Monday Morning Update: August 29, 2016

Gary Sanchez has Yankee fans asking some bold questions, Pavel Datsyuk starts off his KHL career in style, and the NFL season approaches (plus the psychic is in again.)

  1. All Hail Gary Sanchez 

I mean, seriously, how good is Gary Sanchez? It almost feels passe to open up a blog by talking about the Yankees’ wunderkind, but I couldn’t think of a reason not to. Sanchez has been everything the Yankees could have asked for, and so much more, so far.

When the Yankees signed Brian McCann a few years ago, I and a more than a few other Yankee fans, dreamt of what a power hitting catcher could do for a club that had struggled to replace even the over-the-hill version of Jorge Posada. We may have gotten our hopes worked up just to be disappointed with McCann and his massive contract, but it looks like we’re getting the goods as they were advertised in Sanchez.

While he’s is getting more than his fair share of press after getting his batting average above the Ted Williams mark at .405 during a blazing hot week that included five homers and saw the young stud hit more than .500 over 23 at-bats, one of the things that’s astounded me most is the comeback story the catcher has written himself.

If you can remember back to the Halcyon days of February and March, there was plenty of handwringing around the Evil Empire about Sanchez after he managed just one hitmanaged just one hit during spring training this year. The Yankees left him in AAA to start the season, thinking he needed just a bit more time to develop, and boy does it seem like they were right.

Sanchez has been so good that he has Yankee fans asking some pretty bold questions, ones they never thought they’d be asking themselves back in January, or even in July. I’ll get to those later.

  1. Kaep takes a seat

So Colin Kaepernick decided that as a washed up QB that now spends essentially the entire game sitting on the bench, his best move would be to piss off pretty much the entire football watching/American public by remaining seated during the StaSpangleded Banner during the 49’ers recent preseason game.

Listen, Kaep is a moron for doing that. I’m not on his side in this one, at all. But that said, I think we have to check some of our self-righteous rage, in this and other instances. You might not like his message, and neither did I, but Kaepernick did a uniquely American thing by exercising his right to protest a symbol of the country he wins in.

Despite all my problems with it, I think the least of Kaepernick’s offense is offending the brave men and women who protect that song, and his right to sit down while its played. Plenty of people have pointed out that Kaepernick should perhaps be praising those that protect that freedom, rather than criticizing it, and there’s some truth to that.

But what better way to respect a right that people died to protect than to actually exercise it?

  1. Pavel brings the magic to the KHL

Whether it’s the NHL or the KHL, the magic man is going to bring his sweet, soft hands to the show. Pavel Datsyuk made his debut in the KHL in pretty spectacular fashion the other night, finding the back of the night after playing in the league for all of 10 seconds.

Datsyuk, who had the dangling and deking skills to tie up NHL-level defesemen and goaltenders, may turn the KHL into his playground, and I hope he does. Considering he’s playing with fellow North American veteran Ilya Kovalchuck, it could be like a NHL 2010 franchise come to life.

But no matter what rabbits he pulls out of his helmet in St. Petersburgh, I’ll feel a slight pang that it isn’t happening here in the States. I’ve had a soft side for Pavel for quite some time, and I’ll miss constantly searching for new highlights of him moving the puck the way no one else in the league could.

Maybe, then, it’s a little justice that he’s replaced in Detroit by one of my favorite (now former) Islander centers, Frans Nielsen. Red Wing fans, I truly feel your pain.

  1. The Psychic is (back) in: AL edition

Surprise, bitches! You thought my psychic prediction gimmick from the NHL and NBA playoffs was dead, just because I was wrong in both of those blogs, didn’t you?

wrongo.jpg

We’ll bring it back in full soon enough, but here’s a mini-prediction set to get us back in the swing of things: My (fairly randomly timed) MLB playoff predictions. As we reach the final week of August, I’ll throw some educated guesses out there about what I think the baseball playoff bracket will look like. Here goes nothing:

AL East champions: Baltimore OriolesI took the Baltimore Birds a few weeks ago, and nothing in the AL East has convinced me to change it yet, even as the Blue Jays sit atop the division. I just don’t trust that team. And maybe it’s just an acidic disability to endorse the Red Sox in any way, shape, or form, but I think Chris Zach Britton will be saving a few games for the Orioles come the Divisional round.

AL Central champions: Cleveland Indians- If the Yankees can’t put together a miracle run (I promise, I’m getting there soon enough), the Indians are going to be my co-opted AL team. As I mentioned around the trade deadline, I love the storylines surrounding this team, and I think they did enough at the deadline to hold off the Tigers and Royals.

AL West champions: Texas Rangers No bold takes to be found here. I don’t see the Astros or Mariners finding a way to climb back into it, really.

AL Wildcard round: Blue Jays over Red SoxEven I can’t deny some of the talent that Boston does have, and I think the Jays are good enough to get to the wildcard game, and to beat the BoSox. Maybe I’m biased, but I think Ortiz’ storybook season gets cut a bit short.

(NL coming after a quick intermission)

  1. Football is coming…

What are we to do with the NFL, and for that matter, with college football, as the season comes upon us.

As much as I may try to distance myself, there’s no denying the part of me that absolutely loves football, no matter how small or embarrassing that portion may be (or become.) There’s a noticeable excitement among everyone, at the return of the Giants, Jets, Patriots and the rest of the league. I’m even a little excited to watch college football.

But still, I, and a lot of other people have started to distance ourselves from football, for one reason or another. I know more than one person who is a big sports fan, even a big football fan, who’s considered turning away from the game.

As each football season approaches, I catch myself as I get excited for the start of the season, and wodner if that excitement holds up with the rest of the values in my life. And as each football season approaches, I wonder if the time will come where my answer to that question changes.

For now, it hasn’t. But I wonder if it will.

  1. The Psychic is in: NL edition 

NL East champions- Washington Nationals- If their bullpen can hold, this really could be the Nats’ year, especially if the pressure does eventually get to the Cubbies. Harper has been like a man possessed, and their starting rotation can match almost anymore. After a pitiful showing from the Mets after a trip to the World Series and a season-ending injury for Giancarlo Stanton, it seems like they’ll have an easy path to the first step, a divisional crown.

NL Central champions- Chicago Cubs- The Cubs have shown themselves to be the best team in the baseball pretty much wire to wire this season. Then they got better at the trade deadline. There’s no question this team has the kind of talent it will take to break a century-plus old curse, but there is still that question of nerves. Madden has worked hard to keep his boys loose, and its worked so far. But we’re just getting to the tighter times now…

NL West champions- San Francisco Giants- I think the even-year magic will be enough to propel no-Cal over so-Cal and into the top of the division by the end of the season. It will be a tough road to win their third straight title in a year divisible by two, as the NL is stacked from sea to shining sea in 2016. It’s not a bold call, but I really believe that the winner of my least favorite championship trophy in sports will have its pitchers bat at home.

NL Wildcard round- Pirates over Dodgers– This may be the most outside the box prediction of any of them. It does seem as though whichever California team doesn’t wear the NL West crown will end up with a chance to get to the Divisional Round in the Wild Card Game. My guess is the Los Angeles Dodgers complete a mini-collapse (though, admittedly, 2.5 games hardly qualifies as a collapse) by dropping one to the finally (kind of) victorious Pittsburgh Pirates

bumgarner

  1. When stats go wrong

Why has been so hard for the major sports leagues themselves to ride the statistical revolution? The NHL has failed twice. First, they did a pretty terrible job of gauging fan interest on a salary cap statistics database and then missed badly on their in-house advanced stats calculator and record books.

Now the above report from FiveThirtyEight tells us the MLB’s hit tracking tool is failing to track hits, which is a problem, considering it’s in the name at all.

I’m no statshead, but I’m always surprised that leagues haven’t done a better job with this kind of stuff. Places like General Fanager and CapGeek have built niche empires out of providing info-hungry fans those numbers. With all the info at their finger tips, why haven’t leagues done a better job of using this new facet of the game to make fans happy and make themselves some money in the process?

As always, the outlier in this one seems to be the NBA. They’ve done a very good job of incorporating things like movement stats into the game, and it’s shown in the on the court product.

  1. Following up 

Last week was a busy one on ChinMusicPod.com, as I posted last week’s Update, along with a personal column and a debate with Tim Culverhouse over the best on-ice fashion that will be on display during the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. If you’ll spare me (and really, you don’t have a choice,) please allow me to give you an update on both of those stories.

If you read my piece on running and exercise, you’re now a bit more familiar with my sister Kaileen and her toughness. She showed it off again recently and now sports a black eye to prove it after taking a rebound shot to the dome during practice. No goal though, so it all worked out.

Meanwhile, Henrik Lundqvist, netminder for the New York Rangers and Team Sweden, apparently forgot to check the editorial calendar hear at ChinMusicPod.com, and released the design for his World Cup mask the day after Tim and I went back and forth on the best sweaters and equipment designs from the approaching tournament. King Henrik will be rocking a mask that combines influences from his home team and home country, and Tim has it ranked pretty high.

  1. Are the Yankees back?

yankees celebrate

Like I said at the opening of the Update, Yankee fans have been feeling pretty bold and asking some surprising questions lately, and those feelings have only intensified after the Bombers took the weekend’s series over Baltimore.

Namely, those questions are: 1-Are the Yankees back? And 2- Could the Yankees (gasp) make the playoffs?!

I partially answered the first question in last week’s update. The Yankees are most certainly back, in that they are fun, entertaining and I might even say worthwhile to watch again. There’s no longer that sinking feeling of despair that accompanied much of this Yankees’ season.

But can they make the playoffs? I’ve been the harbinger of doom for much of this season, and I’m still skeptical that they can actually find a way into the one-game wildcard playoff come this autumn.

But, on August 29, as they sit just 3.5 games out? I’ll be honest, I still don’t think they can pull it off. While 3.5 games is by no means an insurmountable lead, they still would have to climb over five different teams to get there. That’s no easy task.

But at just 3.5 games back and playing the best baseball they have all season, this Yankee team should frighten everyone in the American League. If this is what they can put together out of call-ups and spare parts, imagine how scary this team may look when they reach their final form.

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