5 Burning Questions Heading into the 2018 Red Sox Season

Don’t look now folks, but opening day at Fenway Park is a little more than a month away. There hadn’t been much buzz around the Red Sox this offseason until their signing of JD Martinez, which became official on Monday. Now they’ve added the big power bat they’ve been craving ever since Big Papi retired. There are still a lot of questions surrounding this team as we sit a little over a month away from the start of the season.

1. Can David Price prove to be healthy and finally live up to his huge contract?

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Photo Credit: The Boston Globe

It’s now been over 2 years since David Price signed a 7 year deal worth $217 million with the Sox. I think it’s fair to say Price’s first 2 years in Boston have been rocky. He’s clashed with the media and team broadcasters, battled an elbow injury all of last season, and hasn’t lived up to expectations on the mound. In terms of the elbow injury, it sounds like Price has fully moved past it. A few weeks ago he was quoted saying, “I haven’t had one instance this offseason, whether it was playing catch or doing anything on the field, where I was like, ‘That doesn’t feel right.” This is great news for the Red Sox because Price appeared to have turned a corner on the mound when working out of the bullpen late last season. He looked as dominant as he has since putting on a Red Sox jersey.  He appeared 7 times between September and October throwing a combined 15 and 1/3rd innings, allowing 0 Earned runs, and striking out 19 batters. If Price can carry that momentum into this season, I believe he can make a run at a second career Cy Young Award and form the best 1-2 pitching punch in the MLB, with Chris Sale. Finally, when speaking with the media at Spring Training a few weeks ago, he admitted that he could have handled the media better last year. Let’s hope Price can keep his head on straight both on and off the mound this year.

2. Have Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts already peaked?

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Photo Credit: Boston.com

If we rewind 3 or 4 years, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley were arguably more highly regarded than Mookie Betts. Now as we approach the 2018 season, the Red Sox are getting close to the point where they need to decide whether they see both players as the future of the organization. The hype around both of them has fizzled out in the last year or so. Xander’s batting average has dropped in consecutive seasons. Although he had 21 home runs back in 2016, that was sandwiched between 7 in 2015 and 10 in 2017. People keep waiting and wanting to see him pop 25+ HR’s year in and year out, but it seems like that’s wishful thinking. Bogaerts was once regarded as an exciting elite shortstop in the MLB, but has now become an afterthought with studs Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor rising as superstars at the SS position. I worry that Bogaerts’ ceiling isn’t quite as high as we envisioned a few years back. Bradley on the other hand continues to be a defensive stud in center field, but proves to be a below-average hitter. He led Red Sox hitters in strikeouts last year, and was below the league average in batting average, and on-base percentage. He just hasn’t made the strides as the solid hitter that Red Sox fans have hoped for. The upcoming season feels like a make or break year for both of them.  If they struggle again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sox try and unload one of them next year, since they are both represented by Scott Boras. Boras said it’s likely that neither one will sign a contract extension before they hit free agency in the next 2 years.

3. Can Rick Porcello rebound after his disastrous 2017 season?

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Photo Credit: Over the Monster

There’s no denying that Rick Porcello was horrible last year. Just a year removed from winning the AL Cy Young award, Porcello set a career high for most losses in a season with 17, gave up a league leading 38 HR’s, and had an ERA of 4.65. This was a far cry from his 3.15 ERA back in 2016. Over Porcello’s last 4 seasons he’s alternated between good/great seasons to horrible seasons. During even numbered years 2014 and 2016, Porcello had a WHIP under 1.25, an ERA of under 3.50 and 15+ wins. while of course winning the 2016 Cy Young. In odd numbered years 2015 and 2017, Porcello has had an ERA of 4.92 and 4.65 and a combined 32 Losses. If past history is any indicator, Porcello should be in store for a good season. The thing is the Sox don’t need Porcello to return completely to his Cy Young Form. He’s now the clear #3 starter going into the season, with Chris Sale and a healthy David Price together for the first time. The expectations don’t need to be as high for Ricky. If Porcello can keep the ball in the yard this year, and bring his HR allowed to around 20ish, while keeping up his strong strikeout rate (8th in the AL in 2016 and 9th in 2017 in K’s), then he should easily bring his ERA below 4.00. This would give the Sox one of the best rotations in the MLB.

4. Will JD Martinez fill the David Ortiz void?

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Photo credit: USA Today

In the Red Sox’ first year without David Ortiz (last year), they finished 27th in Home Runs with 168. By comparison, Yankees sluggers Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge combined for 144 Home Runs between the 3 of them. As a fellow Red Sox fan I was very disappointed when they missed out on Stanton this offseason, never-mind the fact that he went to our arch rival the New York Yankees. Thank goodness, they redeemed themselves by signing JD Martinez. JD hit 45 home runs. in only 119 games. The 45 HR’s were a major outlier in JD’s career, as his previous 3 year totals for Home Runs starting in 2014 were 23,38, and 22. The key question now is can Martinez carry over the momentum from last year and provide the Sox the missing power bat they’ve needed since Big Papi retired. Also, one question we always have to ask when someone is coming from a smaller market like Arizona/Detroit (JD’s previous 2 teams) is, can he handle the Boston Media? If JD can come close to replicating last years numbers of 45 dingers with a .303 Batting Average and 104 RBI’s, then they have clearly found their man… at least in the regular season. The Postseason is totally different, as Big Papi displayed year in and year out.

5. Just how much potential does Rafael Devers have?

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Photo Credit: The Boston Globe

Red Sox fans and people in the organization got a glimpse of 20 year old (let that age sink in for a second) 3B Rafael Devers last year. He was highly regarded around baseball as the 2nd best prospect in the organization and had a lot of positive flashes in his brief time in the majors last year. In just 58 games, he had 10 HR’s and batted a very solid .284.  He even batted .400 against lefties in 50 at bats last year, so he probably won’t be losing many starts to Eduardo Nunez when a fellow lefty is on the mound. Does anyone remember his opposite field game tying home run against a 103 MPH fastball from stud closer Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees?

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While Devers struggled defensively at 3rd base, committing 14 errors in 56 games, The Red Sox have a great deal of confidence in him at the plate. Early whispers out of spring training are predicting he’ll be batting in the middle of the lineup. Fangraphs, a projection website has a projection of 27 HRs/80 RBI’s and a .275 average for Devers. All which would be more than welcome for a 20 year old kid brimming with potential. If Devers can bring his high strikeout percentage down a little, then the sky is the limit for him.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m slowly getting excited to get back to Fenway to down some Fenway Franks, sing along to Sweet Caroline, and hopefully see the Sox get back to the World Series. Go Sox!

5 Predictions for the Second Half of the NBA Season

The trade deadline and NBA All Star Game have both passed which means the NBA Playoffs are less than 2 months away. The second half starts back up tomorrow. Here are 5 bold predictions I have for the second half…

1.The Oklahoma City Thunder rip off a win streak of 10+ games and finish with the 3rd seed in the Western Conference.

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Photo Credit: Opencourt Basketball

The Thunder have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NBA this year. They’re a combined 4-1 against the Rockets, Warriors, and Spurs, the top 3 teams in the West. Yet they’re a combined 4-7 against the Mavs, Magic, Nets, and Lakers… some of the worst teams in the league. They’ve clearly shown they play up to their level of competition. Now it’s time to show they no longer will play down to their competition. I’m confident that reigning MVP Russell Westbrook will demand that his teammates bring their full focus every night in the second half of the season. Although they’ve slipped a little in the last month or so, they’ve been one of the best defensive teams in the league and have lost many close games. These types of things usually find a way to balance out and I believe this will happen for OKC, as they end up ripping off a big win streak and finishing 3rd in the West. It won’t be easy though, as they will play the Rockets, Warriors and Spurs two times each.

2.  The race for the #1 seed in the East comes down to the final week of the season… and the Cavs who currently sit 6.5 games behind the Raptors for the 1st seed, make a serious run at it.

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Photo Credit: USA Today

Right now the Raptors sit first in the East with a 2 game lead over the Celtics, followed by LeBron and the Cavs who are 6.5 games out of first. I believe this race is a long way from over and before it’s all said and done, the Cavs could still steal the first seed. I am buying into LeBron’s new supporting cast and believe that the Cavs are a real threat to represent the East in the NBA Finals again. I think the All-Star break has come at a great time for the Celtics, as it appears 2nd year Guard Jaylen Brown and Rookie Forward Jayson Tatum have hit a bit of a wall recently. The time off should do them well and help the Celts gear up for a second half run to the #1 seed. Finally, the Raptors are in the midst of their best season in the franchise’s existence and have been arguably the most consistent team in the conference. The Celts and Raptors play twice between March 31st and the end of the regular season (April 18th). The Raptors and Cavs also square off once in April. I have a feeling these specific match-ups will decide who takes the #1 seed in the East. Don’t underestimate the importance of the #1 seed this year. Two of these teams will have to battle in the 2nd round of the playoffs, while the #1 seed will most likely have a much easier match-up, most likely against the Bucks, Wizards, or Pacers.

3. Isaiah Thomas shines with the Lakers and helps to salvage some of his value as he prepares to hit free agency this summer… but not before Lavar Ball tries to throw IT under the bus for bad shot selection or missing a game winning shot.

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Photo Credit: Slam Magazine

It’s no secret that this has been the “season from hell” for Isaiah Thomas. First, he gets traded from the city and team he loved, the Boston Celtics. Then he misses the first 3 months of the season due to his groin injury. Finally, he gets traded again and as nothing more than a throw-in to a team who won’t be making the playoffs this year. It’s not all negative for IT in his new situation with the Lakers. First, his dad grew up a huge fan of the team and Isaiah actually wanted to sign with the Lakers a few years back. Second, the situation isn’t that unlike the time he was traded from the Suns to the Celtics. The Lakers are a young team with a lot of up and coming talent to support him, combined with low overall expectations. Although, it’s not an entire roster of scrubs. Finally, the team is going to lean on him to score a lot, similar to the Celtics and not what LeBron needed in Cleveland. I think IT will be rejuvenated and shine with the Lakers. It’s a much better situation than people probably realize. It won’t come without some controversy though. Is there any doubt that Lavar Ball doesn’t come out after a game and rip IT? The dialogue will go something like this “Some players on the team are shooting the ball too much man! They’re worried about getting paid in the offseason! Not my boy, he just wants to win and make the team better. He needs to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game.”

4. Ben Simmons runs away with Rookie of the Year.

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Photo Credit: FanRag Sports

If I made this prediction back in November, everyone would have said, “wow way to really go out on a limb MJ.” Fast forward a few months and everyone is all aboard the Donovan Mitchell train for Rookie of the Year. While Mitchell has been absolutely phenomenal, the Sixers have a better record than the Jazz and sit inside the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Meanwhile the Jazz, led by Mitchell have been on fire, winning 11 games in a row. They still sit outside the playoff picture and I believe this will remain the case at the end of the season. Meanwhile, I think Simmons will come out extremely motivated in the second half, to prove the “haters” wrong in not voting him into the All Star Game. He hit a bit of a rookie slump in January. Some people said, “The league was starting to figure him out.” He seems to be breaking past it in February, as illustrated by his triple-double in the final game before the All-Star Break. He’s also had a few double-doubles and another near triple-double in February.

5. The Sacramento Kings easily coast to the worst record in the league, giving them the best chance at landing the #1 pick in the June Draft.

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Photo Credit: LA Times

I’m going to try and keep this short since no one cares about the Sacramento Kings. I have to sadly admit I’ve actually watched the Kings play twice this year. It’s honestly a miracle that they only have the 5th worst record in the league. They’ve somehow won 18 games. Outside of maybe Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, I’m not sure a casual NBA fan could name one player on the Kings… and unfortunately it’s not 2007 so Vince Carter and Zach Randolph headlining your team isn’t a good thing. They just traded their former starting Point Guard George Hill to Cleveland. They’ve already started resting veterans like Zach Randolph in the second half of back-to-back games, illustrating that they’re fully embracing tanking and going after the worst record in the league. I don’t think the Kings win more than 5 games for the rest of the season, easily giving them the worst record in the league.

The race to the end of the season should be interesting. There are still a lot of unanswered questions this season. Will the Rockets find a way to take the 1st seed in the West? Can LeBron and the Cavs maintain their hot streak and steal the 1st seed in the East? Will the 76ers finally make the playoffs? Will Lonzo Ball comeback soon and have a big 2nd half of his rookie year? Is the MVP award James Harden’s to lose? We’ll have all these answers in the next few months. Be sure to keep your eyes open for my NBA Playoff Preview come April!

If You Haven’t Bought Stock in the Rhode Island Rams, the Time is Now

For those of you who may or may not know me, I’ve gone on rants about how this is “our year” regarding the Rhode Island basketball program multiple times over the last few years. The team finally broke-through last year and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1999 squad which was led by Lamar Odom. Last year’s team upset the 6th seeded Creighton Blue Jays in the big dance. Rhody would go on to lose a heart-breaker to the Oregon Ducks in the next round. The Ducks ended up getting all the way to the Final Four.

Coming into this season, the expectations for the Rams were sky high. They were projected to win the A-10 and numerous analysts had them ranked inside the Top 25. So far they’ve lived up to all the expectations and more.

The Rhode Island Rams are up to #16 in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings and #14 in the USA Today Top 25. Most college basketball analysts have them slotted in around a 5 seed in their projected NCAA field. Their win streak is up to 16 games in a row, tied for longest in the country. They’re one of 6 teams left that are undefeated in conference play at 13-0 in the A-10.

This team is led by a group of close knit seniors and a top 5 backcourt in the nation. There are a few cliches that come to mind when talking about winning formulas in March. Two of the biggest are “great guard play” and “senior leadership/experience.” We’ve seen this come to fruition many times over the last few years. Take for example the 2011 and 2014 UConn national championship teams  which were led by guards Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier respectively. They almost single handily carried their teams to national title. Also, the last 4 “Most Outstanding Players of the Final 4” have been guards as well (Joel Berry – UNC, Ryan Arcidiacono, Senior – Villanova, Tyus Jones – Duke, and Shabazz Napier, Senior – UConn).

URI has arguably the deepest backcourt in the country. They’re led by senior Jared Terrell. Terrell is the odds on favorite to win the A-10 player of the year. He’s top 10 in the conference in points per game, 3P%, Steals, and FT%. After Terrell they’re filled with experience in seniors EC Matthews, Jarvis Garrett and Stan Robinson. Matthews and Robinson are both former top 100 recruits.

They also have sophomore Jeff Dowtin and Freshman Daron “Fatts” Russell in the backcourt. Dowtin is #3 in the country in assist/turnover ratio, averaging 4.58 assist for every turnover he commits. Meanwhile the 5″10 Fatts (5″10 is very generous… I think he’s closer to 5″8) has some people calling him a “young A.I.” and Coach Danny Hurley has said he will be one of the best players in the A-10 in the next few years. As respected college basketball insider Jon Rothstein always says of Fatts…

Buystock!

Beyond that, Coach Danny Hurley is highly regarded as the best coach in the Atlantic-10 and has received more national hype than any of us could have imagined. He is undoubtedly in the running for “Naismith Coach of the Year.”

The truth is that the secret is just about out on URI. If they win out they’ll be a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Dan Hurley within the last few weeks has done interviews on SportsCenter, The Jim Rome Show, Farrell on the Bench radio show, and had a big article written on him on cbssports.com this week. Finally, this past Saturday, even College GameDay on ESPN opened up their show with Jay Williams talking about how Rhody is the best kept secret in college basketball (see below clip).

(Thanks to John Daley for letting me use this)

So here’s a friendly piece of advice to everyone who’s going to be filling out their brackets in a few weeks… make sure to pencil Rhode Island in at the very least advancing to the Sweet 16, because odds are they’ll be favored to get there… and don’t be surprised if they make a run to the Final Four. They have all the key ingredients to get there with great guard play, senior leadership, and top of the line coaching. This finally is the year for the program. RHODY! RHODY! RHODY!

 

The curious case of Malcolm Butler

There’s a lot to talk about today after last night’s loss, but nothing more noteworthy than the absence of one Malcolm Butler.

Malcolm played 98% of the defensive snaps in the first 18 games of this season. Last night he played zero. He did play one snap on special teams.

So the question is… why didn’t Butler play?  There’s been a few theories on this.

The first is taking Belichick for his word that Butler’s benching wasn’t a disciplinary reason. When asked about it after the game Bill said “We put the best players out there and the game plan out there because we thought it’d be the best to win.”

Personally, I think this is complete BS. I don’t think there’s a single Pats fan who felt this was “the best decision for the team.” It’s also clear that some Patriot players feel that the benching of Butler did not put the team in the best position to win.

Former Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner put up numerous Instagram posts during the game which displayed how he was highly critical of Bill’s decision to bench Malcolm. One of them which can be seen below, was liked by defensive captain and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. It’s pretty eye opening to see a leader on the team like an Instagram post critical of his own coach (his username is boomtower). I can’t imagine Bill is too happy about this.

The other theory is that Belichick lied to everyone and the benching WAS disciplinary related. I think this was more likely. There’s already been some whispers that he missed curfew one night last week and got caught with weed when he came back late to the hotel. There haven’t been any Patriots insiders to report this yet so nothing is official on this front.

The argument against this would be then why didn’t Malcolm come out after the game and say this or hint it in his post-game comments. He knew it was the last time he’d be in the Pats locker room and he won’t be back with the team.

Instead when asked was he given a reason on why he didn’t play, Malcolm said “No.” He also said, “They gave up on me. F*** It is what it is”. He clearly was very emotional and it is interesting looking back at it that he didn’t give the media anything and basically said he doesn’t know why he was benched.

If he was indeed benched for disciplinary reasons and something to do with weed or being intoxicated, then why dress him at all for the game? Why let him play a snap on special teams? Bill should of just sent him home and put him on the inactive list for the game if he really wanted to prove a point. They had 2 corners on their practice squad they could of activated for the game.

I reserve the right to change my opinion on the following take if we get more information that Butler really crossed the line, but if he was benched because Bill really thought the combination of Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi, and Jordan Richards were better… or he was benched the entire game because he missed curfew and got caught with some weed, then you could make the argument Bill potentially cost them a Super Bowl victory. Of course he’s still the best coach in NFL history and I want him to come back next year, but this is something I know I won’t ever forget when looking back at this Patriots run/game and I would assume a lot of other people would agree with me as well.

I think we all know Malcolm Butler will never play another down for the Patriots and although he had a down year by his standards, I’ll miss the guy a lot. Nobody will ever forget the interception he made to win Super Bowl 49 but his legacy is more than that in my opinion.

We all know its been a rocky year for him on and off the field but for the majority of his time with the Pats, he had been the ultimate example of the “Patriot way.”

He made the roster as an undrafted free agent. He’s never been the most athletic player, or the fastest (ran a 4.62 at the NFL Combine)… but this guy competed his ass off as much as any corner in the NFL. He became so easy to root for the last few years because of how hard he played, how well he played despite being grossly underpaid, and becoming one of the better cornerbacks in the league as an undrafted free agent.

It definitely hurts to see Malcolm’s career with the Patriots to come to an end like this. I hope he finds a way to get paid this off-season and success with his next team. In the meantime, I’ll try and hold back my tears as well Malcolm.

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Dear Patriots Fans

Every Patriots Super Bowl article/ memory is better with NFL Films Music… Play while reading if you please.

Dear Patriots Fans,

While I don’t think this will be the Patriots’ final playoff appearance with Bill and TB12, there’s no denying the fact that the iconic duo is nearing the end of their record run. Nothing lasts forever and with Brady now 40 and Belichick 65, you have to think they only have a few years left together.

As we gear up to watch our favorite team play in their 8th Super Bowl this century, take a step back for a minute, take it all in and don’t take a second of it for granted.  Honestly, it’s almost easier said than done sometimes. The last time the team played on wildcard weekend was way back in the 2009 season, with a 33-14 home loss to Baltimore. The last time they missed the playoffs was in 2008, when TB12 tore his ACL in week one of the regular season against the Chiefs. The Pats still finished 11-5 and became the first team to have 11 wins and miss the playoffs. The last time they failed to reach double digit wins was 2002. I was 9 years old… today I’m 25. As Patriots fans, we’ve been spoiled to the max by this organization over the last 17 years….17 YEARS!

This isn’t supposed to happen in the NFL. It can maybe happen in the NBA where it’s easy for superstars to team up in free agency, or the MLB where there’s no salary cap and a team like the Yankees or Red Sox can quickly rebuild with their superior financial resources , But this isn’t supposed to happen in the NFL, the ultimate team sport. The salary cap era was supposed to prevent dynasties. Also, injuries occur frequently in the NFL and can catastrophically derail your favorite teams season. The Patriots have defied all those theories – year, after year, after year.

If you’re my age and reading this, talk to your parents about the team before B.B. and TB12 joined the organization. They’ll tell you about how bad the organization was for so many years. They’ll tell you just how much it meant to them to even make the Super Bowl back in 1997 against the Packers, even though they would fall 35-21.

That game was my first sports memory. I remember watching with my dad back when I lived right around the corner from the old Foxboro Stadium in Sharon, Mass. He was getting so angry and intense as he began to watch the game slip away from the Pats.

Now we watch as Patriots fans and expect to be in the Super Bowl and win every year.  Now we watch and a game that would be “slipping away” for the 31 other NFL teams, just feels like another chance for the organization to add to their prestigious history. As fans, we all know the game is far from over and we EXPECT them to pull off a comeback and win.

I remember watching a game against the Redskins during my freshman year of college back in 2011. Brady threw for 350 yards and 3 TDs and the Pats won by 7. This was back when he “only” had 3 Super Bowl ring’s but I recall thinking to myself, “Wow this isn’t going to last forever. This man is absolutely amazing. I need to make sure I appreciate every damn time Tom takes the field and tries to pave his way to become the best QB ever.” Fast forward a little over 7 years later and there’s no longer any doubt on who’s the best QB in NFL history. He’s playing in his 4th Super Bowl since that day and going for his 3rd ring in the last 4 years. Everything he and Bill have accomplished in their careers, remains unfathomable to me.

As fans, we no longer concern ourselves with the naysayers who call the team cheaters, or the Patriots haters who come up with any and every BS excuse on why we win/ why they hate us. At this point, the legacy of B.B., TB12, RKK (Robert Kenneth Kraft), and the entire organization is firmly cemented.  Now they get another chance to add to the accolades and history… and B.B. and Tom get another chance to display why they’re not only the best coach and QB in NFL history – but maybe the best coach and athlete in sports history.

Sincerely,

An extremely fortunate and grateful Patriots fan

Quit your hating on LeBron James

LeBron James has been arguably the most scrutinized, hyped, and tantalizing athlete of my generation. At this point, unless you’re totally naive, you’ve come to respect his greatness on the basketball court. He is hands down one of the best basketball players to ever take the hardwood. His achievements speak for themselves. If you for some reason – you think he’s overrated or sucks then there’s no argument that I or anyone can ever make to convince you of his greatness.

LeBron James the person, on the other hand, still has a lot of haters and naysayers. The people who continue to dislike him, as a person have many terms to describe him; tool, loser, cocky, fake, big-ego, etc.

There are “many” reasons LBJ the person has elicited many haters over the years. These people will start their argument with how he handled “The Decision.” This was when LeBron televised his choice to spurn the city of Cleveland and join the Miami Heat live on ESPN back in July of 2010. I was also throwing a lot of shade at LBJ for the way he handled this situation.

LeBron has been the first one to regret how he handled “the decision.” He’s been quoted saying “If I had to go back on it, I probably would do it a little bit different.” He’s also said, “If the shoe was on the other foot and I was a fan, and I was very passionate about one player, and he decided to leave, I would be upset too about the way he handled it.”

Personally I gave up my hate over LeBron’s handling of that situation a long time ago. He made a mistake, lived up to it, and moved on. It would be silly to hold it against him for the rest of his career. After all it’s not like he cheated on his wife (Tiger), was caught in the hairs of a murder (Ray Lewis), or gambling at casinos the night before a game (Michael Jordan). Lets also not forget that he returned to the Cleveland Cavilers a few years later and helped lead the city to its first championship in any sport for the first time in 52 years!

Other people will argue that LeBron is just “so cocky” based on his tweets or Instagrams. The latest Instagram that sparked controversy was one from last Tuesday per below…

All the LeBron haters are coming out after him on this one.

“Oh wow he’s so “humble”… congratulating himself for an achievement he hasn’t even accomplished yet.”

For those of you out there who want to continue to critique him for every single thing he says, tweets, instagrams, and does on or off the basketball court, here’s some advice.. get over it and put yourself in LeBron’s shoes for a second.

Imagine the following scenarios: growing up with no father at any point in your life, moving a dozen times and living on couches with your troubled mother between the ages of 5-8, being told as a junior in high school and up until today that you’re going to be the best ever at your profession and that you are the “second coming.” There hasn’t been a single athlete that ever has had to deal with as much hype and expectations as LeBron James.

Now picture this when it comes to LeBron… he’s lived up to all the pressure and more, not only on the basketball court, but off it as well. He’s never even sniffed trouble with the law off the court, and he was named one of Time Magazine’s top 100 most influential people in the world. He has started his own philanthropy work to essentially rebuild the Akron, Ohio school community.

As a leader of his team, his teammates will vouch that he is one of the hardest-workers they’ve ever seen. He’s never taken his incredible athletic genes for granted. Take for example this quote by teammate Kyle Korver.

“Behind the scenes, just how hard he works. He’s a machine. You don’t see guys this late in their careers, guys who’ve had this much success, be the first guy in the gym. He’s still there. I was blown away.”

If you want to argue that LeBron has a lot confidence and once in awhile has a big-head… I won’t argue with you. But don’t take for granted everything he’s achieved in his career, on and off the basketball court. Don’t take for granted that he’s been told for almost 20 years just how good he was going to be/is… and has lived up to all expectations. I would wager that if the roles were reversed and you were in his shoes, you’d probably have just as “big a head” as LeBron… if not much bigger. I know I would…

LeBron on the cover of SI as a Junior in High School

If LeBron wants to take time to gloss over one personal milestone, that means a lot to him, then let the man be! He’s overcome a lot over the years and could never have never imagined in his wildest dreams, that he would be where he is today in his career/life.

The only athlete in my generation that I think has had as much sustained success as LeBron is none other than our own hero Tom Brady. As a Tom Brady fan, it irritates me when haters call Tom a “cheater” for deflategate, a “baby” for always complaining to the refs, or a “pretty boy loser” for putting his name to the Uggs. These irrational reasons for shooting hate towards Tom Brady are frustrating and dumb… and not much different than the irrational hate people aim towards LeBron.

So if you are someone who is constantly hating on LeBron James, hopefully this article has opened a new light for you on why it’s time to push that hatred to the side. Sit back and start embracing the once in a lifetime NBA Player, and the man he is. Respect the greatness y’all!

Tiger Woods is officially back on the PGA Tour this Thursday… but what does this mean?

Tiger Woods is slated to tee it up at the Farmers Insurance Open this Thursday. This will mark his first official PGA tournament since his latest back surgery last April. The tournament is played at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California. Tiger has won an astonishing 8 times here as a member of the PGA Tour.

Tiger will be returning from his 4th back surgery. We’ve seen this story multiple times over the last few years. Golf and sports fans around the world watch with anticipation at the possibility of  getting a glimpse of the old Woods, the man who dominated golf unlike anyone we’ve ever seen. We are then given the same unfortunate story where he plays in a few tournaments only to have reoccurring back problems and then heads back (no pun intended) to the sidelines to try and heal the chronic problem.

There’s still a lot at stake for Mr. Woods, if he can find a way to come even close to his old form. He’s been stuck on 14 major victories since 2008. This is second to only Jack Nicklaus who holds the record with 18.

He’s also second in career wins on the PGA Tour with 79, trailing only Sam Snead who had 82. In fairness to Woods he has 329 career starts on tour while Snead had 585. To put that in perspective, Tiger Woods has won 24% of his career starts on the tour..or almost 1 of every 4 starts.

It might be unfair to expect Woods to ever regain his elite form and catch Nicklaus’s 18 Major Championship victories, but I don’t think it’s out of the question to see Woods get a victory on the tour this year (yes I’m drinking the kool-aid but this comeback feels different then the last few years).

The return of Tiger goes far beyond his stats and career achievements. I can’t think of a single athlete who means more to the popularity of a sport than Woods.

I’m a golf junkie. I can promise that you won’t meet a person who has more knowledge about the PGA Tour than myself. I follow it week in and week out, and can spit out a random fact about 90% of the golfers on tour.

Unfortunately golf’s popularity has been in a downward spiral the last few years. Last year the final round of the PGA Championship drew it’s lowest overnight TV rating since 2008.

Last year’s final round of the Masters, which is the biggest event in the sport drew its lowest overnight TV rating since 2004. Not coincidentally Tiger Woods didn’t play in any of the Majors last year. He’s obviously been sidelined for the last few years, and seen his game decline even when described as “healthy.”

Back in December when he played in the Hero World Challenge, an exhibition event that hosts 18 golfers, TV ratings for the event opened some eyes. It was the highest rated PGA event of the 2017-2018 season to date and had very similar ratings to the final event of the 2016-2017 season “The Tour Championship.” This was very impressive for an exhibition tournament during the beginning of December.

As Woods continued to rise to the top of the leaderboard on Friday afternoon, my phone continued to light up with text messages from friends (many of them casual golf fans)…

“Here comes Tigerrrrr”

“Tiger is gonna win the Masters I’m telling you now”

“uhhhh ohhhh MJ he’s backkkk”

“His swing looks more comfortable than it ever has the last few years”

Several snap-stories that I viewed during that Thursday and Friday were videos or pictures of friends at work with one monitor displaying their work duties.. and other screen streaming Tiger’s round.

The event had 22.4 million streamed minutes, the second most of any NBC Golf Event in the entire calendar year of 2017.

This is the power that Tiger Woods holds over the world of golf. Many casual fans can only name a few golfers after Tiger. Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Rory Mcilroy, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas would be the ones that come to mind.

It’s a shame that the golf’s popularity is in the decline, because the tour is filled with more young talent than it has had in years. Seven of the last eight major championship winners marked the first time they have won a major tournament.

Tiger’s latest return will give us a chance to see this young talent on the tour and introduce the nation to a new set of young superstars that people will begin to follow. This excites me as PGA Tour Junkie. The sport deserves more popularity and attention.

At the end of the day though, no one can captivate, excite, and thrill people like Eldrick Woods(his first name is Eldrick not Tiger). Almost everyone wants him to succeed, whether you’re a die-hard golf fan, casual golf fan, a golfer on the tour, or just a fan of sports. If Tiger’s good, it’s better for everyone and has the entire sports world buzzing.

There are roars on a golf course… and then there are Tiger roars. Here’s to hoping we get at least one more moment like the 72nd hole putt that forced a playoff at the 2008 US Open. I’ve watched this countless times. It still never gets old and always gives me the chills… SOUND ON AND GO TIGER!