Saturday’s Den: Random thoughts on a happy day

13) Good day Friday; finally got my new glasses, so my eyesight is back to 100%, for first time in 11 months. I have a list of people to thank, but unfortunately, I don’t know a lot of their names.

— Dr Mallick, my retina surgeon, who has since moved to New Jersey
— Dr Lemanski, my cataract surgeon

— My cousins Maureen/Kevin, who went above and beyond to help me out.
— Friends/drivers Luke, Christina, Dara.
— My friend Chris the bartender, who advised me on where to get a new pair of glasses back in February- they helped a lot.

— The people at Memorial Hospital who helped me thru retina surgery
— The people at the Surgery Center in Latham, where I had cataract surgery.

Dr Lemanski’s staff got me new glasses, so it is lot easier to write this site now.

People at the Retina Care Center were also very nice to me. 

Its been a long 11 months, but it is good to have my vision back to 100%.

12) Tampa Bay/Oakland clinched playoff spots this week; A’s are in postseason for 6th time in nine years, with a payroll in the bottom third of the sport.

11) Michael Bloomberg is contributing $100M to Joe Biden’s campaign in Florida; money like that has to buy a hell of a lot of TV commercials. This is  a good couple months for TV networks; politicians throwing money at them for commercial time.

10) WR Adam Humphries recently signed a $26M deal with the Tennessee Titans; this is a guy who had only one scholarship offer coming out of high school- Clemson. This is part of why Dabo Swinney’s team is in the college football playoff every year; he can recognize talent.

9) Boston Celtics are 8-5 in playoffs so far; they led by 10+ points in four of the five losses.

8) Cleveland Browns’ coach Kevin Stefanski came to Cleveland from the Vikings, where he had been an assistant coach for 14 years, working for three different head coaches. That’s an unusual career path for a pro football coach.

7) Lakers 126, Nuggets 114 (Lakers lead 1-0)
— Game was 70-59 at halftime; LA shot 53% from the floor.
— Anthony Davis scored 37 points; Denver needs to find a way to defend him.

6) Ruben Amaro Jr is a new TV analyst for the Phillies and he is very good; relaxed, talks the game, and as a former GM/coach, knows it very well.

5) Milwaukee Brewers are 24-26, wallowing just below the cut for the playoffs; their most talented pitchers are Brandon Woodruff/Josh Hader, but Hader has thrown only 15.2 innings all year, while a washed-up stiff like Brent Suter has thrown 26 innings- Brett Anderson has thrown 39 innings.

Milwaukee rushed Hader to the majors because their AAA team was in high-altitude Colorado Springs, where prospects got their confidence squashed by lofty ERA’s- they made him a reliever to limit his innings early in his career. But now that he is an established big leaguer, Hader needs to be a starting pitcher, so the Brewers can maximize his immense potential.

4) Late night TV surfing, ran into an old friend; the old TV show Without a Trace was very underrated, about the part of FBI in New York City that found missing people. Anthony LaPaglia was great as Jack Malone, who headed the agency. It is on Paramount Network 2-3 hours in a row, late at night.

3) ESPN signed up longtime NBA star Vince Carter as an NBA/college hoop analyst; you never know how these things are going to go, but I’ll be curious to hear what he has to say.

2) Speaking of college basketball, sounds like next season will begin November 25, the night before Thanksgiving. No freakin’ idea what the schedule is going to look like, but it’ll be fun to see kids playing basketball again.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Chicago, Minnesota
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, Cincy/StL
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Philadelphia, SF/Cin/StL

Thursday’s Den: 13 athletes who excelled at more than one sport

(listed alphabetically)
— Danny Ainge— Played 14 years in the NBA, after a great career at BYU. He also hit .220 in 211 games over three years for the Toronto Blue Jays.

— Jim Brown— One of the best running backs in NFL history, he led the NFL in rushing in 8 of his 9 seasons. Brown also played basketball, ran track, and was a great lacrosse player while in college at Syracuse.

— Wilt Chamberlain— Scored 31,419 points in his NBA career; once scored 100 points in a game- he averaged over 30 ppg for his career. He preferred track in high school, high jumping, long jumping, running the quarter-mile and half-mile events while also throwing the shot put.

When he was in the NBA, Wilt got annoyed that he was criticized for shooting too much so the next season (1967-68) he led the league in assists. 

— Bob Hayes— Played wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys for 11 years; he also won two gold medals in track at the 1964 Olympics. Hayes caught 371 passes for 20 yards/catch in his NFL career, scoring 73 touchdowns.

— Bo Jackson— Was a great running back at Auburn, and played 38 games for the Raiders, averaging 5.4 yards/carry. He played eight years in the major leagues, hitting 141 homers- he played the last two years with an artificial hip.

— Michael Jordan— Not much to add here; won a national title at North Carolina, six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, and out of nowhere, he hit .202 for the AA Birmingham Barons in 1994, as an outfielder, during his sabbatical from the NBA.

Hitting .202 doesn’t sound like much, but I was an official scorer for two years at the AA level; there are guys who were career baseball players who didn’t hit .200 at that level. Jordan also stole 30 bases that season.

— Kenny Lofton— Played 17 years in the big leagues, with a .372 on-base %age and 622 stolen bases— hell of a ballplayer, a 6-time All Star. Lofton also played college basketball at Arizona; he is one of only two people EVER to play in the Final Four and World Series.

— Nate Robinson— Played 11 years in the NBA, he won the Slam Dunk title three times even though he is only 5-9; he scored 11 ppg for his professional career. Robinson originally went to U of Washington on a football scholarship; he played football for the Huskies as a freshman, but gave football up after that season.

— Bill Russell— Played 13 seasons in the NBA, won 11 titles, lost in the finals another year. San Francisco won consecutive NCAA titles with Russell as their center in 1955-56. Russell also was a high jumper at USF; at one time, he was ranked as the 7th-best high jumper in the world, but had to choose between track and basketball as far as the Olympics went- he chose basketball.

— Deion Sanders— Played 14 years in the NFL for five teams; he picked off 53 passes in his pro career, running back nine of them for touchdowns. He also played baseball, playing nine years in the major leagues, hitting .263 for four teams, with 186 stolen bases.

— Tim Stoddard— First person ever to play in a Final Four and a World Series; he was a starting forward on NC State’s championship team in 1974. He also pitched in the major leagues for 13 years, winning a World Series ring with the ’83 Orioles. He also got a hit in his only at-bat in a World Series game.

— Charlie Ward— He won the 1993 Heisman Trophy, leading Florida State to their first-ever national title on the gridiron. Ward also played 11 years in the NBA for three teams, mostly the Knicks, scoring 6.3 ppg for his career.

— Dave Winfield— Played both baseball/basketball for the Minnesota Gophers; his college basketball coach was Bill Musselman, who later coached in the NBA. Winfield was also drafted by the NFL’s Vikings, but he never played college football.

Winfield was a great baseball player; he played 22 years in the majors, hit .283 with 465 career homers and an on-base %age of .353. 

Tuesday’s Den: Nobody asked me, but…….

13) Steelers 26, Giants 16:
— Pitt led 16-10 late in 3rd quarter; Giants had a 19-play drive that ended on an end zone INT.
— Last five years, Pittsburgh is 15-6 ATS against NFC teams.
— 11 of Steelers’ last 14 road openers stayed under the total.

— Barkley carried ball 15 times for 6 yards; he caught 6 passes for 60 yards.
— Giants started one drive on Pittsburgh’s 3-yard line but only kicked a FG.
— Giants started out 0-1 eight of last nine years.
— Giants are 4-14 ATS in last 18 games as a home underdog.

12) Titans 16, Denver 14
— Titans missed three FG’s and a PAT, but kicked 25-yard FG with 0:17 left for the win.
— The was the Oilers/Titans’ first win in Denver since 1980 (they also won a 1987 replacement game, but I don’t count that)
— Tennessee won seven of last eight road openers, covered nine of last 13.

— Broncos were stopped on downs on the Tennessee 1-yard line in 2nd quarter.
— Titans converted 7-16 on 3rd down, Denver only 3-9.
— Denver is 21-10-1 ATS in its last 32 home openers.

11) Why did the Houston Texans trade DeAndre Hopkins? Isn’t it important to keep your best players, especially when your young QB is growing into being an elite player? Going to be a lot of heat on Texans’ management if they regress on offense this season.

My high school Chemistry teacher was Bill Warner (no relation to Kurt); he was a great teacher, also a licensed pilot, a basketball referee, a brilliant guy. When something made no sense to him, he would call it “nonsensical” He is the only person I’ve ever heard use that word.

To me, the Texans trading Hopkins was nonsensical.

10) No NFL head coach has ever won Super Bowls with two different teams.

Only two guys (Bill Parcells, Mike Holmgren) made it to a Super Bowl with another team, after winning a title somewhere else.

9) NFL supposedly wants more scoring in their games, but two huge offensive plays in the last minute of close games were nullified Sunday by offensive pass interference calls. If you want more points to be scored, why would you point the officials towards calling more offensive PI?

Bengals scored a TD with 0:06 left that was negated; Dallas completed a long pass that would’ve set up a game-tying field goal. Wide receivers pushing off has been overlooked for decades; Michael Irvin is in the Hall of Fame because of that.

The NFL makes their rules, the officials just enforce them; I don’t understand this apparent change in direction.

8) Last 16 years, Cleveland Browns are 0-15-1 in their season openers; they threw 10 passes to Odell Beckham Sunday in Baltimore, but completed only three of them.

7) Mike D’Antoni’s NBA coaching record: 16 years, 672-527 in regular season games, 54-56 in playoff games. If he still wants to coach, hard to believe someone won’t hire him.

6) Denver Nuggets are first NBA team ever to have four straight playoff series go 7 games.

5) Overlooked with all the football Sunday was Alec Mills throwing a no-hitter for the Cubs in Milwaukee, in his 15th career start.

Earlier this season, Lucas Giolito threw a no-hitter for the White Sox; this is the first season ever that both Chicago franchises had a pitcher throw a no-hitter in the same season.

4) Over the last 21 years, Washington Redskins have started 13 different quarterbacks in their season opener. This isn’t a good thing.

3) Big day for Mets fans; the Wilpon family and Saul Katz have agreed to sell the Mets to billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, which has to help the team a lot. The Wilpons were horrendous owners.

Trivia: If you watch Billions on Showtime, Damian Lewis’ character Bobby Axelrod is loosely based on Cohen. He is a rich guy, really rich.

2) Atlanta Braves signed Pablo Sandoval to a minor league deal, after the Giants released him. Sandoval could be a DH for the Braves down the stretch.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, Toronto
AL Central: Chicago, Minnesota
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, New York

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Philadelphia, San Francisco