lucky's Blog

The Giants were the NL's second-oldest team in 2017

and they lost the most games. They got older this offseason. That's not necessarily a bad thing, if the roster is actually good, and credit the front office for being bold enough to believe that. But it means they almost certainly won't be better in 2019 than they will be in 2018. Which then means that if they miss the playoffs in 2018, it might be a long time before we take the Giants seriously. So the plan depends on them actually being good or having a strong exit strategy if they're not. (To be clear, hitting the second two bullet points might narrowly count as successful, but the first two bullets are the real goal.) Shawn Williams Women's Elite Black Jersey: Nike NFL Cincinnati Bengals Vapor Untouchable Home #36 The Mets are similar -- good not long ago, very bad last year, got older this winter, bottom-five farm system -- but with two distinctions that probably cancel each other out: The Mets' major leaguers are on the younger side, so they will still have something to build a future around no matter what happens this year; but the front office hasn't won three rings in the past eight years, so it has a lot less leeway to say "whoopsie." The Royals -- well, the Royals don't really seem like they should be in this group, do they? The PECOTA projections at Baseball Prospectus see Authentic Malcolm Mitchell Jersey them as the worst team in baseball, or at least tied with the Marlins at 65 wins. But the Royals also don't look like a rebuilding team: They're old, they're around the league-average payroll, their farm system is one of the worst in baseball and their lineup looks like a team that's trying to win now -- just not trying very well. Which is all to say that while they're properly in this group, they're ... not likely to have what we'd call a successful season. The stakes aren't as high and the recent failures aren't as ominous for the Cardinals as they are for the Giants and Mets. They missed the playoffs last year, and we still concluded it was a successful season, with three surprising breakouts in the lineup, competitive baseball deep into September and 3.4 million fans in the stands. But if they miss the postseason in 2018, it would be for the third year in a row, the longest drought for St. Louis since the late 1990s. It could happen and they could still claim a productive season -- if a healthy Alex Reyes wins the Rookie of the Year award, if Miles Mikolas is as good in the National League as he was in Japan last season and if Kolten Wong suddenly hits 27 homers. But at this point, the Cardinals are like a hedge fund that consistently outperforms the market. What might Womens Tracy Mcgrady Jersey seem like a good year to a kitchen-table investor wouldn't to them. To be honest, I'm not sure 90 wins without a playoff spot would do it for the Mariners, who have the longest postseason drought in baseball and haven't played past Game 162 since 2001. Their front office is led by a GM, Jerry Dipoto, who has a fantastic reputation but only one playoff appearance among three seasons in Anaheim and two in Seattle. His handpicked manager, Scott Servais, was hired without any dugout experience (he was Dipoto's assistant GM with the Angels) and hasn't reached October. The Mariners have the worst farm system in baseball by a pretty good margin. If they don't win this year, you might very well start hearing talk of wobbly chairs in that front office. The Diamondbacks' front office is quite secure, job-wise, after an unexpectedly strong season and postseason appearance last year. Anything less than the playoffs will be moving backward, though, especially because, unlike the Mariners, the Diamondbacks project to be a playoff team right now. Windows don't stay open forever: They have a bad farm system, their second-best position player (A.J. Pollock) will be a free agent next winter and their success has been built on the world's most fragile resource, healthy starting pitchers. Their chances are probably better this year than next. The Twins, Rockies and Brewers have a lot in common: Jim Brown Womens Jersey All are young, on upward trajectories and coming off more successful seasons than most of us expected last year. All have graduated prospects from previously standout farm systems, and all have at least one young major leaguer (e.g., the Brewers' Orlando Arcia, the Rockies' David Dahl and the Twins' Byron Buxton, among others) who could bloom into an offensive superstar this year. All spent money or traded prospects to build up their major league rosters this offseason, acting more or less like contenders. None, though, is a sure thing the way the Cubs and Astros were coming out of their rebuilds. The Twins and Rockies could both lose their 2017 WAR leaders (Brian Dozier and Charlie Blackmon) to free agency next winter. The Brewers' WAR leader last year, Jimmy Nelson, just had shoulder surgery. Which is to say nobody really knows what this year, or this era, will offer any of them. Just look at the Rangers, who were in a similar position last spring and dropped down to 78 wins. These teams' competitive windows are simultaneously just opening and inherently uncertain. None of these teams needs to win the World Series this year to be successful, but each must look like a team that still could. The Angels have little in common with the rest of the teams in this group. That said, this seems like a good set of success markers for a club that hasn't won a playoff game this decade but could carry a lot of hope into next season if Shohei Ohtani turns out to be as fun/good as his press clippings have promised.

There's not much standing between the Dodgers and

the next five NL West crowns -- and five more shots at winning it all -- so a failure to win the World Series this year wouldn't be a permanent failure. But until they do win one, the Dodgers represent a staggering investment in unconsummated greatness. Limited Corey Peters Youth Olive Nike Jersey - #98 NFL Arizona Cardinals 2017 Salute to Service The Dodgers won't have the league's highest payroll this year, but they have been by far the most expensive team of late, outspending the Astros and Cubs combined over the previous half-decade. They have also been baseball's best team, winning more games than any other club, and they've had the best pitcher of the generation starting two games in every postseason series. That's not a bad way to live! But it makes everything short of the ultimate goal a failure, especially because they have the sport's 11th-longest World Series drought, an entire generation's worth of not winning it all. The stakes are much lower for the Astros and Cubs, who've won the past two titles. Once a team has won a World Series, not much moves the needle for a while. The Astros and Cubs are playing for two things: to build up their dynasty claim, which probably requires three titles in a short time; or to stay relevant, which is to say, to avoid disaster, keep a 90-win outlook, keep their season-ticket sales strong and justify their long rebuilds with long competitive windows. If they don't collapse this season -- see the 2017 Giants, the 2014 Braves, the 2014 Red Sox and the 2012 Phillies for what that would look like -- then no damage done and not what you'd call a failure. But if they don't win the World Series, it'll be standing still and probably not what you'd call a success. Few storylines in baseball have been as compelling, dynamic and promising for as long as the overlapping Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper storylines. Strasburg was perhaps the most hyped amateur pitching prospect of all time. Harper, from his midteens, was perhaps the most hyped hitting prospect of all time. Then they were teammates! Wow! In the years since, each has been, at times, among the most dominant baseball players in the world. Harper had, in 2015, the best offensive season since Barry Bonds; Strasburg had, in 2017, a 0.70 ERA in the second half, including his two postseason starts. As a story, this has been perfectly paced and plotted, through obstacles and separations and payoffs withheld, a story both of predictability (the young prodigies grow into mature heroes) and unpredictability (the Nats, with these two historic forces, with the second-best record in baseball over half a decade, have failed to win a single postseason series). One assumes a story like this is moving toward a huge payoff. But Harper (along with Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez) is about to hit free agency. This could be the final act of the Strasburg/Harper story. A World Series victory is the finish you're counting on. An appearance in it is the bare minimum. A "to be continued" -- i.e., Harper signing an extension -- would be tedious but still promising. The Yankees are the Vegas favorites, but they're young, they're already ahead of schedule, they'll have and be a ton of fun, they'll be able to spend a lot of money next winter and they're probably entering a five-year period during which they'll win 500 games and (more than likely) at least one title. They have a lot of goals this season -- incorporate Gleyber Torres into the mix, keep their pitchers healthy, get along well with new manager Aaron Boone, get either Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton (or both) to 62 home runs and win the World Series Authentic Johnathan Cyprien Jersey -- but as long as they don't move backward it's hard to see this not being an incredibly fun season. Last year, the Red Sox entered the season as World Series favorites, saw their offense collapse, fired their manager and lost in the ALDS. We still concluded it was a successful season, but barely. This year, they're consensus underdogs in their division, so reaching the same stage -- either by beating the Yankees in the AL East or winning the wild-card game -- would be a worthy enough goal, even if they are spending more than any other team this year. If they can do it without Hanley Ramirez's 2019 option vesting, with Price pitching well enough to opt out of or be worth the rest of his contract, and with Devers or Benintendi getting MVP votes, they'd be in position to go toe-to-toe with the Yankees in 2019. Cleveland was arguably the best team in baseball last season, Authentic Dustin Tokarski Jersey and it has been the best team in the AL over the past five. It got bounced from the ALDS in 2017 after blowing a 2-0 lead and now has the longest World Series drought in baseball. So maybe expectations are as high there as they are for the Dodgers or Nationals. But Cleveland is one of the toughest markets to compete in -- only the Rays have drawn fewer fans in the past half decade -- and the Indians' current run of five good seasons and a few promising ones to come is a huge achievement. The core is almost entirely under team control beyond this season, and the Indians probably won't be pushed too hard by a division rival until 2020. A division title, a strong rookie season from top prospect Mejia and another attendance boost (last year the Indians drew 2 Womens Richard Rodgers Jersey million fans for the first time in a decade) would keep the momentum going and the window wide open. cheap jerseys china cheap jerseys cheap jerseys cheap jerseys free shipping wholesale jerseys wholesale jerseys

Show cleaner mechanics

If there's a question about Darnold, it's his delivery, which is more of a windup than the other top quarterbacks'. He has a quick release, but NFL coaches are going to want him to shorten that delivery. A windup, or elongated delivery, could matter for two reasons. One is delivery speed. That seems to be a lesser concern here. Darnold Authentic Jourdan Lewis Jersey anticipates Henrik Lundqvist Authentic Jersey well and gets the ball out pretty quick. That said, a windup can expose the ball to pass-rushers -- think of a ball behind your shoulder, where it can be swatted, as opposed to next to your head -- and for a guy who has had turnover issues, that can stick out. Shea McClellin Women's Game Black Jersey: Nike NFL New England Patriots Fashion #58 About those turnovers: Darnold had an issue there in 2017 -- his 22 turnovers were tied for most in the FBS -- but I actually think a lot of that was footwork. Several of his 13 interceptions were because of poor footwork, and some of his sacks were the result of his not properly setting his feet and climbing the pocket. Alex Erickson Jersey Scouts will take a close look at Darnold's footwork and mechanics on Wednesday to see if he's moving in the right direction. Deep outs to the opposite hash. Fades. Corners. Get under center. Show three-, five- and seven-step drops. (If it's raining, even better). Scouts are watching every throw and the footwork that goes into those throws. In a perfect world, no balls would hit the ground against air. Now, Darnold can't help his receivers dropping the ball, but ball placement matters. Is he giving his receivers a chance to make a play on every throw? How does he interact with teammates? Is he screaming at a receiver who drops a pass? Is he respectful to his coaches and to the people in attendance? All that stuff matters to scouts. And they're watching every interaction. The front office that drafts Darnold should have no questions about him when the pro day is over. Pro days are really about confirming what the tape shows. Darnold has some fantastic tape, mixed with rocky moments from 2017. All of the top quarterbacks in this class have flaws. That's why there's no consensus on who's going No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns. But Darnold is squarely in the mix. What he does Wednesday should help confirm what we've talked about since he burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2016: He has a chance to be special. ALBANY, N.Y. -- What started when NFL players sparked a national discussion on racism and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem will continue this week as current and former players meet with lawmakers and community officials in major cities across the Northeast. The campaign began Tuesday in New York's state capitol, where New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis -- representing the Players Coalition -- joined criminal justice reform advocates to lobby legislators to change what they believe are race-based disparities in the bail system. "We're using our platform and our space to do our part, to raise awareness [on] the social injustices that are going on in our country," said Davis, who signed last week with the Saints after playing for the New York Jets. "In New York, we're focusing on criminal reform. That's just a small piece in a big puzzle." On Wednesday, former Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson will participate in a town hall-style session in Baltimore that will focus on police and community relations. On Thursday in Washington, D.C., Redskins cornerback Josh Norman will head a group that will visit a local school to discuss education and economic advancement. On Thursday in Boston, New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty and former Pats star linebacker Willie McGinest will meet with key legislators. One of the topics of discussion will be a bill that would raise the age within the juvenile justice system. The week concludes Friday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL wideout Anquan Boldin, among others, will participate in a Harvard University summit that will include panel discussions on criminal justice reform and related issues plaguing communities. In January, the NFL finalized plans to partner with players on social justice issues, announcing a "Let's Listen Together" initiative that will publicize the players' work on social and racial equality. Team owners earmarked $89 million over a seven-year period for the project. A league official told ESPN's Adam Schefter that team owners will discuss the social justice platform at next week's annual league meetings in Orlando, Florida. The official also told Schefter that no vote on a policy change as it pertains to the national anthem is anticipated. "The league has been instrumental in helping us bring light to our community and the issues that are going on in them," said Davis, who believes player protests will decrease in 2018 because of the league's support. Davis, joined by members of the Bronx public defenders, spent Tuesday meeting with legislative aides on both sides of the aisle. The veteran linebacker, who granted behind-the-scenes access to ESPN, was articulate and passionate in the meetings. He asked questions and pressed the lawmakers' staff members when they appeared to be dodging specific issues. He challenged them to "move the needle" and enact change in their constituencies.

“He’s a great guy,” Darnold said of Haslam on the NFL Network

“That whole staff is awesome. I was able to meet with the Giants as well [on Monday]. Just meeting with both of those organizations, like I said before, those people are at the top of the world right now, and I’m trying to impress them but at the same time be myself. So there is a fine line between that, and I just tried to find that and do my best.” Limited Bobby Wagner Youth Blue Nike Jersey - #54 NFL Seattle Seahawks 2017 Pro Bowl Part of the reason the Browns sent such a large contingent to Los Angeles is because Darnold did not throw at the scouting combine. Darnold, who will turn 21 in June, chose not to go inside when it started raining, in part because he wanted to show that he could handle the elements and because he did not think it was fair to his USC teammates to move the time of the workout. Another factor is that USC’s indoor facility is not large enough for deep passes, ESPN’s Keyshawn Johnson said during the workout. Although there were several dropped passes, Darnold was praised for his accuracy and mobility. He also focused on showing that he has worked on holding onto the ball with two hands (he had 21 fumbles in two seasons at USC). He did not seem to do anything to hurt his draft standing and might even have improved his cause. “Just being aware of all those little things and then just coming out here and ripping it,” Darnold said. “I thought I did a pretty good job.” Darnold said during an interview with ESPN that he’s eager to go to a team that wants him. He is well aware that the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor to be the team’s starting quarterback. “It'd be awesome to go No. 1, just because I think what the Browns are doing is really good right now, and I think they have potential to be a really good team in the future," Darnold said. "Just based on that, yeah, a part of me really wants to go 1. But at the same time, if they don't want me and they don't pick me, that's the best situation. Because I don't want to go to a team that doesn't want me." This is a busy time for quarterback pre-draft workouts. Josh Rosen had his workout at UCLA on Tuesday. The Browns will visit and work out Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield on Thursday. On Friday, it’s on to Wyoming, where Josh Allen will have his pro day. Allen is also viewed as a possibility for the Browns at No. 1. The decision proved fruitful, as Darnold looked impressive in making about 60 or so throws in front of a Cleveland Browns contingent that included owner Jimmy Haslam in the stands, with general manager John Dorsey, head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley on the sidelines. "One of my first football experiences was playing mud football in the rain," Darnold said, smiling. "So it was cool to come out here and throw one last time with the guys that I've been throwing with for years now." The Browns hold the No. 1 overall selection in this year's NFL draft, and Darnold said he met with Cleveland brass and participated in a private workout Tuesday. arnold said he also met with decision-makers from the New York Giants before his workout. The Giants hold the No. 2 overall pick. Giants head coach Pat Shurmur was on hand to watch Darnold's workout, along with New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles, Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn. Darnold said he has a couple visits lined up before the draft in April, but he did not disclose the teams. Darnold said he has been working with personal quarterback coach Jordan Palmer to try to get his hips looser so he can use them more when he throws. Darnold also has spent time with former NFL head coach Bill Parcells to help get prepared for life in the pros. "I think the main thing with him was just get back in the huddle -- that was the main phrase he kept saying," Darnold said about Parcells. "No matter what the score is on Sunday, no matter what happens on Sunday, Monday or Thursday, just get back in the huddle that next week." Palmer addressed Darnold's quiet, unassuming nature, saying that the quarterback's level-headed approach will be a plus for NFL teams willing to draft the USC product. "Sam is not the kid you speed date; he's the kid you marry," Palmer said. "So as he goes through this process and gets to spend some time with these other teams, it's very predictable for people like myself that are in Tani Tupou Womens Jersey his circle that people will fall in love the more they get to know him." Yet USC quarterback Sam Darnold's pro day matters -- at least, it does to NFL teams. Sure, pro days are just a sliver of the evaluation process for NFL draft prospects. But they aren't completely useless, and we're talking about a potential No. 1 pick here -- a potential No. 1 pick with competition. It magnifies things a little more. Yes, scouts and front-office personnel have watched mountains of tape, talked to people who know the prospects they have their eyes on and sometimes even met with the prospects, either at the combine or on in-person visits. And quarterbacks? If a team is eyeing a quarterback in Round 1, it has done its homework. When Darnold chose not to throw at the combine earlier this month, it didn't raise any flags, but it made this pro day matter a little more. He was the only quarterback among the potential first-round picks who didn't throw. Did he not want to compete? Was he tweaking his mechanics? Darnold has enough tape to show teams. He threw 57 touchdown passes to 22 interceptions and completed 64.9 percent of his passes across 24 starts. There were no red flags in any of his athletic testing at the combine (hand size was a question going in, but he measured right around average for quarterbacks). What did he really have to prove throwing to receivers he has never Jimmy Howard Authentic Jersey met? He has shown enough promise to be in the running to be the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft. And he was always planning to throw at his pro day, which is Wednesday.

Browns' dream draft: Top QB plus Barkley, Chubb or Fitzpatrick

Imagine this NFL draft for the Cleveland Browns: They select the quarterback they want first overall, then three picks later they select the best player at every other position.It could be defensive lineman Bradley Chubb or running back Saquon Barkley or defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. Any of the three combined with a quarterback would give the Browns a special first round -- with three more picks awaiting in the second. This draft scenario would be akin to the Browns having two first overall draft picks, one for the quarterback and one for every other position on the field. Men's Adidas San Jose Sharks #62 Kevin Labanc Premier Green Salute to Service NHL Jersey Don't discount this possibility. The New York Jets traded up to the No. 3 pick. The Jets will be drafting a quarterback. Authentic Anthony Barr Jersey The Browns are almost obligated to take a quarterback first -- and if they don't they risk missing on the guy they truly want. At this point it would be football malpractice not to take the quarterback the Browns like first overall. If the Giants decide to take a quarterback at No. 2 -- Eli Manning is 37 -- or if they trade the pick to another team that wants a quarterback, the first three picks will be quarterbacks and the Browns would be left with their choice of everyone else. The three teams that could trade up with the Giants are Buffalo, Arizona and Denver. Any of those teams would secure that the first three picks are quarterbacks. That would give the Browns their choice of players, any of whom -- on paper -- should make an immediate impact. The top options:
 Chubb has always been an intriguing guy Womens Tony Watson Jersey for the Browns, but with the Colts picking third it was generally thought he would go to Indianapolis. With the Jets now picking No. 3, Chubb could be there at No. 4 -- though it's also possible the Giants choose Chubb as a replacement for Jason Pierre-Paul, who was just traded. All the chatter about Chubb speaks to his ability. Chubb is a big, fast, aggressive pass-rusher. He has lined up on both sides. In his last two seasons at NC State, he had 21 sacks and 46.5 tackles for a loss. There is nobody close to him as a pass-rusher in the draft.Adding Chubb would be adding to a position of strength. The Browns have Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah, both of whom are projecting as future Pro Bowlers. But adding Chubb, a guy the Browns like, would give Gregg Williams several pass-rush combinations. There is also one truth in the NFL: The most important guy on the team is the quarterback and the next most important guys are players who can affect the quarterback. That happens either at corner Latavius Murray Jersey or on the defensive line. Chubb's addition would make the Browns defensive line young and formidable. Saquon Barkley is rated by some as the top talent in this draft and could be available when the Browns make their second pick of the first round at No. 4. Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports Barkley's addition would give the Browns' offense a weapon it needs, and would give the team a player who many rank as the best in the draft. Barkley has balance, vision and breakaway speed. Two noteworthy stats: Barkley had 54 receptions last season and has the all-time record for touchdowns at Penn State with 43. At 230 pounds, he ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at the combine, something that isn't supposed to happen. The NFL compared his workouts to previous combines, and found that Barkley's 29 reps on the bench press were one more than Joe Thomas. His 10-yard time was better than receiver DeSean Jackson. His 40 time was better than Devin Hester's.The Browns signed Carlos Hyde in free agency to go with Duke Johnson in the backfield, but that will not keep them from taking Barkley if they feel he is the best option. Hue Jackson and Todd Haley should easily be able to find roles for all three. Fitzpatrick, the third option, is the only one of the three top players under discussion who would fill an immediate need. The Browns badly lack a shutdown corner, and though Fitzpatrick played safety during his final season at Alabama, he has played corner as well. The Browns like him at either position.Fitzpatrick checks all the boxes. He's talented, aggressive and versatile. Williams could use him all over the field defensively. The Bro owns need someone who can turn the ball over, and Fitzpatrick had nine interceptions at Alabama, four that he returned for a touchdown. One other option at corner would be Ohio State's Denzel Ward, a guy whose stock seems to improve as time goes on. If the Browns wanted to recoup the third-round pick they traded for Tyrod Taylor, they could move down from No. 4 to later in the first round and take Ward. Draft analysts generally have Fitzpatrick ranked ahead of Ward. The bottom line: The Browns -- thanks to Sashi Brown dealing for the Texans' first-round pick and then Deshaun Watson's injury hurting the Texans' record -- are in great shape in this draft. They will likely come out of it with the quarterback they choose, and then either Barkley, Chubb or Fitzpatrick.There will be discussion and debate about which of the three is the best option, but there won't be discussion that any of the three would be a significant addition to a team coming off a winless season. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was among those viewing as Sam Darnold was slinging in the rain Wednesday at USC.Haslam was one member of a large contingent present to evaluate the quarterback the Browns are pondering taking with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. In an unusual twist, Darnold chose to keep throwing after heavy rain started a few minutes into his workout. He received generally favorable reviews from analysts for his footwork, arm strength and accuracy. Browns in attendance for the workout included Haslam, general manager John Dorsey, coach Hue Jackson, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese. Haslam sat with Darnold’s parents during part of the workout. On Tuesday night, the Browns took Darnold out to dinner. Haslam was present not to scout Darnold but more to get to know him with the rest of the Browns staff. wholesale jerseys cheap jerseys free shipping wholesale jerseys wholesale jerseys from china cheap nfl jerseys

Wins and losses used to mean something, even when

they didn't lead to a World Series title. There were financial reasons: Teams that finished in the "first division," in the top half of the league, got a share of the postseason revenue, small amounts but significant bonuses to modest salaries. (On the final day of the 1933 season, Wally Berger hit what came to be known as the $10,000 Home Run, Jordan Mills Youth jersey which pushed his Boston Braves into fourth place -- into the money.) Adidas NHL Youth Michael Matheson Green Authentic Jersey - #19 Florida Panthers Salute to Service But there were also spiritual reasons. A team that won more games than it had the previous season seemed to have an improving outlook, regardless of whether there were prospects on the farm or draft picks on the way. "Connie Mack is said to have preferred a second-place finish over a pennant," says John Thorn, Major League Baseball's official historian. "The fans would come out with great hope for the following year instead of suffering from the complacency that comes with expectation." When Billy Beane was turning around the A's in the late 1990s, he did it without tearing the club down to its bolts. "We were just trying to avoid losing 100 games," manager Art Howe said, as quoted in Glenn Dickey's book Champions. "I'd been in that situation before in Houston, and it's ugly. ... [Fans] expect you to keep winning, no matter what." If wins and losses counted, how much did they count? Around 2000, when sabermetric writers were expanding the scope of their writing -- to player health, team finances, coaching techniques, psychology -- they began to wonder. In 2002, at Baseball Prospectus, Jonah Keri wrote his first professional baseball article, under the headline "The Success Cycle: Making the Hard Decisions." It argued that teams are all contending, building or rebuilding, and strategy should match the different incentives at each stage. The most important sentence in the piece would anticipate what the Astros, 76ers and Browns would attempt a decade later: "A team rebuilding has to go all the way with the process; failing to commit is a recipe for disaster." In the next few years, writers would put data to work defining the value (in team revenue, Hayes Pullard Jersey usually) of each win -- and, by extension, each loss. In 2006, in Baseball Between the Numbers, Nate Silver showed that a team's 90th win was worth six times as much as its 78th -- and that, in fact, until a team surpasses 80 victories, there is almost no value in winning additional games at all. Suddenly, teams that once saw value in pushing for a .500 record and competitive (if futile) September games saw far more in high draft picks and low payroll. After then-Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella criticized the team for being too future-focused -- "They're not interested in the present" -- his replacement, Joe Maddon, endorsed the multiyear rebuild. "That doesn't bother me because I know what we're doing is proper," Maddon said after losing 101 and 96 games in his first two seasons. After the 2008 season, even Boras -- Scott Boras! -- was using the language of the success cycle. "I went to [Nationals owner] Ted Lerner after the 2008 season, when he wanted to sign [Mark] Teixeira, and said, 'Don't make a bid for him,'" he told me in 2016. "'Your organization is terrible. The best thing you can do is continue to be terrible.'" The Nationals didn't sign Teixeira. They ended up instead losing 103 games and signing Boras' client Bryce Harper, the first pick in the 2010 draft. After the Marlins' 2012 fire sale -- a scandal, given the Marlins' history of bait-and-switches with fans and taxpayers -- FanGraphs ran one approving article headlined "The Marlins Are a Well-Run Company." In 2015, ESPN's FiveThirtyEight argued that all but nine teams should have been sellers at that year's trade deadline -- in a league in which 10 teams make the playoffs. As a strategy, teams' willingness to hit rock bottom was soon vindicated. In 2011, the Royals came to camp with the Darin Erstad Youth jersey lowest payroll in baseball, nearly halved from the previous year. Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski wrote a piece from "the future," imagining how the Royals had used The Process -- GM Dayton Moore's mocked term for the club's long rebuild -- to win the 2015 World Series. And they did, right on schedule! So too did the Astros, who famously made SI's prognostic 2014 cover -- "Your 2017 World Series Champs" -- come true. In between, Theo Epstein's Cubs won it, after Epstein first guided them into the worst back-to-back complete seasons in franchise history. Where Branch Rickey's gambit had been a stain on his record, Epstein's made him a Chicago hero and all but assured he'll someday be enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame. Baseball games no longer exist in the moment; they count only as dots in a process. Their outcomes are often irrelevant, and sometimes inverted -- defeat might help more than victory. A successfully rebuilding team is like a chess player whose strategy was to take a bunch of the pieces, put them in his pocket and then start the next game with two queens and four rooks. A GM can build the worst team in baseball for years running and somehow improve his reputation. Perhaps the most crucial difference between the reception to Rickey's machinations and Epstein's? After sabermetricians made the case for the "five-year plan" as a strategy, fans -- not all of them, but plenty -- embraced it as a philosophy. Losing no longer counts as losing; it is a vehicle for hope. A fan base might turn away from a 100-loss season -- the Astros famously drew 0.0 TV ratings in some games -- but it will loyally come back when the club's ambitions do. (Even three years before they won the World Series, the Astros sold T-shirts that said, in team colors, "Process.") wholesale jerseys wholesale jerseys from china cheap jerseys wholesale nfl jerseys wholesale nfl jerseys

A shift in philosophy has changed MLB forever

The first game of the 2013 baseball season was in Houston, hosted by an Astros team that had finished in last place the previous year and was going to finish in last place again. It was nationally televised -- the Astros had just moved from the National League to the American, earning them baseball's showcase time slot -- and in the sixth inning the booth called down to ESPN's Buster Olney for an interview with GM Jeff Luhnow. Men's Elite Tarik Cohen White Jersey: Road #29 NFL Chicago Bears Nike "I've heard from some of your peers," Olney said, "that the Astros probably are the purest form of implementation of statistical data. Tell me, in a nutshell, what your philosophy is." "Well, it's pretty simple," Luhnow began ... What do you think Luhnow said? What, in a nutshell, was the Astros' "pretty simple" philosophy? When, two years later, ESPN's analytics report named the Philadelphia 76ers the most analytical team in any major sport, what do you think made GM Sam Hinkie "the NBA's most ardent analytics master"? After the NFL's Cleveland Browns hired Moneyball superstar Paul DePodesta to be chief strategy officer, how would you define the strategy he has been chief of? What holds these three exemplars of "pure" analytics together? 1. The Astros went 162 -- 324 from 2011 to 2013, the worst three-year stretch by any team since the expansion Mets in the early 1960s. 2. The 76ers went 47 -- 199 during Hinkie's three seasons, the second-worst three-year stretch in NBA history. 3. The Browns are 1 -- 31 since hiring DePodesta, the worst two-year stretch. The common denominator? It's losing a lot -- a lot -- of games, without trying very hard not to. In 2018, using "data" or "statistics" is so commonplace and obvious that it can hardly be called a strategy anymore. Even teams that do invest more extensively in analytics are likely to find only tiny advantages that dissipate quickly against like-minded GMs' prying eyes. "The old days of getting something for nothing are over," Billy Beane told the New York Daily News in 2003. "There are too many good [GMs] out there now. The art of the deal isn't ripping off the other guy; it's giving up something to get something that makes you better." Modern teams across all sports do that by playing to win a different game -- not a figuratively different game but literally different games, games that are years away instead of the game right in front of them. "Moneyball" is now synonymous with the willingness to lose games, without shame, for years at a time, to build something far off in the future. This is perhaps fitting, as the first lesson most of us learn about money is how to save up: how to collect interest, how to wait for deals, how to pool money for greater purchasing power -- buying 5 pounds of gum balls at Costco instead of spending a quarter at a time at the machine. This is how baseball found itself in this strange place this offseason, where roughly a third of the league's teams were totally uninterested in winning games in 2018 -- a place agent Scott Boras described this winter as "destructive to our sport." "We have to get rid of the noncompetitive cancer," Corey Dickerson Authentic Jersey he complained. "We kicked people out of the game when they tried to not win." In the past, that might have been true. But one of the sabermetric movement's greatest legacies is less a tactic or a strategy than a major shift in philosophy: It has reinterpreted what counts, redefined what it means to be successful and dramatically changed baseball. Which means it's changed us too. The Pirates had been a sturdy, top-tier team for the first quarter of the century. But they hadn't won the NL pennant since 1927 and were coming off their first last-place finish since 1917. Just as Cubs GM Theo Epstein would six decades later, Rickey announced that his plan was to build a winner ... later. "We're pointing toward 1955," he said. "That's when the bells will start ringing and the red wagon comes down the street. That's when Pittsburgh folks will shout, 'By George, this is it.'" Rickey proceeded to field a team that was beyond despair. The Pirates finished seventh out of eight teams in his first year, then eighth in the next four, averaging 100 losses. In 1952, they went 42 -- 112, at the time the fifth-worst season in modern history, after which their one star -- Ralph Kiner, who led the league in homers -- asked for a raise. "Son," Rickey told him, "we can finish last without you." The next season, he traded Kiner away. Rickey's last-place Pirates were probably the purest form of implementation of statistical data in baseball. He used a formula for offense that was the most advanced metric in existence. He tripled his scouting staff and persuaded ownership to give him $500,000 to sign dozens of prospects his first year. He expanded the Pirates' farm system by adding new affiliates. He integrated the team. By 1954 he had added 450 players to the organization, according to Andrew O'Toole's book Branch Rickey in Pittsburgh. He carried bonus babies and Rule 5 picks -- who were required to spend full seasons on the roster or be given up -- even when they were Channing Frye Jersey way too young, way too inexperienced and badly overmatched. "I do not believe he can possibly do a major league club any good in 1955," Rickey lamented of one Rule 5 pick, but he gave the outfielder -- Roberto Clemente -- 501 rough plate appearances anyway. The big league club became the first to fly on road trips so players could spend more time sleeping Authentic Kavon Frazier Jersey in hotel beds. He flirted with a five-man infield in certain situations. cheap jerseys wholesale jerseys wholesale nfl jerseys cheap jerseys cheap nfl jerseys

Duke, Kansas and the marquee matchup we've been waiting to see

Though they've played five more times over the years, not since that 1991 title bout have the Jayhawks and Blue Devils clashed against each other with more on the line than they will Sunday afternoon in Omaha, where a ticket to San Antonio and a berth in the Final Four will be at stake. "Two great programs, two really big programs," Duke guard Grayson Allen said. "It's going to be an awesome game." Limited Women's Jaron Brown Black Jersey: NFL Nike Arizona Cardinals #13 2016 Salute to Service With a shared history between the two sides making it all the more so. All told, Kansas and Duke have met in the NCAA tournament five times prior, including the 1986 (Duke won in Dallas, 71-67) and 1988 (Kansas won in Kansas City, 66-59) Final Fours. But the '91 national championship showdown in Indianapolis remains the seminal moment between the two. Shortly after his Blue Devils survived Syracuse 69-65 late Friday night, a relieved Mike Krzyzewski was nowhere near ready to talk Kansas or what that first national championship meant for him and the Duke program after several close misses. ithout the same star power, a third-year coach by the name of Roy Williams leaned on grit and a senior in Mark Randall, who would become the only first-round draft pick from that blue-collar unit for Josh Anderson Youth jersey Kansas. Likewise, these Jayhawks are short on NBA talent, at least by past standards. Yet behind Graham, who has elevated himself onto the short list for national player of the year in his senior season, Kansas just keeps piling up wins. On Friday, the Jayhawks added victory No. 30 on the season, jumping to a big lead before holding off a late Clemson rally for an 80-76 decision to advance to the Elite Eight. "I think of all the teams that we've had here," Self said, "this would be the team that everyone would have thought would not be in this game." On the other side, the Blue Devils are right where Montee Ball Jersey their talent suggested they'd be all along. Few Duke teams come close to matching the star power of the early '90s teams, which were headlined by Hill, Hurley and Christian Laettner, all of whom were All-Americans and to this day remain household names in college basketball. The 1990-91 team, which knocked off undefeated powerhouse UNLV before toppling Kansas 72-65 in the national title game, transformed Duke from a great program to a preeminent one. ("After we beat Vegas the game before ... we just knew we were going to win," Hill said.) Over the next 5 minutes, 21 seconds, Villanova outscored West Virginia 22-6, turning that six-point deficit into a 10-point lead and sparking the Wildcats to a 90-78 victory and a trip to Sunday's Elite Eight game against Texas Tech. Five players scored during the run, with four players making a 3-pointer. Omari Spellman blocked a shot, then went downcourt and had a putback dunk. Spellman hit a 3 a couple possessions later. Brunson got to the free throw line at will and hit a 3-pointer to cap the run. It was a steady avalanche at both ends of the floor to take the spirit out of West Virginia. The scariest thing about that Villanova run? It wasn't unusual. No team in the country has the ability to completely bury teams in a five-minute stretch like Villanova does, and the Wildcats have done that all season. In the second round, they opened the second half against Alabama on an 18-1 run to essentially end the game within minutes. Against Xavier in February, they went on a 30-9 run spanning two halves to knock off the eventual Big East champions. "We're a very talented team," forward Eric Paschall said. "Any night, somebody could go off. We have a lot of weapons, and we're very Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Authentic Jersey unselfish. We sacrifice for each other. We know we can make the right play. It just helps us in the long run." The barrage of 3-pointers gets the attention. Duke has the ability to overpower opponents with its size in the post, but that doesn't happen in the blink of an eye like Villanova's runs seem to happen. Twenty-two points in just over five minutes is nearly impossible to keep up with, even if it's West Virginia's Press Virginia. Spellman makes the difference because he can make shots from the perimeter. He had 18 points on Friday, including four 3-pointers. His ability to stretch the floor kept Konate from staying at the rim and contesting every shot. "Coach always tells me to catch and shoot," Spellman said. "We were just looking to come out and run offense and score. I was just having a shoot 'em up, battle in the streets mentality. I was just trying to take the right shots and be aggressive." "You can see it in our bench. When we get three or four stops in a row, our bench is fired up," guard Donte DiVincenzo said. "As a team on the court, we're fired up. If we're kicking the ball ahead and we're making shots, that's the easy part. "We all know that we can make a run defensively. If we make a 3, next possession we get a stop or steal and then a dunk at the other end. That one steal, kick-ahead to a dunk, that gets us going. That sparks us." Paschall said the team gets an extra boost on the defensive end of the floor, and suddenly, the players are looking at each other and know the momentum is turning in the game.

IT'S A COUPLE of days before the New York Yankees play

their first spring training game, and Justus Sheffield, Leonard Johnson Youth jersey Chance Adams and Dillon Tate are seated in chairs in a semi-circle around CC Sabathia in a corner of the clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. As the Yankees' elder statesman, Sabathia gets two lockers in a corner, away from the traffic that includes players, trainers, clubhouse staff, media members, media relations personnel, interpreters and the occasional coach or front-office member. It's certainly no coincidence that the two lockers on the adjacent wall, before you get to the doorway that leads to the dugout and other offices, belong to Sheffield and Adams. Men's Nike Baltimore Ravens #86 Nick Boyle Limited Green Salute to Service Tank Top NFL Jersey Along with Tate, they are three of the most promising starting pitchers in a deep and talented Yankees farm system. Tate's locker is in another area of the clubhouse, but he, Sheffield and Adams often congregate together in those mornings before on-field workouts or throwing sessions begin, sometimes at Tate's locker and on this day in front of Sabathia's. Sabathia's lesson was simple. "Just be yourself," Tate explained. "Don't get too amped up and overthrow just because you're pitching in front of the manager and big league coaches." While Sabathia has embraced the role of mentor, he also had three willing students. The three young starters all come across as baseball rats. Tate described himself as a visual learner and likes watching some of his favorite pitchers on the MLB app -- Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman, Justin Verlander -- to see how they set up batters and use pitch sequencing. Adams likes to mimic the deliveries of other pitchers and apparently does a spot-on imitation of David Price. Sheffield's eyes lit up when he explained how he was working on a backdoor slider to go with his more conventional power slider that dives to the back foot of right-handed batters. It's not about changing his grip, but making a subtle change in the landing spot of his front foot. Tim Naehring is general manager Brian Cashman's right-hand man, the team's VP of baseball operations. He assists Cashman in evaluating players throughout the minor league system, roster management and trade discussions. I asked him if my assessment of these three was accurate. "We call it the 'it' factor," Naehring said, praising the baseball acumen of all three. He used third baseman Miguel Andujar as another example. "He always has a smile on his face. Tremendous sense of urgency. Wants to get better every day. Those guys that have that desire to be the best that their tools will allow for are the ones who usually get to the majors and stay there." Sheffield is the highest-rated prospect of the pitchers -- Keith Law ranked him No. 16 overall in his top 100 list -- but Adams might have the best chance to make an impact in 2018. After breezing through six starts in Double-A last season, he made 21 starts at Triple-A and posted a 2.89 ERA. He's a good example of what has transformed the Yankees' system into one of the deepest in the game: a combination of scouting, analytics and player development. Adams was a reliever his junior season at Dallas Baptist and the Yankees took him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. "You had certain scouting guys say he looks more like a bullpen piece, then you had [minor league pitching coordinator] Danny Borrell running him through Archie Manning Jersey a bio-mechanic test saying this guy does everything you want to Danny Amendola Authentic Jersey see out of a starter," Naehring said. So the Yankees made him a starter. Adams is built more like a reliever -- he's listed at 6 feet, which might be generous -- but he's solidly built and has a starter's repertoire, throwing 92-97 mph with a good slider and a developing changeup that Naehring says he thinks has a chance to be a plus offering. He also has some deception in his delivery with a short-arm approach that hides the ball and maybe allows the stuff to play up. The Yankees also like his fastball. "A hitter thinks about the ball coming out of the hand at a certain angle to the plate," Naehring said. "The way he delivers his fastball and the way the ball holds plane is an abnormal look for the hitter. The brain expects the ball to move in a conventional way and his doesn't do that. So he has attributes with his fastball that we all like." Adams is back in minor league camp (he's not even on the 40-man roster yet), but if there's an injury in the rotation, he could be one of the first options to fill a hole. Sheffield reached Double-A last year and also could be in the Scranton rotation, one step away from the majors. I pointed out to him that he'd have a better shot at the majors right now if he were in another organization, like the Marlins. IN 2017, THANKS to the emergence of Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez and Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees produced 25.7 homegrown WAR on their big league roster -- the second-highest total in the majors behind the Astros, according to data from Homegrown talent accounted for 44.1 percent of the Yankees' total WAR, their highest percentage since 2007. The Yankees not only just graduated all this high-level talent, but they have Law's No. 2-ranked farm system, headlined by Gleyber Torres (his No. 5 overall prospect), Sheffield (16) and Andujar (54). To see how much the system has improved, check out this chart that lists homegrown WAR, original WAR (all talent originally signed or drafted by the Yankees, although not necessarily still with the club) and then where Baseball America ranked the Yankees' system at the start of each season.

Which team is the most improved after the first wave of free agency?

Graziano: New York Jets. They landed the biggest prize on the free-agent cornerback market in Trumaine Johnson. They added Avery Williamson as a leader for the linebacker corps. They added Isaiah Crowell to their running back group. All upgrades. Now, to the matter of quarterback: Josh McCown isn't an improvement because he was already there. But the Jets' overall plan at the position is improved, as Teddy Bridgewater has more upside than anyone else the Jets had on last year's roster, and trading up to the No. 3 pick in the draft means they're likely to add someone else who does, as well. Authentic Reebok Men's Tomas Plekanec Red Third Jersey - NHL #14 Montreal Canadiens New CD Joyner: Houston Texans. The Texans ranked 29th in my blocking grades last season. They aimed to help solve this by signing three offensive linemen, the most valuable of which could be the highly versatile Senio Kelemete. They also added Tyrann Mathieu, who can play slot, outside cornerback or either safety position or even fill in as a speedy box linebacker. Youth Chris Bosh Authentic Red Adidas Jersey: NBA Miami Heat #1 Alternate Finals Sando: Cleveland Browns. They had lots of room for improvement and should realize upgrades from multiple newcomers, especially at QB, which offsets Joe Thomas' Adrian Gonzalez Jersey retirement. However, NFL rosters are a little worse on the whole because so many depth players remain unsigned (free agents Penny Hardaway Youth jersey who have been added were signed at premium prices). Schatz: San Francisco 49ers. Richard Sherman should still be one of the top cornerbacks in the league if he's fully healed from his Achilles injury, and is a big improvement for a pass defense that was 28th in DVOA last season. Weston Richburg is a nice improvement in the middle of the offensive line, although I might have kept Daniel Kilgore around at guard instead of dealing him away afterward. Jerick McKinnon's flexibility and ability to catch passes will help him play a role similar to the running backs Kyle Shanahan had when he was in Atlanta. Yates: Chicago Bears. It was sometimes painful to watch the Bears' offense last season without any weapons and perpetually struggling. Adding Allen Robinson on a three-year contract along with the signing of versatile and talented tight end Trey Burton should bring a smile to the faces of new coach Matt Nagy and second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Whether it comes to fruition on the field or not, William Gay Jersey expect an offseason worth of parallels drawn between Nagy's relationship with Trubisky and Rams coach Sean McVay's relationship with quarterback Jared Goff. Graziano: Patriots at left tackle. Look, you trust New England figures these things out, and we're not about to pick any of the other three teams to win the AFC East. But honestly, who's playing left tackle in New England with Nate Solder off to the Giants? Tom Brady will turn 41 before the season starts, and as brilliantly age-defying as he is, they still need to make sure he's protected. Joyner: Bills at quarterback. The only QBs on the roster are AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman, both of whom have third-string quarterback written all over them. Without a huge upgrade here, Buffalo's playoff streak will end at one season. Sando: Bills at quarterback. Moving up in the draft for a QB seems like a near necessity. Schatz: Bills at quarterback. Whomever Buffalo chooses in the first round of the draft instantly becomes the best quarterback on the roster. Honestly, if the Bills take a player at a different position, that player might still be the best quarterback on the roster. Yates: Colts at cornerback. This wasn't an area of major strength for Indianapolis in 2017, as veteran Vontae Davis was cut late in the year after a season-ending injury, and the team relied mostly on a youth movement. Rashaan Melvin parlayed his surprising season into a $6.5 million deal from Oakland, leaving Indy with even more question Nat Moore Youth jersey marks at the position. After the Colts traded back to pick sixth overall in the upcoming draft, I'd expect many forecasters to peg Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward as their top selection (if he's still available). LOS ANGELES -- Prosecutors will not bring criminal charges against Buffalo Bills receiver Zay Jones, who appeared in a video naked while arguing with his brother in Los Angeles earlier this week. Los Angeles prosecutors declined the case because of "insufficient evidence," district attorney's office spokesman Paul Eakins told The Associated Press on Thursday. Jones, 22, was arrested after officers were called to a disturbance in downtown Los Angeles, said police spokesman Luis Garcia. Jones was found "breaking glass doors and windows" and arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism, Garcia said. The arrest was first reported by TMZ, which posted a video showing a nude Jones pushing his brother, Cayleb, in what appeared to be the hallway of an apartment building. The video also showed what appeared to be blood on the floor and walls of the hallway. Jones' agent, Zeke Sandhu, did not reply to text and voicemail messages. Sandhu also represents Cayleb Jones.Cayleb Jones, a Minnesota Vikings receiver, on Wednesday posted a note on his Twitter account, which read: "I am my brothers keeper." Their father, former NFL linebacker Robert Jones, posted a note on his Twitter account on Wednesday saying that Zay "is with me and his mom," while adding "he's going to be fine!"