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Cavaliers Take Advantage of Draymond Green Suspension to Force Game 6, So What Now?

There is a common saying in the NBA that a playoff series doesn’t begin until a team wins on the road. While this is usually the case in most situations, it appeared to be the exact opposite in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors went to Cleveland up 2-0 in the series, already crowned presumptive NBA Champions by many. While the Cavaliers were able to dominate in Game 3, a strong road win by the Warriors in Game 4 behind a 38-point performance from back-to-back MVP Steph Curry had most basketball fans agreeing the series was essentially over. Instead of starting a competitive series by winning on the road, the Warriors ended it.

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Or so we thought.

Big news came out Sunday night when the NBA announced Draymond Green would be suspended for Game 5 after his altercation with LeBron James in the later stages of Game 4 was upgraded to a flagrant-1 foul. Green had already been under the microscope this postseason for three previous flagrant fouls, and the most recent one warranted an automatic one game suspension.

This suspension was met with much controversy from the media, fans and players. Klay Thompson, reacting to the news, said “I guess his feelings just got hurt. I mean, we’ve all been called plenty of bad words on the basketball court before. Some guys just react to it differently.” When asked about Thompson’s comments, James chose to take the “high road,” a statement that was mocked by Ayesha Curry, wife of Steph Curry, who tweeted “High Road. invisible bridge used to step over said person when open floor is available left to right.”

James received harsh criticism for this response, primarily from Mychal Thompson, father of Klay Thompson, who continued the recent trend of former NBA players in their mid-50’s complaining about everything, said “LeBron couldn’t have survived in the 80s with the physicality and the words guys said to each other back then.”

I understand that LeBron should have shrugged this off, but given the intensity of the series and the fact that he was probably pissed off with how the game was going, you can see why he did it. That’s not to say it was acceptable, but if LeBron played nice and walked away, Draymond could have been in Game 5 and we could be talking about a series recap right now. The truth is, the suspension to Green may have been the small springboard of momentum the Cavaliers needed going into Game 5 to earn themselves a chance to fight again.

Despite Draymond Green being out of the lineup (and out of the building for that matter), it was hard to envision the Cavaliers winning this game. The way in which Golden State won Game 4, raining down three-pointers and stealing the game in front of the Cleveland faithful, appeared to take away any heart this Cavaliers team had left. The Warriors hit 17 three-pointers in Game 4, the most in NBA Finals history. With each drained bucket, the body language for every player on the Cavaliers went from bad to worse. Game 5 began with a flurry of offense from both teams, with the score 32-29 Golden State at the end of the first quarter. In the second, Klay Thompson seemingly draining a shot every time he touched the basketball, with four deep 3-pointers highlighting his performance in the first half.

However, once the second half began, the Cavs hit the gas. More importantly, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving caught fire. Both finished with 41 points, handling most of the heavy lifting for a Cavaliers roster that has struggled to match the depth of the Warriors. In similar situations last year during the Finals, LeBron had to churn out a solo effort in order to get the job done. Now, he has a wingman.

So, does this win shift the outlook of this series? Sure. Kyrie Irving finally had the game he needed in order to establish himself as a star in big moments, something we haven’t necessarily seen on his resume thus far in the league. Shades of it were present in Game 4, but this 41 point night had much more of an impact. In previous games, Irving appeared to fade under the spotlight, but somehow, he found a hot streak in the hostile confines of a rocking Oracle Arena. Additionally, we saw a killer instinct from LeBron James that hasn’t come out in a long, long time. That being said, none of it will matter if the Cavaliers can’t get it done on Thursday night. Despite the great game, they will still have a monster to contend with when Draymond Green returns. Despite 41 points from LeBron and Irving, the pressure is still on the Cavaliers, and they will have to prove they can handle it.

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Where is the Love?

Since returning from his concussion sustained in Game 1, you would think Kevin Love hasn’t actually returned from his concussion sustained in Game 1. He’s not doing himself any favors in proving he isn’t the odd man out on this Cavalier’s roster, and in Game 5 he finished just 1-5 with 2 points in 33 minutes of action. Someone needs to start a search party in Cleveland for this guy, because his picture is about to show up in the missing persons report. Love’s poor play has only fueled local Bostonians’ hopes of landing him next season, so it could shape up to be one interesting offseason.

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What Jae Crowder’s Injury Means for the Celtics Moving Forward

Jae Crowder suffered a high ankle sprain in the Celtics’ loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday night, and is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks. While the injury shouldn’t have any long term effects on Crowder, it could have some long term effects on the Celtics. Crowder is an elite defender in the NBA and can shut down opposing teams’ key offensive weapons. Along with his stellar defense, he has become a much better offensive player than we’ve seen in the past. After being traded to Boston last season from the Dallas Mavericks, Crowder averaged 9.5 points per game. This season he is averaging a career high 14.4 ppg. The Celtics play Tuesday night in Indiana against the Pacers, Wednesday at home against the Thunder, and on the road against the Raptors on Friday night. These are three games that should not be taken lightly.

Let’s first look at the game against the Pacers. The guy opposing teams need to look out for on the Pacers is Paul George. George missed most of last season after sustaining a horrific lower leg injury the prior summer playing for Team USA. Now he’s back and looking like he did before the injury, averaging 23.3 points per game. The Celtics lead the season series 2-1, holding the Pacers to 100 points or less in each of the three games. But that could certainly change with the absence of Crowder. Crowder is a key defender for the Celtics, always playing with outstanding heart and hustle, and would be matched up against Paul George in tonight’s game if he were able to play. Now, the Celtics will be leaning on Evan Turner to slow down George. Turner looked lost on Friday night covering James Harden, as Harden put up 32 of the Rockets’ 102 points. Without Crowder to keep Paul George at bay, I believe the 7th seed Pacers will beat the 3rd seed Celtics in this game.

The Celtics will then look to win a game at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City’s record is 44-22 and are currently in 3rd place in the superior Western Conference. The Thunder are a tough team to handle with their two super stars in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Westbrook is head and shoulders above all other point guards in the NBA when it comes to shear speed and strength. He has the ability to take the ball to the rim in both the half court offense and in transition. However, with an elite perimeter defender in Avery Bradley and a defender coming into his own in Marcus Smart, the Celtics may just be able to slow down Westbrook enough to get the win.

But, oh wait. You still have to slow down Kevin Durant. Durant is another player that could be kept at bay with the defensive play of Jae Crowder. Avery Bradley is a candidate to cover Durant during Crowder’s absence, but Durant at 6’9” is much taller than the 6’2” Bradley, and could score easily in the post and could use his length to get shots off over Bradley in the mid-range game. This means that we will again turn to Evan Turner to cover the former MVP, Kevin Durant. I don’t have confidence in Turner covering Paul George, so I sure as hell don’t have faith in him covering Durant, who is pretty much just a better Paul George. Durant is averaging 28.1 ppg this season and I think we can count on him to put up more than that against the Celtics this Wednesday without Crowder in the rotation.

And now we’re on to Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are 2nd in the Eastern Conference, currently sitting 6.5 games better than the 3rd place Celtics. The Raptors are led by emerging superstar, DeMar DeRozan, who averages 23.3 ppg this season and a little over 30 ppg this month. DeRozan, at 6’7”, would be a good matchup for the Celtics’ D if Jae Crowder was playing. Are you seeing a theme here? Again, Avery Bradley is too small to cover DeRozan so we’re looking at Turner to take on the challenge. Turner, while still not a bad defender, just doesn’t have the size that Crowder does. And while you’ll see players on the Boston Celtics team showing tremendous hustle, I don’t know if anyone other than Bradley comes even close to the hustle that Crowder plays with. I’d put this down as another “L” on the Celtics’ upcoming schedule.

After the game in Toronto, the Celtics travel to Philadelphia to play the joke of the team that is the 76ers. This should be a win for the C’s no matter who is on the court. Then they will see the Magic at home, which I would expect another win from. But then the schedule picks up again. Before Crowder comes back, the Celtics will play the Raptors again, the Clippers, Trail Blazers, and possibly the potential best team in NBA history in the Golden State Warriors. Though playing the Warriors at home is an automatic loss for any team, I’d be confident in all these other games with a healthy Crowder. Crowder has become a valuable asset to the Celtics. His improvements with the three-ball and overall offensive production this year are great for a Celtics fan to see. And as always, his defense is one of the best in the NBA. Celtics fans should expect to lose some games in his absence and possibly drop in the Eastern Conference standings. There are three teams all within a 1.5 games of the 3 spot in the East. If the Celtics can’t hold it together without Crowder, don’t be surprised to see them head into the playoffs as a 5, 6 or maybe even 7 seed, rather than the 3rd.

Trust or Bust? Who Won Deadline Day?

Eric Staal #12 of the New York Rangers skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden on February 29, 2016 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1.

In the shadow of the NBA trade deadline, the NHL left a lot of teams in need of improvements for the late season push for the playoffs. While there was a multitude of teams who made deals, there were clear cut winners and losers. Which side of the fence is your team standing on?

Unsurprisingly Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman was working the phones hard, and it all worked out. Chicago landed Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, and Christian Ehrhoff. Now, if you can look past the fact that both Marko Dano and Phillip Danault who are talented prospects were dealt to make it all work, than this was just another spot of brilliance from one of the best hockey minds of our time. After all, Christian Ehroff for Rob Scuderi is an obvious win in my book.

I understand you may be tired of seeing Chicago enjoy this much success. Similarly to how everyone under the sun hates the Patriots. But.. too bad, besides the fact remains, once its over, you wont see anything like it for a long time.

Back in the summer of 2012 it must have been pretty special for Jordan Staal. He was traded from Pittsburg to Carolina to play alongside his Brother Eric. Aside from the whole playing in Carolina thing, it’s a unique experience to be playing professional sports with your brother.

Almost four years later it was older brother Eric’s turn for a change of scenery.

Destination? Big apple. Teammate, Rangers defensemen Marc Staal. Yes, they are all related. Carolina has been toying with the idea of trading their long term captain, and apparently now was the time. In return, Carolina received Aleksi Saarela and two future draft picks.

Which is understandable. Carolina isn’t going anywhere worthwhile anytime soon. So, the two future picks and talented prospect is exactly what the doctor ordered.

As for the Rangers they get a Stanley Cup champion caliber center. To me, the Rangers are incredibly deep down the middle of the ice, which in the playoffs is absolutely a difference maker. In the case of the Rangers, who just a couple weeks ago were sputtering, just put themselves back in the conversation.

Everyone and their grandma knew the Florida Panthers were desperately seeking a goal scoring winger. Well, they got more than that. Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell are more than capable veteran players for the playoffs. Hudler amassed 76 points last season. Purcell, is on pace for another 20 goal season. Together they should mesh nicely with a battle tested group of veterans and the up and coming nucleolus of youth.

Dallas… tisk tisk. You fell for the Kris Russell trap. Look, Dallas needs depth at the defensive position desperately which is by far their Achilles heel. It goes without saying, or at least it should that Kris Russell is a gimmick at best. He currently leads the league in the biggest pseudo stat, blocked shots. I haven’t even mentioned what they gave up. Prospect Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Pollock, and a 2016 2nd round pick.

Yikes.

Kris Russell is bad but not nearly as bad as what the Boston Bruins decided was their saving grace.

John-Michael Liles, who I guess still plays in the NHL.. was sent to Boston in exchange for a 3rd and 5th round pick and AHL’er Anthony Camara. Which, again makes sense for Carolina. Nowadays draft picks are like gold, especially for a team drenched in mediocracy.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom in Boston. Veteran depth goal scorer Lee Stempniak who’s projected to put 21 in the net this year is a fine addition. However, I must add that it comes with minor disappointment only because he was offered a PTO by Boston during camp but was let go.

So Boston could have signed him as a free agent but missed out on the opportunity.

I digress.

His leadership should prove to be more valuable than his goal scoring ability as Boston pursues a playoff spot.

With the multitude of deals that were made at the deadline, there were clear cut winners and losers. The winners were the Blackhawks, Rangers, Panthers and Kings. The latter includes Dallas and Boston.

Time is the only indicator to measure success or failure. In the NHL the idealism is just to make the playoffs and you’ll never know what will happen. The 2010 Flyers and the 2012 Kings made the Cup finals as the 8th seed.

Need more convincing? Well in 2014 the Kings acquired Marian Gaborik to add a much needed scoring kick and it ended with their second Stanley Cup championship. Who knows, one of the names listed above could just be the next Marian Gaborik.

 

 

 

 

2016 Baseball Hall of Fame prediction

With the 2016 Hall of Fame class being announced this week,  I think it’s only appropriate that some predictions should be made. A new group of legends will be getting that long awaited phone call they have been dreaming of their whole life. Now some of these players dreams are about to become a reality while others just have to wait another year.

1. Mike Piazza

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Piazza seems to be one of the sure favorites in this year’s group. This is his fourth year on the ballot, but it is finally his time. To be honest, I’m surprised it took him this long. Piazza, in my opinion, is one of the best offensive catchers ever to play the game. The 12 time All Star and 10 time silver slugger finished his 16 year career with a .308 batting average. That’s the third best career batting average from a catcher of all time. He also won the 1993 Rookie of the Year and the 1996 All Star game MVP. But going through all of these accolades, one of the best moments in Piazza’s career was his legendary 8th inning home run the day after 9/11. That moonshot to centerfield didn’t just have the Mets take the lead, but also gave a reason for people around New York to smile. Piazza was looked at as a hero then and, after his stellar career, he will get inducted.

2. Ken Griffey Jr.

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With it being just his first year on the ballot,  you can’t tell me that “The Kid” won’t make the cut. When Griffey first entered the league in 1989, kids were impersonating his long, but smooth swing with the most nonchalant follow through in their backyard. His swing just looked so effortless but, boy, did it have power. His 630 career home runs, earning him 6th on the all time list, can speak for itself. Also, to this day, he is the only player to ever win the Home Run Derby three times. But don’t think that the 13 time all star and 7 time Silver Slugger could just hit, he also played stellar defense. When Griffey was roaming centerfield for the Mariners, he was a 10 time Gold Glove winner, receiving the award 10 years in a row (1990-1999). Ken Griffey Jr. will forever be one of the best sluggers to ever play baseball. He brought a whole new type of “swagger” to the game, whether it was chasing down fly balls with ease or hitting tape measure shots out of the ballpark. In my opinion, he should have been inducted yesterday.

3. Trevor Hoffman

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Another 1st timer on the ballot, I believe, will be joining this legendary class. If Hoffman were to get voted in, he will be just the 7th closer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. People have said before that voters should consider evaluating closers as Hall of Famers. People say that because of the fewer innings they pitch compared to starters and that it is easier to be successful when you just pitch one inning every couple games. That to me is absurd, especially if you were to tell me that Hoffman shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. The 7 time All Star is second all time in saves with 601. The all time leader is Mariano Rivera and if you think he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, you should just stop watching baseball. With Rivera and Hoffman being first and second on the list, Lee Smith in 3rd place is nowhere close to them at 478. To be honest, I will be shocked if any other pitcher ever gets close to 600 saves. With people saying that closers should be looked at as Hall of Famers, I can see your point with anyone BUT Hoffman and Rivera because they showed that they completely dominated the position like no other. I strongly believe that there won’t be any other closer ever to put up the amount of numbers Rivera and Hoffman did.

There you have it. Those are my three joining the group of heroes, legends, and the best players to ever play America’s Pastime. There is still the elephant in the room for the past couple of years now whether or not steroid users like Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire should be allowed. Obviously from my picks, this isn’t the year for any of them. Ever since the newest release of MLB players, Ryan Howard, Ryan Zimmerman, and Taylor Teagarden being accused of using performance enhancing drugs, baseball writers won’t believe that it is time to let the four former muscle heads in due to the fact the steroids hasn’t been put to a complete stop yet.

In the far, far, far future (hypothetically speaking) when I am part of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and get to actually put my vote in for who gets into the Hall of Fame, my predictions for the 2016 class will be correct. But until that forsaken day comes, we will just have to sit back, relax, and wait for the announcement to be made later this week.

A beat-up Buchholz

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With the Red Sox signing David Price and having him be their ace for years to come, I think Boston just killed two birds with one stone.

1. They finally have someone who can anchor the staff for the first time since Jon Lester.

2. Clay Buchholz doesn’t have worry about being the number 1 in the rotation anymore.

When the 2015 season began, the Red Sox were in Philadelphia for Opening Day. Manager John Farrell chose Buchholz to be the Opening Day starter, hoping that he can stay healthy and be their ace all season. As Buchholz trotted to the mound in the bottom half of the first, I was already pleased with his performance because he didn’t pull a hammy on his way to the mound. Buchholz actually had everyone raising their eyebrows after he twirled 7 shutout innings, allowing 3 hits and one walk while the Red Sox gave him plenty of run support in the 8-0 victory over the Phillies. Sox fans thought that this was the year that Clay was ready to prove everyone wrong, stay healthy, and have people think that whenever he’s on the mound, his team his going to win.

You’ve got to remember that Clay’s stellar performance over the Phillies…was against the Phillies. Philadelphia has been in complete rebuild mode for the past 3 seasons ever since the Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Cliff Lee era slowly disintegrated. Ever since trading away their core pieces that brought this organization so much success like middle infielders Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, the only players that may put fans in the seats now is veteran slugger Ryan Howard and young outfielder Odubel Herrera, who hit just under .300 in 147 games. So with Buchholz pitching a gem against a JV lineup, fans should have waited to jump on the “Buchholz Bandwagon” and see how he did against actually contenders.

The 2015 season for the Boston Red Sox was a joke. The pitching was a joke and when the offense started off slow and couldn’t support the third worst rotation in the American League, you weren’t going to see the best results. But right before the All-Star break, the Sox won 4 straight heading into the last series vs. the first place New York Yankees. Boston was just 4.5 games out of first place at the time, so if they were able to take 2 games in the series or maybe sweep their arch rivals, they would have a lot of momentum going into the second half of the season. A red hot Clay Buchholz had won 4 straight outings and was getting the ball for the first game of the series. Fans were hoping he was ready to make the next step of being an ace by delivering a W in a big game like this.

A solo home run by Alex Rodriguez in the top of the first was just the beginning of this never-ending roller coaster. In the top of the fourth, Buchholz delivered an off speed pitch to former teammate, Stephen Drew. After the pitch, he told catcher Sandy Leon to come to the mound. As Leon jogged to the mound from home plate, John Farrell and the trainer began to follow, along with the infielders. As everyone was huddled up around Buchholz, Farrell then made a signal to the bullpen and just like that, his game was done. At the time, that was the biggest game of the season and the lights were all on Clay Buchholz. That was his chance to change people’s outlook on him and as usual, the injury bug got to him and he was placed on the 60-day DL with a right elbow strain, and ending his season.

Now throughout Buchholz’s career, there has always been one thing that has been his kryptonite and that is…well…anything, if you think about it. When I scrolling through Twitter one day, I came across something that really defined Clay Buchholz in a nutshell. It was a list of all the injuries he has sustained throughout his career. Now, some of you may think it’s silly to start a list of his past but when you look at these numbers, you come to wonder why the Red Sox still keep this guy around.

2008: 16 games missed with a right fingernail tear.

2010: 18 games with a left hamstring strain.

2011: 93 games with a lower back stress fracture.

2012: 20 games with esophagitis.

2013: 82 games with right shoulder bursitis.

2014: 28 games with a left knee hyperextension.

2015: 75 games with a right elbow strain.

If you add those games up, the total amount is 332 games missed over 7 trips to the disabled list. That’s over 2 seasons where Clay Buchholz has been on the DL throughout his 9 seasons in the MLB. And yet, the Red Sox will be paying him around 13 million dollars in 2016.

Now people always think of the 2013 season where he put up by far his best numbers. In the first half of the season, he went 9-0 with an ERA of 1.71. At the time, an obvious all-star and the front runner for the Cy Young award. But after suffering right shoulder bursitis and being shut down for a good chunk of the second half of the season, he was never the pitcher he was once before the All Star break.

With Price now being the obvious number 1 in the rotation for the Sox, 2-5 are still up in the air. With Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, and Joe Kelly fighting for those last 4 spots, you wonder if the Red Sox will ever stop looking at Buchholz as a top of the rotation pitcher and just make him a number 4 or 5 in the rotation.

People have to stop remembering what Buchholz once was and accept that he has already hit his peak. When he’s healthy, he can be one of the best pitchers in baseball. I just don’t think it is necessary to pay the guy that much money for a good month or two of pitching and then making his yearly trip to the DL. But that’s just my opinion.

Yankees acquire Aroldis Chapman

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When the legend Mariano Rivera hung up the cleats in 2013, there have been a lot of contestants trying to fill his role as the Yankees closer. But earlier this afternoon, the Yankees got their guy. Four time all star, Aroldis Chapman was traded from the Cincinnati Reds where he got 146 saves in the span of 6 seasons. Chapman doesn’t have the devastating cutter Rivera used to throw; in fact, Chapman is kind of like the opposite of Rivera.

The Yankees gave away 4 minor leaguers for the one of the most intimidating pitchers in the game…and that’s just an understatement. Batters try not to show fear as Chapman fires 100+ MPH fastballs on a regular pitch basis. The one thing that batters hate when they face him is that they don’t know where the ball is going…and sometimes neither does Chapman.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Dodgers made a deal with the Reds to send Chapman to the Blue Crew. But after Chapman was alleged to being involved in assaulting his girlfriend, the deal was called off. Knowing the Reds are in complete rebuild mode, they weren’t done trying to trade him, which caused the Yankees to give them a call, and the rest is history.

One question mark is if Chapman will be in uniform on Opening Day. His assault charges are in further investigation right now and if it doesn’t play out in Chapman’s favor, Yankee fans may not be seeing him close a game until later in the season.

But let’s say the charges are dropped and he is ready to go for Opening Day. You could arguably say that the Yankees have the best 1-2-3 punch coming out of the bullpen in all of baseball. With having Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller being the 7th and 8th inning guys before Chapman, you could say the chances for a comeback by the opposing team decreases dramatically. But who knows, with the signing of Chapman, Miller could be on the trade block. With the Yankees trying to get younger, an everyday outfielder or power hitter could be a good option for replacing a 38 year old Carlos Beltran and 40 year old Alex Rodriguez.

If Miller isn’t dealt anywhere this winter and the Yankees decide to have a 3-headed monster in the bullpen, all you have to tell your starting rotation is to give their team a quality start and the bullpen will finish the job. Not that hard, right? Maybe not for the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees finished 23rd last season in quality starts in all of baseball with 72. But with the offense finishing second in runs scored and picking up the team’s ERA being above 4, you can say that the lesser amount of quality starts won’t be a problem.

Another issue the Yankees COULD have with this deal is if that Chapman becomes a free agent next season. If Chapman has a break out year and another team offers him some big bucks, don’t be surprised if he decides to sign elsewhere. But knowing the Yankees and their history of big contracts, I don’t see there being another team getting in their way.

With this deal being done today, the Yankees made their case that they will be contending for the A.L. East crown just like everyone else. They and Boston’s bullpen seem to be equally dominant on paper. But no matter how good your team looks on paper, I, as a Red Sox fan, know that anything can happen when the season starts.

Disaster in D.C.

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When people are settling down from the Christmas festivities, the Washington Nationals are accepting the lump of cole they received in their stocking this year. Trust me, this isn’t the first time for them.

If you were to look back on the past 4 seasons for the Nationals, the records don’t really help my case as to why I think this team has a lot of work to do. They have won the N.L. East crown 2 out of the past 4 seasons (2012 and 2014) and in those seasons, they won an impressive 98 wins in 2012 and 96 in 2014. In 2013 and 2015, they finished just above .500 but finished second in the division and failed to make the playoffs. But when the Nats went into the 2012 and 2014 playoffs as the favorites to win the Pennant, they were eliminated in the first round both years.

The word “favorites” really represent the Washington Nationals well the past few years. They haven’t just been favorites going into the playoffs, but before the season starts as well. Before the 2015 season began, the Nationals signed all-star pitcher, Max Scherzer, to a seven year mega deal worth 210 million dollars. With that acquisition alone, the Nationals had one of the scariest pitching rotations (on paper) people have seen in awhile. With the five man rotation being Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, and Doug Fister, you wouldn’t be looked at as stupid if you thought this team was going make a push to the title.

The offense can’t be left alone either. People were ready to see former Rookie of Year, Bryce Harper, stay healthy and have a stand out year. To be honest, Harper was the only good thing that happened for the Nationals in 2015. His .330 batting average, 42 home runs, and 99 RBI’s got him a Silver Slugger award and the elusive MVP trophy for the National League.

…but that’s about it if you’re looking at positives for the Nationals.

Throughout the 2015 season, there wasn’t really anyone else in the lineup to help Harper. Whether it was Ryan Zimmerman’s hamstring snapping every time he tried to beat out a ground ball and then being out for 2 months, or Ian Desmond (if he gets resigned) playing the entire season but finishing with a mediocre .233 batting average, this team has to make some changes. Changes that will not give Harper the responsibility to carry the line-up night in and night out.

Let’s go back to the rotation. At first, Scherzer was living up to the hype. After joining an elite club by throwing 2 no hitters last season, fans knew that it was worth spending big bucks for this guy. Scherzer’s 10-7 record with a 2.11 ERA in the first half of the season earned him a trip to the All Star game. But when the All Star festivities began to simmer down, Scherzer’s ERA began to rise up. While going 0-3 with an ERA of 6.43, the team began to head south in the division because no one else in the rotation was showing hope to carry the load. Both Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez’s subpar second half performances didn’t help the cause. Also, having Strasburg and Fister on the DL throughout May and June wasn’t what National fans were expecting.

Come on, when you have mid-season acquisition, Jonathan Papelbon, going after your only offensive weapon and arguable the face of the franchise in Bryce Harper, you know you have hit rock bottom.

So here we are in late December, the Nationals have a new skipper in Dusty Baker, and they just agreed to terms with second basemen, Daniel Murphy, who was a playoff hero last season for the New York Mets. But don’t think he’s the answer to all of Washington’s problems. He is a player that can help out Harper drive in some runs, but they need to get another power bat. Maybe free agent outfielder, Yoenis Céspedes? He has shown great success against N.L. East teams last season with a batting average around .300 against them. Him and Harper would be a great duo to have in the lineup, and could give pitchers nightmares. Let’s face it folks, if Harper is having a bad day at the plate, chances are that the Nationals will probably lose that game. Which is said because this team has so much potential but in the end, they will just break all of their fans hearts…again.

Also, with having Jordan Zimmerman agreeing to terms with the Detroit Tigers, Scherzer has a little bit more responsibility in carrying this rotation. People can be thinking that Strasburg will have a bounce back year but looking at his history and having Tommy John surgery on his résumé, I don’t know if he will be the lights out prospect he once was. With Fister, he is a ground ball pitcher. He doesn’t have the stuff to blow batters away and if they resign Ian Desmond, him averaging over 20 errors the past 3 seasons won’t help Fister’s cause.

The Nationals have some work to do, to say the least. I have to admit, I was one of many that hopped right on the Nationals bandwagon prior to the 2015 season. But as usual, they made not just me, but many people, look stupid. With just under 100 days left until Opening Day is here, the Nationals better figure it out because if not, they may be finding themselves much lower than just a second place finish.