Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sale of the Century

For days, the prevailing rumor was that Chris Sale was going to be traded to Washington.  Ken Rosenthal even reported yesterday that the White Sox and Nationals were haggling over the final details.  Apparently, those details couldn't be worked out.

News has broken that Sale will be traded, but he'll only be changing the color of his socks... er, Sox.  The Red Sox have landed the dynamic Sale in exchange for a number of top prospects.  While the price was steep -- Yoan Moncada is a highly-touted Cuban import and Michael Kopech blew hitters away in A-ball -- Sale is one of the top pitchers in all of baseball.  He now joins what could be one of the best, if not the best, rotations in the major leagues.

Let's assume that Sale becomes the ace of the staff.  That would leave the AL's reigning Cy Young award winner as the Sox #2 starter.  Yep, Rick Porcello -- 22-4, 3.15 ERA, 1.01 WHIP -- might not be the best pitcher on the Red Sox.  And let's not forget about David Price, who signed with the Sox last season to be their ace.  Though Price had a "down" year -- going 17-9 with a near-career high ERA of 3.99 -- he still managed to strike out more batters than innings pitched.

While that top three would rival just about any organization's, the Sox aren't finished.  Their potential 4th starter, Drew Pomeranz, put up these numbers in 2016: 3.32 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 186 K's in 171 innings.  His record of 11-12 was certainly not indicative of his performance.  And certainly not the kind of numbers for a typical 4th starter.  The Sox still have promising lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and veteran Clay Buchholz to battle it out for the 5th spot.

The trade for Sale comes at a great time for the Red Sox.  All-Star and icon David Ortiz retired after another spectacular season, leaving a big hole in the middle of the lineup.  Though the Sox made the playoffs in 2016, their stay was brief.  Adding a pitcher of Sale's caliber puts an already solid rotation over the top, somewhat off-setting the loss of Ortiz to the offense.

The off-season is still young and there are still plenty of free agents to sign and players to trade.  However, it will be tough to beat the splash Boston made today.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Make Up Your Mind, Dude!

"Make up your mind, dude, is he gonna shit or is he gonna kill us?!?"
Jeff Spicoli was taken aback by his friend's contradictory statements.  After this weekend, I'd like to ask the same thing of the College Football Playoff Committee!

On Sunday, the CFP released their final rankings, setting the teams that will play for the chance to win a National Championship: #1 Alabama, #2 Clemson, #3 Ohio State and #4 Washington.  Certainly these are among the top college football teams in 2016 and are deserving of a spot.  But are they the most deserving?  And by what criteria?

As I wondered aloud in this column before, the committee faced a challenge in weighing Ohio State vs Penn State.  Yes, Ohio State was one of the top teams in the nation, losing only once against good competition.  An 11-1 team from a major conference is usually a solid choice for the playoffs.  But that one loss: it came at the hands of Penn State!  A Penn State team that, by virtue of that head-to-head-victory, played for and won the Big 10 Championship.  Certainly the committee had to struggle with leaving out a big-5 conference champion?  Apparently not.  Penn State -- Big 10 champs, winners of 11 games, the only team to hand Ohio State a loss -- finished 5th.

Don't get me wrong: I absolutely think Ohio State is a better team than Penn State.  In fact, I don't think Penn State is a very good team at all.  In fact, the real reason why I'm ticked off is that IF the CFP doesn't particularly value a conference championship, how is Penn State ranked ahead of Michigan?  The Wolverines, who finished what feels like a distant 10-2, placed 6th in the final rankings, behind a Penn State team that they absolutely throttled to the tune of 49-10.  That was no squeaker.

If not playing for a conference title doesn't matter, what does?  Head-to-head apparently doesn't count for much, as both Ohio State and Penn State (both ways) can now attest.  So now we're left to guess just what makes one team rank higher than another.  Make up your mind, dude.

The reality is that it actually didn't matter where Michigan finished in relation to Penn State.  As the winner of the Big 10 that is not in the playoffs, the Nittany Lions get an automatic bid to the Rose Bowl.  There they will face USC, who didn't win the Pac-12, didn't play for that title, but is the next-highest-ranked team from the Pac-12 at #9.

I, for one, will enjoy the Orange Bowl.