avoiding elimination game drama

Avoiding elimination game drama in Game 5

The Houston Astros came from behind in Boston on Monday, becoming the first team to make their way in to a league championship series. They produced some late inning heroics and walked out of Fenway Park 5-4 winners. Avoiding elimination game drama in the division series is one of the most important tasks of any World Series hopeful.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also join the Houston in moving on to the next round of games, sweeping Zack Greinke and Arizona right out of the playoffs. They now await the winner of Chicago versus Washington in the NLCS.

Why it Matters

Elimination games are the proverbial pressure cooker in MLB. There is perhaps nothing that can reduce hardened veterans to looking like a rookie quite like an elimination game. Getting the wins early on in the series is the name of the game.

In all division series that have ever been played, you might think having that deciding game at home would be a big feather in your team’s hat. Surprisingly that’s not the case.

avoiding elimination game drama

Luis Severino celebrates a huge out against the Cleveland Indians in Game 4. (Photo courtesy of: Adam Hunger, USA TODAY Sports)

In the American league, there have been 17 divisional series elimination games since New York defeated Milwaukee in 1981 at Yankee Stadium. Since that inaugural Game 5, the home team has won nine, whilst the visitors have won eight. It’s a true pick ‘em type of proposition. Nothing could be more disastrous to a 102-win Indians team like losing a pivotal Game Five at home.

This is exactly the position Cleveland now find themselves in after last night’s 7-3 Game Four loss. The season, for both clubs, now rides on a fateful Game 5 showdown on Wednesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

In the National League, the odds are far worse for the home club. There have been 13 Game 5’s in the history of the NL and, get this, the home team has a paltry four wins to the road crew’s nine collective Game 5 triumphs.

When you roll them all together, that’s a cumulative record of 13-17 for the home team in division series elimination games. The games have been played a litter tighter in the AL than in the NL, but those are odds that I’m not at all interested in tempting if it’s my team gunning for the league title.

The Astros

It would be fair to say this year’s incarnation of the Houston Astros has been brilliant. They pitch, they hit, they hit and they hit. They do a lot of hitting, that would be the main take away here.

Houston has the best team offense in MLB  powered by three-time American League batting champion Jose Altuve. The little spark plug had another momentous year taking home the batting title during the regular season. Altuve however, has saved perhaps his best for last in 2017.

avoiding elimination game drama

Jose Altuve goes deep in ALDS action. (Photo courtesy of: Shanna Lockwood, USA TODAY Sports)

The slight statured Altuve stands 5-foot-6, but he might have the sweetest stroke in the game this side of Tony Gwynn. The work he’s doing this postseason is shaping up to be legendary. If Altuve continues to hit at the torrid pace he’s thus far established, his could be one of the best performances of all-time in postseason play.

Like, Lloyd McClendon in 1992 good. For the Pirates that year, McClendon set the record for postseason batting average. He hit .727 in 16 plate appearances over five games. Of course, with the difference in the amount of games the playoffs entail post-1994, McClendon’s record is probably safe for all times.

Red Sox pitching finally solved Altuve in Game Four at Fenway Park. As a result, his average plummeted to a “meager” .533.  However, the sweet-swinging righty did manage to push across the game’s first run. Albeit he did so by grounding into a double play. Altuve won’t get credit in the box score for an RBI, but that run is no less important in the bigger picture.

Houston has come from off the deck not once, but twice. They’ve showed real resolve for a team with World Series aspirations. The Astros are for real.

The Dodgers

What can be said about the Dodgers that hasn’t already been said?

Los Angeles is certainly looking like the team that finished 2017 with the game’s best record. The Dodgers won 104 games during the regular season and has just kept on winning. And they are fresh off the only sweep in division series play this postseason, taking down Arizona 3-1 last night.

avoiding elimination game drama

Cody Bellinger had a huge Game 3, hitting a his first postseason homer and making this spectacular catch. (Photo courtesy of: fanragsports.com)

The best part of L.A. getting the sweep last night, is they get the extra rest for the pitching staff leading in to the NLCS. This could be the biggest advantage the Dodgers have. With the way Yu Darvish was throwing last night, the Dodgers are going to be a tough out this year. He looked strong.

Also, Count on perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw being ready to rock and roll come Game 1 of the NLCS. Take that to the bank. He’s easily been the most dominant pitcher of the last decade. Kershaw just needs some postseason glory to fully cement his status as living legend. Apparently his evil sorcery on the mound isn’t already enough.

Right now it appears the pitching for L.A. is getting stronger. Sure-fire Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger is finding his playoff power stroke. And the rest of the lineup just continues to hit. There really is no question that the Dodgers are starting to play excellent baseball at the right time.

Dodgers fans are hoping for better tidings this year in the NLCS. This will mark the fifth appearance in the league championship series for Los Angeles since 2008. Is this the year L.A. takes it home?

The Rest of the Field

The Cubs lead their division series with Washington, two games to one after taking another closely pitched game 2-1. With 2016 playoffs hero Jake Arrieta taking the hill, Chicago has a chance to slam the door on this series at home. Washington and Chicago square off later today (5:30 EST) at Wrigley Field.

avoiding elimination game drama

Anthony Rizzo is the difference maker as he bloops a vital RBI single for Chicago in the eighth inning of an epic Game 4 showdown. (Photo courtesy of: AP/David Banks)

The division series between Washington and Chicago stands out because of the pitching. While the rest of the league should be considering protective netting around the outfield bleachers, pitchers in this series have been throwing well. The craziest game in the series has been the 6-3 Nationals win in Game 2. Whoa guys, slow down!

Don’t count Washington out yet though! This team has more than enough life in that pitching staff to put the clamps on any offense. The Cubs will be looking to seal the series tonight and stave off a dreaded Game 5. Washington on the other hand, will be looking to force a Game 5 meet-up in Washington D.C. for Thursday.

The Indians meanwhile, are now in a situation where the series comes back to Cleveland for Game 5. The silver lining for Indians fans is that staff ace Corey Kluber is bringing it back on the mound. Kluber will be looking for the win, but it remains to be seen whether that alone will be enough. It’s why they play the games.

There is no discernible trend of good outcomes for hosting an elimination game in the divisional round. In these types of sudden death meetings, home field advantage counts for very little.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Stan Grossfeld/Boston Globe)

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World Series baseball fans need

The World Series baseball fans need

The Houston Astros are off to a blistering start taking the opening two-game leg of their Division Series with Boston, winning both games in lopsided fashion 8-2. The Washington Nationals however, find themselves on the ropes early against the Cubs. Of the teams left in this year’s postseason, only Washington and Houston have never brought home a World Series title. This is the World Series baseball fans need.

Why not the Indians

The Indians are a popular pick this year to take home the hardware. After last night’s 13th inning emotional 9-8 win in which the Indians surged back from six runs down, it’s hard to argue they won’t win it all. At least for the moment, they look unbreakable.

world series

Tris Speaker hit 792 career two-baggers, still the most in MLB history. (Photo courtesy of: Charles Conlon / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

While it is true the Indians have a longer drought of championship seasons than both Houston and Washington,the fans in Cleveland still have Bob Feller and the 1948 series. They still have the glory of 1920 when player/manager Tris Speaker, all-time doubles champ, guided the Indians to the title. Behind Speaker’s steady hand, the Indians beat Brooklyn five games to two in a best of nine series.

Cleveland experienced the bitter taste of Game 7 defeat in last year’s World Series against Chicago. What’s more is that it happened on home soil. Ouch. The Indians came oh so close coming off the deck from three runs down and pushing the game into extra’s. It turned out only a tease however, as the Cleveland faithful watched Chicago exorcise that billy-goat voodoo that had kept them down for so long.

The novelty of an Indians World Series resonates with many, but this year we have real chance at seeing something none of us has ever seen. A World Series title in a city that’s never had one. Cleveland has had three shots at the title since 1995, let’s see someone else give it a go.

Why not the Yankees

No.

Futility in Washington… or is it Montreal?

Not wanting to put the horse before the carriage, there is still a long road to travel for both Washington and Houston. Reaching that promised land of World Series glory takes a focus and commitment that few realize. On top of that, it can take an incredibly long time to get there.

And some, like Washington, are still waiting to make their first appearance.

The Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, have more combined city swaps and name changes than they do World Series appearances. They’ve never been there a single time in 48 years of existence, though they were close once.

world series baseball fans need

Gary Carter and some his 1981 Expos teammates pose for a photo prior to first pitch. (Photo courtesy of: ESPN)

In 1981 the Expos lost a best-of-five NLCS. Due to the lockout occurring during the middle of the season, the playoff format was restructured. What sprang out of it were the first League Division Series’ in MLB history. All credit to Montreal, they dispatched the Phillies in five games.

This led to their first ever appearance in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It might seem unusual to us now, but until 1985 the League Championship Series were only best-of-five. Montreal lost in that 1981 NLCS series deciding Game 5 by a score of 2-1. Their hopes dashed by a ninth inning blast off the bat of Rick Monday.

The Nationals’ fortunes have been changing lately however. It’s amazing what a stable full of pitchers who are capable of winning a Cy Young Award will do for your hopes of taking home a championship. Washington’s nasty mixture of starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer make up a doomsday rotation that uses opposing bats to build a funeral pyre.

The Nationals can hit the lights out too. They are led by the exceptional Bryce Harper and a resurgent Ryan Zimmerman. Sprinkle in a few good breaks on the diamond and Washington might be cooking up some championship stew in 2017.

Houston Strong

Houston has been through a lot this year and that’s putting it lightly. A World Series win would be a welcome distraction from all that has happened, if only for a brief period. It would right the wrong of 2005, when the White Sox were hoisting the trophy before Houston even realized the series was on. The south-siders bounced them in four.

Houston has a spotty playoff history that seems to happen in waves, but this is undoubtedly the best grouping of players since the times of the Killer B’s.

world series baseball fans need

Sweet-swinging Jose Altuve won his third AL batting title this season hitting at a .346 clip. (Photo courtesy of: Baselinetimes.com)

Out is Jeff Bagwell, in is Jose Altuve. The 2017 edition of the Houston Astros is about as complete a team as you will see. If they do have an Achilles’ heel, it will be in the field. This season they rank number 24 of 30 teams in defensive efficiency. If defensive woes are going to be their undoing though, they certainly aren’t showing up right now. This team is playing like a team on a mission.

And it has been a long, hard, cruel road.

Consider this, Houston has had a franchise since their inception as the Colt .45’s in 1962. In the years since, they’ve been renamed as many times as they’ve appeared on baseball’s biggest stage; once. For those scoring at home, that’s 55 years without a title. That’s 55 years yielding only one World Series appearance. It’s time Houston, it’s time.

Should Houston and Cleveland match-up in the ALCS this year, the Indians will make the Astros earn it every step of the way. Unless you count the one-game wild card in 2013 as a sweep, you must go all the way back to 1954 to find the last, and only, time that Cleveland has ever been swept in any playoff series. That year, it was Willie Mays and the Giants who did the damage.

It would also be the first time since the Yankees battled the Royals for the AL pennant in 1977 that two 100+ win teams square off in the ALCS.

The World Series baseball fans need 

Washington versus Houston. Why is this the World Series we need? Because it’s something new. It’s something unique, and it’s something that’s never happened before. Heck, Washington hasn’t even been there before.

We need this World Series because of the match-ups it poses.

world series baseball fans need

Stephen Strasburg is planning a vacation to his favorite locale; Blew Bayou. (Photo courtesy of: AP / Mark J. Terrill)

Washington’s pitching versus Houston’s potent lineup is a story line just waiting to unfold. Who will win the day? Stephen Strasburg and his overpowering stuff? Or will it be the wily three-time American League batting champion, Jose Altuve finding the gap with the game on the line?

These two teams have unfinished business to attend to as well. In the regular season, Houston and Washington played a three-game set at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Washington took two of the three games, but both losses for Houston were one-run games that could have easily swung the other way. One was an 11 inning affair that slipped through Houston’s fingers in that final frame. Let’s have some more of that please.

An Astros versus Nationals World Series wouldn’t just be another sports novelty. It will be an epic World Series if it does indeed happen. So, if you’re on the fence, let this be your call to action to jump on either the Washington or Houston bandwagon. I’m sure both team’s fan-bases will be happy to have the extra hands on deck.

In a season that has offered us a lot of remarkable firsts, like rookies named Aaron Judge that hit 52 homers in a year. It would only be right to see another first for MLB. A new champion and “Leading City of Baseball” that has never before been crowned.

Let’s crown a champion that none of us has ever seen before in 2017. Let’s go you Astros! Let’s go you Nationals!

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: doin-work.com)

 

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

The Golden State Warriors are the 2017 NBA champions. Now that the Finals are over, the entire basketball community will be focusing on the upcoming NBA Draft on June 22. This is a prime opportunity for teams to either deepen their roster or build playoff caliber teams. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0.

1: Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP)

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are working on a trade so that the 76ers can select Markelle Fultz. Even if the trade doesn’t get finalized Fultz will be the number one overall pick in this draft.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Los Angeles is not going to pass on a player who will make those around him better and has the star power that Lonzo Ball has. These rumors floating around about the Lakers falling out of love with Lonzo is all a smokescreen. The truth of the matter is that the first two picks have been decided and they are just trying to keep people interested and on their toes.

3: Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas

This pick is just like the first overall pick. It is likely going to be Boston drafting in the third position and they will take Josh Jackson. This is a sign that the Celtics may put all their faith in Isaiah Thomas as their point guard. Jackson can fit right into the culture they are building in Boston and he will help them get closer to compete for a championship.

4: Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke

The Suns are just unlucky. Phoenix was supposed to have a top three pick but fell to fourth when the lottery took place. Now they are going to miss on Josh Jackson by one pick. Jayson Tatum is flying under the radar but will be a very good NBA player.

Tatum has a polished isolation game and can score from anywhere on the floor. Tatum will be a solid second option to Devin Booker.

5: Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://www.zimbio.com)

Reports coming out of Sacramento say that the Kings are absolutely in love with De’Aaron Fox and are even willing to trade both the fifth and tenth pick to move up just one spot to get him.

Fox should be around at five and the Kings can draft their franchise point guard. Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox would be a promising backcourt that would help the Kings get closer to the playoffs.

6: Orlando Magic: Johnathan Issac, F, Florida St.

Orlando has been terrible ever since Dwight Howard left. Johnathan Issac has been recently compared to Kevin Durant, but he is not the scorer that Durant is. Issac will bring tons of athleticism to the Magic. He has proven he can play an all-around game but has been very inconsistent. If developed correctly, Issac can become one of the best two-way players in the NBA and an All-Star.

7: Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

The Timberwolves are already loaded with young talent and in a perfect world, Tom Thibodeau would like to acquire more veterans in the locker room. Minnesota might be looking to make a trade in the future and will take the best available player which will be Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring machine capable of going off at any moment. He is the best scorer to come out of college since Kevin Durant and will easily average 20 points per game in the NBA.

8: New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

New York has always been a city of immigrants. The Knicks are going to follow that mold it seems, as they already have Kristaps Porzingis and are in love with Frank Ntilikina.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit:http://bleacherreport.com)

Dennis Smith is arguably a top five player in this class. The Mavericks have a chance to find their franchise point guard who can help lead them back into the playoffs. Smith can score, pass and rebound with the best of them while in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

10: Sacramento Kings: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona

The Kings currently have two core pieces in Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein. If they take Fox earlier in the draft then it becomes an even better core. Lauri Markkanen could then take this team to even better heights.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a power forward like Dirk Nowitzki. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen would fit alongside Cauley-Stein because he can stretch the floor.

Getting Fox and Markkanen would make the Kings one of the best young teams in the NBA.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville

Donovan Mitchell was projected to be a late-first round pick around a month ago but has lately been flying up draft boards. Teams who have worked Mitchell out have been really impressed by the 6-foot-3 shooting guard. Mitchell is a shot creator and that is something the Hornets need. Charlotte could create a dangerous backcourt by pairing Mitchell with Kemba Walker.

12: Detroit Pistons: Harry Giles, PF, Duke

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the No. 1 pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

Giles has had a lot of injuries but if he can get healthy he has the skill and potential to be the best player in this draft class.

13: Denver Nuggets: Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://www.zimbio.com)

Denver is really close to becoming a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Their young guards just need more experience and will continue to develop.

Collins is a good rebounder and shot blocker. Pairing him up with Nikola Jokic could create one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the NBA. Collins needs to mold his offensive skills, but because Jokic is so skilled offensively, Collins’ defensive skills would create a perfect combination.

14: Miami Heat: T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA

The Heat were amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

T.J. Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS, PF, WAKE FOREST

John Collins could be a valuable piece around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Collins has a good offensive game that would help take pressure off their guards to score. He has a post-up game that most bigs don’t have. His impressive footwork allows him to beat even the best of defenders. If he develops his defense, he could become a top power forward in the NBA.

16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON, C, CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Chris Machian- The World Harold)

Building around Jimmy Butler seems to be the top priority for the Chicago Bulls. Robin Lopez is serviceable, but he is not a center that will help a team reach a title.

Justin Patton may be one. He is a 7-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

NBA coaching could turn Patton into a dominant center in an era of outside shooting. There will be few players capable of defending him once he grows into his own. The Bulls would be lucky to get Patton.

17: Milwaukee Bucks: Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Khris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Milwaukee a presence inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous. The talent they already have and can acquire with Adebayo will allow the Bucks to get closer to the Eastern Conference finals.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke

Luke Kennard fits the new style of the NBA. He is a pure shooter and can be a valuable scorer in the NBA. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise but as a sidekick to Paul George, he could thrive. George wants the Pacers to add talent so they can compete for a title adding Kennard would help go a long way in the Pacers effort to keep Paul George when he becomes a free agent.

19: Atlanta Hawks: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

Dwight Howard is aging and no longer a top center in the NBA. The Hawks must prepare for the future and that could be in the form of Jarrett Allen. Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.

20: Portland Trailblazers: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum need help and Justin Jackson would fit perfectly with this team. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Blazers back into the playoffs.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. Jackson played great for most of the tournament. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well-polished.

21: Oklahoma City Thunder: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit:http://hoosierstateofmind.com)

OG Anunoby will improve the Thunder on the defensive end of the floor immediately. In college, Anunoby was able to defend all five positions and that kind of versatility will make him a valuable player.

He also shot 36 percent from three in his career and will help take some pressure off of Russell Westbrook.

22: Brooklyn Nets: Ivan Rabb, C, California

The Nets will not be good for a long time which means they can be patient with the development of Ivan Rabb. He has lots of potential to grow offensively.

Rabb is already a good defender, and even though he only averaged about one block per game in his career, he altered plenty of shots. His inconsistency at Cal is what hurts him, but he has shown flashes of brilliance and that is what the Nets will try and bottle up and turn into a consistent output.

23: Toronto Raptors: Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany

Isaiah Hartenstein is a bit of an unknown but is an old school big man. He plays an extremely physical style and is a great rebounder. Hartenstein is also a great shot blocker and the Raptors really need an inside presence. He has very little experience but the success of Kristaps Porzingis helps Hartenstein.

Isaiah Hartenstein will need a lot of developing on his offensive game but with the Raptors current roster, he can fill the role of rebounder and rim protector without having to rush his offensive development.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN, PF, PURDUE

The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks.

Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC: Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia

Terrance Ferguson has been very hyped up as of late. He attacks the basketball and can also be a spot up shooter. Ferguson will need to develop defensively but would be a good fit with the Magic who need some more scoring.

26: Portland Trailblazers: Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU

Semi Ojeleye is an athletic freak. Ojeleye can handle the ball, shoot threes, create his own shot and get to the rim. Semi Ojeleye is going somewhat underrated in this draft because of his lack of perimeter defense. The Blazers have enough picks to take a shot on Ojeleye to continue building the depth needed to compete in the West.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): JORDAN BELL, PF, OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://247sports.com)

Jordan Bell was a second-round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has. The Nets need these high energy type of players to change the culture in Brooklyn.

28: Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Hart, SG, Villanova

Josh Hart is a leader and a winner, and the Lakers could use some of that in their locker room.

Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. Hart doesn’t have to be a starting shooting guard to make a big impact. Every team needs a bench scorer and Hart can fill that void for the Lakers as they continue to build towards a championship.

29: San Antonio Spurs: Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana

Any player that the Spurs take should celebrate as if they won the championship. The Spurs will develop Thomas Bryant into a solid NBA starter. Bryant is an excellent rebounder and has a knack for getting offensive boards. He has some decent low post moves and with Gregg Popovich coaching him up he can turn decent into dominant.

30: Utah Jazz: Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Utah as a solid role player.

Second Round

31: Atlanta Hawks: Dillon Brooks, SF, Oregon

32: Phoenix Suns: Dwayne Bacon, SF, Florida St.

33: Orlando Magic: Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma St.

34: Sacramento Kings: Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia

35: Orlando Magic: DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan

36: Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Dorsey, G, Oregon

37: Boston Celtics: Johnathan Motley, PF, Baylor

38: Chicago Bulls: Devin Robinson, F, Florida

39: Philadelphia 76ers: Derrick White, G, Colorado

40: New Orleans Pelicans: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

41: Charlotte Hornets: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina

42: Utah Jazz: Mathias Lessort, F/C, France

43: Houston Rockets: Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah

44: New York Knicks: Frank Jackson, SG, Duke

45: Houston Rockets: Ike Anigbogu, C UCLA

46: Philadelphia 76ers: Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia

47: Indiana Pacers: LJ Peak, SG Georgetown

48: Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Peters, PF, Valparaiso

49: Denver Nuggets: Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson

50: Philadelphia 76ers: Jonah Bolden, PF, Australia

51: Denver Nuggets: Alberto Abalde, SF, Spain

52: Washington Wizards: Cameron Oliver, PF, Nevada

53: Boston Celtics: PJ Dozier, SG, South Carolina

54: Phoenix Suns: Nigel Williams-Goss, PG, Gonzaga

55: Utah Jazz: Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina

56: Boston Celtics: Aleksandear Vezenkov, F, Bulgaria

57: Brooklyn Nets: Edmund Summer, PG, Xavier

58: New York Knicks: Sterling Brown, SG, SMU

59: San Antonio Spurs: Monte Morris, PG, Iowa St.

60: Atlanta Hawks: Wesley Iwundu, SG, Kansas State

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft V. 3.0 (Post-Lottery)

The lottery has finally passed and the draft order is now officially set. As the Finals approach, so does the draft season. All but the final four teams are focused solely on the draft, which means The Game Haus is too.

This mock draft will take a look at where players may go in late June. Also, if you loved Draftmas for the NFL draft, be on the lookout for the hardwood version of Draftmas coming soon here at The Game Haus.

For now, here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft, version three.

1: BOSTON CELTICS (VIA BROOKLYN): MARKELLE FULTZ PG WASHINGTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Boston is in great position after winning the lottery. It is also obvious the Celtics do not need a point guard. Isaiah Thomas has proven his worth time and time again in the NBA. Any player can be a bust out of college, but I.T. is a proven commodity. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything yet in the association.

Boston needs a second scoring option. They play great team defense and find themselves in trouble with Thomas being their only viable option on offense. Boston will take Fultz, but it could be because they plan on trading him for another scoring superstar. The pick here seems to clearly be Fultz, but it is unclear if he will ever play a game for Boston.

2: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

LaVar Ball and the rest of his family got exactly what they hoped for in the lottery. The Lakers came away with the second overall pick. LaVar has made it clear that he wants his son to be the next Laker great. He has even said that his son, Lonzo, will not work out for the Celtics. Lonzo is from L.A., and not only is it his dream, but he believes it’s his destiny, to rock purple and gold.

There are also rumors swirling that teams are putting together trade packages in hopes of acquiring D’Angelo Russell, who may be on his way to bigger things. You can read about how well he has actually progressed as a player here.

LaVar may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a consensus top-three prospect. Ball is a great playmaker and passer with a high basketball I.Q.

Ball will be a floor general capable of running an NBA team and becoming an on-court coach. He showed at UCLA that he can make everyone around him better and that will translate into the NBA.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. The Lakers need a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be. The Lakers have a difficult decision ahead of them, but pairing Ball with Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle could lead to more parades in Hollywood.

3: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, didn’t make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Reports came out that the Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

4: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable wing alongside Devin Booker. Jackson averaged 16.3 points per game at Kansas. He is a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Jackson has a good feel for the game and is dangerous on offense. He can score both inside and out and is a very underrated passer.

Pairing him with a future superstar like Booker is only going to lead to success for Phoenix. Having a core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson will make the Suns a threat in the West in two to three years.

Jackson doesn’t have to be a franchise player in Phoenix. He just has to be Robin to Batman, which makes him a perfect fit in the desert.

5: Sacramento Kings: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jayson Tatum could grow to be an NBA superstar. Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready.  He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and he could become a nice addition to the team in Sacramento.

6: Orlando Magic: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for five straight years in a very weak Eastern Conference. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but they need more talent outside of Aaron Gordon. At this point, the best thing the Magic can do is pick the best available player, which in this position would be De’Aaron Fox.

Fox doesn’t get the hype that Fultz or Ball get, but is definitely going to be a force in the NBA. Fox did nothing but help his stock in the tournament, especially when he dropped 39 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.

Fox is left handed, which is sometimes hard to defend because defenders are so used to right-handed players. He is also extremely quick, and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him. Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency, but has proven he can control a game.

7: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

Minnesota has a franchise center and small forward in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They have young guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Timberwolves need experience and veteran leadership more than anything, so it is tough to predict what they will do with this pick. Lauri Markkanen would be a perfect option for the Timberwolves.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a power forward like Dirk Nowitzki. He can stretch the floor or go inside.

Markkanen can also play the center position to spell Towns. Markkanen needs to add some weight, but could really help the Timberwolves become a playoff team.

8: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith JR PG N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock draft

(Photo Credit: WILLIAM HOWARD/ICON SPORTSWIRE)

The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have since not all are looking for a point guard.

The Knicks would get a player like Russell Westbrook by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

The Zen Master needs to make the most out of this pick to win back the love of the Knicks’ fan base, and Dennis Smith could bring that love to the Big Apple.

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

From one German to the next.  Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Dallas. He is a versatile, left-handed player who can score inside and outside. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

Sitting him behind Dirk for a year would be the perfect step in developing Hartenstein. He could easily relate to Dirk. He could really learn how to become a great pro.

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): JONATHAN ISaAC PF FLORIDA STATE

Jonathan Isaac would be a great fit with this team. Isaac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. Isaac could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potentials, who could grow into a solid NBA starter.

11.CHARLOTTE HORNETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

The G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, loves him some Tar Heels. Justin Jackson would be a terrific fit in Charlotte. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has never lived up to the hype of a second overall pick. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Hornets back into the playoffs.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. Jackson played great for most of the tournament. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight, but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well-polished. Charlotte would improve by drafting Jackson.

12: DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the No. 1 pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: Zach Collins F Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Denver is really close to becoming a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Their young guards just need more experience and will continue to develop.

Collins is a real good rebounder and shot blocker. Pairing him up with Nikola Jokic could create one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the NBA. Collins needs to mold his offensive skills, but because Jokic is so skilled offensively, Collins’ defensive skills would create a perfect combination.

14: MIAMI HEAT: T.J. LEAF PF UCLA

The Heat were amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

T.J. Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins could be a valuable piece around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Collins has a good offensive game that would help take pressure off their guards to score. He has a post-up game that most bigs don’t have. His impressive footwork allows him to beat even the best of defenders. If he develops his defense, he could become a top power forward in the NBA.

16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

Building around Jimmy Butler seems to be the top priority for the Chicago Bulls. Robin Lopez is serviceable, but he is not a center that will help a team reach a title.

Justin Patton may be one. He is a 7-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

NBA coaching could turn Patton into a dominant center in an era of outside shooting. There will be few players capable of defending him once he grows into his own. The Bulls would be lucky to get Patton.

17: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Khris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Milwaukee a presence inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous.

18: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit:http://www.draftexpress.com)

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Pacers have Jeff Teague, but he has not really proven to be a franchise point guard.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become a franchise point guard.

19: ATLANTA HAWKS: IVAN RABB C CALIFORNIA

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future, and Ivan Rabb is the future at center.

He has lots of potential to grow offensively. Rabb is already a good defender, and even though he only averaged about one block per game in his career, he altered plenty of shots. His inconsistency at Cal is what hurts him, but he has shown flashes of brilliance.

20: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA MEMPHIS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Portland.

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own.

Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs. Filling the small forward spot is of utter importance to the Thunder.

22: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA WASHINGTON): LUKE KENNARD SG DUKE

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs a lot of help, even though they played better late in the year.

Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise, but he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA. Every team needs that type of player, and the Nets can’t get a franchise-changing player in the early 20s. They will have to settle for finding solid role players until they can get a franchise changing player.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

If Kyle Lowry is truly leaving, then Toronto is going to need a point guard. At this point in the draft, there aren’t any point guards capable of starting.

The Raptors may have to let Cory Joseph be the guy and draft a wing player here. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player, allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks.

Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner, and the Magic could use some of that in their locker room.

Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. If they put together a backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Josh Hart, the Magic could make the playoffs as early as next season.

26: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project, and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round, especially with it being their third pick in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA off the bench. Anything more than being a role player would be a huge win for the Blazers.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): JORDAN BELL PF OREGON

Jordan Bell was a second-round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has. The Nets need these high energy type of players to change the culture in Brooklyn.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Jarrett Allen C Texas

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them.

LaMarcus Aldridge has been average at best since signing with the Spurs. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can play as Robin to Leonard. Jarrett Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.

30: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team. The Jazz continue to build depth at hopes of a deeper postseason run.

 

Featured Image by Yahoo Sports

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Taking a Closer Look at the Number One Overall Recruit: Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. brings in the new era of college basketball players. He is the clear No. 1 recruit in the 2018 class according to ESPN.com. We will see just how good he can be come November.

The 6-foot-10 superstar put up some absurd stats in his senior year to help him finish on top of ESPN’s top 100 high school players in the country. He averaged 36.2 points per game, 13.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.2 steals and 2.7 blocks. I guess you could say that’s how you fill up a stat sheet.

Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. goes in for a dunk in his game in the state quarterfinals in March (Photo/ Johnny Andrews)

Porter, who was once a Washington signee, is now headed to Missouri. The switch happened after former Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was fired and replaced with long time Syracuse assistant coach, Mike Hopkins.

After former Washington assistant coach Michael Porter Sr. was awarded a position in Missouri’s coaching staff, his son Porter Jr. followed. This arguably was Missouri’s biggest recruit ever, and undoubtedly their biggest recruit in the past decade. Their highest ranked recruit before Porter was Montaque Gill-Caesar, who was ranked 41st in ESPN’s top 100.

Porter, who is already projected to go No. 1 overall in next year’s draft, comes into Missouri with scouts raving of his talents. Porter has an unbelievable combination and balance of physic and skill. The 18-year-old stands 6-foot-10, 215 pounds for a unique brew of size, length, bounce and skill that makes him the best player in the class.

He is versatile on the perimeter despite his size. He is able step back and tack the long jumper and can virtually get whatever shot off he wants because of his long frame.

Porter is also very comfortable in running the floor and in space, which is unique for a player his size. He has displayed the ability to shoot the 3-pointer or take a couple dribbles and pull up for a mid-range jumper. He has also shown a nice touch around the rim, and his ability to finish above the rim is greatly evident.

He’s basically got everything that entails a superstar, and that’s just on the court. Off the court, he is also one of the most interesting recruits in the country, starting with his family.

Michael Porter Jr.

Porter was named MVP of this year’s McDonald’s All American game this year (AP Photo)

Porter has basketball in his blood. His father, of course, is now on the coaching staff at Missouri and was previously on the staff at Washington. His mother was also an elite basketball athlete in high school. As stated previously, Porter averaged 36.2 points per game in high school, which is 22.5 points fewer than his mother.

That’s right. Porter’s mother, Lisa Porter, averaged 58.7 points per game.

Not a typo.

She went on to play for the University of Iowa and scored over 1,300 points in her career. She also lead Iowa to their first Big Ten title.

On top of that, Porter is dating actress Madison Pettis, who is best known for her appearance as Dwayne Johnson’s daughter in “The Game Plan.”

Regardless of his off-the-court life, what most people should be concerned with is what he can do on the court. There is no question he is the best recruit this year coming out of high school and there is no question that the kid can hoop.

A talent like that could make Missouri relevant again in the win column and maybe help them to another tournament appearance. That is something that they haven’t seen in a long time.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Leffen Pulls Off the Upset Over Hungrybox to Win Don’t Park on the Grass

 

Photo courtesy of http://twitch.tv/EndGameTV1

Photo courtesy of http://twitch.tv/EndGameTV1

Don’t Park on the Grass could be a look into the future of competitive Smash. The last event of 2016 ended with a wild top 32 bracket, ending with William “Leffen” Hjelte taking out the juggernaut Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma from the winners bracket. A day filled with game 5’s (13 exactly) was overshadowed by Leffen winning his first tournament since Get on my Level this summer.

From the very start of the tournament, all eyes were focused on Hungrybox and Leffen. The only “gods” in attendance were on a crash course for a meeting in the grand finals. Leffen, who’s had a frustrating year due to issues out of his control, got his second marquee win of the year taking out Hungrybox in two sets by a combined score of 6-4.

Leffen earned his second victory in 2016 against Hungrybox at DPotG off vertical kill setups (soft aerials into up-air kills) that jump-cancelled up-smashes. As I said last week, Leffen might be the best player in the world at the Fox-Jigglypuff matchup. He might not always win against Hungrybox (2-2 in 16′), but he always plays the matchup the right way.

Outside of his showdown with Hbox, he had little trouble navigating through winners bracket. Ryan “The Moon” Coker-Welch did manage to send it to a game 5 in winners round one, but Leffen won by a comfortable three-stocks on his game five counter pick stage. He didn’t drop a single game in his next two sets against Edgar “N0ne” Sheleby and Zac “SFAT” Cordoni, two top-20 players.

It was Leffen’s first major win on American soil since HTC Throwdown back in September of 2015. He took down Hungrybox at that same event as well. The win was a huge step forward for Leffen, after spending the entire year on the sideline. It should build confidence heading forward and might open the door for the return of the cockiest player in Smash.

Breaking down Grand Finals

Leffen fell behind early in both the winners and grand finals sets against Hungrybox. Both battlefield openers were a one stock victory by Hbox, making Leffen play from a deficit. The loss in both instances woke him up. He raised his level of play after each loss he suffered.

Despite struggling on Battlefield, Leffen consistently won on his counter pick stages. He was 2-0 on Pokémon stadium and 4-0 overall on his counter picks. Outside of Dreamland, Leffen found success on the larger stages, going 2-0 on Final Destination. It allowed him to avoid Hungrybox’s aerial pressure and stay patient.

Beating Hungrybox is a mental grind. Playing below average against him will most certainly result in a loss. He never seems to take games off and the nature of his character allows the comeback factor to come into play. Luckily for Leffen, he was feeling good and clearly strong in his mental game.

Even falling behind 2-1 in the grand finals, there was never any quit. He continued to stick to the game plan and consistently got his kill setups late in games. He carried combos farther than any Fox I can remember and that paid dividends down the stretch. It looked like pre-visa Leffen, which is a great sign heading into 2017.

Leffen will have a month to prepare for the next super major in Genesis 4 with the holiday break coming up. Leffen is a momentum-based player and when he’s playing his best he can go on long runs. It will be interesting to see if the break messes with his mental game. If this tournament told us anything, watch out for Leffen in 2017.

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The Need for an Eight Team Playoff

(USA Today)

(USA Today)

There must be an eight team playoff in college football. This college football season has been the best of any in recent history. There is constant rhetoric on who should have been in the playoffs and who shouldn’t.  There is constant questions on who is capable of challenging the unbeatable Alabama Crimson Tide.

Alabama has clearly looked like the best team in the country, but games are not won on paper and anything can happen once the ball is kicked off. There are upsets every week and Week 11 showed it more than ever. For the first time since 1985, the second, third and fourth ranked teams all lost on the same day. It was madness and chaotic and we all loved it! College football still has a little guy, Western Michigan, that went undefeated and gets absolutely no love at all. Their schedule is blamed for their low rankings at the end and throughout the year. There is an issue with the current format of a four team playoff.

College football is exciting and a four team playoff system was a great start, but we want, no, we need more. There needs to be an eight team college playoff. Part of the reason the college game went to a playoff system was because the BCS system didn’t allow the nation to see a true champion. There was rarely a year in which the third ranked team in the BCS didn’t have a case to be in the national championship. This year is no different. As mentioned previously, Western Michigan went undefeated and has to settle for playing in the Cotton Bowl. This isn’t the first time a small school had been disrespected by the polls.

The Little Guy

(Photo: Steve Grayson/WireImage)

(Photo: Steve Grayson/WireImage)

Why can’t the little guy get a chance to upset Goliath? There are plenty examples of teams who did not have a snowball’s chance in Hell to win against a college football giant, but somehow found a way. In 2006, Boise State won one of the greatest games in college football history.

The 2006 Boise State team was a member of the Western Athletic Conference, which is now extinct in football. It was a conference that was considered one of the worst in the country.  Boise State had two big non-conference wins that season. The Broncos beat Oregon State 42-12 and they also won at Utah 36-3. Boise finished the season undefeated, but the BCS only ranked Boise at eighth. Boise State was never considered for the national championship because of their weak conference. They had to settle for playing number 10 ranked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl which became an instant classic.

To sum up the game, with a 1:02 left in a 28-28 tie, Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky threw an interception to Marcus Walker who ran the interception back 34 yards for a touchdown to give Oklahoma a 35-28 lead. Fast forward to Boise State’s next possession with 18 seconds remaining. It was fourth and 18. Boise State ran the famous hook and lateral that worked for a touchdown. The game was tied at 35 with just seven seconds remaining.

Oklahoma got the ball first in overtime and Adrian Peterson ran it in for a 25 yard touchdown to give Oklahoma a 42-35 lead. Boise was able to answer with a touchdown and head coach Chris Petersen decided to go for two. Boise State ran the statue of liberty in for the two-point conversion and the win, 43-42. The Broncos finished the season with a perfect 13-0 record and the only team left undefeated that season.

Continuing with the theme of small conference schools being snubbed, the next example is the 2008 Utah Utes who were in the Mountain West. Utah won at (24) Michigan, then beat (11) TCU and (14) BYU at home. They finished ranked sixth in the final BCS rankings and had to settle for playing in the Sugar Bowl against (4) Alabama. Utah easily won the Sugar Bowl 31-17 even though they were 10 point underdogs. They finished the year as the only undefeated team in the country, but were not the national champions.

(ESPN/The Associated Press)

(ESPN/The Associated Press)

That same year Boise State finished the regular season undefeated as well, and was ranked ninth in the BCS. The Broncos only had one impressive win that season in which they won at Oregon 37-32. It was the famous LeGarrette Blount punch game. That year Boise didn’t even get to play in a BCS Bowl game. They played TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl and lost 17-16.

2009 left the BCS in chaos at the end of the year as there were five undefeated teams: Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State. The national championship game ended up being Alabama versus Texas. The other three undefeated teams were not given the chance to play for a national championship.

Texas had gone 3-0 against the top 25 with only one of those wins coming on the road. Cincinnati had gone 4-0 against the top 25 with three of those wins coming on the road. Texas was chosen because of their name. The small schools always get the short end of the stick when being listed with the best of the best.

(https://www.reddit.com/r/CFB/comments/3ucxld/week_13_trash_talk_thursday_trashgiving/)

(https://www.reddit.com/r/CFB/comments/3ucxld/week_13_trash_talk_thursday_trashgiving/)

The last example of small schools from small conferences comes from 2010 from TCU. TCU won at (24) Oregon State to open the season. The Horned Frogs only had one other ranked game which came on the road against (6) Utah. TCU demolished the Utes 47-7. In the end their wins weren’t impressive enough as they finished the season in the BCS ranked third. The two teams that finished ahead of them, Auburn and Oregon, were both undefeated as well. TCU ended up in the Rose Bowl against (4) Wisconsin and won 21-19 to finish the season undefeated.

They Can’t Beat The Big Boys. Or Can They?

(http://www.bendbulletin.com/slideShows?layout=2&storyId=1430295)

(http://www.bendbulletin.com/slideShows?layout=2&storyId=1430295)

There is a common theme with all these undefeated small schools. Utah, TCU and Boise State were almost always involved. Utah has had two undefeated seasons in the past 13 seasons and accomplished both of their undefeated seasons in the Mountain West Conference. The Utes ended up leaving for the Pac-12 because it is a power five conference. TCU finished with their only undefeated season in the Mountain West as well, but left for the Big 12, a power five conference. They left because of the disrespect year in and year out towards the Mountain West Conference. The last of these three teams, Boise State, has had three undefeated regular seasons in their last 11 seasons.

Typically a program this consistent would have played in a national championship, but Boise has yet to play for one. There is a bias against teams not in the power five and Western Michigan is the snub this season. The most common response from someone who argues that these teams don’t deserve the shot because of their small conferences has one of two responses.

The first is “let’s see if they do this again next year and next year if they are undefeated they should be in.” There are two problems with that reaction and the first is the team that is undefeated this year is a completely different team than they will be the next year. The second issue is that statement has proven to be false because Boise State had three undefeated regular seasons in four years and never got the chance.

(http://www.nobodywinsontheblue.com/2013/08/2013-boise-state-football-preview.html)

(http://www.nobodywinsontheblue.com/2013/08/2013-boise-state-football-preview.html)

Another common response is “Oh they would get blown out by Alabama and other big schools”. That statement is once again false as there are countless examples of smalls schools upsetting the goliath schools. Above there were examples listed, including Utah beating Alabama, and here are some more: In 2010 FCS member Jacksonville State beat Ole Miss 49-48, FCS James Madison won at (13) Virginia Tech 21-16 and perhaps the biggest upset of all time, 2007 Appalachian State beat (5) Michigan 34-32.

All these small schools pulled off what many believed to be impossible but the game is played on the field and not on paper, or by the amount of stars a recruiting class has. Western Michigan might be able to beat Alabama, Clemson, or Ohio State but everyone assumes they have no chance because of history. Yes, these programs have been national powers for decades but that doesn’t mean the little guy can’t hang, or win. An eight team playoff needs to be made with certain requirements similar to the ramifications in college basketball. These requirements are needed because of the mistakes made since the inception of the four team playoff.

Playoff Mistakes

The college football playoff started in 2014 and is only entering their third year. In 2014, college football fans were so happy to finally receive the playoff system that they had been so desperately asking for for almost a decade. Fans were so happy in fact, there was no chance it would be criticized in the first year, but they had set precedents in which would eventually make the committee look like hypocrites.

(http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2014/12/02/college-football-playoff-projection-alabama-oregon-florida-state-tcu/19748763/)

(www.reddit.com)

In 2014, heading into conference championship week the rankings were as follows: (1) Alabama 11-1, (2) Oregon 11-1, (3) TCU 11-1, (4) Florida State 12-0, (5) Ohio State 11-1, and (6) Baylor 11-1. All six teams had won their game on championship week by wide margins. The final college football rankings finished with TCU dropping to sixth and Ohio State finishing in fourth, thus knocking TCU out of the college football playoff. The reasoning given by the committee stated that TCU did not win their conference therefore Ohio State deserved to be in. TCU and Baylor were both 8-1 in conference play, but Baylor beat TCU head to head 61-58.

Fast forward to this year where the playoff committee selected Ohio State over Penn State. Ohio State had one loss on the year to Penn State. Penn State had two losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan. Two years earlier the playoff committee favored Ohio State because they won a conference championship and yet this year left Penn State out who won head to head versus Ohio State, won the division in the BIG 10 in which Ohio State is in, and won the BIG 10 Championship. The college football committee that said conference championships matter two years earlier ignored that Ohio State didn’t win their conference.

Essentially the committee is saying head to head wins mean nothing, nor do conference titles after this year’s playoff selection. Subliminally they are saying whoever can bring in the most revenue will make the playoffs if they have a good year. If revenue matters that much then push it to an eight team playoff to create even more dollars.

In the first year, the college football playoff paid out 500 billion dollars to schools which was the largest payout ever, which improved in areas of 200 million from the final BCS season. In total there was a 63 percent increase in postseason revenue. Doubling the amount of teams in the playoff could essentially double the amount of money to be made with extra games of importance.

 

What Should an 8 Team Playoff Look Like?

(AP Images)

(AP Images)

If and when college football goes to an eight team playoff, there needs to be a few rules on who can make the playoffs. In the current system a conference championship means nothing and part of what has made college football great for the past 100 years is the thrill of winning the conference. In basketball, winning your conference give you an automatic bid to the tournament. Football should follow that model to an extent. There are 10 conferences plus four independent schools so with a six team playoff not everyone can automatically get a bid. Here is how college football should handle the eight team playoff that would make everyone happy.

If you win the conference championship of a power five conference (BIG 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, ACC) you are guaranteed a spot in the eight team playoff. To accommodate for small schools and give them the chance they have earned, the sixth spot goes to the highest ranked team from the group of five conferences (AAC, Conference-USA, MAC, Sun-Belt, Mountain West). There would be two spots remaining and those spots should be At-Large bids given to the best two teams remaining in the country. This is what this year’s eight team playoff would look like in this format:

(1) SEC Champion: Alabama vs. (8) Group of 5: Western Michigan

(2) ACC Champion: Clemson vs. (7) Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma

(3) At-Large Bid: Ohio State vs. (6) At-Large Bid: Michigan

(4) Pac-12 Champion: Washington vs. (5) BIG 10 Champion: Penn State

(David Dermer / Associated Press)

(David Dermer / Associated Press)

This college football playoff would have the perfect amount of teams. Aside from the two At-Large bids, nobody can argue the selection of the other six teams. There will always be that argument of bubble teams and who is the most deserving bubble team. In this format some people would be mad that USC isn’t in because of how hot they were towards the end of the year. The simple solution is to tell USC, if you win your conference and you’ll be in.

 

This format doesn’t require a team to go undefeated. An early loss in the season would allow you a second chance to bounce back and win the conference. That can’t be said now. Penn State and Oklahoma won their conference and don’t get a shot to be the national champion. Western Michigan is told good job on going undefeated but your conference is weak, and so is you’re schedule so just take this Cotton Bowl bid. The four team format was a great start, but this eight team format would be the perfect way to crown a champion.

Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 7)

Week seven is here and it’s a great thing because, well, last week was….Bad. So much happened in the NFL that was not expected. The Broncos stunk it up on Thursday night, Big Ben got hurt and the Steelers lost to a bad Dolphins team. The Panthers are horrible and I am finally conceding that they will not recover. Oakland lost a tough divisional game at home. Aaron Rodgers is a shell of himself this season. The Colts blew a 14 point lead with about three minutes left in the game to lose in overtime. It was a crazy week in the NFL, but that is why the game is so deeply loved.

The season is almost half over which means there is a good amount to judge teams on now. Sure there will still be upsets and unexpected results, but for the most part, the picture is taking shape. This week the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys are on a bye. Here are Hagan’s Haus week seven picks.

Last Week: 7-8

Season: 51-38

Thursday Night

((Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Chicago 17 @ Green Bay 38: The oldest rivalry in the NFL takes center stage in Primetime on Thursday Night. For the most part, Thursday Night Football is atrocious. The games are usually boring and one, if not both, teams just do not look like themselves on Thursday nights. With that being said, the Packers are playing a bad Bears team that has nothing to lose. The Packers are desperate and Aaron Rodgers is going to pick apart the Bears as he usually does. Rodgers will have 300 yards passing and the Packers will make it look easy against their arch rival.

Sunday Morning

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes (29) lines up against the Detroit Lions during a NFL football game in Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes (29) lines up against the Detroit Lions during a NFL football game in Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Minnesota 31 @ Philadelphia 16: Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings had two weeks to prepare for the Eagles. The Eagles have lost two straight since starting out 3-0 and it will become three straight. The Vikings defense has made great quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton look horrible. If they can do that to those MVP quarterbacks, it is scary to think what they might do to a rookie. Sam Bradford will go to Philly with a huge chip on his shoulder and out perform Carson Wentz.

New York (G) 27 @ Los Angeles 24: This is a tough game to predict, but with Odell catching fire it might be the time of the year the Giants get into a groove. The Rams have been pretty impressive this season to sit at 3-3 and in second place of the NFC West. The Giants are the better team in this game because of their passing attack.

Cleveland 21 @ Cincinnati 28: The injury to Big Ben opens up the AFC North. The Bengals are off to a rough start but now have a chance to get back into the race. They sit at 2-4, but have winnable games vs the Browns and Redskins before going on their bye. The Browns are still looking for their first win, but won’t get it in Cincinnati.

Washington 30 @ Detroit 33: This game will be one of the more interesting games of the day. The Redskins are coming off a big win against the Eagles and are looking to keep pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East. The Lions won an exciting back and forth game against the Rams at home. The Lions are 2-1 at home and this game should be a high scoring one as both offenses score over 23 points per game. Lions defend home field this week.

(https://twitter.com/derekcarrqb)

(https://twitter.com/derekcarrqb)

Oakland 34 @ Jacksonville 31: Oakland is simply the better team. Traveling to Jacksonville might be difficult, but Derek Carr is going to have a great game while trying to stay in first place. Jacksonville won a rare road game in Chicago, but the Bears are abysmal this year. The Jags play much better at home and this game will be a close one, but the Raiders will play just a tad bit better.

New Orleans 24 @ Kansas City 31: Andy Reid just continues to prove he is one of the best coaches in the NFL. Coming off a bye week, Andy Reid is 16-2 after last weeks surprising upset in Oakland. The Saints have proven they can still put up a lot of points, but as usual their defense is one of the leagues worst. It is hard to win games giving up nearly 34 points per game. The Chiefs defense will be able to slow down Drew Brees and the Chiefs will win another game at Arrowhead.

Buffalo 35 @ Miami 24: The Bills are rolling on all cylinders and look unstoppable at the moment. It is amazing how everyone was trashing Rex Ryan when they were 0-2, but have yet to give him credit for firing Greg Roman after just two games. It has been the difference for the Bills thus far as they have won four straight games. The Dolphins shocked the Steelers, but they had one decent game. They won’t be able to stop the Bills offense and the Bills will win their fifth straight.

Baltimore 24 @ New York (J) 20: Two teams match-up in which I am not fond of this season. Neither are going to make the playoffs. The Jets have announced that Geno Smith is starting this game. Since 2011 he has the worst touchdown to interception ratio in the NFL. The Jets have the better team, but Geno will commit to many mistakes that prevent his team from winning.

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Indianapolis 22 @ Tennessee 27: The Colts flat out choked last week. Last week I mentioned that the Titans were better than most people realized and they will prove that again this week behind their really good defense. The Titans just need Marcus Mariota to take care of the football and they will win this game.

Sunday Afternoon

San Diego 31 @ Atlanta 36: The Falcons fought back last week to lose by just two points, but it was still a loss. The fall of the Panthers may be the reason the Falcons make the playoffs this season. The Chargers got an impressive win last week, but that is what happens sometimes in divisional games. They won’t win this one in Atlanta.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Tampa Bay 29 @ San Fransisco 18: The 49ers have looked horrible since their opening weekend win. It will be difficult to pick them for the remainder of the season. They are in a tough division and there is no part of their schedule that gets easier. The Bucs have not done anything to earn confidence or respect in their team as a whole, but the 49ers are so terrible the Bucs should win this one even on the road.

New England 28 @ Pittsburgh 18: This game looked a lot more fun before Big Ben went down with a knee injury. Now that we know Landry Jones is starting, this games is much less exciting. Tom Brady has played remarkably well since returning from suspension and it won’t stop this week. The Patriots will flex their muscles in this one, but I expect a rematch in the playoffs with a healthy Big Ben.

Sunday Night

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 20: (Photo by Christopher Mast/Seattle Seahawks)

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – DECEMBER 20: (Photo by Christopher Mast/Seattle Seahawks)

Seattle 19 @ Arizona 16: This is a huge divisional battle that will be fun to watch. The Seahawks are doing what they have been accustomed to doing the past few seasons so far. They are winning games behind one of the best defenses in the league. Arizona has struggled somewhat this season, but they always play well against Seattle. With that being said, the Seahawks will find a way to win this divisional game on the road.

Monday Night

Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) throws against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) throws against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Houston 31 @ Denver 28: The night that Brock Osweiler has been waiting for all season is finally here. What is good for the Texans is that his confidence could not be higher after last weeks epic comeback against the Colts. It was against the Colts suspect defense, but impressive still. Osweiler is going to have so much adrenaline, but it shouldn’t stop him from having a big night. I will go out on a limb and say that Osweiler will have his best game ever as a pro returning to Denver.

The Greatest Game We Play

Major League Baseball once dominated televison sets and radios, now, it's a dying sport. Or is it? (MLB logo is officially licensed to Major League Baseball)

Major League Baseball once dominated televison sets and radios, now, it’s a dying sport. Or is it? (MLB logo is officially licensed to Major League Baseball)

The greatest game ever played may seem like click-bait. Maybe so. However, I’m not writing to tell you about the greatest individual game. I’m writing to inform you that we live in an age where the greatest game is underappreciated. I’m writing to tell you that you baseball- not football or basketball- is the greatest game ever to be played.

When we’re young, becoming the star of the sports world is the ultimate goal for a lot of us. Some choose football, others basketball, and even some others want to be a star at sprinting. For me, it was baseball. I wanted to play in Ballparks all around the United States. I wanted to stand on the pristine fields of green grass, the watered down infield dirt, and under the shining lights from the heaven above. That was my dream.

Game seven of a World Series, down by one, two on base. I walked through this scenario numerous times in the front yard. I was the pitcher, hitter, and voice on the radio all in one. “And the pitch on its way. Taylor swings, a deep drive to left center, and it’s out of here! A home run, touch ’em all, the Cincinnati Reds are World Champions thanks to the bat of Daniel Taylor!” Man, that was the dream. And I’m sure many of you have had that moment race through your mind. Maybe it was the game-winning touchdown pass, a shot at the buzzer, or a goal to win the Stanley Cup. Maybe it was the home run, or maybe an excellent performance on the mound. We all had those moments.

Sports flow through our blood in the United States, much like the rest of the world. But unlike most countries, baseball has been our pastime for many years. Since it’s beginnings, it’s been America’s sport. Now, as baseball grows around the world, we’ve begun turning our backs on the great game. Football now feels more like the American game. Baseball is big in Latin America, Japan, and South Korea. But in the United States, baseball has been on the decline.

Ask any fan that was alive during the strike years and you’ll usually find the root of the problem. Most fans turned away from the sport after the strike of 1994. That is the most popular answer. Another answer frequented by baseball detractors, it’s too long and boring. On the surface, that may be true. Baseball has a certain time commitment with most games lasting at least two hours, and that’s during a pitcher’s duel. Commercials don’t help things; the games drag on for three or four hours most nights.

Football is usually a two or three-hour commitment, but it’s much more “exciting” with the monstrous tackles and unfathomable touchdowns. Soccer is timed at 90 minutes, only a few extra minutes for extra-time, so you have a good idea of what to expect. Basketball is fast paced and the same with hockey. But baseball isn’t timed- the only of the major sports.

Baseball now consumes a large part of Japan and Latin America. Fireballers in Little League are throwing incredible speeds as the sport continues to grow. (Photo Courtesy, ESPN)

Baseball now consumes a large part of Japan and Latin America. Fireballers in Little League are throwing incredible speeds as the sport continues to grow. (Photo Courtesy, ESPN)

Nine innings with both teams taking a turn on offense. No turnovers or shortened innings, three outs for both sides, and 27 outs for both teams over the course of the afternoon. 162 times a season we do this, and then we get the playoffs. Baseball begins in March and ends in October. Pitchers and catchers report in February, so the season is nine months long. It’s not a short nine months either, days off are a rarity. The All-Star break is the only time teams will have consecutive off days for the entire season.

All of this makes it seem like a slow crawl. In the NFL things happen fast; it’s like a 100-meter dash with only 16 games. One day a week your team plays. In the NBA you have consecutive off days several times in a week – not once a season. The type of season we see in Major League Baseball is truly in a league of its own.

Much of what makes baseball so great is that sentiment. The game truly is a league of its own. Nothing is near exciting and boring, short and long, slow and fast, or interesting as baseball. It’s special.

In baseball, you have one of the most simple goals in mind. Either, throw the ball past the batter on defense. Or hit the ball safely on offense. It’s pitch and hit. See the ball, hit the ball. Easy, right? However, it’s one of the most difficult things humanly possible. Both, pitching and hitting, test the ability of the human body. Baseball stretches the human mind and body as far as possible and tries not to break- and sometimes it does break, spectacularly.

A pitcher is doing something so rare that you can’t simply practice it. Most athletes have a physical gift of some form. But pitchers have something that’s not self-taught. A fastball that touches 95, 98, or even over 100 miles per hour is something that is unthinkable. How? To rubber band your arm and throw a pitch faster than you can legally drive is simply incredible.

What’s even more incredible? Hitting that pitch. In less than 4/10’s of a second you have to decide where the pitch is going, what type of pitch it is, and if you can hit it. Then you have to do it. Your brain is working through incredible speed, computing all of these things faster than the flash of a camera. And then you swing and it. Not only is that good enough, but you also need to place it somewhere on the field that the eight players in fair territory can’t get to it. Even better, you can put it in the stands at least the MLB minimum, 325 feet away for a home run.

The human brain and body can barely keep up. There are times when it’s almost physically impossible. Aroldis Chapman threw the fastest pitch ever recorded at 105.1 MPH. Estimates have Nolan Ryan throwing pitches at over 108. Those are speeds that are nearing the physical and mental limitations of the mind and body to even compute.

Baseball, simply put, is the peak of human performance. They are some of the most physically and mentally gifted humans on this earth.

Sure, the game may be slow, but look at pitch-by-pitch. Slow the game down a little more and just marvel at what is actually happening. Before every pitch, the catcher or dugout will give signals to align the defense up. That’s not random; each player has a certain profile. Where does he hit most often? Is there a pattern? If so, the defense will align themselves up in that manner creating some weird overloads at times.

The Los Angeles Dodgers used a four-man, right side of the infield in a game against the San Diego Padres. (Photo Courtesy, MLB.com)

The Los Angeles Dodgers used a four-man, right side of the infield in a game against the San Diego Padres. (Photo Courtesy, MLB.com)

Now that the defense is aligned, we have to take into account the runner on first. The shortstop and second basemen will look at each other and signal which has the throw should a steal attempt come in. The third base coach has already given signals to the batter and runner; they now know that a hit and run is on.

The catcher, the quarterback of most teams, is computing these things. He decides he wants a fastball outside of the zone, try to get a swing and miss if the hit and run are on so he could throw the runner out. If it’s not, it’s just a waste pitch. From there, the art of pitching is on full display. The pitcher winds and uncorks a ball thrown at 98 to a precise point high and outside. The runner breaks, the second basemen moves to cover the bag, the pitch is there . . . and then you do it again.

Every play is a complex computer problem when you break it down. On the surface, it’s just pitch and catch. See the ball, hit the ball. Simple. The same way now that it was 100 years ago. That’s the beauty of it all.

Diving catches are made routine by the fielders. Home runs that tower through the dark sky look like they’re shot out of cannons. Pitches that boom across the park seem normal. The six-four-three double play just gets us to the bathroom a little sooner. A bang-bang play isn’t really exciting. All of these things are the plays that make up a baseball game. Taken on the surface, they aren’t impressive. We see them all the time. But break down what makes them happen and you see the true beauty.

Baseball is a constant dance between being too wild and out of control, and sitting on the line of impossible. Every play tests the balance of physics. Batters will sometimes describe a tight fastball thrown at 100 as rising, which is physically impossible. However, greats like Hank Aaron have said that the physicists need to put a helmet on and see it for themselves. Optical illusions occur at those speeds. Pitchers can literally fool the human brain- not an easy task.

Baseball is also one of the few sports that isn’t over until the last pitch is thrown. In football, we can usually tell who will win the game five minutes before it’s over, most of the time it’s even sooner. Same with basketball. You can deflate the ball in basketball, dribbling and taking up as much time as allowed. In football, a kneel down will end the game; but before that, a good ground game can ice huge chunks of time. In hockey, you can skate around and lob the puck around to absorb a lot of the clock. Sure, it’s still competitive to a point, but not like baseball.

In baseball, you have to give the offense a chance to win it. It’s the only sport in which you’re not in control of the offense. You don’t have the ball, the defense does. It’s played backward to a certain extent. The pitcher cannot throw around every batter to run the clock out. He has to get three more outs. Your offense could rally at any point. That is where the excitement is.

When you get behind 3-0 in the first, you know it’s not over. Just recently, on June, 5th, the Cincinnati Reds took an early 5-0 lead on the Washington Nationals. The Nats would rally to score the next 10, 10-5. The Reds would come back to make it 10-9 in the ninth. With bases loaded, no outs, and the Reds staring at a surefire tie game, Dusty Baker would’ve loved to take a knee or hold the ball. But they had to come right at the Reds.

A first pitch pop out by Adam Duvall, one out. A three-pitch strikeout against pinch hitter Zack Cozart, two out. Ivan De Jesus Jr. would fly out to centerfielder Michael Taylor to finish the game. Staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, Jonathan Papelbon got the save for the Nationals. You can’t make that up.

The game of baseball is an art form that started in America and now spreads worldwide. It’s a sport that has grown into all sorts of countries. But in the United States, we’re told it’s on the way out. I choose to believe otherwise. Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn, truth be told, that’s probably true. But I believe the love for the game of baseball will come back. We just have to show fans what the game is really about. Make fans understand what they’re watching. We should marvel, not just watch, the game.

P.S. Start taking a scorecard or scorebook to the game. Be a part of the living, breathing game of baseball and it will take hold of you unlike any game can. It’s something amazing.

 

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