A Little Has Gone a Long Way

 

201405282214800626385

So what do I do on a day off?  I work!  That’s normal isn’t it?!  But like hell I’m going to keep my mouth shut about the Jays right now.  9 in a row, 13 of 15, 18 of their last 23 to grab a 3 game lead atop the AL East standings.  THIS is the Jays team that Jays fans thought they were going to get last season.

 

I said to my buddy and Soups on Sports fashion correspondent Dustin “Bucket” Harvie during the first series of the season against Tampa Bay that this team had a different look/feel to it than last season.  Now, that isn’t to say “called it!”  I do that more than enough, but in this case while I said that, I can’t say I believed it.  Over the previous 20 seasons this team has just always found a way to disappoint those of us who have remained loyal Jays fans.

 

And this team hardly changed from last season.  J.P. Arencibia out, Dioneer Navarro in.  2nd got a little more shored up but not how any of us have expected, and it remains to be seen weather Juan Francisco can keep up his great play at 3rd which has allowed John Gibbons to put Brett Lawrie at 2nd.

 

But maybe that is all it needed?  As bad as things were, the Jays had far and away the worst catcher in baseball last season, and Navarro is a MASSIVE upgrade.  I also wonder if JPA wasn’t a problem in the clubhouse last season.  He just doesn’t seem like a mentally tough guy and when things when wrong with such high expectations he really went off the rails.

 

And we all forget just how bad this club was defensively to start last season.  When Reyes went down and they had to go with Bonifacio at 2nd and Izturis at SS it was just a train wreck and cost the team a ton of games.  This season, the club is more than sound defensively, and have improved that D even more with Colby Rasmus out and Anthony Gose taking over in CF and finally looking like the kid Alex Anthopoulos thought he could be when he chased him so hard during the 2010 season.

 

It took a brass set for Anthopoulos to pull the trigger on dealing a guy in Brett Wallace at that time who was crushing the ball in Las Vegas while Gose I believe was just 19 at the time and VERY raw.  But Anthopoulos recognized that hitters numbers are always elevated in the PCL, and today Gose is on the rise while Wallace simply looks like he’s done as a potential Major Leaguer.

 

201405251421516968133
Without a doubt Encarnacion is the AL MVP 1/4 of the way through the season

Of course I would be an idiot to not talk about the amazing streak that Edwin Encarnacion is on.  When you have a bat as hot as his in your lineup, you’re going to win some games.  It won’t last, and he’ll go cold at some point, but this lineup is so good right now and new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer has them taking the right approach to the plate.  I said it prior to the season I didn’t like the lineup because they had too many guys who swing for the fences.  Now those guys are grinding out at bats and looking to put the ball in play.

 

Obviously another key has been Mark Buehrle turning back the clock to 2005 and pitching like an ace.  This club needed someone to step up, R.A. Dickey is just too inconsistent (as most knuckleballers are) and Brandon Morrow just can’t stay healthy and is all but done with this club.  Now the focus will move to bolstering this rotation for a run at the division or at least a wildcard spot.

 

Now all you hear about is Jeff Samardzjia.  I’m not a fan of this move unless the price drastically drops.  The Cubs in the offseason apparently wanted both Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez who are the Jays top pitching prospects.  Not a chance, not for a guy who has been average at best until this season in the NL Central.  Samardzjia looks great to start this season, but nobody is viewing this guy as a legit ace.

 

David_Price
This is the dream for Jays fans, but it would take an insane package to convince the Rays to deal Price within the division

And that is what a Stroman and Sanchez package should net the Jays.  I would do it if David Price were a possibility.  I can’t see the Rays being willing to move him in division, but if they were than I would move Stroman, Sanchez and whatever else you had to do to get that done.  Maybe move Rasmus for prospects and then add those prospects to the package for Price.  Maybe move Jose Bautista, move Rasmus to RF and then flip what Bautista nets you to Tampa along with Stroman or Sanchez if that’s what it took?

 

It would take a lot, but Price is perfect.  He is young, proven in the AL East, he’s a legit ace.  But I would only do it with a contract extension and if I’m Rogers I give him whatever type of money he wants.  Don’t let Rogers exec’s like Keith Pelley fool you, they have the money!

 

Now back to the streak.  The skeptics will say “yeah, but they went on that 11 game run last season, almost at the same time”.  This is true, but they didn’t look good at all leading into that run.  This team was showing signs every game if they were able to just stabilize a few things, mainly the bullpen which Casey Jansen did upon returning.  At the risk of jinxing all of this, I’m going to say what my eyes have been telling me….this team is for real.

 

World Series contender?  Not without improving the pitching staff.  I say they need to add a legit ace still weather that be Cliff Lee, David Price, whoever may become available which as I said earlier would cost a ton but it is what needs to be done if they really want to compete.  But if they don’t make a big move like that, the AL East is there for the taking right now.  A ridiculous amount of ball to be played still, but they’ve put themselves in a great spot.

 

Enjoy this Jays fans!  Apparently this team being in the hunt only comes along every 14 years or so (and let us pray that Anthopoulos doesn’t move a future Michael Young for another Esteban Loaiza).  And it remains to be seen if they can maintain consistency, but last season during the 11 game streak I wrote a piece talking about I still wasn’t buying it.  This year I am….and as you all know I”m only wrong 49% of the time….

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

Kings!

 

edmonton-oil-kings-memorial-cup

I was so ticked when I got sick the week leading into the Memorial Cup.  I wanted to do a tournament preview and didn’t get that chance.  Maybe a good thing though in hindsight.  Because this is basically how it would have read: “This tournament is Guelph, and everyone else”.  So I guess it saved me, because the Oil Kings would have made that look ridiculous!

 

What they pulled off was ridiculous.  This is a team that looked to be past it’s window entering the season.  They lost a ton of high end guys.  Half of the WHL’s best blueline in 2013 (Lowe, Musil, Gernat), a lot of key forwards (St. Croix, Ewanyuk, Foster, Wruck, and Legault) and then of course they lost Laurent Brossoit between the pipes.  Of course everyone knew they had a gem in Tristan Jarry, but Brossoit was a stud in the WHL and had proven himself.  Jarry had put up great numbers against weak competition and with such a great defensive squad in front of him.

 

The Calgary Hitmen had taken them 7 in 2013 and most expected them to over take Edmonton as the top team in the East, and even if Edmonton was to make it out of the East there would be no way they would be beating the defending WHL champs from Portland.

 

But Derek Laxdal really took his coaching stock to another level.  Sure they had high end guys still in Lazar, Samuelsson, Moroz and getting Griffin Reinhart back from the Islanders this season was a nice surprise.  But still this teams depth was a huge question mark and he molded guys like Pollock, Sautner, Mayo, Irving, Eller, and Kieser.

 

It isn’t as if this team shocked the world.  But it was clear out of the gate that while this team wasn’t as talented as the team that lost in 6 games to Portland in the WHL final, they were a team that had everyone on the same page.  All season they didn’t wow you on the ice, but they were incredibly efficient.

 

After cruising through the Eastern conference playoffs (in large part thanks to Kootenay upsetting Calgary), the Kings looked outmatched in the first 2 games of the final in Portland.  The Winterhawks just looked too deep and too talented.  But when the series got back to Edmonton, the Oil Kings started taking over the series by playing their game, and matching lines that took the Winter Hawks big guns like Nic Petan out of the series.

 

They pulled off the huge road win in game 5 of the series to take a 3-2 lead home and then held a 5-2 lead in the 3rd period of game 6.  Then the roof caved in.  They imploded, blowing the lead and losing in OT to force a game 7 in Portland the next night.  They were done.  You don’t take a blow like that and get back up.

 

But they did get back up, even after trailing 1-0 after the first period of game 7.  They exploded in the 2nd period and rode that 4 goal outburst to a 4-2 win and the Ed Chynoweth Cup.  We should have known right then that nothing could rattle this team from that point on.

 

Going into the Memorial Cup, I didn’t give them much of a shot.  They had to play 3 games in 4 days, they had so much travel in the Portland series and then to go from Portland to Edmonton to Portland to Edmonton to London in 7 days and then play 3 games in 4 days I just thought it was far too much to ask of a junior team.

 

They didn’t look that good in the round robin, so maybe that travel was affecting them.  Lost the opener to Guelph and lacked jump in their game.  Played well against London, but London was just done as a team as we found out.  And then blew the game against Val Dor, losing in double OT.  Now they needed Guelph to beat London (and the Storm had nothing to play for as they were already in the final).  If London wins, the Oil Kings would have had to play 3 more games to win the tournament.

 

But luckily, the Knights had no fight, and the Oil Kings caught a break in advancing to the semi final for a rematch against Val Dor (fun fact, the name Voyeur stands for Drillers in english, so they are the VD Drillers….just saying…).  They blew it AGAIN.  2 goal lead, gone.  Lead with under a minute to play, gone.  And yet it just didn’t seem to faze them and they kept grinding.  And in the 2nd OT, they kept grinding, and into the 3rd OT they just stuck with it until Lazar with a gorgeous tip ended the longest game in Memorial Cup history.

 

I really figured that was the “B final” so to speak.  Guelph looked great in the tournament and while the Oil Kings were so well coached and had the ability to shut down some of the Storm’s top guns like Rychel and Bertuzzi, the Storm seemingly just had too much speed, too much talent, and were basically playing a home game.  So that’s how smart I am….they had just played this game 13 days previous.

 

I said it in a tweet after and I really believe this, Guelph hadn’t been tested all season long.  They had not been in an elimination game all season let alone a tight elimination game.  That was the difference in this game.  For the Oil Kings, this was nothing and once they made it a 2-2 game early in the 2nd their confidence level clearly shot through the roof.  The game was really done by this point.  Even when the Storm started the 3rd strong and made it 4-3, it didn’t even phase the Kings who came back with a huge goal from Henrik Samuelsson to restore the 2 goal lead.

 

In a way it is sad that the most structured team to play in Rexall this season was the junior team, but that was the case.  And I know it got overused by me on twitter and by the media but this team really was one of the most resilient junior hockey teams you’ll ever see.  They were playing for their boy Kristians Pelss all season and they did him damn proud!

 

Congrats to the 2014 Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings.  They brought a title back to the WHL, and gave a city and region starved for some well played high end hockey something to be proud of.  A team in every single sense of the word.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

2014 NFL Draft Preview

 

2014NFLDraft

Yes I’ll do a mock draft, I know you’re all just DYING to see me get all 32 picks wrong.  But this won’t be like my NHL mock drafts (expect a new one out soon, hopefully prior to the Memorial Cup), I’ll just simply make my predictions without trades.  But there will be trades….many trades!

 

So I think everyone universally agrees that the draft being pushed back 2 weeks was beyond ridiculous.  It should have been moved up a week if anything.  I know, it’s the best run league on the planet and they know better than anyone how to maximize their publicity.  But when all the GM’s, coaches and players hate it, the league may not have a choice but go back to the last week in April.

 

But one good thing is that this event has gone to a whole new level for draft fans since 2012 with the new CBA which got rookie contracts back in order and made trading up worth while for NFL teams.  Under the old CBA, it got to the point where it was actually strategy to pass on your pick in order to save money on the guy you wanted to draft.  I recall well that it was speculated that both the Dolphins in 08 and the Rams in 2010 would simply let the clock run out and make their pick later in the draft when it would make more financial sense.

 

Anyway, enough about the good old days.  I have some things that you should be watching out for.  I decided to go with 3 things because….well….that’s all I could come up with.  Seems like a good reason.

 

So, the 3 things to watch for in the draft:

 

1. Wide Receivers are all over the place in this draft.  Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Marqise Lee, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, on and on and on.  It is an insanely deep WR draft and many people are expecting WR’s to go early.  I’m not expecting that.  It could easily happen, but what I’ve now seen too many times in the NFL draft is when there is a lot of depth at a position in the draft then teams will simply wait to get their guy, and grab something early that they may not get later on.

 

2. Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Tennessee and Arizona are all obvious candidates to take a QB.  There are a few wildcard teams to take a QB.  St.Louis, Kansas City and Cincinnati.  I love it for the Rams because I think Sam Bradford is just about a bust.  They put a lot of talent around Bradford last season, and Kellen Clemens was almost as effective as Bradford was running that offense last season.  For the Chiefs, Alex Smith is Alex Smith.  He’s good, not great.  Even with Donovan McNabb, Andy Reid was always looking to take a QB.  And then the Bengals because Andy Dalton’s deal is up and why give him big money when he looks like he can’t win when it matters?  Now, this doesn’t mean they’ll take a QB with their 1st round picks, but keep an eye on these teams to have another QB in the fold before the 4th round begins on Saturday.

 

3. One of the biggest “casual fan” stories in this draft is that of Missouri LB/DE Michael Sam.  Of course Sam came out about his sexuality prior to the NFL combine, and so there will be intrigue as to where Sam will be drafted.  But the problem for Sam isn’t that he is gay, the problem is that he is a tweener.  He is very limited, he’s not good enough against the run to play DE and he’s not good enough in coverage to line up at LB.  So while most at one time had Sam as a 3rd or 4th round pick, there is a chance Sam doesn’t get picked at all.  I’m betting a team does in the end, but my question won’t be if teams passed on him because of his sexuality, but rather did the team who selected him take him for the publicity?

 

Mock draft time.  This is how I see it going down, I’m not going to go into detail like my NHL mock’s do that are already ridiculously long.  I need some sleep tonight!  So here we go…

 

5701. Houston Texans

Jadeveon Clowney  

South Carolina

Pos: Defensive End  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 266

Far and away the best player available.  QB is the major need, Mack might be a better fit for their 3-4 scheme, but they’ll go with Clowney.

 

 

10292. St. Louis Rams (via Washington)

Greg Robinson 

Auburn

Pos: Offensive Tackle  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 332

Easily the most likely team to trade out of the top 5, but should they stay at 2, Robinson is the likely pick and I believe they’ll then hope to land a WR at 13, and a QB in the 2nd round.

 

 

159885620133. Jacksonville Jaguars

Khalil Mack

Buffalo

Pos: Outside Linebacker  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 251

A lot of different directions this team could go, they’re a mess.  But Gus Bradley is a defensive guy and so getting his hands on a stud like Mack I believe will be too good to pass up.

 

 

2ioheczrkmc2ibc42c9r4. Cleveland Browns

Sammy Watkins

Clemson

Pos: Wide Receiver  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 211

So most will expect a QB here and there have been a ridiculous amount of reports the last few days as to what they’ll do here.  Smoke Screens.  I’m still saying they go playmaker here, Carr at 26.

 

 

g9mgk6x3ge26t44cccm9oq1vl5. Oakland Raiders

Jake Matthews 

Texas A&M

Pos: Offensive Tackle  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 308

As much as I want to see my Man-ziel go here, it’s just not going to happen.  They need to upgrade the line, they can get a QB later on with Matt Schaub in the fold, he will buy them time.

 

 

2996. Atlanta Falcons

Taylor Lewan

Michigan

Pos: Offensive Tackle  Ht: 6’7  Wt: 309

Wow does this fall poorly for the Falcons!  They better trade up to ensure this doesn’t happen, or else trade back.  IF things fell this way, I think they need to reach a bit for Lewan with no real stud defensive players in sight.

 

 

10467. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Evans

Texas A&M

Pos: Wide Receiver  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 231

This seems to make the most sense to most people, so who am I to argue.  When everyone goes 1 way, I go the other, and that logic has failed miserably for me of late so Evans is a Buc.

 

 

172270420138. Minnesota Vikings

Johnny Manziel

Texas A&M

Pos: Quarterback  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 207

I can’t shake remembering Viks coach Mike Zimmer coming out about a month ago and saying he basically thinks Manziel sucks.  Something tells me the rookie coach was attempting to smoke screen, and they really need a QB!

 

 

n0fd1z6xmhigb0eej3323ebwq9. Buffalo Bills

Eric Ebron

North Carolina

Pos: Tight End  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 250

They’ll look to help E.J. Manuel I’m sure.  I just don’t know weather they trade up to get Watkins or Robinson, or stay put and hope a kid like Evans, Matthews or Lewan falls to them.  Ebron would also be a huge help.

 

 

cwuyv0w15ruuk34j9qnfuoif910. Detroit Lions

Justin Gilbert

Oklahoma State

Pos: Cornerback  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 202

Pretty much everyone agrees this needs to be a corner.  Do they go with the Michigan State product and likely fans preference in Darqueze Dennard, or Gilbert?  I’ll say Gilbert.

 

 

105311. Tennessee Titans

Darqueze Dennard

Michigan State

Pos: Cornerback  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 199

And there goes the aforementioned Dennard.  The Titans are a bit of a forgotten team when it comes to a need at QB, but again I like them to take a QB later on rather than early.

 

 

91912. New York Giants

Zack Martin

Notre Dame

Pos: Offensive Tackle/Guard  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 308

A bit of a reach here maybe, but Lewan went earlier than expected, and so if a team needs an OT they’ll have to look at who is next up.  For the Giants, I’m betting Martin would be next up.

 

 

102913. St. Louis Rams

Calvin Pryor 

Louisville

Pos: Safety  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 207

Most expecting WR here, and maybe that’s where they go.  But they have passed up WR’s before only to take them later on.  Pryor added to that D is a scary thought!

 

 

36414. Chicago Bears

Aaron Donald

Pittsburgh

Pos: Defensive Tackle  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 285

Donald is a hot commodity right now and might not last until 14.  But if he’s here, pretty literally nobody believes he’s falling past this point.

 

 

97015. Pittsburgh Steelers

Kyle Fuller

Virginia Tech

Pos: Cornerback  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190

The Steelers really need a corner, and I wouldn’t be anything surprised if Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was given a lot of consideration here as a future replacement for Polomalu.  But in the end they go with the bigger need.

 

 

40616. Dallas Cowboys

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Alabama

Pos: Safety  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 208

Speak of the devil!  The Cowboys are much more desperate to have Aaron Donald fall to them, or possibly trade up.  I seen last night Mike Mayock put Manziel going to them, that would be a VERY Jerry move!  But Clinton-Dix would be a nice/solid pick here.

 

 

31817. Baltimore Ravens

C.J. Mosley

Alabama

Pos: Inside Linebacker  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 234

The entire world has Eric Ebron going here.  So I’m probably going to look like an idiot.  But I don’t see Ebron lasting this long with it not being a good draft for TE.  They’re a team likely to trade down.

 

 

v7tehkwthrwefgounvi7znf5k18. New York Jets

Morgan Moses

Virginia

Pos: Offensive Tackle  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 314

They’ll go WR right?  They have to right?  How Jets would it be to not do that?  And I bet they don’t.  They got their WR when they signed Decker.  They’ll take another, but not at 18….I don’t think.

 

 

1504105201319. Miami Dolphins

Ryan Shazier

Ohio State

Pos: Outside Linebacker  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 237

This kid is a big time late riser.  Most have him going as high as 20 to Arizona, I’m going 1 further.  He is versatile and the fish could use some of that at LB.

 

 

kwth8f1cfa2sch5xhjjfaof9020. Arizona Cardinals

Blake Bortles

UCF

Pos: Quarterback  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 232

They’ll need a QB at some point.  So grab Bortles here who if he fell to this point would be a great pick.  As the top pick, I could see him being a flop.  But sitting behind Palmer for a few years, no pressure in Arizona or being picked 20th.

 

 

dcy03myfhffbki5d7il321. Green Bay Packers

Jason Verrett

VCU

Pos: Cornerback  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 189

When the Pack won it all in 2010, their defense was good and the reason wasn’t Clay Matthews or B.J. Raji.  It was the awesome depth they had at corner, so I believe they’ll look to load up at corner again.

 

 

96022. Philadelphia Eagles

Marqise Lee

USC

Pos: Wide Receiver  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 192

Most don’t believe that Lee will go ahead of Beckham Jr. or Brandin Cooks.  But this is just the way it’s fallen for me.  While Chip Kelly loves his massive wideouts, he needs a burner and he saw a ton of Lee in the PAC 12.

 

 

85723. Kansas City Chiefs

Odell Beckham Jr.

LSU

Pos: Wide Receiver  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198

Here we go with a mini run on WR’s.  Beckham you would think with everything we have all read and heard will be long gone.  But again, I’m not going to be surprised if WR’s drop in this draft due to so much depth at the position.

 

 

40324. Cincinnati Bengals

Bradley Roby

Ohio State

Pos: Cornerback  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 194

They need help at corner, and he’s a local product.  Oh yeah, and he also has off field issues and as everyone knows the last team to worry about off the field stuff, it’s the Bengals.

 

 

8e1jhgblydtow4m3okwzxh67k25. San Diego Chargers 

Anthony Barr

UCLA

Pos: Outside Linebacker  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 255

Everyone else is mocking this pick, so let’s go with it.  I’ll use the same logic as most where Freeney is almost done so they’ll need someone to plug that hole in the near future.

 

 

2ioheczrkmc2ibc42c9r26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis)

Derek Carr

Fresno State

Pos: Quarterback  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 214

So in this scenario, the Browns get their QB.  I don’t like this move of waiting until 26 if that’s how they do it.  I know it was a different regime but they did it this way in 2012 and got humiliated.

 

 

90727. New Orleans Saints

Brandin Cooks

Oklahoma State

Pos: Wide Receiver  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 189

Most have Cooks gone, I like him to fall to this spot mainly because of his height.  The Saints may not have a great D, but they could stand to re-stock the shelves so to speak for Drew Brees.   Cooks would thrive with Brees.

 

 

f1wggq2k8ql88fe33jzhw641u28. Carolina Panthers

Kelvin Benjamin

Florida State

Pos: Wide Reiceiver  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 244

They’re beyond desperate for a WR, and I think it’s probably safe to say that at this point in the draft, Benjamin has the most upside out of all the WR’s remaining.  Hmmmm, maybe a lot of wideouts will go in the 1st….

 

 

y71myf8mlwlk8lbgagh3fd5e029. New England Patroits

Ra’Shede Hageman

Minnesota

Pos: Defensive Tackle  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 310

The run stopper/big plug that the Pats will need in the middle of the line to replace Vince Wolfork.  I’ve seen this mocked by a few people including Mel Kiper “who the hell is MEL KIPER?”

 

 

1799455200930. San Francisco 49ers

Cody Latimer

Indiana

Pos: Wide Receiver  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 215

Another late and big riser.  The Niners are much improved from the Super Bowl team was at wideout, but they still aren’t great.  They’re maybe the biggest threat to trade up from late in the 1st to the teens if not higher.

 

 

9ebzja2zfeigaziee8y605aqp31. Denver Broncos 

Kony Ealy

Missouri

Pos: Defensive End  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 273

I think in this scenario, the Broncos just sit back and add the best player on the board who just might be the pass rusher from Missouri, who could spell DeMarcus Ware should he have injury problems.

 

 

pfiobtreaq7j0pzvadktsc6jv32. Seattle Seahawks

Xavier Su’a-Filo

UCLA

Pos: Offensive Guard  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 307

Who knows.  The Super Bowl champs believe it or not have been horrific drafting in the 1st round, yet have about 80 steals in rounds 2-7 since 2010.  That O-line was pretty suspect late last season so it wouldn’t hurt to add to it.

 

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups