Picking up where I left off yesterday … I said earlier in the week that a reader sent me an email telling me that 353 players had declared for the NBA Draft but the list I found only had 127 players listed. That statement got me three different links from three readers showing that indeed 353 players think they might be drafted by an NBA team sometime in July. [Aside: The presence of those 3 links also demonstrates that my Google searching skills are imperfect!] So let me do a bit of math here:
- The NBA has 30 teams; the Draft has two rounds. At most 60 players will hear their name called out by Adam Silver or some other NBA factotum.
- Ergo, 83% of the names on the “Eligible List” will be disappointed. But wait, there’s more…
- Only first round picks get contracts with guarantees. First round players get 4-year deals with the first two years guaranteed with years 3 and 4 as team options. Second round players get no guarantees unless their agents can wriggle one out of the drafting team.
- Ergo, about 91% of the names on the “Eligible List” will be sure not to draw a paycheck from an NBA team next year.
Lots of young men are going to get a lesson in reality pretty soon …
Next up is the Belmont Stakes. The race will happen tomorrow and indeed it will not have any horses trained by Bob Baffert in the starting gate. Baffert’s suspension by the NYRA was put into a strengthened condition earlier this week when the second sample test results on Medina Spirit came back with an even higher level of betamethasone than the first test sample which landed Baffert on the suspension list. As I mentioned before, banishing him from the Belmont Stakes is significant but there is a bigger hammer held by the NYRA.
Summer and Fall racing in NY are a big deal at Saratoga and then again at Belmont Park where lots of Graded Stakes races leading up to Breeders’ Cup invitations take place. [For the record, the Breeders’ Cup will be at DelMar on November 5 & 6.]. Owners of top-shelf horses might consider changing trainers if staying with Baffert hurt the chances of their horse getting into the Breeders’ Cup.
Moreover, Baffert’s position as the top trainer in the country will be hurt by the decision this week by Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) to ban him from racing at any of their facilities for 2 years. That means no Baffert-trained horses can be in the next two Kentucky Derbies. CDI owns – in addition to Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY – the Fair Grounds, Turfway Park, Presque Isle Downs and Arlington Park.
I also mentioned before that some bettors who would have cashed large tickets on the Kentucky Derby had Medina Spirit not won that day were suing Baffert and his corporate stable entity. I have no idea if that suit will ever be heard but one aspect of the suit is that it seeks to be heard under the umbrella of provisions provided by Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The plaintiffs claim that they assumed the race would be fair and competed under the rules provided by the track, but that Baffert knowingly evaded those rules thereby denying those bettors the winnings they should have had. Somehow, even a person like me who knows nothing about the law can appreciate that it is not a good thing to be found guilty of anything covered by a law known as RICO.
This is an important step for horseracing. Bob Baffert has been a hugely successful trainer in the US for the last decade, but he has also skated around the edges of the rules without significant sanction recently. I read one report that said he has had 30 “medical violations” in his career and the positive test on Medina Spirit was the 5th such violation in the last 13 months. More than a few folks have suggested that he got off with minor slaps on the wrist because of his fame and his success; I do not know if that is the case, but it has that appearance.
Horseracing is a sport/industry that cannot exist without gambling and bettors; people will not pay money to go to a racetrack to watch a bunch of horses run around an oval track without having “a little something” on the outcome. Without the betting handle, there would be no purses to offer to owners and trainers. Betting is vital to the sport – – and betting requires the bettors to be confident that they are not going to be duped by the process. I do not have nearly enough information to know how or why Baffert’s horses have had these “medical violations” nor do I know that said “medical violations” were instrumental in those horses winning some races. Nonetheless, I think it is a positive move by the horseracing industry to mete out significant punishment here to a top-shelf trainer as it probably would to a guy who trains horses that usually run in $5K claiming events.
For the record, I do not like either of the top two horses in the Morning Line for the Belmont Stakes tomorrow. My two horses for the race are Rock Your World (9 to 2) and Hot Rod Charlie (7 to 2). I doubt that I will be suing anyone if that Exacta Box does not come in.
Moving on … There was a report yesterday that the USFL is coming back in 2022. The teams will be in the cities where they were back in the 80s and the league will play Spring Football starting after the Super Bowl next February. There have been many Spring Football leagues over the years; the USFL was the most successful of them. However, there is something here that gives me pause:
- The “plan” is for the XFL to play next Spring also. I say “plan” because much of the happenings regarding the XFL and its re-emergence as XFL 3.0 takes place in the dark.
- Assuming that both leagues try to play next spring, the USFL and the XFL each had 8 teams. If both seek to keep their franchise structure intact, that will mean filling out 16 football rosters beyond players in the NFL.
- To provide for injuries, I would estimate that a minimum of 50 players would be needed per team – – and probably closer to 60. So, at a minimum, these leagues would need to find 800 more “pro-level players” than are currently on display in the NFL.
- I have no doubt there are 800 football players who will want to be part of either league should it be an actual going concern. But finding enough players who are of pro-caliber will not be an easy task for either league.
Finally, I will close out this week with two entries in The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Idealist: A person who foolishly believes you are above screwing him or her over.”
“Idiot: See Idealist.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………