The month of February turned out to be a complete disaster, capped off with the announcement that Bryce Harper has finally come to terms with a team, signing a 13-year deal worth 330 MILLION with the... dreaded Philadelphia Phillies. Great news for Phillies fans and those who enjoy sitting in the bleachers; Harper will probably hit about 100 homeruns in that pint sized ball park. Bad news for the rest of the NL East. The Phillies (on paper) are easily one of the best teams in the division.
I was hoping Harper played on the west coast where he could escape the harsh Philly media - once encountering his first 0 for 20 slump, but I take Harper doesn't mind a little criticism having spent the first part of his career in D.C.
Where do we go from here?
Thankfully, for me, I get the luxury to watch Mr. Harper up close and personal; might even go to a few Phillies games this season, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed with his decision. He had 330 million reasons to play in the city of Brotherly Love... but I'm sure he'll say "it wasn't about the money," because after all, that's what they ALL say. I expect him to bounce back in a major way this season and with that said, I have some decisions to make in fantasy baseball with my first pick : )
Okay... 2 days remain in the month of January, and Superbowl LIII (no, not Superbowl "L," "I," "I," it's '53' for those who don't understand Roman numerals) is only 5 days away, yet two of baseball's prized free agents are still claiming their free agency titles, leaving fans absolutely puzzled. CAN SOMEBODY SIGN A DAMN CONTRACT?!
It's a new day and age; the era of stupid-long-term-astronomical-contracts are dead. It's apparent. There have been whispers that Bryce Harper will make his long awaited announcement within the next 24 hours, but my guess is he'll wait until AFTER Superbowl Sunday - allowing the NFL to have their moment in the sun until the season officially says bye-bye late Sunday evening (what a great guy!).
Harper can wait until the 2019 season opener to sign a contract for all I care, just as long as he doesn't sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.
As far as Manny Machado? Who in the heck knows. But I've never seen anything like this. MLB's free agency period starts in early December; the superstars of the sport typically sign on the dotted line a good month before pitchers and catchers shake off their rust in February. But not these guys. Perhaps, Harper and Machado are crossing their fingers and toes hoping for those grandiose 300 million dollar contracts (though I wouldn't count on it) or, maybe both stars are anticipating last minute interest from their preferred teams. Harper has gone on record saying how much he idolized the great Yankee, Mickey Mantle - though I'm not certain how that could've happened considering Mantle's last game occurred in 1968... 24 years before Harper was born (I'm guessing his dad was a big fan). Machado has shown great devotion to the Yankees as well. Everybody is Yankee crazy! But with the way things have gone this off season, I don't see it happening (God, thank you for answering my prayers). Both free agents have worked hard to reach this point, so yes, they've earn the right to take however much time is necessary to find the right fit. But the clock is ticking...
Final verdict: Harper ends up in Philly (ugh) and Machado signs a short-term deal with a National League team.
Congrats On This Year's HOF Class!
Did I mentioned a visit to Cooperstown was on my bucket list? What's that? I alluded to this in Chapter 6 of my book? Really?!
Anywho, baseball's Hall of Fame will welcome in its Class of 2019 as it was announced Edgar Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina and the late Roy Halladay will join Harold Baines and former relief pitcher Lee Smith this summer. Thankfully, I had the chance to watch each of these players regularly, and though I have my uncertainties on a couple of names, I was thrilled to see Edgar Martinez finally make it to Cooperstown.
It is very rare for a Designated Hitter (an American League player who typically doesn't play the field due to their defensive inabilities) to receive much (if any) love. Many baseball purists deem them as "one dimensional," finding very little value in their play to receive such a nod to join the other greats of America's Pastime. Though the narrative of a DH is true to some degree, voters shouldn't dismiss the efforts of a guy like Martinez who was as good a hitter as anyone during his day.
Growing up a fan of power hitters, it was common to see them consume the DH role; usually batting around .250, knocking out 35-40 homeruns, driving in 100+ runs. But then, you'd come across guys like Paul Molitor (who DH'ed later in his career) and Martinez (who originally came up as a third baseman), players unknown for their power, but had an apt for hitting the baseball. Martinez, who really didn't turn the corner as a player until his 30s, played 18 seasons with the Seattle Mariners and became of the game's craftiest hitters. And here's a stat that I found to be incredible: he'd only struck out over 100x's ONCE during his career! Martinez, a 7-time all-star, finished his career with a remarkable .312 average, reaching the 300 homerun plateau, and get this... he's a native New Yorker! (I seriously had no idea - shame on me).
I enjoyed watching him bat in a lineup filled with studs like Ken Griffey Jr, Jay Buhner and eventually, Alex Rodriguez. Those Mariner teams were fun to watch (when the Mets weren't busy pissing me off). Unfortunately, for Martinez and the rest of his teammates, their World Series runs were usually cut short by Mariano Rivera and the almighty Yankees. Rivera was perhaps the best closer of his era (some would argue the best of all time), and one of the classiest dudes around. Well deserved, men, well deserved. Congrats on this year's class!
Baseball Will Soon Be Here!
Plenty of topics to discuss, but as my eyes, ears and brain scoured the news, one particular story stood out: Spring Training is 70 days away! (good news for those of us who absolutely despise the cold... like me).
December is the month for MLB's GM meetings and free agents signings, as baseball gears up for the 2019 season. 'Hot stove' reports have run rampant for the past week, as fans await the next astronomical contract signing. Plenty of low-key names have moved onto other teams and a few trades have been executed, but the the baseball world awaits the signings of this off-season's biggest names: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado; both are expected to add several more zeroes to their bank accounts.
From the sound of things, the Philadelphia Phillies are the favorites to land Harper or Machado (the Chicago White Sox have reportedly thrown their name into the mix as well - anyone but the Yankees - please!). I don't expect either player to sign with these team (I suspect some out-of-the-blue club will quietly enter the Harper/Machado sweepstakes or the almighty Yankees will magically sign them BOTH at the eleventh hour!), but as the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase once told us - 'everyone has a price!' Two things are for certain; both players will be saying hello to nice contracts and higher expectations.
In the perfect world, I'd like any team in pursuit of the two stars to play some serious 'hard ball' (pardon the pun). Don't simply wine and dine them or hand over a blank check for the sake of headlines and ego coddling (we've got to get out of the business of sucking up to athletes who put on their pants the same way many of us do. They're still human beings). Make them sweat. Let them know that under no circumstance will a 3, 4, 500 million dollar deal be placed on the table! I don't care if the owner is a ba-zillionaire making money hand over fist. Set the precedence. No ONE player is bigger than the game, and there isn't a player on the free agent market worth that amount of money (maybe 1 or 2 players in sports are).
Admittedly, I am a big Bryce Harper fan. He's an exceptional player, though to some, hasn't fully lived up to the hype. Despite putting up a respectable stat line through his 7 years with the Washington Nationals - where he was awarded NL MVP in 2015, to a select group of fans and media types, his tenure in D.C. wasn't very memorable. Harper battled injuries, constantly answered questions about his lack of hustle and leadership qualities, losing out in favor to baseball's darling - the widely popular and talented Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels.
I understand the market has drastically changed since the days of childhood heroes Ken Griffrey Jr, Jose Canseco, and Tony Gwynn (players who never sniffed contracts in the 100 million dollar range), but any team looking to attach the number 300 million to Harper's name (based on these concerns) should be under the watchful eye of commissioner Rob Manfred. Either that, or baseball should seriously consider implementing a salary cap. However, if last off-season was any indication of the future of baseball's free agency process, I expect those outrageous salaries of yesteryear to have seen better days.
P.S.: Any player b*tchin' and moaning over a 150 million dollar contract offer instead of 300 million, send him to me. I'll show them what 'hard times' are like.
As for Machado, he revealed an ugly side to the baseball world during the 2018 NLCS, intentionally kicking the leg of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar (as he crossed the bag). This, coming a year after being involved in another incident where Machado attempted a "dirty slide" injuring Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Baseball prides itself on being the sport of good 'ol boys and class acts. The last thing baseball purists want is for "America's Pastime" to intermix with the perceived thuggery of athletes from other sports (although historically, thuggery has long existed on the diamond - hello Ty Cobb and a sh*tload of others). Antics aside, I can honestly say I've never been a fan of Machado's vibe.
He's certainly one of the better players of today and you'd be a fool to hold him in contempt for two questionable acts in an overall impressive 7-year career. But one has to wonder about his character. This absolutely matters; off the field and ON. Machado is loaded with talent and extremely confident. No argument here. But I find he teeters on the side of cocky; someone who probably believes in his own hype. Those are my instant vibes anytime I watch him on the field. If I'm a team looking to invest in his type of player long-term, based on the aforementioned, I'd err on the side of caution.
Both players have paid their dues and should be rewarded for their past performance. Besides, I'm sure there isn't a better feeling than having a handful of teams covet and shower you with hopes, promises, perks, and unimaginable salary offers. Personally, I'd love to see clubs like the San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, or Arizona D'Backs enter the bidding war. I understand it's a pipe dream and probably wouldn't make much baseball/financial sense, but can you imagine adding a west coast guy like Harper (born in Las Vegas) to a town like San Diego? The move would do wonders; giving their fan base some hope. That franchise has been irrelevant far too long - they deserve SOME type of love (I'm not a Padres fan, but when is enough, enough?!).
I've got your back, San Diego! Hopefully, you're able to make a splash. Things are sure to heat up in the coming days; I'll be watching intently.
FYI: I won't lie to you, my fantasy baseball senses are tingling *rubbing hands*
The Latest on Kareem Hunt
When will these guys EVER learn?
The NFL is faced with yet another bout of violence - off the field, as former Kansas City Chiefs running back, Kareem Hunt, was released last week stemming from an altercation back in February. Yes, the calendar currently reads December, and yes, the incident was 10 months ago, but it appears the team took the side of their star halfback, going as far as to allow Hunt to participate in the 2018 season without a substantial fine or suspension. That is, until good 'ol TMZ released footage of the skirmish between Hunt and a female, shocking football fans and angering anyone who drafted Hunt in their fantasy football leagues... ahem! ME! (can anyone tell me why TMZ has become the "big brother" of the entertainment world?).
The cringe video shows an unidentified female standing in a hotel hallway before she struck Hunt in the face. Hunt proceeded to forcefully pushed her to the floor and to add insult to injury, he kicked her while down before all hell broke loose. Despite Hunt's eye-popping stat line contributing to a banner 2018 season thus far for the Chiefs, the team swiftly handed him his walking papers once the video was released, leaving their playoff run in jeopardy (not to mention, my fantasy football season which I can kiss goodbye).
In all seriousness, we have another case of an athlete not being cognizant of his celebrity. Another athlete who enjoys hanging out during late hours. Another athlete not paying attention to the traps indirectly (sometimes directly) placed in front of them. Another athlete who hasn't figured out that no matter who's at fault, never can you physically harm a female and think it'll go unnoticed; not in our current world. Not ever. Finally, another athlete who will likely get a second chance.
Hunt released a statement underlining how his mother 'raised him better than that.' I believe him. Can women antagonize, perpetuate an argument and become the aggressor? You'd better believe it. You'd be a fool to think otherwise. Here's another disclaimer: human beings are wired to react when emotions are running high. Let's stop acting as if everyone can simply take the "high road" after their face gets planted with a front hand. At the same token, Hunt, a mere 23 years-old, HAS to use better judgment. We can attribute this incident as a lack of maturity; perhaps Hunt is inexperienced when it comes to late-night encounters with women at hotels. But the NFL offers hands-on training to their incoming rookie class for situations such as this, typically within weeks after they've been drafted. Hunt is currently in his second season. Maybe he fell asleep during orientation and missed vital information.
I'll chalk it up to another athlete believing in their celebrity; presuming the incident would be swept under the rug - because that's usually what happens when you're famous. But in the end, some team will pick up where the Chiefs left off; he's too talented. Soon, he'll be offered another contract, returning to the RB1 slot on the depth chart. Remember, this is the NFL we're talking about, where second chances are handed out like Halloween candy (except if your name is Ray Rice). But one can only hope Hunt has learned a valuable lesson and this was an isolated event.
If I'm Kareem Hunt, I'm looking for personal growth as a man and I'll use this "off time" wisely. Remember, life is much bigger than football. Second, I'd pray for a second chance and do my damnest to be on best behavior. Not only to appease my new employer, but to prove that mama Hunt did in fact 'raise him better.' Third, I'd keep a close eye on the company I keep around, adding an alert to my cell as a reminder to always keep both feet on the ground (in particular, the wee hours of the morning in a hotel hallway). Lastly, the only time my hands would have any movement on camera is when I'm receiving a screen pass from my new QB, or when stiff arming a defender. Better yet, when I'm promptly sticking up both middle fingers to "Big Brother" as I calmly walk through a hotel hallway - incident free. Give TMZ something to talk about then!
From here on out, all eyes will be on Hunt, as plenty will be salivating at the mouth at the sight of another error in judgment. Pay attention, it comes at no cost.