The Los Angeles Dodgers, Barcelona, Daryl Morey and much more in Five Things From the Week.
1. Narratives can change just like that
The narratives surrounding the Los Angeles Dodgers were well-developed and at least somewhat supported with evidence by the time the 2020 postseason rolled around. Dave Roberts doesn’t know how to handle the big moment or his bullpen. Clayton Kershaw always falls apart in October. Had the Dodgers not recovered from a 3-1 deficit to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS after Kershaw gave up four runs in five innings in Game 4, the story would’ve been exactly the same, except with a slightly better showing from the future Hall-of-Famer.
But L.A. did win those three games and then won four more to claim the team’s first World Series title since 1988. Roberts made some mistakes with his bullpen and navigated other games magnificently. It’s not like he got every decision right, though no manager does. Those three games took him from almost surely being unemployed to the manager of the World Series champions. Kershaw finished the postseason with a 4-1 record and 2.93 ERA, his lowest in the playoffs since allowing four earned runs in 13.2 innings back in 2015. Roberts and Kershaw won’t have to hear about those narratives for the rest of their careers now.
2. College football’s landscape got rocked by COVID
First and foremost, let’s remember COVID-19 is not a sprained ankle or torn hamstring when Trevor Lawrence eventually returns for the Clemson Tigers. There are plenty of athletes such as Cam Newton and Kendrick Nunn who have not looked the same after contracting the virus. On the field, Clemson has already announced Lawrence will miss its showdown with Notre Dame on Nov. 7, which could result in a messy situation at the end of the season if the Fighting Irish win and then lose a second meeting in the ACC Championship Game or if the Tigers win and slip up somewhere.
Over in the Big Ten, Wisconsin is going to play a maximum of eight games and it may not even be that many. The sooner the Badgers are able to play, the longer it appears they will be down to their fourth-string quarterback. That could very well result in Ohio State getting through the Big Ten without having to play what certainly looks like the second-best team in the conference. College football isn’t just dealing with a few canceled games and having to move some things around anymore. Players and teams missing games because of positive tests is officially part of the College Football Playoff conversation now.
3. The leadership change at Barcelona is a first step, not the solution
Josep Bartomeu’s resignation from his position as Barcelona’s president on Oct. 27 to avoid facing a vote of no confidence was greeted with overwhelming joy by many, including Lionel Messi. With Bartomeu out of the picture, Messi might actually finish his career at the only club he’s ever known, something that was nearly unthinkable just a few months ago. Getting a new president and board in was the correct place to start in the long journey to making Barcelona the best team in the world again. It is only a starting point though.
The 1-1 draw with Alavés was the Blaugrana’s fourth straight La Liga contest without a win, a stark reminder of how much work still needs to be done. They are currently in 12th place, eight points behind league leaders and archrivals Real Madrid, albeit with a game in hand. Removing Bartomeu from power doesn’t magically fix all of the shortcomings of the squad Ronald Koeman inherited. The election of a new president and board members is the beginning of the restoration process rather than the end.
4. Daryl Morey brings much-needed stability to the 76ers
The last time the Philadelphia 76ers actually knew what they were trying to do was when Sam Hinke was in charge. That plan (a.k.a the Process) got cut short when people lost patience with Hinke’s unapologetically awful teams. Since Josh Harris and David Blitzer bought the team in 2011, eight different head executives (including Brett Brown on an interim basis) have tried to provide direction. None have lasted long enough to see a plan come to fruition.
By bringing in someone of Daryl Morey’s pedigree to solve the NBA’s most complex puzzle, the 76ers have at least ensured the era of constant front office upheaval is over. Morey is as good as anyone at figuring out what it will take to achieve his ultimate goal and then making it happen. Every move he makes — and there are a lot of them — is done with a specific purpose in mind. It’s fair to wonder whether someone known for acquiring as many stars regardless of fit is the right man for the job when Philadelphia already has Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Nevertheless, executives like Morey are rarely — if ever — available on the open market. He will have a plan and the time needed to execute it, which is more than those who came before him can say.
5. Tom Allen is doing a phenomenal job in Bloomington
With their 37-21 victory over Rutgers on Oct. 31, the Indiana Hoosiers moved to 2-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1991. Yes, 1991. The Hoosiers are 13th in the latest AP poll, their highest ranking in 33 years. They are 7-1 in games quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has played in since he won the starting job at the beginning of last season. Five of those seven wins have come against Big Ten opponents.
With three more victories, Tom Allen will become the first Indiana coach with four straight five-win seasons since Bill Mallory did it from 1991 to 1994. He has the Hoosiers on track to finish above .500 in conference in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1987 and 1988. They are the lone unbeaten team in the Big Ten East outside of Ohio State. Allen has made Indiana football relevant for the first time in a quarter century and he did so in three years. The question now is just how far he can take the Hoosiers.
The Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers didn’t wait any longer than they had to before naming their new managers, which is interesting considering the scrutiny that will come with both hirings. Tony La Russa just turned 76 and last managed a team in 2011. A.J. Hinch was eligible to return to Major League Baseball for all of 30 minutes before Tigers general manager Al Avila called him. Both moves have already been — and will continue to be — criticized. The Tigers and White Sox added even more pressure by deciding so quickly these were the right choices for their respective teams.
Photo by apardavila / Flickr