Thursday night means a return of the NFL and some really good college football matchups. It should be a fun night on the talking picture box with an NFC West rivalry game between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. Also, two quality matchups from college football will serve as an appetizer for a picture Pac-12 battle between UCLA and Cal. Temple has a lot of pressure to remain perfect as an underdog against East Carolina and the best that the Sun Belt has to offer do battle as Appalachian State hosts Georgia Southern. Along with that, there’s plenty of news to cover in today’s Six Pack.
Donnie (Steps Away From) Baseball
Simply because of the timing of this news, we’ll lead off with the big story of the day so far. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Don Mattingly have agreed to part ways. The Dodgers have been a perennial playoff disappointment under Mattingly and that’s not going to sit well with the front office or the ownership group of a team with the highest payroll in baseball by a pretty big margin.
Team president Andrew Friedman left his GM post with the Tampa Bay Rays and added Farhan Zaidi as the GM in LA, but the decision was made to keep Mattingly in the dugout. It was only a matter of time before there would be a split between the two sides. Friedman wants a more progressive guy in the dugout and in the clubhouse and Mattingly is a former player that, as most former players do, had an affinity for veteran players. To be fair, it was Friedman who went out and got Jimmy Rollins, but it was Mattingly who wanted to hold down top prospect Corey Seager to give Rollins and his declining skill set more playing time.
The one thing about the Dodgers is that they threw money around for the hell of it. It wasn’t smart spending. It was spending for spending sake. They were lucky that Brett Anderson stayed together for most of the season, but unlucky that Brandon McCarthy required Tommy John surgery. They brought in vets like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Mat Latos for the playoff push and Utley’s only notable addition to the club was blowing up Ruben Tejada in the NLDS.
The Dodgers are going to try to put a square peg in a round hole with the next manager. Adam Burke had some thoughts on this to open up today’s edition of The Bettor’s Box. The Dodgers have a lot of veteran guys and a high payroll. Joe Maddon types work best in Tampa Bay-like conditions with a lot payroll and a lot of unselfish players or in Chicago with a very young team. As the Cubs age, it will be interesting to see if Maddon’s effectiveness wanes. For the Dodgers, a mostly established team, finding a mix of progressive thinking and the right personality to handle those players could prove to be very difficult.
The New York Mets swept the Chicago Cubs to advance to the World Series for the first time since the 2000 Subway Series against the New York Yankees. When the Mets make the playoffs, they do it the right way. In their eight playoff appearances, they have now won five pennants and they are 2-2 in the World Series. Starting pitching was the big key to the series, as the Mets got 25 innings and 29 strikeouts from Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz. That group allowed just six runs. Tyler Clippard allowed the only two runs from the bullpen in Game 4.
The Mets now await the winner of the ALCS and will be on the road for Game 1 next Tuesday. Congratulations to the Mets and their fans for what has been a magical run that is nowhere near over.
Back to KC
The Toronto Blue Jays put some distance between themselves and the Kansas City Royals late to win Game 5 by a 7-1 score and force a return trip to Kauffman Stadium. A Game 2 rematch between David Price and Yordano Ventura is now on tap for Game 6. Price was perfect for six innings before it all unraveled. Ventura has struggled this postseason, failing to get through the sixth inning in all three of his starts.
The Blue Jays and Royals have both been plagued by inconsistencies in this series. The Royals are now 19-for-42 with RISP through five games. The Blue Jays were just 3-for-16 in Game 2, which is currently the game that is deciding the series. The rest of the series has been decided by lopsided outcomes. Even the 11-8 win for Toronto in Game 3 was an 11-4 game before the Royals scored four in the ninth.
It’s fair to say that anything could happen in these two games. There haven’t been a whole lot of patterns in this series and all four starting pitchers have question marks. It will be interesting to see what happens in Game 6 and which team will face the Mets.
The Band is Back Together
After a horrible preseason that showcased the need for depth on the Cleveland Cavaliers roster, Dan Gilbert and the front office caved. Tristan Thompson was signed to a five-year, $82M extension and now the Cavs can officially focus on the regular season. LeBron James made it very clear that he wanted Thompson back in the fold and his demands rarely go unnoticed.
The money is 100 percent guaranteed and Thompson is now ranks sixth in terms of power forward salary in the NBA. Thompson had been asking for the max deal of five years, $94M. The Cavs offered five years and $80M, but Thompson said no. Now, the Cavs were pressed into doing it and Thompson probably didn’t want to sit out any longer than he had to. The Cavs were already over the salary tax threshold, but now they will owe over $60M in fees.
Thompson averaged 8.5 points and eight rebounds per game last season. The moral of this story? Have your kids play basketball from a young age.
Jackets “Tortally” Make A Bad Decision
The Columbus Blue Jackets are 0-7. They’ve been outscored 34-13 in those games. With advanced metrics suggesting that the Blue Jackets have gotten extremely unlucky, they fired head coach Todd Richards and replaced him with veteran hard-ass John Tortorella. Tortorella has had various levels of success in his coaching career, including a Stanley Cup ring with the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tortorella is a very commanding coach. He’s big on selling out to block shots and has a penchant for being very surly with the media. Effort has never been a question for the Blue Jackets under Richards, who took his firing about as gracefully as possible. He’ll find a new job very soon, probably sometime this season. Tortorella has some similar demands to Richards, but he has a much more forceful way of going about it.
The Blue Jackets are a young team, so there’s a good chance that Tortorella will be able to get through to most of the roster. Former New York Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky, who played for Tortorella, wasn’t a big fan when the two were together, so it will be interesting to see if that hatchet has been buried.
This seems like a panic move from the front office. Slow starts were commonplace during the Richards era, but the Blue Jackets are nowhere near this bad. Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t stopped enough pucks and not enough of them have gone in the other net. The Blue Jackets did open the season with some concerns on defense, but they haven’t played as poorly as the stats would indicate. Tortorella probably isn’t the best hire for a team already feeling sorry for themselves, but this is where the Jackets are. President of hockey operations John Davidson has some history with Tortorella, so that certainly aided in the hiring process.
The Blue Jackets play their first game under Tortorella on Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild.
NFL News and Notes
Plenty of NFL stuff to discuss heading into Week 7. Percy Harvin did not make the trip to London due to his ongoing hip injury. Some people reported that the Buffalo Bills wideout, who has also dealt with migraine headaches in his career, was considering retirement. Those rumors have been quashed to some extent, but the migraine thing may really be a contributing factor. Sammy Watkins and Tyrod Taylor are also out this week.
Ben Roethlisberger said he was “pain-free” following practice on Wednesday. The Steelers are a small road dog at Kansas City in the SuperContest this week. If Roethlisberger can go, players are going to get some significant line value. For now, the expectation is still Landry Jones, but Ben’s status is the main focus.
Detroit Lions OC Joe Lombardi will coach from the press box again after the team had success against the Chicago Bears last weekend. The Lions are a home dog to the Vikings.
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