Fun day at WooSox with Advocates despite rain complications

The WooSox were set to play two games on Sunday, July 18. Saturday night’s game had been postponed after just over an inning, and was scheduled to resume at 12:05 on Sunday followed by Sunday’s regularly scheduled game, which would be reduced a to 7 inning game.

Sunday was also Advocates Day as a group from Advocates, a non-profit organization that supports people with disabilities like me, was in attendance. The game was originally set to start at 1PM but with two games being played, the start time was moved up an hour.

Despite the change of plans, Advocates Day went forward. I was invited to join Advocates, and they collaborated with the WooSox so I could have special press credentials to report on the happenings of the day around most areas of the ballpark.

I started out on Polar Park’s Hanover Deck, a great viewing area high up in right field with views of the field and the city of Worcester. I spoke with Diane Gould, President of Advocates:

Advocates, like the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, continues to help individuals like me. Meeting with Diane, a big sports fan, was a great start to the day despite the overcast skies and expected rain. I was given the opportunity to report on all the action so I watched the continuation of the first game from the Hanover Deck, and did some play by play of my own with my dad serving as my personal cameraman:

Rain began to fall during the 5th inning, so after 5 scoreless innings combined for the first game carried over from Saturday, the WooSox grounds crew brought the tarp out for another rain delay.

Despite the rain delay, there was plenty to enjoy at this brand new ballpark. Behind home plate in the upper level is where the press box and broadcast booth are located. The WooSox provided me special access to the DCU Club which is adjacent to both. It’s a huge premium area with couches and other special seating areas where you can avoid the elements outside but still watch the game.

In the DCU Club, I ran into WooSox broadcaster Mike Antonellis, who I had met at the open house on July 10. He was very generous with his time and gave me the chance to speak with him for a spontaneous rain delay report:

I also had the chance to stop by the press box, which was full during the game but had space during the delay. In the press box I met Cassandra Riley, a graduate of my current high school (Algonquin Regional High School) who is now a WooSox photographer. She had always been interested in photography and baseball, so this was a dream job for her. It turns out that Cassandra’s mom, Patricia Riley, is a teacher at Algonquin who has been a big supporter of my career aspirations and has gone above and beyond for me during my time at Algonquin. It was a pleasant surprise to meet Cassandra because I did not know she worked at the WooSox and we had a lot in common to discuss:

The day was also the first Bark in the Park day at Polar Park, where fans were allowed to bring their dogs to the stadium. The remainder of the games scheduled for the day were eventually called off due to the on and off rain (game 2 was rescheduled to August 19 as another Bark in the Park day), but the WooSox did an excellent job keeping fans (employees too) and their dogs engaged, allowing them onto the field to walk the warning track after the game was called:

Despite weather complications, it was a fun day at the ballpark thanks to Advocates and the WooSox staff. While I wish I could have watched more baseball, the rain delay opened the door for opportunities I may not have had at a typical WooSox game. In addition, even though there wasn’t much action on the field, it’s really exciting watching players like Jeter Downs and Marcus Wilson who could be playing for the Red Sox at Fenway some day, maybe even in September when major league roster sizes are expanded. I’ve been invited to return to Polar Park again as a reporter on July 31 for Autism Acceptance Night and I can’t wait.

Fans can come again to Polar Park with their dogs on August 19 and August 22 (the make-up date for the July 18 game)
I hope to catch up again with Cassandra at future WooSox games at Polar Park, including July 31, Autism Acceptance Night

Red Sox Second Half Preview and Midseason MLB Power Rankings

We’re coming off a quiet, yet also busy week in baseball, both for the Red Sox and the rest of the league. The week started off with the MLB draft, in which the Red Sox landed top shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer. Pete Alonso took home his second straight Home Run Derby, despite impressive performances by two-way star Shohei Ohtani, Coors Field hometown hero Trevor Story, and cancer survivor Trey Mancini among others. Five Red Sox players contributed to the AL’s All Star Game victory, with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers each knocking in a run, Nathan Eovaldi and Matt Barnes each pitching a shutout inning, and J.D. Martinez also batting in the game. Additionally, after strong performances in Worcester, the Red Sox announced that Jarren Duran and Tanner Houck would get the call to the majors. They had been set to join the team in this weekend’s series against the Yankees. With Yankee COVID problems postponing the first game, everything’s up in the air, but when the Red Sox play again, Duran and Houck will be able to make their mark. This is all happening while Chris Sale begins his rehab assignment with the FCL Red Sox.

The first half has come to a close, and I’ve written about my thoughts on the Red Sox’s first half performance as well as what I expect in the second half, from the rest of this month to the trade deadline to the playoffs. I’ve also included my power rankings from the end of June, and while a couple things have changed since then it seems we have already began to establish which teams have a chance at a playoff run.

Red Sox: First Half in Review

Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts climbs franchise list for shortstops with latest  home run

Heading into the year, I was expecting a middle of the road type of season from the Red Sox, but at the same time, I saw a low floor and a high ceiling. In this first half, this team has played close to their ceiling. Martinez, Bogaerts, and Devers have led the way for one of the best lineups in baseball. The team has come up clutch as they lead the league in 2 out runs. Chaim Bloom has hand crafted the outfield that leads the league in outfield assists, bringing in Alex Verdugo in the Mookie Betts trade and signing Hunter Renfroe and Kike Hernandez this past offseason. The rotation has been inconsistent, but it has definitely had its moments. After a rough patch in May and June, Eduardo Rodriguez has began to rebound. Eovaldi was in that All Star Game for a reason, as a healthy season from him has been exciting to watch. Additionally, Nick Pivetta has been able to completely revitalize his career in Boston after struggling to maintain a starting job in Philadelphia. The question in whether the Red Sox can keep playing at this level to secure the AL East victory and make a playoff run.

Red Sox Outlook for the Second Half

Red Sox ace Chris Sale inches closer to return after rehab start - The  Boston Globe

I think what we’ve seen so far this season is the ceiling of what the current Red Sox roster can do. However, there’s more talent on the way. Jarren Duran has a lot of potential between his power and his speed, and he’s a great addition for the outfield that can allow Kike Hernandez to spend more time at other positions and show off his versatility. Tanner Houck can be another talented arm for this rotation. The Red Sox could be looking for ways to further improve the team at the approaching trade deadline. However, what might be the most significant is the fact that Red Sox ace Chris Sale is working his way back to the majors, and could rejoin the team as soon as August. The rotation is decent right now, but adding Sale to it (assuming he can return to pre-injury form) puts the Red Sox at another level. I think the combo of young talent, trades, and the return of Sale can fix some of the issues the team has had and put them in an even better position to contend this October.

The Red Sox do have some tough competition though. The Astros’ lineup has been unstoppable even after the resolution of the cheating scandal. The White Sox rotation has been near unstoppable. The Dodgers, Padres, and Giants are all battling it out for the NL West and could also end up battling it out for a World Series title. Whether the Red Sox win a title is going to come down to how they handle this elite competition. Will they falter against some of the league’s best talent and end up back in the middle of the pack, or will they stand strong and win a ring in a historic season? Boston’s outlook likely falls somewhere in between, but there are lots of possibilities.

Check out my midseason power rankings below. The Nationals have began to slump and the Reds have began to rise since the end of June, but many of these teams are still in the same spot.

Midseason Power Rankings (as of June 30)

That wraps up the first half this baseball season. During the All Star Break, I also began to look ahead to football season. Check out this podcast my cousin and I put together to begin to preview this year’s AFC.

Appearance on the Master Plan Podcast: Way too early AFC Preview

Football season is quickly approaching, and teams have began to prepare for the upcoming year. The AFC could be a very competitive conference, but which teams have enough talent to be playoff contenders? My cousin Michael Philipkosky and I broke it all down in this episode of his podcast, the Master Plan.

Polar Park, a ballpark experience everyone can enjoy

On Saturday, July 10, I visited Polar Park for the “Saturday at the Park” open house event. With the WooSox on the road, the park was open to the public for a few hours for fans to explore all areas of the the new ballpark in the heart of Massachusetts.

Fans were also encouraged to give their feedback on how to improve the ballpark. The WooSox value fan feedback so much that they had 21 planning meetings with fans that resulted in 877 ideas and suggestions on how to design the ballpark (me with WooSox President Dr. Charles Steinberg holding a book with the 877 fan ideas pictured below).

The event was held on what would have been the 100th birthday of Harvey Ball, the Worcester-born inventor of the smiley face. Much of the design of Polar Park and the WooSox logos were also based on Worcester history. Smiley Ball, the team’s mascot, is a reference to Harvey Ball’s roots in Worcester. Since Worcester is often called the “heart of Massachusetts,” the road signs around Kelley Square, Worcester’s downtown area, contain hearts.

Polar Park is located in a redesigned Kelley Square, so it’s fitting that the team’s logo contains a heart and this theme is incorporated throughout the ballpark including the seats as you can see pictured below.

The sides of the game seats are not only a reference to Worcester being the heart of Massachusetts but also a tribute to the Worcester’s, an 1800s baseball team that played in the city.

The ballpark also took inspiration from both Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium and Boston’s Fenway Park. The WooSox wanted to make sure that they had a lot of unique and good seating options. I caught up with a WooSox employee on the Hanover deck, where there’s a great view of both the city and the ballpark. We spoke about a wide variety of seating options.

I had the chance to visit the seats behind home plate later on, which were in front of NESN’s broadcast booth.

The left field berm is a grassy area that’s just about to open. Berm tickets will be sold to the general public for $9, and kids under 12, college students, and veterans can purchase tickets on the berm for $8.

The Worcester Wall is Polar Park’s version of the Green Monster. The main differences? The Worcester Wall is located in right field and stands at 22 feet high, as opposed to Fenway’s Green Monster which is in left field and stands at 37 feet high. In addition, as opposed to Fenway green, the Worcester Wall was painted with a new color known as “Woo Blue.”

I also had the chance to see some of the private suites.

In addition to good seating options, the WooSox have found ways to accommodate fans that may need a break from typical ballpark noise. The Unum Sensory Friendly Room was designed to make Polar Park welcoming to fans with disabilities like autism who may have sensory overload challenges. The room is located adjacent to Fan Services.

According to WooSox employee Marie Roy, the organization is a very welcoming employer. I spoke with Roy, who shared with me that she is autistic and described her experience working at the ballpark.

This day was also filled with opportunities to explore ballpark areas not normally open to the public. Everyone was welcome to check out areas usually reserved only for members of the media: the press box, the broadcast booth, and the control room.

In the broadcast booth, I had the chance to meet Mike Antonellis, one of the WooSox broadcasters. He was extremely friendly and even provided me advice on my sports broadcasting pursuits.

In the control room I saw a lot of familiar graphics and designs on screens across the room, and caught up with two control room employees.

Just outside the control room, I was able to meet WooSox Chairman of the Board (and former Red Sox owner) Larry Lucchino and WooSox president Dr. Charles Steinberg. Steinberg has been a part of many memorable events with the Red Sox organization. He orchestrated the ceremony at the April 20, 2013 Red Sox game right after the Boston Marathon bombings that I attended and wrote about. I caught up with Steinberg about his thoughts on how Polar Park has done in its first few months as well as plans to improve the ballpark.

After the event, I interviewed some fans to see what they thought about the experience at the ballpark.

Before leaving, we also stopped by the Team Store to pick up inaugural season merchandise.

The Team Store has merchandise containing the main WooSox logos as well as their “Los Wepas de Worcester” logos. The WooSox have worn “Los Wepas de Worcester” uniforms for a couple of their games to honor the Latino community. “Wepa” is Spanish slang for words like “wow” or “amazing”, and the logo contains rockets to honor Worcester-born rocket inventor Robert Goddard.

I had a great time visiting Polar Park on this open Saturday. It’s a really nice ballpark and I’m looking forward to attending some games at the ballpark this season. The team has a lot of exciting players to watch and some of them could be called up to Boston soon. Polar Park is a great venue to see a game.

If you want to see a game this week, the WooSox come home to Worcester on Tuesday, July 13 for a seven game series against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. I’ll be attending on Sunday, July 18, and you can buy tickets for any of these seven games at https://www.milb.com/worcester/tickets.

Quick Takes #3: The Celtics are off to a strong start this offseason, and here’s why

Happy summer everyone! I’ve been pretty busy with school over the last couple of months, which explains the lack of content recently. However, with summer here, there’s plenty to look forward to on this website starting today.

The NBA playoffs are beginning to wind down as the conference finals are set. Meanwhile most teams, including the Celtics, have moved onto next season. The Celtics have already been busy, as Danny Ainge stepped down making way for former head coach Brad Stevens to take his job. Stevens has began searching for Boston’s new head coach and in the meantime he has made his first trade: dealing Kemba Walker, a 1st round pick, and a 2025 2nd round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Al Horford (who returns to the team after leaving in 2019), Moses Brown, and a 2023 2nd round pick.

Initially, I was very confused by these moves. Back in February I wrote about why the Celtics should hold onto Kemba Walker. It turns out that it was too early to judge at that point, when Walker had only played 6 games on the season. It has since become clear that Walker is not the player he used to be, as his knee injury continues to linger. Besides, he didn’t even want to be in Boston anymore. What made me skeptical of the move at first is that I felt like the Celtics settled for an underwhelming return package just to get Walker out of Boston as quickly as possible. Horford and another big man don’t seem like much in exchange for Walker and a draft pick downgrade. However, if you look beyond the surface, this is a good trade for the Celtics.

First of all, it’s important to remember the fact that Walker is no longer a superstar player. It would have taken a package deal with Marcus Smart and possibly others to get a superstar player back in a Kemba Walker deal. With Walker gone, the Celtics have flexibility. They can move Smart or Payton Pritchard into the starting point guard role and fill other positions, or they can go looking for a new point guard in free agency. While Walker isn’t a superstar player anymore, he was on a “supermax” contract. With his contract off of the Celtics payroll, the team has money to make significant moves in free agency. I think they should use the money they have to look for a true third option behind the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Notable free agents this offseason include veterans like Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry.

It does suck to give up a 1st round pick, but it’s rare that a player drafted 16th overall ends up contributing much in the short term, and the Celtics have had a lot of failed first round picks in the years since they drafted Tatum and Brown. Pritchard and Robert Williams have been our best first rounders since then, and neither of them are even regular starters just yet. With the right moves, this is a team that can win now. They invested in the long term when they drafted Tatum and Brown. Now it’s time to invest in the short term. Horford may not be what he used to be, but the additions of Horford and Moses Brown make an immediate difference for our power forward/center depth.

As for the Brad Stevens move, some people have criticized it, and I was a bit shocked at first, but I like it. Stevens was a good head coach, but the players didn’t seem to listen to him anymore. This role allows Stevens to use the basketball knowledge he has without having to interact directly with the players as much. In addition, I think Stevens’ first trade in this role is a sign that he is willing to be aggressive this offseason. Danny Ainge used to be aggressive as well, but has gotten complacent in recent years. Once the Celtics had the firepower to at least make the Eastern Conference Finals, he settled for what the team already had. This year was a wake up call that as time passed, the Celtics needed to make some changes not only to win a championship, but even to win a playoff series. Stevens is willing to execute those changes. It seems he is also prioritizing a head coach that will get along well with the players, and that’s just what this team needs. The players need to have a good connection with the staff, or Boston will become an undesirable system to be a part of. We’ve already seen Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker grow to resent this system. That cannot happen with Tatum, Brown, or any new key players the team signs.

Comment with your thoughts on the Celtics offseason so far, and who you think they should target in free agency.

Thank You to all apparel fundraiser donors

I want to thank everyone who contributed to my Boston Sports Mania apparel fundraiser. Your help led to me raising $3,108.11 for the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, and that money will help the Foundation in their mission to help people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest.

Check out this video for more:

2021 NFL Mock Draft: Pats find their future QB in talented, offense-heavy class

The NFL Draft is a week away, and rumors have been all over the place about what will happen. One big question here in New England is how the Patriots will address their QB situation. Bill Belichick made a lot of additions this offseason, and he opted to re-sign Cam Newton. However, are all these additions meant to help build around Newton, or to help make the transition easier for a new quarterback? It will take a lot to get a quarterback in this offense-heavy draft class, but it may be worth it considering this is one of the best QB classes in recent history. I’ve answered that question and more in the mock draft below. The mock is based off a combo of what I think teams will do and what I think they should do.

#TeamPlayerPosCollegeWhy
1Trevor LawrenceQBClemsonIn my eyes, this one’s a no brainer. Lawrence looks like the best QB prospect we’ve seen since Andrew Luck between his insane accuracy, big arm, and quick release. He is a generational talent who can bring a level of success the Jaguars have never seen before.
2New logo for the New York Jets takes flight | Creative BloqZach WilsonQBBYUNow that the Jets dealt Sam Darnold to the Panthers, it’s pretty clear that they want to take the quarterback of their future here. Wilson faced lighter competition than other top QBs at BYU, but has a great skillset and might even have a better arm than Lawrence. It will take time for Wilson to adjust to the NFL but it’s a good investment for the future of this team.
3San Francisco 49ers logo Digital Art by Red VelesTrey LanceQBNorth
Dakota
State
The rumors here have mostly been about Mac Jones and Justin Fields. However, I think the Niners have their eye on a different QB. Lance dominated the FCS in 2019 before sitting out 2020, and looks to be the best FCS QB since Carson Wentz (also from NDSU). Lance will benefit from some time behind current Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo but San Fran will have someone to turn to in the case that Jimmy G is hurt again.
4
(TRADE)
Justin FieldsQBOhio StateBill Belichick is not known to be someone who trades up for quarterbacks. However, I think it’s very clear that Belichick is taking a different approach this year as he tries to thrust his team back into contention. He has been known to buy low on players, and Fields, once considered a top 2 QB in the class, has seen his draft stock plummet. I think Newton will be the bridge to the Fields era in Foxborough.
5cincinnati bengals logo wallpaper | Cincinnati bengals, Nfl logo, Nfl teams  logosPenei SewellOLOregonThere’s been a lot of buzz surrounding a Joe Burrow reunion with LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase. However, the Bengals would be foolish if they failed to provide Burrow extra protection. The Bengals offensive line put Burrow and RB Joe Mixon at risk. It should take priority over another weapon, as the Bengals already have WRs Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. In addition, Sewell might be the best o-line prospect since Quenton Nelson.
6Jaylen
Waddle
WRAlabamaChase is easily my top receiver in this class. However, I do see a QB-WR reunion happening here as Tua Tagovailoa reunites with Jaylen Waddle. Waddle missed time last year but proved to be talented and well-rounded when healthy. He’ll be a good fit in Miami, where he can develop into their WR1 without drawing too much coverage as a rookie.
7Ja’Marr ChaseWRLSUChase could make it past the Bengals and Dolphins, but if he falls to 7 I doubt the Lions pass on him. With Kenny Golladay leaving, the Lions need their next alpha wide receiver. Chase is talented enough to fill that role right away. Look at how good fellow LSU alumnus Justin Jefferson was last year. Chase was as good if not better than Jefferson at LSU, and we could see the same in the NFL.
8NFL Commentary: The Carolina Panthers, Sleeper In the NFC, or Overrated? |  Nfl carolina panthers, Carolina panthers football, Carolina panthers logoKyle PittsTEFloridaWith Greg Olsen gone, the Panthers were lacking at the tight end position last year. Ian Thomas (Olsen’s supposed successor) struggled mightily. Pitts has the potential to be one of the best tight ends ever. He would thrive immediately in Carolina. He reminds me a lot of Raiders breakout star Darren Waller, but could be even better.
9Mac JonesQBAlabamaI don’t think Jones is on par with the other four top QBs in this class. He benefitted a bit from his surroundings. However, it doesn’t seem that Drew Lock is the answer for Denver, and Jones could still be a quality starter in the NFL who’s worthy of a top 10 pick. The Broncos don’t need to trade up for a QB if they can get Jones right here at #9.
10Patrick Surtain IICBAlabamaAfter seeing nine straight offensive players go off the board, this is the perfect opportunity for the Cowboys to address their defense. I think Surtain is the best defensive player on the board after three strong years as a lockdown corner for Alabama.
11Kwity PayeEDGEMichiganThere’s a lot of different things the Giants could do with this pick, but they’ve been in the market for a pass rusher for years and Paye would fill that need at long last. He may have played in a 4-3 scheme at Michigan, but we’ve already seen recent Michigan pass rusher Chase Winovich thrive in 3-4 setups. I think Paye is capable of the same.
12Micah ParsonsLBPenn StateThe Eagles have been lacking at wide receiver for years, but I’d argue linebacker is an even bigger need. Parsons was a major playmaker for Penn State’s defense, and I think he’ll stand out on the Eagles defense as well. The Eagles get their star linebacker of the future with this pick and Parsons gets to stay in his home state of Pennsylvania.
13Rashawn SlaterOLNorthwesternThe Chargers may have signed Corey Linsley but there’s still work to be done with this offensive line. Slater has the versatility to play tackle or guard and could be a very valuable part of this line if the Chargers opt to take him.
14Christian
Darrisaw
OLVirginia TechDarrisaw has shot up draft boards of late, and the Vikings could use just about any o-line help they can get. Darrisaw would be an instant starter for the Vikings, most likely at left tackle.
15
(TRADE)
Jeremiah Owusu-KoromoahLBNotre DameThe Falcons could still use more help at linebacker surrounding Deion Jones. It would have been a reach for any linebacker at 4, but taking Owusu-Koromoah at 15 is good value for them. You could even argue he’s better than Parsons. At the very least, he’ll be a solid starting linebacker.
16
(TRADE)
Devonta SmithWRAlabamaArizona’s pressing need is at tight end, and they’d be reaching for a tight end in this spot. With Devonta Smith still on the board, I have Indy trading up to capitalize on the opportunity. Smith may be undersized, but he’s a very talented receiver who’s an excellent route runner. He’ll have the opportunity to become Carson Wentz’s top target.
17Jaycee HornCBSouth CarolinaThe Raiders have a decent secondary but lack a true leader there. Horn has the potential to shine in this secondary and become the #1 corner for Vegas. With a lot of the top receivers and linebackers off the board, corner is the right move here.
18Gregory RousseauEDGEMiamiThe Dolphins swapped edge rusher Shaq Lawson for Benardrick McKinney to add to the LB corps, but now they need another edge rusher. One of the Miami Hurricanes edge rushers would be a good fit, as they are local prospects and some of the best on the board. I see them taking Rousseau over Jaelan Phillips but they could potentially take either.
19Washington Home | Washington Football Team - WashingtonFootball.comZaven CollinsLBTulsaWashington needs two major things from this draft: help at linebacker and a better o-line. Once they have those two things they’ll be one of the most well-rounded teams in football and could make a case for a playoff run. Collins will definitely fit well here.
20Trevon MoehrigSTCUThe Bears need a long term solution at safety alongside Eddie Jackson. Moehrig is really the only safety worth a first round investment and the Bears should be able to land him here.
21Arizona Cardinals Logo PNG Transparent & SVG Vector - Freebie Supply(TRADE)Pat FreiermuthTEPenn StateFreiermuth is still a bit of a reach at 21 but is the best option for Arizona, who desperately needs a tight end. Freiermuth has picked up the nickname “Baby Gronk” and should be a capable pass catcher and blocker in the NFL, even though he’s not on par with Kyle Pitts.
22Samuel CosmiOLTexasWith Isaiah Wilson leaving after one year, the Titans are still looking for their new right tackle, and it’s one of their most pressing needs. Cosmi fits the bill for what they’re looking for and will likely be the best tackle on the board at this point.
23New logo for the New York Jets takes flight | Creative BloqCaleb FarleyCBVirginia TechThe Jets have had a hole at corner for multiple years, and the departure of Jamal Adams has only made their secondary worse. Farley would be a good start in building this secondary back up to where it needs to be for contention.
24Travis EtienneRBClemsonI think Najee Harris is the most well rounded back in this draft class, but Etienne is a better fit here in Pittsburgh. He is not a power back but is an elusive and speedy back who is capable of playing all three downs. Early on, I see Benny Snell Jr. having a role here, but Etienne will eventually be able to take over the backfield. I see a lot of D’Andre Swift in Etienne, except mixed in with the speed of someone like Nick Chubb.
25Rashod BatemanWRMinnesotaThe Jaguars may have signed Marvin Jones this offseason but could still use another weapon. Bateman adds depth to the Jaguars WR corps and like the three receivers taken before him, he has the potential to emerge as a #1 receiver. Bateman will likely be the last WR remaining from the top tier of this draft class so the Jags should take advantage.
26Nick BoltonLBMissouriThe Browns look to be a fairly complete team and with a good season from QB Baker Mayfield they could be Super Bowl contenders. The only need I really think they have is at linebacker, and that can be taken care of easily with this pick.
27Wyatt DavisOLOhio StateThe Ravens recently lost star interior lineman Marshal Yanda to retirement. Davis has the potential to fill that role in Baltimore for years to come. With the top tier of wide receivers out of the question, addressing the o-line will be a priority here.
28Christian BarmoreDLAlabamaAfter releasing a handful of guys to save cap space, the Saints will need to upgrade the defense, including the defensive line. This is a rather weak d-line class, but Barmore stands out among the rest of the defensive linemen available.
29Alijah Vera-TuckerOLUSCVera-Tucker has risen up people’s draft boards lately, but I think he fits best in a very specific role where he has the flexibility to play tackle or guard. He’ll be able to do that in Green Bay, especially with Elgton Jenkins starting to see time at center now that Corey Linsley is gone.
30How the LA Rams' new logo managed to anger an entire fanbase | Los Angeles  Rams | The Guardian
(TRADE)
Jaelan PhillipsEDGEMiamiThe Rams haven’t had a first round pick in a couple years due to the Jalen Ramsey trade. I think they’ll put a package together to move up if Phillips falls this far. Phillips shined as part of a strong Miami pass rush and could have the chance to stand out in LA’s pass rush.
31New logo for the New York Jets takes flight | Creative Bloq
(TRADE)
Najee HarrisRBAlabamaRunning backs like Harris aren’t available every day. The Jets still need to find a starting running back, and I think they’ll be willing to move up a few spots from their early second round selection to secure one. Harris’ raw strength reminds me of Derrick Henry, and unlike Henry he can catch passes too.
32Creed HumphreyOLOklahomaThe Buccaneers pretty much brought back their entire Super Bowl roster, but some more protection for Tom Brady can’t hurt. They secured a tackle in Tristan Wirfs with their last first rounder. This time around I see them addressing the interior.

In the later rounds, I think the Patriots will add a wide receiver as well as some front seven help. I could see them targeting a receiver like Elijah Moore or Amon-Ra St. Brown on Day 2. That’s all for today’s mock draft, but my coverage of the draft will continue on draft day when I take part in a livestream on The Master Plan YouTube channel with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky.

MLB 2021 Predictions: National League

April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. Monday, I posted the AL podcast alongside my predictions. You can check out the NL podcast here, and I have my full NL predictions below.

NL East

  1. Atlanta Braves (100-62, #2 seed)
  2. New York Mets (91-71, #5 seed)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (89-73)
  4. Washington Nationals (82-80)
  5. Miami Marlins (78-84)

This might be the best division in baseball. The Braves and Mets will be competing for the division title most likely. Atlanta has a great duo of star hitters in first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. Their rotation is also starting to come together between younger pitchers like Ian Anderson and veterans like Charlie Morton (signed this offseason). The Mets were purchased by Steve Cohen this offseason, and he told Mets fans that the Mets would leave mediocrity behind them and act like the big market team they are. Cohen hired a new GM, and the team made a ton of moves, highlighted by a trade for shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. You also can’t forget that they have Jacob deGrom who’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

That doesn’t mean the other teams won’t be competitive. It will be difficult to secure a playoff spot in the NL, but the rest of these teams will at least fail trying. Philadelphia has their flaws, but between outfielder Bryce Harper, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, and a nice top two starting pitchers in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, they have a lot of talent. This should be a somewhat competitive team, but the bullpen among other minor problems could hold them back, similar to how the Celtics have struggled this season in the NBA. The Nationals experienced a World Series hangover last year, and I think they’ll see some improvement in 2021 even though that will be tough in this division. They brought in first baseman Josh Bell alongside outfielder Juan Soto and an amazing rotation. Washington has as much star power as most teams in baseball, but they lack the depth to make a run in this NL East.

The Marlins were the joke of the division back in 2019, but they saw many young pitchers break out and lead them to a 2020 playoff spot. The outfield has really come along as well with Adam Duvall joining Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson. I think the Marlins have definitely made progress in their rebuild, more so than the Tigers and Orioles who saw surprising starts to the season last year. However, it will be hard for Miami to make the playoffs again now that they are back down to 10 teams (you never know though).

Even though the Mets and Braves are frontrunners, I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these teams in the playoffs.

NL Central

  1. Cincinnati Reds (88-74, #3 seed)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (87-75)
  3. Chicago Cubs (80-82)
  4. Milwaukee Brewers (65-97)
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (53-109)

I doubt more than one team makes the playoffs out of this division. Compared to the depth of the NL East and the star power of the NL West, the NL Central is not in a good spot. I think the Reds and Cardinals will be competing for that spot. The Reds lost starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, but the lineup is still strong and the rotation is still serviceable despite depth problems behind Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. The Cardinals were already decent last year. Now they brought in star third baseman and MVP candidate Nolan Arenado. That could put them in a position to contend, but I still don’t see them dominating this division.

The Cubs were looking like they were in for a long rebuild after cutting contracts early in the offseason. However, after lots of rumors they decided to hold on to third baseman Kris Bryant and add some rotation depth. If they were trying to rebuild, they halted that effort. If they’re trying to contend, I don’t see them achieving that goal. The Cubs haven’t really chosen what direction to go in, and I expect that they will decide by the time the Trade Deadline rolls around. If not, they’ll be stuck in the middle for now.

The Brewers may have 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich in their lineup, but this rotation is not anywhere close to the other teams in this division. They’ll need to add pitching before they think about contending again.

They’ll still be better than Pittsburgh, a rebuilding team in their own realm. They already traded first baseman Josh Bell and I bet outfielder Gregory Polanco will be gone by midseason. That will leave an inexperienced roster with no sign of improvement anytime soon. They’ll need some prospects to develop before they contend again. That development will start by letting the MLB ready prospects like third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes start.

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (107-55, #1 seed)
  2. San Diego Padres (94-68, #4 seed)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (81-81)
  4. San Francisco Giants (77-85)
  5. Colorado Rockies (65-97)

The Dodgers are another team that will be in their own realm: a realm of dominance. This lineup is highlighted by outfielders Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger but has a lot of talent and depth around those two including Corey Seager and Justin Turner. The lineup isn’t even the best part here. The Dodgers have David Price, Dustin May, and Julio Urias competing for their final two rotation spots! That’s because they have Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler as their top three. No team in baseball has a rotation that can compete with that. The Dodgers are the closest thing I’ve seen in a while to a lock for the best record in baseball. The question is whether the Dodgers will choke in the playoffs like they did in 2017, 2018, and 2019 before winning it all in 2020.

Everyone’s been debating whether the Dodgers or Padres will win this division. I don’t understand how you can have that debate. The Padres are a really good baseball team. In some other divisions they’d come out on top. In this division they seem to be a lock for a Wild Card spot. The Padres rotation went from inconsistent at best to one of the better rotations in baseball. This offseason they brought in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove to bolster the pitching staff. The lineup was already strong, headlined by third baseman Manny Machado and the young Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop. However, you can’t put them on the same level as the Dodgers.

Behind those two teams, this division isn’t anything spectacular. The Diamondbacks might be the definition of average. They don’t have many standout players, but they have a serviceable lineup and a serviceable rotation. This is a high floor, low ceiling team. They will most likely be close to, if not exactly .500. They should beat up on the Giants and Rockies but cannot come anywhere close to competing with the Dodgers and Padres.

The Giants have improved between developing young talent and bringing in a couple of veterans. This isn’t their year though. Maybe next year they’ll see more improvement and cook up some even year magic. The Rockies have actually regressed since last year. They dealt away Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder Charlie Blackmon could be gone soon too. The core of the lineup is beginning to disband and though the rotation saw some success last year, it’s nothing spectacular.


That’s all for my MLB predictions this year. Stay tuned for more baseball coverage soon, including my MLB playoff bracket which I’ll be posting at some point on Twitter.

MLB 2021 Predictions: American League

April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. You can check out the AL podcast here, and I have my full AL predictions below.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees (96-66, #2 seed)
  2. Toronto Blue Jays (89-73, #5 seed)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays (84-78)
  4. Boston Red Sox (80-82)
  5. Baltimore Orioles (58-104)

I think the Yankees are in a good position to win this division. They lost some of the pitching depth they had last year, but this lineup is still on another level compared to the other teams in the AL East. Even with some injuries last year, the Yankees were able to dominate the AL East, and I expect the same this year. The question is whether they have the pitching staff to go all the way.

This should be a competitive division behind the Yankees. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Red Sox should all finish somewhat close in the standings. The Jays are really starting to come together. The young talent in the lineup is improving and they’ll be supplemented by new outfielder George Springer and new middle infielder Marcus Semien. Their rotation is also really starting to look sharp.

Tampa was the AL pennant winner last year, but this was a team that was highlighted by its dominant rotation and the Rays lost two of their top three starting pitchers. As a small market team, they tend to subtract in the offseason as opposed to adding. As they lose a key element of their 2020 team, they will see a significant World Series hangover.

The Red Sox should get Chris Sale back towards the end of the year, and when they do they could force the Rays into 4th place. After bringing back Alex Cora and making some underrated signings, I see the Sox finishing around .500 like they did back in 2019. However, this team is hard to read. They have a low floor (they could be a repeat of last year), and a high ceiling (they could potentially contend for a Wild Card). The signings by GM Chaim Bloom have included multiple utility players. Bloom, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus, explained some of his reasoning behind this in a Q&A at a UPenn event on Wednesday. He stated that in the past, utility players were often limited to utility role because they weren’t good enough to play a position every day. However, in modern baseball, there are utility players who can play every day at a variety of positions, like Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez who he signed. These players likely flew under the radar due to the fact that they’re utility guys.

I can’t really see the Orioles competing with these teams. The Orioles have improved since 2019, but their early 2020 success was a bit of a fluke. I think the young talent is starting to come along but it won’t be enough to make a noticeable difference just yet.

AL Central

  1. Chicago White Sox (101-61, #1 seed)
  2. Minnesota Twins (90-72, #4 seed)
  3. Kansas City Royals (77-85)
  4. Cleveland Indians (75-87)
  5. Detroit Tigers (66-96)

The White Sox are really starting to come together. They have a good ace in Lucas Giolito. The lineup is looking great between young talent like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Nick Madigral and more experienced players like Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal. I think they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run this year. I have them ahead of the Twins, who choked in the playoffs last year. Minnesota has a strong rotation headlined by Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and Randy Dobnak, but their lack of elite lineup talent compared to other top teams is going to hold them back from more than a Wild Card. The Twins should be able secure 2nd place though, as the rest of this division is unlikely to compete.

The Royals have added talent, including starting pitcher Mike Minor, and they have a decent core led by Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield. However, I don’t think they have quite enough firepower to contend. I think they will get third place over the Indians, who dealt away Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor in an effort to lower payroll. Star hitter and third baseman Jose Ramirez is still in Cleveland, but the Indians don’t have any other big name hitters. They also lack rotation depth behind defending Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Aside from Bieber and Ramirez, the Indians lack star power. The Tigers got off to a strong start last year thanks to the emergence of outfielder JaCoby Jones. They should perform better than they did in 2019, but I still don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to playoff contention in a 162 game season.

AL West

  1. Los Angeles Angels (87-75, #3 seed)
  2. Houston Astros (84-78)
  3. Oakland Athletics (76-86)
  4. Texas Rangers (65-97)
  5. Seattle Mariners (63-99)

This division is not nearly as strong as it was last year. The Angels always tend to disappoint with a lack of success surrounding star outfielder Mike Trout, but I think they’ll be able to win this weakened division. That doesn’t necessarily imply playoff success. The Angels did add some pitching help and that should put them in position to win the AL West but taking down the Yankees or White Sox will be a difficult feat. The Astros should come close as well, even though they lost outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick. This lineup’s success between 2017 and 2019 was likely boosted by sign stealing, and the depth of the rotation is slowly dwindling, so I have the Angels edging out Houston here, but it will be close.

The A’s will probably have the biggest drop off in the division. They have a very talented young rotation, but without shortstop Marcus Semien and designated hitter Khris Davis, this lineup is lacking standout hitters. Corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are improving at the plate, but that’s not enough lineup talent for a playoff team. I have them falling to third place, but finishing ahead of the Rangers and Mariners.

The Rangers failed to contend last year with an awkward mix of young talent and older players, so they’ve torn it down and prepared for a rebuild headed into this season. Joey Gallo is still here but I don’t expect him to stay for long. Seattle has some young talent that is starting to develop and could have a very strong outfield soon once Kyle Lewis and top prospect Jarred Kelenic fully develop alongside Mitch Haniger. Even with the outfield and the rotation improving, this isn’t the year for Seattle to contend.


That’s all for these American League predictions. I’ll have my NL predictions out in the next couple days. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Celebrating 7 Years of Boston Sports Mania

Today marks 7 years since I took a book out of the library and decided to start this blog, posting an MLB 2014 Preview. That’s pretty fitting considering my sports fandom began with baseball.

Just like I did in 2014 and have done in every year since, I’ll be posting my MLB season predictions before the season begins. For the second year in a row, I collaborated on these predictions with my cousin Michael. I made an appearance on his podcast, The Master Plan. I’ll have a post up about those this weekend. In the meantime, I have some special announcements to make.

I designed this new logo in commemoration of this 7 year blog anniversary as well as the upcoming Autism Acceptance Month this April:

When I was first diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, my parents were told I may never speak. I have made lots of progress since then, from learning to talk, read, and write, to discovering my passion for sports, to starting this blog. After starting this blog, I realized I wanted to become a professional sports journalist, and I have been lucky enough to have some experiences in the industry thanks to connections I’ve made through this blog.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the supportive communities that helped me along the way. That’s why I’ve launched a apparel fundraising campaign featuring this new logo to help give back to the autism community this April.

Click here or watch the video below for more information on this campaign:

I’m excited to be celebrating 7 years of Boston Sports Mania and Autism Acceptance Month with this campaign, and I look forward to keeping this website active for many years to come.