The Great Debate: Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons?

Photo Credit: Mark Dolejs/USA Today

The NBA Draft is less than a month away, which is kind of unbelievable.

While it is unfair to judge this early in the process, it would be fair to assess this year’s draft as top-heavy.  Many, including myself, believe that the two best incoming rookies are LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram.  Most also would agree that there’s a large gap between the second and third-best players in the draft.  The 76ers and Lakers, respectively, have the first and second picks. Philadelphia’s choice will be real simple: the consensus #1 in Simmons or the younger, higher-upside, riskier choice in Ingram.

Let’s make a case for either as the #1 pick, starting with Simmons.  I’ll preface everything I am about to say with the fact that, at this time last year, I viewed D’Angelo Russell as the best player in the draft.  We all make mistakes.

The Case For Ben Simmons

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle/USA Today

The appeal with Simmons is obvious: he can play all five positions, rebound like a forward, pass like a guard, and run the floor like a wing.  On the surface, he’s one part LeBron James and another part Magic Johnson.  The latter seems to know something about this:

If you don’t believe Simmons is a freakish talent, there’s photographic evidence to prove it.  Take a look at this play from LSU’s late-January tilt against Oklahoma.  Watch Simmons identify the lack of backside help, blow by Khadeem Lattin, and rock the cradle like it’s nothing:

 

He’s a very intelligent offensive player, one who uses his athletic ability and length to overpower smaller, weaker defenders.  He needs to learn how to shoot (more on that later) but his athleticism, rebounding, and passing make him, in the minds of many, the undisputed top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

And it’s easy to see why; we haven’t seen anything quite like Simmons in a long time, and it’s difficult to compare the Aussie to just one past or present NBA player.  If I were to guess, he’s equal parts of Lamar Odom, Blake Griffin, and LeBron.  He possesses Odom’s passing ability and creativity, Griffin’s rebounding ability, and LeBron’s can’t-miss athleticism.  He has the potential to be a special player, but his skill set is one unfamiliar to many.

That shouldn’t prevent us from appreciating him, though.  And it shouldn’t prevent him from reaching his full potential, either.

The Case for Brandon Ingram

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire/USA Today

Ingram’s case is rooted less in the now and more in the potential of what he could become later on.  Ingram came into Duke very shortly after turning 18 and improved greatly on both ends as the season went along.  While he had more talent around him in Durham than Simmons did at LSU, Ingram’s steady improvement and promising upside make him a potentially high-reward, albeit somewhat high-risk, pick at one.

The main difference between Ingram’s game and Simmons’ is that the former is able to consistently knock down shots from deep.  That being said, he can get up when given the space, as he did against Oregon in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament:

 

Ingram is easily the best two-way player in the draft, one who really competes on both ends.  He’s ready to contribute right away defensively and should be able to handle most threes and even some fours.  He’s an extremely athletic, long wing who will fit perfectly in today’s NBA and most teams’ systems, as well.  If there’s one knock on him, it’s that he’s:

  1. incredibly raw
  2. too thin to handle NBA physicality

After watching Ingram play several times and studying tape on him, I came to the conclusion that he reminded me of Kevin Durant. Yes, that’s a lofty comparison and it doesn’t mean he will become the player KD is, but their styles of play are very similar.  He weighs under 200 pounds, but as ESPN’s Ian Begley points out, he’s working diligently to fix this problem as quickly as possible:

Ingram’s potential is off-the-charts.  That’s why Philadelphia should take him with their first overall pick.

The Verdict

We’ve dissected the case for each player to go first overall on June 23. In my view, Ingram and Simmons are 1 and 1a; it’s hard to go wrong either way.  That being said, I do have to pick one over the other, and even though they are very close talent-wise, I’ll take Brandon Ingram by a hair.  Here’s why.

For one thing, I like his fit in most NBA organizations.  There aren’t many systems in which he would not be able to find a role, as his talent at both ends gives him the versatility to succeed.  This isn’t to say that Simmons is not versatile, but he is multi-talented in a slightly different way.  For example, he was asked to handle the ball more in college than he likely will in the NBA.  Ingram, on the other hand, worked more off-the-ball at Duke, getting open off screens and the penetration of Duke guards.

On that note, Ingram is a far better off-ball player than Simmons.  He plays very instinctually on offense and knows how to get open.  The LSU forward isn’t there yet, but he has to learn how to shoot first.

Don’t think that Simmons’ inability to sink a jump shot won’t hurt him at the next level.  Defenses will be more likely to sag off him, preventing him from building momentum toward the rim and, in turn, creating offense for his teammates.  He’s also not even shooting with the proper hand; learning to shoot with his right hand and not his left could help him improve.  But he absolutely has to get better from outside of the paint, and this will likely be the next step in his development.

The other factor that has been much discussed recently is Simmons’ interest in playing for the 76ers.  As Nick DePaula of The Vertical reported before the Draft Lottery, outside elements beyond fit and need may be at play:

The thinking from Simmons’ camp is straightforward and simple: It’s the Los Angeles Lakers or bust.

As it stands, Simmons has five-year endorsement offers from adidas and Nike. Adidas is offering a $10 million deal that also includes a $2 million signing bonus and a $1 million incentive bonus for being named Rookie of the Year. There are also several other on-court performance triggers that would provide Simmons with elevated marketing, extra resources and possibly his own signature shoe should he play at an All-Star level.

I’ll be honest: the shoe endorsement opportunities and off-court distractions are somewhat significant, but they should not be non-starters in Bryan Colangelo’s decision.  However, if Simmons and his agent, Rich Paul, expressly state that the prospect will refuse to play for the team, then Philly has to either take Ingram or trade down for more assets.  The 76ers are in a difficult position with this pick, especially if Simmons’ demands force their hand.

For these and other reasons, I would take Brandon Ingram over Ben Simmons if I had the #1 overall pick.  It’s a tough choice and one that will dictate the future of the 76ers for years to come, but I think that Ingram will continue to improve and validate his very high upside.

But it’s a very difficult decision, one I’m very happy I don’t have to make.

Baseball’s “Culture” Once Again Rears Its Ugly Head

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

You’re probably aware of this by now, but Jose Bautista got punched in the face yesterday.

The blow was the result of a hard slide into second base that attempted to break up a potential double play.  The slide would result in an out because of the new rules regarding interference at second base; however, the result of the slide would be what we’re talking about today and what we’ll be talking about for a long time.

The inning started with this pitch from Matt Bush that drilled Joey Bats squarely in the elbow.  The intentions of the pitch are debatable but you can see it for yourself here:

An Edwin Encarnacion fly out would be the first out of the inning. Jake Diekman subsequently entered the game and induced a ground ball to second from Justin Smoak.  And that’s when all hell broke loose.  (WARNING: video may be disturbing for some.)

Odor landed a right hook to Bautista’s face that would qualify as a knockout punch.  A full-blown donnybrook broke out, and Bautista, Odor, and Josh Donaldson were ejected after the fight.  It was a legitimate brawl; far from the usual baseball “fight” that consists of players running in from the bullpen and both dugouts only to stand around and yell at each other.

After the fight in the top of the 8th, Jays reliever Jesse Chavez thought it an intelligent idea to plunk Rangers DH Prince Fielder in the back to start the next half-inning.  It wasn’t.  Both benches cleared again and Chavez was ejected.  The Rangers ultimately won the game, 7-6. Nobody cared.

With all of this having occurred, one would think that the reaction to the fight would be negative.  One man punching another in the face is not generally well-received; just ask LeGarrette Blount.

Instead, some of the headlines and reaction were comparatively positive.  These are just a couple of the reactions to yesterday’s scuffle:

Deadspin: Blue Jays Call Rangers “Gutless” And “Cowardly” After Excellent Brawl

CBS Sports: WATCH: A montage of best right-handed punches in history of MLB fights

That reaction is real; people (even some involved in baseball) really think that throwing punches is cool.  In any other civilized setting, this action would be denounced as boorish and unethical behavior. In hockey, it’s called Tuesday, but fighting isn’t right in that sport, either. That being said, at least hockey players have some protection in the form of their helmets and the fight is at least somewhat controlled, often only involving one-on-one combat.  It doesn’t justify fighting, but it does explain why hockey continues to allow it, even as findings regarding concussions and brain injuries suggest that it should be banned.

That being said, how can baseball legislate its fighting problem?  It won’t be easy and it can’t be done by the umpires on the field.  It can be done on Park Avenue, by Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball.

One way to start would be to hand out major, major suspensions for this ridiculous brawl.  The MLB record for the longest suspension after a fight is 10; that record is jointly held by Michael Barrett, Ian Kennedy, Mike Sweeney, Miguel Batista, and Runelvys Hernandez. They were all suspended for some pretty wild actions, but it’s difficult not to argue that Odor’s right hook belongs up there with those fights as the most violent in baseball history.

This is another reason why there needs to be severe punishment for those involved in the fight: baseball needs a culture shock.  It needs to realize that fighting fire (or lesser things) with fire isn’t the right thing to do, that retaliation and violence are not avenues to deal with conflict over the course of a game.  Giving massive suspensions to Odor and others for their roles, even if they are unprecedented, can go a long way in changing baseball’s “eye-for-an-eye” culture.

But baseball must do even more to prevent fights like this from happening in the future.  One way the sport can stop the problem from growing is to educate its players on the dangers of violence and the serious harm that their actions can cause others.  Yes, players still will instinctually turn to brawling to deal with issues that arise, but if they are properly educated on the cons of these fights rather than the pros, the game will be far better for it.

And we can’t forget the elephant in the room: Jose Bautista’s actions in last year’s playoffs.  In a winner-take-all ALDS game 5 between these same two teams, Bautista launched a 7th-inning bomb to put the Blue Jays ahead to stay and into the ALCS.  Merely seconds after he made contact, Bautista launched quite possibly the most memorable bat flip throw in MLB history:

Some predictably took affront to Bautista’s actions, saying that he went over the top in his reaction to his home run.  For me, it’s very difficult to take issue with what Bautista did; it was the biggest home run of his life.  If you were him in that moment, you would celebrate too.  We need to stop having issues with bat flips and embrace them as a way of expressing the pure joy of this wonderful game; if we do this, we can make baseball fun again.

Finally, the last issue with baseball’s old school culture is that it is self-righteous and ignores the past actions of certain players if they play the game “the right way”.  For example, Odor has pulled plenty of dirty slides over the past year, as Padres pitcher Brandon Morrow points out:

And that’s not all when it comes to the second baseman.  In 2011, Odor was playing for the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League. On a play eerily similar to the one on Sunday, Odor slid well past second base.  After running in awfully close proximity to the Vancouver Canadians’ second baseman, a big fight like Sunday’s broke out, leaving Odor to fight the entire Vancouver team on his own:

So it’s only fitting that Odor was involved in the biggest MLB brawl in recent memory.

Baseball needs a change of culture, and it needs one soon.  The sport needs to relax its harsh critiques of bat flips, flamboyance, and harmless emotion so it can refocus its gaze on the very dangerous violence that sometimes exists between the white lines. Unfortunately, it may take a serious injury in one of these conflicts to make the sport change its ways.

However, baseball should change before we get to that point.

Capital Loss: Washington Blows Its Last, Best Chance at a Stanley Cup

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire/USA Today
Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire/USA Today

These weren’t the same old Capitals, they said.  This year would be different, they said.  Have faith in Washington, they said.  This team and these players would finish the deal, they said.  The Capitals would win a Stanley Cup, they said.

And yet, here we are, in the same position we were in years past, questioning what went wrong in Washington and what can be changed for the future.  And yet, maybe the Capitals have passed the point of no return, blowing their best chance to date at finally getting over the hump.

This year, the Capitals had the best season in hockey, amassing 120 points and 56 wins en route to the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.  For a time, they even flirted with NHL records in points (132) and wins in a 70+ game season (62).  The points record is held by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens; the wins record resides in Detroit with the 1995-96 Red Wings.  The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1977 while the Red Wings lost to the Avalanche in the 1996 Western Conference Final.  The 2015-16 Washington Capitals wouldn’t even get that far.

In hindsight, the first harbinger of trouble in the Caps’ truncated playoff run was their first-round series against the Flyers. Washington jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the series before dropping games 4 and 5.  The game 5 loss stands out in particular because the Capitals outshot the Flyers 44-11… and lost 2-0.  The team would take game 6, but the damage had been done.  The league’s best team was proven vulnerable.

After advancing over Philly, the Capitals would face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the next round.  The series was competitive and riveting; five of the six games were decided by one goal and three of six games went to overtime.  The first game was one of those overtime tilts, and the Capitals won it on this T.J. Oshie goal that almost didn’t make it across the goal line:

Game 2 also went down to the wire, with Eric Fehr’s goal at 15:32 of the 3rd period giving the Penguins a 2-1 victory.  A 3-2 win in Game 3 put the Penguins up 2-1, and Pittsburgh would take a 3-1 series lead on the strength of this overtime goal from Patric Hornqvist at the end of Game 4:

Game 5 saw the series return to the Nation’s Capital and the Capitals win 3-1 to force a Game 6.  In that game, Pittsburgh would pull out to a 3-0 lead and hold a 3-1 advantage going into the third period.  At this point, Capitals fans must have been simultaneously thinking the same thing: “Here we go again.”  However, this team was supposed to be different, the squad to avenge the losses of the Capitals’ past.

And while they couldn’t avenge those past losses just yet, the Capitals were able to avenge their bad start and tie the game at three with goals from Justin Williams and John Carlson.  This one would also go to an extra period; would the outcome be different for this year’s Capitals?

We got our answer at 6:32 of the first overtime period. Nick Bonino scored this game-winner on assists from Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel to win the series for the Penguins and send the Capitals golfing:

Here’s the question, though: what happened?  Why didn’t things change from prior years?

First of all, the Capitals didn’t choke.  I say that mainly because I absolutely hate the use of the word in sports.  The amount of proverbial or actual “choking” that goes on in sports is much less than you would think, especially if you only get your news from those who refuse to look at the facts.  That being said, the Capitals’ failure does represent a rather enormous missed opportunity, one that may haunt the organization for years to come.

This is why: Alex Ovechkin isn’t getting any younger.  At 30, he’s the best player in the game of hockey, but he’s also coming into the twilight of his prime.  Wayne Gretzky’s play began to decline around the age of 31; that isn’t meant to compare Ovie to the Great One, but it does show the mortality of NHL players, especially as the physicality and energy of the game takes a toll on their aging bodies.

Another reason why this is such a big disappointment is that the team is built to win in the postseason.  Yes, Ovechkin is the best player in the game, but goaltender Braden Holtby might be the best netminder in hockey right now.  Holtby is a nominee for the Vezina Trophy, annually given to the best goaltender in the NHL.  One of the major keys to victory in the playoffs is having a solid, consistent presence in net, and the Caps have one of the best goalies you could ask for.

And while he gave up four goals in the team’s final defeat of the season, Washington’s elimination can hardly be blamed on him.  By Goals Against Average, total saves, and save percentage, Holtby was the best goalie in the playoffs.  While other netminders had better and more efficient statistics, they didn’t have to deal with an unceasing barrage of shots in their general direction; Holtby did.  Even though he didn’t get the results to match his play, he is hardly the reason the Capitals are going home so early.

Are the Capitals cursed?  It’s difficult to say; they definitely are far from lucky.  The comparisons between them and the Clippers and, more specifically, Alex Ovechkin and Chris Paul, are stunning. Neither player has made the Conference Finals of his sport, and neither star is at fault for his team’s repeated misfortune.

That being said, the Capitals must recover quickly from this defeat. They’ve gone down time and time again early in the playoffs, so coming back from bitter defeat at the end of seasons is nothing new for them.

However, it may be too late for the current version of the Capitals to seize the sport’s ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup.

Where Does He Go Now? The Future of Frank Vogel

Photo Credit: Associated Press
Photo Credit: Associated Press

Frank Vogel is one of the best coaches in the NBA.  He’s an intelligent, charismatic team builder who has molded the Indiana Pacers into one of the most consistent teams in the league.  He’s also out of a job.

After coaching Indiana to five playoff appearances in nearly six years as the team’s head coach, he was let go by team president Larry Bird because… well, I don’t know why:

“Good coaches leave after three years”.  Larry Bird is the one of the best basketball players ever; what some forget is that at one time, he was a pretty good NBA head coach.  Ironically, he led the Pacers to three straight playoff appearances and the franchise’s only NBA Finals appearance in 2000.  Indiana lost to the Lakers, ending Bird’s third season as head coach.  And then…. he left.  Irony.

That being said, Vogel will have plenty of options if he wants to coach next season.  Let’s look at a few of those here.

Honorable Mention: Portland Trail Blazers

Yes, it sounds crazy; the Blazers already have Terry Stotts, one of the best coaches in the game and the runner-up in this season’s Coach of the Year voting.  Stotts, however, is at the end of his contract and while a deal should still get done, it will be interesting to follow whether this team and its coach come to an impasse in negotiations like the one encountered by Vogel and the Pacers.

It’s not likely that this job will be open, but it’s definitely one worth watching.

New York Knicks

Let’s just skip the formalities: there’s no chance Frank Vogel is coaching the Knicks next season.  They’ve seemingly locked in on Kurt Rambis as their guy (for some reason) and aren’t conducting much of a coaching search right now.  Vogel actually grew up in Wildwood, New Jersey and worked for the Lakers and Phil Jackson as an advance scout during the 2005-06 season.

Also, remember that Jackson, the team’s president, waited until June 10, 2014, before hiring Derek Fisher as its head coach the last time the job was open.  Vogel won’t last until then for the seemingly unhurried executive.  The likelihood of Vogel coaching the Knicks next season is easy to figure: zero.  There’s no chance of this actually happening.

That being said, it is fun to imagine the Knicks making a good coaching hire, for once.

Houston Rockets

This one is really interesting.  The Rockets have a superstar in James Harden who, believe it or not, is only 26 years old.  Ironically, Paul George is also 26, and we saw what Vogel was able to do for him.

However, the problem with this move would be the Pacers’ and Rockets’ respective paces and styles of play.  While Vogel’s Pacers have averaged just over 93 possessions per game over the past four seasons, the Rockets have been successful by pushing the pace and garnering more possessions.  In fact, Houston has eclipsed 96 possessions per game over that same time period, outrunning Indiana… but not necessarily outplaying them.

The teams have basically had the same amount of success over the past four years, with the Rockets making the playoffs every year. However, the Pacers have found more success in the second season, with two Conference Finals appearances in 2013 and 2014 and a seven-game first-round series with the Raptors this year.  The Rockets, on the other hand, have been eliminated in the first round in three of the past four seasons with a Conference Final appearance and a quick exit at the hands of the Warriors wedged in between.

Also, there’s the minor issue of the Vogel’s style of play and, more significantly, the ability of the Rockets’ personnel to hypothetically carry it out.  Dwight Howard has an opt-out clause that he can use this July 1; needless to say, he won’t be back after the tumult of this past season.  With his imminent departure, the Rockets are looking square in the face of starting Clint Capela at center unless, of course, the team can sign or draft a big man this summer.  Vogel’s Indiana teams had the most success when his offense was allowed to run through David West and Roy Hibbert, each of whom was one of the best big men in the game at one time.

Much was made of the Pacers’ going small and playing faster this season; while it worked for one year, there is no doubt that Vogel is much more comfortable espousing an old-school, traditional style of play on offense.  The Rockets wouldn’t be able to carry this out in their current form, so something would have to give.

But it sure would be intriguing to see what would happen if Vogel coached the Rockets, even if it would be different than what we’re used to from him.

Memphis Grizzlies

This fit is emerging as the most logical one for Vogel, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.com’s The Vertical reports:

The preliminary stages of Memphis’ search to replace Dave Joerger include Vogel – the formerIndiana Pacers coach – who used the weekend to decompress after losing his job on Thursday, league sources said.

Vogel plans to start evaluating head-coaching opportunities early this week, league sources said.

The fit in Memphis makes the most sense for Vogel.  His old-school, slow style of play with a heavy emphasis on big men suits the Grizzlies’ “grit-and-grind” mantra perfectly.  If the team can secure Vogel as its head coach, it won’t have to change its style of play much, if at all.  What the team will have to change is its health, and there’s not much that can be done about that.

This season, the Grizzlies used an NBA-record 28 (!) players en route to a 42-40 record and a first-round sweep at the hands of the Spurs. Key pieces such as Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen all missed significant time over the course of the regular season. Also, no player on the team started over 57 games for the team, forcing Memphis to use 28 different starting lineups over the course of the season, with 12 of those combinations starting just one game.

It’s easy to see why the Grizzlies took a step back last season.  None of their best players could stay healthy for the entire year and the continuity of the team’s play was shattered.  That being said, the team could be back to its old ways next season, and new leadership may be part of their potential improvement.  Dave Joerger was almost inexplicably fired after this past season for the team’s subpar performance; now, it’s easy to see why he was canned.

The Grizzlies had something better lined up the whole time.

5,000 to Won: Making Sense of What Leicester City Just Did

Photo Credit: English Press Association
Photo Credit: English Press Association

We’ve seen some pretty awesome underdogs in the history of sports, but we’ve never witnessed one quite like this.

Today, these underdogs completed the conquest of their sport and attained what might be the most unlikely title in the history of sports. Yes, the history of sports.

Going into the English Premier League season, nothing very little was expected of Leicester City FC.  That lack of expectation has followed the Foxes since last March; the team was ranked last in the English Premier League with seven games to play last season.  Things were so bad that they were seven points behind the 19th and second to last place squad, facing the very real prospect of relegation to the Football League Championship.  (The bottom three teams in the Premier League are relegated and the top three teams in the Football League Championship are promoted to the Premier League each season.)

However, the team pulled off a miracle, securing 22 points in its final nine games and finishing in 14th place to ensure another season of Premier League football.  As it turns out, the comeback finish would be a harbinger of things to come.

The team was, and you may want to be sitting down for this, 5000-1 underdogs to win the league this season.  We’ll come back to that figure later.

Anyway, the team wasn’t expected to go very far this year.  The odds of their relegation were assuredly greater than those of them actually winning the league.  Despite these slim chances, Leicester got off to a strong start, accumulating 40 points in its first 17 games to top the league table on Christmas.  A winless three-game stretch from December 26 to January 2 dropped them to second, but a three-game winning streak kickstarted by a 1-0 January 13 win over Tottenham Hotspur put the team back on top.  And that’s where they would stay. Tottenham blew a two-goal lead with seven minutes to play and ceded a 2-2 draw to Chelsea today, clinching the title for LCFC.

Impressively, the team would lead the table for a total of 147 nights over the course of the season.  This means that it led for 52% of the year; this certainly wasn’t a wire-to-wire championship, but leading the league for over half the season isn’t bad either.

With all of that being said, the team was a 5000-1 longshot to win the league.  How is it possible that they actually pulled this off?  That we may never know, but it is important to add context to this championship.

For example, the Weber State Wildcats made this year’s NCAA Tournament as a 15-seed.  They would ultimately fall, 71-53, to Xavier in the first round.  As a team in a mid-major conference (Big Sky) that has never had a national champion, you would figure that their odds of winning one next year are pretty long.  They are; according to vegasinsider.com, the team is a 2000-1 longshot to be featured at the end of next season’s edition of One Shining Moment.  The Wildcats still aren’t nearly as big underdogs as Leicester was this year.

The closer you look, though, the worse it gets.  The Cleveland Browns look like they might be one of the worst teams in the history of the NFL this coming season.  They’re a glorified expansion squad, and that is a serious, majority opinion.  The Browns are so bad that they turned to a baseball executive, albeit an analytics guru, to run its front office.  Not to pile on, but the team will probably be an underdog in every single one of its games.  Translated: Las Vegas thinks the Browns will go 0-16.

But do you know what their odds are to win the Super Bowl?  200-1. I’m not sure how that is possible, but that’s the Browns’ chances of winning it all in 2016.  If it’s any consolation, Cleveland’s odds to win the AFC are 100-1.  Let’s do one more of these, shall we?

The Atlanta Braves have been baseball’s worst team so far this season, winning 5 of 23 games in the month of April.  They’ve hit a grand total of five home runs to this point in the season; three of them have come from star first baseman Freddie Freeman.  Atlanta is quite obviously going nowhere this year, and as I write this, the Braves are losing 4-0 to the Mets.

The best part of all of this?  They only face 500-1 odds to win the World Series this season.

The point of this exercise was to demonstrate how disrespected the Foxes were by oddsmakers and pundits going into the season. Relegation was the most likely outcome for the team and anything more would have been considered a pleasant surprise.  But a championship?  That is a complete and utter shock, to say the least.

There have been many memorable, inspiring, and shocking underdog championships in the history of sports.  Some that immediately come to mind are the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack, the 1985 Villanova Wildcats, the 2008 and 2012 New York Giants, the 1969 New York Jets, the 1969 New York Mets, and the 1980 U.S. Hockey Miracle on Ice.

This is the difference with Leicester, though: they did it for a full season.  There were no playoffs for the Foxes to win and there would be no getting hot at the right time.  The team would have to be the best team in the Premier League for an entire season, all while having to manage injuries and cold stretches.  All of the aforementioned squads weren’t the best in the regular season and simply played their best at the most opportune time.

It’s hard to win consistently in sports, but to be the best team in the sport for the majority of the season at such long odds is far more difficult.  Leicester City did that and defied every prediction and prognostication in the process.  They also took much of the world by storm, captivating those who may not have been otherwise interseted in the Premier League season.

Not bad for a team that should have been relegated.