Yu Darvish Trade Makes Dodgers Unstoppable on Path to 2017 World Series

If there was any doubt about the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ resolve to win their first World Series since 1988, let July 31, 2017, be marked as the date it disappeared.

The Dodgers warmed up on trade deadline day by grabbing two left-handers for their bullpen: Tony Watson from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tony Cingrani from the Cincinnati Reds. And then, as the buzzer sounded at 4 p.m. ET, came the coup de grâce: a trade for Texas Rangers ace right-hander Yu Darvish.

Or, put another way: The best team in Major League Baseball added the best pitcher on the trade market.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was first to report the deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was first with the terms. Then the Dodgers made it official:

That’s not a small haul going to Texas.

Willie Calhoun, a second baseman, checked in as the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect at MLB.com. A.J. Alexy, a right-hander, and Brendon Davis, an infielder, checked in at No. 17 and No. 27, respectively.

However, some words of wisdom offered by Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein at last year’s deadline seem relevant right now.

"If not now, when?"

The Dodgers have been efforting for a World Series title since Magic Johnson and a group of deep-pocketed investors took over in 2012. The process has been largely successful, producing four NL West titles since 2013. Yet also disappointing, as the World Series has remained elusive.

But even before Monday’s events, those four teams already looked like little league squads next to the 2017 Dodgers.

It says a lot that they’re an MLB-best 74-31 and on pace for 114 wins. What says even more is that they’re 65-20 since a 9-11 start. That’s a .765 winning percentage, or a 124-win pace over a full season.

And now they have Darvish.

A guy with a 4.01 ERA through 22 starts might only seem like good-not-great upgrade. But Darvish’s ERA is skewed by his most recent outing, in which he got lit up for 10 runs by the Miami Marlins.

That would be a red flag if the 30-year-old was showing signs of injury. But as Passan heard, the real explanation is much more benign:

Before that outing, Darvish was rocking a 3.44 ERA and striking out 9.7 per nine innings while walking only 2.9 per nine innings. Typical stuff for a guy with a 3.42 ERA since 2012. 

That comes out to a 125 adjusted ERA+, which ties Madison Bumgarner for ninth among pitchers who’ve made over 100 starts since 2012. 

“Every team in baseball would want Yu Darvish. That’s easy," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said last week, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.

Of course, Darvish probably wouldn’t be a Dodger if not for the injury to Clayton Kershaw.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner and current MLB ERA leader exited his July 23 start early with a bad back and is now on the disabled list. For the time being, Darvish will effectively be filling his shoes.

Yet the Dodgers rotation was hardly helpless outside of Kershaw.

Alex Wood has pitched like an ace. Rich Hill has recently joined the club. Brandon McCarthy, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been solid. And all told, Dodgers starters lead baseball in ERA (3.25) and in FanGraphs WAR (13.0).

The Dodgers certainly have enough starting pitching to hold on to their 14-game lead in the NL West. And if Kershaw returns in September as expected, the Dodgers rotation will be reforged into a weapon perfectly capable of cutting through October.

The rest of the team is not too shabby either.

Led by Justin Turner, Corey Seager and super-rookie Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers are the only National League team with nine players who’ve taken more than 150 plate appearances and qualify as above-average hitters with an OPS+ over 100.

Dodgers hitters can also pick it. Per Baseball Prospectus, they’re tied with the Cubs for first in the NL in defensive efficiency.

Last but not least is a bullpen that, like the starting rotation, was already excellent. Dodgers relievers rank second in ERA (2.83) and FanGraphs WAR (5.7). In Watson and Cingrani, Roberts now has a couple of hard-throwing lefties to put to work in front of Kenley Jansen.

So how good are the Dodgers’ odds of winning the World Series?

According to Baseball Prospectus, way ahead of any other team’s odds:

Rank Team WS Win %
1 Dodgers 24.2
2 Astros 17.3
3 Indians 16.2
4 Nationals 10.9
5 Yankees 9.3

And the scary part: These odds haven’t yet been updated to account for Monday’s trade activity.

The obligatory word of warning is that this guarantees nothing.

The Dodgers are a runaway train now, but eventually they’ll come to a landscape where all bets are off. Extreme unpredictability has long been a defining characteristic of the MLB postseason. The 2017 Dodgers wouldn’t be the first superteam to be felled by it.

However, it was just last year that a superteam was the last squad left standing. It wasn’t always easy, but in the end the 2016 Cubs were simply better than everyone.

These Dodgers are much like those Cubs. They’re built to win every phase of the game and generally leave only microscopic nits to pick. 

At least among the National League competition standing between the Dodgers and the World Series, it’s hard to say the same.

The Cubs have begun to resemble the team they were last year, but they may not be free of the inconsistent hitting and pitching that have dogged them for much of the year. The Washington Nationals have a great lineup and rotation but have made only half-measure fixes to one of baseball’s worst bullpens.

It was impossible to have this much confidence in recent Dodgers teams. They were always good but always flawed, with a typical problem being an over-reliance on their stars.

This year’s Dodgers haven’t had that problem, and indeed have had few problems in general.

And on Monday, they set themselves up to remain problem-free all the way to the World Series.

 

Data courtesy of Baseball ReferenceFanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.

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July 31, 2017 at 04:34PM

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Safety Marcus Gilchrist Agrees to Contract with Texans After 2 Seasons with Jets

Enter-Sports Management, the representation for free-agent safety Marcus Gilchrist, confirmed to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Gilchrist has agreed to a contract with the Houston Texans.

Rapoport reported Gilchrist will sign a one-year deal.

Gilchrist played the last two years with the New York Jets. In 2016, he recorded 55 combined tackles and two interceptions in 13 starts.

     

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

     

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July 31, 2017 at 04:06PM

Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand Reportedly Asleep in Parked Car at Time of DUI Arrest

New details have emerged surrounding the arrest of Alabama defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand. 

According to Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News, Hand was asleep in a parked car when he was arrested for driving under the influence. Suttles noted that state law considers the person to be in "constructive possession" of the car if the keys are in the ignition.

Hand was discovered in a parking lot with the car running and the headlights on.

 

 

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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July 31, 2017 at 04:06PM

Martellus Bennett on Jamal Adams’ CTE Comments: ‘I Ain’t Dying for This S–t’

New York Jets rookie Jamal Adams chimed in Monday on NFL player safety and CTE, telling a group of fans he would be fine with dying on the football field, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com.  

Later that day, Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett offered a far different perspective:

"Look football is great but I ain’t dying for this s–t. Lol," he added.

Adams made his comments while explaining his passion for football:

"I can speak for a lot of guys that play the game. We live and breathe it. This is what we’re so passionate about. Literally, if I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field. And that’s not a lie. There’s so much sacrifice that we go through as a team, and just connecting as one and winning ball games. There’s nothing like playing the game of football. But again, I’m all about making the game safer."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tried to frame those comments under the umbrella of passion.

"I think fans understood the emotion of what he was saying," Goodell said. "Which is: We love the game. I think they love the game. But I don’t think anyone took it (literally)."

Still, Adams’ comments come at a time when debate over player safety has become one of the most pressing storylines for the NFL and the sport of football in general. 

Last week, Dr. Ann McKee released a study of 202 brains from deceased former football players that were examined. That study found that 110 of the 111 brains from former NFL players had CTE.

And current NFL players are paying attention. According to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Ravens sources indicated that John Urschel retired on Thursday following the results of the study. Adam Schefter, meanwhile, recognized a pattern:

Bennett and Adams, then, seem to represent two sides of the issue. Players, league officials and fans continue to debate over the proper balance between pursuing a passion in an inherently violent sport and securing the long-term health of football players who choose to play it.

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July 31, 2017 at 04:06PM

Ousmane Dembele Involved in Dortmund Training Bust-Up Amid Transfer Rumours

Borussia Dortmund star Ousmane Dembele has been involved in a training ground incident with goalkeeper Roman Burki.

Football writer Jordan Clarke posted footage of the incident, comparing it to the situation of Barcelona’s Neymar, who has been heavily linked with a departure from his current club:

Per the Guardian‘s Ed Aarons, Neymar clashed with new Barca signing Nelson Semedo in Miami last week amid continuing rumours of a €222 million (£196 million) move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Frenchman Dembele, 20, has been variously linked with both Real Madrid and Barcelona during the current transfer window but recently committed himself to BVB, per Goal.

"To be honest, this speculation doesn’t interest me at all," he said. "I like being here in Dortmund and I decided to join Dortmund after my time at Rennes consciously."

Dembele only joined Dortmund last summer on a five-year contract having enjoyed a breakout 2015-16 in Ligue 1 with Rennes.

He had a decent debut season in the Bundesliga, netting six goals and providing 12 assists, an impressive contribution given his youth, per WhoScored.com:

Dembele has all the attributes to become a European superstar in the future, and Dortmund fans will have been happy to hear him commit himself to their club recently.

However, the footage of his bust-up with Burki is likely to cause concern, especially as Barca are reportedly preparing to move for him if and when they sell Neymar, per Mundo Deportivo (via The Sun‘s Mike Stavrou).

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July 31, 2017 at 04:06PM

Dubious honor: L.A. to host 2028 Olympics (Yahoo Sports)

Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics, in part because the International Olympic Committee, one of globe’s greatest con artists, couldn’t guarantee that any other city on earth would be willing to do it.

You have to credit the IOC here … they certainly know their market. They forecast their future. They had a stretch where they could sell global prestige to the dreamers, the desperate and the despots. It produced ridiculous host cities such as Sochi and Rio and nearly (until they wimped out) Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Back then it could snub its nose at Paris (three times a loser since 1992), Madrid (three times a loser since 2012), New York (2012), Chicago (2016) and others. There was always someone on the edge willing to promise more, spend more, perhaps even grease the skids more.

Those days appear over. The IOC has left a string of past host cities strewn around the globe dealing with decaying facilities and enormous debt. So now the parade of the possible is small and the IOC knows it.

L.A. didn’t even want the 2028 Summer Games, at least originally. It bid on the 2024 Games after Boston, citing public backlash over feared cost overruns, dropped out as the United States’ candidate. The problem with 2024 was the IOC had only one other contender, Paris. It had to choose between Paris and LA, but feared alienating the other into not bidding again, like in 2028.

Eric Garretti is convinced Los Angeles will not make the same mistakes other Olympic host cities have in the past. (Getty Images)

So it struck a deal, giving Paris 2024 and L.A. 2028. This was originally deemed a consolation prize. Since it originally lost to Boston, you could say L.A. is the consolation bracket runner-up here. Or a two-time losing champion. Whatever. The deal is done.

Congratulations. Or something like that.

For the IOC, it was a unique, effective play. And it was one born out of terror. By giving each a bid now, it avoided the potential for 2028 embarrassment. So now it has L.A. down for that way ahead of schedule. Bids are generally handed out five to seven years prior to the Games. The 2026 winter games, for instance, won’t be decided until 2019.

That’s how scared the IOC was. And that’s why it’s up to both the IOC and Los Angeles to try to change it.

You can’t blame the rest of the world, or even Americans, for their apprehension and disinterest in hosting the Olympics, which used to be incredible moments of possibility and civic pride. What everyone has discovered is that the politician promises and clear-minded budgets never seem to come true.

The Olympics are a great party. Developers and IOC officials benefit mightily. Then it ends, everything is a mess and the taxpayers are left holding the bag as they survey the crumbling of abandoned, once gold-plated stadiums.

It’s thus essential for Los Angeles to make sure they aren’t another Rio or Sochi or anywhere else.

It’s also imperative that the IOC does its part to assure it too, because their list of suckers is running thin and they can’t afford to have a string of hosts get wiped out due to largesse. If the four-Olympic run of Tokyo (Summer 2020), Beijing (Winter 2022), Paris (Summer 2024) and Los Angeles (Summer 2028) can’t do it, then who the heck can? No small locations there.

That’s how perilous it’s gotten.

Hosting the Olympics can, conceivably, work. The USOC still draws funding from the profit the 1984 L.A. Games generated. That was a longtime ago, though. Through sheer ego the IOC began demanding more and more from its host cities. Then individual sports federations began demanding world-class facilities even if their sport isn’t popular in the host city.

Rio, for instance, built a PGA-quality golf course even though few Brazilians play golf. Just one year later, the course sits largely empty, overrun with growth. At another point in the process, Rio’s mayor complained about the tennis federation demanding a 20,000-seat venue for the Games, despite, again, few Brazilians playing the game, little ticket demand and no obvious use for it once the torch was extinguished. (The tennis folks denied this and in the end, the actual facility was much smaller and featured more practical temporary construction).

Brazil still overbuilt and is struggling to pay its bills.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has promised his city won’t make the same mistakes. “This moment requires bold new solutions, bold new thinking, and I think Los Angeles is well poised – the best poised – to be able to answer those questions for the Olympic movement today,” he said in trying to win support.

Maracana Stadium, which hosted the opening ceremony in Rio in 2016, is in shambles.

We’ll see. Los Angeles needs to maintain its backbone and the IOC needs to stop demanding and demanding more and more.

And it needs to be realistic. Local organizers claim it will cost $5.3 billion to host the Games. If history is any indication, it will be more. Researchers at Oxford University say the average overrun at every Olympics from 1992 is $5.98 billion (in 2016 dollars).

The L.A. plan maintains global television rights, ticket sales and marketing will cover the bill. If projections are any indication, it won’t.

How anyone can predict the 2028 media landscape is particularly interesting. In 11 years, will the world really still be sitting around the family television each night watching the Games, like this was still the 1980s?

The one thing L.A. has is venues. Lots of them, including a new stadium that will be perfect for the opening ceremony, among other things, being built by private businessman Stan Kroenke.

That does cut down on costs. It does eliminate the risk. L.A. thinks it’s got this figured out, but the IOC always wins in these deals, and the city would be foolish to forget that.

This is the minefield Los Angeles wanted to wade through, though.

And because no one else did, this is what it will get.

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July 31, 2017 at 03:33PM

Rob Gronkowski Rehabbing Back Injury at Tom Brady’s TB12 Therapy Center

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski revealed he has been working out at TB12 Sports Therapy Center, which is run by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero.

Gronkowski said Friday that he sees TB12 Sports as a way to help improve his off-field training, per the Boston Herald‘s Karen Guregian:

"Just looking at Tom, seeing what he does every day, what he eats, talking to him, personally one-on-one, just learning about the body with him, just seeing how flexible he is, how pliable he is, how loose he is all the time, every day and ready to go, I just felt like it was the time in my career where I needed to devote myself at all levels."

         

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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July 31, 2017 at 03:30PM