Monday Morning Update: October 10, 2016

Andrew Miller earns his permanent pinstripes, all my football teams stink , and the NHL season cometh

     1.  Andrew Miller earns a permanent place in my heart

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My reaction, I assume, to the appearance of Andrew Miller in the fifth inning of game one against the Red Sox was the same reaction that almost any other baseball fan had: “Wait really? That Andrew Miller? In the fifth? But why?”

Well, Terry Francona decided his club needed to win game one, and rather than stick too long with Trevor Bauer, he would lean on his bullpen to do so. It was probably the earliest that Miller had appeared in quite some time, and he showed some signs of discomfort, looking undeniably shaky for the first few batters.

But he settled, and turned one of his earliest appearances to his longest yet, and maybe his best. After two brilliant innings, Miller handed the ball off to his comrades in the bullpen, who (for the most part) did him proud and the Indians took game one. Miller didn’t win the game on his own, by any stretch, but he was unhittable after allowing that initial double, and led the Tribe through what is probably the most important part of a baseball game.

As a Yankee fan, it was hard not to smile during Miller’s heroics. Cashman and his team were rightly lauded by many (including yours truly) for the haul they got for Miller and the team’s other deadline castoffs. But Miller proved that the Indians were right to pay the king’s ransom, and earned some serious love from Yankee fans in the process.

2.  Tom Brady returns with a fury

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It was nice that Tom Brady got to take a page out of baseball playbook and make his first start after an absence against a minor league team, to help get his timing and rhythm back.

All jokes about the Browns aside, what Brady did in his first game all season was impressive, no matter who it happened to be against. He was surgical, finding the end zone three times and leading the Patriots to exactly the kind of whomping that most expected them to give Cleveland (at least one Boston team can find a way to beat a team from Ohio.)

One of the most impressive parts of Brady’s game on Sunday, and it’s something he has done throughout his career, has been the ease he seems in adjusting to new targets. He’s turned receiver after receiver into a star, and may have started that process again this week, as he found new teammates Martellus Bennet (three TD’s on the day) and Chris Hogan throughout the afternoon.

If Gronkowski can be 100% come playoff time and Brady can develop a consistent and productive connection with Bennet (this may have already happened) defensive coordinators around the AFC are going to be pulling their hair out trying to plan for this offense.

3. The Giants stink

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Another week, another dreadful performance from Big Blue under the big lights of primetime. There really is nothing more deflating than spending all day waiting for Sunday night, and knowing all the while that your team is going to get spanked up and down the field.

The Giants were duly spanked by the Packers last night, in unsurprising fashion, as Rodgers dismantled a hobbled secondary and Eddie Lacy and the offensive line exposed the Giants overpaid and overhyped new-look defensive line.Even when the Giants did make some good plays, they immediately take two steps back with costly penalties.

Benny McAdoo and the boys were down by seven before they could even turn around, and they didn’t close that gap the whole night. The record may show them as just a game behind .500, but both wins were by the skins of their teeth. Any of the three losses were more telling than both of the Giants’ wins combined.

There were so many “what-if’s” to start this year, enough to give me, and many other fans hope. And while Cruz’s return earlier this year and a relatively calm night from Beckham this week might have some dreaming of an elite, high-flying offense, it just doesn’t seem to be there right now.

It’s still early, but the football season very long. The Giants stink.

4. Notre Dame stinks, too

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It has not been a particularly good fall for Irish Catholics living the New York area. For the many members of that clan that pull for the Giants along with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, it’s been a double dose of disappointing football this autumn.

Like the Giants, the Irish had some high expectations coming into this year, and for some fair reasons. Their quarterback, DeShone Kizer, was getting some early hype, and the team was ranked at #10 in the AP preseason poll.

Even after an opening loss to Texas, there was some chance of salvaging the season. It looked there was an easily identifiable problem in the defense, while Kizer and the offense still seemed like it could be elite.

But the team couldn’t figure out the defense and lost again to Michigan State and Duke, and changed their defensive coordinator. Then they gave up 33 points to Syracuse, of all teams. Another loss to NC State in the rainstorm and a disappoint performance from Kizer this week has made it clear.

The first few weeks of the season have shown Notre Dame to barely be among the top 100 football programs in the country.

Notre Dame stinks, too.

5. Maybe even year bullshit really is bullshit

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The Cubs are good.

They’ve got themselves on the verge of defeating maybe the scariest foe in the entire postseason, an even-year incarnation of the San Francisco Giants. Granted, the unstoppable force otherwise known as Madison Bumgarner still waits for the Cubbies come game three, but the Cubs right now can win the series without having to beat him, which is always a good spot to be in.

For a team seemingly hampered by ghosts and curses, ending the even-year magic may be the best signs of success they’ve shown all year.

6. Edwin Encarnacion earns a few extra dollars

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Edwin Encarnacion did not forget that he is due for a new contract at the end of this year.

The Blue Jays’ slugger has shown any team interested in paying for his services this offseason just how good he is at the job he is designated to do. He has undeniably been both Toronto’s best and most timely hitter during the postseason so far, launching a pair of home runs in his three playoff game this season.

Encarnacion’s price tag was going to be fairly large even before this performance, as the 33-year-old slugger finished 2016 with more than 40 homeruns and a career high in RBIs. Safe to say it has gotten a bit more expensive over the past few days.

7. Paging Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper best be careful.

The baseball postseason is a fickle beast, and the baseball media even more so, and it takes a very short sample size to earn a reputation a post season choke artist, and even shorter one when you are as good as he is (just ask A-Rod).

Despite having the most at-bats on the team, Bryce has one of the lowest averages on the Nationals through the first two games of their tied tilt with the Dodgers. Harper’s history doesn’t a rosier picture, either, as his average in the 2012 and 2014 performances (the only other time the Nats have qualified during his tenure) is even worse than his quiet 2016 campaign.

Bryce Harper is clearly one of the best players in baseball, and can have the kind of impact that very few can. but he needs to find a way to start making that impact felt in October, or he will be labeled, fairly or unfairly, as someone who can’t perform when the bright lights come on.

8. Remembering a legend

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20 years ago today, a spunky 12-year-old became part of Yankee lore when Jeffery Maier helped Derek Jeter lift a home run out of the old Yankee Stadium’s right field and lift the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles on the way to what would be the first in a long line of championships.

It was a happier, simpler time for the Yankees, when Derek Jeter was just a rookie and the Yankees had not yet become the Evil Empire. With Gary Sanchez, however, it’s stil a pretty good time to be a Yankee fan.

9. The NHL cometh

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I won’t burden you with a length NHL preview here. Tom and I started to break down the league’s outlook in the latest Chin Music Podcast, and there will be plenty of hockey content to come as the week continues, and throughout the season.

But, let me just say before we get going, thank God hockey is back. Life always feels a bit weird when the season finally stops in June and the Cup begins its worldwide tour. We got a taste with the World Cup, which was a welcome addition to the hockey landscape. But this week, we get the real thing.

New York fans get a special treat, as the Islanders will visit Madison Square Garden for matchup against the Rangers to start the season.

Let the madness begin.

 

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