The Giants Should Be Fine… But They’re in Trouble Right Now

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto yells into his glove after Washington Nationals' Tanner Roark hit an RBI single during the second inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Thursday, July 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Photo: Jeff Chiu, Associated Press
Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Some teams go into the MLB All-Star Break in need of a few days off to get themselves healthy and ready for the final 75 or so games of the season. For other teams, they would rather just keep playing through the break because they’ve been going so well as of late and don’t want to lose precious momentum. The San Francisco Giants definitely fall into the latter category.

The Giants continued their post-All-Star Game slide last night with a 4-2 loss to the Washington Nationals. With last night’s loss, San Francisco has now lost 10 of its last 12 games since the All-Star break. The Giants are really struggling, though: seven of those ten losses came to the Yankees, Padres, and Reds, three teams who are currently not in the playoffs of their respective leagues. For a team that held the best record in baseball heading into the break, the fast and precipitous decline of the Giants has been nothing short of shocking. But how can it be explained and is the team is serious trouble after its recent heel turn?

As for the first question, injuries have worked in the Giants’ favor until quite recently, when the team began experiencing a rash of injuries to key players. The team got to where it is because most of its players were healthy for basically all of the season. That has changed recently, though, with injuries to Hunter Pence, Matt Duffy, and Joe Panik. The good news for the Giants is that Panik returned last night after suffering a concussion and missing exactly one month of baseball. Duffy is slated to start his rehab assignment this weekend and his return from his Achilles injury is not too far off, either. Pence should be able to return from a hamstring injury within the next week. Some would say that getting these three players back is just as good as making a trade; some would even say that their return is better than a trade because the Giants don’t have to give up anything to get them back.

And the thing is, it’s not like the Giants aren’t making moves outside of the organization to improve their roster.

Last night, it was announced that the Twins had traded all-star shortstop and .300 hitter Eduardo Nunez to San Francisco. Twins reporter Daniel Morse had the details first:

Mejia is one of the Giants’ best prospects and a four-pitch pitcher who has struggled at AAA Sacramento this season. It’s safe to say that the Giants paid the price to get Nunez in giving up Mejia. However, Nunez is a proven hitter who can play shortstop and third base, the latter of which is a true position of need for the Giants. The acquisition of Nunez, along with the returns of Pence, Duffy, and Panik should help a Giants lineup that has scored just 3.3 runs per game since returning from the All-Star break.

But until all of these things happen, the team that once held the best record in baseball is in serious trouble and must do everything in its power to stay above water in the NL West.

For example, look at the team’s struggling lineup. While it’s one of the more well-rounded lineups in baseball, virtually every player in it has struggled since the All-Star break. Ironically, the Giants’ two best hitters since the break have been Conor Gillaspie and Mac Williamson, two players who will receive limited playing time with the added presence of Nunez and the return of the aforementioned players from the disabled list. Manager Bruce Bochy was so desperate for offense that he slotted Williamson, who has hit six career home runs in 129 at-bats, into the three-hole for two games against the hapless Reds earlier this week.

And then there’s the matter of Buster Posey. Posey, a four-time all-star and three-time world champion, would be the last person to be a question mark in the Giants’ lineup. I mean, he’s done all these great things, he’s only 29, and he’s even tried to deliver babies because he wears gloves and delivers in the clutch. Well, maybe that didn’t go so well, but Posey is one of the best hitters in the game. And he isn’t a question mark at all; in fact, he’s been one of the few constants in a Giants lineup that has had many moving parts as of late. The only question for Bochy is what to do if and when Posey needs a day off; Bochy has recently combatted this issue by putting him at first base every once in a while. That move, though, takes Brandon Belt, another very solid hitter, out of the lineup. It’s basically pick-your-poison for San Francisco, but it isn’t one of their more pressing issues right now.

What is a pressing issue for the Giants, and one they can do nothing about, is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even with Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, indefinitely out of commission with back problems, the Dodgers find themselves just two games back of San Francisco. The only reason the Dodgers are in this position in the first place is because of the Giants’ losing ways, but even with San Fran having dominated the division race all season long, the Dodgers are a very dangerous team with a deep lineup and solid, albeit fractured, starting pitching. The NL West race is far from over, and the Giants have themselves to blame for this. They’re clearly the better team and yet they now have a fight on their hands just to win their own division.

This weekend presents a big series for the Giants as they play the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. The Nats took the first game of the series last night and the two teams will play three more games this weekend. If the Giants can use their new acquisitions (both inside and outside of the organization) to their advantage, they could be able to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves in the second half of July. After all, the team has one of the best starting rotations in baseball and is one or two injury returns away from having one of the best lineups in the game, too. These returns and acquisitions should go a long way in helping the Giants win the NL West.

But so will the next couple of weeks in deciding how serious the division race will get.

The Rio Olympics Are a Mess and There Is Plenty of Blame to Go Around

Photo Credit: Agence France-Presse

Police and Firefighters in Rio de Janeiro have recently taken to greeting tourists who arrive for the Olympics with a sign that reads “Welcome to hell” (pictured above). Who knew that just one sign could tell the entire story of a city and a Summer Olympics currently in dire straits.

The most recent hit to the complete disaster that is these Olympics came on Monday when the Australian Olympic Delegation deemed it unsafe for its athletes to enter Rio’s Olympic Village, the location where the competing athletes stay. The reason why was because of the city’s failure to ready all of the buildings in the Village for their world-class inhabitants. Yes, a week and a half before the games kick off, a majority of the buildings in the Village are not ready for athletes to move into them. The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts reported that 19 of the 31 buildings in the Village had not yet passed safety tests and were not yet allowed to welcome guests. The good news is that the Australians feel good enough about the progress of the buildings’ construction that they’ll be moving into them tomorrow.

The bad news is that the government of Rio, like many other times throughout this process, exacerbated matters further through their handling of this situation.

This is due to comments from the city’s mayor, Eduardo Paes. He said that he “almost feel(s) like putting a kangaroo to jump up and down in front of their building”, which is a reference to the disproportionate kangaroo population of Australia. He also said that Rio “want(s) them to feel at home”, and if that means disrespecting an entire country and culture, then so be it. Making the athletes feel at home is one thing, but making a culturally insensitive comment is something completely different. And yet, this isn’t even one of the major problems plaguing the Rio Olympics.

By now, you get the picture: the 2016 Summer Olympics are going disastrously for the city of Rio, its citizens, the Olympic athletes, the city’s workers, and basically everyone even loosely associated with the games. This Olympics has been such a disaster because of a perfect storm of issues, corruption, and greed that has left the participants, citizens, and even the local environment in the dust. About that environment: recent tests have concluded that a motley of viruses and pathogens awaits aquatic athletes when they begin competition next week; these include rota-viruses and even a “super-bacteria” that can kill those who even have a slightly weakened immune system.

The worst part of this discovery, though, is the government inaction that allowed the viruses to enter Guanabara Bay, the site of many aquatic events, in the first place. As a condition of the city’s bid for the Olympics in 2009, it promised to clean up the Bay in time for this summer. Needless to say, it didn’t quite happen. Now, athletes are forced to deal with contaminated waters that could kill them if they aren’t careful. The United States rowing team will be using antimicrobial suits to try to combat the water pollution they are about to encounter; however, as studies have shown, the suits may not be enough to protect the athletes from the toilet bowl that is Guanabara Bay.

So we’ve addressed the polluted, unsafe water and the status of the Olympic Village. Have we gotten to the story about Rio de Janeiro having no money? Okay, I guess not.

The interim Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Francisco Dornelles, recently declared a financial “state of calamity” as the city is completely out of money. The city is so broke that it can’t even afford to pay police officers and public servants, both of which are pretty important to the city’s ability to conduct a safe Olympics. Also, hospitals and military officers are running on greatly reduced budgets, which could create a total disaster for those who will inevitably sustain injuries during the games. Finally, the city’s bankruptcy may render it incapable of paying off the costs of hosting an Olympic games. You see, the financial problems in Rio would be major issues even if there was no Olympics in town. The fact that the city must pony up for the steep cost of the Olympics only aggravates its compromised financial state.

So that takes care of the human cost of the games (for now). What’s going on with the International Olympic Committee? Oh, nothing much, just another corruption scandal involving another country.

The Committee recently announced that it would not ban all Russian athletes from participating in this Olympics, a result of a statewide doping program that many athletes purportedly participated in. (The committee did decide to ban 37 Russians from any participation in the Olympics, so not all was lost.) Maybe not so coincidentally, Russia won the most medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics which just happened to be held in…. Sochi, Russia. Yeah, definitely no conflict of interest there.

The worst part about this situation, though, is that disasters such as these Olympics could occur again in the future if the IOC is not careful. This can be prevented by having a more organized system of deciding Olympic host cities. For instance, four cities have hosted multiple Summer Olympic Games (London, Athens, Los Angeles, Paris). Cities like these have experience in hosting Olympic Games and understand everything that goes into putting it on. Those cities could theoretically be placed on a shortlist of cities that would be allowed to host the Summer Games. Then, other cities could be added based on financial status, safety, and past Olympic hosting experiences (if they went well). Finally, each city would have to be interested in hosting an Olympics, which is far easier said than done. Facilities and other factors (weather, location, size of city) will also be at play.

And then it would be simple: create a rotation that includes those cities and no others. Make the Olympics like the Super Bowl in that only very select locations receive the opportunity to host it. And hold those cities accountable when things go wrong, and when necessary, remove them from the rotation based on the seriousness of their transgressions. We would need a competent IOC to make this happen, and that is something we clearly don’t have.

The Rio Olympics may go down as one of the most disastrous of all-time and that distinction will have almost nothing to do with the events themselves. Obviously, Olympics past have had problems, too; consider the Munich tragedy in 1972 and the Atlanta bombing in 1996. But the disasters plaguing Rio could have been prevented by its government and the IOC, two groups that cannot be counted on to provide a safe Olympic Games.

And that is the biggest shame of this entire situation.

It’s Time for Ray Rice’s Second Chance

Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Over two years ago, the NFL suspended then-Ravens running back Ray Rice for a domestic violence incident that took place in Atlantic City, NJ.  At the time, many thought the suspension was egregiously lenient, a product of the league’s flawed and archaic attitude toward domestic violence.  In the wake of the Rice incident, the league tightened up its domestic violence policy, mandating a six-game suspension for a first-time offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense.  The league seemed to be making legitimate progress toward mitigating a problem that had blighted its reputation for years.

That was, until TMZ released the video.

You don’t need me to tell you what “the video” refers to.  It became one of the most infamous tapes to reach the public in recent memory.  In it, Rice is seen punching his then-fiance Janay and subsequently dragging her out of an elevator at a local casino.  The video is so disturbing that I’m not even going to hyperlink to it; you can see it for yourself if you really want or need to.  It is, without exaggeration, one of the most repugnant acts you will ever see caught on camera.  Rice was immediately released by the Ravens, and no team has latched on to him since the incident.  Rice may never again sign with an NFL team based on the events of that February 2014 night.

And yet, even after all of this, I still think Rice has earned himself a second chance in the league.  Why hasn’t he gotten it yet?

The short answer is rather simple.  Commissioner Roger Goodell basically made an example out of Rice in changing the league’s domestic violence policy in the wake of the incident.  Because of Goodell’s actions (such as suspending Rice indefinitely after the release of the tape), Rice essentially became radioactive to teams, even those in need of a running back.  By way of seeing the video and placing the violence in visual terms, many front offices deemed the risks of Rice’s employment greater than the benefits.  Your opinion of many things will change when you actually see them for yourself, and the Rice controversy was no different.  As a populace, we were already against Goodell’s initially lenient suspension. After seeing the video, we were collectively appalled at the original punishment.

But we have to go back to the NFL to know why Rice is still unemployed.  If Goodell had not arbitrarily levied the indefinite suspension, a team may have aimed to acquire the Rutgers product after the Ravens released him.  However, Goodell did what he has always done best: make things up as he goes along under the guise of “protecting the shield”.  It’s understandable that the league was in full-blown crisis mode in the wake of the video, and one can comprehend why it would act this way.  But the NFL had no right to punish Rice indefinitely, especially after it handed down an initial suspension.  In November of that year, a judge overturned the league’s ruling for that exact reason.  But the judge could not overturn the damage Goodell and the league did to Rice’s future.

Let me say this: I don’t necessarily feel sorry for Ray Rice.  What he did was deplorable and set a horrible example for those who looked up to him as a role model.   Even though the league’s reaction to the video was absurd, he really deserved whatever punishment he received.

That being said, it has been surprising that no team has taken a chance on Rice in almost two years. This has to do with both his radioactive reputation and his ability, or lack thereof, to still play the game at a high level.

For example, Rice rushed for over 1,000 yards for four seasons from 2009-2012, the last of which ending in a Super Bowl victory over the 49ers (blackout game, anyone?).  More importantly, he played in every game during that period and has never played fewer than 13 games in a season over the course of his six-year career.  His injury-riddled 2013 season was easily the worst of his career, as he only averaged 3.1 yards per carry and suffered major declines in almost every major statistical category.  The domestic incident occurred that next March.  The infamous video surfaced in September. And now we’re here.

Needless to say, Rice has paid the price for his actions.  It’s a price that he absolutely deserved to pay and brought upon himself.  He has no one to blame but himself, and he earned his exile from the league. But can’t we reach a point as a country and society where we can give someone a second chance?  Why haven’t we reached that point with Ray Rice?

Consider this: for as bad as Rice’s actions were, he was (and still is) a first-time offender.  It’s none of our business what happened between he and his fiance that night, but to our knowledge, he has not engaged in any other violent actions involving women since then.  Also, Rice has seemingly been a perfect citizen since that night, engaging in counseling and seemingly bettering himself in the process.

What’s worse, though, is that other perpetrators of domestic violence have received second chances before Rice.  For example, defensive end Greg Hardy was signed by the Dallas Cowboys last season.  Hardy was suspended by the league for threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend just two months after Rice’s incident; he repeatedly showed no remorse for his transgressions.  Rice has done the opposite, apologizing for his actions on multiple occasions and taking the steps necessary to improve himself in the process.  If Hardy, a seemingly terrible human being, can get a chance before Rice, what does that say about the current state of affairs in the NFL?

Rice has more than served his punishment for his actions.  He seems to have learned from them, though: he says he’ll donate his salary to domestic violence charities if he plays in 2016.  There’s this to consider, too: he’s only 29 years old.  With two full years off, he may be able to avoid hitting the wall most running backs crash into once they reach age 30.  We saw what happened last season after Adrian Peterson was forced to miss a season after his own transgressions: he came back to the league better than ever before and won a rushing title last season.  Rice may not be able to do that, but he should have something to give for a team that can properly utilize him in its backfield.

Ray Rice has earned his second chance.  Whether or not he gets it, unfortunately, is a very different story.

An Early Top Five NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat

Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan
Photo Credit: Bill Wippert/Associated Press

It’s hard to believe, but NFL training camps kick off next week.  32 teams will report to camp with their roster and head coach; however, not all of them will make it through the whole season with the same man in charge.

Let me say this before we start: I don’t like seeing coaches, or any human beings, get fired.  It’s not fun and a shame to see people in any walk of life suddenly lose their jobs, especially if the collective failure is not all their fault.

With that being said, though, here are my top five NFL coaches on the hot seat for this upcoming season.  Hope you enjoy!

5. John Harbaugh/Baltimore Ravens

This is one that probably won’t happen but can if the Ravens disappoint this season.  The Ravens finished under .500 last year for the first time under Harbaugh’s reign; more importantly, though, it’s clear that the Steelers and Bengals have surpassed them, both in performance and relevance, in the stacked AFC North.

However, I don’t see this one coming to fruition.  Harbaugh and General Manager Ozzie Newsome have formed one of the most successful GM/head coach bonds in the NFL since Harbaugh arrived in Baltimore in 2008.  While the team is not what it once was and is still struggling to replace the talent that has departed since they won the Super Bowl, there isn’t a very realistic chance that Harbaugh gets fired.

But that chance does exist, and for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll put Harbaugh on the list.

4. Gus Bradley/Jacksonville Jaguars

This offseason was one of goodwill for the Jacksonville Jaguars, from the signings of Chris Ivory, Tashaun Gipson, and Prince Amukamara to the drafting of linebacker Myles Jack and safety Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey was widely regarded as the best player in the draft and Jacksonville was lucky to snag him with the fifth overall pick.  Most look at this as steady improvement for a franchise that has struggled for the better part of the last decade.  For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll look at this as the team’s front office setting up head coach Gus Bradley to fail.

Hear me out on this one: if the Jaguars are indeed a disappointment this season, Bradley has absolutely nothing to fall back on to keep his job.  Yes, the future of the team will still be very bright, but it is much more significant that Bradley has won a grand total of 12 games in three seasons in Jacksonville.  It stands to reason that if the Jags don’t make a significant improvement in 2016, Bradley would be the first head to roll.

I think the Jaguars will be successful this season.  I also think that Bradley is gone if they aren’t.

3. Marvin Lewis/Cincinnati Bengals

Speaking of being set up to fail, Marvin Lewis carves out his niche at number three on our list.  You probably know that Lewis is the second-longest tenured head coach in the league, behind only Bill Belichick.  The difference is that Belichick has won 23 playoff games in his career: 22 with the Patriots and one with the Cleveland Browns. Lewis, in his 13 seasons with the Bengals, has won exactly zero playoff games.  That’s a problem, especially when you consider the fact that Lewis-coached teams have made the playoffs seven times. Lewis’ 0-7 career playoff record is compounded even further by the fact that four of those games were at home.

This year, there really aren’t any excuses for the Bengals.  Virtually everyone returns healthy from the team that started last season 8-0. The biggest difference from the end of last season is that quarterback Andy Dalton returns after breaking his wrist in a week 14 game against the Steelers last season.  But even with backup quarterback A.J. McCarron, Cincinnati led Pittsburgh 16-15 with under 30 seconds to play in their playoff matchup last season.  Instead of ending in a victory, the 18-16 loss became one of the worst meltdowns we’ve ever seen from a single team in the history of football.

Let’s hope that the Bengals, at the very least, can keep their composure if they make the playoffs again this year.  And then let’s hope Marvin Lewis isn’t out of a job if they do.

2. Mike McCoy/San Diego Chargers

It’s pretty clear that any initial romance that existed between Mike McCoy and the Chargers is gone.  After making the playoffs in his first season in Southern California, McCoy’s Chargers have missed the postseason in the last two years.  Even worse, the team plummeted from 9-7 finishes in 2013 and 2014 to a 4-12 record in 2015.

The real reason to panic, though, if you’re a Charger fan, is that quarterback Philip Rivers is locked under contract until 2020.  Rivers set a career high in passing yards last season (4792) and would likely have a say on McCoy’s future if the team falters again this season. There’s also the overwhelming probability that the team will move from San Diego to Los Angeles after this season.  This move would precipitate a shift in expectation on behalf of both the new fanbase and ownership.  Would the Chargers follow in the Rams’ footsteps and retain their exceedingly mediocre head coach in a move to L.A.?

My bet is that they won’t, and if the Chargers underperform in 2016, McCoy’s future is simple: to live or die in L.A.

1. Rex Ryan/Buffalo Bills

This one is easy.

Ryan made many promises upon being named the Bills’ coach, but the one thing many reasonably expected was an improved defense.  After all, Ryan is a defensive mind, one who coached the Ravens’ defense into the league’s elite for much of the 2000s.  The problem is that in the one year of Ryan’s leadership, the Bills’ defense actually regressed.

To demonstrate this, I’ve put together this chart that shows the differences between the 2014 Bills and the ’15 team:

 

2014 2015
Total Yards (per game) 4995 (312.2) 5702 (356.4)
Passing yards (per game) 3292 (205.8) 3972 (248.3)
Rushing yards (per game) 1703 (106.4) 1730 (108.1
Points allowed (per game) 289 (18.1) 359 (22.4)

That’s pretty unbelievable stuff; the Bills were worse in every significant defensive category under Ryan than they were under Doug Marrone in 2014.  If that regression continues this season, the Bills front office will have no choice but to cut him loose.  Reports are that the front office has given Ryan a playoff ultimatum for this season; making the playoffs would require significant improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

I don’t know if Ryan is capable of delivering that improvement, and it’s more likely than not that he’ll be out of a job after this season.

We May Never Again See a Performance Like Henrik Stenson’s Sunday in Scotland

Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Before Sunday, you may have known Swedish golfer Henrik Stenson as the best golfer to never win a major.  That distinction is now rendered obsolete: at 40, Stenson became a major champion with his win at Royal Troon, the site of the 2016 Open Championship.

How he got there, though, is what’s so impressive about his victory. On Sunday, he and Phil Mickelson quite possibly delivered the greatest final round in the history of major championship golf.  Yes, that history includes Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, and many others.  Stenson and Mickelson may have given us a final-round duel the likes of which we have never seen before.

The tournament and this story began on Thursday when Mickelson shot an opening-round 63 to tie the major championship record for the lowest score in a round.  Phil tied 28 others through his accomplishment; he had this putt on the 18th hole to break the record.  He came so close, and yet he ended up so far away.

In Friday’s second round, Stenson shot a 65 to pull within one stroke of Mickelson, who shot 69 to maintain a one-shot lead.  By the time Saturday came around, Stenson and Mickelson made The Open a two-man race; Stenson headed into Sunday with a one-shot lead. However, the gap between the second-place Mickelson and third-place Bill Haas was a full five strokes.  It says something that most people were paying attention to the rest of the field because of a guy whose nickname is “Beef”.

But Sunday is where these two all-world golfers (Stenson in particular) would stake their claim to history.

Ironically, the Swede started his final round with a bogey at the first. Phil would take the lead with a birdie at that hole; it would be the only time Mickelson led outright all day.  Stenson birdied the next three holes, but Phil countered with an eagle at the par-five fourth. Stenson took the lead back with a birdie on the eighth but gave it right back with a bogey on eleven.  He would reclaim the lead once more with a birdie on the par-three fourteenth.  His signature moment of the day, and maybe his career, came on the fifteenth.  He had this putt for birdie and a two-shot lead.  The problem was that the putt was from at least fifty feet away.  That wouldn’t be much of an obstacle for Stenson, though, as he drilled the putt and even walked it in because it was his day and he’s a legend:

Another two birdies on sixteen and eighteen sealed the win for Stenson.  His 63 on Sunday tied the one-round record set by Mickelson and others; what goes around comes around.  A 62 would have broken the record and really rubbed it in on Phil, but a 63 will have to do.  The win marked the first major victory of Stenson’s career, and at age 40, it probably means more to him than it might to other golfers on tour.  Stenson also broke the aggregate score (264) and under par (-20) records for The Open.  His performance will truly live on forever.

But why is it important for sports fans to appreciate Stenson’s performance Sunday and over the course of the tournament?

It’s important because in sports, we seem to value coming up clutch in important moments.  We have discussions, albeit ridiculous and untrue, about supposed “clutch genes” and whether athletes have them or not.  We espouse this course of action when we want to find ways to discredit LeBron James and others while elevating players like Michael Jordan to God-like status.  However, we tend to think of this as coming up big for one’s team and we don’t necessarily believe that players want to come up clutch for themselves.

In golf, it’s obviously different.  Players are only really playing for themselves and the love of the game.  Beside from the Ryder Cup and other events, there is really no team aspect to the sport.  Players are playing to win but earnings don’t hurt, either.  It’s what we expect, and frankly, what we want, out of our athletes: playing the game out of competitiveness and competition.

But even without the team aspect of the sport, it’s hard not to appreciate what Stenson and Mickelson did over the weekend. Playing at a golf course that was far from easy, they chose to instead make a mockery of it.  Mickelson, even in second place, finished a full eleven strokes ahead of J.B. Holmes in third.  It was truly like watching two men among boys as they carved up Royal Troon and made the course look like a joke.  In reality, it’s one of the toughest courses in Scotland and in the world, but you wouldn’t know that if you only watched the Henrik-Phil pairing.

So where do we go from here?  For starters, the PGA Championship begins next Thursday at Baltusrol Golf Course in Springfield, New Jersey.  After the PGA, which is being played two weeks early this year, the world’s best golfers will head to the complete mess that is the Rio Olympics, hoping to secure gold for themselves and their country.  This will display something that we don’t often see in the golf: the team aspect of the sport.

But let’s stay in the present and appreciate what Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson gave us Sunday: a final round for the ages.  It was every bit as good as the Tom Watson/Jack Nicklaus “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry in 1977; Nicklaus himself even took to Twitter to admit it.  Ironically, Mickelson’s last major win came at the 2013 Open Championship, when he birdied the final four holes to win at Muirfield.  Who finished second that year?  Henrik Stenson.  It’s a small world after all.

Stenson got his revenge on Sunday, and he did it with a performance the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time.  So we should appreciate that wild Sunday in Scotland: we may never see anything like it ever again.

Start Spreading the News: It’s Time for the Yankees to Overhaul Their Current Roster

Carlos Beltran
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Throughout their history, the New York Yankees have not exactly been associated with patience and prolonged rebuilding processes. That may be about to change, and for a franchise that has had its fair share of recent success in recent years, it may not be such bad news.

With the team currently sitting at 44-45 and 5.5 games back of the Blue Jays for the AL’s second Wild Card spot, it doesn’t appear as though they’ll be going anywhere this year.  While the Yanks only rank 11th in baseball in average age (29), there are aging veterans on the team who could reasonably be dealt by GM Brian Cashman before the month ends.

That is, if president Randy Levine and owner Hal Steinbrenner allow him to do so.

ESPN’s Wallace Matthews reported Thursday that the higher-ups in management are internally at odds over how to counteract the team’s struggles.  This is exactly what he wrote about the specific disagreement between two very different factions of the New York front office:

According to a baseball source who spoke to ESPN on condition of anonymity, the opposing factions are composed of the baseball operations people, led by general manager Brian Cashman, who believe the team should sell off its assets and plan for the future, and the business side, which is led by owner Hal Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine, who hold to the belief that the club is still in contention.

Here’s the thing: Steinbrenner and Levine genuinely believe that the ballclub will come back in the standings and make a deep playoff run. They want Cashman, who answers to them, to make a deal at the trade deadline to improve the roster this season while potentially compromising it for years to come.  The Cashman camp would like to move older, more experienced players such as Carlos Beltran (39 years old), closer Aroldis Chapman, set-up man Andrew Miller, and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.

On the other hand, the Levine and Steinbrenner group really think that the team with the fourth-worst record in the American League is capable of making moves to win another championship.  The problem is that the Yankees, in their current state, are the the definition of mediocre.  In terms of results, that means many different things but very little consistency.

For example, a 6-5 stretch from June 14 to June 26 against the Twins and Rockies was followed by a split of a four-game series against the Texas Rangers, the best team in the American League.  Those outcomes would be followed by series defeats at the hands of the Padres and White Sox, not exactly teams you equate with serious contenders.  Up next on the schedule was a four-game weekend series against baseball’s hottest team, the Cleveland Indians.  What would the Yankees do?  Win three out of four (in Cleveland, no less).  They’re doing what mediocre teams do: showing flashes of brilliance while lacking the consistency of an elite squad.

Here is another problem the Yankees have: their pitching.  This does not pertain to their bullpen of Miller, Chapman, and Dellin Betances, but it relates to the starting pitching that has been incapable of consistently getting the ball to those three with a lead.  The team has used a combination of starters this season and is currently shuffling Ivan Nova and Nathan Eovaldi back and forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation; both have struggled and pitched to ERAs over 5.00 this season.  The Yanks’ two best starters this season are staff ace Masahiro Tanaka and… C.C. Sabathia, who has not pitched a full season since 2013.  No bueno.

The Yankees’ lineup has also struggled this season, as Rodriguez, Starlin Castro, Gardner, and others have struggled.  When you combine this with their lackluster pitching, you realize that there are no signs that point to any type of deep run in the playoffs.  So why are Levine and Steinbrenner so hellbent on the Yanks’ being buyers at the trade deadline?

The simple answer: they are, after all, power brokers for the Yankees, the most successful franchise in the history of sports.  When have the Dallas Cowboys, Manchester United, or FC Barcelona ever been in “rebuilding mode”?  Yeah, never; at least they won’t admit that.  The Yankees fall in the same category: they expect to win, win, win, no matter what.  Their fans expect that too, as it’s most of what they’ve known no matter how long they’ve been rooting for the Yanks.  The problem is that the Yankee mystique invariably clouds the fans and, apparently, the team’s decision-makers from the franchise’s ultimate reality: the Yankees aren’t that good of a team and don’t have a great future, either.  Those things can change.

And with August 1 (this year’s trade deadline) quickly approaching, Cashman has the opportunity to do just that.  For example, Beltran is having something of a renaissance year, hitting nearly .300 and coming off an appearance in his ninth career All-Star game. Translated: he has a lot of value right now and Cashman could deal him to a contender for a solid return.  More importantly, Beltran has stayed healthy to this point in the season.  This is something he really hasn’t done over the past few seasons and is important to note when considering his trade value.  The clock is ticking on Cashman and the front office to find a trade partner for Beltran’s services because he is suffering from a hamstring injury that has forced him exclusively into the team’s Designated Hitter role.  The hamstring injury could reoccur on any given day; an injury to the Yankees’ best hitter would make him a full-time DH, drastically reducing his trade value and thinning out the trade market for his talents.

And then there’s the obvious benefit to a Yankee fire sale: the opportunity to receive prospects in return for star players in their prime.  While the Yankees have some very intriguing prospects (Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez, among others), there is room for improvement and added depth in the farm system.  While these prospects have very bright futures, here’s something to remember when building a farm system: you can never have too many prospects in your organization.  The prospects you receive today could be used as trade chips for star players tomorrow; they could also become cornerstones for your franchise.  Just ask the Cubs about this.  Who wouldn’t want one of those two outcomes, even if it meant biting the bullet and going into a full-blown rebuild?

The Yankees have a multitude of reasons to blow up their current roster and start fresh without their stars of today.  Doing this would enable the team to realize a future that is available to them if they decide that’s what they want for the long-term betterment of their franchise.

They must make that decision soon.  We all know what the right move is.

Let’s see if Levine and Steinbrenner allow it to be made.

We’ve Made It: A Summation of Deflategate

Tom Brady during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Photo Credit: Elsa Hosk/Getty Images

Tom Brady and the “Deflategate” saga have received plenty of attention over the past year and a half.  I even wrote about it last September; like many others, I was completely and unequivocally done with the Deflategate story at that point.  If you told me that we’d have to go through another ten months of it after the United States District Court reversal of his four-game suspension last year, I would have politely informed you that you were insane.

Yet here we are, and there really isn’t an end in sight.  Today, the 2nd Circuit United States Court of Appeals denied Brady’s request for a rehearing of the case.  In case you’re new to this story (God love you if you are), the 2nd Circuit Court overturned the District Court’s, and Judge Richard Berman’s, decision to overturn Brady’s original suspension.  Brady and his legal team appealed for a rehearing of the case and now we’re here.

But with all of that decided and well out of the way, Brady still has one legal move left.  If you guessed that his last move would be to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, you would be correct.  Yes, our long national nightmare of under-inflated footballs, circumstantial evidence, and weight loss is about to reach the highest court in the land.  Move over Marbury v. Madison, Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe v. Wade, and McCullogh v. Maryland.  We may now have the most famous (or infamous) Supreme Court Case ever: Tom Brady v. the NFL, or something like that.

Many, including myself, will probably die from laughter if this case reaches the Supreme Court.  But this is the question we must all ask ourselves: why are we still dealing with this?  And why did the NFL decide it was a good idea to go after Brady the way it did, especially when the league has other, far bigger, problems to address?

As for the first question, we are still dealing with this story because of the collective greed of Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Both parties have wanted to maintain their integrity throughout this laughable process, even as courts have ruled one way or another and the affairs of the matter have become increasingly complicated.  It’s no secret that Goodell, in particular, has taken measures to increase and fortify his power over the course of his tenure as NFL commissioner; the most infamous of these measures was a change to the league’s Personal Conduct Policy that gave the commish more wide-ranging authority to levy discipline on players, coaches, and teams.

However, it’s also true that the Players’ Association had the opportunity to check Goodell’s power during the negotiations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011 (hint: they didn’t exactly do that).  They were more interested in returning to the field before the start of the season, which was more than understandable at the time, but they also made a very large concession to get the agreement done.

That can’t be forgotten here: the same players complaining about Goddell’s despotic power are the ones who signed off on the CBA that enabled it five years ago.  While we can all agree that Goodell has far too much power and has abused it on more than one occasion, the players who were involved in that negotiation have no right to gripe after the fact.  They had the chance to make Goodell relinquish at least some of his authority, and they completely blew it.  That’s on them, not the league.

And now we move on to the matter of Brady and the New England Patriots.  The exact reason why Brady was originally suspended was because of the use of under-inflated footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship game.  The balls were found to be under the 11 to 12 PSI that the league requires of its regulation footballs.  Almost immediately after the game, the league launched an “independent investigation” into the events of that game and how the game balls ended up how they were.  I air-quote the words independent investigation because while the NFL claims it really was independent, it also paid Wells lots and lots of money to conduct the investigation. To me, that’s not really independent at all.

But, much more importantly, why is the NFL so concerned with Brady when it has far bigger issues?  For example, recently-retired wide receiver Calvin Johnson admitted that doctors would distribute painkillers in the locker room “like candy”.  It’s generally a bad idea to treat Vicodin and Percocet the same way you would Sour Patch Kids, but that’s just a rule of thumb.  Anyway, the league is also engrossed in other issues such as quality of play, what to do with the Pro Bowl, and, of course, player safety.

And then there’s this obvious issue: did Tom Brady and the Patriots definitively and knowingly do anything wrong?  While it is plausible that Brady knew of the deflation of the footballs, we can’t conclude that for sure.  Even the Wells Report admitted that it was “more probable than not” that two equipment officials tampered with the game balls in a deliberate manner.  The report also stated that Brady was more likely than not “generally aware” of the process of the deflation.

This, though, is far from a definitive statement and it leaves room for much speculation on what actually happened on January 18, 2015. For example, how can we know for sure if Brady knew about the tampering of the game equipment?  And how can we be 100% sure that no external, natural forces such as weather meddled with the footballs?

There are many questions that are still, even 18 months later, left unanswered.  I’ll give you my opinion: I think Brady is innocent of guilt.  I don’t necessarily feel sorry for him but I believe he is innocent based on reasonable doubt.  We can’t prove for sure that he fully knew of what was going on.  In my book, if he was not fully aware and there is no concrete link between him and the equipment officials, the NFL has no right to suspend him.

He really was witch-hunted in this case; the NFL decided to make an example out of him when it had much bigger issues to deal with. However, it probably won’t go away anytime soon, nor will our fascination with it.  We can’t seem to stop talking about it and it looks like we’ll pay close attention to the case until the very bitter end.  Our country seems to love obsessing with certain things; after all, the New York Times just released this article about how we can use Pokemon Go, the latest app craze, as a personal tour guide.  All you need to know about Pokemon Go is that it is an addiction, one we’re hooked to and won’t be getting off of anytime soon.

We’re hooked to Pokemon Go in the same way we’re hooked to Deflategate.  Let’s hope that it doesn’t take 18 months for Pokemon Go to, well, go.  Away.

And let’s hope Deflategate goes away, too.  My bet is that it won’t anytime soon.

Can Daniel Murphy Sustain His First Half Heroics?

Daniel Murphy
Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/Associated Press

When Daniel Murphy signed with the Nationals in the offseason, many wondered if the $37.5 million dollar contract would be a wise investment.  Needless to say, Murphy has proved his worth (and then some) through just 90 games with the team.

On Sunday, Murphy capped off his incredible first half with another home run against his former team, the New York Mets.  In 13 games against the Mets this season, Murphy has hit seven home runs and driven in 21 runs.  Not too bad for a guy who hit six home runs in a full season just four years ago; the 2012 season saw Murphy play 156 games.  Murphy has eclipsed his home run total from that year in just 13 games against his former team.

But, as always, there’s a slight issue here.  With the inclusion of Sunday’s blast, Murphy enters the All-Star break with 17 home runs. For a player who has never hit more than 14 dingers in a season, the inevitable questions arise: can he keep it up?  When is the big slump coming?  While Murphy has been the best second baseman in baseball through the first half of the season, will he be able to lay stake to that claim in the second half?

The short, obvious answer is that he will not be able to sustain his absurd first half performance.  Only 432 players in MLB history have hit .349 over the course of a full season.  While you may say that 432 is a pretty large number, these statistics go back to the 1870s.  This is a very long history, and to think that only 432 players have achieved that feat in the past 140 years says something about how hard it is to undertake.

We also know that Murphy’s performance isn’t sustainable because of luck.  So far in 2016, he has cultivated a .356 BABIP (batting average on balls in play).  Why is this important?  Well, Murphy’s career BABIP is just .318 and that figure was just .278 a season ago.  A general rule of thumb is that if a player’s BABIP is abnormally high or low for a significant stretch of a season, it is due to regress or ascend to the mean later in the season or even the year after.  Murphy’s case is no different; his BABIP has fluctuated from .345 to .329 to .315 to .322 to .278 to .356 over the past six seasons.  If history is any indication, Murph won’t be nearly as fortunate after the All-Star break.  Like anything else, though, time will ultimately tell if this is true.

What else can we glean from some of Murphy’s advanced stats?  Let’s take a look at his strikeout and walk rates.  Murphy has never been easy to strike out, and this year to date has been no different.  Striking out just 10.6% of the time, Murphy ranks as the seventh-toughest strikeout in all of baseball.  When you also consider the fact that he only walks in 5% of his ABs, you get the picture: he puts the ball in play a lot.  That should bode well for his second-half prospects; we saw the value of making contact in last year’s playoffs and World Series.  Those saw the Royals constantly put the ball in play and pressure opposing defenders into making grave mistakes.

Forcing the defense to make plays to stop you is a very valuable weapon to have as a hitter.  Murphy has done that historically; if he wants to continue his superhuman run of form, his best hope is to fall back to his roots and put the ball in play.

Another reason behind Murphy’s success has been his ability to make adjustments at the plate, as ESPN’s Mark Simon writes:

Murphy moved closer to the plate this season, and that has allowed him to take more impactful swings against outer-half pitches. He’s hitting .375 with a .596 slugging percentage against them. Those are jumps of 100 points and 166 points from his 2015 numbers (.275 and .430). From 2009 to 2014, Murphy never even slugged .400 against those pitches.

Murphy has also taken an approach of trying to pull the ball in the air. Sixty five percent of his at-bats this season have ended in fly balls, line drives or pop ups, easily the highest rate of his career.

Murphy’s hitting adaptation has come later in his career but hey, better late than never.  The changes that he made in his swing are a direct result of last year’s work with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long; Long convinced him to stand closer to the plate and attack pitches in all areas of the strike zone.  Murphy credits Long with his improvement last season and particularly his playoff power spike.

About those playoffs: Murphy clubbed seven home runs in a span of nine games last October.  The question that many had after his sudden power surge was whether it was a coincidence or a trend.  As we’ve seen so far this season, it appears to be more of a trend than an anomalous blip.  So far in 2016, his Isolated Power has climbed to .250.  (Isolated Power is calculated by subtracting a hitter’s batting average from his slugging percentage.)  His previous career high ISO figure was .168 last season; it will be interesting to see if it fluctuates at all after the All-Star break.  For context, Murphy ranks second among eligible second basemen in this category (the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter is first).  However, he is ahead of other power hitters such as Robinson Canó, Jonathan Schoop, and Brian Dozier at the position.

Daniel Murphy is a very good hitter, one of the best in the game.  That being said, I don’t believe there is any way he can emulate his first-half performance for the rest of the season.  While it has been enjoyable to watch him hit almost everything he has seen from opposing pitchers this season, it would be unfair to him to expect a performance like this again.

Many great players fall off in the second half and are unable to replicate their first half performance from mid-July on; based on what we’ve seen in his career, Daniel Murphy should fall into that category in 2016.

In Defense of Kevin Durant and Superstars Who Chase Rings

Photo Credit: Soobum Im/USA Today

Kevin Durant made his much-anticipated free agency decision on Monday, signing with the Warriors and spurning the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team he spent the first nine years of his career with (he played his rookie season with the Seattle SuperSonics before the team relocated to Oklahoma City).  For added context, the Thunder led the Warriors three games to one in the Western Conference Finals before dropping the next three games to suffer a heartbreaking elimination and one of the worst collapses in NBA history.

Needless to say, many were not thrilled about Durant’s decision to join the team he lost to in the playoffs.  These were just some of the thoughts of NBA players and pundits alike after Durant announced his “next chapter”:

First of all, there is no reason to compare Durant’s case to Jordan’s. Jordan made $30 million and $33 million in his last two seasons with the Bulls, respectively.  Durant’s deal with the Warriors is for two years and $54 million; he’ll be making less on average than Jordan did in his final two years.  So don’t even talk about greed in this discussion; Jordan and others did just fine for themselves by staying with their original teams.

Secondly, Charles Barkley has no right to say that Kevin Durant is cheating his way to a championship.  If memory serves, Barkley himself wanted to chase a ring at the end of his career and worked a trade to the Houston Rockets to make it happen.  (Hint: it didn’t work out so well.)  But hey, let’s rip a player for exercising his right to play wherever he wants.  That seems very fair.

And why is it a weak move for Durant to go wherever he wants?  It’s not weak to play for a team that won the most games in NBA history a season ago.  It isn’t.  It also wasn’t weak when LeBron James decided to leave Cleveland for Miami in 2010.  The issue with James’ decision was not the decision itself; rather, the issue came with The Decision, the one hour ESPN special that consisted of pure boredom and only yielded about 20 important seconds.  Even then, The Decision wasn’t all bad: James raised nearly $2.5 million for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and an additional $3.5 million through advertisement revenue.  Not bad for a completely pointless hour of television.

But why is there so much hatred about Durant’s move?  Why are so many people up in arms about what they perceive as a “weak move” when the players and the owners negotiated the right to free agency in the Collective Bargaining Agreement?  And why is there discontent over the increased salary cap when all it signifies is more money in the sport?

The way we’ve looked at the Durant signing is indicative of the way sports is covered today.  For example, people such as Stephen A. Smith are essentially paid to say outlandish, bizarre things without any shred of thought whatsoever.  Smith’s comment, and his appearance on SportsCenter that day, show that his argument was based more in emotion and anger than in nuance and contemplation.  There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that, but it shows that screaming loudly and making your takes as hot and crazy as possible is the best way to get noticed in the sports world.  That’s the monster we’ve created; Smith is just a byproduct of it.  Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

There’s also the other issue of “chasing rings”.  When superstars decide to team up with other superstars to win, we label them sellouts, players who weren’t willing to “do it the hard way”.  Here’s my argument: what incentive is there to do it the hard way when you can give yourself a better chance to win with another team?  While it would have been incredibly rewarding for Durant to win a championship in Oklahoma City, the fact is that it was financially possible and a sensible basketball decision for him to go to the Warriors.  What’s wrong with that?  It’s difficult to compare sports to the real world, but Durant left one job only to find a better opportunity with a greater chance for success.  There’s nothing wrong with doing that.

There is an argument to be made, though, that KD’s move is bad for the rest of the NBA.  That is very true.  To the most casual observer, what reason is there to watch the NBA in the regular season next year?  Luckily, hardcore fans will know that the Dubs will have to gut the rest of their current team to have enough money to sign Durant. This almost certainly means that the team will be worse than they were last year; you can’t go up from 73 wins and there won’t be as good of a supporting cast as there was a season ago.  But with four of the top 20 players in the world on the same squad, a great supporting cast may not be necessary.

But the outrage about a free agent making a decision on where to play basketball next season should not elicit this much outrage.  The only people who have the right to be upset with Durant are Thunder fans. Other than that, people don’t have the right to be this angry.  In fact, shouldn’t KD be applauded here?  In sports, we always talk about prioritizing money over winning and we place a ton of value on championships.  What Durant did in this case was just the opposite: he wants to win and will sacrifice money (and the spotlight) to do so. That shouldn’t be ridiculed; that should be appreciated.

But, in our world of “hot takes” and endless criticism of stars, we apparently can’t appreciate Durant’s self-sacrifice.  Which is a real shame, especially when you consider that it really wasn’t a “weak move” after all.

The Forgotten NBA Free Agent

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Much has been made about Kevin Durant’s free agency decision, and rightfully so.  He’s the best available player in the league (aside from LeBron James, but he’s staying put) and his choice could significantly shift the NBA’s balance of power.

But there is one free agent who isn’t attracting nearly as much attention, and for obvious reasons: Dwyane Wade.

Wade is 34 years old, the same age Michael Jordan was when he commenced his second final season in 1997.  He is admittedly not what he once was, which was one of the most dynamic, enjoyable, and productive players in a league that was and is chock-full of them.  Wade’s injury-precipitated decline almost exactly coincided with James’ realization of his dream of winning an NBA championship, one he fulfilled in 2012 with a five-game triumph over Durant’s Thunder.  Now, all three are free agents.

And, continuing with the Wade/Durant irony, who else remembers this Gatorade commercial?  In it, Durant’s goes up for a dunk attempt but is thwarted by a younger, more athletic Wade.  You can see the rest for yourself:

Pretty sick, huh?  The one-minute spot ends with KD dunking on Wade and Dwyane waking up from his nightmare to start the process Durant just finished.  Pretty fitting.

Just like with Durant, it was never thought that Wade could possibly leave Miami.  However, he’s in serious talks with other teams, such as the Bucks and Nuggets, to leave the Heat behind. While he will probably stay in Miami like he has for the first 13 years of his career, there is a legitimate possibility that he could leave.

Leaving Miami for Denver or Milwaukee could not possibly be a basketball decision; rather, it would be a decision based on the Heat organization’s treatment of him even as he has taken repeated pay cuts to help the team attract free agents.  Team president Pat Riley prioritized Durant and Hassan Whiteside before Wade, and he was right to do so.  Both are younger and have more to give at this stage of their careers, and while Wade may feel disrespected by the team’s priorities, it’s hard to fault the Heat for thinking like they did.

But what does Wade have left in the tank for whichever team signs him?  And what can those teams expect from a player so clearly entering the twilight of his career?

For one thing, the man they call Flash was significantly healthier last season.  After missing 48 games in the prior two seasons, he appeared in all but eight games last year.  Granted, his production is continually declining; his field goal percentage (45.6%) was the lowest of his career and he only averaged 19 points per game.  However, his 74 games were the most he played in since 2010-11, when he was regarded as a legitimate sidekick to James instead of his second fiddle.

Another consideration for Wade is lengthening his career.  After repeated knee injuries over the past few seasons, he’s probably looking for a situation where he may not have to do quite as much to carry his new team.  While that situation is probably in South Beach, consider this: Wade’s usage rate (31.6%) ranked fifth in the NBA last season.  Even worse, three of the four players ahead of him in that category (DeMarcus Cousins, Stephen Curry, James Harden) are all decidedly younger and better able to handle the rigors of an 82-game schedule.  Asking less of Wade over the course of a full season would help him stay fresh and healthy for a potential playoff run.

But is there an actual fit in either Denver or Milwaukee?  In Milwaukee, the answer is no, if only for logistical reasons.  As the Bucks are currently constituted, they do not have the cap room to bring in Wade on a max contract or something similar to it.  However, if the team decides that it wants to trade Greg Monroe, which is widely believed to be a strong possibility, it would then have enough cap room to pay Wade.

In Denver, a move to acquire Wade would be far more questionable.  The Nuggets have several young players in their backcourt, including Emmanuel Mudiay and 2016 7th overall pick Jamal Murray.  Signing Wade may very well mean getting rid of one or both of those players for the dual purpose of creating cap room and clearing out an already crowded backcourt.

There’s this angle, too: wouldn’t it be better for Denver and coach Mike Malone to let the team’s younger players develop? Parting with Murray or Mudiay would deny them of this opportunity, one that may not exist elsewhere.  We should point out that Mudiay was really, really bad last year (9.9 PER). Nevertheless, he and Murray do have the opportunity to develop into solid players and core pieces of Denver’s future.

The best choice for Wade and his future, though, is clearly to stay in Miami.  He has built an identity there and the Heat are by far the best team pursuing him.  While he is understandably upset that Riley prioritized Whiteside and Durant over him, wouldn’t you do the same?  Eventually, Wade should realize that Riley did what was best for the Heat organization, even if that came at the expense of the team’s most recognizable figure.

And Wade has still shown that he can be a very good player. He’s far removed from the days of driving to the basket with reckless abandon, often sacrificing his body to get baskets.  This undoubtedly caught up with him and he’s definitely lost a step since that time in his career.  But he has a track record of coming up big when it counts; after all, he singlehandedly carried Miami to its first NBA title in 2006.

Dwyane Wade is still a very good player, maybe the second best on the open market right now.  But he, like everyone else, has been enveloped in the Durant sweepstakes.