Avengers 4 Theory

There are spoilers here for Avengers: Infinity War. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading and go see it. It came out a month ago. 

Now that I have your attention, I would like to propose an exercise not unlike the brilliant geniuses at Warner Brothers who came up with the idea of the 1996 classic Space Jam:

Imagine if you will that next summer the Avengers movie takes up after the dusting of half the world and instead of the many “Gamora is trapped in the Soul Stone” theories running around the internet, you found out that Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers challenged Thanos to a baseball game. Why do I think this would be cool? I enjoy the MCU and really love baseball. I also like chocolate and peanut butter, and Reese’s makes a damn fine candy.

Baseball nerds/coaches/softball players/Pinterest lovers have seen memes like the one below. This will be useful as I try and build the perfect lineup for this galactic baseball game.

baseball

At the conclusion of Infinity War, these were the non-dust Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Rocket Raccoon, The Hulk (but really just Bruce Banner), Thor, War Machine, Nebula and Okoye. That is 9 by my count and there are 9 players on a team. We also “know” that Ant-Man, The Wasp, Hawkeye and Captain Marvel are set to appear in the 4th Avengers film. Thus I give you the Avengers Baseball Lineup guaranteed to defeat Thanos.

Leading off would be my Shortstop Black Widow. She is the most acrobatic player on the team and can change direction at any moment (just like in Civil War). As someone who has been in 6 films in the MCU, you need her at the top of the order.

Batting second will be Centerfielder and Joe DiMaggio contemporary Captain America. We know he is fast from the time he met Falcon running laps around DC. And you know he could use his shield to help catch fly balls.

In the 3 spot we need the best all around hitter and this is where I go with Iron Man. He’s a 3rd Baseman type with an erratic arm, and I am sure he will do his best to hit the ball beating any shifts with the help of his IT.

Captain Marvel is perhaps the most powerful hero alive in the MCU. The 4 spot is perfect for her power as Designated Hitter.

Were Groot to have survived, he would be the First Baseman. Who can stretch better than him? Thor is the tallest remaining Avenger (not the most powerful… not when your nickname is Point Break), so he will play first and hit with his new Groot inspired axe, Stormbreaker.

Batting 6th would be the Catcher Okoye. No balls will get past her as she defends home plate like she would Wakanda.

Unlike the Little League meme that has the outfielders are more valuable than in Tball, I am going to put The Wasp in Left Field as she can clearly catch anything. She will cover the ground well while Ant-Man handles Right Field, sometimes up to 65 feet tall.

You need communication and chemistry between your second baseperson and shortstop. Nebula showed the willingness to work Gamora in GoG2 and will hopefully do the same with Black Widow up the middle.

Rocket Raccoon is the starting pitcher who would be willing to do anything to doctor a ball and get an advantage. He would never get rattled and has the irrational confidence necessary to succeed as a pitcher in a game with this magnitude.

Hawkeye is the left handed reliever ready to come out of the bullpen and neutralize a rally.

At the end of Civil War, War Machine lost the use of his legs. With this situation, it makes sense to have him as the old manager to hobbles out to the mound to make a pitching change or talk with his team.

Hollywood has been toying with us about a Space Jam sequel for years built around LeBron James. This would definitely appease the Space Jammers and make for a perfect summer movie.

Order Avenger Position
1 Black Widow SS
2 Captain America CF
3 Iron Man 3B
4 Captain Marvel DH
5 Thor 1B
6 Okoye C
7 The Wasp LF
8 Ant Man RF
9 Nebula 2B
Bench Rocket Raccoon Starting Pitcher
Bench Hawkeye Left Handed reliever
Bench War Machine Manager

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Fake NBA trades

This morning as I took the dog for a walk, I listened to the most recent Bill Simmons podcast with Zach Lowe on the The Ringer.com. The topics started with checking in on the Conference Finals and whether or not Chris Paul may have a wink wink extension with the Rockets coming that may be devastating. These were appetizer comments for those of us who have no dog in the fight for the rest of the NBA season.

We are all looking forward to the upcoming off season. LA Lakers President/Hall of Famer/Greatest POINT GUARD OF ALL TIME/Living Legend/my basketball idol, Earvin “Magic” Johnson has already earned 2 tampering penalties for comments about players that he will recruit this year.

Wait. Pause. Watch this.

The amount of internet data that has been consumed with the predictions of where LeBron James will play for the upcoming season is enough to rival Michael Avenetti and Rudy Giuliani appearances on cable news networks. I would love to see LBJ play for the purple and gold, but I fear that he may eventually decline and would hate to have the Lakers pay for his decline years. I don’t know if and will that will happen, but Father Time is undefeated. I do want Paul George to sign with LA and Kawhi Leonard in the 2019 offseason. I have to trust in Magic and General Manager Rob Pelinka to do their jobs.

As the podcast went on, a reference was made to the struggles in the Minnesota organization and that changes could be forthcoming. They threw out the notion of people trading for Andrew Wiggins, and went to teams that may trade for him. The Portland Trail Blazers were one of those teams. It led me to one of my favorite internet timesucks…. the NBA Trade Machine. This site allows rabid basketball fans to play in a pond as if they were an NBA General Manager. You have to play within the salary cap and by NBA rules. I proposed the following trade to change the backcourt composition of your Portland Trail Blazers.

Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 11.32.59 AM.png

Minnesota would have to put in a future #1 pick to Chicago and Portland could throw 2 #2s to Dallas to make the salary cap math work and take the expiring Aminu contract. I really like CJ McCollum, but think Portland needs to change the defensive dynamic. Damian Lillard is the greatest Trail Blazer since Clyde and has reached iconic status. The return of RoLo would help temper the angst of losing CJ. Andrew Wiggins is signed to a long extension, but should be able to increase his defensive effort and is still just 23. It would be a gigantic shift, but I think there will be big changes coming. Any Trail Blazer fans with better suggestions? Play with the Trade Machine and see what you get.

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Wait, a baseball player took PEDs?

Not a good week to be Robinson Cano of your Seattle Mariners. First he gets hit by a pitch on Sunday breaking his hand. Immediately, it was speculated that he would be out for the next six to eight weeks. In the words of the legendary Lee Corso,

Corso

Today it was reported that a bad week got worse…

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A couple of thoughts here……

  1. The Mariners have played well this season at 23-17 over the first 40 games as definite contender for the postseason. The injury was going to hurt the team, but the suspension would allow him the chance to play 42 more games this season at best. This is a big boost to the Angels getting that last Wild Card spot.
  2. Cano has long been thought of as a no-doubt Hall of Famer with a World title, Rookie of the Year, 8 All Star appearances, 5 Silver Sluggers and 2 Gold Gloves. If you prefer to just go by numbers, he has accumulated 64.5 WAR which is more than Hall of Famers Eddie Murray, Mr. Cub Ernie Banks, recently elected Vladimir Guerrero and the immortally beautiful Ryne Sandberg. This is another player who will test the baseball writers when his name appears on the Hall ballot. It gets more and more complicated, and I do not envy their decisions.
  3. After this, his age 35 season, the Mariners owe him 120 million dollars over the next five years. Cano has always been durable, but that is a ton of money left to be paid for someone who needs PEDs. I wonder when teams will write void clauses into contracts if there is a positive test.

With that notion, may you have a better week than Robinson Cano, although I would definitely look forward to his bank account.

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Don’t click that link

Ok, I realize that I am asking you to not click something on the same day that the President of the United States is suggesting that we remove press credentials from the very reporters who are essential to the survival of democracy.

Political rant over.

Continue. I love Lavar Ball as a 21st Century entrepreneur. I really do. I love Lonzo Ball’s creative game of passing and running and playing underrated defense. I do not want the Lakers (yes that is correct, this is written from the point of view of a Laker fan since forever) to trade Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, or Josh Hart. I want them to resign Julius Randle, and I want Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka to improve the roster around this core five with length, shooting, veteran leadership and a commitment to excellence. I know what Lavar is trying to do. He doesn’t want to see Lonzo get traded to the Spurs. It could diminish the Facebook Live show. It could hurt Lonzo’s future shoe deal with Nike, like it did Kawhi. Anyone have an over/under on when Big Baller Brand is out of business?

Lavar is a showman. By blurting that statement that is made into a headline, it gets people talking. Even though I refused to click that link, I felt compelled to write about him even as the Western Conference Finals are about to start. I went to his website and learned that I can get a pair of slides for $190. He is a certified genius in many respects, and I would say that Lonzo had a better 2017-18 season than Kawhi. But in no way is he a better player. I want Kawhi on the Lakers when he signs as a free agent in 2019 to join the core five players I mentioned before, either Lebron James or Paul George, a rehabilitated Nerlens Noel and a drafted Donte DiVencenzo. Now that would be a bunch of BIG BALLERS.

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In May you know everything

History lesson here… After the 1977 World Series, Reggie Jackson earned the nickname Mr. October. After Jackson left the Yankees for the California Angels in the 1982 season, Dave Winfield was the face of the franchise for the better part of the 1980s. Owner George Steinbrenner sarcastically referred to the future Hall of Famer as Mr. May under the assumption that Winfield only produced in the early months of the season. I am pretty sure that wins in April, May and June count the same as wins in July, August and September.

As the calendar is definitely May now, it is time to look at the MLB Standings and make a prediction on which teams will make the playoffs. Arizona came out strong in the first month and hasn’t let up yet. There have been unexpected injuries like the season ending Tommy John surgery for Dodgers SS Corey Seager. Some teams will improve as the season wears on and some will look to sell assets as the season progresses.

With that, let’s take a look at the standings as of May 7, 2018:

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 10.17.35 AM

Hey look… The Sox and The Yanks are on top of the AL East, which makes ESPN baseball producers, East Coast talk radio hosts and Kalib happy. The Red Sox have a vastly improved offense and are playing very well. Giancarlo Stanton hasn’t been MVP worthy yet, but it hasn’t held the team back. Cleveland could finish the season 81-81 and still win their awful division. The Angels would have to be considered the surprise of the AL, but I am impressed with the work of Oakland, Seattle and Toronto. The Orioles should look to trade their veterans and rebuild.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 10.17.55 AM

When the season began, the Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers were expected to repeat as division champs. Again, this is a long season, but the Nats have battled injuries to Anthony Rendon and #perpetuallyinjuredAdamEaton. The Cubs have hit poorly with runners in scoring position, Yu Darvish can’t beat teams that aren’t Milwaukie. The Dodgers are a mess, where they couldn’t trust their closer, lost their shortstop, benched their 22 year old first baseman for not running hard and Clayton Kershaw has an ERA closer to 3 than 1.

When making my predictions for the remainder of the season, I look to run differential as a key stat and with that I list Boston (+67), Houston (+63) and the Yankees (+62) as teams that will definitely make the playoffs. All of them have the resources, prospects and reason to make trades as necessary. As I said before, Cleveland will win the Central, and they will improve as the season goes on. Their bullpen should improve by the return of Andrew Miller, a little trade, or regressing to the mean. The final Wild Card team that will play the Sox in the AL Wild Card is the Angels. MLB would love that to happen, particularly if Mike Scioscia can line up his rotation so Shohei Ohtani can pitch that game against Chris Sale.

In the NL, although I am impressed by the young players on Atlanta and Philadelphia. They have played really well to start the season, but the Nationals should come through and win the East. I think the Dodgers will fail here and fall short as they try to remain below the luxury tax threshold. When Washington goes out in the first round of the playoffs, Magic Johnson will be outside of the clubhouse with the blank check for Bryce Harper. I actually think Arizona will win the NL West in the end. I am not sure why, other than I never ever pick Colorado, think the Giants are too old and the Dodgers need a reboot. The surprise to me is how tight the NL Central will be. Like 2015, I think three teams from the Central will see the postseason. I believe in my Cubs and know that they will improve and finish at the end. The Wild Card game will feature Milwaukie Brewers Matt Harvey facing Michael Fulmer of the Cards. The best part is that we have months to watch this unfold.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 11.02.57 AM As for the playoff predictions…. let me enjoy this journey first. Or ask Reggie.

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Number 1

Allow myself to introduce myself. I am Louie Bottaro, new addition to the #PopcornCulture lineup who had the good fortune of coming into orbit with Kalib and Ross during their first years at Oregon State. I would call myself a “senior writer” but that only belies my many trips around the sun. I plan on writing about the same topic areas as my “bosses”, but may offer “stay off my lawn” opinions.

First of all I would like to thank Ben Simmons for his historic performance last night. It inspired internet trolls to photoshop his face and point total over the iconic image of former 76er legend Wilt Chamberlain on the night he scored 100 points in an NBA game. Yesterday was a big day if you are a sports fan like me, but for many different reasons. There were 3 key personnel transitions that I want to highlight, so away we go…

#1 In what has been speculated since last Friday morning, Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten announced his retirement.

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Like Tony Romo last year, this beloved legend of America’s team, (who never played in a Super Bowl, let alone win one) is headed to the Monday Night Football booth. You can not throw shade to his statistics as they are quite impressive, but I believe we have an overload of former Cowboy announcers to regale us on the genius of Jerry Jones and the greatness of the Cowboys, (I’m looking at you Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston and Romo). Where is Jay Novacek? I recognize that Michael Irvin, Darren Woodson and even Emmitt Smith have had post career opportunities in broadcasting, but why must the best jobs for ex-Cowboys all be white? I’m just asking.

I recognize that the Monday Night Football is nowhere near the event it was when I was a kid due to Sunday night games, Thursday night games, Direct TV and the Jon Gruden Experience, (which will never be confused with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, unless you like unnecessary feedback), but this seems like a massive jump for a guy that I can’t recall one iconic moment in his career. I am sure he will be better than Mike Golic, but wouldn’t Jay Cutler have been a better choice? I kid, I kid.

I know he is considered a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, but he may suffer from playing in the same era as Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Gronk. He may need to wait a while as he might be the 4th best tight end of his time.

#2 The next man I’ll mention will absolutely strut right into Cooperstown in the summer of 2024 on his first attempt. He is known by one name, which is typically reserved for legends like Prince, Madonna and Beyonce. That’s right, I’m talking about the most fashionable skinny jeans wearer in the history of Major League Baseball (Sorry Kalib, it’s not Big Papi)… Ichiro. I admit that I was very happy that Ichiro signed with the Seattle Mariners in the offseason. He came to the US in 2001 and had an amazing eleven and a half year run in Seattle. With 3089 hits in MLB on top of the the 1278 in Japan is a lot. More than Pete Rose, more than the guy who Trump’s previous lawyer was named after, more than me. Ichiro is a true legend and my only regret for him is that he did not sign with the Cubs.

The thing I like about Ichiro’s announcement is that he is taking a role in the Mariner front office, but isn’t retiring. I don’t know if he plans on going full Manny Mota and get hits in 4 decades, or play when he’s 48 like Julio Franco, but I would put nothing past this guy’s competitive Gambate spirit.

And #3 Peter King is leaving Sports Illustrated. If you read football on the internet, you read Peter King. I know some of you may only know him from his work in The Longest Yard. 

Peter King.jpg

Sports writers on the movie set of “The Longest Yard” in 2005 include (front row, left to right), Jay Glazer of Fox Sports; Peter King of Sports Illustrated; Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times; and Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In the back row, (left to right), John McClain of the Houston Chronicle; Larry Weisman of USA Today; and Adam Schefter of NFL Network. Paramount Studios photo.

I love how Peter is front and center in this picture and Adam Schefter looks like he was put in the corner by his daddy in Dirty Dancing. Peter is transitioning to a lesser role at NBC Sports where he will still write his MMQB column and do television work on NBC Sunday Night Football. It makes sense as it will allow him to spend more time with his family on the west coast. I have truly enjoyed Peter’s work over the years, particularly as he expanded the MMQB site and introduced many talented storytellers. I have mourned with him when his brother passed away and felt joy for him when his daughter married her wife and the birth of his grandson. Peter has worked within the Cro-Magnon NFL circles for years and continues to show warmth and empathy in his writing. It does make me wonder about the future of Sports Illustrated as an entity. It used to be the home of Frank DeFord, Peter Gammons, Rick Reilly and many others. Once PK leaves, I’m not sure what will draw me to their site besides the inevitable Lee Jenkins exclusive with LeBron James choosing to take his talents to the Lakers this summer.

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Wake up with David Ortiz’s walk off home run from game 4 of the 2004 world series.

Who better to start off the morning with than the king of clutch himself. 

If you don’t know the history, this home run won game 4 for the Red Sox and kept their playoff hopes alive moving the series to 3-1. The Red Sox would go on to complete the first and only reverse sweep in history of the MLB playoffs, and then go on to win the first franchise World Series since 1918 — the longest drought in the sport at the time, known as the Curse of the Bambino.

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