A’s on the Mound: Should Fans Expect April to Continue?

On Monday night, the defending world champion Astros teed off on Athletics starter Brett Anderson as if they were scrimmaging against Oakland’s Triple-A Nashville Sounds with Anderson still there. Astros leadoff George Springer alone had nearly as many hits as the A’s, breaking an Astro record.

Few expect Anderson, or any of the team’s pitchers, to compete now on the level of Houston’s Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. Many A’s fans would be happy if their pitchers could at least make it look like they belong in Oakland and not Nashville—which until Monday they had.

For a team expected to compete for the last place in the American West, the A’s performed solidly in April.

Although they largely rely on Khris Davis, Matt Olsen, Mark Canha, and Jed Lowrie, for hits, their defense—particularly their pitching staff—at least gave them something to hit for.

After losing key starters to injuries, rather than drop a hefty price on an Alex Cobb or Bartolo Colon, Oakland’s front office decided to farm its existing talent and acquire previous hires.

This no doubt annoyed some supporters because the team started 2018 without an ace. Sean Manaea showed the most promise if only he could return to his old 2016 self. But in 2017, he only managed a 4.37 ERA and lost velocity on his fastball—blamed on the weight loss he experienced from his Attention Deficit Disorder medication.

The A’s rotation, however, proved in April that they can compete with some of the best in the league. The bullpen came alive when needed, with Lou Trevino and Yusmeiro Petit’s having especially stood out.

Manaea led the AL with a 1.03 ERA, including a no-hitter against the Red Sox, which earned him American League Pitcher of the Month.

Losing Jharel Cotton to Tommy John surgery prompted the A’s to bring back free agent Trevor Cahill for a modest $1.5 million one-year contract. They originally drafted Cahill as an 18-year-old in 2006, and he played with them in 2009 and 2010. Like Anderson though, who played with the A’s from 2009 to 2013, Cahill has since gone under the radar, struggling with injuries and bouncing around the league, mostly as a reliever.

Since rejoining the A’s though, Cahill has pitched better than ever and currently holds a 2.25 ERA. He became only the third A’s pitcher to strike out 12 or more batters in six innings in his recent shutout against the Orioles.

Meanwhile, Andrew Triggs and Daniel Mengden have also pleasantly surprised.

Although none of their rotation pitched at an Angels or Red Sox level, they proved they had every reason to be where they are.

Perhaps Anderson’s dismal performance on Monday was “just one of those games,” as Melvin put it. It did differ sharply from his recent debut against the Mariners where he threw the seventh best swinging-strike rate of his career in 6+ innings. But it shows the maddening inconsistency that will likely continue for A’s fans until the team’s starters gain more confidence and experience at the helm.

Although putting away the Orioles improved the team to 18-16, the month of May likely presents the toughest stretch that any team will face this year. After their series against the Astros, they travel to Yankee Stadium to take on the hottest team in the league. They then travel to Boston to face the Yankees’ only competition in that department, followed by the Blue Jays, Mariners, and Diamondbacks.

“That list includes five of the six current best teams in the AL by record, with only the Angels missing,” notes Athletics Nation’s Alex Hall. “In their place, we get the current best team in the NL.”

The lack of aces in their starting rotation created basement expectations for the A’s. To raise them will require the team’s channeling its inner April. Manaea, Cahill, Triggs, or possibly even Anderson could develop into aces with time, but it will require a significant boost in confidence and expectations.

Most A’s fans don’t expect them to win the pennant, but they would like to see it at least be a rebuilding year to put them in contention for 2019. Whether their rotation and bullpen enjoyed a temporary April high—or if they really are that good—will be tested every game in May.








The Curse of Apollo Gets Justified

Red roses. Wide-brimmed hats. Bugle calls. Horses thundering down the homestretch as thousands of fans cheer for their favorites. This is the greatest two minutes of horse racing. This is the Kentucky Derby—where the taxing 6-week road to the Triple Crown begins.

On May 5, with rain pouring over the soggy track at Louisville, Kentucky’s Churchill Downs, three-year-old Justify bolted out of the gate with such confidence and valor that he quickly took the lead. Mud slung with each horse’s gallop as 20 three-year-olds bounded down the track. Although some may have yielded to the difficult conditions, Justify seemed to thrive. As the finish line neared, the massive Kentucky-bred colt lengthened his stride and thundered down the stretch to become the 144th winner of the Kentucky Derby, with a time of 2:04.2.

In addition to winning the coveted $2 million purse and the esteemed title of Kentucky Derby champion, Justify became the first horse in 136 years to win the Derby without racing as a two-year-old. In doing so, he broke what superstitious fans refer to as a 136-year curse.

“The curse of Apollo” as it’s called, harks back to the year 1882 when the three-year-old Apollo defeated the field of horses in the Kentucky Derby after not having raced as a two-year-old. Since the era of Apollo, 61 horses who did not race as two-year-olds have competed in the Derby. All 61 fell short. By breaking the curse, Justify’s victory has notably raised the bar in horse racing.


Justify is co-owned by China Horse Club, WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners, and Starlight Racing. His veteran trainer Bob Baffert is no stranger to Derby victory. Baffert has won five so far, having also trained 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh.

Justify has racing greatness in his blood. His grandfather Johannesberg went unbeaten as a two-year-old before placing eighth in the 2002 Kentucky Derby. His father Scat Daddy was one the U.S.’s most sought-after sires, who also had three other sons in this year’s race. As a racer, Scat Daddy won the Champagne Stakes, the Florida Derby, and the Fountain of Youth Stakes, and was the third betting choice when he entered the Kentucky Derby. He finished 18th, however, when he found himself in a bottleneck and bumped by another horse. This caused him to suffer a tendon injury from which he never recovered.

Although history stood against him, the horse world saw potential in Justify. This athlete was the favorite heading into the 2018 Derby, despite his having only raced three times before. As Derby day approached, the odds of Justify’s winning increased—but so did doubt.

Commentators pointed to valid reasons why the odds would likely be proven wrong.

In “5 Reasons Why Justify Won’t Win the Kentucky Derby,” Derek Simon of US Racing pointed to the favorite’s inexperience. Justify had “never faced more than six rivals in his three-race career.” What’s more, since 1992, horses with fewer than five career starts were 2-for-43 in the Kentucky Derby.

Then there was the curse.

“Think about that,” Simon reminded readers. “In 1882, Tesla was an actual person instead of an overpriced car and movies didn’t exist at all.”

In USA Today, Dan Wolken explained the disadvantages of Justify’s inexperience that would likely cost him the race.

From seeing and hearing a well-lubricated crowd of more than 100,000 humans to the inherent chaos of navigating a race with 19 other horses, there is nothing normal about the experience. Some are impervious to the sensory stress and run their race. But many horses, even some who went on to become champions, encounter enough difficulty to run poorly that day — or, in the case of a horse last year named Thunder Snow — refuse to run at all.

The colt’s inexperience, coupled with the horrible weather conditions on May 5, seemed to test fate; potentially setting the horse up to repeat his father’s career-ending mishap.


Justify, however, did not shy away from the intimidating field of challengers, the rainfall, and the noise of the 157,000 attendees. He carried the odds and beat the fate, and it will likely be a long time before he retires from racing to siring.

“It takes an incredible athlete…especially (in those) track conditions,” noted Baffer. “He had every reason to lay down, (but) he just kept on going.” When asked what made it incredible, Baffert responded, “It was deep, the track was tiring… The main ingredient, essentially, of a great horse is speed, and the second most important is more speed, and that’s what we saw today.”

Justify remains undefeated. But having only raced four times in his life, questions arise again if he will be able to withstand the challenge of another race in two weeks. He now heads to Pimlico in Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown. Only 12 former racing champions have ever won the Triple Crown since Sir Barton in 1919.


Justice jockey Mike Smith now has two Derby wins and will be looking to bring his Preakness Stakes wins to two also.

He would probably prefer no other horse with which to try.

“This horse has the ‘it’ factor,” Smith said of Justice. “I saw him work when I first arrived here and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m looking at American Pharoah.’”

Why America Hates Tom Brady

Photo by: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

By: Dino Bizzarro

We are one week away from the 2018 NFL Draft and there is plenty of speculation that the Patriots will trade up to grab one of the top young quarterback talents.

This speculation stems from rumors of Tom Brady’s apparent consideration of retirement. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported yesterday that Brady has not committed to coming back for the upcoming season.

The media, fans, and opposing teams continue to try to push the future Hall-of-Famer to retirement. ESPN has been pushing a narrative that shows the Patriots dynasty falling apart. With loads of content coming out saying there is friction between star Patriot players and Head Coach Bill Belichick, you may forget that they just went to the Super Bowl and won it the year before.

Curiosity leads us to wonder, what is their goal? With how much attention a player like Tom Brady brings to the NFL’s brand, one would wonder why they are pushing him out the door?

Perhaps it’s a business that has learned to profit from hatred. According to a survey conducted by Monmouth University, 39% of fans said they were actively cheering for the Patriots to lose Super Bowl LII- compared to only 12% who wanted nothing more than an Eagles loss.

America hates Tom Brady. Jealousy is an obvious factor. The man has everything the average American wants. He’s the best football player in the world, he’s worth millions, he’s got a super model wife, and enough Super Bowl rings to take up a whole hand.

Brady is the superman of the NFL. As he showed in Super Bowl LI, no matter the situation, you can never count him out.

No one hates Superman. Then why is Brady so hated?

One answer. Media.

Particularly, ESPN has created this vendetta against the Patriots. They have fed off of sports fan’s jealousy and have created a monster. How many memes did you see of Brady’s dropped pass in the Super Bowl? The quarterback threw for over 500 yards, a Super Bowl record. At 40 years old, he had one of the best playoff performances of his storied career. Yet, scroll down comments on ESPN’s Facebook posts and you see most of the comments blaming Brady for the loss. These comments are often vicious. They ridicule him for the way he kisses his son. They say he’s a cheater and would never win if he didn’t deflate balls or spy on the opposition. They attack his wife’s appearance.

These feelings aren’t just shared by a few angry rebels on social media though. Speaking with several of my own family members and friends the day after the big game, I heard even more hatred. One anonymous man told me he didn’t care if the Patriots won or lost, he just wanted Brady to break his neck.

ESPN continually posts content portraying the Patriots as cheaters. Pictures of Brady are posted with shadow on the pictures to make him look sinister. ESPN knows people will tune in to see negative stories about someone they hate, which is why Brady seems to be the most talked about player on the network.

Just hours after ESPN gave reports that Brady is considering retirement, NFL Network reported that Brady is seeking a new contract ahead of the upcoming season. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport seemed puzzled by ESPN’s coverage of Brady.

“Tom Brady is going to play in 2018,” Rapoport said on NFL Network. “He said it. Everyone close to him has said it. Everyone I’ve spoken to has said it. The Patriots are going forward with the very strict and stern belief that he will be playing for 2018.”

Everyone else seems pretty certain #TB12 isn’t done just yet. But certainty doesn’t bring in ratings. ESPN is creating just enough doubt to bring in the Brady hater bunch to watch his demise.

Unfortunately for that sad group of people, Brady will return this season. He will be with Belichick. They will make the playoffs. They will be the favorite to win the Super Bowl once again. And that makes the haters want to spontaneously combust.

Is Ohtani Mania Over? Or Just Warming Up?

The poor performance by the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way wonder Shohei Ohtani against the Boston Red Sox tells more about baseball and the Red Sox than Ohtani.

Ohtani stole the hearts and imagination of millions of fans after awing in his first three games against the Oakland A’s and Cleveland Indians. The Japanese rookie pitched 18 strikeouts in 13 innings. His splitter fastball seemed unhittable. He also proved just as dangerous at the plate, hitting .367, including 3 home runs and 11 RBIs.

On Tuesday night, forty-five thousand fans filled Angel Stadium—the second largest crowd since 1998 when it was renovated. Many saw the showdown with the number one ranked Red Sox as the ultimate test of Ohtani’s star power. Ohtani met his match early, however, against leadoff Mookie Betts, dubbed by Red Sox blog Surviving Grady as the meeting of an Unstoppable Force (Ohtani) with an Immovable Object (Betts). Betts, one of the most difficult to strike out in the league, took two strikes from Ohtani before driving one out of the park. Ohtani fell apart after that. He gave up four hits and two walks as the Red Sox racked up a total of three runs against him. The Angels pulled him midway through the second inning, citing a blister on his pitching hand.

Although Ohtani both pitched and hit poorly during spring training, allusions that Ohtani’s latest performance represents his true baseball prowess, and not the Ohtani against the A’s and Indians, hardly holds up. The Red Sox hit off Luke Bard even more brutally than they did off Ohtani, clipping the Angels’ wings with a humiliating 10-1 victory. Betts homered twice more, making it the third three-homer game of his career, tying a Red Sox record with Ted Williams.

Several commentators have brought the typical problems for Japanese pitchers into play, such as the different ball structure and the mound height. But Ohtani has had ample time to make the necessary American adjustments, and those impediments didn’t seem to hurt him against the A’s and Indians. The morale loss with Betts’ opening homerun, however, cannot be discounted. The showdown of champions occurred, and Betts won. This gave the Red Sox a clear momentum advantage.

More than Ohtani’s showing his weakness against the Red Sox, the Red Sox showed that they are truly a force to be reckoned with and the hottest team in the MLB right now. Ohtani’s poor performance no doubt deflated some fans’ hopes who see him as the Second Coming of Babe Ruth. But it’s far too early for Ohtani’s fans to lose hope that this wunderkind will help make baseball the greatest American sport again and lift the Angels to unpredicted success this year.

Ohtani’s first three games were not flukes. But as ESPN’s David Schoenfield put it, “Shohei Ohtani was making the game look a little too easy, and it most certainly is not easy.”