‘The Last Dance’ Review, Recap, and Reaction

By Saransh Sharma and Nikhil Pradeep

The 5-week, 10 episode docu-series on the greatest run by a team in a decade in the history of sports, concluded today, with the ending being capped off with the 1998 NBA Finals victory by the Chicago Bulls to win their 6th championship in 8 years, thus completing ‘The Last Dance,’ which was what coach Phil Jackson called this last year quest for the dynasty. So much happened behind the scenes and off the court that we really did not know until now, and the fact that we got the chance to capture all of that and see Michael revisit and talk about these moments was truly remarkable. There are so many big pieces to the ‘98 Championship run from so many different past seasons, whether it be playing against Dennis Rodman and losing to him and the Pistons constantly and then eventually recruiting him to the team, and also Jordan having retired for baseball, then coming back and getting back in shape, Scottie Pippen’s role, Jerry Krause’s ignorance, MJ’s winning mentality being described as ‘disrespectful,’ and so much more. Here is the big review, recap, and reaction all-in-one to all the events, details, decisions, descriptions, and much more, of how ‘The Last Dance’ turned out to be successful, both as the ‘98 season, and as the critically-acclaimed docu-series.

Saransh’s Reaction

Michael Jordan’s Competitive Nature

The competitiveness of Michael Jordan is second to none not just amongst basketball players, but amongst athletes. Whether it was an NBA Playoff game, golfing with his dad, or just a simple ‘coin toss across the room’ game with the team security guard like in Episode 6, everything was a competition to Mike. The most impressive thing about his competitive nature was what motivated him to compete at such a high level. Sometimes it was as simple as just losing, like it was for him against Detroit and Orlando, seeing them celebrate in Chicago and winning against him in a series, but sometimes it was just one action or comment by someone that was their downfall, and Michael’s rise. When Charlotte stole a game from Chicago in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference in 1996 and B.J. Armstrong talked a little trash, it was over for Charlotte. The next 4 games went to Chicago and they even swept Orlando in the Conference Finals.

Then there was the side of Jordan which I think a lot of people were surprised to see and hear about, which was the ‘not-so-nice guy’ side of him. The stories of him at practices are honestly as legendary as you can think of. He punched Steve Kerr after a practice after Kerr did not back down from him when Jordan got mad at Phil Jackson for putting Kerr on him and making fun of him. He then proceeded to apologize and talk it out on the phone with Kerr, and as they were both competitive guys, they understood why it got heated. But even as great as Michael was, there were still people that did not like his ways as a teammate. Former Bulls Point Guard John Paxson talked about how he would be scared at times, and Power Forward Horace Grant apparently could not eat after games because Jordan did not let him. But at the end of the day, this made Jordan the greatest, the tough love. It was so hard for him to talk about his teammates, that he started tearing up talking about it and hearing about how some of his teammates felt sometimes. But in the end, the hard truth was that it was his way of gaining trust of them, and making them realize what he expected of them. If he did not go so hard on Kerr, Jordan would not have trusted him to take the Finals-winning jumper, he would not have trusted Scottie Burrell to be such a great role player, or Dennis Rodman to go out and skip practices, or even let guys like Luc Longley and Bill Wennington, who got overlooked, be vital pieces of the team in every title run. What made Jordan so great was that he involved his teammates through his trust in them and instilling his mental fortitude into them, and if you did not want that, you did not have to play with Michael and enjoy the great journey.

The Legend of Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr was a man who came from a humble beginning. Kerr was born into a family of UCLA professor Malcolm Kerr, and eventual professor Ann Kerr. As they were both professors, Steve’s family had Steve and his brother very academically-minded and focused, as the only time the TV would be on from Monday through Thursday would be for big basketball games. Malcolm being at UCLA, loved basketball and got Steve into it by taking him to UCLA games, and at that time, the John Wooden coaching era was going on, and the greatest college basketball teams ever were there for Steve to witness live and in-person. Steve played all through high school as well, but did not receive offers until the very last minute, when Arizona offered him a scholarship. At this time, Malcolm had gone to American University at Beirut, along with his wife and Steve’s brother. However, the story of Malcolm being shot and killed was truly heartbreaking, and really drove Steve to be the person and competitor that he is. 

When Kerr got to Chicago, he brought that competitiveness that he gained that drove him after having lost his father, into the championship culture of Chicago. He challenged Jordan, did not back down, did not let himself get brought down by Jordan’s competitive edge at practice, which sometimes Jordan took too far, including the time he punched Steve. From that time forward, however, their trust levels and understanding of each other was like no other. It led Steve to be trusted by Jordan to hit the Finals-winning shot in ‘97, just like MJ trusted John Paxson in ‘93 to do the same thing, whom Steve learned from and mentored. He not only won his rings with Chicago, but also in San Antonio as a player in 2000 and 2002, and a coach of the Golden State Warriors dynasty from the past 5 seasons. All in all, Steve’s competitive edge and love for basketball came from his father, who instilled in him the game, life values, and a hard-working nature into Steve.

Phil Jackson’s Resilience, Even When MJ Left

I think it is taking it a bit too far to say that Phil Jackson was overlooked throughout this whole run, but the work he did definitely can get a bit lost in the shadows when your players are as good as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Jackson was asked to make the Chicago Bulls into NBA Champions after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had been asked to make them relevant. He took over as the head coach in 1989 after Doug Collins was fired in Chicago, which, given the success he brought to Chicago, where he took the team from nothing to the Eastern Conference Finals with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the firing was a bit surprising, but Collins had been with the Bulls for a while, so therefore warranted his way out the door. Jackson took over the team when they were very close to ending the dynasty of the Detroit Pistons, and in his first year, he nearly did that. Had Game 7 been in Chicago and not Detroit, Jackson would have ended the dynasty in his first year with the Bulls, but the next year, Eastern Conference Finals rematch yet again, the Bulls swept, and won the 1991 NBA Finals over the Lakers, and then proceeded to win in ‘92 and ‘93. Then, out of nowhere, Michael Jordan retires.

Jackson did not back down or let Jordan’s retirement get in the way of him coaching this team. The team might have lost the greatest to ever play the game, but the team was pretty darn good even without Jordan. In 1994, the team won 55 games and if it were not for a blown call in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks, they could have tried for their 4th straight championship. The year after that, the Bulls struggled a bit, but getting Jordan back got them a healthy seeding in the playoffs, but Orlando stole the series thanks to Horace Grant, the former Bull. He then allowed Jordan to be able to retrain his body back into basketball form and he helped the team add talent, such as Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, and they helped go 72-10 and win the NBA Finals, and start another 3-peat. And then he did it again, going 3-peat with LA from ‘01-’03, and back-to-back in ‘09-’10. Phil Jackson is, in my mind, the greatest basketball coach of all-time, and it all started not when he won his first 3-peat with Michael, but the seasons he endured without him.

Nikhil’s Reaction

The 1992 Olympics Dream Team

For the first time, the United States sent a team of mainly NBA players to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona to compete in the Men’s Basketball tournament. This allowed the likes of Jordan, Bird, and Johnson to play on the same team, and form the inevitable Dream Team, the likes of which has gone down in history as one of the most legendary teams ever. What came as an initial shock was the exclusion of Isiah Thomas, and the sports media at the time associated Jordan’s icy relationship with him as a defining factor of this decision. Jordan, when interviewed for the filming of the documentary stated that he had no influence on the formation on the team, but did concede that had Thomas been selected, the flow and camaraderie of the team would have changed. Regardless, the cohesion of the team that did end up competing in Barcelona was second to none, and this is what elevated them above the rest. Their practices were some of the most competitive in existence, and this culminated in the infamous scrimmage in Monte Carlo. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan captained their respective sides in an anything-goes, trash-talking, no-holds-barred grudge match. At one point Magic’s team was up 8, and he felt the need to tell Jordan that if the famous ‘Air Jordan’ didn’t show up, they were gonna blow him out. As Saransh alluded to earlier, Jordan took this personally, and instantly made Johnson eat his words. He proceeded to score around 10 unanswered points, and won the game for his team. Those within the team recollected the tension in the air during the bus ride home as suffocating, but the instant Johnson cracked a joke with Charles Barkley, the team’s camaraderie rose back to prominence, albeit with Michael Jordan firmly at the helm of the ship. 

During the Olympics, the Dream Team faced off with Croatia, and the newly drafted Bull, Toni Kukoc. There was some friction between Jordan, Pippen and Kukoc, given that Jerry Krause placed a great amount of praise on the shoulders of the Croatian, and seemingly devalued the accomplishments of the current Bulls roster at the time. In the first game against Croatia, Jordan and Pippen seemed to go after Kukoc during the game, shutting him down defensively, and thus making every effort to make Krause look bad. However, the second time around during the Gold Medal game, Kukoc surged back and showed his worth even though they lost. The Dream Team took home the gold, and Jordan’s legacy started to take meaningful shape.

I found it very interesting to hear Kukoc’s side of this story, especially given the context of his situation before arriving in the league. Having hailed from Croatia, at the time a war-torn state of Yugoslavia, he, along with his teammates during the Olympics, all had an amazing amount of strength and focus that Team USA simply didn’t account for. To trash-talk, abuse, and target Kukoc doesn’t really faze him, simply because it isn’t comparable to the fight for his literal will to live. It just goes to show that no one’s story can be understood from a distance, and that everyone has certain traits that make them unbreakable, no matter what the circumstances are.

Jordan’s Stint in the MLB

The tragic death of Michael Jordan’s father in many ways defined Jordan’s career path, starting with his first retirement from basketball. At the time, Jordan’s reasoning was that he had produced 3 championships, and had given everything he had to the city of Chicago, so he figured that since he had no more challenges and no more motivation to play basketball, he should call it quits. The drama escalated and peaked during a White Sox playoff game, during which Jordan was present. The information of Jordan’s retirement leaked during the game, and the swarm of reporters and fans ensued. The media ran rampant with headlines up until the official press conference the next morning, in which Jordan stated that he was at peace with his decision, and also left the door open for anything down the road. What ensued was a list of allegations seemingly connecting the death of Jordan’s father, the presence of his gambling problem, and the progression of his career to his retirement. Some outlets even told a narrative that David Stern, the NBA commissioner at the time, veiled this retirement as a secret ban from the NBA due to his gambling. This is beyond absurd given that Jordan was the best thing to happen to the NBA financially, socially, and internationally. What is certain however, is that the retirement was of his own accord.

Jordan transitioned to baseball during his retirement period, and signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. This was one of his dreams that he had as a kid, and in many ways it follows his father’s dream to play in the MLB. The issue was that since Michael Jordan was such a polarizing figure all over the country, the facilities apparent in the lower levels of the MLB league system simply could not accommodate the amount of hype that he drew in. Due to this he was placed in the minor leagues Double A league, where the sufficient amount of fans could be accounted for. Couple this with the fact that Jordan had not played baseball properly since he was 17, and it was a seemingly disastrous fate. What no one expected however was how good he was. He started out with a 13-game hitting streak, and after a while opposing pitchers started to throw breaking balls rather than fastballs, the latter of which was never thrown for nearly a month. Jordan’s dry spell resulted in a media sandstorm, calling him out on his poor play, and labeling his decision as faulty. The most striking of these was the Sports Illustrated magazine cover of him missing a pitch, and labeled him as an embarrassment. As we all know, this lit the fire in Jordan’s mind, and he kept getting better and better as the season went on, to the point where it was speculated that he could’ve made it to the major leagues. The MLB had a strike that year, so that element of his career was cut short, and thus he returned to Bulls. What can be said however, is that he made a lasting impact in his reputation as the greatest ever.

Krause’s demolition of the Bulls: Good or Bad?

Jerry Krause has been documented throughout the course of the Bulls dynasty as a dictator type of general manager that would put prospective over his current players and even his own family to an extent. When the Bulls won their 6th championship, there was already huge speculation about what the Bulls would do and whether or not the team would get blown up. Jerry Reinsdorf, the team owner, states that he asked Phil Jackson to come back for the next year, which he turned down. He also states, that it would be suicide to keep the players they had due to injury, egos, etc. Jordan retorted that any player and coach would’ve been happy to sign the one-year contract to chase that 7th championship, and states that it’s “maddening” because it definitely could’ve happened. Following the 6th ring, Jackson, Pippen, Rodman, Kerr, and Jordan all left the Bulls organization, and the Bulls embraced a rebuild that can be argued to have progressed to the current-day.

I know that the immediate gut reaction to this is to have let Jordan and the team chase the 7th ring. But just to play devil’s advocate in this scenario, let’s look at the benefits of how things played out. Given that Jordan himself stated that he was physically drained following the season’s end, and that Pippen had struggled with injuries during the Finals run itself, it is almost a guarantee that someone essential to the teams success would sustain a lengthy injury during the season, jeopardizing a Finals run. This along with the fact that some players would inevitably ask for more money, and some key pieces would get moved around due to the nature of the business, all equates to a significantly lesser change of even getting to the endgame, let alone succeeding. In my mind there isn’t anything wrong with how the Bulls dynasty ended, because they went out on top. Doing so cemented their lasting legacy as the greatest dynasty to grace the NBA, and affirms Michael Jordan’s candidacy for the “Greatest Of All Time” conversation.

 

 

How Will Coronavirus Affect the Sporting World and its Fans?

The current pandemic of coronavirus that has occurred has truly changed the future of sports as we see it for 2020 and beyond. The NBA decided to have a hiatus after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, which then led to many NCAA Conference tournaments being cancelled, which led to March Madness being cancelled. Then, the MLB had their season start postponed for at least 2 weeks, and the MLS has been shut down for at least 30 days. Around the world, the Premier League has been shut down until April after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for Coronavirus. The Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga, Champions League, Europa League, and all country-run tournaments have been shut down until April. Not only has the sports world been affected, but the real world as well. Currently, many of the States in the US have gone into States of Emergencies, colleges are online for the rest of the semester, and in places like Italy, you cannot leave your house unless for an emergency. Here is what the effects of what has transpired will be, and what more we can expect to happen, not just in our country, but throughout the world:

Did NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Save Sports As We Currently See It?

I do not believe many people would have thought that sports being shut down in the United States was even imaginable if it were not for Adam Silver having suspended the NBA. The important thing to realize is that Adam Silver did the best thing possible by suspending the NBA season. The importance of keeping the players, coaches, front office, team staff, media, and fans safe is far more important than the remaining 20+ regular season games plus playoffs. Not only did Silver suspend the season, but he already came up with a plan for how players and teams must react over the ‘minimum of 30 days’ hiatus.

The reason why it is important to note how important this gesture was by Adam Silver is the fact that every major league in our country followed suit. The NCAA Conferences cancelled their basketball tournaments and all other sporting tournaments, as did the NCAA with March Madness and their championships, the MLB postponed their start by at least 2 weeks, the MLS and NHL shut down for a month, and the NFL, while their season is over, is discussing ways to change the NFL Draft. Also, multiple tennis tournaments supposed to happen in the US have been cancelled, and now even the French Open, and The Masters’ have been postponed.

Did Rudy Gobert Also Contribute to Saving Sports Now?

I know a lot of people have been giving Gobert a lot of hate for how he handled the situation and for originally taking the whole notion of Coronavirus and social distancing as a joke, but he has since owned up to it, made public statements, and donated money in order to let people know that this is very serious indeed. But if GObert did not get Coronavirus, Silver wouldn’t have suspended the NBA season and no leagues would have followed (at least in the United States). So, indirectly, Rudy Gobert did help out with that. But this should be a lesson to everyone to practice social distancing, keep your hands to your own belongings, and if you do touch someone else’s belongings, to wash your hands and clean the things that you use frequently.

Will and When Will the 2020 Olympics Happen?

Honestly, while I do think the Olympics will happen, the question is of when. There is currently talk of many Olympic qualifiers being cancelled (not even postponed), such as the 2020 Euros and Copa America for soccer now happening in 2021. As of this past week, the Olympics are scheduled to go on as scheduled, but the talk of postponing them is very serious. Honestly, I think the best option is to hold the Olympics in 2021 after all the qualifiers which are now getting postponed to 2021 are happening.

How Would the NFL Draft Take Place?

So, before the outbreak of coronavirus, the NFL Draft was set to take place in Las Vegas at the Fountains of Bellagio, but now no one seems to know what is going to be the alternative option. Players and families will definitely be asked to stay home, and the NFL has already said there will be no fans present. I am not really sure what the NFL is going to do about it, but I have seen that they are discussing what to do, as they have already indefinitely cancelled OTAs and free agency visits.

How Do College Athletes Get Affected?

The NCAA had announced a few days back that all spring sports players are getting what is called a ‘Redshirt Corona Year’ (not the official name, but it is the name that spring sports athletes used in order to plead for this to be taken into effect), meaning that now all spring sports athletes will have an additional year of eligibility, and that this lost year will not affect them. So, while academically they can move on, athletically their eligibility will not be affected.

When Will the NBA Come Back, and Will the NFL Be Affected?

The current talks are that the NBA could come back around July and end in August, but whether this means that the regular season will continue or not remains to be seen. NBA player Spencer Dinwiddie suggested that we have a 28-team tournament in replacement of the NBA Playoffs, almost as if we are making the NBA Playoffs like March Madness, and the NBA is taking that into consideration. On a more serious note, the NBA is discussing permanently starting the season on Christmas Day, as they did during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. That season ended like regular in June and the regular season was cut down to 66 games. Whether or not that is the new format of the regular season remains to be seen, but how this season plays out is so vital to the future of the NBA.

As for the NFL, with OTAs now cancelled, the talk of training camp being cancelled as well and going straight into preseason is a very real possibility. Assuming that the statement made from the White House that the Coronavirus lasts until July or August, training camp would be cancelled, and the NFL would have either have the choice of going straight to preseason or skip preseason and go into training camp in order to avoid player injury. With the new 14-team playoff being put into effect this upcoming season, avoiding player injury is more vital than ever, and with a 17-game regular season starting as soon as 2021, this coming season could be a way to see how shortened or no preseason would work out.

A General PSA

As I am writing this, I am currently at home with my family doing my best to practice social distancing and preventing the spread of Coronavirus. This virus is very scary, so I highly encourage everyone to please stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible. With many grade school and college students now finishing the rest of their semesters at home, and with many people working their jobs from home, it is imperative that we realize the seriousness of this. Sure, there are times when we will need to go out places and see people and go study or work, but health always comes first. So please, I encourage everyone reading this to please wash your hands constantly, practice best health and hygiene, practice social distancing, try to avoid big gatherings and going traveling or eating out, and most importantly, realize that this isn’t a joke and that we can go on with life, even though these tough times are upon us.

2017 MLB Season: The Big Storylines Going into All-Star Break

The 2017 MLB season has seen a lot of great individual performances, such as the show that Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have been putting on as rookies, and also a lot of teams overachieving and underachieving their expectations, such as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs, respectively. Here are some big storylines to look out for going into the All-Star Break in about a week’s time:

Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger’s Rookie Ceilings

A lot of rookies hit the ‘rookie ceiling’, or the ‘rookie wall’, as some people like to call it. Aaron Judge (26 HRs) and Cody Bellinger (24 HRs) are on their way to breaking rookie records that have been almost impossible to break. Both are on pace to break Mark McGwire’s record of 48 HRs in a season, which has been standing since 1987, and the two have also excelled in other areas (batting average, on-base percentage, etc.). The challenge, however, is keeping this up. Both Bellinger and Judge have been invited to the Home Run Derby, however, Judge does not seem like he is as interested as Bellinger. In many ways, this is a smart move, as it keeps him healthier going throughout the rest of the season. I expect both of them to get 40+ HRs, but Judge breaks the record.

The Nationals’ Bullpen Struggles

The Washington Nationals seem to have some kind of a discombobulated and non-existent bullpen. As displayed yesterday evening in their 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs at home, the bullpen doesn’t know how to keep their composure. The Nationals were leading 4-2 with 1 out left when Blake Treinen decides to sleep-pitch his way to get the last out. Treinen let Javier Baez get a single after Jeimer Candelario got a base-hit with 1 out, and then Tommy La Stella’s RBI single brough both Baez and Candelario in to score, and that’s how the game ended. Now, that being said, the Nats’ big time bullpen players like Sammy Solis and Francisco Rodriguez are returning from injury and being signed to the team, respectively, so if those two can provide sparks for this team. The Nats can gain my full confidence as the favorites in the NL as their offense is extremely impressive.

Houston Doesn’t Have a Problem Anymore

The Houston Astros for the longest time were the laughing stock of the MLB, always having the worst record in the MLB, and just having a terrible roster and management, in general. Now, after years of tanking, the Houston Astros have found their way, and are the current holder of the MLB’s best record. They have the second-highest scoring offense (445 runs), and are 1st in batting average (.283), on-base percentage (.349), and slugging percentage (.485). On the pitching side, they are currently 3rd in earned-run average, or ERA (3.82). Houston is also expected to have 4 unanimously chosen All-Stars this year in Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Lance McCullers. Expect this dominance to continue throughout the year, and for the Astros to be the World Series favorites.

 

 

The MLB Season: The Season After 1 Month, and What More to Expect

The MLB season has been extremely exciting for the fans, as there is plenty of new talent taking over the league, and new rivalries that have emerged. Here is what I have seen this season, and what I expect throughout the rest of the season:

Boston-Baltimore is Must-Watch TV
Whether or not you are a fan of any of these team, you cannot miss when these teams play. The last 6 matchups have all had nasty endings and controversy. It all started April 23rd, when Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes hit Orioles 3B Manny Machado, and Barnes was ejected. The next series between these teams started on May 1st, and Adam Jones received racial taunts directed towards him. The next day, the Red Sox fans gave Jones a standing ovation, but in the end, the feud just will not stop. The Orioles are currently 2nd in the AL East and 2nd in the AL, overall, while the Red Sox are 3rd in the AL East, and 8th in the AL, overall. No matter what, this is must-see TV, with a lot of controversy, brawls, and scoring, this rivalry has it all. They next play Boston on June 1st, in Baltimore.

Aaron Judge is Not Just Your Average Rookie

Aaron Judge is an MLB player. Aaron Judge plays for the New York Yankees. Aaron Judge should not be an MLB player. Aaron Judge is a 6’7”, 282 lbs, and is the starting rightfielder for the New York Yankees. Aaron Judge is the MLB’s next big thing who defies all stereotypes of baseball players, particularly size-wise. As of the last study done on MLB players (2010), most MLB players are between 69 and 74 inches in height (Judge is 79), and weight between 167.3 and 190.9 lbs. Judge’s numbers have been phenomenal, batting .337, has 13 HRs and 27 RBIs. These are the numbers that have helped the ‘Bronx Bombers’ come back to Earth after the last few years and their disappointment throughout.

The Washington Nationals are the NL’s Best Team

The Nationals have the most complete roster in all of baseball right now, as Bryce Harper is no longer alone, it seems. The pitching has finally been worked out evenly by Manager Dusty Baker, the infielders (Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, and Anthony Rendon) have all become reliable hitters game-in and game-out, and the outfielders (Harper, Michael Taylor, and Jayson Werth). At 20-9, they hold the MLB’s best record, and that will continue. They were the team I predicted to be better than the Chicago Cubs, and be the favorites for the World Series, and that has held true so far. As long as the team stays healthy and resilient, as it has been all year long, they will be World Series champions.

MLB 2017 Week 1: The Usual and The Surprises

The beginning of April in the sports world means the long 7-month baseball season is just around the corner, and the first week provided us with some cheers, new faces, and the end of misery in Chicago Cubs baseball. Here are some storylines to watch out for throughout the season:

The Diamondbacks Do Not Look Like a Waste of Money

The Arizona Diamondbacks have been a team who over the last few years have spent a lot of money on trying to keep their team relevant in the NL, but it hasn’t worked until now. Starting Pitchers Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, and Shelby Miller, and Relievers Taijuan Walker and Fernando Rodney have all started playing at their potential. The batting of Jake Lamb, Paul Goldschmidt, and Chris Owings has all come into fruition for this team as well. So far, they are 6-2, with 3 wins each over the San Fran Giants, and the defending AL Champion Cleveland Indians.

The Orioles Are Playing Like a Complete Team

For years and years, I have thought of the Orioles as a World Series threat, but never as a potential World Series champion, until now. Their offense has never been a problem, with guys like Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, and Chris Davis. Their pitching was inconsistent last year, to say the least. Starters Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez both finished last year with losing records (9-12 and 8-12, respectively), and Dylan Bundy, while he had a winning record, was shaky at times. This year, they all look very solid, and Closer Zach Britton is at the top of his game. Expect this team to be a serious threat to win the AL, and possibly even the World Series this year.

The Nationals Will Be Better Than the Cubs

This is the boldest prediction anyone in the MLB can make at this point, but I believe this will hold true. The MLB hasn’t seen repeat champs since the NY Yankees 3-peated from ’98-’00, and the Cubs won for the first time in 108 years. While that was great, the Cubs will be a huge threat, but the Nationals have the roster to beat Chicago. Led by the great Bryce Harper, a supporting cast of Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, and Trea Turner, and pitchers Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez, this could be the Nats year. An Orioles-Nationals Beltway World Series would be fun to watch, for sure.

MLB Trade Deadline: With a Few Days Away, Who Should We See Traded?

Another one of these posts, but now, the trades get even more intense. Now, with all of the intensity coming on with August 1st right around the corner, I go over who should be traded, and what teams should offer.

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Baltimore Orioles

Jimenez isn’t the greatest ever as we know, but besides his subpar record this year, he can still play as a pitcher at a high level. Unfortunately for Baltimore, they missed out big time on trading Jimenez, as they were beat by the Toronto Blue Jays to get Melvin Upton, Jr., putting them in a position with not too many options. Their options are Edinson Volquez from the Kansas City Royals, but they may have to give up Mark Trumbo because the Royals are also looking to trade an outfielder. This will also have to involve Dan Duquette, their reliever. This trade has already been discussed between the team, but the question is what else do the Royals have to give the Orioles. The second option for them is SP Wade Miley of the Seattle Mariners. Miley is a pitcher who has won games against solid teams throughout the course of the year, especially when Felix Hernandez went down with an injury earlier this year. The Orioles are in very serious talks to try and get Miley from Seattle.

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

The best way for the New York Yankees to plan for their future and try to get superstar OF Bryce Harper when he becomes a free agent is to surround him with fellow, young, superstar outfielders. Braun, the 2011 MVP, has been on the trade block for what feels like forever, and the best offer on the table would be to trade him for Carlos Beltran of the Yankees. Beltran, like Braun, is another excellent outfielder, but the Brewers need veteran leadership. While trading Braun will be a hard pill to swallow, considering the current situation of Milwaukee, it’ll all be worth it.

Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

Now, the first thought that comes to mind is to trade him for Jimenez in Baltimore, but I just do not think that the Orioles would want to add a player who doesn’t bring a winning mentality to their team. I think their best bet is to trade him for fellow SP Jeremy Hellickson of the Philadelphia Phillies. This is a perfect trade because these are two of the utmost worst team with absolutely nothing left to fight for. This trade should happen NOW!

Johnathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers

This would be a good offer to make the Yankees along with Ryan Braun, if only Yankees C Brian McCann was older. McCann is EXTREMELY solid, but he isn’t the best veteran catcher out there. The other offer is the offer by the New York Mets for C Travis d’Arnaud and OF prospect Brandon Nimmo. The offer from the Mets is the offer the Brewers are most comfortable with, as it seems though as if the Yankees wanna roll with McCann as their catcher.

Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds

Bruce is definitely the hottest name on the market because it is shocking to many teams that he is even on the market in the first place. The best trade on the board will be the most compelling and game-changing trades for both teams, if the trade does indeed happen. The LA Dodgers will give OF Yasiel Puig to the Reds for Bruce. This trade would be huge because both of these players seemed like they would be untradeable at one point due to their utter dominance in the game. However, their similar qualities throughout this year has propelled this trade to possibly become a reality for both teams. This could change the whole outlook of the NL because while the Dodgers are fighting to be in the Top 4 of the NL, the Reds, although they are 14.5 games back of the first Wild Card spot St. Louis Cardinals, they could make the NL Central (their division) very interesting, and climb their way up the Wild Card standings.

MLB Trade Deadline: What Needs to Happen?

Now that the MLB is in full swing after the rather boring All-Star Game, the focus of the MLB will turn towards the MLB trade deadline. August 1st will be here before we know it, and many teams could use trades to get themselves back in the playoff picture, or even just make themselves look better, perhaps. Here are some trades which I think should happen:

LA Dodgers Trade SP Clayton Kershaw and 2B Howie Kendrick to Tampa Bay Rays SP Chris Archer and 3B Evan Longoria

I completely understand that Kershaw leads the NL in WAR despite missing over a month of play, but the Dodgers offense is inconsistent. Howie Kendrick has been good at times, and Longoria just has been on the Rays for too long. I think this trade can power LA into a possible division champion contention. As for the Rays, it can only get better from here. Tampa has been in a state of flux for many years now, and the ‘Rays’ of the sun don’t seem to be helping at all. Now, LA is going to lose one of the best pitchers in the game, but I think that Longoria will thrive under the leadership of manager Dave Roberts, who is all about high-powered offenses.

Colorado Rockies Trade OF Carlos Gonzalez to Oakland Athletics for OF Josh Reddick

This trade is a golden one for both teams because these are two great outfielders looking to change teams in order for contracts to be fulfilled. These are two of the best power-hitters in their respective leagues, and these teams are already having downfalls which will force them to have to settle for sitting on the couch in October, so why not try to improve the team going into next season. This will also possibly force these players to restructure a contract, and not have to walk away from their respective teams.

Milwaukee Brewers Trade OF Ryan Braun to NY Yankees for LF Carlos Beltran and CP Aroldis Chapman

The Yankees want to make their team as young as possible, and Milwaukee needs veteran leadership in all facets of the game, and so Beltran and Chapman are excellent position fillers. Braun on the other hand will always be an MVP candidate (even if he is on PEDs), and New York needs a guy who is a blend of power hitting and skilled fielding, and Braun brings that to the table immediately. The Yankees have some work to do in the AL East if they want to be in the Wild Card, though. They are 4.5 games behind the Wild Card leader, the Toronto Blue Jays, who are also in the AL East. Now, with Boston flailing a bit, New York could be in good hands, but if the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers continue their hot streak, New York ain’t seeing the playoffs this year.

Atlanta Braves Trade RF Nick Markakis to Kansas City Royals for OF Alex Gordon

Unfortunately for the Atlanta Braves, Markakis’ glory days are behind him. His days in Baltimore were great, and they just didn’t seem to last very long. Alex Gordon had his glory days last year in Kansas City. Now, he is an outfielder, like Markakis, looking to find his ‘fountain of youth’. This trade makes a lot of sense because these are two outfielders who have a lot of potential and can still be productive if put on the right team. Markakis has a contract which pays him $11 million per year all the way through the year 2018. This allows for trades for him to become much easier than expected. This trade will give Atlanta fans a chance of hope, as they are the worst team in the big leagues.

*I would like to thank everyone for their support of my blog, as my last post was featured last week on the MLB.com Blog.