Four Downs – July 10th

FIRST DOWN: I’m done with the 2017 Chicago Cubs.

There…I said it. I feel like I’m in therapy for my favorite baseball team. They won the World Series last November but since then, what a train wreck!

Let’s be honest here…bad things started for the Cubs when they went down 3-1 in the World Series. Yes I know they won the next three games…but look how poorly Joe Maddon began managing the club! He was never a managerial genius but his mis-managing of Aroldis Chapman’s workload defied common sense. On top of that, his disastrous handling of the pitching situation in Game 7 which resulted in a “secure” lead being blown will never be forgotten.

As a notable baseball announcer with ties to the Cubs told me in-person in December, there is a 99.9% chance the Cubs would’ve lost Game 7 if the heavens hadn’t opened up before the 10th inning in Cleveland that night. If the game plays on without delay, the Cubs likely are retired quietly in the 10th inning before losing in the bottom half of the inning.

Flash forward to this season…the Cubs are 43-45 at the All-Star break with only one player selected to the National League All-Star team. Their run differential, which last year was +252 now sits at a whopping 0. Yes…that’s right…Z-E-R-O (hey at least it’s not negative)! Then again, giving up 10 runs in the first inning in the last game before the All-Star break didn’t help matters much…

This year’s team is going nowhere fast. Chicago sits 5.5 games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central and tied with fellow underachievers, the St. Louis Cardinals. While there are still 74 games to play this team is not playoff bound, even in the weakest division in baseball.

I’ll give you a bonus prediction: it’s going to be an ugly offseason in Cub-ville.

The ‘L’ flag has flown much too often at Wrigley Field thus far in 2017.

SECOND DOWN: If and when the Cubs miss the playoffs, should Joe Maddon be fired?

Oh I’m going to get crushed for this one. Yes, Maddon 100% needs to go if the Cubs don’t win the National League Central division. Simple as that. They didn’t win the World Series last year BECAUSE of Maddon, they won it IN SPITE of him.

Maddon’s buffoonish antics have lost the clubhouse. I’m theorizing that the players aren’t buying into his ways and instead they’re tuning him out.

So if and when they miss the playoffs, Maddon should “retire” (aka be forced out politely) and his bench coach, Dave Martinez, a future manager in the making, should take over.

Quasi-Cubs fans would be upset…real, intelligent fans of the team would be thrilled.

Umpire Joe West (who is terrible in his own right) might have the right idea, Maddon needs to go.

THIRD DOWN: Why is the NBA Summer League so popular these days?

It’s pretty simple actually…people want to watch the Summer League because of the parity.

Is anyone going to challenge the Warriors anytime soon? No. Will the NBA do anything to prevent super teams? No. Are the contracts getting out of control? Yes…and sooner or later we’ll see a $100 million player per season in the NBA. It’s ridiculous.

On the other hand, this league in Vegas showcases the recently drafted rookies and other under-utilized young NBA talent. Pretty much that means there’s no LeBron, Steph Curry, or Kevin Durant to ball hog it from the young guys.

I hope the NBA is taking notice though. To me, it seems there’s far more interest in the Summer League than there was in the middle of the NBA’s regular season. Something needs to be done and actually it’s a simple fix. As I’ve written previously, it’s time to re-seed the playoff teams by overall record, not by conference.

I’m not sure why the NBA is so reluctant to make this change as Mark Cuban and several other owners have suggested. It would be revolutionary in sports…and you know what, that’s a good thing for a sport that needs some good publicity.

Remember the formula, folks:
Parity = higher TV ratings / more fan interest.
More fan interest = more money (via ticket sales, advertising, etc…).
More money = even higher player salaries.

Looks like this would be a win-win-win for the league, its players, and its fans.

NBA: Summer League-Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball is the most talked about player of the 2017 NBA Summer League.

FOURTH DOWN: If I could be a General Manager in one of the major sports, which one would I choose?

I plan on writing a mailbag of sports for Wednesday’s column answering some random questions I’ve been asked in these last few months. But this question which I was asked the other day is worthy of a longer response than just being buried in Wednesday’s column.

Of the four major sports I could narrow my choice down to three as I wouldn’t have the first clue how to start building a franchise in hockey.

Being a GM in baseball seemingly would be the most arduous. The constant shuffling of players to and from the disabled list and minor leagues would take its toll. Baseball is also the most unpredictable in terms of drafting a player and projecting his future development. I just don’t see myself being able to understand the intricacies of the sport as much as I would need in order to succeed.

Being a general manager in the NFL would be the most rewarding. Most GMs hand-pick their coaching staffs and more than in any other sport, good coaching is a predictor of success. It’s rare that good coaches consistently fail in the NFL. The roster management would be tricky, especially in-season, but parity in the sport gives every team a chance at success within a few years. What I wouldn’t appreciate about the NFL is the especially short shelf-life of a GM. If your team doesn’t make the playoffs for approximately three years, you’re toast. I’m a person who likes stability so I’m not sure this would be the sport for me.

That leaves the NBA, a surprising choice…but in actuality, is it? The rosters are much smaller (15), making trades is much more common, and GMs are given a much longer leash compared to the NFL and MLB. When things aren’t working, it’s a lot easier to shake things up in basketball compared to the other sports. While the opportunity to win big is lessened due to super teams, the challenge of building a team from the ground up, a la the 76ers would be the most fun.

So there you have it…an NBA GM would be my preferred choice. Then again I think I’d make a better play-by-play announcer so…

I’d be an incredibly trade-happy NBA GM…that’s for darn sure!



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