In falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the lack of a killer instinct finally caught up to the Chicago Cubs.
In 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles finished in last place in the NFC East. However that was very deceiving being that the Eagles had a record of 7-9. Philadelphia won their last two games of 2016 which were victories over the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys who were each postseason bound. The Eagles used the momentum from finishing strong in 2016 to carry over to the current season and the results have been extremely positive. After six games Philadelphia is 5-1 which includes them being 2-0 within the NFC East. And just like each of the last four times in which Philly finished in the basement of the NFC East for the previous season, they’ve once again rebounded in a big way.
In 2015, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to dismiss Chip Kelly as the team’s head coach and in the process he decided to get his organization back to the basics. Lurie’s first order of business was to once again make Howie Roseman the Eagles general manager. Roseman had a good working relationship with former Eagles head coach Andy Reid as this duo help Philadelphia win the NFC Championship in 2004. Reid is currently the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Eagles sought out one of his proteges in Doug Pederson to be their next head coach.
Pederson had previously been an offensive assistant under Reid with the Eagles and he was brought back to the organization last year in order to get the ship righted.
Like most head coaches who take over a team, Pederson wanted to draft a quarterback to mold, and Philadelphia would trade up to the second overall spot in the 2016 National Football League Draft to select quarterback Carson Wentz.
Collegiately for the North Dakota State Bison, Wentz showed that he had the ability to operate a pro-style offense which included him being a member of five Football Championship Subdivision winners. Wentz was also a two-time FCS Championship Game Most Outstanding Player as this helped to make him a hot commodity as his National Football League career was set to begin.
Pederson didn’t waste any time as he named Wentz as the starting quarterback in Week 1 for the 2016 National Football League season, and the youngster was able to respond by helping Philly begin the campaign with a record of 3-0. Wentz would make all 16 starts as a rookie as he threw 16 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. But most importantly Wentz was never fazed as Philadelphia had found their next franchise quarterback.
Wentz has continued to assert himself this season as he has 13 touchdowns to just 3 picks. Wentz also has a pair of comeback victories under his belt which is due to his poise. At 6’5″. 237 lbs., Wentz is deceptively fast and agile for his size. Wentz has good scrambling ability which he uses to get out of the pocket when the play breaks down as this coincides with him not forcing the football down the field.
Wentz’s strong start is the perfect illustration to the commitment of Lurie, Roseman, and Pederson in regards to putting him in the best possible place to succeed. In a slew of key moves during the off-season the Eagles signed running back LeGarrette Blount, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, and defensive end Chris Long. All three players bring a veteran presence, while Long and Blount each helped the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl last year.
Last year the Eagles were 11th in the National Football League in rushing, but so far this season they are second with Blount leading the way as he is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Jeffery has the potential to gain 1,000 yards receiving, while his presence takes some of the attention away from tight end Zach Ertz who is currently Philadelphia’s best pass catcher. And in the case of Long, he might not be the pass rusher that he was during his prime which was spent with the St. Louis Rams, but he is a professional in every since of the word which resonates with the team.
It has not taken the Eagles that long to buy into what Pederson has been selling as he has been a breath of fresh air from Kelly. In the nearly three years that Kelly was the Eagles, the locker room became fractured with most of the team turning against their head coach. Now the Eagles are back to having fun while they have an emerging leader in Wentz to go with Long, strong safety Malcolm Jenkins, and left tackle Jason Peters as leadership is always key for a team that is eyeing a championship.
And after the Eagles came into 2017 expected to have to slug it out with the Cowboys as well as the Giants for the top spot in the division, things are clearing up for Philadelphia faster than than the traffic on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The Giants have yet to win a game this season and after they lost three wide receivers for the season last Sunday, you can stick a fork in them. The Cowboys who were 13-3 last season are just 2-3 so far in 2017. Dallas has been unable to stop the run on defense, while things took a twist for them as the National Football League was able to reinstate their six-game suspension on Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot which changes the tenor of the season for them. The Washington Redskins shouldn’t be much of a factor in the NFC East either, and with the Eagles having already defeating them this season, they really have a leg up.
So now that the Eagles are on cruise control within the NFC East, they can look at the bigger picture which is potentially securing a first-round bye in the playoffs. Philadelphia’s 28-23 road win over the Carolina Panthers has to do well for their psych as the Panthers themselves are one of the top teams in the NFC.
Pederson is looking to join his former boss in Reid who was able to get the Eagles to the playoffs in just his second second with the team. But will Pederson be able to do something that Reid was unable to do which is to get the Eagles a Super Bowl Championship?
From 2006-2014, the Detroit Tigers made five trips to the postseason which included collecting a pair of American League Pennants. But since then things have come apart for the Tigers with the bottom officially falling out this year. The Tigers limped to the finish line with a record of 64-98 for their worst season since 2003 when they went 43-119. Age and injuries finally caught up to the Tigers which led to general manager Al Avila having a good old-fashioned fire sale which included him trading outfielder J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks, longtime starting pitcher Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros, and outfielder Justin Upton to the Detroit Tigers as these moves symbolized what we should have seen coming for a long time.
The demise of the Tigers began in 2014 when they were swept in the American League Divisional Series by the Baltimore Orioles. Detroit lost the series in spite of the fact that they had three former American League Cy Young Award winners in starting pitchers Max Scherzer, David Price, and Verlander on the mound for them.
Scherzer would then become a free agent and he joined the Washington Nationals on a seven-year $210 million contract which left a huge void in the Tigers rotation. Without Scherzer, the Tigers struggled in 2015 which prompted former general manager Dave Dombrowski to trade Price as well as outfielder Yoenis Cespedes prior to Major League Baseball’s trade deadline. However the moves would lead to Dombrowski being released by the Tigers and replaced by Avila.
2016 would see things go better for Detroit as they went 86-75, but finished 2.5 games behind the Orioles for the final wild card spot in the American League. 2017 got off on the wrong foot for the Tigers as longtime team owner Mike Ilitch passed away at the age of 87. And with Ilitch no longer running the show for his beloved Tigers, the wheels officially fell off.
So after the Tigers finished tied with the San Francisco Giants for the worst record in Major League Baseball, they have now earned the first overall pick in next June’s MLB Draft. In trading some key veterans the Tigers have already shown that they need to get younger, but how far will Avila go with this philosophy over the winter?
Detroit already has $102 million committed to player salaries for 2018 with a large chunk of that attached to a pair of immovable contracts. For the last decade first baseman Miguel Cabrera has been integral to the success of the Tigers. Cabrera is a two-time American League MVP, while also winning the Triple Crown in 2012. Only Al Kaline and Norm Cash have hit more homers than Cabrera in a Tigers uniform as he has gone yard 324 times; however his best days now appear to be in the rear-view mirror.
At the age of 34, injuries are beginning to take their toll on Cabrera. During the past season it was revealed that Cabrera is dealing with two herniated disks in his back which explains as to why he just had the worst season of his Major League Baseball career. Cabrera is a lifetime .317 hitter, but he only batted .249 this season with 16 homers and 60 runs batted in. In 2014, the Tigers gave Cabrera an eight-year extension for $248 million. This contract runs through 2023 with Cabrera set to earn $30 million in 2018. And if Cabrera’s production is going to continue to decline, his contract is going to hamper the Tigers going forward.
Heading into the 2016 Major League Baseball season, the Tigers were desperate for starting pitching which led them to signing starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman to a five-year deal for $110 million. Zimmerman’s time in Detroit has been less than spectacular as in 47 starts with the Tigers, he has posted a record of 17-20 with an earned run average of 5.60. Zimmerman is 31-years of age, and as he is set to earn $24 million next season, the Tigers are stuck with his contract like bad credit.
In the case of second baseman Ian Kinsler and designated hitter Victor Martinez, they each have one year left on their respective deals which could make each of them tantalizing if Avila were to make them available to a contender at Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings which will be held in December in Orlando. Trading Kinsler and Martinez would potentially take $19 million off of the books for the Tigers. However it is easier said than done being that Kinsler is coming off of his worst season at the plate as he only managed to hit .236, while Martinez will turn 39-years of age in December, and he is also playing on two bad knees.
The Tigers also need to find a new manager as after four years the organization has decided to move on from Brad Ausmus. So far the Tigers are expected to interview a pair of veteran Major League Baseball managers in Ron Gardenhire and Fredi Gonzalez, but with the playoffs in full swing, nothing appears to be imminent in regards to Detroit finding their next skipper.
With the trade of Verlander as well the as elbow surgery for starting pitcher Michael Fulmer which will keep him out of action for 3-4 months, the Tigers pitching staff might have a different look to it in 2018. Detroit’s team earned run average of 4.24 was 11th in the American League this season which could be a signal as to what they’ll look for in next year’s draft. But the way that things are looking, it doesn’t appear that getting the Tigers rotation on track will be a quick fix which can be said about other aspects of their team as well.
The Tigers have enjoyed a solid run that the history books won’t properly recognize being that they never won a World Series Title over the stretch. Verlander and Cabrera will be locks to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, while they also helped to spark some life into what was a dormant baseball fan base in Motown. But now it is time to see how creative that the Tigers front office will get in regards to once again making Detroit a contender after the bottom fell out for them this year.
Earlier this year Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria made it known publicly of his intentions to sell the team that he has owned since 2002. And earlier this year it was also reported that former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was part of a group that intended to purchase the Marlins from Loria. This finally came to fruition when it was announced in August that Loria would be selling to Jeter’s group which includes former asset manager Bruce Sherman and current Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan. And now for the folks in Miami who support the Marlins could finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief due to the new regime.
With the exception of the Marlins winning the World Series in 2003, Loria has mismanaged this franchise which included him suckering the City of Miami as well as Dade County into giving him the funding for a new stadium only to turn around and have himself a good old-fashioned fire sale not long after Marlins Park opened in 2012. Loria is reportedly getting $1.2 billion for selling the Marlins which is a far cry from the franchise being valued at $137 million when he took over the organization in 2002. Loria is a shrewd businessman as his ability to profit from selling the Marlins has been driven up due to local television deals that the franchise has as well as Marlins Park which is a state-of-the art baseball stadium that included them hosting Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game this past July. But now that Loria is taking his money and running with it, the Marlins will actually have the chance to compete.
We know about Jeter’s prowess on the baseball diamond as for 20 years he was the shortstop of the Yankees as well as being the face of that franchise. Jeter’s time with the Yankees included winning five World Series Championships, taking home the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award in 1996, and collecting 3,465 hits. With Jeter in the lineup, the Yankees never had a losing season, while they only missed the playoffs three times. And now that Major League Baseball’s team owners have approved the sale of the Marlins, you can expect some of that vintage Jeter magic to rub off on his new team.
Sherman will have the title of Marlins owner, while Jeter will be the CEO and this gives him the opportunity to build the team in his own image. Jeter already has everyone within the Marlins organization on pins and needles as he appears ready to hand out pink slips in the mode of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
The Marlins already have building blocks in place which includes outfielder Giancarlo Stanton who led Major League Baseball in home runs this season with 59. The Marlins shocked the baseball world in 2014 when they signed Stanton to a 13-year deal for $325 million as it went against the frugal Loria’s nature. Most people expected the Marlins to trade Stanton sooner rather than later. And although that Stanton is currently the Marlins best player, would Jeter be ready to pull the trigger on a deal to ship the slugger out of town in order to free up salary as well as bring back more assets?
This move by the Marlins with Jeter being on board with the franchise has the potential to have a similar impact as to what we saw when Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973. Steinbrenner was able to wake a sleeping giant and since then the Yankees have gone on to win seven World Series Championships which is by far more than any other Major League Baseball franchise over that stretch. Grant it that the Marlins don’t have the history that the Yankees have, but this ownership change will results in a much needed culture change in Miami.
Since the Marlins came into existence in 1993, they have never had the combination of having a dedicated owner, a contending team, and a great ball park all at the same which now changes. You might as well get accustomed to referencing to the Marlins as the Yankees of the South, and it won’t surprise me to see the franchise once again incorporating pinstripes into their uniform which they did from 1993-2011 when they were known as the Florida Marlins.
The Marlins just wrapped up their eighth consecutive losing season as this became the status quo under Loria. But with a new captain running the ship in Jeter, things will be changing on South Beach sooner rather than later.