Tuesday Morning Tea: The Table is Shook

The current top 4 in the Premier League table have 21 First Division titles among them. For one of the most prestigious leagues in Europe, such class at the top of the table this early in the season is to be expected. The best teams are showing their quality and all is right with the world.

Except that 20 of those aforementioned titles belong to table toppers Manchester United. The other 3 teams in the top 4 – Huddersfield, West Brom and Watford – only have 1 title between them, belonging to the Baggies’ 1919-20 squad.

So much for traditional powers ruling the top 4, I suppose.

Only 3 teams have collected all 6 possible points, those teams being United, West Brom and Huddersfield. Manchester United’s two wins were expected, but a pair of dominating 4-0 results have fans on the red side of Manchester buzzing over the team’s play thus far. Romelu Lukaku netted again in another top class display by the Red Devils.

West Brom was a team that I had pegged as a possible Europa League surprise candidate and Tony Pulis’ squad certainly has not disappointed so far, winning their first two games of a top flight campaign for the first time since 1977-78.

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Photo Courtesy of Press Association

And the Huddersfield dream continues. Not only have the Terriers won their first two ever  top flight games, but they have yet to concede a goal and feature a +4 goal differential. Aaron Mooy scored an absolute sparkler to give Huddersfield a win over Newcastle on Sunday and the new boys still remain in Champions League position two weeks into the new season.

Early season results can be fluky – last season, Hull City won its first two games before going on to take 28 points from the next 36 matches – but the Prem table is currently flipped on its head. Some early table spots look easily sustainable while others absolutely don’t.

With all that being said, here are some teams that, 2 weeks into the season, aren’t where they belong.

……….

West Ham: Let’s start all the way down at the bottom of the table with a team clearly still trying to find its footing. After getting thumped 4-0 by a world-beating Manchester United side in their opener, West Ham badly needed a positive result this week against Southampton.

The result? An emotional rollercoaster of a game ending in heartbreak on a Charlie Austin stoppage time penalty that gave the Saints a 3-2 result. A brutal result for West Ham, but out of the rubble of another crushing defeat came two realizations.

When West Ham are good, they can play with anyone. But when West Ham aren’t nearly perfect, it’s an absolute disaster.

The bad at St. Mary’s was really bad. Jose Font looked clueless in the back, Marko Arnautovic gave away an absolutely awful red card (and the Moussa Sissoko comparisons are starting to fly for West Ham’s club record signing), and Pablo Zabaleta made a terrible mistake when giving away the final penalty.

The first Southampton goal exemplifies all of West Ham’s defense problems. A simple looking counterattack featuring Nathan Redmond and Manolo Giabbidini versus 6 Hammers turns into an easy Southampton goal. Redmond calmly holds the ball, not remotely pressured by Pablo Zabaleta, before sliding through a simple ball to Giabbidini, who easily sliced through the 3 centre backs on a straight line run and buried a quality finish. Disorganized, un-athletic, couldn’t be bothered to pressure the ball, down 1-0.

However, the attacking quality in this side is borderline great.

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Photo Courtesy of Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Chicharito is a godsend. A fox in the box, he was the first to pounce on the only two loose rebounds that Fraser Forster surrendered and absolutely buried both of them. Chicharito just has a nose for goal and positions himself phenomenally to be able to capitalize on whatever chances come his way. West Ham finally have a true goal scorer, and a darn good one at that.

Michel Antonio and Declan Rice both played brilliantly in behind the Mexican striker, and combining them with an in-form Marko Arnautovic can create some serious problems. The Hammers are far better than they’ve played so far. If the back line can figure things out and Arnautovic can screw his head on straight, West Ham will challenge for a Europa League spot instead of being 20th.

Huddersfield: There’s a parade going on in West Yorkshire right now and I’m about to rain on it. Yes, Huddersfield’s schedule looks favorable for the next month or so, but this team will come back down to earth eventually. A September 30th visit to Wembley looks like the time that the Terriers’ bubble will finally burst.

In the moment, David Wagner is a magician. His side have yet to concede a goal yet, Steve Mounie looks like the signing of a lifetime, and Aaron Mooy has been a world beating midfielder thus far. The physical, counter-pressing style that Huddersfield play has caused quite a stir thus far, completely vexing both Crystal Palace and now Newcastle.

Wagner
Photo Courtesy of Huddersfield Town

They would do well to keep this up, but the Terriers just don’t have the depth and quality to play such an aggressive, energetic style week after week. The grind of a Premier League season will eventually wear them own and deeper, more quality teams will begin slicing them open with counterattacks.

Don’t get me wrong, I hope that Huddersfield can keep this magical run going for as long as possible. This type of story is great for the game of football and I love watching it happen. But 2nd in the table isn’t at all sustainable and they will tumble.

Arsenal and Chelsea: I don’t think you need me to tell you that Arsenal and Chelsea won’t finish 11th and 12th in the final Premier League table, but let me do it anyway.

Arsenal and Chelsea won’t be finishing 11th and 12th in the final Premier League table, you can bank on it.

While a 1-0 loss to Stoke this weekend was a brutal result for Arsenal, they have too much attacking quality to not challenge the top 4. Lacazette continued his early brilliance, scoring a clean goal that was wrongly called back on a questionable offsides, Sead Kolasinac played another fantastic game from the back line, and Olivier Giroud made a significant impact for the second week in a row as a super sub.

Everything else was bad in the game against Stoke, but Arsenal just have too much quality to be sitting in the bottom half for longer than a month. As for Chelsea, a massive statement win against Tottenham has them right back on track.

Like I said, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that Arsenal and Chelsea wouldn’t be finishing this low in the final table, but rest assured that it won’t be happening.

……….

Where I Was Right Last Week

Chelsea bounced back in a major way after an embarrassing opening week defeat to Burnley. While not convincing, a 2-1 away victory against Tottenham is a massive statement and a necessary result for a team in desperate need for something positive.

A back line that looked completely lost at times against Burnley re-discovered their 2016-17 title winning form and held a potent Spurs attack mostly silent aside from one quality Harry Kane chance. Take away Michy Batshuayi’s bullet header own goal and Chelsea would have turned in a clean sheet to go along with their fantastic defensive effort.

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Photo Courtesy of Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

David Luiz showed incredible quality while playing in a holding midfield role behind Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante. Add a playmaker like Eden Hazard into this squad and Chelsea are the title contenders that we all thought they would be.

The opening result was disheartening, but Chelsea are back, just like I said they would be, and sooner than I thought too.

Where I Was Wrong Last Week

Briefly, I mentioned that Manchester City’s defense spending would pay off. Last week against Brighton, Kyle Walker was the MOTM, this week he garnered a first half double yellow and left Manchester City a man down for the majority of the game.

Everton’s only goal was a flashback to the City defense of 2016-17. A simple counter attack turned into Dominic Calvert-Lewin skinning two Manchester City centre backs before finding an unmarked Wayne Rooney for an easy 7 yard tap in goal.

Walker
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Everything City did well last week against Brighton was done poorly today against Everton. The 3 centre backs were undisciplined and unorganized, as evidenced by the Toffees’ goal, and the wing backs struggled creating chances while going forward.

Benjamin Mendy is yet to appear for Pep Guardiola’s side and he will be a godsend when he finally does debut, but City still appear to have the same defensive problems that they did last year.

Another centre back is definitely in need.

……….

Team of the Week: Manchester United

What more can be said about the Red Devils. A pair of dominating 4-0 wins have them flying high atop the table. Nemanja Matic played another brilliant game, Paul Pogba and Henrik Mkhitaryan played like the big money midfielders they were brought in to be, and Romelu Lukaku was on target yet again. United look unstoppable right now.

Runners Up: Huddersfield Town, Watford, Chelsea

Player of the Week: Marcos Alonso

Chelsea’s flying left back may have saved their season with an incredible brace at Wembley on Sunday. Starting off with a brilliant free kick goal to give Chelsea a 23’ lead and finishing with an 88’ winner, Alonso was the unlikely hero that the Blues so desperately needed. With another huge match against Everton on the horizon, Alonso’s top class performance was just what the Stamford Bridge doctor ordered.

Runners Up: Aaron Mooy, Chicharito, Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Moment of the Week: Marcos Alonso’s 88’ Winner for Chelsea

It may have saved the defending champions’ season. A draw wouldn’t have been the worst thing ever, but after giving up an own goal just 3 minutes earlier it sure would have felt like it for Chelsea fans. Alonso has struck new life into a season that was pronounced dead by so many just a week ago, and what a strike it was.

Runners Up: Chicharito’s equalizer, Aaron Mooy’s opener, Wayne Rooney’s 200th Prem goal

……….

10 Thoughts I Have

  1. Sadio Mane continues to develop into one of the world’s premier wingers. Pace, creativity, relentless effort on and off the ball all describe the Senegal international’s game and he showed his class once again this week against Crystal Palace. Mane’s tireless effort all afternoon finally culminated in a game winning goal.
  2. And speaking of Liverpool, their transfer situation is an absolute mess. Firstly, I’ve lost an immense amount of respect for Philippe Coutinho due to the way he has handled his transfer request. Holding out for a move to Barcelona, Coutinho has refused to train and held out of the team with a “back injury”. Meanwhile, Virgil Van Dijk continues to alienate himself at Southampton in hopes of forcing a move to Anfield. Overall, Liverpool’s transfer window disaster reinforces the need for the Premier League window to end on the first day of the season.
  3. While Coutinho and Van Dijk – among others (Ousmane Dembele, looking at you) – hold out for desired transfer moves, Riyad Mahrez has been all class for Leicester. The Foxes’ best player has made it clear that he wants a move away from the King Power Stadium in hopes of playing consistent Champions League football, but Leicester have not been able to work out a deal yet. But instead of throwing a fit and holding out, Mahrez has fulfilled his Leicester duty and played top quality football thus far. With 2 more assists against Brighton on Saturday, Mahrez has only continued to up his value and reputation. This is how it’s supposed to be done.
  4. I called Burnley manager Sean Dyche a magician last week, and before anyone could read that sentence his squad got ‘West Brom’d’ in a 1-0 home loss. This isn’t to take anything away from West Brom, as they are playing fantastic Tony Pulis football right now, but Burnley looked nothing like the side that shocked Chelsea just a week ago. Sam Vokes’ finishing was abysmal, and when the Clarets weren’t flubbing chances, they were struggling to create them. Burnley need more week to week consistency if they hope to survive for a second straight season.
  5. Watford are in the top 4 and Etienne Capoue scored the goal of the weekend. The bees are buzzing. 
  6. Other notable goals from the weekend include Paul Pogba’s chip, Marcos Alonso’s free kick, Raheem Sterling’s half volley equalizer, and Aaron Mooy’s winner for Huddersfield. Do yourself a favor and go watch all of them.
  7. Everton played Man City almost to perfection on Monday night. The Toffees relentlessly pressed high up the field, putting pressure on the 3 centre backs, and got the performance of a lifetime from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who caused problems all night long. Yet, playing the entire second half up a goal and a man, Everton were completely and totally dominated. City held nearly 75% possession and completed over 200 more passes before Raheem Sterling’s volley found the back of the net and salvaged a point for City. I’m still not sure if this game says more about Everton or City. From Everton’s view, they played exceptionally well against one of the best teams in the league and should have taken 3 points, but they didn’t. For City, they played horribly, yet found a way to salvage a point and almost come away with 3 while playing a full half down a man. Only time will tell.
  8. The sky is not falling on Arsenal, but what the hell happened to them this weekend at Stoke? 76% possession, outstanding performances from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Lacazette, yet the Gunners couldn’t come away with even a single point. Week 1 against Leicester, Arsenal scratched, clawed, and found ways to create chances and score. This week against Stoke, they looked overly cautious and seemed to be trying to create the perfect wonder goal instead of just firing on net. Dirty goals still count, fellas.
  9. Jese Rodriguez is absolutely sensational for Stoke. He joins the Potters on loan from Paris Saint-Germain and has already made a thunderous impact. His match winner against Arsenal was everything that will make him an instant Stoke fan favorite. Electrifying run, brilliant first touch, crackling finish, passionate celebration. Expect him to cause problems all season long.
  10. It only feels right to end this by talking about Manchester United because wow, what a start. They’ve scored 8 and have yet to concede. That speaks for itself, but coming off of a season in which Jose Mourinho’s side frustratingly drew a club record 18 matches, these results feel even more encouraging. The Red Devils’ next 5 games are against Leicester, Stoke, Everton, Southampton and Crystal Palace. Manchester United have been overshadowed all offseason by their crosstown rivals but have come out in pursuit of a 21st top flight title with blood in their eyes. These next few games should be a fantastic opportunity for United to distance themselves from the rest of the pack early.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

Tuesday Morning Tea: The Table is Shook

Tuesday Morning Tea: Week 1 Overreactions

Author’s Note: This is the first of what I hope to turn into a weekly series that recaps the weekend Premier League Action. Growing up in St. Louis, I didn’t have much exposure to European football when I was younger, so I’m almost brand new to the scene. I hope to bring a unique American perspective and analysis to this world that I’ve come to love so much while not sounding like too much of an idiot.

$1 billion.

Think about just how much money that is. It’s more than you or I will ever have combined between us in 12 lifetimes. It’s more money than the total GDP of 14 countries. It’s a mind boggling number.

$1 billion is a spending threshold that Premier League clubs flew past during the summer transfer window. Exorbitant transfer fees were tossed around like nobody’s business and Premier League clubs were most consistently involved.

Highlights include Manchester City breaking their own record for most expensive defender ever by purchasing fullback Kyle Walker from Tottenham for 50 million pounds. Then, a mere week later, City broke that record by signing fullback Benjamin Mendy for 52 million pounds from French champions AS Monaco.

Normally stingy Arsenal splashed a club record 52 million pounds on French goal machine Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon. Manchester United brought Everton striker Romelu Lukaku over the Toffees for an initial 75 million pound fee. Even middle and lower end clubs like Watford, Huddersfield, Everton and West Brom splurged club records on transfer fees.

This is probably me being new to football, but the relentless stream of rumors has made this summer seem particularly long. So after a long summer full of Premier League headlines, the league finally returned on August 11th.

New boys Huddersfield Town are currently in Champions League position, defending champs Chelsea were embarrassed at Stamford Bridge, and goals abounded throughout week 1’s fixtures. Here are some overreactions.

Huddersfield are Here to Stay

First off, congratulations to Huddersfield Town. Making their debut in England’s first division, the Terriers stormed their way to a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace. In a season that was completely unexpected, a debut win is an incredible moment that club supporters will never forget.

That being said, I still believe it’s an overreaction to immediately believe that Huddersfield will be able to breeze their way to relegation survival.

There is definite quality in this side, though. Aaron Mooy is class on the ball and can boss a midfield in the mold of someone like Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic. Huddersfield does play a distinct style that can catch underprepared squads by surprise, as evidenced by what happened to Palace on Saturday.

The Terriers press high up the field and rely on relentless pace and athleticism to make up for a lack of ball control and consistent structure. Against Palace, Huddersfield’s speed was on full display, and striker Steve Mounie had a day, scoring his first Premier League brace.

Huddersfield
Photo Courtesy of Reuter

The positives from this win are obvious. It’s an incredible moment for a long-suffering fanbase that never thought they would witness this day. But against teams that can match their athleticism, Huddersfield will be sliced open at the back.

This was fun, but reality will set in eventually.

Everything About Chelsea

To put it kindly, Stamford Bridge has never been known as a patient place and Chelsea’s traditional lack of patience is already being tested just one week into another title defense.

Seeing parallels to the disaster that was Chelsea’s last Premier League title defense, it seems easy to understand why the club and its supporters should panic. But knee jerk reactions are exactly what isn’t needed in this situation.

Yes, an opening 3-2 home defeat to Burnley is incredibly embarrassing. But that scoreline doesn’t reflect what happened.

Down 3-0 at half, Chelsea were booed off by the home fans. Captain Gary Cahill was sent off in the 13th minute for a rash challenge and the Blues never seemed to recover from that shock.

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Gary Cahill sees red (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Burnley, to their credit, took full advantage of a Chelsea side in disarray and bagged 3 tallies before the halftime whistle, including a Stephen Ward thunderbolt that has my vote for goal of the weekend.

However, a 10 man Chelsea side controlled the 2nd half. Alvaro Morata’s substitution completely changed the game and culminated in him netting his first Premier League goal minutes after entering.

It’s easy to see this game and immediately assume that Chelsea will be well out of the title picture by November and in shambles by Christmas, but that’s just not the case.

In reality, this is a team that was missing it’s best player, a key cog in its midfield, and only got 30 minutes out of its best striker. Burnley caught the champions by surprise, but put Eden Hazard, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Morata on the pitch for a full 90 minutes and Chelsea are just fine.

For once, Stamford Bridge needs to have some patience.

Arsenal and Liverpool are Doomed

File this one under the same category as “the sky is falling at Stamford Bridge.”

Behind Chelsea’s defeat, Liverpool’s scintillating 3-3 draw at Vicarage Road was the most surprising result of the weekend. The fact that a Watford side, without club record signing Andre Gray in the squad, was able to bag 3 goals and generally have their way with the Liverpool defense is startling. But it’s not as startling if you consider how the side would look with Virgil Van Dijk in the middle.

Yes, that’s a massive if, but the Dutch center back would bring much needed stability and size to a Liverpool defense lacking in both. 2 of Watford’s 3 goals were scored off of set pieces, with the Reds appearing helpless on both occasions. Van Dijk defends set pieces as well as any center back in the world and could almost single handedly solve this problem.

Again, this is all a massive if, but Liverpool’s attack was electric even without Philippe Coutinho. All Jurgen Klopp’s side needs is some stability at the back and you can bank on another top 4 finish.

Liverpool
Photo Courtesy of PA

As for Arsenal, I would be more encouraged by the fact that the Gunnars actually won an opening weekend match than by the scoreline they needed to do it.

Leicester consistently looked dangerous going forward, as they should all season, and the goals scored by the Foxes were mostly born by taking advantage of an Arsenal defense in disarray.

Yet, even while giving up 3 disheartening goals, Arsenal scored twice after the 80th minute to snatch a rare opening weekend victory. Olivier Giroud is the Premier League’s best super sub, Lacazette is the real deal, and Schalke transfer Sead Kolasinac was an absolute beast.

Arsenal
Photo Courtesy of ESPNFC

Arsene Wenger can worry about the holes his side showed later, Arsenal grabbing the 3 points is the most important part of this match and should ease nerves over the club’s future in its first year without Champions League football in over 2 decades.

……….

Team of the Weekend: Huddersfield Town

This one was pretty obvious. The Terriers won their first ever Premier League game by a 3-0 scoreline. It was a result for the ages and seeing Huddersfield at the top of the table, even if for less than a day, is a moment that club supporters will never forget.

Runners Up: Manchester United, Manchester City, Burnley

Player of the Weekend: Romelu Lukaku

On the heels of an excellent preseason, 2 goals on his Old Trafford debut continues Romelu Lukaku’s ascension through the Premier League ranks. The Belgian relished the opportunity to play for what he called “the biggest club in the world” and he’s wasted no time delivering on his immense promise. I don’t have a farm, but if I did, I would be betting it on Lukaku for the Golden Boot.

Runners Up: Steve Mounie, Sam Vokes, Kyle Walker, Sead Kolasinac

Moment of the Weekend: Wayne Rooney’s Return

After 13 seasons away, the Premier League’s all time second leading scorer returned to his boyhood club and marked the occasion with a match winning goal. The ovation was thunderous and the moment will go down in Everton’s long history. After spending a club record during the summer transfer window in a desperate attempt to break through to the top 6, Rooney’s goal provided a bright opening act in what club supporters hope to be a special season.

Runners Up: Giroud’s winner, Watford’s stoppage time equalizer, the final whistle at Selhurst Park

10 Thoughts I Have

1. Manchester City’s defense spending will pay off. Kyle Walker was the Man of the Match during City’s opener at Brighton, and the Seagulls hardly appeared to pose anything that could be considered a scoring threat. Yes, it’s Brighton, but City pressed high, was excellently organized at the back and looked a world different from the disarrayed side that took the field most of last year. Add in Benjamin Mendy when he’s fit and Pep Guardiola has a scary looking squad.

2. Yes, I said that Burnley’s Stephen Ward scored the goal of the weekend, but Sadio Mane’s opener for Liverpool was incredible. Losing Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona would be a huge bane on Liverpool’s title hopes, but if Saturday was any indication of the type of player Mane can turn into, the Reds have something special. (start watching at 0:33 for Mane’s goal). 

3. STEPHEN WARD SCORED THE GOAL OF THE WEEKEND. (start at 1:12)

4. Wayne Rooney made all the headlines for Everton, but goalie Jordan Pickford will stand out as the club’s best transfer. Pickford had a fantastic summer, playing a huge part in the England’s 3rd place finish at the 2017 U21 European Championships. Pickford made a fantastic save in Everton’s opener against Bournemouth and already appears worth the club record fee that the Toffees paid for him.

5. Nemanja Matic is just what the doctor ordered for Manchester United. He absolutely bossed the game against West Ham, controlling possession, passing accurately, and creating valuable space for the likes of Paul Pogba and Juan Mata to work. Last season, Pogba struggled with defensive responsibilities and was limited in his ability to create going forward. Matic is exactly the kind of player that Pogba needs in behind him and will be a godsend for Jose Mourinho’s squad this season.

6. Sead Kolasinac will be overlooked, beaten out by the higher profile likes of Lukaku, Morata, Lacazette and Salah, but he’ll have a legitimate case as the best Premier League transfer of the summer. Kolasinac was a beast going forward for the Gunnars, easily the best player on the pitch at any given time. Combine that with the fact that he’s only 24 years old and came over on a free transfer from Schalke and Arsenal have an incredible bargain on their hands.

7. Crystal Palace might be the most talented team ever relegated. With an attack featuring Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke, Yohan Cabaye and Manchester United signee Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Palace have the quality of a team that should comfortably avoid relegation. However, every major flaw that Palace have was put on full display while they got thrashed by Huddersfield and it looks to be a struggle for the Eagles to avoid relegation.

8. Sean Dyche is magic. The man on the touchline that expertly and surprisingly guided Burnley to safety in 2016-17 was back at it again this weekend. Dyche lost his best striker, Andre Gray, yet still managed to pick apart the defending champions. His Burnley side were well prepared for a raucous atmosphere and appeared the calmer and more poised of the two sides, pouncing all over a disarrayed Chelsea side to generate a shocking 3-2 win. All hail the Premier League’s best manager.

9. With a transfer window where they have literally brought in 0 players, Tottenham have seemingly been forgotten about in the July frenzy. Their 2-0 win over Newcastle, while pedestrian, was imperative. Spurs have watched quietly all summer as every club around them has gotten better and questions still surround the club. But a convincing opening weekend result was exactly what Mauricio Pochettino’s side needed. Next week’s massive tilt against a desperate Chelsea side will go a long way in telling us just what kind of team Tottenham are.

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10. Manchester City’s depth will win them the league. Struggling for a breakthrough against Brighton 60 minutes into the game, City manager Pep Guardiola turned to his substitutes. Would he bring on the savvy of Yaya Toure, the pace of Leroy Sane, creativity of Bernardo Silva, or 17 year old starlet Phil Foden? Guardiola chose Sane, and City opened the scoring 5 minutes later, never looking back. The bench options that Pep Guardiola has at his disposal are incredible when you consider the 4 that I mentioned above combined with Raheem Sterling, a soon returning Ilkay Gundogan, and record signing Benjamin Mendy. City’s depth especially stands out when compared to other title contenders. In the grind of a Premier League season, Manchester City have built a squad with quality coming out of its ears and that will be the ultimate difference in 2017-18’s title chase.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

Tuesday Morning Tea: Week 1 Overreactions

Joey Gallo’s Season for the Ages

Think about all of the baseball games that have been played at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. Yeah, I know it’s not the most historic stadium in the world, but it’s coming up on 25 seasons old and has hosted a pair of World Series’.

With a multitude of sluggers having graced its diamond, Globe Life has seen some monstrous home runs. Between Nelson Cruz, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Adrian Beltre, moonshots have abounded in Arlington. Last Tuesday, Joey Gallo did something that Globe Life has never seen before.

You know that lawn out in center field? The one that hundreds of home runs have landed on? Yeah, Joey Gallo hit it over that lawn.

Way over that lawn.

Now, I don’t watch the Rangers a whole lot, but I’ve never seen a ball hit over that lawn. Statcast measured Gallo’s moonshot at 456 feet, but I’m not buying it. I’d be willing to bet that this baseball was hit further than any in Globe Life Park or Rangers history.

Statcast probably broke trying to track this bomb.

Ranger fans have long been teased by Joey Gallo’s name. He’s been touted as Adrian Beltre’s heir ever since he was drafted 39th overall in 2012’s supplemental 1st round. His power is the stuff of legends, with ESPN giving it an 80 on his draft report and Baseball America reporting that he hit the 10th longest home run in Petco Park history while playing in a high school showcase with a wood bat.

The only question about Gallo at time time of his drafting was that while the power and arm tools were both incredible, his hit tool was concerning. The question of whether or not he could make consistent enough contact to truly take advantage of his power caused him to slide down to Texas’ first round supplemental pick at 39th overall.

Well, 5 years later, Gallo has answered questions about his power and contact abilities in an extreme way.

Gallo 2
Photo by Stefan Stevenson for the Star-Telegram

At the time of writing, Gallo has hit 32 home runs and out of the eight hitters who have topped 30 bombs already in 2017, Gallo’s 381 plate appearances are the fewest. He has a chance to become only the 5th player to hit 40 home runs in 500 or fewer plate appearances.

Also at the time of writing, Joey Gallo is sporting a .206 batting average and 143 strikeouts. Combine that with his slugging profile and you not only have one of the most extreme hitters of 2017, but possibly the most extreme hitter of all time.

In a season where home runs and strikeouts are at an all time high, Joey Gallo is leading the way and producing a season unlike any we have ever seen before. The deeper into the numbers you dig, the more and more amazing he gets.

Gallo has a chance to become the first player ever to post a full season with a sub .200 batting average, 30 home runs, and an OPS above .800. That alone would be amazing, but it’s only part of what makes Joey Gallo’s 2017 so remarkable.

Major League Baseball has set a new record for most total strikeouts in a single season every year since 2008. 2017 is on pace to break that record once again and Gallo is a main contributor.

His 37.5% strikeout rate would be a full season Major League record and he’s coming for Mark Reynolds’ single season strikeout record of 223 with vengeance in his eyes. Combined with that, Gallo’s 20 singles are easily the fewest in Major League baseball this season and that number is on pace to be the lowest single season total in the live ball era.

Gallo doesn’t make consistent contact, but when he does, it goes in the air. His ground ball to fly ball ratio of 0.43 is the 3rd lowest mark in single season Major League history, meaning that his batted balls are just about always hit in the air. The average launch angle on 2017 Joey Gallo home runs is 30.4 degrees, easily the highest among players with at least 30 round trippers.

Launch angle proprietors, meet your poster child.

But Joey Gallo isn’t just out here hitting soft infield pop ups and cans of corn, his hard contact percentage on balls put in play is 2017’s 4th highest mark at 45.4% and puts him 16th on the all time single season list. And, just for good measure, Gallo hit a home run at 116.3 MPH, an exit velocity that only Aaron Judge has been able to top in the Statcast era.

So, what we know about Joey Gallo so far is that the has an extreme contact to non contact profile. He is striking out at an all time rate, yet producing hard contact when he puts bat on ball. The balls he makes contact on are consistently going in the air and then over the fence at an all time rate.

Gallo 3
Photo Courtesy of The Sporting News

That’s not all that Joey Gallo does, though. Combined with all the strikeouts and home runs is a 12.9% walk rate. Strikeouts, walks and home runs are considered the “three true outcomes” of baseball, and Gallo’s three true outcome percentage of 58.8% is on pace to be an all time single season high.

Now, if you’re an older baseball fan who grew up watching an era of players who desperately tried to avoid strikeouts at all costs and believed that a .300 average was the benchmark of greatness, you probably hate Joey Gallo because of his extreme profile.

But, all of Gallo’s offensive exploits have come together to produce a well above average hitter and player. At 124 wRC+, Gallo is 24% better than league average as a hitter. Combine that with solid defense, outstanding base running (Gallo’s 6.4 Fangraphs BsR ranks 3rd in all of Major League Baseball for 2017), and you’ve got yourself about a 4 WAR player.

Joey Gallo’s record breaking 2017 season will go down as one of the most unique and incredible in the history of the game. It might also be one of the most influential seasons in history because it’s making us pose an important question in today’s day and age of baseball.

How much does making consistent contact really matter?

If Joey Gallo can strike out at an all time rate, set a new single season low for 1 base hits, yet still produce a well above average offensive profile and be a 4 WAR player, why does hitting for high average and making consistent contact matter anymore?

Another question for another day…

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

Joey Gallo’s Season for the Ages

Neymar to PSG: The Transfer of a Generation

I was far too young to remember Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid.

In the summer of 2009, I was an 11 year old boy focused on my hometown St. Louis Cardinals and the first sports team I ever loved, the St. Louis Rams. International football couldn’t have been further out of my mind and I don’t think I even knew Ronaldo’s name. 

Cristiano’s world record transfer shattered a world I didn’t yet know existed.

For 94 million euros, the world’s best player was moving on from the club and manager that had nurtured him into a worldwide superstar in order to take on the world at Real Madrid. While that fee now seems somewhat tame compared to what we’ve seen recently, his 1 billion euro buy-out clause remains mind blowing.

More than 80,000 fans packed Real’s Santiago Bernebeu in order to greet the next heir to the Madrid throne. The football world stopped for one day in order to try and wrap its collective mind around the biggest transfer spectacle ever seen.

Nearly 10 years later, the football world has been shaken again, in a way that even the groundbreaking transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo could not do. With the announcement made official today, FC Barcelona’s Brazilian starlet, Neymar Jr, is transferring away to join Paris Saint Germain.

Earth shattering does not even begin to do this justice.

At 25 years old and already easily one of the very best players in the world, Neymar still conceivably has yet to truly enter his prime. His best years of football could still be ahead of him and he will now truly have his own stage on which to display his otherworldly talents.

For the past 4 years, Neymar has played on a Barcelona team that belonged to Lionel Messi. As brilliant as Neymar could be at times, he was living and playing in Messi’s shadow, and as much as we all wanted to anoint him as Messi’s heir, he was always going to be second fiddle.

However, playing at a club as big as Barcelona, there never was much speculation about Neymar potentially moving away. In Ronaldo’s case, he always seemed destined to move away from Manchester and the Real Madrid rumors followed him all throughout his final 2 years at United.

Up until about 3 weeks ago, Neymar was a Barcelona player, the sky was blue, and we all had bigger things to focus on. The timing and swift nature of this whole saga plays a huge role in the reason why this is not just the most expensive transfer of all time but also the most significant.

On July 17th, things started as a rumor that PSG could and would trigger Neymar’s outlandish 222 million euro release clause. That got us talking, but it didn’t seem to be anything serious. Then, that rumor quickly snowballed into more rumors about training bust ups involving Neymar, his desire to leave, PSG’s continued seriousness about triggering the clause, and suddenly this wasn’t just a rumor.

Over the course of nearly 3 weeks, the world’s 3rd best player moved away from the world’s second biggest club in the world’s biggest league to play for a 2nd place team in the smallest of Europe’s big 5 leagues.

Setting aside the fact that this will absolutely shatter Paul Pogba’s previous transfer fee record, the significance of Neymar’s move to Paris is generation defining.

The greatest attack of our generation – Messi, Suarez, Neymar – is no more. The heir to Lionel Messi’s Barcelona throne has moved his talents to Paris. PSG have just purchased easily the biggest and best player in their club’s history. And, in the most expensive and significant transfer of all time, the player has chosen to move from FC Barcelona, one of the most historic and prestigious clubs in the world, to a second place Ligue 1 team.

That last part, the fact that Neymar chose PSG over Barcelona asserts a fact that we can’t ignore anymore. Much like what we’re seeing in the NBA, international football is run by the players now.

As Kyrie Irving’s whining and complaining has shown, executives in the NBA aren’t truly in charge anymore. The players get what they want, and the transcendent talents of the game – LeBron, Kyrie, Steph, Durant, many others – are able to extort executives and manipulate situations however they please.

Neymar, one of the transcendent players in today’s football landscape, manipulated this situation how he wanted. Barcelona’s Brazilian wanted a move away from the Camp Nou and was determined to make that happen. To drive that point home, Neymar and his representatives informed Barcelona executives this morning that they would be paying the release clause after PSG’s bid was blocked by La Liga.

Neymar made up his mind on Paris, and nothing was going to stop him. Setting aside the money, what kind of precedent does this set for a generation of footballers to come?

With Roma legend Francesco Totti now retired, the era of players spending a long, loyal career with one club is over and Neymar’s transfer is the final nail in a coffin that was carefully and efficiently built this summer.

After a poor 2016-17 season, Arsenal have missed out on Champions League football for the first time in over 20 years. Gunners’ superstar Alexis Sanchez has publicly made it clear that he isn’t interested in playing on a team without Champions League football. Although they publicly insist Sanchez isn’t going anywhere, Arsenal’s hands are tied and Alexis is in control of the situation.

Juventus legend Leonardo Bonucci, at 30 years old and having spent the last 8 years with the Italian kings, shockingly and suddenly moved to AC Milan this summer. Having seemingly spurned transfer attempt after transfer attempt over the course of the past year or so in favor of staying at Juve, Bonucci apparently decided that he’d had enough and forced a move away.

As much as prominent managers like Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, or Arsene Wenger like to paint the picture that they are in charge and call the shots, Neymar’s transfer proves that the business of football is truly a players’ game now.

When we look back on the state of football 5 or 10 years from now, this day will be the first that we study. A precedent has been set by one of the world’s best players, and you can expect dozens to follow in his footsteps and make their demands known. Players like Eden Hazard, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are already beginning to clamor for a move to Barcelona because they see an opening.

What happens in the near future will shape our generation of football as we know it, Neymar has made sure of it.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

Neymar to PSG: The Transfer of a Generation

How Delusion Lost the Trade Deadline

Man, the Baltimore Orioles really don’t know how to use Zach Britton.

After last year’s Wild Card game, you’d figure the Orioles maybe would have finally figured out how to deploy their greatest asset. But, it’s August 3rd and Britton still puts on an orange and black uniform every night that doesn’t say ‘Houston’ on the front of it.

Lol nope, they haven’t figured out. 

According to Ken Rosenthal, with about an hour left until the deadline the Baltimore front office called all teams interested in Britton – presumably Houston, Cleveland and Los Angeles – and told him that he wasn’t available any more. The Orioles then preceded to acquire Tim Beckham from the Rays, combining him with Jeremy Hellickson, acquired two nights prior, to make up their trade deadline prizes.  

The Baltimore Orioles, 4 games under .500 entering July 31st and featuring the 27th best MLB farm system according to ESPN’s Keith Law, decided to buy at the trade deadline.

Now, if we’re to believe Houston’s front office and a report by Jon Heyman, there was a Zach Britton to the Astros trade in place before it was “vetoed at the top.” Orioles owner Peter Angelos has only allowed his team to ‘sell’ for 2 out of the past 20-30 deadlines, so it seems pretty easy to understand who put the stamp on things.

Delusion reigned supreme in Baltimore.

From Angelos’ point of view, he’s 86 years old and I understand an urgency to win. But his win-now demands have tied the hands of his franchise. The Orioles traditionally don’t draft well or spend internationally, so they have to be on point with trading and free agency. Holding onto Zach Britton and Brad Brach – among others – at the deadline has set them up in a porous position going forward.

In a seller’s market for pitching, Baltimore had two of the most valuable assets and a chance to run the table. Instead, they decided to hold firm and, further, when they weren’t able to get the presumably exorbitant player returns they wanted on Britton and Brach, the Orioles decided to buy.

When Jeremy Hellickson doesn’t solve Baltimore’s awful starting pitching situation, things predictably collapse down the stretch of this season and the Orioles finish in the AL East cellar, they’ll have a dire offseason situation staring them in the face and nobody to blame but themselves. 

So, congratulations to the Orioles for still thinking they can contend, I guess. Enjoy Tim Beckham and another decade of irrelevancy.

What Baltimore – and a startling amount of other clubs – apparently fails to understand is that relief pitching is the most volatile commodity in baseball. Second on that list is prospects. So all the teams that decided to cuddle up with their relievers and prospects instead of sacking up and making smart, calculated moves did a great job holding firm and not being pushed around!

But don’t be too proud, you’re worse off than you were before.

Out in San Diego, General Manager AJ Preller was reportedly “reaching for the stars” with his asking price on reliever Brad Hand. Hand is having a breakout, All-Star season and had emerged as one of the most valuable deadline commodities.

The Padres have absolutely no use for him. A top quality relief pitcher on a bad team is like having icing, but no cake. Keeping Brad Hand in San Diego is a useless luxury because a good bullpen is usually the final piece in a championship puzzle, but the Padres don’t even have a box to keep it in, let alone the rest of the puzzle.

What AJ Preller apparently failed to understand is that he wasn’t in a position of leverage with negotiations surrounding Hand. Could teams such as the Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox and Indians all use a pitcher like Brad Hand? Absolutely, but the Padres aren’t in a spot where holding onto Hand instead of trading him gives them any sort of advantage.

Bad teams clearly fail to understand that they will not be able to extort GM’s of better teams in relief pitching negotiations. And instead of accepting a lesser, yet still valuable return on a luxury player they had no use for, the Padres opted to hold firm on their outrageous demands and ended up keeping Hand through the deadline.

Way to go, AJ Preller and company! You didn’t allow yourself to be pushed around and have wasted the only useful trade commodity wearing Padres brown. 

Considering that Hand has no track record of putting up the numbers he’s putting up this season and also considering the volatility of relief pitching, he could easily flame out within a year and San Diego would end up with nothing to show for what once could be considered the most valuable deadline commodity.

Delusional return demands and the idea that they had some leverage made San Diego hold onto Hand and caused them to fail the deadline. Enjoy more irrelevancy, Padres; not like it’s anything you aren’t used to, though.

And now we get to the biggest failure of the deadline, the Houston Astros.

3 weeks ago, I said that if Houston didn’t trade for a young, controllable starting pitcher they will have failed the trade deadline. Well, guess whose parents aren’t gonna be happy with the report card coming in the mail.

The Astros’ team ERA has gradually risen from 3.38 in April, bottoming out at an alarming 5.08 over the month of July. Team ace Dallas Keuchel has spent extended time on the DL this season, and Lance McCullers Jr. just was placed there on Wednesday morning. Right now, Houston would roll into a playoff series with Keuchel, Mike Fiers, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh making up their rotation.

And the front office’s brilliant solution to this problem was Francisco Liriano.

I certainly believe that the Astros were busy because, as I mentioned earlier, they reportedly had a deal for Zach Britton all set until it got “vetoed at the top.” But, unlike the Dodgers, Houston didn’t seem to have a backup plan after their Britton pursuit failed.

Los Angeles finalized 3 trades in the span of an hour after the Britton shutdown and solidified their contender status. Houston curled up in a corner and convinced themselves that they were already good enough.

And then as soon as the masses predictably began questioning the Astros’ lack of trade movement, the executives played the victim card. General Manager Jeff Luhnow talked about how disappointed he was that some deals were “almost over the finish line” but then couldn’t get done. He mentioned that things either got vetoed at the top or that Houston’s “math guys” didn’t like the long term numbers of deals in place.

Whatever excuse they come up with next, the Astros failed miserably.

Houston’s seeming lack of a Britton back up plan is pathetic. If Liriano was their back up plan and the trade just got announced sooner than the Britton news happened, that’s less pathetic but still not conducive to a team trying to win its first ever World Series.

If the Astros were worried about their long term math being messed up, that’s even more of a problem because it shows that the front office lacks perspective. As I mentioned yesterday, you don’t get to choose the winning window because it chooses you. Houston seems to be irresponsibly acting as if, by holding onto their precious prospects, the window is going to be open forever and that trading some away would close it immediately after 2017.

Teams in a similar position, the Yankees and Dodgers, went out and aggressively acquired quality starting pitching. Houston, with just as many prospects to trade as those two teams, let themselves be bullied into a corner and have thus allowed the gap between them and the rest of the American League to be all but closed.

The Astros will have nobody to blame but themselves when 2017 turns into another ‘what could have been’ year in the franchise’s long, title-less history.

Considering that I implored every team to either buy or sell at the deadline, you can put me up at the top of the list of people that are immensely frustrated by the holistic lack of movement over the month of July.

The Giants only traded Eduardo Nunez because it was convenient. The Mets moved laterally by shipping out Addison Reed but bringing in AJ Ramos. Milwaukee allowed themselves to be bullied around by the Cubs and opted to only comfortably acquire a few relievers. The Tigers unwisely held firm on Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler. The Pirates went nowhere. Cincinnati failed to capitalize on Zack Cozart’s sky high value. And I have yet to even mention teams like St. Louis, Toronto, Seattle, and the Angels that all remain without a clear franchise direction.

This trade deadline was a mess, and all the ‘losers’ have delusion to blame.

Baltimore’s delusion was believing it should buy. Houston’s delusion was believing prospects are more valuable than winning now. San Diego’s delusion was believing they had leverage with Brad Hand negotiations. Among many, many others, these stand out most.

Hopefully 2017’s trade deadline can serve as a reminder to all GM’s that midseason activity is pivotal to franchise success, whether that be during the current season or in the future. Sitting pat is a useless activity that yields nothing but mediocrity and irrelevancy.

To the D’Backs, Cubs, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Dodgers or Nationals: one of you will enjoy a 2017 championship.

To the A’s, Rangers and especially the White Sox: enjoy the future fruits of your selling labor.

To everyone else: figure it out or remain irrelevant. The choice is yours.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

How Delusion Lost the Trade Deadline

How Active Teams Won the Trade Deadline

You don’t choose the window, the window chooses you.

Apparently, only 11 MLB general managers understand the most important concept of front office-ing. Out of all 30 teams at the deadline, only 11 seemed to truly know what they were doing and only 11 teams truly improved.

The Nationals, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Rays, Diamondbacks and Indians all sensed an opportunity to win in 2017 and acted on it. The Rangers and A’s sensed that they needed to build for the future and acted on it. The White Sox continued a fire sale that will pay off soon.

Every other team? Yikes.

About 3 weeks ago, I wrote about how the idea of ‘standing pat’ at the deadline is stupid and useless. You either feel you have a team that can make a playoff run or you feel you don’t. And based on that feeling, you act accordingly at the trade deadline. Standing pat and doing nothing creates mediocrity and irrelevancy.

And, out of the 29 teams that won’t be celebrating a World Series in 2017, 21 of them – excluding intentional sellers Oakland, Texas and the White Sox – just solidified that status with an apathetic trade deadline approach. Yeah, I’m primarily looking at you, Houston Astros. Enjoy 2017 as your ‘what could have been’ season.

But I’m not here to talk about the teams that failed the deadline, I’ll get to them some other time. I’m here to talk about the teams that won the deadline and the common approach that they all shared.

Activity won the trade deadline, and I will personally guarantee that one of the 7 buyers I listed above will be standing alone at the end of the season as 2017 World Series champions.

In the National League, the 3 best teams have clearly separated themselves. The Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers all understand that they have both pressure and rosters ready to make a deep playoff run in 2017, and they all acted like it in July, operating with the precision and aggression conducive to a World Series winning approach.

The Cubs, experiencing a World Series hangover that saw them enter the All Star break under .500, were able to stay afloat for the first 3 and a half months of the season due to a weak NL Central. However, instead of trusting the team already in place to get things going, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer bolstered what few roster holes they had and have kick-started a sleeping giant.

Since acquiring Jose Quintana on July 14th, the Cubs are 14-3 and have leapfrogged the Brewers to take control of the NL Central. Having filled the three discernible roster holes that they had – left handed reliever, backup catcher, starting pitcher – with micro-precision trades, Chicago appears set for another playoff run and has put itself back on track for more future success after appearing unsteady.

Out in Washington, the bullpen appears to be the only problem. The Nationals are 63-42 and hold a commanding 13 game lead over the second place Marlins in the NL East. However, with 14 blown saves and a 4.38 ERA entering the All-Star break, some clear help was needed in the bullpen.

GM Mike Rizzo and the rest of the Nationals’ front office acted accordingly, making trades for A’s relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madsen along with Twins’ closer Brandon Kintzler. By adding 3 back end arms and addressing the dire bullpen need, Washington has secured itself a more stable playoff position and can feel good about their chances of finally making good on the promise of a World Series run that they have teased their fans with for so long.

Since the break, the Nationals haven’t blown a save and hold a much improved 3.05 team bullpen ERA. Problem solved thus far.

With a 75-31 record on August 2nd, the Dodgers have something seriously special going on. That .708 winning percentage has them on pace for 114 wins, just 3 shy of setting a Major League record. Clearly, this is a tremendous team having a tremendous season.

With an approach reflecting that, the Dodgers didn’t mess around at the deadline. They tried and failed to acquire Zach Britton from the Orioles. However, when that fell through, Andrew Freidman, Farhan Zaidi and the rest of the Los Angeles brass launched into plan B.

Plan B consisted of power relievers Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani along with Texas Rangers’ ace Yu Darvish.

The Dodgers have a sparkling farm system that has been carefully built by a patient and stingy front office. Their traditional refusal to trade prospects has yielded them Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger’s respective 2016 and 2017 breakouts. However, understanding that 114 win teams don’t come around very often, Los Angeles rightly decided it was time to bite the bullet on their traditional mold and deal away some future talent.

Instead of cuddling up in a corner with their precious prospects, the best team in baseball sacked up, dealt some away and got better because of it. The Dodgers’ are now easily in pole position to win their first World Series since 1988 because of a superb trade deadline and it was beautiful to watch.

I also have to give props to the Diamondbacks for going and getting JD Martinez. Arizona is currently in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and although they don’t appear good enough to take down the Cubs, Nationals, or Dodgers, they have separated as the best of the rest.

Their move for Martinez showed a clear approach. Arizona believes that they just have to make the playoffs to have a shot. The Diamondbacks didn’t deplete the farm system chasing after rentals, they made a calculated move in order to smartly capitalize on a winning team without mortgaging their future.

Those 4 teams all guaranteed themselves a playoff spot by simply having a clear plan and being active at the deadline.

In the American League, the story wasn’t so much about separating the gap between playoff teams as it was closing the gap.

The Astros, to this point, have made themselves a clear front runner in the junior circuit. Sports Illustrated, 3 years ago, declared them the 2017 World Series champions and Houston has apparently taken that to heart.

However, some chinks in the armor have shown through over the course of the past month or so and Houston is only 8-8 since the All Star break with a disturbing 5.64 team ERA.  Sensing an opportunity to close ground on the previously invincible looking Astros, the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians all pounced.

New York reeled in the most prized possession of the trade deadline in Sonny Gray. Boston nabbed themselves Eduardo Nunez and Addison Reed, thus far solving their 3rd base issue and adding another power arm to an already stacked bullpen. And Cleveland moved for strikeout machine Joe Smith from Toronto, further solidifying a bullpen that has already shown itself as a dynamic October weapon.

Hell, even the plucky Tampa Bay Rays acquired Lucas Duda and Steve Cishek to fortify their troops for a possible Wild Card run.

The gap that Houston had previously created between themselves and the rest of the American League is now all but gone. Old fashioned aggressive dealing by Dave Dombrowski, Brian Cashman and Chris Antonetti closed it and just made the junior circuit playoff picture a whole lot more interesting.

And on the selling side, Texas and Oakland nailed it.

Instead of waiting until the offseason and possibly only getting a compensatory draft pick, the Texas Rangers opted to pull back 3 prospects for walk year ace Yu Darvish. Prospects are already one of the most volatile commodities in baseball, but prospects that haven’t even been drafted yet take it to another level. Texas secured themselves a much more comfortable return by trading Darvish to Los Angeles, even if they didn’t get back the ideal package of prospects they were looking for.

Oakland did similarly with their trades of Sonny Gray, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madsen. Knowing they aren’t ready to win right now, the A’s have no use for those 3 players. Instead of letting their value waste away on a losing team, Oakland acquired high quality future talent from the Yankees for Gray, and also got prospects back for Doolittle and Madsen.

With 2 more years of control, could Oakland have easily held onto Sonny Gray in hopes of having him ready to lead a winning team soon? Absolutely, but Billy Beane isn’t stupid enough to think that his team is going to need a player like Gray right now or even in the immediate future because he knows that the A’s won’t be ready to win during Sonny Gray’s contracted tenure.

So, he planned for the future.

It boggled my mind while watching the trade deadline unfold that only 11 out of 30 teams seemed to have a clear plan and know what they were doing. In a seller’s market, only Oakland and Texas truly took advantage of a seemingly voracious appetite for pitching.

Understanding that playoff opportunities aren’t to be taken for granted, Tampa Bay and Arizona (and Kansas City in a way, but that’s a more unique situation) made calculated deals to maximize the teams they have now without selling away their futures.

And with pressure to win now and rosters conducive to that plan, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Chicago and Washington went all in and have essentially set the playoff picture.

When October rolls around and the teams playing include the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Indians, Cubs, Nationals and Diamondbacks, everyone will see that activity and aggression won the trade deadline. No team has ever won the World Series by sitting pat in July, and no team that isn’t listed above will be raising a trophy this year either.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

How Active Teams Won the Trade Deadline