Highlights of “Life Without Sports”, my Social Distancing Journal

Below, I have shared some of the highlights of “Life Without Sports”, my journal of the 75 days I spent in social distancing without any sports to look forward to. This spanned from Friday, March 13, the first sports-less day, to Tuesday, May 26, when the NHL announced its plan for return and many people tried to return to some sense of normality after Memorial Day weekend. You can also check out my Return to Sports series, in which I discuss major sports leagues’ transition and plans for return.

Friday, March 13

Day 1 Without Sports

It was Friday the 13th, and that fact was fitting.  On this day, the world was cursed by the coronavirus.  Schools closed for weeks at a time.  People, including my family, were afraid to leave the house out of worry of infecting others unknowingly or becoming infected.  There were lots of questions, and many different answers.  It was hard to know who to trust because nobody knew the real answer to the questions people had.  With social distancing in full effect for my family, I passed time by instead of watching games like baseball, football, basketball, and hockey, like I usually do, taking on my family in games like Monopoly and Scrabble.  Usually, I have a very busy life between school, maintaining this website, and other extracurricular activities.  But I found myself searching for things to do this first day.  I wasn’t enjoying the lack of sports, but I was glad people were taking this seriously, as the virus can spread really fast without our knowledge.

Tuesday, March 17

Day 5 Without Sports

I woke up, and it was all over.  The Patriots dynasty was over.  On this St. Patrick’s Day, Tom Brady had announced his departure from the Patriots. Sports stations continued to ramble on about where Brady would go, but later that day, it was reported that Tom Brady would become a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.  Meanwhile, as Brady and other QBs signed, Bill Belichick just sat pretty.  He let Brady leave, and he let go of the opportunity to sign a good replacement.  I trusted in Bill Belichick for all these years, but the truth is that he has been very stubborn with players’ contracts, refusing to maintain relationships with or resign expensive players and instead trying to find hidden gems in free agency or the draft.  Sometimes this works out well, but other times, it doesn’t.  Brady did a good job leading the team, allowing other players and the whole team to succeed.  Belichick’s coaching did help get him to where he is today, but Belichick refused to pay Brady like the superstar he is.  For that reason, he left.  I’ve grown up in the Brady-Belichick era, and as the two of them split, I’m still a Pats fan, but I will always be a Tom Brady fan.  He had every right to leave, and I don’t think he wanted money simply to get richer.  I think he wanted the money he felt he deserved as a top player in the league.  He wanted to be making as much as most other starting QBs.  It was good to have some sports news, but it was a sad day for Boston sports fans.  

Saturday, March 28

Day 16 Without Sports

I woke up to my dad playing on a Monopoly app on my iPad.  We ended up playing with my cousins, but the “house rules” we usually use in Monopoly weren’t working right the first game, and without money bonuses like Free Parking and $400 for landing on GO, everyone ran out of money fairly quickly.  We found a way to add the house rules and played two more games with my other cousin Michael.  Michael was my cousin from my dad’s side of the family, and back during the blizzard of ‘78, my dad played a ton of Monopoly with Michael’s mom (my dad’s sister), Stacey.  They would face off the next day, bringing back memories, but after 3 games, we all wanted a break.  A bad trade my brother had made in our final game had ruined my game, ruined his game and allowed my dad to win as usual.

Monday, April 6

Day 25 Without Sports

I had set up a new routine for myself, including when I would get work done, when I would work on blog articles, and more.  On the first day of online school, it went well.  I attended four online classes on Zoom and got the chance to catch up with some school friends.  Even though I couldn’t see my friends, I didn’t mind the online school because I do most of my assignments on a computer anyways. On Day 1, I did my work fairly quickly, went on a walk since it was a 60 degree day, and relaxed.  

Wednesday, April 8

Day 27 Without Sports

It was my half birthday today, a very special half birthday.  I had turned 16.5.  I thought maybe I’d get the chance to drive on this day (although I haven’t had the chance to start driver’s ed yet).  I never would’ve thought I would spend my half birthday in quarantine, but it was worth it to avoid becoming a carrier of this deadly virus.  With New York approaching its peak and Massachusetts looking like it was next, I was hopeful that a decline would come in another several weeks and we’d be able to return to normal life.  

Friday, April 10

Day 29 Without Sports

It was Good Friday, so we would’ve had a day off from school normally.  For Algonquin, every Friday of online school was simply a day to catch up on work.  All of my work that was left to do was due Monday, not that night.  So I decided to just relax and save my work for the weekend.  I needed to take days off sometimes, especially since April Break was canceled.  

Wednesday, April 15

Day 34 Without Sports

It was the anniversary of another crisis, the Boston Marathon bombings.  It was the last time Boston went into lockdown.  We were Boston Strong back then, and we need to be Boston Strong now.  Andrew Cuomo has even used a similar phrase for New York, “New York Tough”, during this crisis.  I got my work done a little earlier today as well, but I was distracted by Jay Glazer’s hint at big football news that night at 11.  What could it be?  There were rumors of Gronk’s return.  There were rumors of another Odell Beckham Jr. trade.  But I wouldn’t know for sure until later that night.  It turned out the big news was just another coronavirus update, though Gronk would unretire later. 

Thursday, April 23

Day 42 Without Sports

Sports seasons were still on pause in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but after 6 weeks sports fans finally had a live event to watch: the 2020 NFL Draft.  The draft would be conducted virtually, as one of the most important parts of the NFL’s virtual 2020 off-season that despite modifications has been 100% on schedule so far.  I got my work done fairly quickly so I could watch the draft after.  But I was distracted by draft rumors throughout the day.  I live tweeted during round one, providing my grades for each pick.  In the meantime, I created a draft group chat with two of my friends who are also huge NFL fans.  The draft was fairly unsurprising on night one, but it was about to get crazy.  I didn’t understand why the Patriots traded down, but looking back at the player they wanted, I’m glad they did.

Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3

Days 51 and 52 Without Sports

On Saturday, I ended up taking the day to relax with my parents and we discovered two Amazon Prime shows, Catastrophe and Red Oaks.  We started Catastrophe Saturday night.  Sunday, we visited my grandparents (with social distancing of course) to pick up some groceries they got us and catch up in person.  We all stood in their yard, keeping our distance while we chatted with them.  It was hard for my grandpa, who has hearing problems, but he was happy to see our faces.  Plus, it was my brother Ryan’s first time outside in 52 days, and the perfect weather for it.  Once we got home and cleaned off, we got into Red Oaks, which was even more addictive than Catastrophe and hard to stop watching.  The show is about a country club and the community around it.  The main characters are all college-age and work there for summer jobs.  

Monday, May 18

Day 67 Without Sports

Massachusetts had begun to reopen.  Essential businesses were back today, and in a week public parks and some other places would be back open.  It was a nice sliver of hope during a tough time.  I was hopeful Boston sports were up next, and I was hoping I’d be able to see some of my friends soon.  As usual for Mondays, I took a while to get my work done.  Plus, “Mock Draft Monday” had become a regular occurrence for fantasy football fans, and I joined another live mock draft today before my work was done.  

Tuesday, May 19

Day 68 Without Sports

I took a while to get started off the bat today, but got my work done in time to play Monopoly with a family friend, Mark Goldfinger per the usual on Tuesdays. While I did my work, my parents returned my mom’s car (the lease had expired).  We would use my dad’s until he had to go back to work.  Today, for the first time in our Tuesday games, I won.  I started off with just one small Monopoly, but knocked out my brother and my dad to grab hold of more Monopolies.  After the game, we had tacos for dinner and continued another Amazon show we had found, Upload.

Tuesday, May 26

Day 75 Without Sports

I had a busy week of school ahead, which I wasn’t happy about.  But I got my work done quickly, and when I finished, I realized that Life Without Sports was about to come to an end.  No, a major sports league was not returning the next day.  But the NHL had announced they’d be dropping the official schedule for their 24-team playoffs, which had been approved by league owners and the NHLPA.  With this, I wouldn’t have sports back, but a return would be in sight.  Plus, until hockey did actually return, I had found ways to incorporate sports into a sports-less world, and I had found other things to distract me from their absence.  I had learned to live life without sports, but did I miss them?  Definitely.  Would life be better with sports back?  No doubt about it.  Did I still want to work in sports?  Absolutely.

MIAA Tennis Finals: My Cousins Help Weston win D3 Boys & Girls

Due to bad weather taking place throughout most of the week, all of the MIAA’s Tennis Finals were moved to today.  The girls played at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, and the boys played about a mile away at Shrewsbury High School.

12 teams across 3 divisions played in the finals, but only two schools had both a boys team and a girls team in the finals.  Those schools?  Algonquin, my high school, and Weston, my cousins’ high school.

Algonquin, a division 1 school, lost both finals.  The boys team lost to Brookline 5 matches to 0.  The girls team, led by freshman Olivia Almy among others, came into these finals undefeated but fell to Acton-Boxborough 4-1.

Weston, on the other hand, is in Division 3.  They became the only high school in the state where both the boys team and the girls team won their respective divisions.  Both my cousins played on these teams.

My cousin, freshman Lola Philipkosky and the Weston girls played first, taking on Lee High School, who traveled all the way from the Berkshires.  In high school team tennis, 3 singles matches and 2 doubles matches are played.  Twins Kayla and Jayme Leschly won Weston two of the singles matches before the 2nd set of Lola’s doubles match even began.  Lola and her partner Livvy Lathrop had won the first set 6-2.  Starting the 2nd set, Lola and Livvy knew if they could win their match over Lee freshmen Caroline Maloney and Rachel Wendling, Weston would clinch the MIAA Championship.

Livvy and Lola worked well together and won several short points with powerful deep returns.  Their return game helped them break service games in both sets.  The senior-freshman 1st doubles pair also served very well and held most of their service games which helped them win both sets 6-2, 6-2 and clinch the championship for Weston.

Lola Philipkosky serving

I spoke with Lola and Livvy shortly after their match:

Lee won the final singles match and the final doubles match, but it didn’t matter after Lola and Livvy had won to give Weston the 3 wins they needed to be crowned MIAA champions.

Shortly before the Weston girls were given their MIAA trophy, my cousin, sophomore Michael Philipkosky, and the Weston boys took on Hopedale in the MIAA finals for the second straight year.  Last year, Michael did not get the opportunity to play in the finals.  This year, however, he worked his way up and ended up playing 3rd singles for Weston in the state finals.  All 5 matches were dominated by Weston, not losing a set.  Michael’s match was the 2nd to finish.  Michael watched the final three finish soon after and went to celebrate with his teammates.  Check out some highlights of their celebration as well as my interview with him after he received his medal:

It was a big day for the Weston Wildcats, as both teams and both my cousins became MIAA tennis champions.

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Boston Marathon 2019: Runner Spotlight – Michael Palmer and the Snow Angel Challenge

Yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day.  As you may know if you have read this blog before, I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.  Doctors said I may never speak.  But almost 14 years later, not only am I talking, I am a budding sports journalist who has written this blog for 5 years.

In honor of Autism Awareness Day, the Boston Herald asked me to tell my story for today’s paper!  I met Joe Sciacca, the editor-in-chief of the Boston Herald at a Red Sox game in 2015.  Since that day, I have gained multiple exciting sportscasting experiences from the Herald, including guest co-hosting a Boston Herald Radio show.

Now, I also serve as a Flutie Fellow for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism so I’d like to share a story about a Dougie’s Team Boston Marathon runner named Michael Palmer.  Leading up to the marathon, he started something inspirational within the autism community.  Below is my video about Michael alongside what I said in the video:

For Michael Palmer, running the Boston Marathon to raise funds for the Doug Flutie, Jr Foundation for Autism has personal meaning. Michael has Aspergers. He wants to spread the message that people on the autism spectrum are not alone in their daily struggles to connect with others.

Michael literally spread his wings in creating a “snow angel challenge” as part of his marathon efforts. Michael put out the challenge for people to overcome their fears and barriers and support people like him who overcome challenges daily. I can relate to Michael’s challenges and I am grateful for his efforts, as they benefit me as well. I’m Flutie Fellow Andrew Roberts, and thanks in part to Michael’s efforts, the Flutie Foundation is helping me pursue my goal of being a sports broadcaster.

Michael’s “snow angel challenge” spread through other team members and friends of the Flutie Foundation. Then, recently-retired All-Pro New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski got word of the challenge. While he didn’t jump in the snow, Gronkowski did participate in his own way. Thanks Gronk!

If you’d like to support Michael Palmer’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for autism, please check out the Flutie Foundation website at FlutieFoundation.org.

This is not the last of my Boston Marathon coverage.  I will be writing more runner spotlights this year, including one about a runner for Get Air Sports, a partner of the Flutie Foundation.  On a side note the Pats need a replacement for Rob Gronkowski who had fun in contributing the video for Michael.  Will they address the TE position in the draft?  Find out what I think in my upcoming 2019 NFL Mock Draft.

Stay tuned for more sports coverage soon.  But as the Herald headline noted, my sportswriting journey is only just getting started.

Covering Algonquin Basketball for Harbinger

I have written recaps on multiple Algonquin Tomahawks boys’ and girls’ basketball games since football season ended for the Algonquin Harbinger – the school’s newspaper.  Most recently, the boys’ team defeated a top team in the state – Catholic Memorial.  Click the links below to read my articles on their website:

January 17 Boys’ Game vs. Catholic Memorial: Boys’ basketball wins against previously undefeated Knights

December 21 Girls’ Game vs. Millbury: Girls’ basketball comeback falls just short against undefeated Millbury

December 7 Boys’ Game vs. Doherty: Karaban leads boys’ basketball to victory in season home opener against Doherty Highlanders

2018 NFL Week 17 Picks & Previews: Win or Bust

Welcome to my Week 17 NFL Picks and Previews. Last week, I went 13-3, putting my overall record at 139-100-2. I am ahead of one CBS Sports expert going into the week. I did not have time to write game analysis this week due to family commitments, but below are my score predictions for today’s slate of games. Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

That’s all for today. By the way, this is what the playoffs would look like if my predictions were correct. I will update this later on:

Stay tuned for my NFL playoff predictions soon.

2018 NFL Week 13 Picks & Previews: Lots of Crucial Divisional Matchups Occur

Welcome to my NFL Week 13 picks and previews.  Last week, I went 11-4, putting my overall record at 96-78-2 (96-79-2 including Week 13 TNF).  I am still ahead of 1 CBS Sports expert. This week, a lot of divisional matchups occur, with many of them having playoff implications.  The Eagles and Redskins play for 2nd place in the NFC East, and the loser may be knocked out of contention. The Colts visit Jacksonville hoping to increase their chances at a wild card spot.  Who will win these divisional games? Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

Look for dominance from the Rams defense in the first shutout of the NFL season.  The revamped duo of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters won’t give up anything to Detroit’s depleted WR corps, and DT Aaron Donald and company will shut down QB Matthew Stafford and the run game.  The Rams will not need more than a couple touchdowns for a Rams clinic victory thanks to the strong defense. Meanwhile, The Lions will begin to miss RB Kerryon Johnson and WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones in a shutout loss.  

Upset of the Week

The Panthers are coming off two frustrating last-minute losses, and the Buccaneers are coming off a much-needed victory.  Look for QB Jameis Winston to ride the momentum and put up his best performance yet against Carolina. The Bucs D will still give up plenty to QB Cam Newton and his versatile offensive core.  But a 3 or 4 TD game from Winston should be enough for the Buccaneers to pull the upset.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 13-10 Cowboys)

QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense will be slowed down significantly by the improving New Orleans defense.  Meanwhile, QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas will lead the Saints to victory despite the Dallas defense’s shut down of the Saints RB duo.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Miami to hold on for a home victory against a young Bills defense that is not great but can be pesky at times.  QB Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins here, even without WR Danny Amendola. QB Josh Allen and his offense will perform better than they usually do, but expect them to just fall short in Miami against a mediocre, but not putrid Dolphins defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Atlanta defense to step it up against rookie QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, especially with RB Alex Collins on IR.  QB Matt Ryan won’t have an amazing game against this strong Baltimore D, but it will be enough thanks to the improving Falcons defense.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Broncos will ride the momentum to a third straight win as the defense dominates against a banged-up Cincinnati pass offense that will miss QB Andy Dalton, especially since WR A.J. Green is not 100%.  The Broncos will be alright offensively without TE Jeff Heuerman, as QB Case Keenum finally begins to rely on his receivers more in the Denver victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect QB Deshaun Watson to put up another strong game against the inexperienced Browns defense.  Meanwhile, the Texans D will do a respectable job in shutting down QB Baker Mayfield and this young Browns offensive core.  The Texans will win triumphantly as they play strong football all around.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Jaguars to win by a surprisingly large margin as they host the Colts.  They came close in Indy, so I expect a win in Jacksonville. QB Cody Kessler will also help the Jags improve as he outperforms QB Blake Bortles.  QB Andrew Luck and his receivers will struggle to handle the Jags strong D, but they’ll still manage to score a couple TDs.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Eli Manning will have to dig into New York’s WR depth here to even score a TD against this improving Chicago defense.  The Giants’ experienced defense will limit the QB Chase Daniel-led Bears offense, but Daniel will still throw multiple TDs in the victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Packers should manage to win at home here, but as they nearly blow it, the “fire Mike McCarthy” campaign will just get louder.  QB Aaron Rodgers will rely on his younger receivers as they just barely get by the Cardinals. QB Josh Rosen will find his receivers more easily against a struggling Green Bay secondary, but it won’t quite be enough.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

QB Josh McCown should struggle regressively as his receivers are out done by a Titans secondary that is no more than average.  This will highlight the Jets’ flaws as the Titans win by multiple TD. A strong all-around offensive game as well as a clutch defensive performance will help Tennessee in the home win.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Chiefs won’t be at full strength after the release of RB Kareem Hunt.  But QB Patrick Mahomes II will still lead the Chiefs to victory though, with 3 TD and 0 INT.  The Raiders will come close though as QB Derek Carr relies on his younger receivers (since WR Jordy Nelson is struggling).
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Neither offense will be up to full speed here as both defenses thrive.  But QB Tom Brady will lead the Pats to get by at home as he uses his WR depth, something New England has at full health.  The Vikings will make this close, led by QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The Seahawks will be able to get by here, but the 49ers will come close to an upset and play the better all around game, as young QB Nick Mullens throws multiple TD against the young Seattle D.  The Seahawks, however, will find a way to win thanks to veteran QB Russell Wilson.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

The Steelers offense will look good here, as QB Ben Roethlisberger tosses multiple TD.  But even without RB Melvin Gordon, QB Philip Rivers and his deep WR corps will be too much for the Pittsburgh D to handle as they outperform the Steelers significantly.  The Chargers will be able to handle Pittsburgh’s offense a little easier, helping their case in a road primetime victory, handing the Steelers their second straight loss.
Sunday, 8:15 PM EST

Expect the Eagles to win in a shootout thanks to the strong game by QB Carson Wentz and his receivers.  QB Colt McCoy will outperform his expectations though, tossing multiple TD and making this close. But the Eagles will still get past McCoy’s Redskins as their run game thrives in addition to the pass offense.

That’s all for today’s picks.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including Part 3 of my MLB free agent predictions.

 

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers and Infielders

Welcome to Part 2 of my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent catchers and infielders, including Wilson Ramos, Josh Donaldson, and Manny Machado.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Note: These predictions were made before Atlanta’s signings of Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann on November 26.

C

The Nationals signed C Kurt Suzuki this week, and the Mariners dealt off C Mike Zunino to Tampa Bay. That should cause the catcher market to keep moving quickly. The Angels need a catcher upgrade desperately. They will be in the market for top options Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Lucroy. The A’s will also look for a catcher after losing Lucroy. I could see them adding Ramos. I have Grandal returning to the Padres, where his career started. He will split time with C Austin Hedges. Wieters will head to Seattle. The Mariners are looking for a cheap option at catcher to support C David Freitas. I have the Marlins signing McCann after trading C J.T. Realmuto (I think he’s going to either Atlanta or Milwaukee). That leaves Devin Mesoraco, who will sign with the Phillies and split time with C Jorge Alfaro. The Mets will miss out in the catcher market and stick with Travis d’Arnaud at catcher.

Corner Infielders (Combined 1B and 3B due to shortage of options)

The Braves’ biggest hole is at third base. They are doing whatever it takes to add a top line third baseman to help their contention efforts. Donaldson is a great fit. I think the Yankees will pass on Manny Machado and use Didi Gregorius in the long term. But they will add 3B Mike Moustakas to give them flexibility in the infield, whether Gregorius is hurt or not.

The Marlins are looking for a cheap replacement for Justin Bour, and Duda is a strong fit. That will cause Matt Adams to return to St. Louis, and the Royals will add Logan Morrison with Duda signed. The Orioles do need free agent help, but they will look for bargains. Valbuena could be a good bargain signing. He can provide support at second and third.

2B

The Twins are in it to win it, and reuniting with Dozier after a deadline deal will help fill one of their biggest holes: middle infield.  They may need a shortstop next to Dozier.  I also have LeMahieu returning to Colorado.  If the Rockies part ways with LeMahieu, they may have a hard time finding a replacement.  They definitely need a second baseman, and LeMahieu is the best fit.  I have Murphy heading to the A’s, who will be able to afford him.  It was a down year for Murphy, and it could make for a bargain signing for a small market team with a hole at second like Oakland.  That leaves Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Logan Forsythe as the top 2B options remaining.  The Angels will sign Cabrera as an upgrade over Ian Kinsler.  Lowrie and Forsythe could be afforded by rebuilding/small market teams like the Tigers and Rays.  The Tigers desperately need middle infield help.  They will look for bargains as they find their free agents.

SS

Whoever signs Machado will need to offer a lot, and the Phillies have enough to sign Machado with money to spare for Mike Trout or another big free agent in a couple years.  The Phillies are ready to make the jump to contention, and Machado plus some cheaper free agents might be enough to do it.  The Twins will add Mercer to support Dozier, and Alcides Escobar will go to the Padres, who will seek veterans as insurance for their younger players.  That leaves guys like Adeiny Hechavarria, Jose Iglesias, and Freddy Galvis for rebuilding teams.  I have the Royals adding Hechavarria as another infield option, the Tigers reuniting with Iglesias, and the Marlins adding Galvis to support the young J.T. Riddle.

That’s all for today’s predictions.  Stay tuned for Part 3, where I will predict where the top outfielders and designated hitters sign.  I will also add some ideas for trades.  Unlike others, I do not have many big stars being traded, but I could see some smaller trades occuring.

Thanksgiving Day Picks: Two Home Teams Prevail, One Has Their Thanksgiving Spoiled

Welcome to my Thanksgiving Day NFL Picks. Last week was not great for me. I went 4-9, putting my overall record at 85-74-2. I am no longer ahead of any experts, but I am tied with CBS Sports expert Jason La Canfora. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the food, I love seeing my family, I enjoy watching the parade, and I especially love the football. Who will win in today’s football games? Expect a big week for home teams, but I think one home team will have their Thanksgiving spoiled. Keep reading to find out which team that is, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

12:30 PM EST

Look for a dominant day by Khalil Mack and the Bears defense against Detroit. Without WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, the Lions offense will struggle to get into a rhythm. Chicago’s offense won’t be at its best either, but the defensive excellence makes up for it. This will allow the Bears to spoil Detroit’s Thanksgiving.

4:30 PM EST

The injury-riddled Washington offense will miss QB Alex Smith and WR Jamison Crowder. But they will manage to keep this close against the young Dallas D. Meanwhile, QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense will continue to improve with the addition of WR Amari Cooper, leading the Cowboys to win their Turkey Day game in a close one.

8:20 PM EST

Expect the Saints defense to perform better than usual, holding Atlanta to 1 TD in New Orleans. New Orleans won’t be at their best offensively either, but expect them to get by against the weak Falcons D. The Falcons will begin to panic as they struggle in all aspects in this game.

That’s all for my Thanksgiving Day Picks. Stay tuned for the rest of my picks later this week.

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Welcome to my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent pitchers.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 19 or 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Starting Pitchers

Top Tier

Note: These were made BEFORE the James Paxton trade

The Jays have a lot of infield prospects on the rise.  But their starting rotation needs some help if they want to contend.  They will surely go after the market’s top starters.  They are open to bringing back J.A. Happ, but I think Dallas Keuchel and Ervin Santana fit their mold better.  Keuchel will serve as Toronto’s ace, where they will need an upgrade with Marco Estrada leaving.  Santana isn’t what he used to be, but will still boost their rotation, especially if he rebounds fully from his injury in 2018.  Meanwhile, Happ will head to the Angels to provide stability in an injury prone rotation that will be without Shohei Ohtani.  The Yankees will pursue a younger starter like Patrick Corbin to upgrade the rotation in the long term, and an older starter to supplement the rotation until younger Yankees pitchers are ready to take over.

Jerry Dipoto had intended to rebuild this off-season.  But they have too much talent on the rise to just start over now.  It would be a Marlins-like move to rebuild now.  I think it would be smarter for them to add a mid to high tier starter such as Gio Gonzalez or Nathan Eovaldi and an outfielder or two to supplement the young talent.  Charlie Morton will leave Houston for and sign with the Nationals, who could use a #3 starter to replace Gio Gonzalez and add depth to the rotation.

High to Mid-Tier Starters

Shields will return to the White Sox.  They will seek to be led by young talent, but need Shields back for depth.  The Padres will also bring back their veteran starter, Tyson Ross for similar reasons.  I could also see them adding Garrett Richards among other veterans as future investments to guide their return to contention.  Richards will miss 2019, but hopefully, he’ll come back as a better pitcher in 2020.  I think Jason Hammel is a good veteran fit for the Yankees.

If the Rays want to make the playoffs, their “committee day” in their rotation isn’t going to fly.  They’ll need to add rotation depth, and Estrada seems like a good fit for them.  He has experience in the AL East, and a mid-tier starter or two is just what Tampa needs.  The Orioles could also use another starter.  They aren’t signing anyone too expensive as they start a rebuild, but Yovani Gallardo has been on the team before and could be a good bargain signing for them.

Mid to Low Tier Starters

Eovaldi really boosted his free agent profile in the playoffs.  But I think the Red Sox will be willing to offer him a long term contract after his playoff performance.  The Rays will add Derek Holland as another option for the rotation.  Holland, Tyler Glasnow, and Brent Honeywell will likely fight for the final two spots in the rotation.  I think Ryan Yarbrough fits best as a long reliever.  Similar to the O’s, the Royals and Tigers will look for affordable rotation depth.  I think Lynn and Santiago are good fits.  I could see Chris Tillman joining the Braves, who may seek a veteran starter to fill in until their pitching prospects are ready.  I think the Giants should sign a lower tier starter, such as Jaime Garcia to give them options if young starters Chris Stratton, Tyler Beede, and Ty Blach struggle.

Relief Pitchers

Top Tier Closers and Late-Inning Relievers

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Kimbrel after he turned down the qualifying offer, but I think he will return to the Red Sox.  He just wanted a longer term deal.  The teams that were in the running for Kimbrel such as the Angels and Phillies will settle for other top closers such as Mark Melancon and Zach Britton.  I think Jeurys Familia, another top closer will go to the White Sox as they try to take steps toward contention.  I could see the Mariners keeping active in the free agent market by adding another bullpen arm in Miller.  The Reds could also use a bullpen arm to replace Drew Storen, and Brach seems to be a good fit.  He can close or set up, and he and Raisel Iglesias could make a strong veteran-younger player late-inning combo.

Mid-Tier Closers

Pittsburgh’s #1 hole right now is their bullpen.  They’ll look to add multiple quality relievers.  As they rebuild, they are not in the running for the market’s top closers.  But Herrera is a reasonable closing option for them.  Some other rebuilding teams who need closers, such as the O’s, Royals, and Rangers, will have to settle for lower-tier closers such as Tyler Clippard and Cody Allen.  Meanwhile, I see veteran closer Greg Holland headed to Tampa, hoping to rebound from a rough 2018.  Holland is an affordable option for a Rays team that wants to make the jump from mediocre to playoff contender.  Storen, another seasoned veteran, could make for a good duo with fellow late-inning reliever Addison Reed for Minnesota.

Low Tier Closer-Mid Tier Set-Up

Herrera isn’t quite enough to fill Pittsburgh’s late inning hole.  Romo could be a good fit.  The Brewers could also use another late inning arm.  They don’t need a top tier guy, but someone like A.J. Ramos or Santiago Casilla could definitely help.  I think Casilla will return to the A’s though, and Zach McAllister, another mid-tier reliever, will return to Detroit, where he spent just about a week in his final MLB stint of 2018.  The Rockies could resign Adam Ottavino, but I think they will go for a slight upgrade, Justin Wilson, with the Indians adding Ottavino to supplement Brad Hand and replace Andrew Miller.

Low Tier Late Inning Relievers

The Braves have been a rumored suitor to bring back Craig Kimbrel, but they should trust Arodys Vizcaino as their closer and add a lower tier late inning reliever to support him (I see them adding Maurer).  The White Sox will sign Tony Sipp as a slight upgrade over Jeanmar Gomez, who I have going to Detroit.  Gomez and McAllister will set up closer Shane Greene.  The Royals will also look for an affordable bullpen arm.  They should be set in the late-inning department with the duo of Clippard and Boone Logan.  The Mets will be active in this free agent market, and they need late-inning help.  Aaron Loup is a good addition, but I don’t have them adding a closer. Jenrry Mejia is eligible to return in 2019, and the Mets should be hopeful he can close.  Duke will play a similar role in Toronto, setting up closer Ken Giles.

High Tier 7th Inning Relief

If the Red Sox bring back Kimbrel, they should be fine to let Carson Smith and maybe even Joe Kelly test the market.  I think Smith will find a destination despite his injury, as the Twins sign him to supplement the late-inning duo of Storen and Reed.  The Angels, who will still look for more bullpen help beyond Britton, will sign Kelly.  If he’s having a good year, Kelly can become the full-time set up man in LA over Cam Bedrosian.  Norris, a former starter, can provide the Rays with a trustworthy 7th inning arm.  Jake Diekman should play a similar role in San Francisco.  The O’s and Reds could also use bullpen help, but cannot afford the top guys in the market.  They will settle for Axford and Warren, respectively.

That’s all for Part 1 of my MLB FA Predictions.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will evaluate the catcher market and the infield market.  This comes in good timing, as Kurt Suzuki just signed in Washington, and J.T. Realmuto trade rumors are reaching their peak.

Note: I think the Marlins will end up trading Realmuto to Atlanta with Kurt Suzuki off the table.  The Marlins should sign another catcher to supplement Chad Wallach.

2018 NFL Week 11 Picks & Previews: Defense Wins Games

Welcome to my Week 11 NFL Picks and Previews.  Last week was a rough week for me. I went 6-8, putting my overall record at 81-65-2 (81-66-2 including TNF Week 11).  I am still ahead of 1 expert from ESPN and 1 from CBS Sports. I’m expecting a low scoring week this week. The top defenses in the league will thrive, and after an offense-heavy year, defense really will win some games.  Which defense first teams will prosper? Which will fall short due to a regressing offensive scheme? Comment with your thoughts, and keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week

Both these teams have struggled regressively this season.  At the start of the year, I had projected this to be an exciting match-up between two contenders.  That is not the case, as these two teams have only combined to beat two other teams this year: the Browns and the 49ers (twice).  I cannot see Oakland winning in Arizona. They are now without Marshawn Lynch (injury), Amari Cooper (trade), and Khalil Mack (trade).  QB Josh Rosen and the Cardinals will win triumphantly on home turf. They may be in the basement of the league, but they will touch the ceiling of that basement with 3 wins against other bottom of the barrel teams.  

Upset of the Week (SNF)

This won’t be Minnesota’s best offensive game as the Bears hold them back quite a bit.  But the Vikes defense should be at its best in Chicago, overwhelming rookie QB Mitch Trubisky and his young offense.  The Bears run defense will succeed here, but the secondary may struggle against Minnesota’s deep group of receivers. This will allow the Vikings to pull the upset in Chicago and take the NFC North lead.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 27-24 Seahawks)

Note: Not only did Mike McCarthy blow it, he also prevented me from a correct pick and exact score.

This is a battle of two high-powered pass offenses.  However, the X-Factor in this game will be defense. The young Seattle defense will struggle to contain Green Bay’s top receivers, and that will cost the Seahawks.  This would make them the first home team to lose on TNF. The Packers will win thanks to QB Aaron Rodgers’ dominance of the Seattle D. The Seahawks receivers will overwhelm the Green Bay secondary though, making this close.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Jags have regressively struggled over the past few weeks.  But these are the kinds of games Pittsburgh will blow without RB Le’Veon Bell.  They are on the road in a warm-weather stadium against one of the best underrated defenses in the league.  Expect the Jacksonville D to rebound at home. Meanwhile, QB Blake Bortles will turn it around for a multi-TD game, as Pittsburgh’s average defense cannot handle Bortles.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This could be an ugly game.  Ravens QB Joe Flacco and Bengals WR A.J. Green are both out.  That being said, don’t expect much offense, especially considering this is a match-up between the AFC North’s two best defenses.  I could see QB Lamar Jackson leading Baltimore to victory, but it won’t be pretty.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This will be another low-scoring game thanks to Houston’s defensive dominance.  QB Deshaun Watson and his receivers have not been all-out dominant for the Texans.  But they should score enough with their defense holding the Redskins to 10 or less points.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

It has been a pass-heavy season around the league.  But I see the run game leading Tennessee to victory here against the rebuilding Colts defensive front.  Look for Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry to combine for 150+ yards in this game, running all over the Indy defense.  QB Andrew Luck and WR T.Y. Hilton will connect in the end zone and keep this close, but I don’t think they will be able to keep up.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect Dallas to struggle in containing QB Matt Ryan and his WR trio.  The Cowboys should keep it close against the weak Falcons defense, using WR Amari Cooper to their advantage.  However, I see Atlanta holding on to win at home despite the struggling defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Giants will keep this close with QB Eli Manning putting up another decent game.  However, look for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers offense to gather a rhythm on the road.  They will win this thanks to another strong offensive performance.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Matthew Stafford will look better offensively here, but they will miss WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.  They will have to rely very heavily on young WR Kenny Golladay. It won’t be enough against QB Cam Newton and the Carolina offense.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Denver offense may struggle here against a rejuvenated Chargers D.  Meanwhile, Denver’s D will slip against a high-powered LA offense. This will lead to an easy Chargers victory.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

QB Carson Wentz will struggle to find his receivers here up against a young but stacked New Orleans secondary.  Meanwhile, Philly will struggle to contain New Orleans’ WR duo without CB Ronald Darby. The Eagles will give the Saints a scare, but the Saints should win easily in the end.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

In 2016, the Saints and Giants played and we were expecting the shootout of the season.  What we received was a dud. I see the same thing happening here as the Rams D comes out of hibernation to severely limit QB Patrick Mahomes II.  Meanwhile, the Chiefs defense will be able to handle the Rams’ receivers with WR Cooper Kupp done for the year. I see the Rams winning in the end thanks to the defensive dominance.