Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, June 15, 2018 at 12:00 AM
THE BASEBALL NOTEBOOK: TACKLING ALL THE HOT TOPICS OF THE DAY
THE NFL REPORT: SHOULD WE EXPECT BOUNCE BACK SEASONS FROM THE NY GIANTS AND OAKLAND RAIDERS?
Folks, if we've heard it once, then we've heard it a thousand times already: The New York Yankees (44-20) and the Boston Red Sox (48-22) figure to be engaged in a monster head-to-head battle all year long for first place in the American League East. But all fans - of both teams - seem to talk about lately is the fear factor of finishing in second place with 100-plus wins and then having to play that Russian Roulette one-game Wild Card Playoff game against the AL's other wild card team.
Two items to address here: Both Yankees and Red Sox fans seem to believe that it's a "done deal" that the AL East runner-up squad will have tons more wins then that other wild card team but have they noticed that the Seattle Mariners (44-25) and the defending World Series champion Houston Astros (45-25) are both playing better-than-.630 ball in the AL West? Could you imagine that when the dust settles on this 2018 season the loser in the chase for first place between Yankees/Red Sox will have 100-plus wins but then forced to play a wild card game ON THE ROAD?
Okay, so maybe you don't think we're headed for a finish in which these four above-mentioned teams wind up north of 100 wins but it's quite possible.
Here's a couple more "hot topics" making the rounds in MLB ...
There's a view - by many - that the San Francisco Giants ought to be in the market to trade away LHP Madison Bumgarner (0-1, 4.76 ERA) ... but why?
The Giants are 34-35 and just 4.5 games back of National League West leader Arizona - hardly "out of it" by any means - and keep in mind this San Fran team is a "win-now" club after acquiring the likes of OF Andrew McCutchen (34 RBI and team-leading 40 runs scored) and 3B Evan Longoria (10 HR, team-high 34 RBI but now on the DL with a fractured hand suffered in Thursday's epic, 16-inning, 6-3 win in Miami) this past winter.
We say Bumgarner isn't going anywhere as the Giants have 'em at a cheap price - that's $12 million this year and another $12 million for the 2019 season - and the always-patient Giants' organization starring manager Bruce Bochy will allow Bumgarner all the time in the world this year to get straightened away after he missed the first chunk of this season with a finger injury. Bumgarner is going nowhere! ...
Finally, Washington Nationals OF Bryce Harper (team-leading 19 dingers with 43 RBI and a .500 slugging percentage) has been ignoring any/all attempts by the media to address his pending free agency but insiders say Harper could be headed anywhere - or staying put in D.C. - depending on a whole lot of factors straight ahead.
Trust us, if the aforementioned Yankees can somehow jettison OF/DH Giancarlo Stanton (see nine years left on that goes from anywhere between $25 million to $32 million per season) then Harper could be headed to The Bronx; If the Los Angeles Dodgers can shed some salary then Harper could be NL West-bound; or Harper could be staying put especially if this year's Nats win it all or come close to doing so. Stay tuned.
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THE NFL REPORT
NEW YORK GIANTS (3-13) - Last year's Giants took a major step backwards from that somewhat unexpected 11-win regular season just two years ago but there's an avalanche of momentum on NYG's side these days even though nobody's quite sure if star WR Odell Beckham, Jr. is gonna get his multi-million contract. The Jints drafted Penn State RB Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick and insiders say veteran QB Eli Manning has more pep in his step then they've seen in a long time. Still, we'll be closely watching how this reshuffled offensive line looks come September plus does anyone have real reason to believe this oft-roasted Giants' secondary will be better? Knee-jerk feel is to say the Giants will indeed have a bounce-back season in 2018 but a new head coach (Pat Shurmur) and a tough sked that includes road games at Dallas, Houston and Carolina in the first five weeks will make it tough.
OAKLAND (6-10) - Last year's major fall from that 12-5 SU (straight-up) season in 2016 got head coach Jack Del Rio fired on New Year's Eve (enter Jon Gruden following 10 years in the broadcast booth) but will the silver-and-black now turn the beat back around in '18? Hey, this is a team that ranked 22nd in total defense (and 25th versus the pass) last year and note the Raiders flopped spreadwise big-time with a 5-9-2 ATS (against the spread) mark last year. How about the fact Oakland scored 17 points or less on 10 different occasions? Now, here's the Raiders likely facing an extended holdout from star pass rusher Khalil Mack (remember he's had 36.5 sacks the past three years) and we're wondering if that's gonna upset any positive spin Gruden might put on the upcoming campaign.
NOTE: Catch all the Major-League Baseball news/notes in the next edition of Jim Sez and we'll continue to dig into all the key NFL news items from here through training camps, so don't miss out!