when he's curled up around a bamboo shoot — he's a very dangerous creature when approached," Leyland said. "He didn't listen. There have been over 15 incidents of Kung Fu Panda home run violence this year alone, and most of them could have been avoided with a little pitcher caution."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Justin Verlander tossed a complete-game shutout, striking out 11 and allowing four hits as the Tigers beat the A's 6-0 in Game 5 to advance to the ALCS. After the game, the low-budget A's could be heard marveling at the "pitcher from the big city." "He stood round 'bouts seven-foot high!" hollered Coco Crisp. "Threw damn near 200 miles an hour!" hooted Stephen Drew. "Man's arm jest about touched yer cap when he reached out and throwed," howled Brandon Moss. "Most men take just a speck ah chaw up on that picher's hill," yelped general manager Billy Beane, "but damned if ole Verlander warn't holdin' an entire tobacky stalk and swallerin' it jes like a baby carrot!"
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Russell Wilson's last-second Hail Mary pass fell into the arms of well, it fell into the arms of M.D. Jennings, who plays for the Packers, but the replacement refs awarded Golden Tate a touchdown, upheld it on review, and the Seahawks won 14-12. Luckily, About Last Night was able to obtain a transcript of a post-game phone call between head referee Wayne Elliott and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Here are the most compelling matchups, stories, and personalities in Major League Baseball for the coming weekend.
10. Strasburg's Last Start in Washington (Friday, WAS-MIA)
It's easy to sit here, from a neutral vantage point, and say the Nationals are doing the right thing by pulling the plug on Strasburg before the playoffs. And they are, I think. Why risk an injury to a franchise player for the uncertain hope of winning a championship? If they truly believe that exceeding the innings limit would damage him in the long term, then yeah, they can't take the risk. Smart move, Nats. But now imagine being a Nationals fan. Your team is guaranteed its first winning season in franchise history, you'll almost definitely make the playoffs, and your management is telling you that the ace (OK, co-ace) of the staff can't pitch. He's not hurt, he's not old, and he's not struggling. This is the guy who is annihilating the rest of the league in strikeout rate (11.23/9, and the runner-up is teammate Gio Gonzalez, with 9.5/9), is a legitimate top-five Cy Young contender, and seems to keep getting better as the season goes along. And now he can't pitch with a World Series on the line? That's brutal, and I understand if emotion gets the best of Nationals fans and they start to think: Wait a minute ... why isn't this worth the risk? The club is damned if they do, damned if they don't. But I can't help but put myself in the fans' shoes, in Game 3 of the Divisional Series, when Edwin Jackson is pitching and Strasburg is on the bench, a designated cheerleader.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Quarterback Logan Thomas led no. 16 Virginia Tech back from the brink of defeat with two key drives as the Hokies beat Georgia Tech 17-14 in overtime. Unfortunately, the celebrations on the Blacksburg campus got a little out of hand late Monday night when Virginia Tech students began throwing upholstered hay bales out their dorm windows.
Here are the most compelling matchups, stories, and personalities in Major League Baseball for the coming weekend.
Fair warning: This is going to be an overwhelming weekend. The start of college football and U.S. Open tennis join baseball in a sort of sports cornucopia. And next weekend will be even more intense, when NFL football joins the fray. Throw in the end of summer's miserable heat, and this is easily the best time of year.
10. The Red Menace (CIN-HOU)
The Cincinnati Reds are tied for the best record in baseball (OK, fine, they're percentage points behind the Nationals), and may be the most anonymous great team in recent memory. The fact is, I'm not sure the world was ready for this kind of greatness coming out of Cincinnati. There may have been a time when the Reds' success seemed like a fluke, but those days are long gone, and with 30 games left in the season, they are as good as playoff-bound. But what do we actually know about them? This might say more about me than the Reds, but when I gave myself a quiz about the Reds roster, well ... I'm not even going to tell you the results. Suffice it to say, I'm embarrassed. Especially when you study up and realize exactly how great they are. Just ask Jonah Keri, who, believe me, can name way more Reds than I can. They even seem collapse-proof at this point, with lots of remaining games against teams like the Cubs, Astros, and Phillies. Time to pay attention, America.
Coming into Monday, David Price was the leading contender for the American League Cy Young Award. His 2.28 ERA led the major leagues among qualified starters, and he'd given up just two runs over 30 innings in August. His strikeout rate was just south of nine per nine innings, above other hopefuls like Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, and Jered Weaver, and just below Justin Verlander. He had 16 wins, the most in the league, and for better or worse, wins matter. He'd also spearheaded Tampa's August surge up the AL East leader board, another circumstantial fact that wouldn't hurt his candidacy.