NBA Reflections…

The Kentucky Derby likes to bill itself as “the greatest two minutes in sports”.  Given the hype leading up to the race and then the 7-hour pre-race TV extravaganza on Derby Day, you might think it was the most anti-climactic two minutes in sports.  But, then, there is the NBA Draft Lottery.  Finally, last night, the Lottery passed into history like a bad case of constipation.  It did not produce anything near 2 minutes of excitement or wonderment, but it finally gave us the NBA Draft order for about 5 weeks hence.

In case you have been in a sensory deprivation chamber, the New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery and the speculation has already begun that they will try to convince Anthony Davis that he and Zion Williamson along with Jrue Holiday can form the nucleus of a young team that will be championship contenders very soon.  That is surely not a bad start – assuming that Davis is open to such an overture.  I think it is more interesting to ponder what the Pelicans might do in the event that Davis tells them that he has had it in New Orleans and that he wants out ASAP.

  • If I were the Pelicans’ GM in that circumstance, I would get the best deal I could get for Davis out of a competition among the Lakers, Knicks, Celtics, Clippers – and anyone else who might throw an offer into the pot.
  • THEN – I would also trade that overall #1 pick the Pelicans “won” last night for more young players plus picks NEXT year and build around Jrue Holiday who is signed through the end of the 2021/22 season.

Speaking about NBA teams that might be looking to redesign their roster, there is a lot of chatter out there now about the Sixers going through a shake-up.  The logic train here goes like this:

  • The Sixers bench is not very good and not deep at all.  If they are going to be a serious playoff contender, that must change.
  • Three starters – Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Reddick – will hit the free agent market this summer.
  • AND – there are plenty of folks who are begging to fall out of love with Ben Simmons.

The issue with Simmons is very basic; he cannot shoot outside 6 feet from the basket and opposing defenses have taken note of that inability and they just don’t guard him when he is even 15 feet from the basket.  That allows teams to play “5-on-4 defense” much of the time against the rest of the Sixers on the floor.  When Simmons is effective offensively, he is down on the low post where his 6’ 10” frame makes him a mismatch against opposing guards who are not that big.  The problem there is that the Sixers offense also relies on Joel Embiid to work in that confined area of the court and Simmons’ presence there adds another defender to that phone-booth sized area of the court.

Lest this sound totally negative, Ben Simmons’ performance in just about every other phase of the game is more than acceptable.  He is a better-than-average defender and he is an excellent passer; he needs to develop a 15-foot jump shot.  The problem is that just about anyone who watched him play last year recognized that he needed to do that in the off season, but he didn’t do it.  His shooting this year is no better than it was last year, and some have attributed the lack of improvement to a lack of commitment on Simmons part.

If that is indeed the case, the Sixers’ “Process” did not work out well at all.  In fact, before “The Process” began in Philly, the Sixers drafted good players who hung around in the league productively for a good while such as:

  • 2004:  Andre Iguodala (started for the Warriors last night)
  • 2005:  Lou Williams (averaged 20 points per game with the Clippers this year)
  • 2006:  Thabo Sefolosah (came off the bench for the Jazz this year)
  • 2007:  Thaddeus Young (12 points and 7 rebounds per game for the Pacers)
  • 2008:  Marresse Speights (10 years as a journeyman center around the NBA)
  • 2009:  Jrue Holliday (see above)
  • 2010:  Evan Turner (came off the bench for the Blazers this year)
  • 2011:  Nickola Vucevic (15 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Magic)
  • 2012:  Maurice Harkless (came off the bench for the Blazers this year)

And then “The Process” began:

  • 2013:  Michael Carter-Williams – – not a good shooter
  • 2014:  Joel Embiid – – an excellent player when healthy
  • 2014:  Elfrid Payton – – traded for Dario Saric
  • 2015:  Jahlill Okafor – – cannot even pretend to play defense
  • 2016:  Ben Simmons – – can’t shoot
  • 2016:  Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot – – bench player
  • 2016:  Furkan Korkmaz – – 6 points per game off the bench for Sixers this year
  • 2017:  Markelle Fultz – – can’t shoot
  • 2018:  Mikal Bridges – – the jury is still out
  • 2018:  Landry Shamet – – traded away to the Clippers

The listing here from 2013-2018 only represents the first round picks the Sixers had.  Over that period, they also had 20 second round picks.  “The Process” indeed amassed picks; the problem is that way too many of those picks turned to dust.

One rumor out there is that the Lakers might offer to trade LeBron James for Ben Simmons.  [Evidently, LeBron does not have a “no trade clause” in his deal with the Lakers.]  That deal makes little to no sense from either side of the table.

  • LeBron James’ career is on the downward arc; he is in win-now mode; the sixers roster does not look like a “win-now roster”.
  • LeBron James – like Ben Simmons – plays a part of his game on the low post where he and Joel Embiid will create a crowd in a phone booth.
  • With LeBron James comes a ton of drama.  Philly fans may not put up with that drama nearly as well as fans in Cleveland, Miami and LA have in the past.
  • Ben Simmons lack of shooting ability paired with Lonzo ball’s lack of shooting ability would create a Lakers’ backcourt that will drive a coach to drink.

Finally, with the PGA Championship starting tomorrow, here is a comment from Jimmy Demaret – a three-time Masters champion in the 1940s and 50s:

“Golf and sex are the only things you can enjoy without being good at either of them.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Counting The House During the Game?

The MLB schedule for tonight includes the start of a series in Miami wherein the Marlins host the Tampa Bay Rays.  Not to put too fine a point on this, but it seems as if just about no one wants to pay money to watch either of these teams play baseball.

In 2018, the Marlins ranked 27th among the 30 MLB teams in terms of average home attendance; the Rays were dead last in home attendance.  To date in 2019, the Rays are 29th in home attendance (14, 540 fans per game) while the Marlins are a distant dead last in that category (9,668 per game).  Marlins Park holds 36,742 fans; on average, 75% of those seats are empty when the Marlins take the field.

This series matches the two teams that people seem to want to see the least.  If Rays’ fans do not want to see them in St. Petersburg, I doubt that thousands of them will travel approximately 300 miles to go and see them play in Miami.  Marlins’ fans have shown that they are apathetic to cross a couple of roads to see the Marlins play.  So, here’s the deal:

  • Check the box scores for these games.
  • Unless there is a game with a no-hitter or a game where the final score is something like 18-15, ignore all the stats there except for the attendance figures.
  • This is a 2-game series.  If I set the Over/Under for Total Attendance at these two games at 20,000, are you taking OVER or UNDER?

Relevant to this topic, there was a headline at The Onion website last week that is particularly relevant here:

  • The Marlins are looking into eliminating the unprofitable baseball wing of the organization.

While on the subject of MLB, can you recall about a month ago when the Cubs started the season 1-6 and after a discouraging dozen games into the 2019 season, there were reports that Joe Maddon’s job might be in jeopardy?  I can – – and I can remember thinking that even an organization as historically inept as the Cubs could not possibly be thinking that was a good idea.  Well, check out the standings as of this morning:

  • Cubs are 24-14 as of this morning meaning that they have gone 23 – 8 since that 1-6 start to the season.
  • Joe Maddon is not the reason for the bad start just as he is not the reason for the surge since then.
  • The Cubs pitching got a lot better and the players started hitting better – – particularly Kris Bryant who has been on a tear for the last couple of weeks.

Moving on …  It would have seemed that the college basketball game of coaching musical chairs had ended several weeks ago; schools that wanted to get a new coach had already done so; it was now “recruitment time”.  Yesterday’s news informed us that the coaching carousel is going to spin at least one more time.  John Beilein is leaving Michigan (not a shabby program by any standards) to take the job of coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.  Beilein has a 5-year deal with the Cavs; Beilein is 66 years old; Beilein would have made – reportedly – $3.2M at Michigan next year; terms of his deal with the Cavs were not announced, but the going rate for NBA coaches is significantly higher than that on an annual basis.

Beilein has been a winner at every level from high school through Divisions 3 and 2 and 1 at the college level.  Can he maintain that record in the NBA?  Frankly, I doubt it for reasons that have nothing to do with John Beilein himself:

  • The Cavs were 19-63 last year.  They have no superstar players on the roster.  The roster is Kevin Love, Colin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson plus a “buncha guys”.
  • It is nearly impossible to win 30 games in an NBA season without a superstar on the roster.
  • Absent some legerdemain at the front-office level, I suspect that John Beilein is confined to losing records – – or break-even records at best down the road – – in his NBA experience.

By all reports, the college coaching ranks is losing one of the “good guys” here.  Given all the huffing and puffing around the sordid process of college basketball recruiting, no one has ever suggested that John Beilein was one of the coaches to cut corners in all of that stuff.  Maybe distancing himself from all of those recruiting “irregularities’ done by his rival schools was a motivation to get himself a place on an NBA bench starting next year?  I don’t read minds…

In any event, Michigan is a sufficiently worthy coaching destination that it can get a coach from a recognizable school if that coach fits their hiring profile.  And that would set in motion the start of a mini-version of the college basketball coaching musical chairs game much later than normal.

Bonne chance, John Beilein.

There is something out there known as the Mascot Hall of Fame.  It honors those things that run around stadiums and arenas whipping up support for various teams while simultaneously annoying the heck out of fans like me.  I have argued here more than a couple of times that there are too many Halls of Fame and this one would certainly fall into the category of Why does the world need this?  Having said that, I do have a couple of observations about this Hall of Fame.  As of this morning there seem to me to be two glaring omissions:

  1. Sparty – the Michigan State mascot – is not one of the inductees.
  2. The Mariner Moose – of the Seattle Mariners – has not been recognized.

If this Hall of Fame is going to continue to exist, I want to know how to nominate future inductees because both of those mascots belong here alongside the 21 mascots already enshrined.

Finally, here is an observation from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times regarding this year’s NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis:

“A sex-trafficking sting operation led to nearly five dozen arrests during this year’s Final Four.

“Or as it’s now known in Twin Cities police circles: 58 shining moments.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



International News Today …

There is a first time for everything; so here is a first for these rants.  Today’s opening topic involves the use of a foreign correspondent whose report is exclusive to The Sports Curmudgeon.

You may recall several weeks ago that I was in Dublin, Ireland and reported on the semi-final match of the UEFA Rugby Championship Tournament.  When I left, I told my grandson that I would need him to give me a report on the final game because I would not be able to see it here in the US.  It turns out that he could only watch the second half; nonetheless, here is his report on that second half of the match between Leinster and Saracens:

“I hear the first half was very tight and Leinster started strong with ten quick points but Saracens came back right before half time to tie it up😫.  In the second half Leinster started on the back foot because in the words of my dad: ‘Saracens were 5-10 pounds heavier of muscle at every position and they were just as fast.’  That was basically the story of the second half with Leinster barely keeping Saracens from scoring until finally the Saracens scored off a penalty kick right after a try that was revued and overturned making it 13-10 Saracens😫.  Leinster continued to battle being beaten back all the time until, finally, the Australian born Scott Fardy was given a yellow card for an atrocious offside and could not play for the next ten minutes.  In that time Leinster were slowly pushed further and further back until finally Bobby Vunipola, a notorious English player hauled three defenders over the try-line with him making it 20-10 Saracens😫.  Not much more happened in the game until the very end when Leinster pushed up the field in a final attempt to make the score more respectable than 20-10, which is quite pathetic in a final as big as this one, but were intercepted about ten seconds after normal time had ended so, obviously, Saracens kicked it out and in doing so ended my suffering.”

And there you have it from the keyboard of an 11-year old fan of Leinster Rugby Club.  For the record, I know that I could not have written a game summary as good as that one when I was 11 years old.  Since I may need to call upon his eyes and ears again, I will need to give him a nickname for here.  Hmmm…  I think I shall refer to him as The FOG – standing for The First and Only Grandson.

Moving on …  In the NBA Western semi-finals, the Warriors eliminated the Rockets last weekend.  The Warriors were playing without Kevin Durant and without Boogie Cousins.  Steph Curry was virtually AWOL in the first half and then exploded in the second half scoring 33 points – 23 of those points coming in the 4th quarter.  That game and that performance was worthy of note here but I think there is a bigger picture to consider.

We know that Kevin Durant, Boogie Cousins and Klay Thompson will be free agents for the Warriors; that will make for some anxious moments among that fanbase once free agency kicks in this summer.  However, the free agency period may be equally interesting for the Rockets – a team that has been eliminated by the Warriors in the last two NBA playoffs.

It would be easy to say that if the Warriors lose all three free agents – getting nothing in return – that the Rockets would be poised to unseat them as the top-shelf team in the Western conference.  But that may be too simplistic; consider:

  • Folks who understand the NBA Salary Cap – I am NOT one of them – keep saying that the Rockets will be “over the cap” this summer and will not be able to afford any major addition(s) other than what they get from the draft down in the lower end of the first round.
  • This year’s NBA regular season highlighted the significant improvement of the Nuggets, Clippers and Jazz in the West and it will be the Blazers who will take on the Warriors for the Western Conference Championship.
  • Who’s to say that those three Warriors free agents will all leave the Western Conference?  If any of them are added to the rosters of those contending teams in the west and the Rockets are unable to make any moves, it may be that the Rockets are not the heir apparent in the West.
  • I wonder if the Rockets will try to do something unexpected over this summer…

Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

“Numbers game: When tempted to figure out how many games the Orioles are on pace to lose, I’m happy to be very bad at math.”

I doubt that he is bad at math; nevertheless, I am sufficiently good at math to tell you here that the Orioles project to lose 105 games this year with 75% of the season remaining.  In no way should the team or the fans in Baltimore be happy about this situation, but I will point out that at this pace the 2019 Orioles will lose 10 fewer games than did the 2018 Orioles.  Moreover, the 2018 Orioles were far and away the worst team in MLB last year.  Given extrapolations from here to the end of the season, the Orioles will relinquish that label to the Miami Marlins who project to lose whopping 120 games this season.

Some perspective on that last set of extrapolations:

  1. The Orioles projection to lose 115 games last year and 105 this year is not nearly as bad as the consecutive seasons the Detroit Tigers suffered through in 2002 and 2003.  The Tigers lost 106 games in 2002 and then followed that horrid season by losing 119 games in 2003.
  2. The Marlins would be on pace to challenge the then-expansion NY Mets for the worst season in modern MLB.  In 1962, the Mets record was 40-120; that winning percentage is .250.  [Mercifully, MLB did not bother to make-up those two remaining meaningless games on the schedule.]
  3. Notwithstanding the incompetence noted here, no team in 2019 is likely to come close to the ineptitude demonstrated by the Cleveland Spiders in 1899.  That team played in the era of 154-game seasons; in 1899, the Spiders record was 30-124; that winning percentage was .194.

Finally, here is a comment on ineptitude from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Lions’ owner Martha Ford has ‘a lot less patience’ for mediocrity than her late husband did according to team president Rod Wood.

“And just to prove she’s serious, Ford immediately ordered a recall on the 2006, 2008 and 2009 models of the Lions.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Three Things Today…

There have been more than a few reports and studies done which conclude that female athletes are more prone to ACL injuries than male athletes.  If you doubt that assertion, please Google, “female athletes ACL injuries”.  When looking at such data sets or thinking about the basis for how this may be the case, it is always tempting to hypothesize that there is some genetic cause for such a predisposition.  After all, if one could find some genetic coding on the X-Chromosome that led to such a predisposition, one might then conclude that female athletes are merely suffering from a genetic make-up accident since women have 2 X-Chromosomes and men have only 1 X-Chromosome.

Such hypotheses rarely – if ever – pan out; and in these times of increased emphasis on gender equality, that sort of thinking is not generally well-received.  Nonetheless, in an article in The Telegraph in the UK, here is the lead paragraph:

“Sportswomen should go on the pill to avoid career-ending injuries, the authors of a groundbreaking study have suggested.”

You can read that entire article here.

I am surprised that this report appeared a week ago and there has not been a flurry of protest because that kind of reporting tends to draw the ire of fairly diverse subsets of the populace.  I am also surprised that it seems not to have attracted any attention in the media here in the US where women’s sports are seeking to get additional coverage.

The study in question was done by researchers at Brown University – so it is more than fair to assume that the research was controlled carefully and that the peer-review system for the work was not slipshod.  The report says that the number of women studied here was 82,874; I may not have a PhD in statistics, but that is a large sample size to have studied over a ten-year period.

Imagine for a moment the delicate nature of the following scenario:

  • A male head coach of a women’s athletic team [Let’s say Geno Auriemma as head coach of the UConn women’s basketball team…] stands up in front of the team with this study in his hand and tells those young women that he thinks it would be a good idea for them to “get on The Pill.”
  • What could possibly go wrong…?

Two of the NBA’s flagship franchises are in a bad way at the moment.  The LA Lakers have been a jewel in the league crown since the 1960s; the team hit a dry spell starting about 5 years ago but everyone assumed that had been brushed away when LeBron James signed on with the Lakers last summer.  Well, the Lakers’ fortunes have not soared to previously known heights nearly as quickly or as surely as Lakers’ fans anticipated – or even expected.  The Lakers missed the playoffs again in 2019 and then the franchise seemed to be coming apart at the seams:

  • During the season, the team produced lots more drama than it did wins.
  • Team President, Magic Johnson, abruptly quit his job without giving his boss, Jeanne Buss, prior notice of his decision and of his announcement.
  • Head coach, Luke Walton, was fired/scapegoated.
  • The Lakers’ top candidate for Walton’s replacement chose to go to the Phoenix Suns rather than the Lakers.  Think about that; he chose to cast his lot as a first-time head coach with a team that was 19-63 last year and which is owned and operated by the mercurial Robert Sarver as opposed to signing on with an “NBA flagship”.

Now, it appears as if Tyron Lue has walked away from talks to become the Lakers’ new head coach and there are reports that there is tension in the Lakers’ executive ranks about the power that LeBron James is trying to wield upon the franchise.  The Lakers have seen better days…

Meanwhile, in Boston the Celtics’ season in 2018/19 was almost as under-achieving as the Lakers’ season.  Yes, the team had injuries, but this was a team expected to challenge for the NBA Championship and not be a “middle-seed” in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  Most of the problems and angst in Boston focus on Kyrie Irving.  He is going to be a free agent once the playoffs are over and the rumblings have already begun regarding:

  • Can or will the Celtics resign Kyrie Irving to a Super-Max Contract?

Personally, I think that is the wrong question to ask because I think there is another question that needs to be answered in the affirmative before you can get to the question above.  Here is the predicating question:

  • Do or should the Celtics want to sign Kyrie Irving to a Super-Max Contract?

Kyrie Irving is a more than accomplished scorer; and every other week or so, he will effect a defensive effort which demonstrates that he can play that part of the game too – – when he chooses to do so.  Add to the frustration that kind of play might engender and consider:

  • Kyrie Irving is rarely happy about anything.  He takes the slightest criticism of his play or his demeanor so personally that you have to be glad that the age of dueling is deep in the past.
  • He refers to himself as a “basketball genius” even when the team loses – – casting aspersions on the other folks who are wearing the same color uniform as he is.
  • He left a championship caliber team in Cleveland because he did not want to be the ‘second-best” player on such a team; he wanted to go somewhere else to be “The Man”.  The result of that is that he went elsewhere but did not show himself to be of such leadership caliber as to be “The Man” on a team that aspires to a championship.

Looking at Kyrie Irving as a whole, I think he is a perfect free-agent signing for the NY Knickerbockers.  He will fit in just fine with the crowds in the Garden and with James Dolan as the guiding spirit of the team.  Maybe if the Knicks’ fans are really lucky, the team can also convince Carmelo Anthony to return to the team to play under the wing of the self-proclaimed “basketball genius” that is Kyrie Irving.  I can only hope…

Finally, here is a Tweet from Brad Dickson about a new brand of shoes:

“There’s a new type of shoes for kids called Hickies. I’m just glad there is no possible negative connotation for this name.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

No Jury Duty For Me …

The American system of jurisprudence is safe; I was not needed as a participant this morning; the people of Northern Virginia can go about their daily lives with peace of mind.  Not necessarily so with the sports world…

John Daly asked for – and received – a waiver from the PGA honchos regarding his participation in the upcoming PGA Championship.  As a former winner of this tournament, he is eligible to play in it until he retires; however, Daly has been suffering osteoarthritis in one of his knees and he asked the PGA mavens if he could use a motorized golf cart.  The PGA folks said it was OK.

As soon as I read about this, my mind went back to Casey Martin who had some sort of congenital problem with blood circulation in his legs that made it impossible for him to walk an entire golf course – even though his golf game was good enough to qualify him for the PGA Tour.  Martin sued the PGA under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) about 20 years ago and took the matter all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States where the Justices decided that the ADA superseded the “Rules of Golf” and that Martin had to be allowed a waiver under those sacred “Rules of Golf”.

The NY Post had a report earlier this week that there have been significant budget cuts – to the tune of $20M – at the NFL Network and that several of the network’s regular programs have been jettisoned.  Frankly, none of the five mentioned in the NY Post report are anywhere near “top-shelf” from my point of view, but their removal from the airwaves makes me wonder how the NFL Network plans to fill all that airtime.  After all, there are just so many times you can show replays of past Super Bowls and compilations of the 10 Greatest Off-Tackle Running Plays of All Time.

A spokesperson for NFL Network told the Post that the network would be airing new programs tied to the celebration of the NFL’s 100th season in existence.  That sounds like new programming to me and “new programming” does not easily mesh with the idea of a $20M budget cut.  Whatever…  The NFL Network is hardly the bedrock of my TV viewing experience.

Speaking tangentially about the NFL, the splashy part of free agency is over despite the fact that there are still some recognizable names who are not signed with any teams.  Forgetting all the signings that made headlines back in March, let me list here a few transactions that escaped a lot of scrutiny/analysis, but which could be important:

  • The Niners signed CB, Jason Verrett (TCU and LA Chargers) to 1-year deal for $3.5M.  Verrett can play as shown by the fact that he made the Pro Bowl once; his problem has been injuries just about every year.  If he can stay healthy, I think the Niners got a steal.
  • The Pats acquired Michael Bennett from the Eagles for an exchange of low-round draft picks.  Bennett can still play and what the Pats gave up is about equivalent to a tuna salad sandwich.
  • Running backs in the NFL tend to have a “Sell By” date around 30 years old.  The main RB for the Bills last year was LeSean McCoy who is 31 years old.  In free agency, the Bills signed Frank Gore – – who is 35 years old.  Say what?
  • Of course, there has to be an interesting move by the Raiders in any compilation of this sort.  Since the end of last year, the Raiders traded for Antonio Brown – giving up their version of a tuna salad sandwich – and then signed Vontaze Burfict as a free agent.  I doubt that I would get much push-back if I called each of these guys “attention-grabbers”.  If they can get with whatever the Raiders’ plan is and then stay with it, the Raiders acquired two capable players – – and in Brown’s case a VERY capable player.  If, on the other hand, these two guys go off the rails, they might easily take the entire team down with them.  As usual, it will be interesting to watch what happens with the Raiders.

The Federal trials of the folks accused of bribery and funneling college basketball recruits to various schools seemingly ended yesterday with another guilty verdict.  Now comes the interesting part; what is the NCAA going to do now that it knows for sure that there is a seamy underbelly to basketball recruiting.  Until these public trials, the NCAA could always say it was investigating this and tracking that without ever having to do anything concrete to try to provide remedies to the cheating.  Now they do not have that patina to hide behind and at the same time, the NCAA does not have a ton of evidence on its own to use as a hammer against the schools and coaches who have been “skirting the limits of the recruiting rules”.

In a perfect world, the Feds would give the NCAA the evidence at hand and the NCAA could pretend that it knew much of it prior to receiving it from the Feds and then do some sleuthing of its own.  But according to a story in today’s Washington Post, that is not likely to happen.  NCAA major domo, Mark Emmert said this at a news conference about a month ago:

  • “We’re going to continue to argue aggressively that they [the Feds] should provide that information so we can get to the facts, since there’s so much interest, not just on our part, but across the country in knowing what really transpired there.”

Good for him; that is a recognition of the fact that the NCAA investigators would have no prayer of coming up with comparable evidence on their own even if pointed in the direction where it might be found.  The problem for Dr. Emmert and the NCAA comes from the story in the Washington Post:

“But according to legal experts, that possibility [getting access to the Feds’ evidence] is remote. As a rule, the Justice Department doesn’t release investigative material not made public through trials or court proceedings to private citizens or private agencies.

“’An investigation by the Justice Department is done for one purpose: to determine whether or not a crime is going to be charged … They’re not in the business of providing information to people … just because there might be some ethical violation or rule violated,’ said Nick Akerman, partner at Dorsey & Whitney law firm in New York and a former assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York who also served on the Watergate prosecution team.”

Here is where you can read the entirety of the Washington Post report on the subject; I found it interesting and informative.

Finally, speaking of NCAA violations, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times from a while ago:

“The NCAA has ordered Ole Miss to vacate 33 football wins over six seasons — including 15 that All-SEC tackle Laremy Tunsil played in 2013-14 — for using ineligible players.

“In other words, a Tunsilectomy.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Schedule Uncertainty

I have been summoned for jury duty tomorrow.  I am only obligated to show up for one day – – unless of course I am seated on a jury and then I am committed for the duration of the trial.  The last time I was called to the courthouse, the trial I heard lasted for 4 days.

Of course, it is possible that I will be dismissed early enough tomorrow to get home and write a rant.  Somehow, that seems like more than I can rely on – – so I will probably not write tomorrow and I hope to be able to be free on Friday to do a rant then.

Please check back then.

Stay well, all…


All Baseball Today …

Bob Molinaro had this commentary in a recent column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“With home-run totals up significantly in both MLB and Triple-A, baseball mavens are discussing the aerodynamics of the ball and how the lower stitches contribute to less drag, leading to increased distances off the bat. The ball is juiced. It’s uncanny, though, how the juiciest end up in the hands of Baltimore Orioles pitchers. The Birds surrendered 73 home runs in April, obliterating the previous MLB mark of 50. In 13 games at Camden Yards, O’s pitchers gave up an average of 3.2 home runs. The Orioles’ staff would be less of a danger to itself if it worked with live hand grenades.”

Those are some rather staggering stats – even considering that the members of the current pitching staff for the Orioles are not likely to storm the doors at Cooperstown once their careers are ended.  So, I decided to do some research – – and a bit of extrapolation:

  • Christian Yelich has 15 HRs in 38 games.  That extrapolates to 64 HRs for a season.
  • Cody Bellinger has 14 HRs in 38 games.  That extrapolates to 60 HRs for a season.
  • Nine different players have 11 HRs in something close to 38 games and all of them extrapolate to 47 HRs for a season.

While those extrapolated numbers are not comparable to the season where Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were pounding them out, it does raise some legitimate questions about “juiced baseballs” in 2019.  Consider:

  • In 2018, only 3 players hit more than 40 HRs for the year (Khris Davis, JD Martinez and Joey Gallo)
  • In 2018, Nolan Arenado led the NL in HRs with 38.
  • In 2018, Christian Yelich hit 36 HRs for the season.
  • In 2018, Cody Bellinger hit 25 HRs for the season.

If the baseballs are not juiced – as MLB will surely aver – then maybe players are juicing once again?

Another interesting item from the world of MLB with almost 25% of the season in the books is the performance of the Tampa Bay Rays.  The team surprised a lot of folks last year winning 90 games.  They were never serious threats to win the AL East then because both the Red Sox and the Yankees were tearing things up there, but the Rays were a very good club.  Nevertheless, the Rays are a “bargain basement club” when it comes to payroll.  Here are some of the Opening Day payrolls for MLB clubs and their records so far this year:

  • Red Sox   $213M   18-19
  • Cubs   $208M   20-13
  • Yankees   $206M   21-14
  • Nationals   $181M   14-21
  • Mets   $162M   17-19
  • Dodgers   $153M   24-14
  • Brewers   $130M   22-16
  • Rays   $69M   23-12  [Best record in MLB as of this morning]
  • Orioles   $67M   13-23
  • Blue Jays   $67M   15-21
  • Marlins   $63M   10-25

I am not saying – because I am not expecting – that the Rays will end the season with the best record in MLB, but they have put together a very competitive team on a shoestring budget.  Too bad that the fans in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties in Florida are not showing up to see the Rays in action.  As of this morning, the Rays are averaging 13,351 fans per home game.  Only the hapless Miami Marlins are drawing fewer folks to the ballpark.

Another comment by Bob Molinaro caught my attention recently:

“Wondering: If you were a 31-year-old Triple-A rookie hitting .149 with no power and 25 strikeouts and only six bases on balls in 67 at-bats, how fast would you be released or demoted if your name wasn’t Tim Tebow?”

Obviously, the answer here is that the release or the demotion would be as fast as an axe fight in a phone booth.  Tim Tebow’s charisma/likeability/congeniality is such that the Mets are more than willing to overlook the fact that he is not a prospect for the “big club” and they just hope that he can put together a few stats that will allow the Mets to call him up to the “big club” once September rolls around.

Finally, here are two closely related observations from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“The trigger-happy Phoenix Suns are looking for their seventh head coach in eight years.

“In keeping with the theme, arena workers just installed a turnstile in front of the coaches’ bench.”

And …

“The Phoenix Suns fired coach Igor Kokoskov after just one feckless season.

“NBA fans there are already partying like it was 19-63.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………




More Kickers Than The June Taylor Dancers

Back in January, the Chicago Bears were in the NFL playoffs.  Their exit from the playoffs was very painful for the team and Bears’ fans; it was the infamous “double-doink game” where the game winning 43-yard field goal attempt “doinked” off the upright and then “doinked” off the crossbar before it fell to the ground and was declared “Not Good”.  Cody Parkey lost his job as the Bears’ kicker as a result of that play.

This week in one of the Bears’ team activities, they held a “kickers’ competition” – but this one was a bit larger than the typical kickers’ competition held by plenty of NFL teams.  This one had 8 kickers on hand – 4 of them were under contract with the Bears and 4 others were special guests I would assume.  Here they are:

  1. John Baron II (under contract)
  2. Casey Bednarski
  3. Chris Blewitt (under contract)
  4. Emmit Carpenter
  5. Spencer Evans
  6. Elliot Fry (under contract)
  7. Redford Jones (under contract)
  8. Justin Yoon

I feel good about the fact that I actually know where 3 of those kickers played in college.  I would also suggest ever so humbly that the circumstances that led to this 8-man kicking contest demands that the winner be someone named [Chris] Blewitt.

However, here’s “the kicker” [sorry about that one…] the coaches must not have been overly happy with the performances because:

  • Only Chris Blewitt and Elliot Fry were invited to stay on the day after the kickers’ audition – – AND – –
  • The next day the Bears traded a conditional 7th round pick to the Raiders in exchange for another kicker, Eddie Pineiro who played at Florida.

Yesterday, President Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tiger Woods.  Generally, I pay little to no attention to such things; they seem to be glorified photo-ops to me.  So, I wondered how many “sports folks” had won this award and I can save you the Googling by telling you that Tiger Woods is the 33rd person from the world of sports to receive the award.  Who knew?

In doing that search, I happened upon the purpose of the award itself.  It seeks to recognize people who have made:

“… an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”.

When I read that statement, I had to then look at the list of 33 medal recipients from the sports world to be sure that Ted Williams was on the list given his stature in the world of baseball plus his two tours of duty as a Marine fighter pilot in WW II and then again in Korea.  Indeed, Williams got this award in 1991 presented to him by President George H. W. Bush.

Speaking of Ted Williams, I learned recently that he has been inducted into 3 different Halls of Fame.

  1. He is obviously and deservedly in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
  2. He is in the Marine Corps Hall of Fame for his service in 2 wars.
  3. He is in the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (Hayward, WI).  Two of his fellow inductees there include Ole Evinrude (inventor of the outboard motor) and Izaak Walton (writer of The Compleat Angler in the 17th century).

Such is your trivia quota for the day…

I ran across an item from the world of “sports business” recently that reinforced my sense that pronouncements from that world are usually meaningless at best and self-serving to the max.  The NFL and FOX announced that there will be changes to the telecast of Super Bowl LIV to be played in Miami next February.  Here is the deal:

  • There will be fewer commercial breaks – – but each one will be a tad longer so that the same number of ads will make it to the air.

You got that right; the NFL and FOX thought that change was sufficiently noteworthy that it needed to be announced to the public about 9 months ahead of time.  One of the execs from the NFL raised her voice to say:

“For several years now, we have been working with our broadcast partners to make changes to our game broadcasts that are intended to improve the viewing experience.  We’ve seen positive results from these efforts.”

With that content-free addition to the announcement here, we can now proceed to the part where this really doesn’t matter even a little bit:

  • It turns out that the NFL has been using the “fewer breaks/longer breaks” format in playoff games for the last two years now.  There has not been any praise or protest – – and in today’s world that can only mean that no one cares enough to comment on the matter on social media.

Finally, I wonder if this Tweet from Brad Dickson will offend anyone from PETA.  If it does, that is an extra bonus in my mind:

“The upside to being a race horse: unlike the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl a couple years ago Maximum Security still thinks he won.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



The Derby Aftermath…

Honestly, after making my two futile longshot picks in the Kentucky Derby last week, I thought I would probably be finished writing about horseracing for at least a few months or until there was some new finding(s) in the investigation as to why so many horses have died at Santa Anita this year.  Then the Derby ended; then the objection was lodged; then the winner was taken down from first to a mile up the track; then …  So, here I am writing about horseracing again today.  [For the record, I did not have the $1 Superfecta that paid $51,400.10.  I missed it by only 4 horses.]

The owner of Maximum Security says that he will appeal the stewards’ ruling from Saturday even though Kentucky’s racing regulations say that the stewards’ decisions are final and cannot be appealed.  So, who knows what that is all about?  The stewards took about 20 minutes to make their decision; it was historic; no other Derby winner had been taken down for a foul within the race itself in the 144 previous runnings of the Derby.  And that 20-minute review process showed me something that horseracing should do routinely.

  • In the spirit of transparency, people should be able to see the stewards as they review the replays of the race and the times of the alleged fouls.
  • Moreover, the racegoers should also be allowed to hear the stewards as they interact with one another.  The fact that there is a camera in the room with the stewards looking at the screens they see means the technology to add audio to the transmission is well within reach.
  • Maybe if this practice becomes commonplace, there will be some benefit derived from the sturm und drang from last Saturday.

Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot last week; I totally agree with him here; so, let it be the final word on the 2019 Kentucky Derby:

“The mint julep, the signature drink of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, is a waste of good bourbon.”

Adding a tad of transparency to the stewards’ decision making will not resurrect the sport of horseracing, but it probably will not hurt the sport either.  There is something out there on the fringes of logic, however, that will not help the sport and might do it even more damage than it has suffered so far.  I am referring to something that is in the hopper for consideration by – – hold your breath here – – the United States Congress.  Indeed, Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) has introduced something called the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019.  The bill has 69 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House energy and Commerce Committee.  Here is the purpose of the bill:

“To improve the integrity and safety of horseracing by requiring a uniform anti-doping and medication control program to be developed and enforced by an independent Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority.”

You can read the bill itself and see where it stands in the legislative process here:

The Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority cited above would consist of the following membership:

  1. The chief executive officer of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
  2. Six individuals selected by the United States Anti-Doping Agency from among members of the board of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
  3. Six individuals selected by the United States Anti-Doping Agency [who represent the racing industry and equine medicine]

For those who complained about the length of the 20-minute process involving the stewards at the Derby last Saturday, please recognize that it sometimes takes the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) a couple of years to decide if an athlete’s urine sample contains enough of a banned or unknown substance to warrant a disqualification.  If you want to understand why the processes here take as long as they do, please check out the USADA Adjudication Process here:

There is indeed a problem in horseracing with medications and performance enhancing drugs and the like; there has been said problem for decades.  Why the co-sponsors of this bill believe that the same folks who have cleaned up the sport of track and field – – and several other sports to be sure – – so certainly are the ones to rely on here is something only a Congressthing might understand.

Another way to look at this situation is through the prism of the now declared unconstitutional law related to sports betting.  Walk through this with me, please:

  • In 1992, Congress passed PASPA making it illegal to bet on college and pro sports.
  • PASPA was declared unconstitutional in 2018.
  • Does anyone – even a Congressthing – believe for even a nanosecond that sports betting stopped illegal gambling on sports in the US between 1992 and 2018?
  • So, why would a rational person think that the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 will resolve the doping problems related to the sport and/or instill integrity into the sport from 2019 into the future?

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Bank:  A place to enjoy waiting in line when you can’t make it to the post office.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Derby Picks – For What They’re Worth…

The Kentucky Derby will happen tomorrow.  With 2 horses scratched, the field will be 19 horses this year.  Favorites have dominated the Derby for the last 6 years, but for a while there it seemed as if longshots would win every time out.  I am not thrilled by any of the favorites this year so here are two longshots for anyone who is betting on this race to consider for exactas and other exotic bets:

  1. By My Standards – First in the Louisiana Derby last time out
  2. Spinoff – Second in the Louisiana Derby last time out.

Reports yesterday said that ESPN will not replace Jason Witten as part of the Monday Night Football announcing team.  Witten is returning to the Cowboys’ roster and by all accounts ESPN had conversations with Peyton Manning to join the MNF team; when those conversations did not go anywhere, the decision was made to revert to a “two-man booth”.  I think that is a good way for ESPN to go.

Joe Tessitore is good on play-by-play; and if, somehow, he – and the ESPN overlords – can find a way to meter out his hyper-enthusiastic calls such that they only happen on big plays, I think he can become a top-shelf announcer.  More importantly for me, is that this move gives Booger McFarland a level of prominence he has not had in the past.  I believe that Booger McFarland is very good now and will blossom into a star in the sports broadcasting cosmos.  He is insightful; he is candid, and he has a natural sense of humor.  This move will get him in the booth and out of that stupid “Boogermobile” that ESPN used for most of last season.  [Aside: Whoever thought up that idea and whoever else “green-lighted it”, should be made to wear dunce caps and sit in the corner for 2 hours.]  Personally, what I would do now with the Boogermobile itself would be to dismantle it; put the parts in a steel container and jettison the whole thing into the Marianas Trench.  But that’s another issue…

There is an interesting – to me – angle to the assignment of NFL color commentators by the networks.  This year will be the final year of Tony Romo’s contract with CBS; he will be the announcers’ version of an unrestricted free agent.  Moreover, his tenure with CBS has been an unmitigated success.  I have to think that there will be a bidding war for his services for all the networks that carry NFL games – – except for NFL Network itself.

Added to that potentially intriguing set of circumstances that will unfold at the end of this NFL season, Peyton Manning has not said he has no interest in announcing and every network that carries NFL games would want him if he ever hinted at being interested.  So, there are two huge names and personalities out there overhanging all the existing announcing teams for NFL games.

The Super Bowl will be televised by FOX this year so Tony Romo’s last game for CBS under his current contract will be the AFC Championship Game on January 19, 2020.  Meanwhile, this summer, Peyton Manning will host a 5-part series celebrating the 100th “birthday” of the NFL – not a game announcing position to be sure but a “television-related activity”.  As they say in the business, stay tuned and don’t touch that dial…

I read a report recently that a school district in Central New York will not use any pesticides on any of the athletic fields in the district.  Folks there have run across some “organic stuff” that will be applied to the fields and that will supposedly take care of all the pests that might be associated with large grass fields in that climate zone. How ecologically friendly is that?

I wonder why they don’t take the next rather obvious step here and end the use of mowing equipment whose 2-cycle engines spew all sorts of environmental nasties into the air.  For the cost of a bit of fencing the school district managers could get a few goats and turn them loose on the field to let Mother Nature really take over there…

The under-achieving Washington Nationals fired their pitching coach, Derek Lilliquist, earlier this week.  To be sure, the Nats’ staff – and very particularly the bullpen staff – has been butt-ugly awful so far this year.  How much of the blame belongs to Lilliquist is up in the air as far as I am concerned.  Let me explain:

  • The Nats signed Trevor Rosenthal as a free agent reliever in the offseason.  In six prior seasons with the Cardinals, Rosenthal recorded 121 saves and an ERA of 2.99.  Not exactly Hall of Fame numbers, but reasonable ones for a guy whose slot was “8th inning bridge to the closer.”
  • In his first four appearances with the Nats, Rosenthal failed to get a single batter out.  His ERA was infinite for those games.
  • Rosenthal’s stats as of this morning go like this.  He has been in 7 games; he has thrown a total of 3 innings; he has given up 12 earned runs on 7 hits with 9 walks and 5 wild pitches.  His WHIP is 5.33.

Someone will have to explain to me how it is Derek Lilliquist’s fault that a pitcher who only threw 14 wild pitches in 6 years and 325 innings with the Cardinals has now thrown 5 wild pitches in 1 month and 3 innings with the Nats.  Moreover, will someone explain why it took until this week to discover that Rosenthal “has a virus” and needs to go on the 30-day IL so that he can get in some rehab work at the minor-league level?  The pitching coach makes those sorts of decisions?

I have my own explanation for the Nats’ under-achievement from 2018 and into the first month of 2019 and none of it has to do with Derek Lilliquist and his abilities or shortcomings as the pitching coach.  Please remember, the same guy that signed Trevor Rosenthal also hired Derek Lilliquist in the first place.

Finally, speaking of pitching woes, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Seven consecutive Mets batters reached base via walk or hit by pitch in the fifth inning against the Twins last week, the first to do it since:

  • “a) the Yankees, in 1994
  • “b) 2,178 Little League teams, just 24 hours earlier.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………