Reaction to HBO’s Bernie Madoff Documentary: The Wizard of Lies (2017)

The Wizard of Lies is HBO’s newest documentary which takes a look at Bernie Madoff and the biggest financial fraud scheme in recorded history. The film starts Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife. The powerful documentary takes a look at the impact of a $65 billion dollar ponzi scheme on not just all of the victims who invested, but also on Madoff’s friends, family, and loved ones.

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The following definition from Investopedia describes exactly what a ponzi scheme is:

A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud where clients are promised a large profit at little to no risk. Companies that engage in a Ponzi scheme focus all of their energy into attracting new clients to make investments. This new income is used to pay original investors their returns, marked as a profit from a legitimate transaction. Ponzi schemes rely on a constant flow of new investments to continue to provide returns to older investors. When this flow runs out, the scheme falls apart.

Something I found interesting during this film is exactly how long this had been going on. Madoff started his company in 1960, and although he admitted to not having traded since 1996, many people believe the fraud may have been going on all the way back to the early 1980s or late 1970s. It took all the way until 2008, when one of worst stock market crashes in the country’s history happened, for the scheme to finally be exposed due to investors demands to withdraw money when there wasn’t enough money coming in to satisfy these demands.

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One of my biggest takeaways from this documentary can be summed up by a quote by one of Madoff’s sons when being questions by the FBI. When the FBI asks him how he didn’t know about his father’s crime, he angrily responds “How did I not know?! You’re the FBI. How the fuck did you not know?!” This is in fact a very valid question. As evil as the entire scheme was, the government’s incompetence to conduct multiple botched investigations and ignore obvious evidence and warnings signs over a decades long stretch may have been just as bad. The SEC conducted multiple investigations over the years into Madoff’s company and failed to find anything.

Financial analyst Harry Markopolos pointed out in 1999 that it was impossible for Madoff’s company to generate the returns it was claiming. He said it took him five minutes to the conclude the numbers didn’t add up. Instead, he was repeatedly ignored by the SEC offices in both Boston and New York for ten years until the scheme finally unraveled. Madoff himself admitted that he was essentially banking on the incompetence of the government to keep his scheme alive, which really says all you need to know about the leaders of our country.

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The truly tragic part of this documentary, aside from all of the victims who lost their life savings, was the impact on Madoff’s family who trusted Bernie and had no knowledge of any wrongdoing. The family had to endure the wrath of the public eye simply because of their associations with Bernie Madoff. Things got so bad that one of Madoff’s sons committed suicide just two years after the scandal became public. In the film, Ruth Madoff tells Bernie how she has no skills, no friends, that she needs him because she would have nothing else without him. It is truly tragic that those with the Madoff family name will forever unfairly be associated with the unthinkable crimes that Bernie Madoff committed.

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The last thing I found interesting about this documentary was at the very end when he was being interviewed in jail. He mentions to the interviewer that he was upset because he came across an article comparing him to serial killer Ted Bundy. He says there is no comparison because he never killed anyone like Bundy did. Then the film ends as he asks the woman interviewing him “Do you think I am a sociopath?” The camera slowly zooms in on his face before fading out to credits with no response from the interviewer. I think this is a powerful scene and a great ending because it really does make you think: Is the crime Madoff committed actually as bad as what a serial killer has done? Sure, Madoff didn’t kill anyone directly, but he ruined thousands upon thousands of lives and left a lifetime’s worth of damage behind him. For that reason, you can make the case that he is one of the most evil men to ever live.

Thanks to everyone for reading this blog. Please let me know what your thoughts and comments are in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2017 NBA Eastern Conference Finals Preview and Prediction

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#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #1 Boston Celtics (+375)

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The Boston Celtics will open up the Eastern Conference Finals at home against the Cavaliers as big underdogs despite being the #1 seed in the East. The Cavaliers are coming off back to back sweeps to start the playoffs, while the Celtics had two long, grueling series, including a Game 7, to get this far. Cleveland is trying to reach the NBA Finals for a third straight year, while the Celtics are making their first conference finals appearance since 2012 against Lebron’s Miami Heat.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers

One of the keys to this series will the point guard battle. Both players are known for their elite scoring abilities but both have been mediocre on defense. It will be interesting to see how the Celtics match up against Kyrie, because Avery Bradley may end up being the one doing the majority of defending. The starting lineups for the Celtics in this series will also be key, since the Celtics cannot afford to get off to slow starts or give up big runs like they did in the previous round against Washington. They need to find a lineup that works and stick with it for consistency. Meanwhile, the Cavs Big 3 will likely do the majority of the damage against the Celtics. Boston has struggled with rebounding and will really have to lock down the boards against guys like Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and even Lebron.

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Talent-wise, the Celtics are way overmatched, so if they are going to have a chance in this series it will come down to coaching. As mentioned earlier, the starting lineups will be key in this series. Bench play will be important too. If the Celtics get off to a slow start, it will be crucial for the bench to provide the spark that gets them back in the game rather than put them in a deeper hole. However, at the end of the day I think Cleveland is too good of a team to lose this series even without home court advantage. Cavaliers in 5.

Let me know what your thoughts on the series are in the comments down below.

Thanks,

Jeff

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2017 NBA Western Conference Finals Preview and Prediction

WCF

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #1 Golden State Warriors (-1600)

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What if I told you a team that won 61 games in the regular season and finished with the 2nd best record in the entire NBA opened as a monumental 16 to 1 underdog in the Western Conference Finals? That is the task facing the San Antonio Spurs, who will take on the mighty Golden State Warriors for a berth in the NBA Finals. These two teams last met in the playoffs in 2013 when the Spurs beat the Warriors in 6 in the Western Conference Semifinals. Both of these teams have made the playoffs each year since then, but it took four years before we finally get the rematch.

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The key to this series will be the two men pictured above. Kevin Durant came to the Warriors to win a championship, and he has been arguably their best player over the regular season and certainly in the postseason. KD’s defensive presence has a been key in helping the Warriors cruise to an 8-0 start in the playoffs this year. Meanwhile, MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard has been even better in the playoffs, averaging 28 PPG, 8 RPG, and 5 APG while carrying the Spurs past a tough Rockets game without Tony Parker. One of the best defender’s in the league will have to find a way to slow the formidable Golden State offense.

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Apart from the two superstars, the supporting cast and bench is where the Warriors will have a massive advantage in this series. Stephen Curry is¬†putting up 27 points and 6 assists per game as he aims to prove people wrong who criticized him during last year’s mediocre yet injury-riddled playoffs. Along with Klay Thompson, the Warriors backcourt will have a big advantage against a Tony Parker-less backcourt that will have to start some combination of Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills, and Jonathan Simmons. This means LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol will have to step up in the front court against Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia.¬†The fourth member of the Warriors “Big 4” has a been a triple double threat once again in these playoffs and rounds out a historically good starting 5 for the Warriors.

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As if having a dominant starting starting lineup wasn’t enough, the Warriors also have a big advantage in this series with their bench. Shaun Livingston and 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala both provide a huge spark off the bench for the Warriors. Backup center Javale McGee has also been a nice pickup for the Warriors this season as well. Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, and the rest of the Spurs second unit will have their hands full this series with the Warriors second unit. As a result, this could lead to some interesting lineups this series. Coach Gregg Popovich will have to find a way to throw out optimal lineups and show the Warriors as many different looks as possible if he wants to have a chance in this series. With Warriors coach Steve Kerr sidelined, coaching may be the Spurs only advantage.

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The bottom line for this series, unless major injuries occur, is that the San Antonio Spurs have absolutely no chance to beat the Golden State Warriors. This Warriors team is on a mission to get revenge against the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, and they have way too much talent not to do so. The Spurs may win a game because they are the Spurs and have the best coach in the NBA, but that’s about it. Warriors defeat Spurs in 5.

Let me know your prediction for this series in the comments down below.

Thanks,

Jeff

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2017 NBA Conference Semifinals Preview and Predictions

EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

#4 Washington Wizards vs. #1 Boston Celtics

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics

I will admit that I am writing this preview after the conclusion of Game 1. However, as someone who was there in TD Garden to watch them play, I can promise you that my thoughts and predictions on this game remain the same. This series will produce arguably the best back court matchups in Round 2 as John Wall and Bradley Beal’s dynamic scoring will match up against Avery Bradley’s stifling defense and the NBA’s 3rd leading scorer Isaiah Thomas. I think the Wizards big man Marcin Gortat will be a big X factor in this series. The Celtics have had rebounding problems all season and if Gortat starts to collect offensive rebounds and kicks them out for Bradley Beal threes, the Wizards could have an advantage down low. It will also be an interesting coaching matchup with Brad Stevens, who struggled in Round 1 vs. Chicago, against playoff veteran Scott Brooks. Celtics win a hard fought 7 game series.

 

#3 Toronto Raptors at #2 Cleveland Cavaliers

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In a rematch of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals, Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan face off against Lebron James and Kyrie Irving as the Raptors battle the Cavaliers. Cleveland won last year’s series in 6 before eventually winning the NBA title, but Raptors have a different look than last year. Toronto acquired both Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker during the season to boost their defense. Demar Derozan has been a star on the offensive end with 27 PPG and the NBA’s fifth leading scorer. However, Lebron James is having another great season and the Cavs are rounding back into form after a mediocre regular season. I think series will end up looking similar to what happened last year in the Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto will win a couple games at home, but ultimately Cleveland overwhelms them and wins in 6.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

#5 Utah Jazz at #1 Golden State Warriors

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors

One of these teams will be much more well-rested than the other. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and the Golden State Warriors had the opportunity for a long rest after sweeping away the Portland Trail Blazers. Meanwhile, Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz just capped off a long seven game series against the Clippers. The Jazz have the opportunity to give the Warriors some trouble with their defense, anchored by big man Rudy. However, even Joe Johnson’s resurgence won’t be enough to give the Jazz any hope in this series. The Warriors Big 4 will be overwhelm the inexperienced Jazz, and Golden State will cruise to a sweep in this series.

 

#3 Houston Rockets at #2 San Antonio Spurs

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The battle of Texas may be the best series of the 2nd round as the second and third best teams in the NBA face off against each other. MVP candidate James Harden leads Mike D’Antoni’s hire powered offense while fellow MVP candidate Kahwi Leonard heads up Gregg Popovich’s Spurs. This should prove to be an interesting series with two veteran teams and two veteran coaches who have been there in the playoffs before. San Antonio stumbled in this spot last year while falling to the Thunder, and the Rockets failed to make it to the second round. James Harden struggled at times against the Thunder in the first round, but had enough around him to help out. Meanwhile, Kahwi Leonard played out of his mind against the Grizzlies and has been on a tear since March. I think the Spurs have the better team and Houston cannot defend Kawhi. While the Rockets may shoot themselves to a couple of victories, San Antonio wins the series in 6 games.

Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2017 NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Preview and Prediction

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It was an interesting year in the Eastern Conference as we had the familiar faces in Cleveland and Toronto return the playoffs, but also a few surprises as the Celtics grabbed the #1 seed and Milwaukee Bucks returned to the playoffs. Below are my previews and predictions for all four Eastern Conference playoff series.

#8 Chicago Bulls vs. #1 Boston Celtics

Chicago Bulls v Boston Celtics

Thanks to a lackluster regular season performance by Cleveland, 53 wins was all it took for the Boston Celtics to clinch home court throughout the Eastern Conference. The big signing over the summer was free agent center Al Horford, who left the Hawks to join Boston. However, the biggest story of the season for the Celtics was Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 29 points per game (3rd in NBA) and dominated the fourth quarter all season to the point of being in the MVP conversation. The Bulls have been an up and down team all year, but with a trio of playoff veterans on their team, it will provide a tough matchup for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo will have some excellent motivation against his old team and has the ability to expose Thomas on defense, while Jimmy Butler had a fantastic season and is arguably the Bulls best player. Throw Dwayne Wade into the mix and the Celtics may have their hands full right off the bat in these playoffs. However, I think they break through and win their first playoff series since the The Big 3 era. Celtics in 7.

#7 Indiana Pacers vs. #2 Cleveland Cavaliers

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The Cavaliers begin their quest for a third straight Eastern Conference title by taking on the Indiana Pacers in somewhat of a renewed rivalry. Lebron James faced against the Pacers three straight years, including two straight Eastern Conference Finals, as a member of the Heat and won the series every time. The key matchup will of course be Lebron James against Paul George. George had another great season, but the team around him is nowhere near as good as it was when he was playing Lebron in the Conference Finals. James is having yet another MVP caliber year, and with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving healthy, the Cavs should have no problem disposing of Indiana. Cleveland sweeps Indiana.

#6 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #3 Toronto Raptors

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The young Bucks surprised many people this year by returning to the playoffs, and look like a team that wants to make a run as well. Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak, became the first player in NBA history to finish Top 20 in the NBA in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. With young stars such as Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton, this may be the beginning of things to come for the Bucks. On the other side, Toronto is back in the playoffs again led by their star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan. The Raptors took the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year before losing, and will be looking to make a return appearance. The addition of Serge Ibaka at the deadline helps improve their front court depth and teams an excellent shot blocker up with fellow big man Jonas Valunciunas. I think this will be the biggest upset of the first round. The Greak Freek will have a monster series and Bucks will beat the Raptors in 6.

#5 Atlanta Hawks vs. #4 Washington Wizards

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There weren’t a lot of expectations for the Atlanta Hawks this year after losing star center Al Horford to free agency over the summer. However, the addition of Dwight Howard and the excellent play of Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroeder have Atlanta back in the playoffs for the tenth straight year. Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards may have exceeded expectations even more than the Hawks did this season. The dynamic back court of John Wall and Bradley Beal not only carried the Wizards to a playoff berth after a miserable year last year, they got home court advantage in the first round. The Wizards went 3-1 against the Hawks this year, but after briefly owning the #2 seed at one point they were mediocre down the stretch. Meanwhile, Atlanta put together impressive wins against Boston and Cleveland (twice) in the final weeks of the season to finish strong. I think Atlanta’s veteran team will carry them past the relative newcomers in this series. Hawks beat Wizards in 6.

Let me know what your predictions are in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2017 NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals Preview and Predictions

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The regular season has concluded and the 2017 NBA Playoffs are set to open on Friday, April 12th. Below are my previews and predictions for every series in the West.

#8 Portland Trail Blazers vs. #1 Golden State Warriors

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors

In one of the better point guard matchups in this first round, Damian Lillard’s Trail Blazers take on Stephen Curry and the mighty Warriors. Lillard averaged 27 PPG, 5 RPG, and 6 APG to lead Portland while Curry had another outstanding year with 25/7/5 and a second straight season with over 300 threes. I expect some high scoring games with both back courts leading the charge. The Warriors swept the three game series against Portland this year and I expect them to have little trouble with the Blazers in this series. Golden State overwhelms Portland in 5 games to advance.

#7 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #2 San Antonio Spurs

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If you like grind it out possessions on offense and a heavy emphasis on defense, this will be the first round matchup for you to watch. These two teams split their 4 games series this year, with the home team winning all four games and either team topping 100 points just once in the whole series. The Spurs have not missed a beat in their first season since Tim Duncan retired, as they put up yet another 60+ win season. Kawhi Leonard has carried some serious MVP consideration with his play this season and Lamarcus Aldridge is filling Duncan’s void nicely. The Grizzlies are led by Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, as they try to pull off the upset. The Spurs have been here time and again and will have no problem handling Memphis. San Antonio sweeps the series.

#6 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #3 Houston Rockets

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Top 2 MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden face off against each other in what will be the most anticipated playoff matchup in either conference. Westbrook averaged the first triple double for a season since Oscar Robertson (31 PPG, 10 APG, 10 RPG), while Harden wasn’t far behind with 29 points, 11 assists, and 8 rebounds. Mike D’antoni’s high powered Rockets lead the league in 3 point attempts and look to get back to the Western Conference Finals after a one year absence, while Russell Westbrook has willed his team to the playoff’s despite the loss of superstar Kevin Durant. At the end of the day, Harden has a lot more around him than Westbrook does and the Rockets will beat the Thunder in 6.

#5 Utah Jazz vs. #4 Los Angeles Clippers

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After a four year drought, the Utah Jazz are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Gordon Hayward, whose is likely to opt out of the final year of his contract this summer, averaged 22 points per game during the best season of this career to this point. The Jazz front court is anchored by big man Rudy Gobert who averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds this season. Meanwhile, the Chris Paul – Blake Griffin led Clippers seem to be a 4 or 5 seed every year, but have yet to break through beyond the second round. I think the Clippers experience and the realization that their window may be closing with the upcoming free agencies of Paul or Griffin will have them playing motivated basketball in the first round. Los Angeles wins a hard fought series in 7 games.

Let me know what your predictions are in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2017 Boston Red Sox Preview

MLB: ALDS-Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are set to open up the 2017 MLB season against the Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow, Monday April 3rd, so here is my preview and prediction for the Red Sox this year.

The Offseason

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The biggest story to begin the offseason was the official retirement of David Ortiz, who went out on top after a monster .315/38 HR/127 RBI season at age 40. This will certainly leave a hole in the lineup as the Red Sox experiment with the DH position throughout the season. However, the Red Sox did pick up a nice lefty bat in first baseman Mitch Moreland. Moreland hit .233 with 22 HR and 60 RBI for Texas last season and is a nice addition to the bench.

The Red Sox traded Travis Shaw to Milwaukee in exchange for pitcher Tyler Thornburg. Thornburg is a great pickup that will boost a bullpen that lost Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Brad Ziegler. Thornburg went 8-5 with a 2.15 ERA in 67 games for the Brewers last season. However, trading away their starting third baseman indicates that Red Sox expect a bounceback season from Pablo Sandoval, who has been nothing short of a disaster since signing in Boston after the 2015 season.

The Red Sox saved their best for last by acquiring Cy Young caliber starter Chris Sale from the White Sox in exchange for a package that included #1 prospect center fielder Yoan Moncada. Sale won 17 games with a 3.34 ERA and 233 strikeouts for the White Sox last season. The Red Sox now have three starters – Porcello, Price, and Sale – that could be dominant #1 starters throughout the season.

The Lineup

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The Red Sox may have lost their best hitter from last season, but they still have an MVP candidate in the prime of his career in Mookie Betts. In 2016 Betts hit .318 with 214 hit, 31 Home Runs, 113 RBI, 122 runs and 26 stolen bases for a first place Red Sox team. Betts is an all around player as well, bringing speed and playmaking ability to the outfield. I personally predict that he will be even better this year and bring home the MVP trophy. There are high expectations for another member of the Red Sox outfield as well, rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi hit .295 in 105 AB for the Red Sox last year after being called up.

I expect Pedroia to be the same Pedroia both on and off the field this year and put together another solid season. The key for him will be to stay healthy, as injuries had derailed him in recent seasons before last year. Pedroia may also be looked on to play a bigger role as the veteran leader of the clubhouse now that Ortiz is gone. The big question mark in this lineup will be Pablo Sandoval. The Red Sox traded away both third basemen they had in Shaw and Moncada, which seems to indicate that they think Sandoval can turn it around. However, if he gets off to a bad start or gets injured, things could get ugly quick. I expect the Red Sox to be a Top 5 offense in the MLB this year.

The Rotation

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There are high expectations for the Red Sox pitching staff this season, which features a trio of Cy Young caliber pitchers. The current ace is Rick Porcello, who went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and won the AL Cy Young award. Porcello was the benefit of lots of run support last season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t match last season’s win total. However, he has been nothing but consistent since the second half of 2015, and I expect another very solid season from Porcello.

David Price was the biggest signing of the 2015 offseason, but had a disappointing first year in Boston. After a rocky start, Price did play better in the second half of the season. However, he once again got rocked in the playoffs, which has been an issue for him throughout this career. He will begin this season on the DL, but the pressure will be back on when he makes his season debut.

One thing that might help take the pressure of Price is the trade for Chris Sale. Many would consider Sale the best pitcher on this staff now. However, he will have to deal with the same Boston pressure that Price dealt with last year, so it will be interesting to see if he thrives in it or can’t handle the big stage.

The Prediction

The Red Sox went 93-69 and won the AL East last year. I expect them to be right around that number again this year. My prediction is that the Red Sox will go 94-68 and win the AL East for the second straight year.

Let me know you predictions in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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