The competition is hot in baseball this season! New teams are rising up to the task of taking over their division. It’s not an easy task to dethrone the former divisional winners and find a seat to the post-season. Thankfully the fans have 19 games to watch their favorite teams battle it out in their respective division. There are a few franchises who have given us such intense match-ups that baseball fans shouldn’t miss the action whenever their games are in session. Here are the top four rivals who you should be watching this season:
4. Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals have been unattested among their division for a number of years. This season the winds have finally shifted as the Phillies are on the rise, and the Atlanta Braves are driving in runs like it’s going out of the style. The Braves already have a great hitter with Freddie Freeman. Now tack on the young Ozzie Albies who has hit not one, but two grand slams in his rookie season. Any matchup between the Braves’ hitters going against Max Scherzer on the mound is definitely worth watching.
3. Seattle Mariners vs. Houston Astros
It’s never easy being in the same division as the reigning world champions Houston Astros. The Mariners have impressed everyone in baseball by making it look like a piece of cake. A healthy James Paxton has helped tremendously for Seattle by having a Cy Young caliber season. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander continues to prove his worth to the Astros by having the lowest earned run average in the MLB. Between Jean Segura and Jose Altuve, there is a lot of fun games to watch with these teams. Although Seattle currently holds the top place in the AL West, the Houston Astros will fight to take their crown back.
2. Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs
For the past few years, the Brewers and Cubs have been climbing for the top of the NL Central. The Cubs usually get the spoils by the end of the season, but this year things are different. Chicago has dominated the Brewers so far the first half of the season. The Brewers continue to bounce back and still hang on to the top of the division. The Cubbies may have the best roster in the central division, but Milwaukee has the best depth. The Brewers have the best record the NL being the first team to 40 wins. Chicago is not far behind them, and will constantly be reaching to pull the Brew Crew down to second place. If things are this intense between the ball clubs now, imagine how insane the games will be in September down the stretch.
New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
Is this really a surprise for anyone? It might be one of the greatest rivalries in sports history. This season both franchises are proving why that statement is true. Both teams are above 40 wins, are incredible to watch, and have stacked rosters. Didi Gregorius is achieving what we thought was impossible by living up to Derek Jeter’s standards. Boston acquired one of the best players in the free agency market with JD Martinez. Going from Aaron Judge to Mookie Betts the dingers keep on coming between these two teams. It’s extremely difficult to predict which club will win the AL East this year, but it should be a safe bet that both will make the post-season. It should be a wild ride all the way to October, and baseball fans should watch out for the overwhelming talent coming out of Boston and New York.
For a good portion of the decade, there has been lousy football coming from the same three teams. The Cleveland Browns (0-16) had their last win in the 2016 season with Johnny Manziel as their quarterback. That feels like a lifetime ago already. The Chicago Bears (5-11) have notoriously been a two or three win team ever since losing the NFC Championship in 2010. Then comes the San Francisco 49ers (6-10) who has had a roller coaster ride all decade. Ever since losing head coach Jim Harbaugh the 49ers’ wins have been lacking.
The Bears and 49ers have already reached out of bottom feeder status as of last season. It’s no coincidence that acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo and Mitch Trubisky have helped tremendously. All three of these teams are currently heading in the right direction. The biggest question mark lies on the Cleveland Browns, coming from zero wins last year. Cleveland possibly has the most impressive roster we’ve seen in a very long time. Even four wins from the Browns would be considered a successful season at this point. With these teams currently on the rise to success, there can only be three new teams to take their place. What new franchise will take the dishonor of being the new bottom feeder?
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Only one thing prevented the Cincinnati Bengals from being the worst team in their division last year: the luxury of sharing the division with Cleveland. Last season definitely exposed some holes in Cincinnati’s arsenal. The Bengals missed every opportunity to pick up any top rated free agents to patch any of those holes. Most teams are becoming a running back by committee, and the Bengals have the same mentality. Between Jeremy Hill, Giovanni Bernard, and Joe Mixon they’re not sure which RB to use. The answer seems obvious: go with Mixon. There should be no doubt that Joe Mixon will eventually become a great running back. It will take longer to see results when he’s only allowed eight carries a game.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has some pretty great weapons on their team. Mike Evans has always been a top wide receiver each year. Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander have been crucial pieces that can provide help on any team in the NFL. Jameis Winston has proven himself as a good franchise quarterback. He has the unfortunate circumstance of sharing the same division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan. Winston is young and has plenty of time to hone in his talents. Despite all the pro-bowlers on the roster, the Bucs still have not been able to click into gear. Perhaps the blame should fall on the coaching staff. Tampa Bay is high on their first-round pick Vita Vey, a defensive tackle from Washington. Vey has high regards but still doesn’t fix their running back problem after releasing Doug Martin.
3. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins have lingered on the border of bottom feeders for quite some time. Ryan Tannehill will be returning from his ACL injury this upcoming season. The Dolphins continue to believe in Tannehill being their starting QB, despite Adam Gase not achieving much success with him. Tannehill has fewer weapons to work with since Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry are no longer on the team. Minkah Fitzpatrick was a great first-round choice in the draft. Even the DB from Alabama won’t be able the save the problems Miami will face in the near future. Miami has a window of opportunity to build once Tom Brady retires from the Patriots. The competition will be severe as the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are doing the exact same thing. With the Dolphins allowing their best players to be traded, there is a high probability that they could be the worst team in the NFL this coming season.
Everything was set in order for the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Coming off two losses from the Bay area is nothing new for LeBron James and the Cavs. Their mentality was to ignore the media, shake off the pressure, and bring in a big W at home. Things were looking in the Cavaliers’ favor all the way to halftime. Steph Curry was having a very uncharacteristic off night. A completely different look from a record-breaking Game 2 for Steph. The Warriors’ struggles meant nothing for Kevin Durant, as he scored 43 points to help achieve the win on the road.
Cleveland looks dead in the water at the moment. No matter how much LeBron flexes his athletic ability, the Cavs continue to fall short. Go back to Game 1 when King James scored an incredible 51 points and still came up with a loss. Nobody can say that LeBron didn’t put up an effort in front of his home crowd. Even after scoring a triple-double on the Warriors, it still wasn’t enough to secure the win. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, LeBron’s numbers weren’t a match for the destruction that Kevin Durant left behind at the Quicken Loan Arena.
Golden State has a strange problem on their hands at the moment. Do they go for the four-game sweep for the extra accolade towards their legacy? Would it be wise to allow the Cavs one win in the series to give the Warriors a rest? At least they would be able to win the championship in front of their fans at The Town. The safest bet would to just win it all right away. With LeBron James as an opponent, he has the capability to tie the series quickly. We’ve all witnessed it happen once before when the Cavs were down 3-1. LeBron receives quite a lot of criticism during his career, but one thing that people can not deny is the man never gives up. The coffin may be closing on Cleveland for this year’s Finals, but make no mistake they will be fighting to stay alive in Game 4.
Tuesday night Max Scherzer threw nine perfect pitches to strike out the sides against the Tampa Bay Rays giving him his second immaculate inning of his career. Scherzer is the fifth pitcher in MLB history to have the talent to pull it off twice. What’s more impressive about the National’s ace pitcher is the first time he pitched immaculately was just last season. Scherzer continues to prove why he’s a back-to-back Cy Young winner in the NL, and already on pace to win his third in a row this year.
Max Scherzer’s value with the Washington Nationals is significant. It has been the elephant in the clubhouse that Bryce Harper wants to be traded after the 2018 season. The best way to keep Harper on the Nats is by paying him the contract he would feel is worth staying for. That would cause an issue down the road when it’s time to pay Scherzer’s contract extension. At this point, Scherzer is pitching better than anybody in the NL — possibly in all of MLB. That includes monumental names like Kershaw and Kluber. Depending on where Harper goes might also change the outlook of the Nationals’ future.
The Nationals have dominated the NL East for a few years now. There hasn’t been much competition among the division until recently. The Nats would easily glide into the post-season only to be knocked out immediately every year. Towards the end of last season Bryce Harper expressed the outlook of his career of possibly heading towards the Chicago Cubs. The frustration with the club is understandable, but with Max Scherzer pitching as great as he is, there has to be a little faith left in there.
Losing Harper would leave an open gap in their slugging department for a while. Already with 18 homeruns this year, it’s hard to replace such a dominant hitter. Washington still has talent in its lineup to still give pitchers like Scherzer run support. Players such as Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, and young Juan Soto. With the Atlanta Braves currently leading the NL East, and a talented Phillies team on the rise, would it possibly be better to try and trade Harper before the deadline? It’s a high-risk move that almost asks to throw away the rest of the season and put it in a wash. The Washington Nationals doesn’t seem like a team that will want to lie on its back and accepts defeat.
This year will be the most competitive season the Nationals have faced in a long time. Despite the slumps and struggles they may go through, the team can always rally behind Max Scherzer — the best pitcher in baseball.
The NBA Finals will always give us consistency. LeBron James seems to always be there, the crowd noise will always be loud, and the memes will always be golden. Last week Game 1 ended with LeBron James’ frustration towards JR Smith. Can’t blame the guy when putting up a career-high 51 points and still losing in overtime. Now with the Cavaliers down 0-2 in the series, a video has surfaced to catch a glimpse of Cleveland’s bench.
A quick recap of what is shown in this video: absolutely nothing. The game was in commercial break before overtime, and the faces reveal more focus than frustration. There isn’t a viral video of what the Warriors bench looked like after JR Smith’s folly play. Rest assured it most likely wasn’t full of high fives and celebratory hugs. The game wasn’t over, and that’s what was on every player’s mind during that moment.
The crucifixion of JR Smith is a little over-embellished. Don’t be mistaken, he made a terrible decision; there’s no doubt about that. Smith claims that he thought the Cavaliers were going to call a timeout. Even if that were true, Golden State still could have forced a turnover. Hypothetically, if LeBron or JR took a game-winning shot there’s always the possibility the ball misses. If Warriors get the rebound, they still had four seconds to make a play. Simply chuck the ball to Steph Curry and let him work his magic. Nothing was guaranteed for Cleveland to win that game. The irony is how JR Smith becomes the martyr, but no one blames Hill for missing the last free throw.
The grumbles of JR Smith lingered into Game 2 of the Finals. Golden State fans used it as fuel as they mocked JR with their MVP chants at the free throw line. Nobody on the Cavaliers roster can take the blame for losing Game 2, however. It’s hard to win when Steph Curry is on the court making history with 10 three-point shots in a single NBA Finals game. Tack on the fact that it’s almost impossible to beat the Warriors at Oracle Arena. Only the Houston Rockets have been able to put that accomplishment in their resume in recent years.
Now the Cavaliers get a chance to try to dig themselves out of the hole they’re buried in. Shake off the critical backlash that has been hovering over JR Smith and allow LeBron to play some of the best basketball we’ve seen him play. Being back in front of the home crowd of Cleveland should help ease the tension that’s built around them. It might be a wise choice for the Cavaliers to avoid social media for a while. Otherwise, they’ll have to face the constant reminder of the picture which has blessed us with one of the best meme formats of the summer: