7/22: It’s time someone said it. We can’t just put Shohei Ohtani on the mound and expect him to do it all by himself. Yes, he did give up six runs today, but they all came in the seventh inning, after he had already done far more than his fair share. He also only gave up six hits today, striking out 11. I don’t blame Ohtani for the loss today, I blame interim manager Phil Nevin, who didn’t let Ohtani walk off the mound when he started struggling. They beat this player to death trying to make him carry the weight of this team both pitching and batting and honestly that is just not feasible when the rest of the team is playing extremely lackluster. I had hoped that the Angels would come back into this game having sorted out their batting troubles, but once again we see a game where Angels batters were only able to get a hit five times. Angels lose 8-1 versus the Braves.
7/23: Well, at least this one was closer than last night. I may not be thrilled with the performance, but it is important to recognize improvement, otherwise it is too easy to get lost in the negativity. The plus sides of this game: Kurt Suzuki had a single that brought home Jared Walsh, Shohei Ohtani homered, Dillon Thomas had a hell of a diving grab, and pitcher Jaime Barria pitched a great four innings. Braves win 7-2 in this one.
Week Review: I had some high hopes that the Angels would turn it around after the break and that they might finally click together and find the magic to make a miracle late season push, but the short week was nothing but disappointment really as the Halos went 0-2 and pushed their loss streak to five in a row. Next week the Angels play seven games and I am looking for them to win two of them at least. It wouldn’t be ideal obviously, but it would certainly be a small victory that I would take happily.
7/21: What a better way to kick off the second half of the season than with a series against NL West rivals, the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers’ bats looked hot today through the first three innings, quickly putting Los Angeles out to a 5-0 lead. That being said, I started to get a bit afraid in the seventh and eighth when that lead was toppled off of a Giants solo homer, a Darin Ruf grand slam, and a run that was walked in. The boys in blue weren’t willing to surrender the game entirely though, and, due to some great hitting from Trayce Thompson and All-Star Mookie Betts, the Dodgers were able to put together a 9-6 victory.
7/22: How about these eighth inning Dodgers? This is the second game this week in which the game between the Dodgers and Giants has been neck and neck, just for Los Angeles to blow the game wide open with a four run death sentence in the eighth inning. This game it certainly felt like a dagger in the heart of the Giants as Cody Bellinger crushed a grand slam into right field, making this the second grand slam of the series, which I absolutely love to see. Dodgers pitchers played absolutely lights out tonight, giving up only seven hits and striking out just as many. Dodgers win 5-1 and go up 2-0 in the four game series.
7/23: It looked a bit scary in the end, but the Dodgers were able to close out the win versus the Giants, putting them up 3-0 in the series and extending the Dodgers’ win streak to seven in a row. The bullpen from Los Angeles was putting in really good work tonight, striking out nine and only allowing five hits. As for the batters, it was a good showing, with home runs coming from all three of the men at the top of the Dodgers’ batting order. Dodgers win it 4-2.
Week Review: The short week gave us exactly what we wanted to see out of the Dodgers, outscoring their opponents 18-9 and going 3-0. This winning streak feels incredible and is the second time the Dodgers have won seven in a row this month. It may be a tall ask, but I want to see the Dodgers continue this streak to at least 10 in a row, but I am really hoping to see them bring the streak to 14 in a row by the end of next week so I can report nothing but good news again in another undefeated week. I don’t mean to jinx it, but if the Dodgers stay healthy I truly don’t think there is anyone in the MLB who will be able to keep pace with them in a series when October rolls around.
Neither of our L.A. teams had anyone in the Home Run Derby this year so we will just gloss over that part, however, congratulations to the Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto for putting on an absolute monster performance.
As for our L.A. teams we had a couple players there to represent their squads. For the Angels there was Shohei Ohtani selected at both designated hitter and pitcher as well as Mike Trout, who didn’t play due to injury and was replaced by the Twins’ Byron Buxton. For the Dodgers there were a number of players chosen to attend with Trea Turner and Mookie Betts starting, Freddie Freeman in reserves, and Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin at pitcher (although Kershaw got the start). It was a fun game all around with a couple good hits and strikeouts pitched from our L.A. players, although Tony Gonsolin was credited with the loss for giving up all three of the AL’s runs today.
By far my favorite trade of plays came in the very first inning between L.A. players Clayton Kershaw and Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani called his hit over the interview “First pitch, first swing. That’s it.” He then singled into shallow center field. Not too long after that, Kershaw got his revenge and picked off Ohtani at first, which put good-natured grins on the faces of both players.
At the end of the day it was the AL winning it 3-2 with the MVP going to the New York Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton.
Last week and this one I did a lot of talking about LeBron James and I feel like it would only be fair to highlight one of my favorite players on the Clippers: Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard has to be one of my favorite players that I’ve ever watched, especially since he started playing around the time I began getting interested in sports as a kid. Even though he has suffered some pretty rough injuries and is prone to getting hurt, Leonard regularly impresses me when he is present on the court. While it is yet to be seen how he will look on his return from his ACL injury, I am expecting big things from Leonard this season.
What is most impressive to me is how Leonard has moved about and found success in his career. In 2014 he won a Championship and Finals MVP with the Spurs and just five years later, in a single season with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, he was able to accomplish both of those things again. Now on the Clippers, it looks as if he is poised to make another run at the Finals with a team that is flooded with star players. Given, it’s not yet been five years since his last Finals win, I want to see this be the year where Kawhi gets his third ring with his third team.
There will never be a better opportunity than this season, in my opinion, for Leonard to get his third Finals win. Everything about this new season screams that the Clippers should be a favorite to take it all the way. The stage is set, the team is built, now all that is left to do is win.
Last week I chose to talk a lot about the Lakers’ future with LeBron James while, at the same time, talking about LeBron’s future in the NBA. I’ve paid my respect to one of the best players in NBA history, now I can be a bit less reserved when discussing the future and prospects of this team.
As of late I have heard a lot of talk about how the big three on the Lakers is dedicated to working together and making this team successful going into the next season. That all being said, talk is one thing, action is another, and I don’t think the Lakers are capable of winning with this as their big three anymore.
Let’s start with LeBron since we covered him last week. He’s coming into his 20th and, dare I predict, last season, yet he hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to play in more than 69% of games per season in three of the last four years. Consistency is key when it comes to the grind of an 82 game season and James is consistently lacking in simply being there for his team. His numbers are good when he’s there, but 69% participation isn’t a passing grade.
Russell Westbrook is coming into his 15th season in the league, but he has been surrounded by issues in recent years concerning his contract. He’s simply over-payed for the results he puts out. Last season, for the first time in his career since his second season, Westbrook dipped below an average of 20 points per game, scoring only 18.5, the third lowest points per game average of his career. Some would argue that this correlates to the fact that Westbrook also had the third lowest minutes played per game of his career or that he simply was passing the ball more. However the stats tell a different story as he still played 34.3 minutes per game, which in comparison to his fellow point guard, Steph Curry, who played a similar number of minutes per game (34.2) in his 2020-21 season, still put together the highest points per game of his career that season with 32, 13.5 above Westbrook. I can’t even argue that Westbrook is becoming more of a team player as he recorded the fifth lowest assists per game of his career as well last season. TLDR: Westbrook is over-payed and under-performing.
Anthony Davis is in a similar situation to LeBron. He’s good when he’s playing, but he’s never playing. In his last two seasons he has played in less than 50% of the Lakers’ games. He does good work in those games, but he’s not been reliable enough for the Lakers to be able to succeed with him in a critical role.
So what does all of this amount to? It equates to the fact that I don’t believe that simply “being on the same page” is enough for this team to succeed. Their issues go a lot deeper than some rhetorical fix. This is LeBron’s retirement team. The last hurrah that makes him realize he’s ready to be done with playing in the NBA and move on to the next big thing.
Here at Mental Dimes, we have already begun talking about the next season of fantasy football and that got me thinking about who on our L.A. teams deserves a spot on your fantasy football roster. While both the Chargers and Rams are stacked on both offense and defense, I am going to give my top five picks on each team that are most likely to carry you to that sweet victory and all the bragging rights that come with it.
5. Mike Williams: Don’t get me wrong, Williams is an extremely strong receiver and a great choice for your fantasy team. The only downside is that when there are two excellent receivers on one team, like Williams and Allen, they will undoubtedly be splitting touches. That fact alone will hurt your fantasy team or at least make your week-to-week extremely hit or miss.
4. Chargers Defense: Lock it in. Not too early as they are still a defense (which is under appreciated in fantasy, in my opinion), but lock it in above any other defensive option. This defense is like an everything bagel, overloaded with flavor and talent, making every other team look plain. Week to week, this defense is going to show up and be consistent and you can quote me on that because I really truly believe this is the best defense in the league.
3. Keenan Allen: He’s not higher on this list for the exact same reasons as Mike Williams, but he gets a better spot than Williams because he simply gets more targets than Williams does, putting him at an advantage when it comes to consistency and potential breakout games. Allen is going to go fast in your league I would assume, and I would put him in my top 10 receivers in the league right now.
2. Austin Ekeler: Ekeler will not be the best running back in the league this season, which is the only reason I put a quarterback over a running back in this list. Ekeler will be outdone by more dominant backs like Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor, but what Ekeler does have going for him is that he is a versatile threat in both the running and the short pass game, meaning he will get a large amount of touches and have a consistent presence in every game. I would say to expect that he will get at bare minimum 10 fantasy points per game and have a lot of potential for a high ceiling.
1. Justin Herbert: Herbert is surrounded by weapons this season, which is the ideal situation for any quarterback to thrive. Added to that, he also has a great defense, which equates to more time on offense with the ball, which is more opportunities to create plays. This may be the best team Herbert will ever have to get something done in his career as far as a Super Bowl is concerned. As far as fantasy is concerned, take him in the first round, he will not be there in the second.
5. Rams Defense: People won’t like that the defense that Aaron Donald is a part of is not higher than number five on this list, but I said it in the Chargers segment and I’ll say it again here: defense doesn’t get enough love in fantasy football. It isn’t any disrespect to the quality of the squad, but a criticism of the game.
4. Matt Gay: People also won’t appreciate that I have a kicker on this list as opposed to a running back or higher scoring position, but, in my heart of hearts, I can’t endorse any of these Rams running backs, there are just too many questions left to answer surrounding their performances in this next season. Matt Gay is probably not the top pick at kicker for your fantasy team, but with a strong Rams passing game and an uncertain backfield, we can almost guarantee that the Rams will often be in scoring positions and that they will not always be able to capitalize once in the red zone. That means a lot of use in field goals for Matt Gay, which is any fantasy owner’s ideal circumstance.
3. Tyler Higbee: Another low scoring position at tight end, but someone has to provide consistency from every role. Higbee has had five touchdowns and over 500 yards in each of his last two seasons with the Rams, which will, in my opinion, translate to a spot of consistency in your fantasy lineup, as well as occasionally providing breakout performances.
2. Matthew Stafford: Stafford has a few good targets this season, including the receiving triple crown winner of last season and reigning Super Bowl MVP, Cooper Kupp. Stafford is only listed lower than Kupp because receiving yards and touchdowns are worth more that passing yards and touchdowns in fantasy football.
1. Cooper Kupp: I hyped him up in the previous paragraph, but truthfully, get Kupp early. He’s one of the best receivers in the league right now and, with a Rams running game that we can’t confirm will be helpful this season, it will once again be on the back of Kupp to carry the team on offense, which is exactly the situation any fantasy owner wants their high scorers to be in.
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