Baseball is a very interesting sport. With 162 games, it opens the door for expected and unexpected playoff appearances by teams of both conferences. Baseball is also a game where injuries can change a team's season and impact in the playoffs. The National League's Washington Nationals for example, stunningly missed the playoffs last year, but most of the teams who made the 2017 postseason qualified once again. The Oakland Athletics on the other hand, qualified for the final wild card spot in the American League. While both teams could make the playoffs next year or miss it, they both serve as perfect examples of the surprises that baseball can bring to one season. So let's see who will be playing baseball for at one more month.
American League Division Winners:
A.L. East: New York Yankees
A.L. Central: Cleveland Indians
A.L. West: Houston Astros
A.L. Wild Card #1: Boston Red Sox
A.L. WIld Card #2: Oakland Athletics
National League Division Winners:
N.L. East: Philadelphia Phillies
N.L. Central: Milwaukee Brewers
N.L. West: Colorado Rockies
N.L. Wild Card #1: Atlanta Braves
N.L. Wild Card #2: Washington Nationals
American League Playoff Results:
Wild Card - #1 Red Sox over #2 Athletics
A.L. Division Series - #1 Yankees 3 games to 1 over #4 Red Sox. #2 Astros 3 games to 2 over #3 Indians.
A.L. Championship Series - # 1 Yankees 4 games to 2 over #2 Astros.
National League Playoff Results:
Wild Card - #2 Nationals over #1 Braves
N.L. Division - #1 Brewers 3 games to 2 over #5 Nationals. #3 Phillies 3 games to 2 over #2 Rockies.
N.L. Championship Series - #1 Brewers 4 games to 3 over #3 Phillies.
After a few years of mediocrity, the New York Yankees have re-emerged as one of the MLB's elite. They have loads of talent, young core players, and good management. But it's their experience gained over the past two years that will be the key for what will probably be a memorable 2019 season.
The Yankees burst onto the scene, exceeding expectations by making the ALCS in 2017, and followed that up with a short playoff run last year. During these runs, the "Baby Bombers" have grown up, and are now primed to use their past experience for a 2019 run.
The talent that this team has, is crazy. As of now, their roster is filled with players that do lots of damage both at the plate and in the field such as:
Here's some information on some of these players! Aaron Judge in just 2 years, has been amazing to watch. At 6 foot 7, he has hit home runs as far as 495 ft. He has a cannon for an arm - base runners don't have a good chance to get any extra bases once a ball is hit to him. His height helps him to steal home runs with leaping grabs at the fence. Giancarlo Stanton, who was acquired in last year's offseason, struggled at first, but rebounded with 38 home runs, 100 RBIs, and batted .266. It is likely that he'll be even better next season, now that he has had a season to adjust to the American League. Gleyber Torres was one of baseball's top rookies last year, hitting 24 home runs and batting .271. He also has shown an ability to come up big in pressure moments, which has added an exciting element to his game. Miguel Andujar has emerged as a reliable hitter as well. While there was speculation about whether he might be traded if the Yankees signed Manny Machado, Machado signed with the San Diego Padres indicating that the Yankees truly trust Andujar to become a key piece of the team. Didi Gregorius has been very consistent and reliable for the Yankees throughout last season both in the field and at the plate. Aaron Hicks has emerged as the x-factor of the Yankees. With his ability to hit at the plate, fielding skills, and competitiveness, manager Aaron Boone called him, "The most underrated player in the game." It also got him a 7 year contract extension with the team. Pitcher Luis Severino, who had a hot start followed by an inconsistent second half of last season, has still emerged as the Yankees' pitching ace. Catcher Gary Sanchez did not have as good a year as expected, but rebounded with a strong postseason. His skills both at the plate and in the field will be essential for the Yankees in the years to come. And the bullpen, led by Aroldis Chapman who added a vicious slider to his arsenal, should ensure the Yankees don't lose many leads. All of these players are, without doubt, their core players now, and most will remain key players in the future. Unlike other teams with great players, management knows to lock in their good players.
During those 2 years, Brian Cashman went from making moves that only benefit the team short term, to making moves that will benefit them in the long term. Therefore, fans can thank him for all of the excellent drafts, smart trades, and carefully thought free agent signings. Judge, Severino, Sanchez, and Andujar? Drafted by the Yankees earlier this decade. Stanton, Hicks, Gregorius, and Torres were all traded to the Yankees. Chapman is the only member of this core group who was a free agent signing. The Yankees added to their core of players this offseason with the acquisitions of pitchers James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, Troy Tulowitzki, and Gio Gonzalez. Second year manager Aaron Boone will be more experienced this season and will look to manage a deep playoff run and possibly a championship.
The key that will probably help this team win the World Series, is experience. There are a lot of different areas of the team that will show tremendous growth. Stanton, Torres, and Andujar will be even more comfortable with the team as they enter their sophomore season as Yankees. Aaron Boone showed some flaws but should learn from some of his mistakes. As a whole, despite only 2 years of contending, the Yankees have had significant playoff experience - as well as the motivation that comes from losing early in the playoffs that they expected to win a championship. This playoff experience should give them the mentality that makes champions, not just in 2019, but for many other years in the future.
Three years ago, the Yankees had an uncertain future. They were average at best but weren't looking like a team that could compete in the years to come. Now, they look set to compete at the highest level. Before Yankees' fans know it, they could be in New York City celebrating a 28th World Series Championship
Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. First Played Against Each Other in 2016. Lets Look at Where They are Now.
On December 4, 2016, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants met on a nationally televised game. Both teams had slow starts to the season, but they were starting to turn it around. Pittsburgh, after starting 4-5, had already won 2 straight games. The Giants, after starting 2-3, were riding a 6 game winning streak. The Steelers won the game 24-14, both teams made the playoffs, but there was something bigger to the hype of this matchup.
It was the battle of wide receivers. Antonio Brown of the Steelers, vs Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants. Both of them were having career years, so it was fitting that they were were at the center of attention for this matchup. Brown recorded 6 receptions for 110 yards, and a touchdown. Beckham Jr. caught 10 passes for 100 yards. Little did anyone know that after 2 seasons that included massive contract extensions and great individual numbers, these 2 players would be on the move to different teams.
Although they both share the ability to run perfect routes, make spectacular catches and run past entire secondaries to score touchdowns, which has been amazing to watch over the past few seasons, what hasn't been fun to watch is the negative attitude that both players possess. Beckham Jr. has had many temper tantrums and this year, in an interview, he refused to support his quarterback Eli Manning. Antonio Brown has been caught on camera numerous times throwing fits when he wouldn't get the ball in his last 2 seasons. It has also been reported that he was late to many meetings, threatened a reporter, and sarcastically demanded to be traded. Off-field incidents have also been common. He nearly hit a little kid and his grandfather by throwing objects from his Florida balcony, he was caught driving over the speed limit, and in January he was charged with domestic violence. In the Steelers' final game of 2018, Brown was told that he wouldn't be playing for disciplinary reasons and at the end of the first half, he left the game.
As for Odell, his transition from the Giants to the Cleveland Browns was surprising. What made it surprising, was that in August, Beckham Jr. received a contract extension of 5 years and $95 million. Odell's questionable antics on the field did not occur as much as before. If anything, he had a strong season catching 77 passes for 1,052 yards and scoring 6 times. He even threw 2 long touchdown passes, This was in only 12 games played before having to sit out the final 4 games with a quad injury. Their wasn't a lot of attention surrounding Odell as most of it was directed to Brown. When asked about Odell's current placement with the Giants, GM Dave Gettleman stated, "We didn't sign him to trade him." It seemed to have put an end to any possibilities of Odell not starting 2019 in a Giants uniform. Or that's what everyone thought before March 11 - the day that OBJ was traded to the Browns. The move shocked the football world. No one envisioned Beckham Jr. becoming a Brown, yet here it was happening right now. The Giants got a decent return on the trade, receiving a 1st and 3rd round pick along with safety Jabrill Peppers. However, it is clear that this trade along with some other moves signals a rebuilding period in New York. The Browns on the other hand, are looking like they're going to be an offensive juggernaut with quarterback Baker Mayfield, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (who won't take the field until week 8 due to a suspension), tight end David Njoko, and wide receiver Jarvis Landry. This makes the Browns future sky high and fans will now have a reason to be excited, which hasn't been the case in a long time. As for Odell, he will now have the chance to consistently compete for a playoff berth and possibly a Super Bowl title when the Browns eventually become experienced with postseason football.
For Antonio Brown, it was no surprise as everyone knew he wanted out once he skipped the second half of their final game. After nearly 2 months of not responding to the texts and calls of Steelers management, he and owner Art Rooney II cleared the air and decided that a trade was the best option for both parties. On March 10th, he was traded to the Oakland Raiders. It was likely a better trade for the Raiders. For the Steelers, there isn't much to say except for that in return, they only received a 3rd and 5th round pick. For Brown he's traded to a team that is in dire need of skill players to support quarterback Derek Carr who was once looked at as a potential M.V.P. Coach Jon Gruden, who is known for his wisdom on the offensive side of the ball, now has the chance to work with arguably the best receiver of his generation. Brown can now prove that he is still one of the best players in the NFL.
So 2 of the top wide receivers with the same play style and personalities are now starting over with new teams. If you were a football fan watching that game back in 2016 you wouldn't have thought they would be traded 2 years later. Yet here they are on their new teams ready to prove themselves to the football world.
On Wednesday, March 13, former Pittsburg Steelers running back and all pro Le'Veon Bell signed a 4 year, $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets. It was a surprising amount of money for a guy that sat out for all of 2018, but nevertheless, it was a good contract for the Jets since many people expected a bigger deal. What the Jets also got was a lot more positives out of his contract. Here's why.
One reason this deal should be great for everyone involved, is that Bell is an amazing talent. From 2014-2017, Bell has averaged 1,119 rushing yards, 565 receiving yards, and 7 touchdowns. He has continuously shown an amazing ability which is to make plays with all of the patience he has. Bell knows when to strategically wait from 3-5 seconds before making a play. Most importantly, Bell's all around skills as a running back have contributed to wins. In 3 out of Bell's 5 seasons in the NFL, he rushed for 1,000 yards. In those 3 seasons, the Steelers won their division. Bell will most likely bring all of those qualities to the Jets.
Bell is the kind of player who will make the other players on the offense around him better. He is someone who, despite being the great player he is individually, can also improve certain areas of the offense, Throughout his career in Pittsburgh, Bell has improved their running game, passing attack, and pass protection. For a Jets offense that already has a young core of talent in quarterback Sam Darnold, running back Elijah McGuire, wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, and tight end Chris Herndon IV, this is a major improvement regarding talent and reliability.
The final reason is because Le'Veon was a polarizing figure in Pittsburgh, he's in need of a fresh start in New York. In his final 2 seasons with the Steelers, everyone knew that besides playing for individual and team success, Bell was also playing for a new contract. After 2016, he rejected a 5 year contract extension which forced the Steelers to place the franchise tag on him to prevent him from entering free agency. After 2017, the Steelers had to tag him again. However, his agent reported that 2018 will be Bell's last season as a Steeler. What Bell also did surprised lots of players, fans, and analysts: he sat out for the entire season. Now that Bell has a fresh start with a team with lots of potential, his team placement won't be as stressful as it was in Pittsburgh.
So not only did the Jets simply get a great player in Le'Veon Bell, but they got a guy who makes others around him better, knows how to win, and will be in a better situation than he was earlier in his career. Jets defensive tackle and Bell's former teammate in Pittsburgh Steve McLendon perfectly summed up Bell's qualities back in December saying, "If you get him in here, I know one thing about him. When he steps foot in this building, you're going to get 100 percent from this guy." He continued by saying that people should, "just know that he's going to bring out the best out of so many people. Just imagine: He'd be the Jamal Adams on offense. Loud. Energetic. Confident. And you know he's going to make plays." As things stand now, we know the fantasy has become a reality and hopefully, that reality will translate into one of greatest moves ever made by the Jets.
Before we start, I must say, this stings a bit as my favorite team besides the New York Yankees is the Washington Nationals (my dad grew up in the Washington D.C. area). Star outfielder Bryce Harper's new contract with the Philadelphia Phillies is not only a massive contract (13 years and $330 million), but a huge change to the landscape of baseball players.
Over this offseason, MLB stars Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, and Bryce Harper received massive contracts. On February 20th, Machado signed with the San Diego Padres for 10 years and $300 million. Arenado resigned with the Colorado Rockies for 8 years and $260 million on February 26th. Then of course, Harper topped them all on February 28th with his contract which is the largest in baseball history.
However, there is lots of ego among these players who, despite the great talent they have, are question marks for their big contracts due to the lack of deep playoff runs or consistency. Machado has been in the postseason 4 times in his career. Three of those appearances were when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles. They only won one playoff series. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers midway through the 2018 season and helped them get to the World Series where they lost 4 games to 1. What was more widely known was the fact that Machado publicly said that hustling "isn't my cup of tea." When he was running the bases, he was clearly trying to intentionally trip the fielders of the Milwaukee Brewers in the Championship series. Game 4 in particular got people irritated as he intentionally tried to trip Jesus Aguilar. He was fined $10,000 by the league and M.V.P. Christein Yelich supported his teammate by calling Machado's actions "A dirty play by a dirty player. It absolutely is." So despite making his first world series, Machado's reputation has already distinguished him from being called a winner.
Arenado didn't make the playoffs until 2017 when the Arizona Diamondbacks eliminated them in the Wild Card round. He won his first playoff game next year against the Chicago Cubes, but were swept 3 games to none in the divisional round by the Milwaukee Brewers. Harper has not had a losing season throughout his Nationals career. He has made the playoffs 4 out of his 7 years winning the division in every year, but the Nationals have never won a playoff series, losing in excruciating fashion in every game. So there you have it: winning for these players is common, but they still have a way to go if they want to have purely consistent winning ways.
They want money to be mentioned when people talk about their legacies. They may not admit that, but they want to go out with both money and fame. The dead end to this is that not all of these players are generational talents. Harper is the only one out of the 3 who is considered a generational talent and he hasn't had any playoff success. By contrast, in the 2018 NFL off season, lots of players got big contract extensions in August. Yet those players have already proved to be generational talents already and played massive roles on their teams. In what has become a sports world in which big contracts have been common, these baseball players also wanting to get paid big time.
Contract standards are also made by these players. Machado was offered $220 million by the New York Yankees, while the Chicago White Sox offered him $175 million and 8 years. The Phillies were also a dark horse candidate for Machado. The Rockies originally avoided arbitration with Arenado by giving him $26 million. Harper was given a 10 year, $300 million contract by the Nationals in hopes of resigning him in which he denied. Other teams placed solid offers for Harper, but it was the Phillies that won Harper.
This is a new period in baseball, and it is a new period regarding the contracts that are handed out to these players. The sports world of contracts has already been changing dramatically and these baseball players have exceeded most of the contracts that athletes in other sports already have. It'll be interesting to see if these high paid players will deliver great individual play and championships to their teams.
There are a lot of NBA teams that are looking like Eastern Conference Champions. The Toronto Raptors, thanks to Kwahi Leonard and a strong offense and defense, have been dominating the Atlantic Division which has 3 other potential playoff teams. The Philadelphia 76ers are not far behind, as they have arguably the most talented starting 5, with all of them scoring more than 16 points per game. The Boston Celtics have been struggling, but it's not right to count them out considering the success they had in last year's playoffs: getting within one win of the NBA Finals (despite not having Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward). As for your NBA champion, the Golden State Warriors are still a threat with one of the best starting fives in NBA history. The Oklahoma City Thunder have been dominating since the end of January thanks to the best all around duo in the NBA which is Paul George and Russell Westbrook. It's never safe to count out the Los Angeles Lakers who, despite slumping, still have the greatest player ever in LeBron James and a young core that can turn it up when they want to. But there's one team who truly could be Eastern Conference (and possibly NBA) Champions and that is the Milwaukee Bucks.
Throughout this season the Bucks have dominated. They have a well balanced group of players and coaches. Their player stats and team stats are everything you want to see out of a winning team. They've had lots of wins over the course of this season that have made them invincible. In fact, they locked up a playoff berth yesterday despite 20 games still remaining on their schedule.
But it's more than that. Their players have progressed wildly while others despite maybe not being as good as they were before in their careers have been hole pluggers to this team. Giannis Antetokounmpo (pictured above) has been having a career season. His current averages per game are 26 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal. He's currently number 1 in win shares, win shares per 48 minutes, defensive win shares, and defensive rating. His overall play has been amazing. In December, he said, "All I know is how to work. Working hard gives me confidence, so when I feel like I'm not working hard, it takes away from my confidence. Working hard is not just about getting better, but it gives you a lot of confidence. When you go out there and compete, it's knowing you've done the work that gives you the confidence." This has also been the case for wingman Kris Middleton. Middleton was always recognized as a solid player. Last year, he averaged 20 points. It was this year however, when despite his scoring average only dropping by 3, he has been more efficient. His reward was his first career all-star appearance. Point guard Eric Bledsoe has averaging 15 points and 5 assists a game, good enough for him to earn a 4 year 70 million contract extension. Veteran big man Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic have emerged as floor stretchers who can shoot threes and create passing lanes for Giannis and co. Malcom Brogden has been rebounding from a disappointing sophomore season and is having arguably a better season than two years ago where he won Rookie of the Year. This core group of players along with other solid role players have been healthy and well balanced throughout the entire season.
Their team stats show how well balanced they are. They're averaging 117 points on offense which is good enough for 3rd in the NBA and 108 points allowed which is 9th in the NBA. They're averaging 26 assists which is good enough for 6th in the NBA. So I think you already have the idea. This team is the most balanced team in the NBA.
Coach Mike Budenholzer has been responsible for all the team accomplishments. His reward was being one of the two head coaches of the all star game. His first year with the Bucks has been the same story as his first season with the Atlanta Hawks back in 2014-2015 where they won 60 games and made the Eastern Conference Finals. Management wasn't able to keep their core players and it eventually led to his downfall in Atlanta. Fortunately with the Bucks, with the extension of Bledsoe, the players who they have to resign are Middleton, Lopez, Mirotic, Brogden, and Trevon Duval. Most of those players will probably resign based on the fact that they have been thriving in their roles with the team, so there shouldn't be much concern in that category which should set up Budenholzer to be the Bucks' coach in the years to come.
They've had a number of statement wins from October to basically now. It started against the Philadelphia 76ers at home. The last time these two teams played each other the 76ers won by 35 points. The next game was a different story, as the Bucks won by 15. Two weeks later, they beat the Warriors on the road. In December they beat the Celtics in Boston for the first time in 6 matchups (including last year's playoff series where they lost in seven games and all of their losses were in Boston). In January, they beat the Houston Rockets in Houston, but the real statement win that month was against the Raptors in Toronto. No player on the Bucks scored more than 19 points and they held Kwahi Leonard to 7/20 shooting with 16 points. A week later, their offense racked up a ridiculous season high 148 points against the Washington Wizards at home who have been inconsistent this season, but are still a potential first round playoff opponent. Just to prove that beating Boston wasn't a fluke, they won again two weeks later. That brings us to about now where, the Bucks, not the Warriors, Raptors, 76ers, Thunder, Rockets, Celtics, or Lakers, became the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff berth which was in L.A. against the Lakers in the first of what should be the first of many matchups between Giannis and LeBron (they played earlier, but LeBron couldn't play due to an injury). All of these wins are games where they might've not won last year, but this year's team is different in many ways compared to last year's team, which won 44 games and finished 7th in the East.
It'll be interesting to see how the Bucks will fare in this year's NBA Playoffs.