By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
Those Amazing Cubs
Where were you when the Cubs third basemen Kris Bryant threw that slippery ball to first base in that historic 8-7 World Series win, ending 108 years of so-called curses, frustration and Tums-induced comas?
It’s perfectly fine to admit that y’all were jumping and hollering and wishing and praying during that final Indians vs Cubs epic Game 7 wayyyyyyyyy back on Nov 2. If you weren’t, I would question your pulse as a sports fan. I would suppose most of you would be rooting for those Lovable Losers, the Cubs, but perhaps there’s a few Indian fans floating around the Central Valley. Whatever the outcome, it was a win-win for baseball – the Cubs hadn’t hoisted the what-ever-it-was-called-back-then trophy since 1908 and the Indians since 1948.
In any case, it’s safe to admit we were witness to at least one of the most intense and anxiety-ridden baseball game since Abner Doubleday (allegedly) drummed up the game. I can’t remember my stomach knotted so tightly since my Dinuba Little League All-Star team beat Orosi 1-0 in the championship game in 1983 when I scored the winning run on a wild pitch. Now THAT was big-time! We celebrated at Me N’ Eds afterward.
And with a roster filled with players age 24 or younger (Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell), this just may be the first World Series of many, and for Cubs fans all over the world and quite possibly the universe, that is a welcome thought for sure.
Giants and Dodgers roll out the dough for pitching
Filling in a couple of pitching holes is usually a high priority for MLB clubs during the winter season. It’s necessary, and teams attempting to chase the Commissioner’s Trophy (yep, that’s what the World Series trophy is called, thanks Google) they’re happy to open up their billfolds wide and dig deep to cover for their sins of years past. Take for instance the San Francisco Giants, whose bullpen blew a plethora of saves last year – a whopping 32, in fact.
So, how do they shore up a squad that that caused sports talk hosts all the way from Fresno to the Bay Area to lose their mind? Well, pay a 31-year old 62 million dollars for four years that’s what! Now, granted, newly-christened savior of the pen Mark Melancon has been an excellent closer the past three seasons with 131 saves and an ERA of 1.92 over that span but, wow, that’s a lot of money locked up for a dude that’s only expected to pitch about 70 innings total. Maybe it will keep Giant fans from moaning every time Bruce Bochy motions to the pen.
For the Dodgers, they found out LAK (Life After Kershaw) wasn’t that bad as the boys in blue actually INCREASED their winning percentage after the three-time Cy Young Award winner hurt his back. The acquisition of starting pitcher on Rich Hill on August first helped propel the Dodgers to the National League West title (they lost to the Cubs in the playoffs remember?). The leftly with a big ol’ hook only pitched 34.1 innings with three wins but with an ERA of 1.83. The Dodgers offered him a 3-year deal worth 48 million smackeroos.
LATE BREAKING NEWS: The Dodger have ponied up for free-agent closer Kenley Jansen. Hold onto your horses – for five years and $80,000,000 (yes, I used numbers to show just how large a chunk of change that is). Just for reference, the Yankees signed flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman for five years and 86 million.
Raiders on the up, Niners on the down
Three years ago who woulda thunk it? That’s when the Raiders were 4-12 and the Niners were 12-4 – a palindrome’s dream. Hit that fast-forward button and looky, looky, the Raiders are 10-3 and the Niners are 1-12 as of Dec. 12 and quickly heading in opposite directions. Instead of diving in to write about the San Francisco 49ers front office woes I’ll just say they are as dysfunctional as the Kardashian family.
Which leads us to what is absolutely no surprise to us in the Central Valley – and that’s the fact the Derek Carr is on the verge of being a superstar quarterback, is now mentioned as an MVP candidate and whose leadership is transforming an organization.
Carr’s numbers are excellent – 63.5% completion, 3,492 yards and a 24-5 touchdown to interception ratio. When Derek goes the Raiders go, and Raider Nation is going nuts, with thoughts on a Super Bowl dancing in their heads.
Warriors are doing warrior-type things
When Kevin Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors, in essence it felt like when Lebron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwayne Wade in Miami, forming a new brand of “Super Team.” Those guys won two titles in three years. Like many, when Durant, a freak of nature who can virtually score at will, joined Steph, Klay, Draymond and Co. I thought to myself, “Man, I’d really like a churro right now” … hold on … my bad, that’s what I’m thinking right now. Actually I wondered who in the world is going to beat these guys. I mean, surely it’s gonna be like a bunch of high school seniors showing up at a junior high tournament and saying “Who’s next?”
So far, the season is going just swimmingly as Da Warriors are 21-4 and leading the Western Conference. Despite a head-scratching 110-89 loss at the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 10, it looks like the boys in blue and gold are well on their way to a No. 1 seed. For Warriors fans, the hope of putting last year’s epic 3-1 collapse to the Cleveland Cavaliers safely in the rear-view mirror is well on its way to becoming a reality.
Caleb Kelly to play in Sugar Bowl
Oklahoma true freshman and Clovis West alumni Caleb Kelly made the right choice it seems. Kelly, the five-star recruit and winner of the high school Dick Butkus Award as the top linebacker in the nation as a senior, is getting major playing time for the No. 7 Sooners (9-2) and on Jan. 2 will play in the Sugar Bowl against No. 17 Auburn. The game starts at 5:30 on ESPN.
In fact, Kelly has started the past six games and has adjusted well to big-time football. Not bad for an 19-year old who is known for making mature life decisions.
On National Letter of Intent signing day back in Feb, Kelly had three hats on a table in front of him: Notre Dame, Oregon and Oklahoma. Notre Dame went 4-8 this year. Oregon went 4-8. Hmmmmmm, I think Kelly made himself a wise choice indeed. One could say that it was divine intervention.