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The Depressing Futures of Baseball’s Worst Teams

The MLB playoffs are nigh on hand, and while it is a time where several teams are celebrating their clinched spots or fighting vigorously to earn a spot in their final games, many others haven’t seen the spotlight for months. Here’s a look at how bright or dull a future some of baseball’s worst teams have.

Houston Astros

Houston wins the honor of worst team in baseball for the second straight year and it was their fourth straight season below .500. A lot will be different next season in Houston, but wins may not be part of that. The Astros will be switching to the American League in 2013, and after trading some of their best players (Hunter Pence, Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee) over the past two season, there isn’t a lot left in Houston to build around. Jose Altuve is the lone bright spot on the team and he’s basically nothing more than a solid leadoff hitter. He’s also not tall enough to go on half the rides at Disneyland. Unless the Astros dig up some savior prospect from their farm system, it could be a while until this team is relevant.

These uniforms are worse than the Astros themselves.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have a bit more reason for optimism than the Astros. With some decent young pieces in Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo, Chicago has some flexibility to trade for some big name players. And if they choose to keep that young core, the trio may develop into a strong group. But the Cubs still have a long way to go. Their pitching staff is beyond lackluster and their best power hitter, Alfonso Soriano, is getting up there in years.

Colorado Rockies

Playing the majority of their season without their best player, Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies’ season was basically over the moment he was injured. But if he is able to return to form next season, this team may not be all that bad. Carlos Gonzalez continues to hit well and the emergence of Dexter Fowler and Jordan Pecheco gave Colorado three players who hit above .300. Pitching remains a problem, however. The Rockies tried to work with a four man rotation and a strict 75 pitch limit for their starters. This caused them to burn through their bullpen pretty quickly and pretty clearly did not work at all. If they can figure out how to give up less than 5 runs every game, the Rockies have the offense to be a decent club.

Miami Marlins

The beautiful mug of the man riding the Marlins into the ground.

All the hype the Marlins built with their offseason spending pretty much disappeared the moment the season started. How Ozzie Guillen still has his job is beyond me. Within the first week of the season, he mentioned his support for Fidel Castro. For a team whose fan base consists of a large number of Cubans, that’s kind of a stupid thing to say, especially since it has nothing to do with baseball whatsoever. Furthermore, he has bashed his players continually, most recently Heath Bell, saying he doesn’t respect him. His players have quit on him and its shown, as most of the Marlins are having some of the worst years of their careers. With Hanley Ramirez traded and a significant portion of the salary cap invested in their offseason signings, Miami doesn’t have a lot of tradeable assets or flexibility to rebuild. Their first step should be finding a new manager.

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Robert Griffin III Brings In New Era

Greatness is not given.

Greatness is taken.

Taken in the summer.

When no one is looking.

Well on Sunday, everybody was looking as Robert Griffin III stole the spotlight from the NFL’s first regular season Sunday.

In his pro debut, Griffin hit 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns as the Redskins defeated the Saints 40-32 in the biggest upset of the day. He also rushed for 42 yards.

The Redskins put up 40 points for the first time since 2005, a testament to Griffin’s outstanding debut.

Perhaps Griffin’s most impressive stat of all was the only zero he put up: zero interceptions. Of the five rookie quarterbacks to start opening day, an NFL record, Griffin was the only one to not throw an interception. In total, the other four rookie QB’s threw 11 interceptions with his counterpart, Andrew Luck, accounting for three of those.

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Bad day for Colts owner Jim Irsay as both RGIII and Peyton Manning starred today.

But what really left Redskins fans and coaches drooling was what Griffin showed on the field that couldn’t be measured by a stat box.

His composure looked more like that of a seven-year veteran than a rookie as Drew Brees and the Saints mounted a furious rally in the second half.

Griffin’s arm strength looked the part as well, hitting all sorts of throws, from short slants to longer crossing routes and even to deep throws.

RGIII also showed his blazing speed while making plays with his feet.

In some ways, Griffin is a richer-man’s Michael Vick. He’s more durable and more accurate. Griffin also has a stronger arm than Vick.

Yes, it was only one game and it’s only week one but those qualities don’t just disappear. 

The Heisman winner, Griffin, might be this years “Cam Newton,” the 2010 Heisman winner. 

Griffin, following in Newton’s footsteps, might be ushering a new era of the quarterback. For the most part, the NFL has been a pocket-passer’s haven. The likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, have sat in the pocket for years and picked apart defenses. 

But last year, Newton’s breakthrough performance further backed the fact that a dual-threat quarterback can thrive in this league. For years, Michael Vick’s athletic abilities seemed like an anomaly, but look less so now. 

This year, Griffin and Seattle rookie QB Russell Wilson join the likes of Vick and Newton, as quarterbacks who can throw and run.

Behind the track record of success of these quarterbacks and the fact that more colleges are grooming their quarterbacks to run the spread offense, the age of the dual-threat quarterback seems to be taking charge. 

From a fan’s perspective, bring it on.

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Euro 2012’s Final Four

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The Thunder Dynasty is About to Begin

It was in the final moments of the Thunder’s 107-99 win over the Spurs that the truly defining image of this team was seen. Arms raised with the knowledge of his team’s impending win, Kevin Durant walked to the sideline and embraced his mother.

Russell Westbrook was a little excited to advance to his first (of what could be many) NBA Finals.

It’s moments like these that make Durant and the Thunder such a likable group. Sure Russell Westbrook will have his chest-pounding antics, but at the end of the day, this team is just a family. But despite Durant’s child-like humility and innocence shown in hugging his mom, this family has finally grown up.

Just three years removed from the fourth worst record in the league (23-59), two years since taking the defending (and soon to be repeating) champion Lakers to six games in the first round, and one year after a demoralizing defeat to future NBA champion Mavericks, the Thunder have reached the summit of the mountain we all knew they’d eventually climb.

Ever since the young Durant-Westbrook nucleus was formed, everyone in basketball knew the tandem would soon be contending for titles. But to go from those kids with tons of potential but just 23 wins to the Western Conference Champions in just a few years is remarkable. And it hasn’t been without it’s fair share of luck along the way.

The Blazers passing on Durant for Greg Oden was the first step. (It’s interesting to think where Portland would be had they taken Durant. He could have taken the load off of Brandon Roy, saving his knees. With those two on the perimeter and LaMarcus Aldridge inside, that squad could have been even better than this Thunder one.)

Taking Westbrook fourth overall in the 2008 draft was a bit of a shock at the time, but it’s obvious that was an excellent pick. The Grizzlies opted to draft Hasheem Thabeet (clearly a future superstar) over James Harden the following year. The Harden pick was scrutinized as well, as many thought OKC could use a true point guard like Ricky Rubio or Stephen Curry so Westbrook could play the two.

Drafting Thabeet over Harden worked out splendidly for the Grizzlies.

The emergence of Serge Ibaka was another key piece to the Thunder’s success. For all the foreign players drafted then stashed overseas to develop, Ibaka is one of the few to make it to the NBA, let alone lead the league in blocking. His growth has been instrumental.

Then, just months after being dealt to the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins, Jeff Green has heart surgery and misses the year. Had this happened before the trade, just a few months earlier, there is no way the deal gets done and OKC would be lacking a ton of toughness in the interior.

This could all be chalked up to great luck. But really, this is just great management and great teammates making each other better.

But this rapid rise to the top could be short lived. After Harden’s breakout year and given his importance to the team, he’s due a major paycheck increase when his contract expires next season. And so is Ibaka. It’s going to bear near impossible to keep both those players when other teams are throwing max contracts Harden’s way.

So while the Thunder dynasty is just now beginning, it could also be the beginning of the end. Durant and Westbrook, both having signed contract extensions, are around for the long-haul however, so while pieces may move around, this team has made it to the top and is here to stay. If they can figure out a way to keep this group together (judging by the team’s track record, it wouldn’t be surprising if they can pull it off), it could be an exciting decade in Oklahoma. Harden and Ibaka are just 22, Westbrook and Durant are 23 and they all have their best basketball ahead of them.

All I can say is, sorry Seattle.

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Reeves Nelson vs. SI

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