Thursday’s Den: Random thoughts on Opening Day

Before we start, happy birthday to my grandmother; today was her birthday. Very nice lady. Not sure April 1 is a great day for a birthday.

13) Will be fun to see fans in the stands; hopefully by the end of this season, stands will be full again, but for now, hearing real people cheer will be enough. Cardboard cutouts are cool, but they don’t make any noise.

For the record, the best cardboard cutout last year was the one in Kansas City of Bernie Lomax, the main character from the Weekend at Bernie’s movies.

12) Houston Astros made the expanded playoffs LY, despite a 29-31 record; how will they bounce back this year? They won the 2017 World Series, lost the ’19 Series in seven games; this year they’ll be without Verlander (hurt), Springer (free agent to Toronto).

Last year, Jose Altuve hit .219 in the regular season, then hit 18-48 (.375) in playoffs, so we’ll see what this year brings.

11) Baseball has done a very smart thing, letting players watch video of their at-bats on iPads during the game. Players couldn’t do that last year- from what you hear on TV, it hampered some hitters, who are creatures of habit. Baseball wants more offense, right?

10) Los Angeles Dodgers are loaded; they won World Series LY for first time since 1988, and appear to be headed that way again this year, especially after adding pitching ace Trevor Bauer as a free agent.

Their TV guys have been fairly cocky this spring; on how many teams would David Price or Tony Gonsolin not be in the starting rotation?

9) Seattle and the Angels are two teams that will apparently use 6-man pitching rotations this season, somehow new to MLB. Teams in Japan do this; starters generally pitch once a week.

Teams are guarding against ramping up a pitcher’s innings too much from one year to the next; for instance, Seattle’s Marco Gonzales threw 69.1 IP LY; he threw 203 the year before. Doubtful they want him ramping back up to 203 until next season.

8) Steve Cohen is the new owner of the Mets; supposedly, Bobby Axelrod on Showtime’s Billions was modeled after Cohen, a wildly successful hedge fund trader. In other words, he is really, really rich.

Cohen’s Mets offered newly-acquired SS Francisco Lindor $320M for 10 years; Lindor’s people are asking for 12 years, $385M. We’ll see how that works out.

LATE UPDATE: Here’s how it worked out: Lindor signed a 10-year deal for $341M Wednesday night. 

7) Umpire Ángel Hernández lost his lawsuit against MLB alleging racial discrimination; hired as a big league umpire in 1993, the Cuban-born Hernandez alleged he was discriminated against because he had not been assigned to the World Series since 2005 and had been passed over for crew chief.

From the judge who decided the case:
“The explicit reason MLB offers — that according to (Joe) Torre, Hernández ‘has not demonstrated the leadership ability and situation-management skills in critical high-pressure roles on a consistent basis’ — is presented in clear and specific terms.”

In other words, Hernandez should be glad he has a lucrative job that he doesn’t do very well.

6) Colorado Rockies traded star 3B Nolan Arenado to St Louis, and with SS Trevor Story headed for free agency, he could be the next to leave Denver, which can’t make fans in Denver happy.

Are the Rockies headed for a total rebuild? Colorado won 87-91 games in 2017/’18, but now they’re looking like a doormat.

5) Can Giancarlo Stanton/Aaron Judge stay healthy this season?
— Last two years, Stanton played a total of 41 regular season games.
— Last three years, Judge played 112-102-28 games.
— Stanton went 8-26 with six homers in seven playoff games LY; they need him for six months, not seven games.

4) Angels have lot of hitting, lot of star power; Trout, Pujols, Rendon, Ohtani, but pitching is important in baseball and the Angels don’t have much of that.

In 12 games as a major league pitcher, Ohtani has given up 26 runs in 53.1 IP; there is very little evidence that he’ll be a good major league pitcher.

3) Lot of hype around the Padres/White Sox; there is no doubt that 76-year Tony LaRussa’s return to the dugout will be fascinating to follow in Chicago.

LaRussa hasn’t managed since 2011; he’s won three World Series as a skipper, but the world is a different place than it was 10 years ago. He did a dugout interview during a spring training game a few days ago and it…….um…….didn’t go well.

Random LaRussa trivia; he pinch-hit for the A’s in their first-ever home game in Oakland, way back in 1968.

2) Baseball needs the universal DH, for a few reasons:
— They want more scoring; pitchers can’t hit
— They want more balls in play; DH’s put balls in play
— Pitchers get hurt hitting/running the bases. Not good.

1) I’ll be looking at how the new experimental rules work once the minor leagues get rolling in May; I like the anti-shifting rules, the pitch-clock thing isn’t necessary. The 3-batter minimum for relievers is a great rule.

I can’t stand the extra inning rules or 7-inning doubleheaders. Media guys like shorter extra innings, since it makes their job easier, but to me it cheapens the game.

As for the automated strike zone, no thank you!!! Just let umpires do their jobs, and hire better umpires than Angel Hernandez.

Tuesday’s Den: American League trends and notes…….

— Last made playoffs in 2016.
— combined record, last 3 years: 126-258
— went 11-9 vs NL East LY, 14-26 vs their division rivals.
— 7-12 in one-run games LY,

— Made playoffs 10 of last 18 years.
— 11-20 at home, 13-16 on road LY.
— 7-17 vs lefty starting pitchers LY, 17-19 vs righties.
— Why did they trade Mookie Betts?

Chicago White Sox
— Made playoffs LY for first time since 2008; their last winning season was 2012.
— went 2-8 in last 10 games, then lost in playoffs, then fired the manager.
— 76-year old Tony LaRussa is the old/new skipper; he last managed in 2011.
— 14-0 vs lefty starters, 21-25 vs righties LY. 14-0!!!!
— New closer Hendriks had 39 saves last two years; in the 8 years before that, he had one.

— Last losing season was in 2012.
— Made playoffs four of last five years.
— Letting SS Lindor bolt to the Mets will obviously hurt them.
— Won 8 of last 10 games LY, then lost 12-3/10-9 in playoffs.

— Went combined 198-345 the last four years.
— Last made the playoffs in 2014.
— 11-7 vs NL Central LY, went 12-28 vs division rivals.
— 7-4 vs lefties, 16-31 vs righties LY. 

— 29-31 LY, still made playoffs for 5th time in six years.
— went 2-7 in extra innings last year.
— 12-10 vs lefties, 17-21 vs righties LY.
— Will miss departed Springer, injured Verlander.

Kansas City
— won World Series six short years ago. 
— last three years, they’re a combined 143-241
— 15-15 at home, 11-19 on road LY.
— Adding 1B Carlos Santana should upgrade the offense.

LA Angels
— haven’t made made playoffs since 2014.
— last time they won a playoff game? 2009.
— 16-15 at home, 10-19 on road last year.
— went 7-13 vs NL West, 19-21 vs their division rivals.

— Lost an amazing 18 playoff games in a row.
— made playoffs three of last four years.
— Were 24-7 at home, 12-17 on road last year.
— Last two years, went a combined 137-85.

— made playoffs last three years, and six of last nine.
— were 22-10 at home, 14-14 on road LY.
— went 6-0 in extra-inning games last year.
— 11-3 vs lefty starters, 25-21 vs right starters.

— made playoffs 22 of last 26 years.
— 11-18 on road, 22-9 at home LY.
— 26-19 vs righty starters, 7-8 vs lefties LY.
— need Judge/Stanton to both stay healthy for once.

— Last made playoffs in 2001, longest active drought in MLB
— have been over .500 three times in last seven years.
— 20-20 vs division rivals, 7-13 vs NL West LY.
— 14-10 at home, 13-23 on road last year.
— Have already committed to using 6-man rotation at start of this year.

Tampa Bay
— made playoffs last two years, lost World Series 4-2 LY.
— went 40-20 LY, best record in American League.
— went 14-5 in one-run games, which suggests regression this year.
— 31-12 vs righties, 9-8 vs lefties LY.

— last made playoffs in 2016.
— Last four years, they’re combined 56 games under .500.
— went 6-24 on road LY; were 16-14 in their new domed stadium.
— minus-88 run differential LY was worst in major leagues.

— made playoffs 3 of last 6 years
— from 2017-19, were a combined 54 games under .500.
— were 17-9 at home, 15-19 on road LY.
— went 13-10 in one-run games LY, T2 for most in MLB. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend…….

13) This is the state of college basketball these days:

In February, North Carolina needed couple of games to update their resume; they added mid-week non-conference home games with Northeastern, Marquette, Won one, lost one. Didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

When Carolina beat Northeastern 82-62 February 17, Huskies’ sophomore PG Tyson Walker scored 27 points, and showed up on the radar of the big $$$ schools who like to poach players from low and mid-major schools. Happens all the time now.

Makes college basketball a lot more like baseball, but I’m an Oakland A’s fan, and it drives me batty when players bolt for greener pa$ture$. Loyalty is in scarce supply these days.

Walker averaged 18.8 ppg and 4.8 assists/game as a sophomore at Northeastern, was named the CAA’s Defensive Player of the Year; he committed to Michigan State this weekend. 

Not sure what Northeastern is going to do for a point guard next year, none of the national media seemed too interested in that.

12) UCLA 88, Alabama 78 OT:
— Crimson Tide went 11-25 on foul line, in an overtime loss.
— UCLA scored 23 points in the 5:00 overtime.
— This is Mick Cronin’s 12th NCAA tourney, his first regional final.

11) Baylor 62, Villanova 51:
— Villanova led 30-23 at halftime.
— Baylor was +10 in turnover margin (16-6)
— Teams combined to make 6-36 on the arc.

10) Arkansas 72, Oral Roberts 70:
— ORU led 46-34 with 15:24 left in the game.
— Eric Musselman is 5-3 in NCAA tourney games; his team trailed by 10+ points in all five of the wins.
— Oral Roberts were almost first-ever #15-seed to make a regional final.

9) Gonzaga 83, Creighton 65:
— Gonzaga is 29-0, has one win by fewer than 10 points.
— Zags took 33 shots inside arc, made 25 of them (75.8%)
— Gonzaga had 23 assists on 32 made field goals.

8) Oregon State 65, Loyola Chi 58:
— Beavers are 2nd-ever #12-seed (Missouri ’02) to make a regional final.
— OSU held Ramblers to 33.3% from the floor.
— On February 20, Oregon State was 11-11; they’ve gone 9-1 since then.

7) Michigan 76, Florida State 58:
— Surprisingly easy win for the Wolverines.
— FSU shot only 40%, looked lost on offense.
— Michigan scored 81.3 ppg in first three tourney wins.

6) USC 82, Oregon 68:
— Trojans made 10-17 shots on arc, scored 1.22 ppp.
— In two games vs Oregon this year, Trojans led by 19-21 at the half.
— Pac-12 is 12-2 in NCAA Tournament, including this game.

5) Houston 62, Syracuse 46:
— Cougars won their last ten games.
— Syracuse shot 28% from floor, 5-23 on arc.
— Average total in the four Saturday games: 126.5.

4) Memphis 77, Mississippi State 64:
— Tigers win the NIT; in their last two games, they made 24-49 3-pointers.
— This game was 33-33 at halftime.
— Memphis didn’t play any seniors; they should be good next year.

3) If Houston beats Oregon State tonight, they’ll have made the Final Four by winning four games in their region, against the #15-10-11-12 seeds. That doesn’t happen often.

2) Indiana Hoosiers hired alum Mike Woodson as their basketball coach; Woodson coached the Atlanta Hawks for six years, the Knicks for three more; he scored 14 ppg in his 11-year NBA career. His last head coaching gig was 2014; he’s been an assistant coach since.

Utah poached coach Craig Smith from in-state rival Utah State to be its next head man. Few days ago, Smith told his Utah State players not to have any concerns about him leaving- he was staying right where he was, sure as sure could be.

Money does strange things to people.

1) I like the idea they enacted this year; the 2nd weekend of the tournament being Saturday-Tuesday instead of Thursday-Sunday. Not sure what next year’s schedule will be like, maybe no one does; when you change the schedule once every 35 years, people get used to the way it was. 

Sunday’s Den: Trends for National League teams

— Last made playoffs in 2017.
— Finished over .500 three of last four years.
— 5-11 vs lefty starting pitchers LY.
— 9-21 on the road LY.

— Made playoffs the last three years.
— 19-11 at home LY.
— 8-4 vs lefty starting pitchers LY.
— 11-9 vs AL teams, 24-16 vs NL teams.

— Made playoffs four of last five years.
— 19-14 at home, 15-12 on road LY
— 7-4 vs lefty starters, 12-8 vs AL Central teams.
— Joe Maddon made playoffs four of five years with the Cubs; why did they dump him?

— Braves shut them out 1-0/5-0 in two playoff games LY.
— Reds’ previous playoff appearance was in 2013.
— Reds are moving Eugenio Suarez to SS this year.
— Losing P’s Bauer, Iglesias will be hard to overcome.

— Went combined 97-125 the last two years.
— Finished over .500 twice in last ten years.
— Were only 12-18 at Coors Field last year.
— 16-24 vs right-handed starting pitchers.

Los Angeles
— won World Series LY for first time since 1988.
— Last losing season? They were 80-82 in 2010.
— Made playoffs the last eight years.
— were 7-5 in one-run games, 36-12 in the others.

— made playoffs LY for first time since 2003.
— went 31-29, despite giving up 41 more runs than they scored.
— 24-17 vs righty starters, 7-12 vs southpaws.
— Before LY, their last winning season was in 2009.

— made playoffs the last three years.
— went 29-31, despite going 11-5 in one-run games.
— 11-7 vs lefty starters, 18-24 vs righties.
— 10-10 vs AL Central, 19-21 vs NL Central rivals.

NY Mets
— Finished over .500 in 3 of last 12 seasons.
— Last made playoffs in 2016.
— Were 6-11 in one-run games LY.
— Have new owner with lot of $$$; will they re-sign Lindor?

— Had great run from 2007-11, making playoffs every year.
— Haven’t made playoffs since 2011.
— 21-19 vs NL East, 7-13 vs AL East LY.
— 13-9 vs lefty starters, 15-23 vs right starters.

— Last made playoffs in 2015.
— 6-22 on road, 2-10 vs lefty starters LY.
— 16-24 vs NL Central, only 3-17 vs AL Central LY.
— were over .500 four times in 9 years under Clint Hurdle.

St Louis
— made playoffs 11 of last 17 years.
— 22-18 vs NL Central, 8-10 vs AL Central.
— 26-21 vs righty starters, 4-7 vs southpaws.
— Acquiring 3B Arenado is big upgrade to defense.

San Diego
— made playoffs LY for first time since 2006.
— 27-13 vs righty starters, 10-10 vs lefties LY.
— won all four of their extra inning games.
— 24-16 vs NL West, 13-7 vs AL West.

San Francisco
— finished under .500 the last four years.
— 19-14 at home, 10-17 on road LY.
— won three World Series from 2010-14.
— 18-22 vs NL West, 11-9 vs AL West LY.

— made playoffs 5 of last 9 years
— despite that, have had 7 managers the last 16 years
— were over .500 eight of last nine years, won 2019 WS.
— 11-7 vs lefty starters, 15-27 vs lefty starters. 

Saturday’s Den: Clearing out a cluttered mind……..

13) You know your life is good when someone offers you $120 million for six years, and you turn them down. Thats what Astros’ SS Carlos Correa did this week. No thanks to $120M.

Correa is represented by the William Morris Agency; they must be pretty sure Correa will get more than $20M a year down the road, or maybe they wanted opt-outs in the middle, or who knows? Correa will make $11,700,000 this year, is a free agent next winter.

12) As recently as 2010, starting pitchers in the major leagues threw 100+ pitches in 50% of their games, so half the time the starter threw 100+ pitches.

Last year? Starters threw 100+ pitches 10% of the time, as analytics people hammer home the idea that facing hitters a third time in a game is a bad thing.

11) An “immaculate inning” is when a pitcher strikes out the side on nine pitches; doesn’t happen much. 94 major league pitchers have done it.

Nolan Ryan is the only pitcher ever to throw an immaculate inning in both leagues.

10) Pitchers Max Fried (Braves), Jack Flaherty (Cardinals) and Lucas Giolito (White Sox) all went to the same high school, Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles. They were all on the baseball team at the same time; they all have the same agent and they’ll all start on Opening Day this season.

Apparently it cost $42,000 a year to go Harvard-Westlake; 42 grand a year for freakin’ high school. Yikes.

9) Heard this stat again on TV the other night, it is staggering; Minnesota Twins have lost their last 18 playoff games. They’ve had good teams; losing 18 playoff games in a row is staggering.

8) NBA is going to have a play-in tournament in mid-May, just before their playoffs start:
— #7 and #8-seeds will play one game, winner gets #7-seed in playoffs.
— #9 and #10-seeds will play one game, loser gets eliminated.
— Winner of the second game plays the loser of the first game, winner gets the #8-seed.

7) There were 40 players traded at the NBA trading deadline Wednesday, the most of any deadline in the last 30 years.

6) Saw this note several times Wednesday and thought it was a joke; about the 4th time I saw it posted, I realized it was true- over the next seven NBA drafts, Oklahoma City Thunder has 34 draft choices, 17 in the first round, 17 in the second.

NBA rosters are only 15 players; what are they going to do with all that draft capital? They could field two teams. Will be interesting to see what they do from here on in.

5) Seattle Seahawks have only 3 picks in this year’s draft; Philadelphia has 11.

4) Miami Dolphins were busy Friday, they traded the #3 pick in this draft to the 49ers for the #12 pick and other stuff, then traded the #12 pick and other stuff to the Eagles for the #6 pick.

Miami has five picks in the first three rounds of next month’s draft; the main question though, isn’t draft picks, it is whether Tua Tagovailoa is good enough to be their franchise quarterback.

3) AL East rivals New York-Boston will play six series this season, five of them weekend series. Of the five Sunday games, four of them are on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Not much original thinking there. How about promoting some other teams, or showing more west coast teams. Show the Angels/Padres more, or Houston- they have good players. People would like to see Trout, Tatis or Altuve more.

2) College basketball stuff:
Shaka Smart bolts Texas for Marquette. Smart was 109-86 at Texas, 51-56 in regular season conference games, 0-3 in NCAA Tournament games. 

His Longhorns won the Big X tournament this year, but the first round loss to Abilene Christian ended the season on a dark note. Since making the Final Four at VCU in 2014, Smart is 2-7 in NCAA Tournament games. Right or wrong, that is what people remember.

Is Marquette a better job than Texas? Texas hasn’t made the Sweet 16 since 2008, Marquette made it in three of last four years under Buzz Williams (2011-13) but that was a while ago. Hiring Steve Wojciechowski was a blunder; Smart is an upgrade over him.

Big X is a tough league; been ranked 1st or 2nd the last eight seasons. Big East has usually been 3rd during that time. We’ll see how things turn out, but Smart’s seat was getting hot in Austin, and now he gets a fresh start at Marquette.

1) Random movie/TV trivia: Actress Mariska Hargitay, the star of Law and Order SVU, is the daughter of the famous actress Jayne Mansfield. Didn’t know that. 

Friday’s Den: Random stuff with weekend here…….

13) We know that spring training stats don’t mean anything, but when you’re 1-33 this spring at the plate, when do you get upset/concerned, even if you’re a 10-year major league veteran? 

St Louis IF Matt Carpenter is struggling mightily in exhibition games; the season starts in less than a week. Are the Cardinals worried? Should they be? Should he be?

Watched the Cardinals’ game Wednesday; Carpenter had a fly ball caught at the fence in CF, so he might not be far off. If he goes 2-4 on Opening Day, all will be forgotten.

12) Bad news for the White Sox; LF Eloy Jimenez tore a pectoral muscle Wednesday, when he tried to reach over the fence to rob an opponent of a home run. He is expected to be out for 5-6 months, meaning he will miss just about all of this season.

11) 68-year old Lon Kruger retired from coaching, ending a really good 44-year career; his son Kevin just became head coach at UNLV— there are rumblings that Lon Kruger is moving back to his old Las Vegas home— he coached the Rebels as recently as 2011, still has a house there.

Kruger is one of only three coaches to lead five schools to the NCAA Tournament; he also coached the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA for a while.

10) Apparently Washington owner Dan Snyder is going to spend $840M to buy out the other owners in the Washington NFL team. What a character this guy must be.

At some point, someone has to write a book/make a movie about Snyder and how he runs his team; he’s had some interesting head coaches- Mike Shanahan, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Marty Schottenheimer, Ron Rivera. You’d think they’d win more.

Snyder bought the team in 1999; since then, Washington is 2-4 in playoff games.

9) Back when I was a kid, in the mid-70’s before ESPN, before the Interweb, before lot of stuff, we had this channel on our cable system, channel 3 on the box. It was tremendous.

All it was was this: a light blue background with messages typed on it.

On weekdays, it was a stock market ticker, but at 7pm, that shut down and it became a sports ticker, with scores updated as they happened. On NFL Sundays, they’d post scores as they happened, as in:

Ferragamo 23 TD pass to Waddy
LAR 24-17, 10:43 left in 3rd

The amount of time I spent with that channel on was probably excessive, but after the 4:00 NFL TV game ended, with no Sunday night games back then, the quickest way you’d find out the other late scores was to have channel 3 on. We always had channel 3 on.

8) When MTV started in 1981, channel 3 used MTV as its background music, back when Rosie O’Donnell was actually funny. So you got entertained while you followed the day’s action.

Of course, it wasn’t always good news; New Year’s Eve 1974, I went bowling with friends, came home, put channel 3 on and found out that my hero, Catfish Hunter, had left the A’s as a free agent to sign for more money with another team. 15-year old me wasn’t happy.

No bueno.

7) NIT games Thursday:
— Mississippi State 68, Richmond 67— Bulldogs hit a 3-pointer with 0:01.3 left.
— Colorado State 65, NC State 61— Teams combined to make 8-45 on arc. Yikes.
— Memphis 59, Boise State 56— Tigers won 12 of their last 15 games.
— Louisiana Tech 72, Western Kentucky 65— Tech made 11-19 on arc, WKU 9-30.

6) This has to be a strange year for baseball front offices; not only are they playing a 162-game season, after last year’s shortened 60-game season, but the minor leagues are re-booting, after not doing anything last year. Thats over 100 teams, spread out all over the country. Lot of work to do getting everything re-organized.

5) They were talking on TV about sending players to the minor leagues and do players get upset when they sent down?

Can’t be as bad as when NFL players get cut; in the NFL, you’re cutting the guy loose, out on the street, where he has to find a new job. In baseball, they’re getting sent to the minors, but they could be back to the major leagues very quickly- they’re not losing their job, just getting sent down to the next level.

4) Joe Flacco signed on to be the Philadelphia Eagles’ backup QB this season.

3) As I type this, Charlotte Hornets are #4 seed in Eastern Conference, even though they’ve given up more points than they scored this season. If the playoffs started right now, Hornets would host a first round playoff series.

Last time a team scored fewer points than they gave up, and still hosted a first round playoff series that year was 2008, when Cleveland did it.

2) As of 2pm Thursday there were 840 kids in the college basketball transfer portal; there are 357 Division I basketball teams, so you do the math. Lot of players jumping ship.

1) Congrats to the great sportscaster Dick Stockton, who retired this week after a 55-year broadcasting career. 55 years!!!

He was doing Red Sox games on channel 38 in Boston when I was in high school, back in 1975. He called the game well, but it was never about him. Enjoy your retirement!!! 

Thursday’s Den: Doing some thinking out loud…….

13) Baseball had the universal DH last year and everyone seemed happy with it; no pitchers got hurt while batting and it was assumed that it would become a permanent thing.

But sometimes it seems like baseball is run by imbeciles; the owners used the universal DH as a bargaining chip to retain the expanded playoffs, and the players said no, so this season, the National League pitchers will bat, with it widely assumed that once there is a new labor deal this winter, the universal DH will become a permanent thing.

Arizona pitcher Zac Gallen has a hairline fracture in his right arm, something that only pains him when he swings a bat- go figure. The main reason this ticks me off is that Gallen is one of the better pitchers on my fantasy team, and good pitchers are hard to find. Oy.

But it is also annoying because in a business where teams are worth a billion dollars, there seems to be no common sense. They want more offense in the game, but they won’t put the DH in for both leagues. They want more balls in play, but they let pitchers bat and most pitchers suck at hitting. It makes no sense.

12) Toronto Blue Jays have injury issues already:
— OF George Springer has an oblique issue.
— Closer Kirby Yates might need Tommy John surgery.
— P Nate Pearson has a pulled leg muscle.
— X-rays for 3B Cavan Biggio’s injured finger came back negative.
— P Robbie Ray is day-to-day with an elbow injury.

11) This will be catcher Kurt Suzuki’s 15th year in the major leagues; he’s bounced around a lot:
2007-12: Oakland
2012-13: Washington
2013: back to Oakland for 35 games.
2014-16: Minnesota
2017-18: Atlanta
2019-20: Washington
2021: LA Angels

Bet you he could write a hell of a book.

10) Houston Astros signed P Lance McCullers to a 5-year, $85M contract extension.

9) Last year, the average on-base % in the major leagues was .321; the average slugging percentage was .402, making the average OPS .723.

8) They were talking on the Spurs game last night, saying that Kawhi Leonard owns:
— a $17M home in Pacific Palisades
— a $7M condo in downtown Los Angeles
— a $13M home in Rancho Sante Fe

Must be fun to be really rich.

Leonard scored 25 last night; Clippers pounded San Antonio, 134-101.

7) There is a rule in college sports that was put into effect in 2006: Division I athletes can transfer without having to sit out a year if they graduated in four years and have a season of eligibility remaining.

One of the first ballplayers to take use this rule was Kevin Kruger, who transferred from Arizona State to UNLV, so he could he could play for his dad Lon Kruger. UNLV made the Sweet 16 that year; they’ve only won one NCAA Tournament game since then.

Which is why, 15 years later, Kevin Kruger is the new head coach at UNLV; he will be looking to poach transfers from other schools to strengthen his roster. Who wouldn’t to go to school in a town that loves basketball and has great weather?

Problem is, Kruger will be UNLV’s 5th head coach in eight years; they need better players, and they need some stability, with both their roster and coaching staff.

6) Two years ago, when Eric Musselman was coaching at Nevada, he started five 5th-year seniors, all of whom had transferred to Reno; his starting lineup that season was older than the Phoenix Suns had in the NBA. Having a talented, mature lineup helps you win.

5) Felt bad for Houston Rockets’ coach Stephen Silas the other night; his team was 11-10 at one point, but then lost 20 games in a row. Losing sucks; at his post-game press conference, Silas was obviously upset, he is sitting at the table, head in hand, trying to keep it together. This is his first year as an NBA head coach, and he knows damn well it also could be his last. Not good.

4) Odds to win each region of the NCAA Tournament:
+175- Alabama
+195- Michigan
+315- Florida State
+750- UCLA

-125- Baylor
+220- Arkansas
+500- Villanova
+4000- Oral Roberts

3) Midwest:
+115- Houston
+190- Loyola Chi
+550- Syracuse
+975- Oregon State

-375- Gonzaga
+640- USC
+1000- Oregon
+2000- Creighton

2) USC-Oregon meet this weekend in the Sweet 16; since 2002, when conference rivals meet in the NCAA Tournament, from the Sweet 16 on, the underdog has been 7-4 ATS in those games.

1) Watching a San Francisco Giants game on TV the other night, with a few hundred fans there to watch, and a pitcher kept falling behind hitters. A wise guy in the stands yells out:

“Stop nibbling!!! Babe Ruth is dead!!!” 

Everyone’s a freakin’ expert. LOL

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

13) The movie Little Big League was on FS1 last night; the owner of the Minnesota Twins passes away, leaves the team to his 12-year old grandson, who then names himself manager of the Twins. Pretty good movie.

The kid’s mom is played by Ashley Crow; the movie was made in 1994.

In real life, Ashley Crow’s son is Pete Crow-Armstrong, who was drafted in the first round last year by the New York Mets. Crow-Armstrong played at Harvard-Westlake HS in Los Angeles, which once had Lucas Giolito, Jack Flaherty, Max Fried on the team at the same time.

Crow-Armstrong turns 19 tomorrow; in 11 at-bats this spring, he’s 1-11 with four runs scored. This year will be his first full season as a pro.

12) Mets’ 2B Jeff MacNeil was hit by pitches three times in a game last week, by three different pitchers; that doesn’t happen much.

11) Last Mets’ note; former New Jersey governor Chris Christie was recently named to the Mets’ board of directors; hopefully they didn’t put him in charge of parking.

10) Atlantic 14 tried something different this year; they played the first three rounds of their conference tournament March 3-6 in Richmond, then held the final March 14 in Dayton, assuming the two finalists would get on a bus after the game and make the short drive to Indiana, where they would hunker down safely for the NCAA’s. On paper, it made sense.

In reality, VCU couldn’t play in the NCAA Tournament because they had positive COVID tests in their program. Would it have been different had they just played the final in Richmond? We’ll never know.

9) Oregon State Beavers have covered 15 of their last 18 games as an underdog, with 11 wins outright. Beavers play Loyola Saturday, in the Sweet 16.

8) There is an NBA rule that no referee can work the same team’s games more than nine teams in a season; that rule has been waived this season, because of COVID protocols. Referees aren’t traveling as much.

7) Back in the 70’s, Astros’ pitching coach Brent Strom was a major league pitcher; he got hurt, was the second big leaguer to have what is now known as Tommy John surgery. Had he been the first, it would be known as Brent Strom surgery.

6) Al Leiter pitched in the major leagues for 19 years, won 162 games; his son Jack is a pitcher at Vanderbilt now, a highly-touted prospect who is expected to be a first round draft pick this year.

Saturday, Jack Leiter threw a no-hitter, struck out 16 South Carolina hitters, throwing 124 pitches; college managers aren’t as crazy about pitch counts as professional managers.

My question is this: How many major league pitchers will throw 124+ pitches in a game this year? Won’t be many, my guess is three or four.

5) First round of the 16-team NIT saw underdogs go 6-2 ATS; second round is Thursday.

4) One thing handicappers missed out on this season was taking a look at an Ivy League team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Over last ten tournaments, Ivy League squads are 8-2 ATS in their first round games.

When the Ivy League teams come back next season after a year off, it’ll be interesting to see how much different these teams are. Last time we saw them, Ivy League was the #16 conference in the country, right in the middle nationally.

3) One of best parts of watching spring training games on MLB Network is the interviews with managers during the game. You can pick up some info here; also good when teams combine broadcasting crews for games. Marlins-Cardinals, Mariners-Rockies have done this.

But when you think of managers being interviewed during a game, can you imagine going back a few years and having Earl Weaver, Dick Williams or Billy Martin being interviewed during a game, even an exhibition game? Thing would have to be on a 7-second delay, for sure.

2) Happy 90th birthday to William Shatner; the actor who became famous as Captain Kirk on Star Trek– he still does commercials that air on Milwaukee Brewer games.

1) Went to the grocery store today, picked up a few things, no big deal, but also walked around the store and located exits, just in case what happened in Boulder ever happens here. Doesn’t hurt to be prepared, but its a sad commentary on our current situation. 

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

13) Oregon 95, Iowa 80:
— Ducks ended first half on an 18-4 run, never looked back.
— Oregon’s shot chart had an awful lot of dunks/layups.
— Luka Garza ended a great college career, scoring 36 points.

12) Michigan 86, LSU 78:
— Wolverines are only Big 14 team left in tournament; 9 teams started.
— Michigan shot 66.7% inside arc, are in Sweet 16 for 3rd time in last four tourneys.
— LSU’s two best players both played 40:00, and it showed near the end.

11) Gonzaga 87, Oklahoma 71
— Gonzaga is 28-0, with one win by less than 10 points.
— Zags shot 57.1% inside arc, scored 1.26 points/possession.
— Oklahoma finished season losing six of its last eight games.

10) USC 85, Kansas 51:
— Trojans made nine of their first 13 3-pointers, are in first Sweet 16 since ‘07
— Pac-12 teams are 9-1 SU in this tournament.
— Kansas had won 9 of 10 games coming in; not a strong effort here.

9) Creighton 72, Ohio U 58:
— Ohio U emptied its bag when they upset Virginia Saturday.
— Bishop was 6-7 from floor, had 15 rebounds for Creighton.
— Bluejays held four of last five opponents to 62 or fewer points.

8) Alabama 96, Maryland 77:
— Alabama made 16-33 shots on arc; tough to beat that.
— Bet you its been long time since Maryland gave up 1.43 ppp.
— Terps finished 17-14, losing four of last six games.

7) Florida State 71, Colorado 53:
— Seminoles are shooting 38.2% on arc (#16), are #19 on offensive boards.
— Florida State is deep; they scored 41 points in first 30:00, 30 points in last 10:00.
— 23-9 Colorado started three seniors; really good year for them.

6) UCLA 67, Abilene Christian 47:
— UCLA had last four games in a row before this tournament started.
— You get feeling Abilene Christian beating Texas was their Super Bowl.
— UCLA-Alabama in Sweet 16 is a stark contrast of styles.

Cruddy set of set games Monday; one game decided by less than 14 points.

5) College basketball coaching stuff:
— Marquette fired Steve Wojciechowski, who made two NCAA tourneys (0-2) in 7 years.
— Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich stepped down, took another job in the athletic department.
— UNLV hired Kevin Kruger as its coach; his dad Lon Kruger was UNLV’s coach as recently was 2011, is coaching Oklahoma now.

4) Mountain West used to be a fun league, but it has gone downhill lately; last five tournaments, Mountain West teams are 1-7 in first round games. Going to be a one-bid league soon.

3) This was first time since 2003 that North Carolina went consecutive seasons without winning an NCAA Tournament game. In 2002/2003, Tar Heels went a combined 10-22 in ACC games and then they fired the coach, which is why Roy Williams came back to Chapel Hill.

I understand that there was no NCAA Tournament last year, but UNC went 14-19 and wasn’t getting in the tournament anyway.

2) Last three NCAA tournaments, ACC teams were combined 5-16 ATS in the first round.

1) Memo to myself: The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is great fun, always. Next year, if I have half a brain, this column will be written in Las Vegas. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Sunday

13) Oral Roberts 81, Florida 78:
Long time ago, on Oral Roberts’ home court, this was stamped on each baseline:

“Expect a miracle”
Not sure if it’s there anymore; they’re not on TV much.

Well, a 15-seed making the Sweet 16 is pretty darn close to a miracle.

— Florida Gulf Coast (2013) was only previous #15-seed to make Sweet 16.
— ORU shot 59.3% inside arc; their two stars never came out of the game.
— Golden Eagles prepped for this; they played 3rd-hardest non-league schedule in country.

Ironically, when Florida Gulf Coast finally lost in 2013, they lost to Florida in the regional semifinals. Today, the Gators were the victims.

12) Loyola, Chi 71, Illinois 58:
— Loyola’s big man Krutwig had 19 points, 12 boards, 5 assists.
— Loyola was +6 in turnovers (17-11); they got most of the loose balls.
— Not only did the #1-seed lose, they never led in this game.

11) Loyola is a #8-seed in the Sweet 16. Since 1990, here is how 8-9 seeds have done in the Sweet 16:

— 10-8 SU in regional semifinal
— 10-7-1 ATS in those games; 1-2 ATS when favored, 9-5-1 otherwise.
— Loyola plays in O State in the regional semi-final this coming weekend.

10) This is the first NCAA Tournament ever to have at least four teams seeded #13 or lower make it into the second round.

9) Arkansas 68, Texas Tech 66:
— Hogs held Tech to 29.3% inside arc; they denied MacClung the ball a lot- he only took six shots.
— Arkansas basically played six guys; a 7th guy played only 3:00.
— Arkansas plays #15-seed Oral Roberts in their next game.

8) Baylor 76, Wisconsin 63:
— Baylor got seven games in after a 21-day COVID pause, before NCAA tourney.
— Bears turned ball over only four times, scored 1.19 ppp.
— Wisconsin started four seniors; if all those guys came back next year, and they can if they want, Badgers would have older starters than some NBA teams.

7) Houston 63, Rutgers 60:
— Cougars outscored Rutgers 13-2 over the final 4:33.
— Houston had 43-29 rebounding edge, with 16 offensive boards.
— This was first NCAA Tournament for Rutgers since 1991, so an excellent season for them.

6) Syracuse 75, West Virginia 72:
— Syracuse made 14-31 on the arc, shot 61.9% inside arc.
— Orangemen led 30-16 early; West Virginia led 53-52 with 9:15 left.
— Mountaineers ended season losing four of their last six games.

5) Villanova 84, North Texas 61:
— North Texas pulled big upset Friday, didn’t have much left here.
— Wildcats shot 15-30 on the arc, scored 1.42 ppp.
— Villanova had lost in this round four of last six years, so had to be a relief to get to the Sweet 16, especially with their point guard out for the year.

4) Shaka Smart’s NCAA Tournament resume:
at VCU:
2011— Won five tournament games, lost national semi-final (11-seed).
2012— Won one, lost one (12-seed).
2013— Won one, lost one (5-seed).
2014— Lost in 1st round (5-seed)
2015— Lost in 1st round (7-seed)
at Texas:
2016— Lost in 1st round (6-seed)
2018— Lost in 1st round (10-seed)
2020—Lost in 1st round (3-seed)

3) Oregon State 80, Oklahoma State 70:
— Oregon State only got in because they won Pac-12 tourney; they’re red-hot now.
— Lot of whistles: Beavers were 32-35 on foul line, Oklahoma State 26-38.
— Loyola-Oregon State is the rare 8-12 seed game next weekend. 

2) Since 1997, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton is 14-9 SU in NCAA tournament games.; underdog was 18-5 ATS in those games.

He was 3-10 ATS when favored, 8-2 when the underdog.

1) Think the Houston Texans regret not trading Deshaun Watson already? They could’ve gotten a huge haul for him last month, but now Watson seems to be facing an off-field legal battle, which at least will be a big distraction. Do other teams still want to trade for him? 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping a sports Saturday

Abilene Christian 53, Texas 52:
— 23 turnovers for Texas, in a low-possession game.
— Abilene Christian leads country in forcing turnovers.
— Under Smart, Texas is 0-3 in NCAA Tournament games. 

Ohio 62, Virginia 58:
Virginia’s last three NCAA tournaments:
— 2021- Lose in first round as a 4-seed (7.5-point favorite)
— 2019- Won national title
— 2018- Lost in first round as a 1-seed (22.5-point favorite)

— Two guys on Ohio U played the whole game.
— Virginia team got to Indiana Friday; they were 8-31 on the arc.
— Ohio-Creighton is an odd 2nd round game on Monday.

Colorado 96, Georgetown 78:
— Colorado made 16-25 on arc, scored 1.32 ppp.
— Four years at Georgetown, Patrick Ewing is 62-59, 26-44 in league games. 
— Colorado plays Florida State in second round Monday. 

Florida State 64, NC-Greensboro 54:
— Not often a team goes 0-9 on arc and wins, but Florida State did that here.
— This game was 51-50 with 4:52 left; UNCG played well.
— Seminoles played nine guys 10:00+; not many teams do that.

Kansas 93, Eastern Washington 84:
— EWU Eagles led by 10 with 17:58 left in game.
— Jayhawks made 12-30 on arc, scored 1.24 ppp.
— Jayhawks won nine of last ten games, after a 12-7 start.

LSU 76, St Bonaventure 61:
— LSU won five of its last six games, after a 4-6 midseason slump.
— Bonnies shot only 33.3% from floor.
— LSU gave up 78+ points in all their losses; Bonnies didn’t have enough firepower.

Michigan 82, Texas Southern 66:
— Game was 42-24 at halftime, stress-free day for the Wolverines.
— Livers missed another game for Michigan; they didn’t need him here.
— Monday’s game with LSU should be interesting. 

Creighton 63, Cal-Santa Barbara 62:
— Kid on UCSB missed a putback at rim with 0:01 left.
— Gauchos led by 6 with 5:24 left; they outscored Creighton 13-4 on foul line.
— Creighton’s subs played total of 27:00, scored two points.

Alabama 68, Iona 55:
— Game was 33-32 at halftime; Alabama wore them down in 2nd half.
— Iona goes 12-6 in Pitino’s first year, with a 52-day pause; the man can coach.
— Alabama-Maryland will be an interesting game Monday.

Oklahoma 72, Missouri 68:
— Sooners won for only second time in last seven games.  
— Mizzou shot only 35.5% inside arc in this game.
— Cuonzo Martin made Sweet 16 at Tennessee in 2014; since then, he is 0-3 in tourney games.

USC 72, Drake 56
— Game was 40-37 at halftime; Drake was 2 for its first 23 in 2nd half.
— Bulldogs had a great year, going 26-5 with a win in First Four Thursday.
— USC plays Kansas Monday, which should be a prime time game.

Maryland 63, UConn 54
— Maryland’s starters all played 33:00+; they held UConn to 32.3% from floor.  
— Huskies lost their last two games, scoring 56-54 points.
— Since 1998, Maryland won 14 of 15 first round games. 

Iowa 86, Grand Canyon 74:
— Iowa made 10-22 on arc, scored a whopping 1.37 ppp.
— Antelopes started four seniors, made NCAAs for first time, a terrific season.
— Iowa plays Oregon Monday; Ducks got a bye Saturday because of COVID.

Oregon advanced after VCU couldn’t play because of COVID issues.

Gonzaga 98, Norfolk State 55:
— When better team makes 14-27 on the arc, it’ll be an ugly game.
— Game was 43-23 at halftime, then it got worse.
— #1-seeds were 2-2 ATS, #2-seeds 1-3 this weekend.

UCLA 73, BYU 62:
— Surprisingly easy win for the Bruins, who play Abilene Christian Monday.
— Since 2003, WCC teams other than Gonzaga are 3-9 ATS in first round.
— Pac-12 teams are 5-0 SU so far this week. 

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up the first full day of March Madness

West Virginia 84, Morehead State 67:
— Bob Huggins wins his 900th game as a head coach.
— Morehead State made 10-19 on the arc, still didn’t cover as 12-point dogs.
— Sunday will be like a 2012 Big East reunion- West Virginia-Syracuse. 

North Texas 78, Purdue 69, OT:
— Mean Green won its last five games, giving up 57 ppg.
— This was Mean Green’s first NCAA Tournament win in school history.
— Purdue is now 3-3 in their last six first round games. 

Oral Roberts 75, Ohio State 72, OT:
— Four Oral Roberts starters played 42:00+
— Buckeyes shot 5-23 on arc, 9-18 on foul line. No bueno.
— If you care about such things, #15-seeds are 1-7 SU in next round, 2-5-1 ATS

Oregon State 70, Tennessee 56:
— Tennessee’s center Fulkerson (eye injury) didn’t play; Beavers’ 7-1 Silva was 8-8 from floor.
— Oregon State wins NCAA Tournament game for first time since 1982.
— Since 1987, #12-seeds are 31-18 ATS in 2nd round, 3-6 since 2014.

Florida 75
, Virginia Tech 70, OT:
— Tech led by 10 early, by 8 with 15:03 left, let it slip away.
— Hokies sent game to OT with 3-pointer with 0:01 left.
— Florida G Appleby needed stitches for cut to forehead, played only 22:00.

Oklahoma State 69, Liberty 60:
— Liberty led by 3 at half; OSU outscored them 42-30 in second half.
— Cunningham was 3-14 from floor; he tends to coast in first half of games.
— Cunningham is obviously going to the NBA next year; how long does his brother keep his six-figure job as an assistant coach? 

Arkansas 85, Colgate 68:
— Colgate played their butts off, led 31-17 early.
— Colgate made 12-27 on arc, but turned ball over 22 times (-12)
— Razorbacks won 12 of their last 14 games.

Loyola Chi 71, Georgia Tech 60:
— Tech got up 13-3 quickly, but missed Moses Wright, ACC player of year.
— Loyola was 11-27 on arc, outscored Tech 10-3 on foul line.
— Since 2013, MVC teams are 11-1 SU, 10-2 ATS in NCAA games.

Rutgers 60, Clemson 56:
— Clemson led by 5 early in 2nd half;
— Rutgers held Tigers to 35.6% from floor, outrebounded them 41-32.
— Favorites went 10-6 ATS in Friday’s games.

Villanova 73, Winthrop 63
— Villanova shot 57.7% inside arc, win for only 2nd time in last five games.
— Winthrop finishes season 23-2; they were in NCAA for only 2nd time in last decade.
— Villanova plays #13-seed North Texas Sunday.

Syracuse 78, San Diego State 62
— Syracuse made 15-27 on the arc; its easier shooting outside the dome.
— Buddy Boeheim had 30 points; he’ll be in the NBA in two years.
— San Diego State started four seniors; will their coach bolt for Minnesota? 

Wisconsin 85, North Carolina 62:
— Only time Badgers scored more points this year? November 27, vs Ark-Pine Bluff.
— Wisconsin made 13-27 on arc, scored 1.29 points/possession.
— North Carolina was 2-5 this year when they rebounded 33.3% or less of their own missed shots; they grabbed 30% of their misses in this game.

Texas Tech 65, Utah State 53:
— Aggies shot 58% inside arc, but turned ball over 22 times (-14)
— Texas Tech forces turnovers 24.1% of time (#6).
— Arkansas-Texas Tech is a matchup from the old Southwest Conference.

Illinois 78, Drexel 49:
— This looked a 1-16 game; not competitive.
— Dragons have to be proud of making NCAAs for first time since 1996.
— Illinois took only eight foul shots, seven 3-pointers; they steamrolled Drexel.

Baylor 79, Hartford 55:
— This was a stress-free win for Baylor; they play Wisconsin-UNC winner Sunday.
— Baylor is shooting 41.4% on arc this season, best in country.
— America East teams are now 6-2 ATS in last eight tournament games; Hartford was +26. 

Houston 87, Cleveland State 56:
— Cougars led by 8 at half, then coasted home; one of the day’s worst games.
— Last eight years, Horizon teams are 0-9 in NCAA’s (2-7 ATS)
— Houston has won 8 in a row, has #1 eFG% defense in country. 


Friday’s Den: Welcome to the best weekend of the year

13) UCLA 86, Michigan State 80 OT
— Spartans led by 11 at halftime- they scored 3 points in last 6:20.
— Michigan State lost four of its last six games.
— UCLA breaks a 4-game skid, plays BYU Saturday.

12) Drake 53, Wichita State 52
— Drake scored 25 points in first 28:36, 28 points in last 11:24.
— When they were MVC rivals, Wichita beat Drake the last 14 times they played.
— Bulldogs move on to play USC Saturday.

11) Texas Southern 60, Mount St Mary’s 52
— Mount St Mary’s led by 10 at half, scored only 22 points in 2nd half.
— Texas Southern has won 15 of its last 16 games.
— Tigers move on to play #1-seed Michigan Saturday.

10) Norfolk State 54, Appalachian State 53:
— Norfolk led by 19 in second half, blew the lead, rallied from down 6 with 5:22 left.
— App State missed their first 19 3-pointers, finished 6-36.
— Norfolk State moves on to play #1 Gonzaga Saturday.

9) Jalen Wilson, leading rebounder for Kansas, is out for the Jayhawks’ first round game with Eastern Washington.

8) Gonzaga is the 20th team to be unbeaten heading into the NCAA Tournament; of the previous 19, seven of them won the NCAA title, with Indiana in 1976 the last one. Lot more teams in the tournament since the mid-80’s; have to win six games to win a title now.

7) 12 of the last 32 national champs won their conference tournament.

6) In the NFL, Buffalo Bills signed former Chicago QB Mitchell Trubisky to be their backup QB. Wonder how the Bears’ GM explains away trading 3rd and 4th-round picks to move up to draft Trubisky, when Patrick Mahomes was sitting there in the same draft. Oy.

5) Las Vegas Raiders want backup QB Marcus Mariota to take a pay cut, from $10.725M to $3M a year. If Mariota declines, Raiders are expected to release him. Dallas needs a backup QB, so Mariota could land there if the Raiders release him.

4) According to the Boston Globe and Andy, who reads this website, New England Patriots were “uncharacteristically extravagant in NFL free agency Monday, essentially buying a new team” for ’21, awarding contracts to seven free agents with a “maximum value” close to $200M and nearly $100M in guarantees.

Of the previous five NFL teams who spent that much dinero on free agents, none of them made the playoffs the following season.

3) In baseball, hitters seem happy that in-game video is back in dugouts this season; there are lot of hitters who became dependent on seeing their at-bats when they got back to the dugout, so they could make adjustments for their next turn at the dish.

2) When I was in high school, a long time ago, the mid-70’s, ESPN didn’t exist yet and I didn’t have control of our family’s remote control anyway, so I spent lot of nights in my room, listening to ballgames on the radio. Lot of nights.

My parents had this battery-powered radio that was the size of a shoe box; at night, it could get any station between Albany and Detroit and as far south as Baltimore, St Louis on a good night.

For 2-3 years, I spent a ton of time listening to Cleveland Indians games on WWWE in the summer and Cavaliers’ games in the winter. Joe Tait was the play-by-play guy for both teams; he was enthusiastic but fair, smart as hell and he taught me a lot about sports, he helped fuel the passion for sports that I still carry today.

Mr Tait passed away last week at age 83; I was watching the replay of an Indians’ spring training game the other night and they paid tribute to him. He was so much fun to listen to, yelling “Bingo!!!!” when Bobby Smith would nail a jumper; his banter with baseball partner Herb Score taught me a lot about baseball.

RIP sir, you were freakin’ great at your job.

1) Somewhere upstairs in this house of mine, there is a cassette tape with the last inning of a 1977 Indians-Angels game, Dennis Eckersley’s no-hitter. I had this genius idea that I could be a broadcaster, so I would tape broadcasters and try to learn how they did it. That plan never got too far off the ground.

This afternoon, I looked up the boxscore of that 1977 game, 44 years ago and it downed on me; of the 10 guys who started for the Indians that night, four of them are still baseball broadcasters:
— Dennis Eckersley (Red Sox)
— Ray Fosse (A’s)
— Duane Kuiper (Giants)
— Rick Manning (Indians)

Enjoy the basketball games this weekend; if you see a pizza delivery guy wandering around lost, send him to my house.

Thursday’s Den: Doing some thinking out loud……

13) NCAA updates:
— Oklahoma’s #2 scorer De’Vion Harmon is out for this week, after testing positive for COVID. Sooners play Missouri in their first round game. Harmon is averaging 12.9 ppg.
— Georgia Tech star Moses Wright, the ACC player of the year, will miss the Yellow Jackets’ first-round game against Loyola-Chicago.

12) Watching lot of exhibition baseball this month, was wondering who has hit the most home runs ever in exhibition games? I’m guessing this information isn’t available and I know it isn’t important, but it would be fun to see.

Searched the Interweb but couldn’t find anything; I did see that in 2000, five Boston pitchers combined to throw a perfect game against Toronto in an exhibition game, but that’s just more useless knowledge.

11) This spring, San Diego Padres’ pitchers are going to the plate with a bat in their hands, but they’re not hitting; they just take three strikes and go back to the dugout, to avoid injury. This is something Oakland’s pitchers did a few years ago, eliminates the risk of a costly injury.

Spring training games have become like basketball scrimmages, where coaches control some scenarios. Pitchers can re-enter, innings were stopped early for the first 10 days of games. It is all about getting pitchers some work, on the mound, not at the plate.

10) Francisco Lindor says he is opening to signing a contract extension with the Mets, but if it isn’t done before the season starts, then he will not discuss a contract extension during the season. This is probably a negotiating ploy, but Lindor does have leverage to get a deal done.

9) Miami Heat traded Meyers Leonard and a 2nd-round pick to Oklahoma City for Trevor Ariza. Miami will be the 35-year old Ariza’s 10th NBA team.

Weird trade; Ariza hasn’t played yet this season, but Miami announced on Twitter that it is hopeful he’ll be available to play this weekend.

As for Leonard, the Thunder said Leonard “will not be reporting to Oklahoma City and will not be an active member of the organization.” When you’re marginal player and you yell out anti-Semitic stuff on the Interweb, your career spirals downward. Quickly.

In other words, he’ll have a lot more time to play video games, now that he is retired.

8) Chicago Bears tried really hard to trade for Russell Wilson; they offered Seattle three 1st-round picks, one 3rd-round pick and two starting players, one of whom was Khalil Mack. Seattle apparently turned them down.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter says the trade isn’t dead until the NFL Draft happens, but the Bears trading for Andy Dalton says otherwise.

7) With Drew Brees retiring, New Orleans paid its two QB’s this week; they gave Taysom Hill a four-year, $140M deal where the last three years are voidable, and they paid backup Jameis Winston $12M for 2021. Very unusual quarterback room.

Hill has played in 53 NFL games, is 3-1 as a starting quarterback; he’s thrown 134 career NFL passes, run ball 151 times, caught 30 passes. Am curious to see how this plays out.

6) NFL has a great skill of staying in the news 365 days a year, 366 in leap years. Today is March 18 and NFL is in the news as much as March Madness and more than spring training games. Part of it is because the people who run baseball are arrogant imbeciles who won’t market their sport the right way, but that’s another discussion for another day.

5) Thoughts/prayers to former NBA center Shawn Bradley, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury which left him paralyzed, after a car crashed into his bicycle. Bradley is 7-foot-6; he played 12 years in the NBA, scoring 8.1 ppg.

Since retiring from NBA in 2005, Bradley has been a counselor at a private school in Utah.

4) Couple weeks ago, Rams DT Michael Brockers declared that Matthew Stafford was an upgrade at quarterback for Los Angeles, over the departed Jared Goff. His actual quote:

“Is it a level up? In my heart, deeply, just understanding what he brings, it’s a level up. It’s a level up.”

Since then, the Rams wanted Brockers to re-do his contract, to help get the Rams under the salary cap. The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, so Brockers is now a Detroit Lion, where one of his new teammates is…..Jared Goff.


3) Iowa State paid former basketball coach Steve Prohm $5.5M to take a hike, after a hideous 2-22 season. Prohm’s Cyclones had made three of previous four NCAA tournaments, but were also a combined 18-54 in conference games the last four years. 18-54 gets you fired. 

Less than 24 hours later, word is out that TJ Otzelberger is bolting UNLV to take the Iowa State job; Otzelberger worked as an assistant at Iowa State from 2006-2013, and again three years later. Unnamed sources claim this deal has been done for a month or so.

Here’s the thing; Otzelberger was 28-29 in two years at UNLV and was showing zero signs of any progress. Rebels had very little depth this year; when you play in a league where lot of teams play in higher altitude, you need some depth and UNLV didn’t have much.

Rebel fans can’t be that sad to see Otzelberger go, but the program is now mired in mediocrity— next year they’ll have their fifth head coach in eight years. Richard Pitino just got hired by New Mexico, so UNLV can forget about hiring Rick Pitino as a bombshell replacement, since UNLV and New Mexico are in the same league.

Iowa State will also have to pay $4M or so to UNLV, as part of Otzelberger’s buyout.

2) Richmond 76, Toledo 66— Spiders win their NIT opener, despite being down couple of starters. Richmond had lost their last three games coming in, were down 8 with 15:43 left in this game, but they stormed back for the win and will play in the next round March 25.

1) Western Kentucky 69, Saint Mary’s 67— Big man Bassey had 19 points, 11 rebounds; Hilltoppers blew an 11-point lead, but pulled it out on free throws with 0:03.3 left and move on to the second round. 

Saint Mary’s finishes 14-10 after starting out 8-1; first time in 14 years they didn’t win 20 games. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

13) Pretty cool moment on the Mariners-Rockies’ telecast the other night; the broadcast had announcers from both teams, a great idea because you learn more about both teams.

Anyway, early in the game they have a Colorado coach miked in the dugout for a half-inning, the Rockies’ pitching coach at AA Hartford. Why, you ask? Seattle’s pitcher at the time was Marco Gonzales; the Rockies’ pitching coach is Frank Gonzales, Marco’s father. 

He can’t root for his son, he doesn’t want to root against him; it was good TV, and had to be a really proud moment for the dad.

12) Interweb says that LeBron James will become a part owner of the Boston Red Sox; he became a partner with Fenway Sports Group, a deal that also also increases James’ ownership stake in an English soccer team. Apparently it is fun to be really, really rich.

11) There was a surprising moment in the Cardinals-Mets game Sunday which drew national attention; Cardinals’ P Jordan Hicks came in relief to pitch, faced Luis Guillorme leading off an inning. The at-bat lasted 22 pitches, longest AB I can ever remember seeing, before Guillorme walked. 

Sunday was the first day this spring where you couldn’t pull the plug on an inning, and there is that 3-batter rule now, so when St Louis wanted to change pitchers, apparently the umpires quietly told them that they had to bring the trainer out and pretend Hicks was hurt, if they wanted to remove him, and that’s what happened.

10) Grand Canyon made their first NCAA Tournament this year; I’m especially happy for coach Bryce Drew, who got hosed when Vanderbilt fired him two years ago.

Drew’s first two Vandy teams went 31-36, 16-18 in SEC games, but then he recruited a really good freshman point guard, Darius Garland. Vandy started out Year 3 with a 4-0 mark, but Garland got hurt 2:00 into Game 5, and the Commodores went in the ashcan when he never came back to play that year.

Vandy’s AD seemed anxious to fire Drew and hire Jerry Stackhouse; the Commodores are 20-37 in two years under Stackhouse, 6-28 in SEC games.

Garland has scored 13.5 ppg in his first 88 NBA games (for Cleveland); had he not gotten hurt, Vandy would’ve had a good season, Drew would probably still have his job and Grand Canyon would have a different coach. Maybe Vanderbilt did Drew a favor by firing him.

9) Padres’ catcher Austin Nola broke the middle finger on his left hand, which makes his availability for Opening Day a ????

Nola hit .273 for Seattle/San Diego last year.

8) When the season starts, Oakland A’s better hit the ground running; they open with seven games against Houston, three against the Dodgers. Yikes.

7) College basketball stuff:
— Indiana fired Archie Miller. Hoosiers have been over .500 in the Big 14 once in the last eight years.
— Minnesota fired Richard Pitino, who was then hired by New Mexico.
— Penn State hired Micah Shrewsberry, who has been an assistant coach under Brad Stevens and Matt Painter.
— George Mason fired Dave Paulsen.
— For some reason, Utah fired Larry Krystkowiak. Maybe the Utes should’ve stayed in the Mountain West Conference.

6) I’m going to repeat this one last time; Louisville has an assistant coach named Luke Murray, who is Bill Murray’s son. Luke Murray is going to be a head coach soon.

Minnesota GOPHERS have a head coach opening; it would be tremendous if Bill Murray’s son became coach of the GOPHERS (Caddyshack reference).

Minnesota needs Luke Murray to be their next basketball coach. In Caddyshack, Bill Murray played a groundskeeper named Carl Spackler who was at war with the gophers who lived underneath Bushwood Country Club.

The TV commercials would be epic; imagine Carl Spackler rooting FOR the Gophers?

5) Word out of Anaheim is that Matt Vasgersian will be the Angels’ new play-by-play guy on TV, with Darin Sutton filling in at times. Angels’ analyst is Mark Gubicza, who is great- upbeat, smart so they’re going to be fun to listen to late at night on the baseball package.

4) Chicago Bears signed QB Andy Dalton to a $10M, one-year deal, with another $3M possible in incentives. Dalton started nine games for Dallas LY; Bears now have him, Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky at QB— sounds like Trubisky will be moving on.

3) New England Patriots signed eight free agents Tuesday, as they prepare to bounce back from missing the playoffs last year- they also re-signed QB Cam Newton last week.

2) QB Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with Washington; they’ll be his 9th NFL team. He is already the only quarterback ever to start a game for eight different teams. 

Houston Texans added QB Tyrod Taylor, who has a 24-21-1 record as an NFL starter, but has started only four games the last three years, with Bills/Chargers. 

Taylor was the Buffalo QB before Josh Allen, the Chargers QB before Justin Herbert- he lost his starting job when a doctor punctured his lung with a needle while giving Taylor a pain-killing injection just before a game last fall.

1) Colgate is playing Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament; Red Raiders are 14-1 this season, but the schedule they’ve played has been, by modern standards…….unique?
— 13 of the 15 games were against Boston U (5), Army (4) or Holy Cross (4)
— Only other teams they played were Bucknell, Loyola MD, in Patriot League tourney.
— Their first game was January 2nd.
— Colgate has made 40% of their 3-pointers, #3 in country.
— #189 Army is only team they’ve played ranked higher than #210 in country.