Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category

Weekly links …

My research showed me that the Milwaukee Brewers haven’t played in the World Series since 1982.

Then it sinks in — I have co-workers who weren’t alive in 1982.

That doesn’t feel so good. Where the heck did the last 36 years go?

Hopefully the Brewers will return to the World Series this year. Because that will mean that the Dodgers won’t.

Doesn’t seem all that long ago that a powerful Milwaukee offensive team — think Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, Ben Oglivie, Ted Simmons, Gorman Thomas and Robin Yount — lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in a stellar seven-game  series.

Yikes, that was so long ago that the Brewers were in the American League.

Milwaukee has another great offensive team this season — led by probable MVP Christian Yelich — but the Dodgers probably have a more complete team. Should be a good National League Championship Series.

Here is the stellar preview — https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/baseball/MLB/dodgers-vs-brewers-preview-and-predictions/320805/

 

NFL

Rams at Broncos — The Los Angeles Rams are fun and exciting and one of two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. This after being a boring lifeless team just two seasons ago under Jeff Fisher. And even better, “Los Angeles” fits nicely with their team nickname. The Broncos are on their way to a fourth straight loss.

Here is the stellar preview — https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NFL/rams-vs-broncos-preview-and-predictions/320864/

Steelers at Bengals — Perhaps they ought to put these two teams in the octagon and let them go wild on one another. Some recent meetings have been more vicious than a UFC bout. Who can forget the way Pittsburgh wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster laid out Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict last season on Monday Night Football? Seems the Steelers always win the game and Cincinnati claims the penalty yards’ title.

Here is the stellar preview — http://fieldlevelmedia.com/latest-stories?storyId=20122

Chargers at Browns — Who can forget the last time the Chargers visited Cleveland on Christmas Eve during the 2016 season? The lowly Browns defeated the Chargers for their lone win over a two-season span. That was the type of embarrassment owner Dean Spanos deserved on his way out of San Diego. The Browns are much better now so perhaps there will be a repeat.

Here is the stellar preview — https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NFL/chargers-vs-browns-preview-and-predictions/320846/

 

College football

Missouri at Alabama — The Crimson Tide have looked so good you have to wonder if anyone can beat them. The offense has been explosive and the defense keeps scoring touchdowns (four off interceptions). Missouri is one of those programs that might stun a Top 20 program but has little chance to beat a powerful top-ranked team. And yeah, the Tigers are 0-14 all-time against No. 1 teams.

Here is the traditional stellar preview — https://www.gwinnettprepsports.com/sportsxchange/no-alabama-rolls-into-second-half-with-mizzou-up-next/article_eeb9eec7-5583-55b9-9c20-6f02090b3219.html

Here is the broken into team sections stellar preview — https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NCAAF/missouri-tigers-vs-alabama-crimson-tide-preview-and-predictions/320276/

Minnesota at Ohio State — Urban Meyer feels great now because he no longer is facing questions about his questionable handling of the situation in which assistant coach Zach Smith was accused of domestic violence. He won’t face much distress this Saturday when his team faces Minnesota either. The Golden Gophers have no chance of beating the Buckeyes.

Here is the stellar preview — https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NCAAF/minnesota-golden-gophers-vs-ohio-state-buckeyes-preview-and-predictions/320279/

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The San Diego Padres are not a good baseball team.

If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, laugh at them. Or throw your drink on them. I don’t advocate punching them but do what you need to do to stifle that nonsense.

The Padres (40-59) are the worst team in the National League as we reach the All-Star break. And they deserve the moniker of being the NL’s worst squad.

That is one pretty bad baseball team I saw three times in one week at Petco Park.

The Padres went 0-3 with me in the ballpark and I know without a doubt that it wasn’t my presence messing things up. They made Little League miscues on Friday and Sunday — the one on Friday gifting the Chicago Cubs the winning run in the 10th inning.

Closer Brad Hand, the best player in the organization, blew the save on Friday with one strike to go in a would-be victory. The biggest problem is he hit a stiff named Victor Caratini (who seemed upset but should have been thanking the heavens) before allowing Anthony Rizzo’s game-tying double.

One inning later, Javier Baez attempted to steal second base. Catcher Austin Hedges’ throw was high and bounced into center field. Baez took off toward third and Padres center fielder Manuel Margot muffed the ball like a nine-year-old seeing one come his way for the first time in a Little League game.

Baez scored and the Cubs’ fans occupying 75 percent of the seats at Petco Park went wild.

On Sunday, Chicago’s Kris Bryant didn’t come close to hitting the ball out of the infield but wound up at third base as both Hedges and right fielder Hunter Renfroe made throwing errors.

Did I mention Little League?

“There were some ugly moments,” Padres manager Andy Green told the San Diego media members who were described as “soft” by an MLB Network analyst earlier this month. “Some very ugly moments in the game today, and tough to stomach from a manager’s perspective.”

Got to be tough to stomach writing out a lineup card each day.

Prized offseason acquisition Eric Hosmer is batting just .249 and that lowly mark is the fifth-best average of players with more than 100 at-bats. He needs to do a better job earning the rest of his $144 million.

Wil Myers, who is in the second season of an $83 million deal, has played just 33 games due to time spent on the disabled list. Yet he still ranks third on the team with eight homers.

As for the pitching, all you need to know is San Diego’s top two starters are Clayton Richard and Tyson Ross. Both were rescued from the scrap heap.

Now that I ponder it a bit, I am surprised this team has won 40 games.

Heck, the Padres once went 68-93 with future Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers and Gaylord Perry all on the team.

Among the others players on that 1979 team were former Cy Young winner Randy Jones, Mickey Lolich, Gene Richards and Gene Tenace.

So um, who is the fourth best player on this Padres’ team?

I guess you are choosing between Freddy Galvis, Christian Villanueva and Renfroe.

You know, the Padres have been requesting time to build a team for a long time now. And there is no longer $5 admission and you saw the effects over the weekend when mostly Cubs’ fans paid $40 or $70 or $100 per seat.

The Padres are on the fast track to their eighth straight losing season and 12th in a row of missing the playoffs. This is their 50th season and they have made the postseason all of five times.

Let that sink in — five of 50 seasons.

You study the current group and listen to the prospect rhetoric — oh yeah, don’t listen to that nonsense. The Padres are famous for boasting about phenoms and funny how many times that doesn’t work out.

Remember when sports-talk clown Hank Bauer guaranteed Juan Melo would be the best shortstop in Padres history? Yeah, he never played one game for the team … he had 13 career major-league at-bats (all in 2000 for the San Francisco Giants).

That’s the thing about prospects. This is baseball. First-round picks don’t pan out. Heck, Mike Trout was the 25th pick of the 2009 draft.

That there is all you need to know about prospects — that is a lot of organizations deciding somebody was better than Mike Trout.

The Padres took Donavan Tate third overall in that draft. Never came close to reaching the majors. I saw him strike out in short-season rookie ball in 2013 — he was at that low caliber of play while just shy of his 23rd birthday — and got blown away by some kid fresh out of high school.

But the Padres gushed about him and everybody else followed suit. And he was a colossal bust … and some of the current Padres’ prospects being raved about will turn out to be failures too.

One guy who is in the majors now that concerns me is Margot.

He must look good at other times when I’m not watching. But he kind of looks like a time-waster to me. The Padres went through that earlier this decade for way too long with Cameron Maybin.

Hopefully, San Diego moves on after 2019 if the light doesn’t come on for Margot.

The Padres won’t want to give up on him because he’s the best of the four players they got from the Boston Red Sox for Craig Kimbrel.

They don’t want the deal to be like Huston Street to the Angels — getting four players who aren’t on this not-so-hard roster to make.

But let’s get back to the current team — the one holding the “We are Worst in the NL” banner.

This team isn’t good. It is bad. Worse, it is not showing the type of progress that was expected this season.

Heck, let’s let Green have his say, courtesy of the people who sometimes quote managers accurately and sometimes don’t.

“Frustrating. Not where I thought we’d be. Not where I want to be,” Green said. “I take ownership of that. It’s my team. It’s our team. We expect to play better than we’ve played. I think everyone in the clubhouse expects to play better from a win-loss perspective.”

Sorry Padres’ fans … you are going this whole decade without once reaching the playoffs. And the start of next decade isn’t looking too promising.

Hey, the San Diego Padres are actually alive.

Not thriving by any chance but they displayed a bit of a pulse by agreeing to terms with free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer on an eight-year, $144 million contract.

In reality, it is really a five-year, $105 million deal because the contract is frontloaded and gives Hosmer the ability to opt out. Since the last three years average just $13 million per season and Scott Boras is his agent, what do you think Hosmer will do after the 2022 campaign?

Yeah, pretty easy one. He will opt out.

But whether Hosmer is on the Padres in 2023 is a topic for another time. What the Saturday night signing really means is the Padres actually made a splash.

The Padres have been acting like they weren’t going to be a contender for a long time. Landing an All-Star first baseman like the 28-year-old Hosmer at least makes their everyday lineup better and creates some optimism.

San Diego’s other All-Star caliber offensive player, Wil Myers, will move from first base to the outfield and the Padres can now line up Myers, Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe in the outfield.

Former Padre Chase Headley is back in town as the third baseman and slick-fielding Freddy Galvis is the new shortstop. Catcher Austin Hedges is a capable player too.

Of course, the pitching staff is a mess so there isn’t a realistic chance of breaking through this season. I’d be surprised if the club doesn’t experience its eighth straight losing campaign but now you can at least feel a little bit of success looms on the horizon.

There was none of that to be found last season — the Padres were brutally bad and were fortunate to only finish 20 games below .500.

Hosmer has smacked a career-best 25 homers in each of the past two seasons. He has driven in more than 90 runs in each of the past three and he has won four Gold Gloves in the past five seasons.

He was part of two World Series teams with the Kansas City Royals, including the victorious group in 2015. Homser also was MVP of the 2016 All-Star Game, held in … yeah, you remember, Petco Park.

Most importantly, he provides hope to a group of loyal fans and a city dying to fall back in love with the Padres. What was the name of that sad-sack NFL team anyway?

As the Padres build, Hosmer will be that face of the franchise they were lacking.

Will he be worth the investment? We will know in a few years. But what he represents now is this: The Padres are at least trying.

That wasn’t readily apparent prior to Saturday night.

There haven’t been a ton of good San Diego baseball moments this decade but there certainly was one on Wednesday when “Trevor Time” again arrived.

Trevor Hoffman, one of the most-popular Padres ever, was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The late Tony Gwynn will always be the most famous member of the Padres — heck, Tony is one of the most beloved people in all of San Diego County no matter what the line of duty — but Hoffman would likely rate as second in the baseball category.

Heck, his ninth-inning introduction is perhaps the most-famous entrance in baseball history. When the Padres needed their closer to come get the final three outs, the place erupted as the first bell chimed.

And when the opening rift to “Hells Bells” by AC/DC began, the ballpark was in a complete frenzy.

And most of the time, an opposing player would soon be wildly flailing at a Hoffman changeup as the Padres posted a victory.

“Petco and Qualcomm certainly got rolling with the Hells Bells,” Hoffman told MLB Network in an post-induction interview. “That was in the same time frame as ‘Wild Thing’ in ‘Major League II’ and the whole ambiance they wanted to create was something we were able to do in San Diego.”

Hoffman ranks second in major league history with 601 saves, trailing only Yankees’ great Mariano Rivera (652). A seven-time All-Star, Hoffman should have been winner of the 1998 National League Cy Young Award but six buffoons left him off their ballots because they didn’t believe relievers should win the award.

Hoffman received more first-place votes than winner Tom Glavine of the Atlanta Braves but the omissions cost him the honor in a season in which he posted a 1.48 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and recorded 53 saves in 54 opportunities.

Kind of a major problem in baseball — letting sportswriters vote for awards. Too many agendas, too much nonsense, and not enough intelligence and perspective.

Hoffman fell five votes shy of induction last year but this time received 79.9 percent of the vote. A player needs 75 percent to be inducted.

An often-forgotten aspect of Hoffman’s career is that he failed as a minor league infielder with the Cincinnati Reds, who turned him into a pitcher. He came to the Padres from the Marlins in the controversial trade involving Gary Sheffield and soon carved out a legacy with that changeup that baffled hitters.

The other thing about Hoffman is that all kinds of San Diegans tell great tales about meeting him.

Like seeing him at Children’s Hospitals giving back to the community. Like being spotted on the freeway and giving a cheerful wave. Like seeing him at an eatery or perhaps a country bar and Hoffman coming across as a normal person.

Right there pretty much describes Trevor Hoffman — no egomaniac symptoms despite being one of the best ever at his craft.

No question, the latest edition of “Trevor Time” is richly deserved.

The first World Series Game 7 between two teams that won 100 or more games since 1931 has arrived.

Bet you didn’t know it had been 86 years since that happened.

But the 104-win Los Angeles Dodgers and 101-win Houston Astros play the deciding game of a very fine World Series on Wednesday.

And I know you are dying to hear which team I think will be really happy late Wednesday night.

Uh oh, it looks like I’m not going to make it easy for you to find out.

Yes, I am making you click twice to see which team I am predicting to win Game 7 of the World Series.

Not because I suddenly care about the number of “clicks” I get on my website (I don’t care at all).

Not because the website I am linking to is paying me (they don’t even know I exist, I just like that they keep them up forever, unlike the bigger sports websites).

But you get to click on the stellar preview because there is valuable information enclosed that just shouldn’t be obtained super duper easy.

Because then you won’t appreciate this great piece of knowledge you will know all day Wednesday.

So here goes, I am picking the … ohhh, almost … you will find the pick inside the stellar preview: http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/baseball/mlb/astros-vs-dodgers-preview-and-predictions/215192/

Yeah, the last baseball preview of the season. Probably should count up someday to see how many I have written this decade.

But if I do that, I will want to count up all the NBA, NFL, college football and college basketball previews I’ve written too. And then the recaps. And then the breaking news. And on and on.

Yeah, so probably not that big of a deal to figure that out.

This World Series is much a bigger deal. Check out my pick and see if it comes through.

What a great World Series we have all got to witness so far.

And think, we are just one Houston Astros’ victory away from it being even greater.

Oh no, I just hurt the feelings of a few Los Angeles Dodgers’ fans. I keep forgetting that some of them can read.

Yeah, there’s my cue — you can read the stellar Game 6 preview with prediction here — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/baseball/MLB/astros-vs-dodgers-preview-and-predictions/214868/

Seriously though, what a terrific World Series no matter who ends up victorious. In fact, what a comeback it would be if the Dodgers win the next two games.

Game 2 and Game 5 were two of the wackiest World Series’ games you will find. Two of the best of this decade — Game 6 of the St. Louis Cardinals-Texas Rangers matchup in 2011 remains the best.

Justin Verlander takes the mound on Tuesday and he has been fabulous since joining the Astros. But don’t forget this: He has never won a World Series game.

After the no-decision in Game 2, the probable Hall of Famer is 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA in four career World Series starts.

Rich Hill will start for the Dodgers and the obvious question is “for how long?” In fact, that should be the biggest worry of all Los Angeles fans: Is Dave Roberts going to overmanage and cost the team Game 6?

Think about it, Astros manager A.J. Hinch was the MVP in the 13-12, 10-inning game on Sunday that took five hours, 17 minutes. All because he pinch-ran for glacier slow Brian McCann with Derek Fisher right before Alex Bregman delivered the winning single.

Anyway, enjoy Game 6. So much craziness in this series. So many clutch hits. So many homers (hello juiced baseballs) seemingly traveling 3,000 feet. So much weirdness. So many pitching changes. So much drama. So much class and fun (well, except for that embarrassing racial gesture by Houston’s Yuli Gurriel).

So … who really knows what else is in store come Game 6.

Well, hey, Weekly Links is making a surprise appearance. So busy with the paid work this time of year that it is hard to fit in free ventures (sure hope you don’t think I am making millions on my cozy website!)

So here goes … a little baseball, a little more NFL and a little college football. Sorry, not posting NBA as the preview shelf life is limited and who knows where you might end up after you click.

 

The World Series starts on Tuesday and the main storyline will revolve around perhaps the greatest pitcher of this era.

But as we all know, Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw hasn’t stood up well under the playoff pressure during his career.

So will be it regular season Kershaw or “Postseason Kershaw” when the Dodgers play in the World Series for the first time since 1988?

Kershaw was seven months old and sleeping in a crib the last time the Dodgers were part of the Fall Classic.

How long has it been since the Dodgers played in the World Series? Well, consider the San Diego Padres’ drought was 10 years shorter.

That’s pretty sad when you consider all the money the Dodgers spend.

But this is their time with a team that won 104 regular-season games … and they definitely need “Regular Season Kershaw” taking the mound … see stellar story here — http://hosted.stats.com/mlb/story.asp?i=20171020172054085065710&ref=rec&tm=&src=MLB

 

Tom Brady might get the most praise but I feel Aaron Rodgers is the most “valuable” quarterback in the NFL.

We start to see if that is assessment is correct when the Green Bay Packers host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Rodgers is out for at least eight weeks due to a broken collarbone and former UCLA star Brett Hundley will start in his place. Hundley has excelled in each of the past three preseasons but he wasn’t so hot when replacing Rodgers last Sunday as he threw three interceptions in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Hundley is a stellar athlete so it will be interesting to see how he fares. But no matter how he performs, we know this: He’s no Aaron Rodgers.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NFL/saints-vs-packers-preview-and-predictions/212295/

 

It was pretty fun to have the Week 1 assignment when the Chargers and Broncos played in Denver.

It was even more entertaining to watch the Chargers have their game-tying field-goal attempt blocked in the final seconds.

The Chargers lost their first four games after relocating from San Diego and their running defense is so poor that I’m thinking Terrell Davis could suit up this Sunday and threaten the 100-yard mark.

The Broncos haven’t played well lately — what a gag job that was against the woeful New York Giants last Sunday night — so that unfortunately means the Chargers have a chance to win a third straight game.

Sure don’t want that … seeing the Chargers fall to 2-5 and on the way to their consecutive double-digit loss season would be much more fun.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/nfl/broncos-vs-chargers-preview-and-predictions/212300/

 

I’ve been kind of wondering why we have to continue playing the college football season and having all this debate about which four teams should be part of the College Football Playoff.

Can you find three teams in the nation that can beat Alabama? How about two? OK, one?

Penn State, Georgia and TCU are the teams ranked 2, 3 and 4. How about we take the best players off those three teams and see if they can give Alabama a game?

None of those three teams will win the national championship. The list of teams that can ends at one: Alabama.

The Crimson Tide get to pound Tennessee this Saturday. Apparently, people around Tennessee have finally figured out Butch Jones isn’t an SEC-caliber coach. Things could really get ugly against the Crimson Tide.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NCAAF/-tennessee-vs-alabama-preview-and-predictions/212112/

The San Diego Padres took this picture shortly after the statue was unveiled.

Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn would have turned 57 years old on Tuesday if he were alive but his birthday was remembered in a fond way by the city of Poway.

Gwynn lived in the north San Diego County city about 20 miles north of Qualcomm Stadium during his Hall of Fame career and up to his death in 2014 due to salivary cancer. The eight-time batting champion with the San Diego Padres was honored Tuesday with the unveiling of an 11-foot statue of him in his Padres’ uniform tipping his cap and holding daughter Anisha.

And think, because Gwynn had a personal relationship with me, the ceremony was on my radar and I made sure the nice local story went national. http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/MLB/2017/05/09/Tony-Gwynns-hometown-erects-statue-in-his-honor/1141494361490/

It also reminds me of those times Gwynn the college baseball coach would get on my case because my newspaper wouldn’t let me cover more of his San Diego State baseball games. One night in the office, I scored big with this doozy: “Most people want to see more of Tony Gwynn. Tony Gwynn wants to see more of me.”

 

I was asked something today by a woman from the online world that has prompted me to think.

She asked if I have ever been to an NFL game. Seriously.

Then I thought about it and realized I have no idea how many NFL games I’ve attended or covered as a professional. At least 150 and maybe close to 200 — and no, I don’t want to count preseason games.

Worst thing in the world to cover is an NFL preseason night game. And now that I think of it, I never recall covering a preseason game in the afternoon. So every NFL preseason game assignment ties for the worst event I had to cover.

I do know how many Super Bowls I covered — three.

Also know the Cleveland Browns won’t be participating in the Super Bowl again this season. No surprise, of course.

And this brings up to the ever-popular Weekly Links thing because I had to write about the Browns two weeks in a row. Yes, two straight weeks.

Must have really upset the boss.

The Browns are 0-7 and look like they will be fortunate to win two games this season. You know, they do have the Chargers on the slate.

Here is the link to the stellar preview of the Browns’ home game against the New York Jets — http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/fitzpatrick-returns-to-lineup-as-jets-face-winless-browns-102616

 

Game 2 of the World Series has already been played but I think this is a good preview to have part of the Weekly Links package because it will answer one of life’s greatest questions:

Is Mr. Sports ever wrong?

Well, um, it has happened. Um, yeah, right here at the bottom of the Game 2 preview. Look which team I predicted to win the game? The team I picked scored one whole run. Oops.

And these things run on a bunch of gambling websites too. Good thing no Mafia members live nearby to break my leg.

Anyway, I will try to do better with my pick when I write the Game 4 preview between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians.

Here is the stellar Game 2 preview with the wrong predicted winner — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/mlb/event/2016/410464/preview/

 

Think of all the games you watch where you couldn’t describe what happened 12 months later.

Then thing of the ones you can’t forget.

The first 59 minutes, 50 seconds of last season’s contest between Michigan and Michigan State weren’t so memorable. But the last 10 seconds will never be forgotten.

That is the contest when Michigan lined up with 10 seconds to play and all its punter had to do was boot the ball downfield.

But punter Blake O’Neill bobbled the snap and then, in one of the weirdest things ever seen on a football field, he fumbled the ball into the arms of Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson, who returned the ball 38 yards for the winning touchdown as time expired.

Instead of losing to its biggest rival, Michigan State proudly boarded the bus back to East Lansing with a 27-23 victory.

And “insane 27-23 victory” is how I coined it in the preview.

Can’t say I ever pondered the possibility that my work may find its way on to the Big Ten Network website. But then again, they believe someone from the Associated Press wrote the preview. Um, wrong.

Here is the link to the stellar Michigan-Michigan State preview — http://btn.com/2016/10/26/no-2-michigan-tries-to-exact-revenge-from-michigan-state/

 

Some of you might prefer being linked to the Washington-Utah showdown or the Boise State-Wyoming game (OK, nobody outside of Wyoming cares about Wyoming … ever) but Patrick Mahomes II wins the deal all by himself.

The Texas Tech quarterback matched the all-time FBS single-game record with 734 passing yards last Saturday in a loss to Oklahoma. Repeat — 734 yards, to tie the record set by Washington State’s Connor Halliday in 2014.

What Mahomes accomplished was pretty stellar but it reminds us of the old Texas Tech question — is Mahomes actually any good or is he a system quarterback?

Hard to tell because Mahomes threw four touchdown passes in 2 1/2 quarters against Kansas earlier this season and departed with shoulder injury. No problem, the Red Raiders throw somebody named Nic Shimonek on the field and he threw four touchdowns in 1 1/2 quarters.

So I’m going to keep my mind open that Mahomes might prove to be NFL material. But the pattern has proven otherwise as guys like Graham Harrell, B.J. Symons and Sonny Cumbie threw for bushels of yards — as did current coach Kliff Kingsbury when he played at the school.

Speaking of Cumbie, I believe he passed for over 2,000 yards against Cal in a Holiday Bowl game I covered. OK, looked it up, he passed for a career-high 520 yards.

Is Mahomes for real? That’s your call. But here’s the link to the stellar Texas Tech-TCU preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/52672/preview/top25/

Hey, the links thing is back!

I know, I know, I have one of the coolest jobs in the world.

Been hearing that refrain for the past quarter century and trust me, I do understand it’s true.

But the people who make those remarks never see the bad side of things.

You know, like having to write about the Cleveland Browns.

I’d say I’d rather have a root canal than write about the Browns, but, um, yeah, I just might have to undergo that procedure next month so it doesn’t sound fun to joke about it.

I’d say I’d rather have a pallet jack roll up on my foot … “Oh no, not again!” to quote Rod Stewart. No, that wasn’t the least bit fun when it occurred the first time.

I think you get the point — writing about the Cleveland Browns isn’t one of the highlights of a sportswriter’s day. They are the lone winless team in the NFL and it isn’t the least bit surprising.

Cleveland (0-6) has dropped 16 of its last 17 games, is on its third quarterback (rookie Cody Kessler) of the season and lost one of its best players in safety Jordan Poyer to a lacerated kidney.

Ouch. Always hurts every time I see “lacerated kidney.”

Hurts to write it as well.

The Browns play the Cincinnati Bengals (2-4) this Sunday and Cincinnati has been an underachieving group this season.

Anyway, here is the stellar preview — http://sports.yahoo.com/news/bengals-hope-break-vs-lowly-browns-234337193–nfl.html

The Chicago Cubs rose from the dead in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series and now the pressure is on the Los Angeles Dodgers when it comes to Thursday’s Game 5.

The Dodgers don’t want to head to Chicago with a 3-2 deficit even if Clayton Kershaw is pitching in Game 6. Los Angeles needs to win Game 5 and a victory would really make things tough for Chicago.

The Cubs’ players would spend Friday’s off-day hearing all about the 108-year title drought and knowing they would have to win two games to avoid being viewed as enormous disappointments. Sometimes it gets tough to play baseball under such circumstances.

But Thursday’s 10-2 trouncing of the Dodgers certainly provided confidence for the Cubs. Their chances of winning Game 5 can’t be too bad with Jon Lester on the mound and Kershaw resting in the dugout.

But who did I pick to win Game 5? Guess I gave it away in the headline. My predicted score is inside the stellar preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/mlb/event/2016/410460/preview/

Top-ranked Alabama is an amazing football team. The Crimson Tide are on their way to another appearance in the College Football Playoff and it won’t surprise me if they don’t lose a game.

But what impresses me most is this tidbit — Alabama has scored 11 non-offensive touchdowns (eight on defense, three on punt returns) over its first seven games.

Think of that — 11 non-offensive touchdowns. Heck, it might take Rutgers three years to score 11 touchdowns of any kind.

When a team can repeatedly be that opportunistic, it makes it much harder for the opposition to post an upset. And I certainly don’t see sixth-ranked Texas A&M having a chance this Saturday.

Heck, neither do the oddsmakers who are smarter than all of us. They list the Crimson Tide as 18.5-point favorites.

It definitely seems kind of unfair for a program with one of the top rosters in the nation to keep scoring when they weren’t even in possession of the ball.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/52601/preview/top25/

Do you remember those days when Brigham Young was a national caliber football program?

Oh, you don’t?

Makes sense but there was a time when BYU was a marquee program and even won a national championship in 1984. The school produced several NFL quarterbacks (including Steve Young and Jim McMahon) and loved to beat up on lesser conference foes.

But now the Cougars are an independent and nobody outside of Utah thinks all that highly of them. Heck, the Big 12 passed on adding them to their conference so that’s got to hurt when you aren’t considered to be on par with lame programs like Iowa State and Kansas.

BYU visits Boise State on Thursday and the Broncos badly need the victory. Boise State plays that light Mountain West schedule and adding a win over BYU to Pac-12 victories over Washington State and Oregon State helps the school’s chances of landing a Cotton Bowl bid.

The Broncos probably haven’t forgotten being one defensive stop away from beating BYU last season until Tanner Mangum (from the Boise suburb of Eagle, Idaho) tossed a game-winning 35-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/52584/preview/top25/