Sports fodder for a Friday morning... No manager in the history of major league baseball ever performed his job better than Bruce Bochy did with the San Francisco Giants this season. Bochy’s Giants overcame major injuries (Matt Cain, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Brandon Belt) to a roster that really didn’t have any depth. Bochy pasted together a rag-tag lineup all season long that featured the likes of Brandon Hicks, Tyler Colvin, Andrew Susac, Joaquin Arias, Joe Panik, Ehire Adrianzo and Adam Duvall and somehow got them to the postseason. Three of Bochy’s starting pitchers (Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong) had losing records this year and none of them got any better in the postseason. Tim Lincecum was useless after the middle of August. Bochy rode the backs of about four or five pitchers (Madison Bumgarner, Jeremy Affeldt, Yusmeiro Petit, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla) in the postseason, squeezed every bit of talent out of Gregor Blanco, Brandon Crawford, Juan Perez, Panik and Travis Ishikawa and somehow nursed his team through 17 grueling postseason games and won a World Series. It was simply the best job of managing in baseball history.
Bochy almost literally had just one pitcher he could rely on in the entire postseason. The Giants had just seven quality starts in their 17 postseason games and Bumgarner had six of them. Pick a sport. Any year. No player has ever had a better postseason than Bumgarner turned in with the Giants this year. To pitch five shutout innings in relief in a Game 7 of the World Series on the road just three days after pitching a complete game shutout is one of the greatest World Series performances in baseball history. If Bumgarner was on the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, ESPN would have already done a 30 for 30 on him. Bumgarner didn’t even have good stuff on Wednesday night and he still mowed down the Royals. He did it on grit, determination and heart and the knowledge that his manager had all the faith in the world in him.
The Nevada Wolf Pack football team will be playing its most important home game in four seasons — since a 34-31 overtime win over Boise State in 2010 — on Saturday night against the San Diego State Aztecs. A win over the Aztecs will put the Pack on the verge of a West Division title in the Mountain West and a spot in the conference title game on Dec. 6. A win on Saturday will also make the Pack bowl eligible. All of this is made possible by just one man. Quarterback Cody Fajardo. Fajardo is the Pack’s Madison Bumgarner. The team, the season, every big moment is squarely on his back and he simply won’t let them lose. Fajardo is securing his place as one of the greatest players in Wolf Pack history right before our eyes.
Is the Wolf Pack football program really progressing or is it just doing it with one phenomenal player (Fajardo) and a weak schedule? The bottom line is it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is the here and now and right here and now the Pack is playing for a Mountain West title. If the Pack ends up winning a Mountain West title nobody will remember years from now how horrible the Mountain West was in 2014.
We’ll just look in the record book and see a conference title, a win in the bowl game and a record of 10-4 or 11-3. It will be considered one of the greatest years in Pack football history, especially since 1992 when the Pack made the decision to TV money and bowl games instead of I-AA national titles.
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The Wolf Pack men’s basketball team, which is making its debut Nov. 8 in an exhibition game against Cal State San Marcos, is starting a new era. How many games will the Pack win this year? Well, they only won 27 games over the last two years combined so let’s just say nobody is predicting a run to the Sweet 16 in March. Deonte Burton, Jerry Evans and Cole Huff, the three best players off last year’s team, are gone. On paper, it looks like the Pack will struggle to score 65 points on most nights. If all goes well the Pack could finish fifth or sixth in the Mountain West and get eliminated in its first conference tournament game. If all goes badly, well, baseball season is just around the corner.
Kobe Bryant is embarrassing himself. At least Michael Jordan had enough class to go to Washington where nobody would see him to become a circus sideshow in his final years. Bryant is doing it in Los Angeles with the championship banners he helped win flying above his head. The Lakers will be lucky to win 30 games this year. The organization is a mess. Bryant should have gone to Cleveland for the minimum contract to play with LeBron James. Bryant, though, still thinks he’s one of the best players in the league. He’s going to go down shooting (and missing 60 percent of his shots) until the next knee injury ends his career. It’s not going to be pretty.
The Kansas City Royals are a young team on the rise and have been building a solid foundation of talent through the draft for many years. But don’t expect them to be back in the World Series anytime soon. The Royals are still an organization without any resources. This just happened to be a down year for both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The Detroit Tigers underachieved. The Oakland A’s choked and the Los Angeles Angels remembered they were the Los Angeles Angels. This fall was the perfect storm for the Royals. The Red Sox and Yankees will reload. Yes, the Royals’ championship window just opened but now it will also begin to close as their young players start to demand more money. See the Tampa Bay Rays after 2008. Nothing is guaranteed when you are the Royals. They missed an amazing opportunity on Wednesday.