Saturday’s Den: A running diary of Opening Day

4:11- Jacob deGrom takes the mound as Opening Day on July 24 gets underway; this strangest of seasons started with two games last night- there are 14 games tonight.

deGrom has had some back issues is supposedly under a 75-pitch limit for this game. He is the ace of my fantasy team’s staff; need him to be good.

4:15- Speaking of which, Marlins’ C Jorge Alfaro is on the IL, presumably with COVID-related issues. He is the only catcher on my fantasy roster. It is stunning how few everyday catchers are good hitters. Have to monitor this to see if I need another catcher.

4:25- Atlanta 1B Freddie Freeman is starting at 1B for the 10th straight Opening Day; during that time, Atlanta has started nine left fielders, eight 3rd basemen, seven catchers.

Braves’ top two catchers have COVID-related issues, are back home in Atlanta.

4:35- There are over 6,000 cardboard cutouts at CitiField for this game.

4:45- Having mostly NL pitchers on my fantasy team was relaxing when the opposing pitcher came up, but now with the universal DH, not so much. I like everyone having the DH; we’ll see how teams handle it, whether they will use it as an “off day” for regulars, or have a regular DH.

5:20- deGrom goes five scoreless innings, but because he pitches for the bleeping Mets, it is scoreless after five and deGrom can’t get the win.

Since 2015, deGrom has had 15 starts where he threw 5+ innings and didn’t allow a run, but he won only 8 of those 15 games.

6:30- Mets’ DH Cespedes hit a homer in his first game in two years, New York wins 1-0. Up in heaven somewhere, my dad is happy.

6:50- Thursday’s New York-Washington game got the highest TV ratings of any network broadcast over the last nine years.

7:15- I wanted to watch the Reds because I picked up their new OF Shogo Akiyama, but he is sitting against Detroit’s lefty starter. Oy.

7:30- Good news from Korea- KBO games are going to have fans starting on Sunday, so that is a return to normalcy that is good to hear about.

7:45- Only five regular season fantasy league games before the playoffs start- very short season will be weird. First week is 10 days long; have to study up and see where I need to add players. I have two minor league prospects who aren’t going to play this year— unsure how teams are dealing with those guys in their alternate facilities.

8:10- Flipping between games, spring training for my right thumb; already during Milwaukee, Colorado, Cincinnati broadcasts, have seen the same commercial, a Republican ad with Mike Pence doing all the talking. I seriously want to puke, bit that would screw up my keyboard.

8:15- Akiyama gets in the game after Detroit takes Matthew Boyd out; he singles up the middle, knocks in a run and gets his first MLB hit. Not sure he is good enough to be in my starting lineup but he won five batting titles in Japan- he must be able to hit.

8:30- Last year, Bryce Harper hit .357 with runners in scoring position, .204 with the bases empty.

Whit Merrifield just singled, my team’s first hit of the night.

8:35- I’m saying that pitchers are ahead of the hitters so far. Umpires also seem to be calling more strikes. Paul Nauert had the Mets’ game today; he definitely expanded the zone some, for both sides.

Speaking of umpires, with 10-12 umps opting out this year because of COVID, there are new crew chiefs and somehow, Angel Hernandez is one, despite being a terrible umpire. Yikes. 

8:40- My opponent in fantasy ball this week has Kyle Hendricks, and he is throwing a shutout against the Brewers in the 6th inning. No bueno.

Milwaukee has Eric Sogard batting leadoff; why????? Must be his career .318 OB% that is so appealing to them. No, it is his 2-6 mark against Hendricks; even I know he shouldn’t bad leadoff, and I went to a state school.

I’m an A’s fan, I love Sogard, even have one of his t-shirts, but if he plays 3B and bats leadoff for you on Opening Night, you’re not a playoff team.

These over-educated fools who run the Brewers are at it again. I used to have Josh Hader on my team, hoping they would come to their senses and make him a starter again, but no.

10:30- Turned the laptop off for a while and had dinner; Hendricks shut out the Brewers, who have new uniforms that make them look like the Michigan Wolverines.

10:42- Michael Brantley goes yard for Houston, good news for the Armadillos.

Lets catch up on stuff that happened while I was eating:

— Reds 7, Tigers 1— Listening to the Cincinnati broadcast, they have high expectations for this season. Moustakas had three hits, knocked in four runs for the Reds, who haven’t had a winning season since 2013, Dusty Baker’s last year as their manager.

As for Detroit, they’re in a total rebuild.

— Blue Jays 6, Rays 4— Cavan Biggio hit a 3-run homer for Toronto, which found out Friday they’re playing home games this season in Buffalo.

Joe West had the plate in this game; he’s been a major league ump since 1976, when he was 23 years old. Not sure how he became a major league ump that quickly, seeing how he also played college football (East Carolina, Elon) but he did.

— Marlins 5, Phillies 2— Sandy Alcantara allowed three hits in 6.2 IP as Miami gets off to a good start. First four hitters on Philly’s lineup went 1-14.

Miami’s TV crew had team president Michael Hill on during the game and he spews the same old BS he always does; what a farm system we have, we’re building to become perennial contenders, blah, blah, blah. This is another nitwit who went to college in the Ivy League (Harvard), but thought trading Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna, Realmuto was a good idea.

Bryce Harper wore cleats with fluorescent green laces in them, which clashed a little with the Phillies’ uniforms, but they’ve eliminated rules about shoes, so that’s what you get.

— Indians 2, Royals 0— Only nine hits total in this game, as pitchers seemed to be ahead of the hitters, for the most part all over baseball. Shane Bieber struck out 14 Royals, allowing five runners in six IP.

— Cubs 3, Brewers 0— Milwaukee had three hits, all by 9th-place hitter Orlando Arcia; meanwhile, they had Sogard batting leadoff, which is baseball malpractice. Hendricks went the whole way, allowing three baserunners, striking out nine.

Colorado also had three hits in their game, all by the same guy, leadoff hitter Dahl. Hendricks is the first Cub with an Opening Day shutout since 1974; A’s won the World Series that year, so that’s a good omen.

— Red Sox 13, Orioles 2—Baltimore is another total rebuild; unless they have lot of good young pitchers on the way up, not sure how they’re going to get better anytime soon.

JD Martinez scored twice, knocked in three runs for Boston.

Rangers 1, Rockies 0— First game at Globe Life Field is a pitchers’ duel; Lance Lynn allowed two hits in six innings. Texas didn’t even have a hit until the 6th inning; Rougned Odor knocked in their only run. German Marquez was the tough luck loser.

— Twins 10, White Sox 5— Game was 5-5 after two innings, but Chicago never scored again. Max Kepler homered twice for Minnesota; four of their top five hitters scored twice each.

Minnesota’s bullpen allowed only four baserunners in five shutout innings.

— Cardinals 5, Pirates 4— Tough beat if you played the under; game was 3-0 Cardinals after six innings, but neither bullpen flourished, as St Louis barely held on after entering 9th inning with a 5-2 lead.

I like the cardboard cutouts at games; enjoyed watching baseball for several hours. Its a hell of a lot better than watching the news or re-watching 30-year old ballgames. Hopefully everyone will stay healthy and we can have some entertainment this summer. 

Friday’s Den: Happy Opening Day, everyone…..

13) We start today with a hard-hitting news story; a guy in Las Vegas walked into an adult toy store, and walked out with a 3-foot-tall dildo that weighs 50 pounds. Didn’t pay, just grabbed it and walked out of the store. Hmmm……

The guy put the dildo in his car and took off; this is grand larceny— the dildo is apparently worth around $1,200. Who knew?

Feel free to insert your own jokes here. I’m moving on…….

12) Couple of hours before the 2020 season started, major leagues announced that the playoffs would be expanded from 10 to 16 teams, for this year only.

Top two teams in all six divisions will make it, plus the next two best records in each league. There will be no first round byes, but in the first round, the #1 seed will have all the series games in their home ballpark.

11) Bronx 4, Washington 1 (5)— Rain-shortened season opener; neither team went to their bullpen. Giancarlo Stanton hit a 459-foot homer, Gerrit Cole won his New York debut.

Nationals’ star Juan Soto tested positive for the coronavirus, is out indefinitely.

10) Dodgers 8, Giants 1— Clayton Kershaw was a late scratch with a bad back; he is on the IL. Dustin May threw 4.1 innings as a late replacement.

Over last 13 years, San Francisco has started 13 different left fielders on Opening Day.

9) Here is how rosters work this year; for the first two weeks, each team will have 30 players, for the next two weeks, 28 players. Then it pares down to 26, which it would have been all season, had this been a normal season.

8) Ray Fosse mentioned on the A’s game the other night how Carl Yastrzemski played the entire 1970 All-Star game at first base. Thats the whole 12 innings.

Starters don’t do stuff like that anymore; now Yaztrzemski’s grandson Mike plays CF for the Giants- he hit .272 with 21 homers last year. Somehow, the Orioles gave up on them even though they were a terrible team, and the Giants pounced. He hit .272 with 21 homers LY.

7) Over/under in Las Vegas on Astros’ hitters being hit by pitches this year: 41.5.

6) Minnesota Twins have lost 16 consecutive playoff games, which is a record; last time they won a playoff game was in 2004.

5) Watching Padres-Angels exhibition game the other night, and there is a guy sitting by himself in the right field bleachers, going over notes. Only person in the stands.

Turns out it was Tony LaRussa, who works for the Angels now as a consultant.

4) Seattle’s new NHL team will be called the Kraken; they begin play in 2021-22.The kraken is a legendary cephalopod-like sea monster in Scandinavian folklore. A very large sea monster. The logo and colors looked pretty cool, at first glance.

3) Actors and their roles; there are 26 actors who have appeared in 6+ episodes of the Showtime series Billions, who also appeared in at least one episode of Law and Order. There are 16 other actors from Billions who appeared in either Law and Order: SVU, or Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

It is good to know people, make an impression; that’s how you you get hired for more jobs.

2) USC Trojans are 0-7 ATS in their last seven bowl games, even though they won three of those seven games. Last time USC covered a bowl game was in 2009, beating Boston College 24-13 (-7) in the Emerald Bowl.

1) NBA teams are scrimmaging for the next few days; real games start on Thursday. Was fun watching teams scrimmage, though they looked more like real games, seeing how they wore their real uniforms and all. 

Thursday’s List of 13: Some movie recommendations for late-night TV

It is possible that I watch too much TV, but during the pandemic, not much else to do, except read books, listen to music. Here are 13 movies, mostly older movies, that you will enjoy if you come across them on one of the movie channels.

13) The Gambler— Remake of a 1974 James Caan movie, Mark Wahlberg plays a college professor who borrows money from both his mother and a loan shark; a compulsive gambler, paying all his debts comes down to one spin of the roulette wheel.

John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson are a fine supporting cast.

12) Dave— The U.S. President goes into a coma while cheating on his wife; to avoid a scandal, the President’s henchmen hire a temp agency owner with an uncanny resemblance to the President to play the role of the President.

Kevin Kline is the star; Sigoruney Weaver, Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Ben Kingsley and Charles Grodin are an excellent supporting cast.

11) Jackie Brown— A middle-aged stewardess smuggles money from Mexico to Los Angeles for an arms dealer; she gets caught with $10,000 and cocaine in her purse. She convinces her bail bondsman to take part in a con game to steal $500,000 from the arms dealer.

Pam Grier is the star; Robert Forster is the bondsman, Samuel L Jackson the arms dealer. Smaller roles for Robert DeNiro and Michael Keaton.

10) Less Than Zero— A college freshman returns to Los Angeles for the holidays at his ex-girlfriend’s request, but discovers that his former best friend has an out-of-control drug habit. Not always a pleasant movie, but it is well done.

Jami Gertz plays the young lady; she has recently represented the Atlanta Hawks a couple times at the NBA’s Draft Lottery— her husband in real life is Antony Ressler, who owns the Hawks.

9) Let It Ride— Richard Dreyfuss plays a degenerate gambler who is a habitual loser but has one very good day at the racetrack. Teri Garr plays his beleaguered wife, David Johansen plays one of his gambling friends, Jennifer Tilly plays a rich guy’s girlfriend who is at the track with him.

If you enjoy going to the track, guaranteed this movie will make you laugh.

8) Fabulous Baker Boys— The lives of two struggling piano players, who are brothers, inevitably change when they team up with a beautiful, up-and-coming singer. Once the singer joins their act, they become a much more popular group, but then things get complicated by romance.

Jeff/Beau Bridges are brothers in this movie and in real life; Michelle Pfeiffer is the singer, and this is peak Michelle Pfeiffer. Good movie.

8a) Bonus List: Mt Rushmore of John Grisham movies:
— A Time To Kill
— Runaway Jury
— The Client
— The Rainmaker

6) Lucky You— A hotshot poker player tries to win a tournament in Las Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems; complicating things is Huck’s father, a champion poker player, arriving in Las Vegas- Huck despises the old man for having left his mother.

Robert Duvall is the father, Eric Bana is the hotshot, Drew Barrymore his girlfriend. Lot of real-life pro poker players are in this movie.

5) He Got Game— Denzel Washington is a father who pushes his son to become a great ballplayer, but during a domestic dispute, he inadvertently kills his wife, and goes to jail. The only way he can get a shorter sentence is to convince his son to play ball for the governor’s alma mater, but the son hates his old man.

Ray Allen is the ballplayer, Ned Beatty the warden, John Turturro one of the coaches who is recruiting the kid. Jim Brown plays a probation officer assigned to watch Denzel while he is trying to recruit his own son. Rick Fox is the kid’s guide on one of his recruiting visits.

4) White Palace— Still getting over the death of his wife, a young advertising executive meets an older waitress, a woman with a fixation on Marilyn Monroe. The couple gradually fall in love, though age and social differences make things problematic.

James Spader is the guy, Susan Sarandon the waitress, Jason Alexander is one of his friends. There is a great, short appearance by Steven Hill, who played the original DA on Law and Order.

3) Lost In Translation— Bill Murray is a movie star on the back nine of his career who heads to Tokyo to do a whiskey commercial for $2M. While there, he crosses paths with a young lady who is in Tokyo with her photographer husband, but the husband largely ignores her.

The actor and the young lady form an unlikely friendship; the ending kind of leaves us hanging.

2) Oceans 11, Oceans 13— A group of 11 thieves work together to rob Las Vegas casinos; Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, Ellen Barkin, Andy Garcia, a tremendous cast in these two movies.

Al Pacino owns the casino they try to rob in Oceans Thirteen. 

1) The Replacements— During a pro football strike, the owners hire substitute players; Keanu Reaves is the QB, Gene Hackman the coach, Jack Warden the owner. A motley cast of characters make up the rest of the Washington Sentinels.

Apparently Sentinels is not one of the names under consideration to replace Redskins as the nickname of the Washington team in real life. 

Monday’s List of 13: Some of the greatest comebacks in baseball’s playoff history……

13) Bronx 8, Braves 6 (10)- Game 4, 1996 WS
— Braves led series 2-1, led 6-0 after five innings, behind Denny Neagle.
— Atlanta bullpen gave up five runs in five innings.
— Kenny Rogers started for New York, gave up five runs in 2+ IP.
— Jim Leyritz tied the game with a 3-run homer in 8th inning.

12) Mets 7, Astros 6 (16)- Game 6 1986 NLCS
— Mets won last two games of series, in 12-16 innings.
— Astros led 3-0 in 1st, led 3-0 until 9th, when Mets tied game. Both teams scored in 14th, Mets scored three runs in 16th, Astros scored only twice.
— Bob Knepper had shutout into 9th inning, ran out of gas.
— Mets used three relievers, who threw 3-5-3 innings. The game has changed since then.

11) Cardinals 10, Dodgers 9- Game 1 2014 NLDS
— Dodgers led 6-1 after five, 6-2 after six, behind Kershaw.
— Cardinals scored 8 runs in top 0f 7th; Kershaw faced 7 hitters in 7th, giving up 5 hits.
— First three guys in St Louis lineup went 5-13, with six runs scored, 8 RBI.
— 11 relievers were used in the game; only three of them got 3+ outs.

10) Cubs 6, Giants 5- Game 4 2016 NLDS
— Cubs scored four runs in 9th to move onto the NLCS, after losing day before in 13 innings.
— Matt Moore allowed only two hits, struck out 10 in 8 IP; Giants used five relievers in fateful 9th inning.
— Contreras had a 2-run, pinch-hit single in 9th inning.
— Giants had only two baserunners over final 4.2 innings.

9) Astros 7, Braves 6 (18)- Game 4, 2005 NLDS
— Atlanta led 6-1 after 7 innings, 6-5 after 8 innings.
— Astros’ bullpen allowed only one run in 13.2 IP.
— Roger Clemens pitched the last three innings, allowing one hit.
— Chris Burke hit a walkoff homer in the 18th for Houston.

8) Royals 9, Astros 6- Game 3, 2015 ALDS
— Houston led 6-2 after seven innings behind McCullers.
— Carlos Correa was 4-4 with two homers, four RBI, also made an error in 8th inning.
— Astros bullpen got eight outs, gave up seven runs.
— Hosmer hit a 2-run homer in 9th inning for insurance runs.

7) Angels 7, Red Sox 6- Game 3, 2009 ALDS
— Halos trailed 5-2 after seven, scored 3 in 9th to sweep series, after first two hitters in 9th inning made outs
— Papelbon faced 8 batters; allowed four hits, two walks.
— Vladimir Guerrero’s 2-run single was the big hit in the 9th.
— Angels’ bullpen allowed only one run in four IP.

6) Mets 6, Red Sox 5 (10)- Game 6, 1986 WS
— Boston scored two runs in top of 10th; this is the Bill Buckner game.
— Roger Clemens allowed only one earned run in seven IP.
— Boggs/Barrett went 6-9 at top of Boston order, in a losing cause.
— Mets double-switched Darryl Strawberry out of this game in 9th inning; unusual.

5) Dodgers 6, Phillies 5- Game 3, 1977 NLCS
— Phillies took 5-3 lead with two runs in 8th, couldn’t hold lead.
— Rick Rhoden threw 4.1 scoreless innings in relief; neither starter finished 4th inning.
— Top three hitters in Philly order (McBride-Bowa-Schmidt) went 0-12.
— Dodgers scored 3 runs in 9th, after first two batters made out; Vic Davalillo started the rally with a pinch-hit bunt single.

4) Cardinals 5, Astros 4- Game 5, 2005 NLCS
— Pujols hit a 2-out, 3-run HR off Brad Lidge in 9th inning.
— Lance Berkman hit 3-run tater in 7th to give Astros a 4-2 lead.
— Andy Pettitte gave up two runs in 6.1 IP for Houston.
— Astros won series two days later, winning 5-1 behind Roy Oswalt.

3) Blue Jays 7, A’s 6 (11)- Game 4, 1992 ALCS
— A’s led 6-1 after seven innings; bullpen was dreadful.
— Roberto Alomar went 4-5, tied game with 2-run homer in 9th.
— Jack Morris was knocked out in 4th inning; their bullpen allowed one run.
— Pat Borders knocked in winning run with sac fly in 11th.

2) Blue Jays 15, Phillies 14- Game 4, 1993 WS
— Game was 7-6 in third inning; Blue Jays were down 14-9 in 8th, scored six runs to take a 3-1 series lead.
— Devon White went 3-5, had a two-run triple in 8th inning.
— Lenny Dykstra scored four runs, knocked in four in a losing cause.
— Toronto scored 41 runs in their four wins in this World Series.

1) Red Sox 8, Rays 7- Game 5, 2008 ALCS
— Tampa Bay led 7-0 in 7th inning, trying to win their first pennant.
— Scott Kazmir threw six shutout innings for the Rays.
— Tampa bullpen faced 18 hitters; eight of them scored.
— David Ortiz hit a 3-run homer, JD Drew a 2-run homer for Boston.
— Rays wound up winning this series in seven games.

TV highlight of the day: Golf on TV was fun; also a solid movie day:
Rounders, Good Will Hunting, Up In the Air, Love & Basketball

Saturday’s Den: Things I’ve missed/am missing

Things I’ve missed doing the last four months:
13) I miss turning the TV on every night and watching baseball, especially the A’s. The baseball season is a six-month drama that plays out one night at a time. I miss that drama. Hopefully on July 23, things will go well, and we can watch games the rest of the summer.

12) I miss stressing out about my fantasy baseball team; last I heard, Giancarlo Stanton is healthy, so the sooner they start this abbreviated season, the better.

March seems like 2-3 years ago; it slipped my mind that I had made a Machado-Bryant trade a day or two before everything shut down in the spring.

11) I miss going to the malls around here and getting slices of pizza while I watch people walk by.

10) I miss going to the bookstore and looking for interesting books/magazines.

9) I had missed going out to lunch every day and talking with people and laughing and learning stuff. but I’ve started dong that again the last couple weeks- that makes the days more fun.

8) I missed March Madness, my favorite event of the year.

7) I miss writing in my notebooks every night, filling them with numbers that will talk back to me when I look at them later on. I have a lot of notebooks/index cards. And pens.

6) I actually miss walking into the bank and paying my credit card bill, though now I’ve joined the 21st century and have an online banking account. Much easier.

5) I miss seeing hockey teams celebrate after scoring an overtime goal; I miss seeing teams line up and shake hands after a hard-fought playoff series.

4) I miss writing about what happens every day, instead of inventing lists like this, although  this experience has been highly educational. Seriously, it has been.

3) I miss listening to Charles Barkley and Shaq discuss the NBA playoffs, though watching old playoff games reminds me that shorter playoff series would be a lot more fun.

2) I DO NOT MISS going to the gas station and paying $2.79 a gallon for gas; can’t remember the last time I put gas in my car— the price of gas has dropped 50 cents a gallon here.

1) I miss visiting Las Vegas, and knowing that I can play video poker and watch ballgames and shoot the breeze with whoever is around.

I look forward to life getting more normal, so I can do these things again. The more we wear masks in public, the sooner we can do these things. 

Friday’s List of 13: Randomly interesting sports facts……

A guy named Peter Burns posted a thread on his Twitter feed; What’s your favorite random sports stat? I went thru the thread, and picked out my favorite ones…….

13) Wayne Gretzky has the most points in NHL history, by far; if you take away all his goals, he would still have the most points in NHL history.

12) Stan Musial had 3,630 hits in his great career:
— 1,815 hits at home.
— 1,815 hits on the road.

11) July 2, 1963, Giants beat the Braves 1-0 in 16 innings at Candlestick Park; both pitchers threw complete games.

Juan Marichal threw 227 pitches, Warren Spahn 201. Willie Mays ended things with a home run in the 16th, in front of 15,921 fans. Game took 4:10 to play.

10) Tony Gwynn had 541 career at-bats against 18 pitchers who made the Hall of Fame; he hit .331 in those at-bats.

9) Ohio State has won eight national titles in football, six of them outright, two others were shared.

Buckeyes have been the #1 preseason team seven times; in none of those seven years did they win a national championship.

8) From 2008-2018, Charles Howell III made $20,422,568 on the PGA Tour without winning a tournament or finishing in the top 20 on the money list.

7) On his 29th birthday, Phil Niekro had 17 career wins; he wound up with 318 wins, using the knuckleball to pitch until he was 48 years old.

6) April 23, 1999, Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams in a game at Dodger Stadium……in the same inning, off the same pitcher (Chan Ho Park).

5) On July 3, 1966, Tony Cloninger hit two grand slams in a game, which is impressive, even mores because…….Tony Cloninger was a pitcher.

4) Between 1990-2000, Florida/Florida State played 13 football games against each other; they were both in the top 5 for all 13 meetings.

3) Nolan Ryan struck out seven father/son combinations.

2) In 1927, there were unassisted triple plays on consecutive days in the major leagues; there wasn’t another unassisted triple play in the big leagues until 1968.

1) Money earned via salary in 2020:
— Bobby Bonilla, $1.19M (he retired in 2001)
— Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes, $850,000

TV highlight of the day:  Moneyball was on, always a highlight. Bad News Bears was on too, a great movie.