Kipp Branch

1 2 3 25

Acuna Matata

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks.

The Major League Baseball season is quickly approaching and it is time to start talking baseball, while the Kansas City Chiefs are in the process of winning back-to-back Super Bowls.

Back to my topic, who the most exciting player in baseball?

That answer is easy to me his name is Ronald Acuna Jr. Is there a more beautiful swing in all of baseball than his? The ball just explodes off his bat.

I have been watching videos of him hitting bombs this offseason in his native Venezuela with the classic bat flip and doing some humanitarian work in a once great country that has been ravaged by a dictator.

The pandemic shortened season of 2020 kept Acuna from chasing the 40-40 HR/Stolen base club. He blasted 14 home runs in just 46 games and 202 plate appearances.

Acuna recorded 40 hits with 25 of them going for extra bases. He battled a nagging wrist injury that hampered him all of last season.  Acuna had an OBP of .406 which is outstanding and walked 38 times in those 202 plate appearances.

The offensive stats are always going to be there with Acuna. The consistency of where he plays in the field has not.

Cristian Pache’s arrival in center field means that Acuna will move permanently to his natural spot of right field, where he can settle in defensively. Acuna has been blessed by the Baseball God’s with a cannon for a right arm.

Back to Acuna and the 40/40 club discussion. Becoming a member of the 40–40 club is an elusive achievement in modern American baseball, as very few players possess both the power to hit 40 home runs and the speed to steal 40 bases in a season.

Generally, a player with the strength to hit 40 home runs will not have nearly the speed necessary to steal 40 bases, and vice versa.

There are only four members of the 40/40 club in the history of baseball:

 

Members of the 40–40 club:

Year/Player/Team/HR/SB

1988    Jose Canseco   Oakland Athletics        42        40

1996    Barry Bonds     San Francisco Giants   42        40

1998    Alex Rodriguez            Seattle Mariners         42        46

2006    Alfonso Soriano           Washington Nationals           46        41

 

In 2019 Acuna barely missed the elite club by belting 41 HR’s and stealing 37 bases. Acuna could be the first player to achieve this milestone more than once in his career.

I actually think in the next 5 years Acuna will be the only man in MLB history to reach the 50/50 club.

The 2021 Braves are good enough to win the World Series. Probably should have beat the Dodgers in 2020 but we will chalk that up to lack of playoff experience.

I do know this, if I’m looking for one player to build a baseball team around it would be Ronald Acuna Jr.

He is a generational talent, and I would not be surprised if he wins the NL MVP in 2021.

The Braves have him signed to a long-term deal, but soon will have to renegotiate that deal to make Acuna one of the highest paid players in the game.

Braves fans, baseball season is almost upon us, and I hope we enjoy the next few years because they have the potential to be special, and Ronald Acuna Jr. will be the best player in baseball during that run.

SEC Stock

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

2021 is upon us in the pandemic stricken football season.

My annual SEC Football stock report is upon us again.

 

Stock Keys:

Buy

Sell

Hold

 

Alabama: The best football stock around with the master CEO Saban running things. Championship stock that will make you tons of money. The long-term future of this blue blood stock is through the roof. Advice: Buy it all.

Texas A&M: This stock has risen in 2020. It has made investors plenty of money in 2020. The long-term future of this stock is up in the air. Advice: Right now, hold what you have at this moment and watch closely.

Florida: This stock is somewhat of an unknown at the moment. It has been a short-term snack in 2020, but with a takeover attempt by the NFL to rob Florida of valuable assets this stock may decline in the short term and rebound down the road. Advice: Hold for now and take short term losses in 2021 and buy in 2022 and beyond.

Georgia: Kirby Smart has been a great trader on Wall Street for about five years now. This stock has steadily made investors rich, and this stock could reach its highest value since 1980. Advice: Buy it in boatloads.

Auburn: Once a blue blood stock that has tumbled over the past decade. It bottomed out in 2020, and Auburn fired its CEO and sent him out with a $21 million dollar severance package. This stock is underperforming at this moment in time. Advice: Sell it all and invest in higher producing stock like Alabama, UGA and a rising Arkansas.

Arkansas: Arkansas is the best new stock of 2021. Future is bright under new leadership. Advice: Buy as much as you can.

Ole Miss: New aggressive CEO who is not afraid to invest in new technology. This stock will peak by 2023 so might as well get on board now. Advice: Buy all you can and hold on to it.

LSU: Traditional producing blue blood stock that has struggled in 2020, but will bounce back in 2021. Advice: Hold on to what you have and be ready to buy quickly in the fall.

Tennessee: Blue Horseshoe hates Tennessee football. Advice: Sell/dump this crap quickly before Tennessee gets busted for insider trading.

Missouri: Future looks bright for this stock. Advice: Hold for now but consolidate resources for quick purchases in 2022 and beyond.

South Carolina: Dump it quickly and I mean quickly before you go bankrupt.

Kentucky: Kentucky basketball stock is even on the decline currently. Sell off the football stock as quickly as you can.

Mississippi State: The Air Raid stock is not valuable any longer. Once a slight producer that has seen its better days. Sell it off.

Vanderbilt: Kicking game gimmicks have not been able to save this proud stock. CEO has been fired and the future looks very bleak. Sell what you have and invest that money in Arkansas and Ole Miss Stock because it is cheaper and will pay better than average dividends.

Are You In Or Out?

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

You want to know what the trendiest trend is today in college football?

It’s called opting out. You can’t blame it on Covid-19 because this negative trend started a couple of years ago and it is getting out of control.

For example, The University of Georgia could be minus 8-9 starters in this week’s Peach Bowl due to opting out.

SEC East Champ Florida looked like a Gator team we had never ever seen in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma due to opting out. All of Florida’s playmakers like Kyle Pitts and company were not in Dallas.

In my opinion the only way to cure the opting out issue is to expand the College Football Playoff to 32 teams in 4 brackets.

You could have a version of March Madness where you could have a committee deciding who gets in and who is left out.

A greatly expanded playoff eliminates opt outs because you could have a five-game post season that would crown a true champion and create the incentive to participate.

It could be accomplished by doing the following:

Notre Dame joins the ACC full time in football. Is there a more self-centered football program in the country than ND?

The arrogance about being a football independent has long run its course, and the powers that be in college football need to break it down for the Irish and say join a conference or get left out. This is not the 1940’s anymore. All independents join a conference.

Eliminate all conference championship games. Yes, I know it’s a cash cow, but a 32-team playoff is the ultimate cash cow.

Have all teams play a 10-game regular season that consists of 9 conference games and one out of conference game.

Set up rotating schedules and have tie breaking formulas in effect to determine a conference champion without a championship game. Alabama would have been SEC Champ in 2020 by virtue of being the only undefeated team in conference play.

Time to evolve thinking around traditional rivalry games. You may not get a UGA/Auburn or Alabama/Tennessee game every fall. Get over it we are trying to cure the opt outs here.

All current Power Five and Group of Five conference champions get an automatic playoff bid.

After that you fill out the rest of the playoff field with At-Large teams.

Football Playoff Committee selects 4-number one seeds to sit atop 4 brackets. You could name each bracket after four influential figures in the history of college football.

Each of the four brackets consists of 8 teams. The higher seeded team would host first round and second round games to get down to the final 8 teams.

Then you use traditional bowl games (Fiesta, Cotton, Citrus, and Peach) to determine bracket champions and narrow the field down to a final four

Use the Orange and Sugar Bowls as national semifinal games annually to determine the final two teams.

The National Championship Game will be played every New Year’s Day in the Granddaddy of them all The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

The Championship Playoff Committee could meet the week before Thanksgiving to set the field of 32.

Playoff would begin the Saturday after Thanksgiving with the National Championship game being played on January 1st.

Want to end the plague of opting out? I just laid out a plan on how to accomplish it.

If we had this playoff format in place today, I guarantee you Notre Dame would be the first number one seed to be eliminated.

Have a blessed 2021 everyone. I have opted out of 2020.

Out Of Gas

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Gus Bus finally ran out of gas at Auburn.

After eight years at Auburn, head coach Gus Malzahn will no longer serve as Auburn’s head coach as he was relieved of his duties, the program announced in a release.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will serve as the interim head coach.

“After evaluating the state of the Auburn football program, we’ve decided that it was time to make a change in leadership,” Athletic Director Allen Greene said.

“We appreciate everything that Gus did for the program over the last eight seasons. We will begin a search immediately for a coach that can help the Auburn program consistently compete at the highest level.”

During his time as head coach, Malzahn had a 68-35 record, going 39-27 in SEC play.

In his first season at Auburn, he led Auburn to a National Championship appearance.

Auburn must pay Gus a buyout of $21 million dollars with $10 million of that coming to Malzahn in the next 30 days. 2021 will start off very nice for Gus and family.

The road seemed rocky at times for Gus at Auburn. Rumors started floating around back in 2016 that he may be fired, but then 2017 happened where Auburn beat number #1 Georgia and then beat #1 Alabama in a three week window, and won the SEC West.

Auburn lost to UGA in a rematch for the SEC Championship, and Auburn rewarded Malzahn with a 7-year $49 million dollar contract extension.

In 2018 Auburn finished 5th in the SEC West with an 8-5 overall record, and followed that up in 2019 with a 9-4 record with a loss to Minnesota in the Outback Bowl.

The 6-4 record this season with a bad loss at South Carolina heated up the fire Gus talk.

Then you factor in blowout losses at UGA and Alabama then the dye was cast.

Since 2014, Auburn has lost 33 football games with highly rated talent on the roster.

Malzahn had a 3-5 record in the Iron Bowl against Alabama, which is very good considering how dominant Alabama has been in the SEC.

His 2-7 record against Georgia in The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry had become a point of contention with the Auburn alumni base.

The 5-12 record against the two biggest rivals was a big factor in his firing. If you are the head coach at Auburn University you can’t consistently lose to Alabama and Georgia. Auburn never beat these two rivals on the road during his tenure at Auburn.

While Gus had overall top ten recruiting classes at Auburn two areas of major concern recently have been the lack of top tier offensive linemen and the QB position.

Auburn has failed to recruit and develop talent in the OL for years now and it shows up in the biggest games when Auburn gets dominated by the better defensive fronts in the SEC.

At QB, other than the great season by Nick Marshall in 2013, Auburn has been average at QB. Bo Nix currently was highly rated coming out of high school, but has been average at best at Auburn.

Gus ran a clean program and will hopefully get another Head Coaching job after he gets tired of spending Auburn’s buyout money.

I believe Auburn had a big name agree to take the job when Gus was let go, but since has backed out, and now you hear rumors of Kevin Steele having the interim dropped from his title, and if that is the case you have a public relations nightmare on the plains of Auburn.

Early signing day has come and gone and Auburn’s early signing period class was ranked 40th.

Whoever Auburn hires has his work cut out for him to try and salvage this recruiting class.

Pirates Voyage

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Brunswick High Pirate Football team finished its season with a tough loss to Lee County in the second round of the State playoffs last week.

Brunswick finished with an 8-4 record. Head Coach Sean Pender and the Pirates won a share of the Region 2-AAAAAA crown this fall, which is something the Pirate football program has not done since 2009.

The eight-win season is something the program has not accomplished since 2010. The 2020 Pirates also won their first City Championship since 2013, and in spite of these accomplishments Sean Pender was not named the Region Coach of the year and the award went to a team and coach he defeated. 2020 strikes again. Maybe a recount should be requested.

This edition of the Pirates got off to a rocky start with a loss at Pierce County, where star running back Chukobe Hill suffered a knee injury that that kept him out of action for a month.

BHS bounced back and beat MCA in week two.

In week 3 the Pirates fumbled away a chance to beat highly thought of Benedictine deep in Cadet territory with a minute left in the contest.

After the 1-2 start the Pirates went on the road on a Thursday night and beat a good Northeast Macon team 41-12 and that began a four-game winning streak that included the “Miracle between the Bricks” 75-yard TD pass from KJ Lee to Tyrease Jones with 16 seconds left in the contest to win the City Championship.

On Halloween weekend the Pirates came up short against Richmond Hill but then won three straight before falling at Lee County last week.

The Pirates were well represented on the first team All-Region selections with the following Pirates be named to the first team:

 

OL- Caleb Cook

OL- Kanaya Charlton

DB: Amarion Whitfield

WR: Tyrease Jones

RB: Ree Simmons

LB: Zane Rosenbaum

 

Second Team Selections:

KJ Lee

Xaiver Bean

David Newbauer

Kayshawn Thomas

Kaleb Hampton

Camron Crump

Devontae Gadson

Anthony Elvine

 

Honorable Mention:

Kevin Thomas

Chukobe Hill

Quan Gibson

Keon Leggett

AJ Wilson

Kyle Rehberg

 

This Senior Class has put the program back on solid ground moving forward for the future.  Coach Pender when asked about this group of seniors got a little emotional when commenting on this group:

“These kids bought into everything we were trying to teach them. They worked hard, and there was a spirit of unity with this group that has been infectious for the younger players in the program. They have laid the foundation for a winning culture here. They were the first group I have had here for all four years, and this group will always hold a special place in my heart because the foundation they created will produce results long after they will no longer walk these halls at BHS. They leave us as champions both Region and City and it has been a while since we have said that here, and now that is the expectation moving forward with this football program”.

I have enjoyed covering this team and group of seniors, and like Coach Pender stated this group has laid the foundation for the future of BHS football.

The 2020 Brunswick High Football team will always be remembered as the “Drought Breakers” on Altama Avenue and as champions and this senior class will be champions in life, and that means more than winning football games.

Arming Up

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Braves have signed their second veteran starter this offseason, announcing that they’ve agreed to a one-year pact with right-hander Charlie Morton.

The contract will pay Morton a guaranteed $15M for the 2021 season.

Morton joins southpaw Drew Smyly, who inked a one-year deal worth $11M earlier in the offseason, as two new faces who’ll round out the Braves’ rotation behind Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Ian Anderson.

The addition of Morton and Smyly likely pushes Kyle Wright out of the Atlanta rotation, and likely back to Triple A Gwinnett to start the 2021 season.

Sean Newcomb, Bryse Wilson, Touki Toussaint, Huascar Ynoa, Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel and Jasseel De La Cruz don’t really have a shot at being part of the rotation going into the 2021 season.

Soroka is still recovering from his season ending Achilles injury may need some extra time to recover, and may not be available to start the season in April.

The Braves have quality arms on the roster and in the farm system they could part ways with some of those arms to build up other areas of the roster.

Morton is 37 years old and a short-term fit but he should bolster the Braves’ rotation.

He’s 47-18 with a 3.34 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 in the past four seasons.

The only four starting pitchers in baseball over that span who’ve matched Morton’s ERA, WHIP and K/9 in as many innings are Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Morton has also been a solid in the playoffs something the Braves will need in the short term as this team is a World Series contender.

Morton and Smyly make the Braves the favorites again in the NL East and maybe the National League in 2021. The Dodgers are still the team to beat and the Braves are right there nipping at their heels.

This will be Morton’s second stint with the Braves. The Atlanta Braves selected Morton in the third round with the 95th overall selection of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft.

The Braves added Morton to their 40-man roster on November 20, 2007. Morton made his major league debut on June 14, 2008.

On June 3, 2009, the Braves traded Morton with Gorkys Hernández and Jeff Locke to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Nate McLouth. Any Braves fan remember that trade?

I think adding a veteran like Morton to this rotation makes the Braves a much better team. It is a short-term fix for a team that can win a world championship next season, and a great bargain for $15M.

It is also cheaper than the failed Cole Hamels experiment from 2020 that provided no ROI.

Biggest question now for Atlanta is will the National League adopt the designated hitter rule permanently in 2021 so they can resign Marcell Qzuna?

If they can’t the Braves are going to have to package some of those arms listed above in a package to sign another power hitter to insert in the lineup.

I’m still not sure about third base for the Braves also. I feel like the Braves need to address that position this off season.

With the signing of Morton, the Braves will have one of the top rotations in MLB.

Can I Wear That Jacket?

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

This year’s telecast of the Masters on CBS recorded the major tournament’s lowest final-round numbers since 1957, extending a streak of soft sports TV viewership numbers.

The broadcast averaged a 3.4 rating and 5.59 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

That is about 51% lower than last year, when Tiger Woods recorded a comeback win, and also well below the previous lows of 6.7 in 1980 and 11.05 million viewers in 2017. (Viewership has been tracked since 1995.) In 1957, CBS aired one hour of coverage and drew a 3.0.

I enjoyed The Masters. I liked the fact that three of golf’s Major Championships were able to reschedule and play in 2020. The Open Championship cancelled the 2020 tournament early on in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dustin Johnson is the number one golfer in the world according to the World Golf Rankings.

With the win at Augusta he capped a stellar stretch in the majors this year finishing 2nd in the PGA Championship, and 6th in the US Open.

Johnson has now won the US Open and The Masters, and has runner-up finishes in the PGA and Open Championship.

The play has been consistently very good since August where has finished no worse than 6th in seven starts on tours with two wins.

Johnson was born in Columbia, South Carolina and played his golf at Coastal Carolina University so the proximity to Augusta National made last weekend’s win very special to Johnson.

Johnson grew up in Irmo, South Carolina. His childhood dream was to win The Masters.

Once the Green Jacket was placed on him by Tiger Woods, he became very emotional and barely could speak a word.

That raw emotion from Johnson was very good to see. Johnson is known as stoic player, who just handles his business on the golf course and in 2020 style that post tournament side of Johnson was something that I wish we could see more of on the PGA tour.

Back to the final round of The Masters, Johnson carded a final round of 68 that left him at 20-under 268, beating the previous tournament best of 18-under set by both defending champion Tiger Woods, in 1997, and Jordan Spieth, in 2015.

Johnson shot four rounds under par for the tournament. He has played 11 straight rounds under par at Augusta which is a record.

Johnson became the first world number one to win at Augusta since Tiger in 2002.

Don’t let the low television ratings from last weekend put a damper on the quality of golf that was played.

Those of us who watched saw a record-breaking performance by Dustin Johnson, who has rapidly become one of my favorite golfers on the tour.

Johnson’s work ethic is better than most on the tour. At age 36 Johnson is in his golfing prime. Many more wins could be on the horizon.

Brooks Koepka called out Dustin Johnson as only having one major championship going into the final round of the PGA Championship in August and it backfired on Brooks.

Koepka finished tied for 7th at 10 under par at The Masters. Good showing but it was 10 strokes behind your 2020 Master Champion Dustin Johnson, who now has two majors under his belt.

Dustin Johnson is the best golfer in the world and he may stay there for a while. He has The Green Jacket to prove it.

He will defend in April and this time we will have Azalea’s and Dogwood’s blooming once again.

Yellowstone is my favorite show on TV right now and in grand Rip Wheeler fashion it is time to take 2020 on a trip to the Train Station.

1 2 3 25